By Steve Barnes

Tomorrow, we will (hopefully) board our Tampa-based Carnival cruise ship, bound for Spain. 

Update: We have been cleared to cruise! Whew! Enjoying lunch and looking forward to departure in a few hours!

I say “hopefully,” because after a week of stressful preparation, we still need to pass a final Covid test before boarding the ship.

It is the last hurdle in a seemingly endless string of chores designed to keep us and our shipmates safe and to assure authorities in Bermuda that we won’t be bringing a plague to the isolated British Island Territory. 

Over the past several days, Vicki and I have been getting tested for Covid (twice), collecting proof of our vaccinations (including the second booster we got last week), and uploading those documents to the various portals that require such things. 

After two and a half years, one would expect that the cruise ships and others who require such documents would have the process down to a science. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. 

We spent dozens of hours on the verge of tears trying to print, scan and upload documents for Carnival, VeriFLY, Bermuda and our digital wallets. Often, we would get all of the information uploaded only to have the portal reject our efforts and and send us back to the start. 

After several late nights, we finally had all of our forms accepted and were given the green light to sail. 

With that process behind us, we loaded our backpacks into the rental car and headed for Tampa where we are staying at an AirBnB near the port. 

Having survived the paperwork and I-4 traffic, we enjoyed a little dinner at Taste of Boston at Ballast Point. Gazing out over the bay, I imagined us standing on deck, passing beneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as we head out into the Gulf, bound for Bermuda, the Azores, and  Spain. 

I’ll probably be a little restless tonight, worrying about whether we will have any trouble boarding. But once we are aboard, I’ll let out a sigh of relief as we launch into our next adventure; a slow boat across The Pond followed by four months of backpacking through western and southern Europe. (More in that soon!)