Goodbye, Cruise: Day 7…and 8

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. It was nice to be able to read tucked away from the super fun (but super loud) H20 zone:

IMG_1974Then 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. 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 a couple 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 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?! 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. They talked about what perfect weather we’d had all week. 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 finished packing. I spilled chocolate all over our travel paperwork. 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 bag 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. 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 for our number to be called.

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 and making salsa in Cozumel. I also loved the Love and Marriage game show on the ship, and watching the Ice Show. All of the shows were great.

If I could do it again, I’d climb the rock wall or the wave rider or something more adventurous. 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.

When first planning this vacation, we weren’t even considering a cruise. 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.

Day 6 | Cozumel, Mexico!

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 downstairs and grabbing a Sudoku puzzle 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 found our tour group right after we de-boarded, so I assumed it would be the same. 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 didn’t love people asking me to buy something every few minutes. It was also unpleasantly hot everywhere – even in the shops. I needed some AC or 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. 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 servers 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 stirring, 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 hibiscus 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. It was our 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 seasoned cruisers talking about their 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. 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.

Cruising 2014 | Day 5

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. 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, the back story: fisherman used to clean their fish on this sandbar to avoid mosquitoes. 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: http://youtu.be/2fT5NERv8Wc

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!

Cruising 2014 | Day 4

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 ÂĽ 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 miles, 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 excursion 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 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 under-resourced Jamaica right across the way… it was too much. We walked around in shops that were all identical and I’m sure equally exploitative. 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 air-conditioning 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 wash our hands 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 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. 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.

Cruising 2014 | Day 3

Day 3 was our first port day! We visited Royal Caribbean’s private island, Labadee, Haiti.

This morning, we woke up around 6:50 and I was SO EXCITED. The sun was already up and sparkling over the water again. Such a pretty sight to wake up to! We decided to have breakfast at the Windjammer buffet, and I got a big pile of fruit and a piece of toast with apple jelly. Bret ate lots of eggs and stuff.

After breakfast, we climbed the stairs up to Deck 12 to watch the ship pull us into port in Haiti. It was so beautiful.

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Bret and I both thought the island reminded us of LOST (which was filmed in Hawaii).

As we got closer, the boat started to turn around to back up into the port. Most people headed to the left, but Bret was clever and directed us to the right because on both sides the track makes you move through in a singe file line. Even though our path was a little longer, we made it to the back of the ship first and got to watch us pull into the beautiful misty mountain landscape.

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We decided to head inside before we docked because we’ve read warnings of malaria carrying mosquitoes being present several hours after sunrise, and we didn’t have our bug spray on yet.

Back in the room, we changed into swim suits and cover-ups, packed up our backpack with water shoes and sunscreen and bug spray, and headed down to level 1 to depart. Disembarkation (is that what you call it?) was totally simple and fast. As we walked across the pier toward the island, we got our first real glimpse of the ship. What a gorgeous sight! The weather was perfect and the mountain-scape behind it was just gorgeous gorgeous breathtaking.

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It was so HOT though – even at 9AM. We bought a giant bottle of water before we even left the pier. Of course, the only water they were selling was a $4 Evian bottle… but it was worth it!

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We walked around and looked at a map to find a the tram station. After reading cruise review boards, I knew we wanted to take the tram to the beach on the other side. Bret was skeptical, but agreed.

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Also, I really just wanted to ride the tram. Bret never wants to ride the tram at Disney because he thinks we can walk faster than the it takes to ride the tram from the parking lot which is true but then you don’t get to hear the zip-a-dee-doo-dah song.

Anyway. So we took the tram over to the second beach, and then a man brought us a couple of chairs which were super comfy and relaxing. He offered a blue shade tent, too, and we said no thank you, although, I later realized they were free.

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You can kind of see the tents behind Bret’s head here.

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Luxurious white canopy cabanas run for $500/day; blue tents are free!

