Words That Changed Me

_a record of the process_

Goodbye, Cruise: Day 7…and 8

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 | 0 comments

It’s been two months since we were sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, so I think it’s finally time to wrap up these cruise posts with a re-cap of our last day(s).

Day 7 was an “At Sea” day, and it was the day I recognized that our wonderful vacation was really coming to an end. Day 8 was a wait for your number to be called to exit the ship morning following by drive home day. The saddest day, for sure. So let’s start with Day 7!

In the morning, instead of a leisurely breakfast in the dining room or even platters of free room service, we elected to eat granola bars in our room. Why? Because we wanted to take Bret’s camera for a photo tour of the ship before everyone else was awake! My sister recommended doing this one morning while the whole ship was clean, free of crowds, and virtually untouched. What a great idea.

I’m so glad we got these pictures…

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Check out the swim-up pool bar under the bridge!

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This wine bar was great. I don’t know why it wasn’t more popular, but Bret and I were the only ones in there when we went one night for the wine tasting.

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Can you spot Shrek and his friends? Look UP!

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These light changed colors constantly. I may have stood on the bridge and made Bret wait until they turned purple to take the picture. Purple and gold! Go Dukes!

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Unlimited free coffee, tea, and bakery items available 24/7. I want to take a cruise with my sister because I feel like we would stay up talking here until, well, forever.

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This is the karaoke spot :)

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Art.

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That’s the staircase where we got our professional photo taken after dinner.

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This perspective is a little dizzy-ing… but it wasn’t in person.

After we’d snapped enough photos to feel satisfied, we claimed some chairs by the pool where we read and relaxed for a few hours. It was a sweet, simple way to savor some of our last vacation hours. I love that there were quiet, adults only pool sections; bright and sunny poolside sections; and cool, shade-covered comfy chair sections to choose from. Some people claimed chairs with pool towels early, but if they weren’t using those chairs after an hour or so, the cruise staff would politely remove their things and bring them over to the Lost and Found to make room for  others. There was definitely a spot for everyone., and it was nice to be able to read tucked away from the super fun (but super loud) H20 zone:

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Then it was time for our last lunch on-board. On our way to lunch, we took a snacks and pizza detour all through the promenade. I mean, why not? And then we went up to the windjammer buffet for lunch. I had my usual salad bar, but I was sure to include a cheesey entree and dessert.

After our 7th and LAST lunch on-board, we were feeling sentimental, so we moseyed over to the photo studio, looked at our professional pictures, and decided to buy three of them:

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We dropped the pictures off in the room, and then went back to the promenade for an event aptly named, FreedomFest! I watched a towel folding demonstration and picked up a a packet of instructions so I can learn how to be a towel-folding expert for my Florida guests. There was food everywhere (we were full, though) and mixed drinks for sale. It was buzzing just like the 70s party from the night before that I think I forgot to blog about… ah, well. Oh, and there was an ice sculpture for FreedomFest.

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We sat in lounge chairs on level 4 and just watched the ocean. I remember thinking, I will certainly miss this.

We needed to break a $100 bill so we could tip our servers and room keeper, so, naturally, we went to the casino! I put in a $100, I won $5, and we cashed out at $105. Just like that! We got our $100 back in $20s, $10s, and $5s, …and then gambled the free $5 away. I couldn’t resist!

With gambling on the brain, we thought about trying to win a free cruise vacation via bingo, but left when we realized the bingo cards started at $22 a piece – what?! I didn’t win that much money! So we went back up to the pool deck and watched the volleyball tournament instead. It was a crew vs. guests game! Any guest could sign up to be on one of the 6 teams. The crew won all 6 rounds but then EVERYONE from those 6 teams got in the pool for an ultimate game and the guests won one final game.

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We went to the pool bar and ordered a couple drinks. We walked around and snapped a few pictures of the pool. We had no agenda. I just kept thinking… we are really, really going to miss this place!

We had our last dinner in the dining room. I had vegetarian “chickn” and rice (bleh – veggie meals were not the ship’s specialty) and Bret had seafood and mash. I had key lime pie for desert which was delish!

After dinner, we watched the 7:00pm Farewell Show which was impressive. There were acrobats! And comedy – a good mix to counteract the sad goodbye which was the farewell from all of the staff members. They talked about what perfect weather we’d had all week – which was true. Ah, I feel sad just thinking about it!

