I'm writing this in parts, gang. Here's #1 Conquest 2/22/04 As horrid as this cruise started, let me assure you that we had a LOVELY time. The trouble started Sunday morning. We had spent the night at our friendsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ home in Metairie on Saturday night. We awoke to read in the Times Picayune Ã¢â‚¬Å“RIVER CLOSED FOR FIRST TIME IN 50 YEARS!Ã¢â‚¬Â There was a ship accident at the mouth of the river. I thought, Ã¢â‚¬Å“no big dealÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll probably leave out of GulfportÃ¢â‚¬Â. Got on the phone to Carnival. Sure enuf. We were headed to Gulfport. I asked if I could just drive over there, and was told, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ABSOLUTELY NOTÃ¢â‚¬Â¦you MUST check in at the New Orleans terminal!Ã¢â‚¬Â So, we had our buddies drop us off at the NOLA terminal at about 9:30 am. (Our ship was docked in Gulfport, MS). There were porters, but they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t working. Nor would they let us borrow their luggage carriers. Dominic had to carry all of our stuff. 3 hard sided Samsonite bags which contained both clothes and beer, 2 carry onÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and a dozen bottles of wine and champagne. From that point, check in was a breeze. They herded us into the back room and gave us ZONE 1 green cards. We were told that busses were on the way, and that we should be on the road between 10 and 10:30 a.m. At around 10:30, we were told that the busses were delayed because of Mardi Gras. They were shooting for 2 pm. At this time, there was a collective groan of 2,950 passengers. Dom walked upstairs to the Riverwalk and got us a couple of beers. A new announcement said that ZONE 1 would leave around 5 pm. More groans and angry yells. We were with a group from the New Orleans Eat Club. Our travel agent found us a bus and loaded us up at 4:45. We felt very special, being the first bus scheduled to leave! At 4:55, we were told to Ã¢â‚¬Å“GET OFF OF THE BUSÃ¢â‚¬Â. Someone had complained to the Coast Guard, and we had to go through security. So much for feeling special. Went back inside, which was a mob-scene. An announcement informed us that Zones 1 and 2 wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t leave until 7pm. At 7 pm, we were told to leave the terminal, as we wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be catching a bus until 9:30 pm. Some zones got a departure time of 2 am! It was at that point that I lost my smile. Two sweet old ladies watched our bags while we walked up to the Riverwalk for a beer and a sandwich. At about 8pm, we heard whispering that the busses were boarding early! We ran like hell to get through security and onto the last Zone 1 bus. We finally pulled out (after waiting for a train, of course!) around 9pm and endured the ride to Gulfport in the company of many loud, drunk and obnoxious people. Dom tried to sleep. I stared out of the window sullenly. Got to Gulfport shortly after 10 pm., went through security again, and got into our room for 11pm. We iced down some bubbly and some beer, went upstairs for the midnight buffet, had our luggage waiting for us upon our 1am return. Sat on the balcony until 2am, wondering why there were no more busses pulling in. Had a delightful night's sleep in our category 8-B cabin. In closing this segment, let me share my feelings on this matter. Carnival Cruise Lines was aware of this tragic accident on Saturday morning. They handled this terribly! They SHOULD have been loading busses in NOLA, dropping passengers off in Gulfport, refilling busses with old passengers, and heading back to NOLA. Instead, they only allowed 400 of us to board on Sunday night! The other passengers didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t begin leaving NOLA until after 3:30 AM! (Not to mention the poor bastards who were stranded in Gulfport on Sunday! They had the same problem that we did with transportation). We were, in fact, two of 400 very lucky passengers who were able to sleep soundly on Sunday night! Days Monday through Saturday coming soon!