After being comfy in the chairs for a few minutes, my swim boy was anxious to get in the water. We waded in and I could not believe how rocky it was by the shore. Fortunately, we had our water shoes in the bag, so I put mine on and then I felt super safe. Bret didn’t want to wear his shoes because he wanted to swim. Yep, he brought his swimming goggles!

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The water was malibu blue crystal clear and I’d read it’s a good place for snorkeling. I considered swimming out with him, but I decided I was happier hanging onto the flipcam and enjoying the waist-deep water instead.

Bret swam for a bit and came back and said he saw a “Dorie fish” (from Finding Nemo) and a bunch of other tropical fish. He told me he was glad he’s been swimming because he wouldn’t have been able to reach the bottom, and even if he did, he said the bottom was completely covered in long sea grass. This mental image was very haunting to me for some reason and then I decided that I absolutely would not be swimming over my head.

We took a few pictures together and then Bret wanted to swim out into the even DEEPER part of the water and explore. I was very content sitting by the water on one of our comfy chairs. I watched him swim away.

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And that’s the last I saw of him.

Just kidding!

But at one point, I thought I was watching “Bret” swim, but the “Bret” I was watching starting splashing a five-year-old kid on a raft, and I knew he wouldn’t do that, and then I realized that wasn’t him. I scanned the horizon, but I’d lost sight of him. Ten minutes passed, and I worried a little. I’d get a glimpse of someone and then realize it wasn’t him and I just started to wonder…what if his feet got tangled in that awful haunting long sea grass?!

I tried not to worry, but after a half hour, I stood up and walked toward the water, and then I saw him walking toward me. So relived! He had swam back to the shallow end and he was walking along the beach, but he couldn’t tell which chairs were ours since so many tents had popped up during his swim. He recognized my teal bathing suit and my hat and I was SO HAPPY to see him.

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Oh, and we watched some awesome zip liners! Check out Bret’s Day 3 recap for the video.

We sat by the water for a few more minutes to dry off, and then we gathered our stuff and walked over to the bar. I ordered a screwdriver and Bret ordered a corona.

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We moved over to a little seating area and talked with a couple from New Jersey and then  walked around through some of the shops. Bret really wanted a wooden flute(?) and sure enough we spotted a guy playing a wooden flute within minutes. I told him to act “not that interested” so he could barter the price down. As soon as we got close, all of the shop owners tried to talk to us and get us to buy things right away. One of them put a bracelet on my hand and told me to touch anything I liked and he would give me a good price. I kept saying, “no” and, “no thank you” and finally managed to pull the bracelet off as politely as possible. I squeezed over to Bret who was looking at the flute. The guys said it was $10 and Bret said he only had $5 and he said we could have the flute for $5. Then Bret looked at me because I had $5 and he actually had $10 haha. The guy offered to carve Bret’s name on the flute, but Bret said no thanks.

For the buffet, the cruise ship actually carts food off of the ship, prepares it on site, and then distributes it to three different buffet locations. If you like barbecue, this is a great option. If you don’t eat meat, there is some yummy salad and potato salad. Bret got all the BBQ stuff, and he also grabbed some desserts for me. We ate lunch and almost went over to watch a local show but we realized they wanted us to tip and we didn’t have any small bills with us and I felt horrible because I did want to tip them, but we ended up leaving.

We decided we were done swimming so came back to the ship to drop off the stuff we didn’t need (i.e. the flute, our beach towels, goggles, swim shoes) and we picked up the good camera. We took a bunch of pictures. Bret used the fancy cam and I used the flip cam. I felt like a child taking pretend pictures, but I love that little camera.

We sat by the beach again and saw some people training for the awesome zip line that went down the beach. I told them, “Good luck!” And they laughed.

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Ah, the life.

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We walked around and took a few more pictures and then decided to come back on board for good. As soon as we were back on the ship, we both agreed that we felt like we were, “home”. This is a reoccurring theme of our cruise week!