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On our way back to our room we grabbed a cupcake to go, and came back to our room to finish packing and fill out our travel paperwork, which I proceeded to spill chocolate icing on. It was fine.

Oh, speaking of paperwork, obviously, Bret picked up the materials to join the frequent cruising club loyalty program.

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We’re members.

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Then, for some reason I’ll never think of pleasantly, we decided to go to Johnny Rockets for a slice of apple pie.

Remember how you pay one flat rate of $6 no matter what you order? Well our server insisted that we needed more than a slice of apple pie. This guy brought us French fries, onion rings, a tuna melt (me) a burger (Bret), TWO milkshakes and then yes finally a slice of apple pie…with ice cream. I was so incredibly full that I didn’t even want the apple pie so I asked if we could get it “to go” instead. He said that he had already prepared the apple pie on the plate, but he would also make us one to go. I said no, but it was too late. After we struggled to eat most of that apple pie, our server brought us a huge to go back with more apple pie… and more ice cream to go, and my leftover tuna melt, fries and onion rings, too… it was way too much!

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I may be smiling, but I felt sick from over-eating.

Gross.

We walked around the promenade after a short recovery in the room. I was planning to grab a nightcap drink from the Champagne Bar, but I felt way too awful from Johnny Rockets. Next time, then.

The weirdest thing was before we went to bed was standing out on our balcony and seeing the coast. Miami, FL to be exact. After a week of seeing endless ocean, we were almost home, and we did not like it.

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The night before we left our suitcases out in the hall to be picked up.

When we woke up, we were pulled back up next to that Disney Dream where we started our vacation 7 days ago. It was too sad.

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In the morning, they served breakfast, which was great. We went to the windjammer and then picked up our little carry-on bags from the room and headed over to our waiting area to wait for our number to be organized. Leaving was well-organized.

Goodbye, room.

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Goodbye, weird little bathroom.

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The interactive touch screen board that usually listed all the fun activities just had everyone’s departure time. It was so sad.

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Really, really sad.

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Looking back, my favorite memories are the simple ones: lounging on Deck 4 and listening to the waves, eating lunch and dinner overlooking the water, and sitting out on our balcony together. My most exciting memories are swimming with the stingrays, making salsa in Cozumel, watching the Love and Marriage game show on the ship, and watching the Ice Show on the ship. All of the shows we saw were great.

If I cruise here again, I will definitely climb the rock wall or the wave rider or something like that. One of the new ships, Oasis of the Seas, has a skydiving simulator! I loved the pool. I loved being able to walk off the ship and be in a brand new place even though I felt most comfortable in Labadee and Grand Cayman. I loved being able to walk back to our room whenever I needed a break. I loved the Champagne Bar and the coffee & pastries being available 24/7. I loved not having access to my phone even though I was obviously having withdrawls because I dreamt about blogging and emailing.

The funny thing is, when planning this vacation, we weren’t even thinking about a cruise initially. It just ended up being so much more economical than paying for transportation, hotel, activities, and food anywhere else. Even though it’s been 2 months since the cruise, not a day goes by where Bret doesn’t talk about how much he misses it. Hopefully we’ll be planning another one in the near-ish future.

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The Perfect Saturday

Posted by on Jul 26, 2014 | 0 comments

This morning when I woke up, I immediately felt this sense of urgency to go out and enjoy the day. I wanted to go grab my lap top and start reworking a chapter of my (slooooowly but surely growing) novel. I wanted to go for a walk before the humidity sets in. I wanted to make pancakes. I wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market. I wanted to soak in every minute of this humid, quiet Tallahassee summer. I felt so much joy toward the open, unplanned-ness of the day.

It’s the same feeling I felt on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. I remember – so clearly – waking up on my own during that horrid year of kindergarten and realizing that it wasn’t a school day. I remember bouncing into Mallory’s room where she was – without a doubt – already awake and playing Barbies. I can picture her smiley 4-year-old face so clearly. We could play for hours: building blanket forts, doing “gymnastics” (i.e. toppling backwards off our bed)s, and playing barbies until my parents came in and brought some structure to our day.

  • Eat Breakfast
  • Get Dressed
  • Make a List of tasks we’re going to accomplish today, you know.

