February 26, 2012
Okay, now I realize that for some people, reading about someone else’s vacation is akin to sliding down a banister of razor blades and landing in a pool of alcohol (Name That Reference!). But I actually enjoy hearing about other people’s travel experiences and I love seeing vacation pictures. Plus, I want to record bits about our cruise here for myself so I can go back and reminisce when I’m having a Particularly Lame Or Crappy Day. So, if vacation recaps are not for you, then you can refrain from reading. Otherwise, if you want to see pretty pictures of the Caribbean sea and hear a few ridiculous stories, read on!
(Also- I’ll be including some pictures, but a lot of them won’t make it to this post, so here’s the whole shabang!)
We were set to leave Pittsburgh on Saturday the 11th. Around 4pm on Friday, I got a call that our first flight was canceled. No reason given- not weather-related as far as I could tell- just, you know, SORRY! NO MORE FLIGHT! So commence a bit of panic while I spent an hour on the phone, hoping to find another flight that would get us to Orlando on Saturday so we weren’t risking being late for the ship on Sunday. It all ended just fine. We switched another flight, a few hours later than the original one, but it ended up not being a huge deal. BUT. IN THAT HOUR IT WAS STRESSFUL.
Maggie was LITERALLY PUSHING US out the door while we were giving my mom some last minute instructions/reminders before we headed to the airport the next morning. She pushed me backwards and said “Okay! Time for you to leave now!” Good to know that she wasn’t going to miss us too much. heh.
Because of the flight change, we didn’t get to our hotel in Port Canaveral until after 11pm. So we were exhausted by the time we checked in. Also, the 45-minute cab ride from the airport to the hotel involved me being fairly certain that our driver was falling asleep at the wheel. So! That was fun! Survived 2 airplanes, but we’re totally dying on this dark highway on the way to the hotel! I spent the last 20 minutes of the ride poised to leap over the driver’s seat and grab the wheel. I wish I were joking.
But we arrived safe and sound. And the next day we made our way to the ship after lunch. It was barely 35 degrees in Florida on Sunday morning, so we were wearing sweatshirts while we celebrated on the upper deck as we left the port.
But you know what? WHO CARES, RIGHT? WE’RE HEADED TO THE BAHAMAS!
Of course, I was still in the same hoodie I put on the day before when I left the house because that was my only long-sleeved ANYTHING and I ended up having to wear it to DINNER because my luggage was late getting to my room (like, unusually late, if I go by the reaction of the housekeeping staff when I called to ask. It was NOT COMFORTING to hear him say ‘OH! Wow, really?’ and imagine what I was going to do without my luggage for the next 7 days since we’d already set sail. Thankfully 15 minutes later, my suitcase was outside my door. WHEW.). And my ears were still killing me from the flights- no matter what I try, I have terrible ear pain for a day or two after flying. So between Missing Luggage and Ear Pain and A Very Rocky Boat and then at dinner something got mixed up with our table reservation so we spent 20 minutes standing around, watching everyone else eating delicious bread and I was SO HUNGRY OMG. And then Dan had to leave in the middle because he got a nasty, nasty headache… things were not starting out so good. And I’ll admit… I began to worry a little. You hear so many horror stories about The Worst Vacation Ever and I really, really did not want that for us. Not this trip. We needed this so badly! So much planning! It can’t be a bad trip!
So we went to bed relatively early and then…
We felt better in the morning. And this was our view. AND IT WAS WARMER.
I went for a (short) run on the upper deck, because seriously, how could I NOT be able to say I ran a mile on the ocean? Then we got showers and boarded the tender boats that would take us to Cococay, which is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.
They brought the on-ship buffet onto the island so we were free to eat as many burgers and as much jerk chicken (OMG SO GOOD) that we wanted to, all while looking at the beach. Amazing.
We didn’t plan any excursions or activities this day. We were content to just walk in the surf and wander the island, soaking up the sun and just… relaxing.