We left our swimsuits on and went up to the pool deck/Windjammer because we wanted cookies. We were still taking the stairs everywhere so with each floor we climbed Bret would say, “three more floors until cookies!” “two more floors until cookies!” “one more floor for cookies!”

We did get some delicious coconut cookies, but we decided to grab an ice cream cone from the pool deck first.

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When we sat down to eat them, we sat in lounge chairs in the cooler shaded area next to this sweet woman in her 70s or 80s. She told us that she’d been trying to use her tablet to take pictures of the island all day, but she couldn’t get it to work. Bret helped her figure out how to take pictures and she was so incredibly grateful. She said, “It’s not that hard is it? It’s just that no one ever told me how to do it.” I loved how Bret was so patient and took the time to make sure she really understood how to take, view, and save pictures. He even set up a short cut so she could access the camera easier!

Then, Bret took a nap, and I talked to this lady for, like, an hour. Her husband doesn’t travel anymore, but that doesn’t stop her! Instead, she travels with her friend. Her friend loves to “bake” in the sun, though, and this lady was a skin cancer survivor.  She pointed out her friend, an 80-year-old woman sunbathing, and she just shook her head and said, “There she goes – now she’s baking the other side.” I agreed that that wasn’t healthy. I talked to her for a little while longer and then Bret woke up and we decided to finally get those cookies and also another round of lunch since I only ate fruit for breakfast and salad for lunch.

We came back to the room I went ahead and took a shower in preparation for dinner. The ship took off a few minutes earlier than planned and the captain made an announcement thanking everyone for being fast and he said that it will get less windy shortly… hopefully that means less wobbly, too, when we aren’t going into the waves.

Dinner was “smart casual” and I wore my fun white dotted dress that I love.

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The dinner theme was “shitake” and I had chilled mango and pineapple soup (in the same bowl as last night – good thing I didn’t knock it over this time!) For my entree, I had the.best. shrimp dumplings ever ever with bok choy. And then we shared two delicious chocolate desserts. Dinner was really yummy and, fortunately, I didn’t feel seasick this time.

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Each night, there is an evening show at 7PM for second seating guests (8PM dinner) and then again at 9PM for main seating guests (5:30 Dinner). We met someone who suggested trying to go to the 7PM showing right after the 5:30 dinner. They said they will let you in if there are still seats even though we’re technically supposed to go to the 9:00 one. We missed the Broadway show from the night before, so since we were finished with dinner at 6:30, we decided go go ahead and grab seats for the magic show.

The Magic Show “Now You See It” features Drew Thomas from America’s Got Talent. We’re supposed to check his facebook page later because he took a video of the audience (May 27, 7PM), but I couldn’t find anything.

Bret goes into more detail about this, but the show was not great. They had a bunch of technical difficulties and the magician basically performed the same magic trick over and over. It was super loud and flashy (to distract you from the actual magical secrets) and I just hated the way women were represented the whole time as half-dressed objects to be cut in half, disappeared, and saved. The magician also told a story about this kid at a children’s hospital who was sick and wanted nothing more than to see snow …and then he used the “magic” of a fake snow machine to blow snow into the audience. It was sweet, I guess, but I felt like he was using a made up story to pull on our heart strings only to tell us that he never got to perform the snow trick for the kid, but he would do it for us now. And literally, it was a snow machine.

Anyway. I’m glad we saw the show only because for the last “trick” our cruise director appeared behind a curtain in a bathrobe and shower cap. He’s funny.

We came back to the room so I could grab a cardigan and then we went down to Windjammer to get some more food…(?) You’re probably thinking there’s no way you could eat anything more, but next we headed over to the Promonade. I wanted to go to Vintages for their dessert and port wine flights.

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There was no one else in the whole bar! We talked to the bar tender and shared a dessert wine flight… and he went next door and brought us 3 brownies to share! I would have been so delighted if I wasn’t so full. The dessert wine flight was great, though, because Bret found a chilled sparkling sweet red wine that he likes.