If it was summer, those “tasks” probably included an afternoon at the pool, running through a sprinkler in the backyard, or maybe even playing water balloons. Speaking of water balloons… this dad’s brilliant idea will be making an appearance in my life one day I’m sure. Being a kid on a Saturday in the middle of summer? Those were perfect Saturdays.

When I was six, I didn’t know that while I was having a perfect Saturday, there were kids in my kindergarten class who were not. They didn’t have any parents around to add some structure to their day. They didn’t have any breakfast to eat or anyone at all to play with. I did not know this. I was safe and protected in my happy little world, and it was the perfect Saturday. For me.

This morning I wrapped my initial thoughts of writing and breakfast into one and ended up here, at The Sweet Shop, with Bret.

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That’s a banana nutella croissant. It’s perfect. After this we probably will go to that Farmer’s Market. Then we might play a video game. I’m not really a video game kind of person, but he introduced me to a game that I like. It’s basically like watching an animated movie about high school kids in Japan and answering “choose your own adventure” questions to move the story along. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s fun. Tonight, we may go see this play with a few friends. It’s pretty perfect.

Last Saturday, we were at Epcot in Disney World. Just for a day trip. That was a perfect Saturday, too.

I’m grateful for our Saturdays. Sometimes I feel guilty, though. I feel outrageously guilty for being able to enjoy this Saturday while people just like me are living on the other side of the world filled with complete terror, grief, and disbelief that their whole world has been turned upside down. It’s a balance – I think – of expressing gratitude for what you have and knowing that everything could be completely changed in a single second.

I always wonder if I’m doing life right. When I graduated from JMU, I pledged to be an educated and enlightened citizen who leads a productive and meaningful life. I do not take this lightly. Sometimes I don’t know how much attention I should be devoting to things I can’t do anything about. And then I wonder if actually I can help, and I wonder if I’m doing enough. And I think about my friend who have no time because they are always traveling for work or cleaning up after kids and I realize that I have so much time.

And I realize that even if I donated 50% of my income and dedicated all my weekends to volunteer service, I’ll still be living in a pretty safe bubble. And I’ll be able to elect to have a perfect Saturday whenever I need one.

Well.

Even though this post isn’t turning out exactly the way I wanted it to, I’m going to publish it, because my blogging habits haven’t been up to par this month and that Sweet Shop picture is a great snapshot for this time in my life of carefree Saturdays. I’m so grateful for this Saturday. I’m so grateful for this time in our lives. I’m so grateful for Bret. I feel so lucky to be where I am. I’m so motivated by the fact that I have the tools and resources I need to learn more and try more and keep building myself into a more compassionate human being who leaves a real thumbprint on this world. This Saturday, I’m counting my blessings and looking forward to doing more.

Until next time, Happy Saturday!

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Day 6 | Cozumel, Mexico!

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 | 0 comments

This is the cruise that never ends, y’all. Okay. Day 6. Here we go!

Day 6 was the excursion I’d been looking forward to for MONTHS! I was so giddy excited when we woke up at 7. We went to the Windjammer buffet for breakfast at 8. We couldn’t get our “usual seat” – yes we had regular tables and routines at this point – so we sat at another table at the very back of the ship. I had miso soup, egg fried rice, vegetables and fruit for breakfast because I could. Bret had a delicious all American breakfast as per usual. We were planning to go for a walk around the track afterwards, but I forgot to bring a hair tie and it was SO WINDY so we settled for walking back down the stairs (yes we were still taking the stairs – all the time, y’all – everywhere we go) and we grabbed a Sudoku for later.

The ship took a while to dock because of the wind (which prompted me to change my outfit from a loose sundress to a t-shirt and shorts!), but once we docked, leaving the ship was easy peasy like usual, and the view was great. We had BEAUTIFUL weather every day.

words-0319 On the day before, we had found our group right after we got off the ship so I assumed it would be easy like that. It was still easy, but we had to go through security beyond the safe cruise ship bubble to find our excursion which confused me a bit, but everyone was really helpful and directed us to the right spot. We got a sticker, they collected our tickets, and told us to come back at 11:25.

We browsed some of the shops, but I was mostly nervous and not really relaxing enough because I didn’t like people asking me to buy something every few minutes – it’s something I need to get over! It was just like going to the mall and having people want to massage you and give you lotion and stuff. It was also unpleasantly hot everywhere – even in the shops. I needed some AC or at least real open air.

