Orlando, Florida, Caribbean Cruise, Tampa, Florida

Friday, August 28th - Tuesday, September 8th

I've noticed in the past that most of our cruise trips never get the write up that other trips do, so instead of doing a chronological listing of what we did, I will probably try and do a day by day synopsis, hitting the high points and such. So, that being said, here we go!


I worked half a shift on Friday, and arrived home around 8:00. We loaded up the car, and took off! For Rochester that is - LOL! We arrived in Rochester around midnight, where we spent the night at the Rochester Mariott Airport on Ridge Road. We had spent a 'pre-vacation' night here in the past, and found it to be reasonably priced. Plus, we were able to leave the car here for the trip and take the shuttle to and from the airport, thereby avoiding the exuberant fees charged at the Rochester Airport for parking.


After a short nap, we're talking about 4 hours here, we got up at around 4:45, showered, dressed, and loaded into the van/shuttle for the short trip to ROC. Check in went smoothly (as it usually does in Rochester), as did passing through security. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Dunkin Donuts, and then waited to board our JetBlue direct flight from ROC to MCO. The flight to Orlando was uneventful and smooth. Arriving in Orlando, Michael and I waited for the luggage (five suitcases and three carry ons - WOW!) while Jill went and got the car.

Car obtained (Hyundai Sonata), luggage all accounted for and loaded up, and it was off to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FLA! I hadn't been there, nor had Jill, since we were teenagers, and this was Michael's first time there! It had changed quite a bit since my last visit, expanded upon, but with all of the same cool 'space' stuff from our youth. The space shuttle had just taken off from Kennedy the night before, so a good part of the bus tour was 'closed', hence the reason we opted for admission to the grounds only and skipped any tours.

Inside, we wandered through the Space Shuttle 'Explorer', looked at the memorials and rocket garden, watched the IMAX movie about the space station (which Jill and I are both pretty sure we've done in the past at the Smithsonian in DC). Michael had an opportunity to meet and get his picture taken with an astronaut as well - Rick Searfoss was on hand to answer questions and take pictures. He served on STS-58 as pilot, STS-76 as pilot, and commander on STS-90. We also rode the 'Space Shuttle Experience' a couple of times, which was really cool and VERY remeniscient of 'Star Tours' at Disney. We at lunch at the Orbit Cafe', and it was, well, horrid! Not worth the money, or the nausea, but unfortunately you're pretty much a captive audience since there are no other food options (outside of the ones at the visitors center) for literally MILES!

We took a quick drive to the Hampton Inn Titusville to get settled in there, before making the trek up I-95 for our 15th new ballpark of the summer - Jackie Robinson Ballpark in Daytona Beach, Florida! To my recollection, this is probably the only stadium we've been to that's listed on the 'U.S. National Register of Historic Places', and probably the oldest park we've seen a game in. It had an interesting shape to it, with the original grandstand extending from behind home plate up the first base line, and a large structure of metal bleachers down third base. There was one concession stand (for the general public), and two areas to purchase beer! The beer selection was probably the largest we've seen in any minor league park to date. We stayed until around the 7th inning, as usual, and then headed back to the Hampton Inn to get some sleep.


We slept in a tad on Sunday morning and grabbed some breakfast at the hotel. After loading all of the bags back into the car, we stopped quick at a Wal-Mart down the street and bought a case of water (which came in handy and didn't go to waste throughout the week!) and a pair of sunglasses for me. Then it was off to Avis to turn the car in and head to the ship!

Avis was a bit more chaotic this time than the last time we were there in February of this year. They were handling both the incoming and outgoing cruises from the nearby port, and it made for some hectic (and slow going) processing. We loaded up into the shuttle bus (same driver from February too - Mike!) and off to the port! Embarkation went well, albeit a little slow (we were coming onboard right around noon at this point). After getting onboard, we explored the ship a bit, hit Chops to alter our reservation there, checked out our table in the dining room, and then went to Sorrento's for some lunch (and our first beer on Freedom!). Then we hit the pool deck for our traditional pool deck beer, and by then it was time for us to check out our cabin! For this cruise, Jill booked a junior suite on deck 9 - 9580 to be exact! Fully adorned with birthday decorations and flowers that I had ordered since Jill would be celebrating her birthday during our cruise.

Seems like at this point we went back up to the pool deck so that Mike could see the flowrider (since our luggage hadn't arrived yet). We did the mandatory 'assembly drill' (formerly known as the muster drill!), but the change that had come about since our last cruise was that we didn't have to don the lifejackets! Bonus!! Back to the cabin for our own little 'sailaway' party, complete with the bottle of champagne that Jill had ordered for us!