We walked around for a bit after that, but we were both sleepy and happy with our full day, so we headed back to our room. I was feeling good, not seasick, and so in love with cruise life by this point.

Cruising 2014 | Day 2

Day 2 was our first full day at sea!

I love the way our itinerary was organized: arrival day, a day at sea, 4 days at ports, and another day at sea. That first day was all about relaxing and enjoying the ship’s amenities and unlimited food options. I wish I’d written down all of the hilarious things Bret said like, “I plan to enjoy every moment. That’s why I’m ordering room service pizza!” and, “You may not have counted, but I’ve already had mashed potatoes three times today!”

I was loving the comfort of knowing EVERYTHING was contained on this one floating hotel, and that our room was always only a short walk away from dinner, a show, and the pool deck. This was particularly true because this was the day I experienced mild motion sickness…

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But I’m getting ahead of myself!

On Day 2, when we woke up, I peered out the window and was temporarily blinded by the rising sun reflecting off of the the sparkling water.

We had no agenda for the day, so we decided to go to the sit down breakfast in the main dining room – Leonardo’s – as opposed to the buffet. We hopped into line, and were seated at a big table with 15 other people. We met a couple from New Jersey and in the timespan of an hour, we talked about snow, Hurricane Sandy, and the flat tire we got on the way to the dock. When I asked them if they had any plans for our day at sea, they said, “To do as little as possible!” and I appreciated that.

We all got coffee, orange juice and a pastry. I ordered a salmon omelet which came with a teaspoon of hashbrowns and one sliver of a roasted tomato. The portion sizes were small, but cruise food is available 24/7 and you’re never far from a buffet.

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After breakfast we walked up to the pool deck. There was an adults’ only section with a nice pool, a swim up bar, and a huge hot tub over looking the ocean. Also, there was frozen yogurt. UNLIMITED frozen yogurt. We watched so many kids fill a cone, eat a cone, and then get back in line for another.

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The main pool had live music playing over the speakers. It was a great place to relax and chat with other cruisers. One thing I love about cruising: EVERYONE is on the exact same vacation so there are plenty of common conversation points.

We checked out the gym and the arcade. Later, we were were planning to grab something from the room, but our room attendant was cleaning it, so we slipped into the LIBRARY which was right down the hall from our room. We picked up a the daily Sudoku puzzle. I won! Not that it was a competition.

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We had lunch in the Wind Jammer Cafe. I especially loved the salad bar and the dessert bar. The only real disappointment was the “sushi bar” which was really just a few rolls full of cream cheese and bell peppers, but there were PLENTY of other options to choose from and the menu changed daily.

After lunch, we sat out on the deck for a bit and watched the ocean. There were of chairs set up as well as shuffleboard stations!

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DCIM103SPORTBy far, the best part of the afternoon was the incredible Ice Show! It was the only on-board show that required advanced reservations, so I knew it was going to be good. All of the skaters were seriously talented. They skated along to songs from the 60s, a pirate theme, and a guy rolled around in a hamster wheel. They changed costumes for every performance and they did back flips and lots of spins and ramp jumps and crazy things. It was entertaining.

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We came back to the room, sat on the balcony…and Bret decided to order a pizza for room service. I mean, we hadn’t had a meal in nearly 3 hours! I added an order of cookies and an iced tea. Everything was delicious! And so free and so convenient. After we ordered room service on the TV, we flipped through a few channels and landed on Father of the Bride II. I FREAKED OUT when I learned that Bret had never seen this movie. We left the movie on in the background while we got ready for, wait for it, Formal Night!

words-Funny story about this picture, I had BRIGHT teal nail polish on, and it’s basically all I see when I look at the original version of this picture. I knew my mom would be like, “WHY ARE YOUR NAILS GREEN?!” So Bret photoshopped them! Look at my pretty pink nail polish, mom!