When it was finally time for our excursion, I was totally pleased with the organization. We were led in pairs over to the taxi stand, and then divided into groups of 5-6 to get into a cab.

Everyone at the hotel was incredibly nice and excited to have us there. We LOVED this excursion. As soon as we sat down, everything was set and ready for us…

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…and there were chef hats for everyone!

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And they came by and poured frozen margaritas for anyone who wanted one!

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We sat with some really nice people and we all helped each other. There was a mother/daughter pair who did not like guacamole and there was a woman sitting next to me who was allergic to tomatoes, but everyone was super accommodating.

Bret and I got to work at a station together. In the timespan of a couple hours, we each made our own margaritas and then we made 6 different kids of salsa together. AND they brought us cheese quesadillas to snack on! And tons of chips.

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…Including the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted:

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Whenever one person was chopping or stiring, the other was supposed to stand up and learn some salsa steps. Bret volunteered to chop everything hahaha because he didn’t really want to learn to dance, but I did, and it was fun.

The service was excellent: they were constantly offering to refill our margaritas, get us hibiscuis tea, and bottled water. The salsas were SO DELICIOUS and we got the recipe handout which is awesome (let me know if you want a copy!).

By far my favorite “salsa” was this dessert salsa which was served with Mexican vanilla ice cream:

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We opted to skip the dancing portion of the excursion and went over to the resort pool instead. It was the largest pool in all of Cozumel (a relatively small island with beautiful modestly sized resorts), so we had to check it out. I was a little afraid to be away from our group even though they were literally across the street and any cab could have taken us back to the ship. I expected me to be the brave one, but, nope, I was the baby.

It was totally completely fine and safe though and another couple from our group joined us within a few minutes.

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After about a half hour, we met our group and got back into a cab over to the ship. We picked up a Christmas ornament on our way back to the ship!

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And that was Mexico.

As usual, we just loved getting back on the ship. We felt at home, yes, at home. There is something so comforting about this floating hotel contraption. We grabbed a late lunch at the windjammer, and ice cream at sprinkles, and then we lounged in the hot tub and adults only pool for the first time. Bret listened in to all the old guys talking about their awesome regular cruise experiences and, gosh, Bret was already SO READY to become a regular cruiser.

We headed back to the room and showered in preparation for our 5:30 dinner!

 

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After dinner, we went to Bull and Bear and ordered 5 beers from “around the world” to share… this was my idea.

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Little did we know the ship had just entered some rough seas. I mean ROUGH SEAS. People who had cruised 10 times said they’d never experienced something like this.

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I didn’t really like any of those beers.

We didn’t finish all 5 beers (I had 1.5 and Bret maybe had 3), but we felt uncomfortably disoriented with the swaying of the ship. And that’s when we realized that seas were more than a little rocky…

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TONS of people were seasick, they had to drain the deck (I heard) and we were okay but it was hard to sit still or walk straight.

We watched a funny Canadian show called “Gag / Just for Laughs.” Bret could not stop laughing, and I really enjoyed it, too, but I plain fell asleep. Fortunately, neither of us got sea sick but we would later learn that was not the case for many of our fellow cruisers…

Another great day.

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Life Lately: New Job, San Fran, etc.

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 | 0 comments

I promise the Day 6 cruise recap is on the way. It is. But first, I wanted to give a quick recap of the past three weeks. My blogging has been sporadic because I’ve been moving in so many different directions. To summarize:

  • I was offered a teleworking position back at the BEST PLACE TO WORK in D.C.!
  • I quit my job and helped hire a new person to take over.
  • I spent a week training the new employee to take over my Florida position by day and setting up my home office by night,
  • I traveled to D.C. to train up for my new position,
  • I got to spend a weekend with my parents in Apalachicola!
  • I was in San Francisco on a work trip,
  • …and then I was learning how to work from home.

I’ll write more about this later, but working for an organization that values me and appreciates great work is so encouraging and so motivating. I don’t think I admitted how much stress I was under and how MISERABLE I was – at times – in the job I’ve had for the past two years. It wasn’t all bad, and I think I still need to wrap my mind over the experience so I can really put words to it, but it was unreasonably stressful. And now… I just don’t think I will ever, ever, ever take this opportunity for granted. I’m so grateful to be getting PAID to contribute to something I enjoy, believe in, and am proud of.