Our luggage finally arrived shortly after sailaway (all of it with the rum runners in them as well!!) so we organized the room, and Mike put on his swim suit so that he could go up and do the flowrider! He did a pretty good job his first time out! Back to the room to shower, change, and head to dinner. Our waiter's name on this cruise was Manuel, and he was from India, and our assistant waiter's name was Darryl, and he was from India as well. We never saw our head waiter for more than a couple of minutes, so I don't know what his name was.

Mike hit the teen club after dinner (which is where he had fun and spent the better part of the week!) and Jill and I perused the ship some more before heading back to the cabin and getting some sleep - we were pretty exhausted by then that's for sure!


Monday was our first day at sea. We slept in for a while, and had breakfast delivered via room service. It was probably 9:30 or so by the time we got moving. Mike had a full slate of things he wanted to do with the teen's, so off he went.


Our first 'port of call' was Labadee, Haiti, which is actually a private area owned by Royal Caribbean. We were here last year while on Freedom, but arriving this time we found that our favorite spot, 'Hideaway Beach', was no longer and is now under construction as the new entry point for Labadee. To bad too, because it was the perfect spot for a quiet day here! Jill had purchased admission for Mike to go to the waterpark, which was a timed ticket and gave him an hour in that 'area'. It was an okay experience (after we got the correct sized lifejacket on him), but not something we'd pay for again - it wasn't THAT good. Jill and I found a place on another one of the beaches (in the shade) to plop down at, and that's where we spent the rest of our day. We had some lunch at the buffet on Labadee (which was as blech as the last time we were here) and were onboard late afternoon.

On Sunday the 6th we had dinner at T-Rex in Downtown Disney.

August 28th
Clearwater Threshers 6, Daytona Cubs 2

DAYTONA - In front of over 3,000 fans at Jackie Robinson Ballpark the Daytona Cubs (27-34, 61-67) fell to the Clearwater Threshers (32-31, 64-65), 6-2. Left fielder Derrick Mitchell led the way for Clearwater with three hits, two walks and a RBI.

The Threshers opened the scoring in the top of the second inning. Left fielder Derrick Mitchell led off the inning with a base hit to left. Cubs starter Rafael Dolis did not retire the first batter of any frame in his three-plus innings of work. Mitchell eventually scored on a ground ball by fellow outfielder Gus Milner to give Clearwater a 1-0 lead.

Mitchell would once again lead off the frame in the fourth inning and he drew a walk from Dolis. After a walk to Joel Naughton, Clearwater manager Ernie Whitt put on a double steal. Cubs catcher Luis Flores tried to get Naughton at second, but his throw went into center field and Mitchell was able to come in on the error.

Clearwater extended their lead to 3-0 in the fifth, and once again Derrick Mitchell played a part. Daytona reliever Billy Muldowney got the first two batters of the inning, but then issued back-to-back walks to set the stage for Mitchell. The Michigan native stroked a single through the left side of the infield to score Matt Rizzotti.

Daytona got one back in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs and nobody on, Marwin Gonzalez smacked his second home run of the season over the right field wall.

The Threshers had an answer for the Gonzalez long ball. Cubs reliever Hank Williamson came on in the top of the sixth inning and struggled to get an out. The first five batters of the inning all reached base and two runs came in as Clearwater carried a 5-1 lead into the later innings.

The Cubs would get one back in the bottom half of the sixth. Nate Samson crushed a one out triple to the gap in left field. With two away, Brandon Guyer beat out an infield single and brought home Samson to make it 5-2.

The Threshers would regain their four run lead in the seventh as Michael Durant hammered a two out solo home run to left field off Williamson.

Dan Brauer pitched shutout baseball the final three innings for the Threshers to pick up his second save of the year.

Daytona returns to action for one more night of baseball in 2009 at "The Jack" on Sunday at 5:35 p.m. It will be another promotion-packed evening as it will be Fan Appreciation Day. Florida Hospital Imaging is handing out hats to the first 1,000 fans and there will be fireworks following the contest presented by Metro PCS.

September 6th
Detroit Tigers 5, Tampa Bay Rays 3

ST. PETERSBURG - By the time Brandon Inge's grand slam reached the stands in left-center field, fans at Tropicana Field on Sunday had already begun their procession up the aisles and out of the ballpark. The end was almost inevitable by then, too tough for many to stomach.

It's a script that's been replayed repeatedly over the past 10 days, though perhaps no more painfully than on Sunday, when Tampa Bay's struggling bullpen couldn't protect a two-run lead against the Tigers with one out in the ninth inning.

When it was over, some of the 28,059 fans that remained voiced their displeasure as they left. Others stayed frozen in their seats in disbelief. Few may say they were altogether shocked -- another ballgame lost late, another stab of futility by the Rays' relievers.

Inge hit a grand slam off Russ Springer, sending the Rays to a 5-3 loss at Tropicana Field and dealing one more knockout blow to the Rays' relief corps, which blew its eighth save in the past 12 chances.