Our formal night dinner was good. I ordered a chilled banana and rum soup that was DELICIOUS. It tasted like…pudding? I was raving about how good the soup was and how I wanted another, and then, when I left my spoon in it, the soup bowl tipped and fell and spilled all over the table! The way the glass was designed, it was really narrow at the bottom so leaving a spoon in it – even for a second – makes it instantly top heavy.

We didn’t have the camera with us, but I ordered a similar soup another night. It was a bowl like this:

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I was embarrassed, but our servers cleaned it up …and brought me another! So I got two soups after all. They covered my entire side of the tablecloth with a napkin and later made a joke about how I did a “good job” because I had less crumbs on my side of the table compared to Bret haha.

For my entrĂ©e I had shrimp ravioli with lobster sauce. Bret had lobster bisque and some steak and potatoes. Even though I was loving the ship, the gentle rocking made me feel a little seasick at this point. When I looked down at the menu, it felt like the table and I were sliding three feet ahead and then backwards. We almost skipped dessert (which tells you how bad I was feeling – I love dessert!) but staring out into the ocean helped “ground” me. This became a theme of the evening.

For dessert I had lemon meringue pie. Bret had cheesecake!

After dinner we walked toward the casino and ended up checking out all of the pictures the cruise has taken of us so far. Then we decided to have those cheesy formal pictures taken on the staircase!

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While we were waiting in line to have our picture take, I started feeling seasick again, so I went and stood by the window for a few minutes. Then I felt better. Staring out into the distance helps.

We came back to the room and changed into comfy normal clothes, and then we went to the back of the ship to watch the sunset. We took a bunch of pictures!

words-0080We walked back through Johnny Rockets and I promised Bret we can get a milkshake soon, but not yet, because I was stuffed! Well. Do you know what we ended up doing within an hour?! Going to the Windjammer Buffet for dinner part II. I had a salad and a cookie and a tiny sample of the other entree that I almost ordered at dinner – crepe de gratin(?) – something like that. We realized the Windjammer offers a lot of entrees similar to the fancy sit down restaurant. I don’t remember what Bret ate, but I’m sure it included multiple servings of mashed potatoes.

After dinner part II we walked around the Promonade and down to On Air to watch some karaoke! On our way to karaoke, a guy nearly ran us over running down the stairs. He apologized and said, “My number is coming up!” and we really had a laugh when we got there because his “number” included miming the Natalie Imbruglia song. Bret can explain this better, probably, but it was really funny.

I could tell Bret was considering getting up there to sing, but I was NOT about to. I was feeling a little woozy during karaoke so we headed back to the room. Do you know what cures seasickness?! Adorable towel animals!

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Cruising 2014 | Day 1

It all started back in February.

After our first “pool day” of 2014, Bret took a nap, and I searched for an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. I narrowed the choices down to two cruises and two resorts and after Bret woke up, we weighed the options, and ultimately picked the 7-day Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. Best decision ever!

BookingSince that moment, I’d been anticipating May 25, 2014. I’d been looking forward to Caribbean beaches, unlimited pastries and coffee, and endless relaxation and bonding time with Bret. I should preface this by stating that Day 1 was literally the most stressful day of MY LIFE the cruise, so, know it gets better after this.

Day 1: One of our favorite aspects of the cruise was that we could DRIVE to Port Canaveral from our apartment. No flying required; no hotels needed. While I was stoked about this money-saving option, for weeks leading up to our cruise, I had reoccurring nightmares about missing the ship. Our plan was to leave at 7AM and arrive at 11AM. Boarding was scheduled from 11AM-3PM so that gave us some wiggle room should something catastrophic happen.

Something catastrophic happened.

We left early as planned. I’d called my sister (the experienced cruiser) and she gave me cruising tips like: get up early one day and take photos of the ship before it’s crowded! Always take the stairs instead of the elevator! And, if you’re too full for dessert, get it to go! I talked to my mom, too, and she wished us a happy trip. I was feeling good and stoked about our vacation. At this point, we were on track to arrive at 11:30AM.

As we were entered the halfway point of our trip, though, we blew a tire.