Check out my new teleworking office!

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I got to be back in D.C.!

  1. The new office is awesome
  2. Yogiberry closed which broke my heart
  3. I got to see some of my best friends and eat at a new local farm to table restaurant!

AAMC

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I spent a weekend with my parents and Bret in Apalachicola!

  1. I love them so much.
  2. We celebrated my half birthday and my mom brought me Ukrops butterstar cookies! Bret is now also obsessed with them.

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Photo: Happy Half Birthday to me! #Ukrops #Butterstar cookies, a Now 50 music cd, and seeing my parents for the first time in 6 months. So happy! #halfbirthday

I was in SAN FRAN

I worked most of the time, but I got to go on a tour and see a bunch of cool San Fran things like Lombard Street! Too bad the Golden Gate bridge was barely visible.

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Traveling was good for me. It challenged me and made me comfortable flying alone and being in a new place alone again. But I missed Bret! And my cats. Now I am home and it’s the 4th of July and I couldn’t be happier.

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I spent this morning watching Bret swim laps and do handstands in the pool. Now he’s playing frisbee golf and I’m drinking tea and watching Season 4 episodes of Glee. Life is good. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and long weekend with your friends and families!

 

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Cruising 2014 | Day 5

Posted by on Jun 22, 2014 | 0 comments

May 29, 2014 |  George Town, Grand Caymam

THE BEST DAY.

I’m so sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog! I have plenty of excuses: I helped train someone to take over my old  job, I started a new job, I spent a week training in D.C., I was away this weekend, and now I’m getting geared up for a work trip to San Francisco. But, you know, I can make excuses all day or I can carve out an hour each day to work on a blog post. I don’t want to give up on these updates, and I want to remember how wonderfully relaxing this trip was. So, I’m back!

Looking back, Day 5 was our favorite cruising day. It started off with a fantastic breakfast. We ordered room service: eggs, hashbrowns, a roasted tomato, a fruit platter, a pastry platter, coffee and orange juice all for a grand total of $0.00. Yep. Room service is so convenient (you can order by phone, TV, or hanging the knob on your door!) and there is no charge, although we tip.

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We decided to do room service instead of a sit-down or buffet breakfast because instead of docking right next to a pier and walking off the ship at our leisure like we had been doing for the past two days, at Grand Cayman, everyone had to take tender boats from the cruise ship to shore. We were warned that can take up to 45 minutes. We weren’t scheduled to dock until 8, and we were supposed to meet for our excursion at 8:45, so we wanted to get one of the first boats over.

The tender was fast, simple, and enjoyable enough. I wondered if I would feel sea sick from being on this tiny boat, but I didn’t. It was a fun adventure and we got to chat with some other first time cruisers.

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We knew we had to look for a yellow tent, and friendly people were there to help direct us and check our tickets to confirm we were in the right place. We were there by 8:30, so we had plenty of time. It was hot and overcast early in the morning.

We had a large group, but our tour guide divided us into groups of about 15-17 people, and each group got it’s own tour bus. Ours was #5. The bus was comfortable and air-conditioned, and the driver had a microphone so we could hear everything he shared about the island. He even made a few stops for us to take pictures. Our tour was scheduled to go to the turtle farm, a Tortuga rum shop, HELL, and then a Stingray City adventure. We did all of those things but not in that order, I think they stagger all of the smaller groups.

Our first stop was in “Hell” and our driver told us that we’d have 15 minutes to check it out. We learned that this area was named “hell” because of the crazy rock formations in that area that formed from acid rain. We snapped a few pictures and then went inside to mail postcards to our families.

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We piled back into the bus and drove to our next stop: the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory. Well, it was just a small store (everything was grander in my imagination) but we got free freshly-baked vanilla and chocolate rum cake samples and they were delicious! There were also free shots of rum available, but we skipped those.

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Our next stop was the turtle farm! We had an hour to spend there and to be honest my first thought was, “I hope that’s enough time!”

It was.

