We packed up and left our little house in Acton, prepared for adventure on the VAST ocean.
On Friday night we said good bye to the dogs (Mom did, I quietly celebrated my escape from the hairy, drool ridden monsters). We piled into the van with 2 suitcases each and headed to Oakville to meet our fifth and sixth members… Sue and Dan. Their house was full of excitement with house sitters, kids, cats and puppies all eagerly awaiting our departure.
We hit the Lewiston border around 11pm and with no line-up we zipped through. We found our hotel seconds from the airport and settled in. Mom got a great nights sleep… Richard and I did not. Dad has developed a tolerance for Mom's breathing patterns over their 30 year marriage. I have not. At 5am Richard and I slipped away to find some peace and quiet… which we obtained in the arcade. After realizing all of our money was in BILL form and locked away in our shared room we ventured into the dining room of our Holiday Inn, where we discussed the excitement of our trip. At 6:30 we inhaled our complimentary breakfast and preceded to wake our fellow travelers.
We made it to the airport and through security with no issues… in fact, we made it all the way to Fort Lauderdale Florida without any hiccoughs.
We arrived around 12:30pm and collected our luggage. It was finally time to see the ship. We hopped in our shuttle and headed to the dock yard.
It was MASSIVE… only rivaled by the 'Oasis of the Sea' (biggest ship on the ocean) docked next door.
We made our way through another set of security screens and all the way up to the deck - only stopping for a quick second to log-in and set up our accounts. For those who have NEVER been on a cruise -- you get a magical card that works as your credit card, room key and ID. It is all you need to do anything your little heart can dream up.
Richard and I found our room on the 6th floor (Upper). We were directly across from the elevators (very convenient and easy to find after lounging with the drink(s) of the day). Our Balcony suite was surprisingly roomy and exceeded our expectations. We didn't stay inside for long… we had a BIG ship to explore. Mom came to find us, because there was no way we were going to find our own way to the Lido deck… the Lido deck is where all the fun happens. It's the top of the boat and houses all the buffets, swimming pools, lounging chairs and even a water slide. It offers the best views and is where we spent most of our 'on board' vacation.
After finding the rest of our party we found seats in the sun and had our first drink of the day… drink of the day is a revolving, kaleidoscope of flavor. Richard attempted to enjoy EVERY drink of the day and only failed a few days. My drink of choice was a Hurricane Wave… its one part Hurricane and on part banana daiquiri. Richards drink of choice (beyond Rye and Ginger) was a Miami Vice, a strong reminder of our trip to Mexico, it's half strawberry daiquiri and half pina colada… high in calories and BIG on flavor.
After a quick nap we dressed up (even casual dinners involved a wardrobe change) and headed to the POSH dining room - this is where we ate every night we were on board. Table 310. It’s a fancy restaurant where you have 3 waiters eager to learn all your favorites. They pull out your chair, lay your napkin on your lap and get you anything you ask for.
We ordered a bottle of wine and ordered from the extensive 3 course menu. The food was incredible… (hence the 10 pound gain).
After dinner a very tired Melanie escaped to bed, with a slightly less tired Richard in tow.
I triumphed the next morning (Sunday) at 7am I was up, dressed and on my way to the track. We were in the middle of nowhere with crystal blue ocean all around us. The track is on the highest outdoor level (14) and takes you (the runner) around the smoke stack. The track is rubber and soft. 6 laps = 1km. I ran for about 35minutes. It started to get hot and I called it quits.
Back in our room Richard was awake and ready for breakfast… after a quick shower I joined him on the Lido deck for breakfast… the biggest buffet I have ever seen… perfectly punctuated with a Miami Vice hand delivered to my lounge chair, by a very excited Richard.
After breakfast I chose to lay around the Lido deck and read my book.
Richard went to explore with Dad.