Also! By near-coincidence, Dan’s aunt and uncle were on the same cruise with us! (I’ve had a few people ask me if we were bothered by that and the answer is NO! Not at all! They are so fun!) They were looking into trips for their recent anniversary and when they heard about our cruise, they were interested and ended up booking it themselves. We randomly ran into them on Cococay and usually spent the evenings after dinner with them each night. It was a lot of fun having someone else to hang out with on the ship!
So… yeah. Trip was looking up. Cococay was amazing. And the ship… THE CRUISE SHIP, you guys. Huge and beautiful and just ridiculous.
We boarded the ship again after Cococay, then I ate a cupcake, read my Kindle in the sunshine, then took a nap. Then we had our first formal dinner in the dining room, so we got all fancy and ate delicious food.
Each night in the dining room, we had an assigned table. We randomly got paired up with another young-ish couple (younger than us, anyway!) who just got married the past weekend. They were adorable honeymooners and we tried not to scare them too much about what happens after 10 years of marriage ;) But I’d say we lucked out pretty well with our dinner guests.
Tuesday we were at sea, headed toward the US Virgin Islands. I got up, showered, ate breakfast. Then I got a lime and ginger sea salt rub and Swedish massage at the spa. Then I showered again, then went to lunch. It was a really, really awesome 4 hours of doing nothing even remotely productive. I’m surprised I didn’t get a rash from the lack of productivity! We spent the afternoon hanging out by the pool, then that night after dinner, we went to see Beatlemania, a Beatles cover band (they were fantastic!) Free shows! That we can just spontaneously decide to go see because we don’t need a babysitter!
I LOVE CRUISES.
Wednesday morning, we arrived in St. Thomas as we were eating breakfast.
I’m not even kidding when I say I nearly cried as we pulled into the port because it was so gorgeous. Vacations when I was a kid involved tents and a drive to the woods to camp for a few days. This was… unreal. I just couldn’t believe we were THERE.
Our plans for St. Thomas involved an excursion to see some of the highlights of the island. When we booked our trip, we received an excursion credit so it only cost us like $10 extra. SCORE!
Someone (me) didn’t realize that even though St. Thomas time is an hour ahead of ‘Ship Time’, because the excursion was booked through a local company and not the cruiseline, that meant that we needed to be at the pier at 12:00pm, not 1:00pm.
So we were an hour late for our excursion and missed it. CRAPSTICKS.
To say I was angry is an understatement. IDIOT! TRAVEL PLANNER FAIL! But, we got over and made our own day. We had to spend some extra money doing a few of the things we were going to be able to do essentially for free through the excursion, but the day wasn’t a total waste. I mean, we got to go to KMART and buy snacks and deodorant, you guys! Kmarts in the Virgin Islands are so exotic! And.. AND! then we had lunch at Wendys!
(We ate there because that’s where we met, 15 years ago. It felt right. We are dorks.)
Seriously though- the day was great. We rode the Sky Ride thing to the top of a mountain and had an amazing view of the port.
Then we got in a scary taxi and took a ride to Magen’s Bay Beach. The cab ride was questionable but the driver was singing Kenny Rogers so that made it better. Though the beach was cloudy so not as nice as I’d hoped, but I’m still glad we did it.
(Did you know that they drive on the other side of the road in St. Thomas, BUT their cars have the driver on the same side as in the US? CONFUSING FOR MY BRAIN!)
And here is where I wish I’d packed my tripod. But it’s still a pretty shot.
Thursday morning, we were greeted with this view of St Maarten from our teeny window. GOOD MORNING!!!
St. Maarten was absolutely gorgeous. My favorite stop.
We arrived in Philipsburg, which is the capital of St. Maarten, the Dutch half of the island. St. Martin is the other side, the French side- which we traveled to by bus. (WE DIDN’T MISS THIS EXCURSION! YAY!) We first stopped at Loterie Farm for a quick break and transfer to a tiny truck that took us way, way, WAY up to the top of a mountain. Then we hiked down for 2 hours. It was fabulous.
After our hike, some rum punch (woo!), and a bus ride back to Philipsburg, we were ready for some lunch and a rest. (That’s when I was able to find some free Wi-Fi for the first time in days and popped my head into Twitter for a few moments!)