This loss, in particular, however, was stinging considering the dazzling debut of Wade Davis, who pitched marvelously in his first career start but was let down in the end.

"This is a tough one," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've actually played pretty well during this homestand and had a chance to win a lot of games, and did not, giving away a lot of stuff late. We've got to get back to normal as a bullpen."

Davis struck out six of the first seven hitters he faced, becoming just the third player since 1962 to strike out his first four hitters in a debut. He finished with nine strikeouts in seven innings, a Rays record for strikeouts in a first career start.

"He really did a wonderful job," Maddon said. "Honestly I didn't know he'd be able to do that. But he did, and he did it in fine fashion. He was really good."

And Davis, a touted prospect called up from Triple-A Durham on Wednesday, came into Sunday's game overshadowed by his counterpart Edwin Jackson, who returned to Tropicana Field for the first time since being traded in the offseason. Davis took care of that pretty quickly, though.

And when he struck out Carlos Guillen on a breaking ball to end the first inning, Davis walked off the mound to a standing ovation -- the first of two he'd receive in his premiere.

"I felt relaxed," Davis said. "I threw strikes -- that was my biggest goal, just get ahead. I gave my team the chance to win the game."

The ovations didn't take long to dissipate into jeers, though. The nightmarish string of flareups continued for Tampa Bay's bullpen.

Rays right-handed reliever Lance Cormier pitched a spotless eighth and got the first out in the ninth before being lifted for Grant Balfour. Balfour walked the next batter, and J.P. Howell came in and walked another. Springer then entered and allowed a hit to load the bases before facing Inge.

Springer's first slider of the day ended up landing 414 feet away in the left-center-field stands.

"It wasn't a bad pitch, it was on the outside corner," Springer said. "I know he's a hook guy, but on paper he's supposed to hit that ball to second base. He got me."

Maddon said the decision to remove Cormier two outs away from finishing the game was scripted before the inning began.

"That's what we've been doing all year," Maddon said. "It's not like it's unusual or new. We try to prearrange our bullpen in advance, and they've done a pretty good job of it all season."

At this point, with Tampa Bay's relievers sporting a 7.85 ERA on the six-game homestand, no decision has worked. The bullpen lost each game to the Tigers this weekend and hasn't had a scoreless appearance since Aug. 29.

"I'm just not in tune with my body right now, and that's the key," Howell said. "It's in process right now."

Tampa Bay tied the game on a solo home run by Evan Longoria in the second. With the homer, Longoria joined teammate Carlos Pena with 100 RBIs on the season. They became the first pair of Rays in team history to reach the century mark in the same season, and also the first teammates in baseball to do it this year.

The Rays added two more runs in the third to give Davis the 3-1 lead, which he carried through the seventh, outpitching Jackson, the All-Star right-hander Tampa Bay traded to Detroit in the offseason for outfielder Matt Joyce. Jackson has blossomed into a front-end starter for the Tigers, and he was eager to prove the Rays were mistaken to give him away so flittingly.

Jackson was good, certainly, allowing three runs on six hits in eight innings of work, with his velocity still hitting 96 mph in the eighth inning.

"He can do that," Maddon said. "We talked about that before the game. When he was here, there were a lot of times where if he didn't get them early, he'd be there late."

Davis said he watched Inge's home run from the clubhouse. Maddon said he will make the call about when his next start will be on Tuesday.

Davis certainly pitched like he deserved a spot in the Rays' starting rotation. These days, however, the front-end pitching isn't the issue for Tampa Bay.

"It's difficult because when you lose games late like that, that's the more difficult one to take," Maddon said. "When you have leads and when you can't hold leads late, that's the part of the game that's most difficult to endure."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Trip Notes:

We stayed at the Hampton Inn Titusville, 4760 Helen Hauser Boulevard, Titusville, FL 32780

Our nightly rate at the Hampton Inn was $98.10, for a grand total of $108.89.

The direct outbound flight was aboard JetBlue flight 659, ROC-->MCO; depart 7:00AM, arrive 9:39AM.

The direct return flight was aboard JetBlue flight 1755, MCO-->ROC; depart 6:25PM, arrive 9:06PM; Seats 13B, 13D, and ....

Aboard Freedom of the Seas we stayed in cabin JS-9580.

Itinerary for the trip:
30 AUG: Port Canaveral
31 AUG: Cruising
01 SEP: Labadee, Haiti
02 SEP: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
03 SEP: George Town, Grand Cayman
04 SEP: Cozumel, Mexica
05 SEP: Cruising
06 SEP: Port Canaveral

Total cost of cruise: $3684.65

For the Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field we sat in Section 106, Row U, Seats 5-6-7.

We stayed at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Sunday the 6th through Tuesday the 8th, $69.00 a night.