In the afternoon Dan took us for a tour… the adult section has everything from hammocks to hot tubs, lounge pods to great views, but Richard and I hadn't found it yet. When we got up there the only way (only way for me) down was the 2 storey slide. It twists all over the place and is a great ride even with the salt water wedgie at the end.
I am that splash.
The afternoon was full of entertainment with a Hairy Chest contest… Richard didn't enter, but I was a judge… a mixology master competition and a steel drum band.
I got a wicked sun burn and headed inside for the evening. It was time to get all jazzed up for our first formal dinner. I put on my strapless, full-length summer dress; Richard wore a matching dress shirt and pants. We met up with everyone at our table in the POSH dining room. The food was again incredible, but this time the waiters put on a show. They had a different dance routine for every night. I believe the first night was 'Apple Bottom Jeans, boots with the fir…' It was hilarious to watch.
After dinner with poised with professional photographers and took some amazing family pictures. The ship has an army of photographers that capture every moment and for a small fee you can take those pictures home with you.
That night we sampled the nightly entertainment… the introductory show. It was hosted by Ryan, our cruise director, and ended with a serious dance competition. We were all laughing through most of it. The non-stop drinks helped that as well.
We slept in the next morning (Monday). In the afternoon Richard and I headed to an art auction… with free Champaign, we quickly realized we were out of our league and headed to the Diamond lesson with Melanie (convenient). We spent under an hour learning about cut, colour, clarity and carat. Which was definitely worth it, but that's for later.
We explored the boat and lounged by the pool, watching the clouds roll in as we docked in Puerto Rico.
The air was thick (97% humidity) and the rain was light. The views from the boat were incredible. San Juan was out first stop and I was excited. We hopped off the boat and began our exploration. We ventured down alleyways and into little shops.
We had missed the castle tours and tourist-ie stuff (everything closed at 5pm as we docked). It was hot and we were sweating. Richard nearly keeled over in a store, because of the heat. The island was tropical and vibrant. The views could have been better, but I enjoyed myself. We ended up at Barrachina - the birthplace of the Pina Colada… where I had a Mijito… I don't like Pina Colada. We ordered nachos (which were awesome) and headed back to the ship. Not before posing with some parrots at the pier and sampling a tequila shooter.
We drank on the boat and fell asleep early. We had a big day ahead of us.
We woke up around 8 (Tuesday) and headed to the Lido deck for breakfast. We connected with Mom and Dad and planned our BIG day of shopping in St.Thomas. Our goal was to spend the morning browsing the shops and the afternoon riding the tram to the peak of St. Thomas for some VOODOO juice. Trust me… after the shopping we did, we needed a BIG drink.
We got off the boat to the warm sun shine. The weather has taken a turn for the better and it was HOT. We caught a cab to downtown and started wandering around the shopping district. We started in Tanzanite International… we had learned about the sparkling blue diamond yesterday and I was curious. The only problem is any attempt at browsing leaves you with a permanent cling on… the sales reps cling to you. I ended up viewing a nearly perfect 4 carat rock… Richard laughed and looked on. He knew I was playing but I thought it made him nervous… Oops.
We wandered further down the streets. The architecture is beautiful and intriguing. I stumbled over my feet to look up over the shops and trees. The sky is bright blue, barely littered with clouds. We are ALL sweating insane amounts. Richard and I snuck off to the pier to see the ship… it's huge, even parked beside the Dream (biggest Carnival ship).
We take pictures with Dad in my Ugly Bum Lucky Pants… I hate these pants and they make my ass look huge. I wish I wasn't wearing them for ALL the pictures that were taken (luckily you don't have to see them as they are on Dad's camera)
These are the 'ugly bum lucky pants' obviously.
How Cute are they???
Around 3 our, very dehydrated, group hailed a cab and headed for the ship. Richard and I stopped short and headed for the cable car. After a 7 minute climb we were witness to the most incredible views. We took lots of pictures and finally found our Voodoo juice… this is a BUCKET of 5 kinds of rum. Let's just say a day of shopping in the hot sun, a missed lunch and a bucket of rum leads to a very drunk couple. The tram ride back down was a lot more fun.