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It’s really a blur now, but we pulled over to the side of the road, confirmed the tire was flat, and Bret went to work. I can not over-emphasize how impressed I was with Bret’s behavior. He was SO calm. I was tense, but he just moved around carefully and with a purpose, jacked up the car, situated all of his tools, and started unscrewing the lug nuts. He even had a smile on his face! I helped where I could, but I was floundering. Mostly I remember sputtering useless three word sentences like, “Can I help?” and “What is that?” and “Everything is okay.”

I tried to focus on the positive things (flat tire is on the passenger’s side of car, we have all the tools we need, Bret knows he what he is doing…), but I was frazzled. Mostly, I was worried that something was going to fly off the road and hit us. Fortunately, a roadside assistance service truck from State Farm pulled over to help us. It was like a dream! This guy had more tools and a huge flashy sign telling traffic to move over. I was happy that we were no longer alone on the edge of the highway.

When the State Farm guy asked where we were headed, I told him Port Canveral, and he smiled and said, “You have a cruise to catch!” Then, he told me about a horrible graphic accident that caused him to lose his memory. He doesn’t remember his wedding, honeymoon, or the first two years of their marriage. Perspective.That made our flat tire seem like not a big deal. He helped us get the spare situated, but we noticed the spare wasn’t holding air. He said we should go to a service station, but, unfortunately nothing local would be open on a Sunday.

This is where the real panic set in.

He said something like, “maybe try PepBoys?” and my fingers went to work on my phone. I knew I wanted to search for the closest PepBoys, but my brain wouldn’t work. Navigation? Google? Which PepBoys is closest?! I could barely even see my phone in the sun, and I kept typing the wrong keys. I mistyped “Pep” three times. Meanwhile, my mouth said something weird like,

“Do you think we should just leave our car here and get a cab?”

At this point, Bret was on the phone with the nearest Pep Boys and confirming that they were, in fact, open.

Our State Farm guy pumped the tire full of air and said that should hold us for the EIGHTEEN MINUTES it would take us to get to the next town. Those were the longest 18 minutes of my day. In the car, I locked eyes with the GPS and kept telling Bret, “4.3 miles. 3.8 miles. 3.3 miles.” Oh, I hate even thinking about this.

When we finally made it to PepBoys I was relieved, but NO ONE could move fast enough for my sanity. The mechanic was nice and sympathetic and promised to get us back on the road as soon as possible. The guy at the front desk wanted to chat. That would have been much healthier way to pass the time, but I was trapped in my erratic worries. I felt miserable. I felt like pacing. But, don’t worry, I just sat still and tapped my foot like a crazy person. Meanwhile, Bret took this picture.

Repair shopI texted my sister who kept me calm. (Aren’t sisters the BEST?! Mine is). She reminded me that we still had plenty of time. I talked to an 89-year-old man who lost his wife a few years ago. All he said was that he really missed her. Again, perspective. We are in a happy, healthy phase in our life and if for some reason this vacation didn’t work out the way we planned, we still had each other.

Fortunately, they had some tires in stock. Bret had to decide which to buy, because when he asked me, I was incapable of forming logical sentences. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Well it’s one tire…” which means nothing. Fifteen minutes later, they got the tire on and they also fixed our spare tire just in case. Of course, then they wanted to talk about a must-do restaurant in the Florida Keys…(?) Next time, guys.

Our new ETA was 12:50PM, but we hit traffic. I felt like crying, but I held it together. I kept thinking all-I-want-is-to-get-on-that-boat. We pulled across the bridge and in view of the port shortly after 1:00PM, and I felt instantly better. The parking ticket station was broken, people were confused, and cars were blocking each other as everyone tried to drive in different directions. We couldn’t figure out where to park, but at this point, I was calm. I thought, “We’re here. We’re going to make it. What does it matter if it takes us 15 minutes to park?” …and Bret moved into freak out mode, “WHAT IS GOING ON?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! MOVE YOUR CAR!” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I’m sure it was something like that.

