After disembarking Carnival Magic we had a couple days to spend in Cocoa Beach before going home. Getting off of Carnival Magic in Port Canaveral wasn’t the easiest disembarkation ever. Leaving the ship took a very long time because in addition to long lines a couple crew people suddenly decided to let all the passengers just coming off an elevator cut into the line right there in front of all the people who had already waited quite some time to get anywhere near that elevator. Not just one group, but everyone who came off that elevator after the crew people showed up assumingly to speed up the line which had moved in an orderly fashion before the crew showed up with all new arrivals proceeding to the back of the line. Nice for those particular people exiting the elevator. Not so much for those of us who had already spent a lot of time waiting from the back of the line to get anywhere near that point, and a wait time increased exponentially with only a few people already in line managing to slip through between elevator groups. The ship called Magic definitely lost the aura of magic on the way out that we’d felt onboard throughout most of the cruise.
Once we finally managed to get off the ship we had to get through customs. Traveling with our daughter and her kids, to whom the cruise was just a small portion of a long trip to America from Australia, they had a lot more luggage than what is normal for a 7-day cruise. So we did something we have never done before and had one of those porters with the big cart take all our luggage. By doing this we learned something new – if you want to speed your way through a long line at customs hire a porter. They go right past the line of people dragging their own luggage and into a much shorter line for porters and people in wheelchairs only. This was the only part of that disembarkation that went fairly quickly.
Once we got through customs we made our way to the area where people wait for rental car shuttles. Like everything else at Port Canaveral it was quite crowded. When a shuttle for the company where we reserved a car finally came it had space enough for only about half the people. We were too far back in the line for all of us and our luggage to get on, but Sheri managed to find standing room so she could go on ahead and get the paperwork done for the car. It took far longer for the next shuttle to arrive than it took for her to get that done.
The overcrowded rental car shuttle took about 15 minutes to get to the lot where people pick up a car. There was a crowd waiting at that end to get to the ship heading out for the next cruise. The shuttle must have kept to a predetermined schedule because it made no effort to get those people on or out of there right away, nor did the other shuttle just sitting there ever let anyone on or leave the lot even though they had more than enough people to fill both of them waiting at both ends.
Once we got everything loaded into the rental car we headed off to Kennedy Space Center, partly because we wanted to see it and partly because we had to go somewhere to fill the time between disembarking the ship and checking in to our vacation rental house.
More than just a working Space Center, Kennedy Space Center has evolved into another Florida theme park. There is still a working Space Center, but it is not located at the visitor complex. They have busses that take people out there, but we spent all our time in the visitor’s center and didn’t make the trip. My daughter and I did that years ago. Back then we saw them building components for the International Space Center there. We also saw a very slow moving crawler that they brought shuttles out on for launching. The space station has of course long since launched and the shuttle program ended so there are no more shuttle launches out there. Occasionally there is still a launch though because they do sometimes send up rockets carrying satellites. Spacex also launches there sometimes.
The visitor’s complex has a building called Heroes and Legends in tribute to former astronauts that includes a 3D presentation. The very visible rocket garden has a variety of different rockets standing tall and a couple space capsules visitors can climb into for photo ops or in the case of kids, just for fun. You can even book lunch with an astronaut if you are willing to pay the price.
There are of course displays from the moon rocket era at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Besides space capsules and a moon rocket there are also things like moon rocks and space suits.
The children’s play area was closed for renovation while we were there, but the cafés were open. The kids developed quite a liking for uncrustables before the cruise, something not available in Australia. They tried to have one last one before leaving the country, but the ones purchased at the space center’s café were inedibley stale. The workers there had probably never eaten these pre-packaged crust free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches themselves because they didn’t seem to understand the problem even when shown that the bread was discolored and completely dry with the jelly gone liquid and soaking through it while the peanut butter appeared almost solid. We did finally convince them to take the sandwiches back. They gave the kids muffins and chicken nuggets instead so we ended up with more than our money’s worth according to what we’d paid.
There was a pavilion with displays about Mars and past, present, and future missions there called Journey to Mars. The visitor complex also had an 3D IMAX theater, but due to having a late start after our tedious disembarkation we didn’t have time to see everything and didn’t go to the theater.
The crown jewel of the visitor’s center is the space shuttle Atlantis. This is an actual space shuttle that performed over 30 missions before retiring. It is housed in a pavilion in which the entrance has a life-sized replica of the fuel and booster rockets used for launching shuttles.
Inside the building besides the shuttle itself there are many other displays. Astronauts hang from the ceiling near the shuttle. Another room has a miniature space station that kids can crawl through. There’s an example of a space toilet and a motion simulator launch ride. The launch simulator ride has a minimum height that Daniel was too small for so he and I stayed at the slide while the others took the ride. While I’ve never been seasick on a cruise, I do have a long history of motion sickness and some of those simulator rides really leave me queasy so I didn’t mind missing that ride. The giant slide was lots of fun.
The slide is a space shuttle landing experience slide. Several curved stations lead up to the slide, intended for people to run through simulating the turns the shuttle takes as it works its way down. Once completing the turns a large button in the floor awaits being jumped on at which time it makes a loud noise simulating breaking the sound barrier. Then you get to the actual slide. No shoes are allowed on feet, but it’s OK to carry them with you down one of the two big and speedy slides. There’s a big cushioned mat beyond the slide’s edge at the bottom, but most people run out of momentum and slow to a stop before getting that far.
The Atlantis shuttle hangs from the ceiling in a room large enough to hold an entire space shuttle and some other displays as well. The floor height varies so people can stand next to it or below it depending on where they are within the room.