I’d been imagining what this Turtle Farm might look like for months. I imagined a HUGE property with different air conditioned aquariums and “farms” with turtles of different ages. It was well-organized and it seems like they have a great operation going on that helps sustain the turtle population (they farm them each year and then release 90% into the wild), but it was much more, well, unstructured than I imagined. We saw the giant turtles first.

They were climbing all over each other, but they had plenty of space to swim around. We learned a few facts like the males have longer tails, and the females have shorter tails.

After that, we went over to the pools of 1-2 year old turtles. We were allowed and encouraged to pick them up, but I declined. I felt bad for these turtles because there didn’t seem to be enough supervision. Kids could hop into the pools and lift the turtles up. There were plenty of signs around demonstrating how not/to handle the turtle (don’t hold them out of the water too long, they could overheat, lift with two hands under the shell; do not grab their fins). I just wished there was someone there enforcing the rules and monitoring everyone.

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From there we ventured in to see the hatchling and education building. One room had foam boxes full of eggs that were growing:

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We watched the video which explained a lot and convinced me this was a good operation afterall. Other than that, the only things that we had access to were a restaurant and the gift shop(s). I was hungry – we both were – and luckily we found a piece of banana bread we could buy to hold us over.

I was pretty excited but also really nervous about our next stop…

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… 2 hours in Stingray City.

I brought our water shoes so I went ahead and put those on. I thought that would make me feel safe and protect me from their stingers (spoiler alert: you’re only allowed to go in barefoot). So, what happened was, fisherman used to clean their fish on this sandbar to avoid mosquitos. They found lots of stingrays there sunning themselves and staying protected from the sharks in the deeper water. They fed the stingrays some of the left over fish guts, and this essentially domesticated them. Nowadays, you can go out on this sand bar and play with the stingrays. I love animals. I really wanted to do this. But I was scared – especially when they told me I had to go barefoot.

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And then, we just hopped in with the stingrays.

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I was so scared.

I’ll let the video speak for itself, but I was squealing silently every time one brushed up against me:

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Bret was brave and cool and as a cucumber so that made me feel a little more courageous. We both held a female stingray and Bret even kissed her for good luck! Of course, we bought the $40 worth of digital photos they took of us.

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I did it!!!

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The boat ride back was nice and relaxing. The boat wasn’t fancy – but it was functional – and they gave us free water and fruit punch if we wanted it.

We had to wait in a long line to catch the tender back over at 2:45. As soon as we were back, we changed clothes really fast and then made our way up to Johnny Rockets. During “Happy Hour” you can order anything off the menu including milkshakes and sodas for a flat rate of $6/person. I ate way too much (onion rings, fries, tuna melt, vanilla coke, chocolate milkshake) and Bret ate even more! But after skipping lunch, it was a good feeling. We pulled away from the dock while we enjoyed our meal, and it was perfect.

During the rest of the afternoon, we watched some kids try to boogie board on the Flow Rider, we played some ping pong, and then made it back to our room for showers and laziness. We decided to skip formal dinner tonight mainly because we were still SO FULL from Johnny Rockets. Instead, we headed to the Champagne Bar for some delicious cocktails. We talked with another couple who was also on their first cruise, and we really enjoyed talking with the bar tender. We told her about our stingray adventure and she told us about when she had to jump in the water during cruise training.

She gave us each a free drink, and we headed over to the Once Upon a Time Show! This show was fun. The cast sang pop music while acting out parts of popular fairy tales.

After the show we were finally hungry(ish) so we went to Windjammer. I got my usual salad and a roll and added a seafood baked potato. We came back to the room for a few minutes and I considered all the fun things we could do: get the drink of the day in the souvuineer glass, go to the casino, watch adult karoke, go see our pictures, have a nightcap at the Champagne Bar. Well, we did it all. We got the lemonade-y drink of the day. It was very tart. We spent $20 at the casino. We found some of our port pictures.

After that we really fought the urge to be tired.

We went to the coffee shop and each had a coffee. There was a LATE night white party up at the pool, so we went up there to see the set up. There were fun crazy lights and some people were lounging on the chairs watching a poolside movie. We walked around a bit and then Bret decided he could handle a couple slices of pizza. We went to Sorrentos and shared a few slices. It wasn’t even 11, but I was dragging, so we decided it was acceptable to go to bed.

At the time, we felt like we were going to bed early, but when I consider everything we did that day, I think we had a very full very fun day. I’ll try my best to get Day 6 up this week!