We finished lunch then wandered over to the main shopping area and beach. And of course took a bazillion pictures.
(We came back here before we left and I had some tiramisu gelato!)
(I could not stop taking pictures of that mountain. It was so pretty.)
Also, in the typical European fashion (I remember this being A Thing when we went to Italy) I had to pay 50 cents to use a public bathroom. Which- not a big deal! EXCEPT IT WAS THE SCARIEST BATHROOM I HAVE EVER SEEN. If I don’t come down with syphilis or something, I’ll be amazed. *shudder* Oh, vacations. Such an adventure!
Oh- and Thursday night on the ship we saw a magic show- this guy from America’s Got Talent, and he was really good. I of course end up hating magic shows because I JUST WANT TO KNOW HOW THEY DOOOOOO IT!!!! But still, great entertainment :)
The next two days were bitter sweet. Our port stops were finished, so we were headed home. WHAAAAAA! But! We had two full days on the ship to be lazy or do fun things or eat a lot of food or all of the above! We took full advantage. I spent Friday morning in the sun by the pool, because it was FINALLY warm enough and not windy and we could stand being up there in our bathing suits. I got nice and suntanned (teeny bit burned!) and then I had the Drink Of The Day which was some mango margarita thing and it was so so good and I got a little drunk, you guys. I don’t drink much EVER and whoooo boy, it was a pretty strong, pretty large drink and I chugged the last bit of it and then I was dizzy and woozy wandering around the lunch buffet. Dan found it all highly entertaining. Then I took a nap in the shade after lunch. Wheeee!
Then we played mini golf! On the ocean! Because why not?? (I beat Dan by one! woo!)
Friday night was the 2nd formal dinner, so we got all fancy and even took advantage of the portrait studio. I figured we needed at least ONE cheesy picture of us in front of the Titanic staircase backdrop!
After that, my mission for the rest of the evening was to CHUG COFFEE, because we were trying to stay awake for the 11:15pm adult comedy show, which was so, so worth it. The show featured the cruise director, Graham Seymour and you guys, he’s hilarious. Not just the comedy show, but every morning he does a show on the cruise tv station in the rooms and he’s silly and ridiculous and British, which makes it all that much better. At one point, he ended up in a tutu and a thong and well, that’s… pretty much all you need to know.
Saturday was our last day, womp womp. It was low-key for us. We slept in, had breakfast, then just wandered the ship for a while, taking pictures.
We packed a little bit, then I headed to the pool to read while Dan went to the gym. Because when you’re old and have kids at home, you WORK OUT ON VACATION and it feels like LUXURY! Then we had one last delicious meal in the dining room.
(I realize all of my food pictures are of the desserts. You can see where my true love lies. ha)
And then… it was over. The next day was a long day of travel. We got to the airport a lot earlier than we thought we would, so we tried to get an earlier flight, but we still would have had to wait for our connection in Cleveland. So instead, we had a nice, long lunch at the Orlando airport and soaked up the free Wi-Fi for a few hours. We finally made it home a little after 8pm- Audrey was asleep already, but Maggie was still awake.
We loved our trip so so so much, but she was a very welcome sight. And she made us a sign :)
One of the things I think was the nicest for us is that we had next to zero communication with the outside world while we were there. Sure, there was Wi-Fi and internet on the ship if we wanted to pay (A LOT), and I could have used the data on my phone (again, FOR A LOT OF MONEY), so really all I had were a few texts from my mom now and then, letting me know that the girls were good and updating me on their days. That was it. And it was GOOD for me, to disconnect and stop checking my email or Twitter every 5 minutes and just… be alone, or be with Dan, and to just be quiet. It made the trip seem even LONGER, honestly, because things seemed to slow down somehow.
To say we had a nice time is understating it by a lot. We loved it. There’s just something so magical and cool about floating on a CITY on the ocean and looking out and seeing nothing but water. A little creepy at times (at night! EEEK!) but it felt like an honest to goodness VACATION. Which is good because this will have to last us a while, I think :) Week-long kid-free vacations aren’t something we can just DO on a whim- though my parents made it possible this time around and we cannot stop thanking them. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!