The actual entrance to the ship was super well organized. Everyone was in a fantastic mood. I told the woman checking my ID about the our flat tire, and she said next time to just call her! I felt so much better, and by 1:45PM, we were on the ship with an hour to spare! I sent my mom this picture to let her know that, yes, I was safe and happy to be on board even though I had been sweating and covered in grease for the past 4 hours. Look at my cute waterproof SeaPass holder!

arrivalDo I look frantic? Well, I still was, a little. Boy was I happy to lay on that bed for  a few minutes.

We had lunch by the window and – you guys – Bret declared right then and there that he loved cruising. Unlimited buffet with a pretty view of the water? He was hooked. We had a really nice lunch: potatoes, eggplant and mushrooms for Bret, and salad and tuna for me.

lunchAfter lunch I felt a bit better. We walked around and explored the ship’s promenade, found our muster station, attended the First Time Cruisers meeting, returned to our room, got our luggage, and then headed down to a muster station for the real drill which was HOT but painless. At this point, I was telling myself, NOW YOU REALLY SHOULD FEEL RELAXED, but I still didn’t – not quite.

We sat on our balcony, changed for dinner, and were escorted to a cute little window table for two. Dinner was delicious! I ordered seafood spaghetti and Bret had steak and a baked potato. I loved that there were no prices or extra charges – everything was included with the vacation we’d already paid for.

After dinner we relaxed in the room a bit and ordered ROOM SERVICE from our TV: two mixed drinks and some fruit. We ate on our balcony. And, gosh, that glass balcony was just perfection.

room serviceAnd then we decided to do some more ship exploring. I was happy to be outside in the cool dusk up on the deck, but I think at this point I was just plain exhausted. I remember feeling like we walked up and down so many stairs. We had a great walk around the full-size outdoor track, though, and we saw the movie playing on the big screen on the pool deck below us. Bret finally got his first piece of pizza from Sorrento.

When we went back to the room a couple hours later, all I wanted was a relaxing shower, but the shower was awful and sprayed directly in my face. I couldn’t breathe! (Bret later showed me how to adjust the shower head so it would not spray me in the face. It’s detachable).

Shower_2Even though our driving experience was rough, I was excited to be on the ship. And if I didn’t need a vacation before, I did now. I know you’re probably not sold on a cruise after this post, but I promise, every day after this one was MUCH better.

Cruising 2014

DCIM103SPORTBret and I didn’t take a traditional honeymoon after we got married. Instead of taking a romantic trip to a tropical paradise, we spent half a week in Las Vegas at a conference with several of our colleagues. It was a good decision at the time, but we promised each other that we would take a REAL honeymoon vacation in the near(ish) future.

Well, 14 months later, I am thrilled to share all about the 7-night Western Caribbean cruise we took this past week! We had an amazing time and are both now completely obsessed with cruising.

We both journaled throughout the trip and collectively snapped over 600 pictures so I’m going to split our vacation recap into several blog posts. For now, I just wanted to say that we had a really, really, really amazing time and if you haven’t cruised before or if you’re not sure that cruising is for you, I’m here to tell you it’s the best idea ever!

Here are a few teasers:

1. We saw AMAZING shows on our ship including one at the ice skating rink…DCIM103SPORT

Yep, our ship had an ice skating rink on board along with a rock wall, a putt putt course, and a FlowRider surfing simulator.

2. I got a massage from a stingray! I was terrified but it was worth it for the photographic evidence:

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3. Together, we learned how to make 6 different authentic Mexican salsas in Mexico:

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4. And best of all I did NOT get malaria while in Haiti (heads up, though, if you’re going to be in Haiti around dawn or dusk, malaria precautions are recommended):

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This private Royal Caribbean island was beautiful. Bret and I both think it looks like LOST from a distance.

We wanted to soak in every minute and make lots of memories and I can’t wait to revisit all of them by blogging about our cruise. Check back later this week for more.

I hope everyone had a Happy Memorial Day weekend!