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Cruising 2014 | Day 4

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 | 0 comments

May 28, 2014 | Falmouth, Jamaica

words-0320Day 4 was a gloriously victorious day for me because Day 4 was the day I wore my 9th and final pair of shoes that I packed – thus justifying the need to bring 9 pairs of shoes on a 7-day vacation.

As you can imagine, I received some skepticism in the need to bring 9 pair of shoes, but I’m here to tell you that I wish I’d brought 10! In fact, before I even get into the details of our Jamaica Day, let me go ahead and share the purpose and function of each of these pairs of shoes in a short little rant entitled, “Nine is not enough.”

People will tell you to bring 3-4 pairs of shoes: dress shoes for the formal nights, sandals or flipflops for moving about the ship, walking shoes for the some excursions or the gym, and maybe water shoes to protect your feet while swimming/snorkeling. And yes, in some cases, I can imagine that certainly being sufficient.

If you really want to make sure all of your bases are covered though, I recommend bringing 10:

  • Casual comfy clothes toed shoes (cuter than tennis shoes, but still comfortable. I wore these around port in Jamaica and one other time maybe…but I was glad I had them!)
  • Tennis shoes (necessary for jogging/walking around the track or if you want to go to the gym or climb the rockwall)
  • Practical daily wear flip flops in a fun pattern (my zebra stripped flip flops – these were my primary pool shoes)
  • Practical daily wear flip flops in a coordinating color (my red flip flops – wore several days around the ship)
  • Practical daily wear flip flops in a neutral color (this is the 10th pair that I didn’t bring and wish that I did. Black, white, tan, something neutral)
  • Water shoes (I never would have made it into the ocean at Labadee without these to protect my feet from the rocks)
  • Stylish daytime sandals (I wore these to casual dinners)
  • Stylish, frivolous sandals that make you feel like you’re on vacation (check out those black and white cloth ones – perfection. I almost didn’t buy them, but I’m so glad I did. I wore these to dinner and to shows a night)
  • White dress shoes (I could have just worn black – but this one coordinated with one of my outfits so much better)
  • Black dress shoes (these sparkly black sandals are the best. I don’t do heels anymore.)

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Yep, there’s Velveeta saying, “Mom why are all of these shoes in front of my favorite napping spot?!” I’m moving them now. It was just for a picture, pookie.

So now, that that’s out of the way…

This morning we woke up, sang the GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW song. At this point, I realized I was definitely having internet withdrawls because I dreamt about sending work emails and reading blogs! I laughed about that (and said a silent thank you for some much needed un-plugged time). And then we put on gym clothes! We had breakfast at the windjammer. I had fruit and some brown rice and veggies and a slice of French toast. Bret had a big ole pile of eggs and breakfast meat goodness.

THEN we went to the gym! It was packed so we headed up to the track instead. We ran for about ¼ mile haha and walked for a little over a 1 mile. There were people who were running successfully, but it was crowded and we wanted to stay together and it was just more pleasant for us to walk. It wasn’t our usual 3 mile walk, but it was something.

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I felt great! …but thirsty. We went back to the Windjammer for a glass of water and a glass of mango water. That’s one of my favorite things about the ship, too. You can choose to purchase a beverage package (soda or beer/wine, mixed drinks, etc.) Or you can stick to water/tea/lemonade for free and then pay per drink if you want a specialty drink. We did not buy a package because we mainly drink water. In addition to water, though, you get unlimited coffee, orange juice, tea, lemonade, and some specialty choice each day. This day was mango water, and it was delish!

We came back to our room, and watched Casey the Cruise Director’s morning show which was hilarious, and then got dressed to visit Jamaica!

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Here’s the thing about Falmouth. It’s a new port in an area that is very historical but also very oppressed. If we had planned an execursion to Dunns River Falls or one of the other awesome tours they offered, I’m sure we would have loved it, but we made a decision early on to save our money and only go on two excursions (our favorite of which is coming up in the Day 5 post!). Instead of doing an excursion, we decided to walk around the port, do some window shopping, maybe buy a Bob Marley t-shirt, maybe lounge on the beach if there was beach access (there wasn’t), and have lunch at Margaritaville. Yes, the port has a Margaritaville WITH A SWIMMING POOL.