We made it back to the boat… where they RE FILLED our buckets (best bartender ever) and we wandered around looking for our other travel buddies.
We went to formal dinner and had Champaign… Mmmm…
After dinner Dan, Richard, Myself and Sue headed to the Havana Bar for a little Latin music. I attempted to accompany Dan on his MAN night, given Pete's disappearance and Richards lack of interest. I smoked a Cuban cigar and drank a single malt scotch… that made my eyes water with every sip. I wanted to do it and I did. Just once.
I went back to our room with Richard and brushed my teeth for 20 minutes.
Oh yea… in our room was a towel animal. If you are not familiar I will explain. The staff comes in EVERY morning and cleans your room. They also come in every evening and turn down your bed. At that time they leave the daily news paper for the following day, mints and an animal. They use simple white towels and fold them into incredible things… we got a toad, a monkey, an ostrich, an elephant and a pig. We kept them every night and the staff always added to them… once we came in and the monkey was hanging from the light with mardi gras beads around his neck. I will get to how I won those in a minute.
Richard and I had booked an excursion in Antigua and called it an early night. We were going snorkeling off a private island in the morning and needed our rest.
I was taking on the ocean… last time I tried I lost 3 - 0. I needed my rest.
We woke up early (Wednesday) and headed to breakfast. We had to eat quick, our group was meeting on the pier at 9am.
We packed a back pack, bought an underwater camera and headed off the boat in search of adventure! And after a short bus ride and boat ride we found ourselves on Prickly Pear Island. The water was an incredible bright blue, the sand was white and soft and the trees were a vibrant green. It was perfect. We dropped our stuff on the beach, collected our snorkel gear and headed out to the corral reef. I have to add here, I can't swim and I hate fish. My Dad convinced me when I was younger that minnows eat toes. Imagine what the bigger fish ate?!? We started with the beginner course… put on the mask, bite the tube and dunk your head in the water. When I had mastered that I headed out to the advanced course… the one that had us swimming out and around the island. We saw lots of fish in EVERY colour and size. We took LOTS of pictures and I can't wait to have them developed… yup we used FILM!
When we got back to the island (Richard got tired) there was RUM punch waiting for us. Then it was a matter of lounging on beach. Richard searched for corral and shells, while I laid in the sun. I call that a successful excursion.
After a few hours we headed back to the boat and then back on the bus… we made it back to the ship and I had sand EVERYWHERE… the places you're imagining, that can't possibly be true… they're true and they're FULL of sand. We showered and got ready to meet up with Mom, Dad, Sue and Dan. They had ventured out on a taxi tour, but weren't back yet. We got off the boat again to explore, and after some shopping, stopped for another rum punch… these people LOVE their rum. Most drinks are 5parts rum to every 1part mix. I was in a drunken haze most of the trip.
That night we decided to drink… obviously. Richard and I enjoyed at dinner and indulged with dessert. After the sun had set and everyone had disappeared to bed we climbed up to the adult deck and found a hammock. We got on, got our balance with the warm salt air blowing over us, snd fell asleep snuggled up together. It was incredible. I mean picture laying on a hammock at the front of a massive ship, the warm air cascading over you, the stars brightly shining above and nothing to think about but the beautiful sleep you are succumbing too.
We woke up around 2am and made our way to bed.
Tortola found us over night. I was so excited to see Tortola… it's part of the British Virgin Islands and a smaller, less crowded version of St. Thomas. We had a BIG breakfast, connected with our group and headed out. We wandered through the flea market and bought trinkets for our friends at home. We then tip toed into Little Swiss, a high end jewellery store. This is where we found it. Richard's Nicky Hayden Limited edition Moto GP watch. He had been searching the whole trip for it, after all the prices are better AND there is no tax. His Mom and Dad bought it for him as an early Christmas present. He was OVER the MOON. And so was I… I intended to buy it for him, but wasn't sure where the funds were coming from.