Well, walking around the port was really underwhelming and pretty sad. We weren’t expecting much, but the disparity between Americanized chain retail Jamaica compared to authentic oppressed Jamaica right across the way… it was too much. We walked around in shops that were all identical and I’m sure equally exploitive. At 11:00AM, we decided to have lunch at Maragaritaville which, based on reviews, I’d expected to be the highlight of this port.

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It wasn’t.

I’d heard decent reviews, but as soon as we made our way inside, I had my doubts. The hostess tried to get us to sit out in the sun even though we asked to sit “inside” in the shade with the fans. It was all open-air and there was no airconditioning which was fine, but between sitting at an outdoor table with a thin umbrella or sitting by the bar under a roof, we picked the roof.

When we were seated, our server shook our hands and patted my arms. She was super nice and friendly which was wonderful, but honestly, after we had been instructed to use hand sanitzer before every meal, shaking hands with someone who was shaking hands with all the other customers and handling menus that lots of other people had touched, well, it made me reconsider ordering a sandwich or anything I’d eat with my hands. It probably would have been fine, but I didn’t want to risk getting sick on the ship.

Instead of ordering lunch, we just got drinks. Our server convinced us it was worth it to get the souvenir glasses. Since we didn’t have any other souvenir from Jamaica, I decided this was a good idea. How much would you pay for two drinks in souvenir glasses? $33.00 + $5.00 tax? Good, because that’s what it cost. I couldn’t believe it. PLUS this random dude who I thought was a cruise ship photographer took our picture and then said we should buy it for $10. We agreed to get the picture when he threw in a “free Bob Marley CD”. Bret handed him a $20 and he ran away without giving us change! At least we have this:

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So that was our experience in Jamaica. Two drinks and $60 later, we couldn’t get back on the ship fast enough!

Back on the ship, we were so happy to be “home.” We went to the Windjammer for lunch (I was so hungry since we didn’t have food at Magaritaville!) and then we sat by the pool and ate some frozen yogurt. Then, we relaxed in the room. Bret slept and I read my kindle on our perfect balcony.

I think it’s so easy to know that you’re on vacation but to take this “go go go” mindset because there are SO MANY THINGS to do and explore. It’s really important to just enjoy some downtime, too. We feel so fortunate to have had a balcony right off of our room – we wanted to make sure we were taking the time to enjoy that little luxury.

After resting up for a bit, we played putt putt! We didn’t have the camera with us, but we snapped this picture of most of the course later:

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One thing I did not expect our cruise ship to have  on board was a 24/7 puttputt course. If you can play putt putt on a ship, you should.

After that, we moseyed around the ship some more. We checked our photos (the people on the ship are ALWAYS taking pictures of you and it’s fun to check them out). We ventured up to the top floor walked up to the front of the ship. It’s such a cool feeling to be soaring forward through the ocean on such a massive vessel.

I wanted to go to “tea time” which was advertised to be at the Windjammer Cafe at 3, but there was no hot tea to be had (if it was there, I couldn’t find it). I was kind of disappointed about this, but later we went to the Cafe Promenade, or, as I liked to call it, the “pastry station” for hot tea (me) hot chocolate (Bret) and coconut cookies. The coconut cookies are one of our favorite cruise staples so far! And the “pastry station” better known to most as the Cafe Promenade was arguably my favorite place on the ship. Unlimited pastries, coffee, and desserts. Open 24/7!

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We went to our usual 5:30 dinner time. Tonight’s dinner theme was “Tropical Casual” and we had Italian style food. I had the eggplant parm and caprese salad. Both were pretty good. During dinner we departed from Jamaica and the executive staff did a tour around the dining room and we clapped for them. We went up to watch us pull away from the port, and a nice guy snapped this picture of us:

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My highlight of the day came about two hours later when we went to the Love and Marriage Game show!

Our hilarious cruise director was the host. They picked three couples from the audience: a honeymoon couple, a couple who had been married over 20 years, and a couple who had been married for 55 years! There was someone in the audience who had been married longer, but they didn’t want to be on the show because they’d done it before. It was so funny! It was just like the Newlywed show in terms of format.

We came back to our room to this delightful little towel creature which made me SO EXCITED for the stringray excursion we had planned for our next day in Grand Cayman…

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Check out Bret’s Day 4 recap here.

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