We went back to the boat to drop off our purchases and put on better foot wear, because when we got back to the island we were renting scooters and zipping along the coast. We rented 3 scooters; one for me, one for Richard and one for Mom and Dad. They were great little 'bikes'. Suzuki, GSXR 125… we took off down the coastal road. The turquoise water on one side… the lush green trees on the other. We dawned half helmets and got all sorts of mud and bugs in our teeth… no one cared. It was SO much fun. We rode to the west end looped and came back.
Just in time to get back on the boat and set sail for Nassau.
That night was the 'Groove for St. Jude'. It means A LOT of live entertainment and drinks. We had intended to have a girls/boys night… let the couples separate and let loose, but the adults bailed. Richard and I had to drink for the whole team and BOY did we. I remember the boat rocking, which is a convenient way to hide the drunken snake walk. All was fine until the Macarena came on… I flew from my seat to the dance floor and had a great time, which was even better when YMCA and Richard came on. We danced to the chicken dance, joined the conga line and ended it all with the Greek kicking song where I broke my sandal. At the end of all this we were a sweaty mess, things were fuzzy and my cheeks ached from laughing so hard.
At that point they brought out the beads. Everyone went crazy… they made us promise to keep it 'PG' before they started launching the beads ALL over the boat. Richards height was a GREAT advantage and I walked out of there with 6 strands of beads… Richard had 10.
We retreated to our hammock for a cool down before bed. What a good night.
Luckily for me the next day (Friday) was at sea. I slept in till about 10, lounged in bed with my book (The girl with the Dragon tattoo) till around noon. Richard came and collected me with a slushy drink and we ventured out of the room and up to the lido. At that point we confessed he had booked me in at the spa for a back massage, facial, foot massage and entire body exfoliating. Oh yea. I slipped into something more appropriate and we headed to deck 14 for my appointment. He dropped me off and I spent the next two hours in heaven.
I floated back to our room to find Richard. He was eagerly waiting to take me to the shops to meet Mom and Dad. They had found something special and sparkly for me. They wanted to know if it was something I would really enjoy before purchasing. It was. They got me a pair of diamond hoop earrings… my keepsake to remember the trip.
I know… spoiled brat, right?!
Richard and I spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool. We got dressed early for dinner and headed to the casino. We both lost our 20-dollars, but it was worth it. We played in the casino for almost an hour before heading to dinner. At dinner I had fruit cocktail, sweet potato pie and chocolate cake. It was YUMMY!
After dinner we went back to the lounge where Richard requested 'Halo' by Beyonce. We danced and I fell in love with him all over again.
Skipping ahead (wink wink)
We woke up early (Saturday) morning and had breakfast with everyone. We then went down to the picture hut to review pictures from last nights formal dinner. All the while the boat docked early… it did a three point turn in a bay and backed in between two ships. Would have been incredible to see!! Oh well… all the more reason to go on another cruise. After enjoying a drink of the day (it was after 11am) and taking lots of pictures (we were docked beside the 'Solstice') we headed in to the Bahamas. I hoped to get to a beach, but with all there was to see we didn't make it.
We ended up on Paradise Island at Atlantis. Its a MASSIVE pink resort surrounded by vast gardens and shopping villas. The rooms range from $200 - $22 000 a night. The dinner is in a sunken dining room while FISH swim around you. It was incredible to see. We took lots of pictures. The men were most impressed by the dock yard FULL of yachts.
We took a cab back to the downtown district where we had lunch and continued on our shopping extravaganza.
With empty bags we boarded the ship and said good bye to Bahamas.
The next morning we woke up in Florida. It was time to debark. We had breakfast and waited for our number to be called. It was over.
We flew into Buffalo, found our car and made the trek home. It was uneventful, mainly because we were all exhausted.
Now here I am sitting at work… wondering if it was a dream.