Monday, January 29, 2007

Final Cruise Thoughts 2

Besides the towel animals, there were various planned activities.
There was, of course, the formal nights. (Clearly the guy in the background of this picture wasn't enjoying it so much. Is he asleep?)

Especially during the 'at sea' days, there was all sorts of fun activities with which to fill your time. Of course laying out on the deck and catching some sun was always a popular choice. You could also go down the giant slide right on the lido deck or work out in the gym. Yeah right, work out. Hilarious! Never happened once.
For more planned activities you could go to an ice sculpting demo, gamble in the casino or play bingo. Corey even entered the blackjack tournament, but unfortunately we didn't have much luck.

He had more than luck in the sports trivia contest. He had mad skills as he won first place!

One of my favorite 'other activities' type of thing we did was just find a secluded spot on the deck and watch the waves crash into the ship. Out in the middle of the ocean, you really get it when they say that most of the world is covered by water. It's incredible to be surrounded by beautiful deep blue sea, with rainbows bouncing off the water. Sure it's a little cheesy, but honestly it was really cool. We even saw flying fish!

Like I said, this was probably the best vacation either of us have ever taken. It will definitely not be the last cruise we do. Hopefully in a couple years we'll plan our own big group vacation and you'll be invited.

Final Cruise Thoughts 1

Ok, last post about it and then we'll be back to normal life.

We've pretty much covered the basics of ours and any cruise - the ports and the food. The last part is sort of a catch-all.

Every night after dinner when we went back to our room, there were two things waiting for us. 1. The itinerary for the next day, whether it be port info or an "at sea" day and 2. A fun towel animal created by your room steward.
Finally! I got a dog. I will name him Gary.

I asked the room steward for multiple animals because I wanted to have a parade, but he never did. Still I got new ones almost every night!

Oops. Lost a head.

Don't club that seal, Corey!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Islands: part 3

The last port was St. Maarten. Again, it was absolutely gorgeous. This time we did a lot more shopping from the locals.

We took another "cab" to the downtown district, stopping for pictures of the beautiful view. It's like a postcard!

The downtown area was really cool, there was a mixture of nice jewelry stores and the family-run businesses.

After a couple of hours we split from the group.

We wanted to parasail. Unlike the stingray excursion we'd booked through the cruise, we were told to buy this one ourselves right on the beach where it'd be a lot cheaper. The beach that all the natives recommended was Orient beach. The girls from the group decided not to come with us since St. Maarten is French and Dutch, and that European culture is well represented with nude beaches. Half of the Orient is a nude resort, the other half is topless optional and happens to be the best place to go parasailing. The group wasn't comfortable going there, but I wasn't missing out of this opportunity because of some naked old lady boobs.

As soon as we got there we went directly to the boat that would take us in the sky. It was AMAZING! I thought it was going to be an adrenaline rush, but no, it was the most calming, relaxed feeling ever. We even got to go together and went as high as 700 feet! At one point they brought us around the shore line and we looked down and saw the other 1/2 of the group we were hanging out with on the ship (apparently they didn't mind the topless part, either). I looked down and "wait, is that Debbie? hi!" They were quite surprised to see us too.

Okay - hilarious thing to add here. As we were looking through our pictures that night with the girls, I realized that Corey looks like he's parasailing with a baby. I look tiny! Like mini-me or something! I don't know if it's the angle of my legs combined with the fact that obviously I'm short, but we were cracking up looking at Corey and the midget.

We spent the remainder of the day swimming at Orient beach and soaking in the sun. Like their nakedness, again the smell of weed was pretty out in the open. One guy came over to us so I could look at the jewelry he was selling. He tells Corey, "I also have some peace pipes you can look at." Corey politely checked them out and the dude adds, "I also have some peace I can sell you." Smooth!

The Islands: part 2

After a day at sea, our next stop was St. Thomas. I had been excited about this port for a while because I was told it was the best place to get jewelry. What they didn't tell me was how gorgeous the island was going to be.

Before shopping we wanted to go to a beach. We took a "cab" which is really a bus with no doors to Coki beach. Though St. Thomas is American, they drive on the left side of the street - strange. They also drive really fast, even on the winding narrow turns along the mountainous island. It was a great way to see a lot of the island without paying for a guide, plus we got a roller coaster ride out of it!

In some ways, the beach itself was a typical beach, littered and overpriced food. The water however was nothing typical. You didn't really even need snorkel gear, you could see the fish right below you. This picture was not taken in a pool, the water was really that clear.

We didn't get to enjoy the fragrance of an exotic island as you might think instead we smelled reefer. As you could imagine, they were pretty out in the open about it.

After the beach we went shopping! There are just rows and rows of shops with fine jewelry. It was insane. Most of them were approved vendors by the cruise line. This meant they'd guarantee anything you bought. The fun part was haggling the price down. With everything being duty and tax free we got a great deal on my sapphire necklace. I had taken a jewelry seminar on the ship beforehand to make sure I knew what I was doing. Apparently the darker the stone, the better quality. My blue sapphire is almost black, so hopefully it'll appraise at a decent price. I don't have a great picture of it, but I wore it for the 2nd formal night on the ship. Man does it pop!

The Islands: part 1

One of the best parts about our trip was obviously the islands. We stopped in 3 ports: Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. They were all gorgeous, average temperature of 90 degrees and crystal clear waters.

1st up: Nassau, Bahamas -
After much debate, we decided to swim with stingrays as our first excursion. The girls we were hanging out with also came with us. Unfortunately our time in Nassau was short, so the excursion took up our whole time there and we didn't get to explore much of the island. That's okay though, we had a great time. We took a ferry boat to a little, and I mean little, island called Pearl Island. The view getting there was gorgeous. On the way, we saw the Atlantis hotel, one of Oprah's homes, as well as some other huge celebrity homes owned by the likes of Tiger Woods, Chuck Norris and Barry Bonds right off the water. Once there, we started by snorkeling. Corey had never gone before and really enjoyed it. The waters were a little choppy, but once we learned to relax and go with the flow, we saw a lot of cool fish.

Then we moved to the other side of the island where we got to swim with the stingray. Our guide CJ "Ya Man!" had a very stereotypically Caribbean fun, relaxed, cool attitude. He was a ton of fun and put anyone's fears at ease by telling them not to think about what happened to Steve. Stingray deaths are EXTREMELY rare. I wasn't nervous at all. Once in the water, it was my goal (one of them) to see a sea turtle which I was told were around. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures to show, because most of them were taken with a disposable underwater camera, but it was so cool though. The stingray glided though the water and surprisingly it was really beautiful. CJ caught a little sea turtle and let us see it up close. I also found a huge sea turtle near the bottom of area where we were swimming. We ended the excursion by actually petting and holding a stingray ourselves. They feel like a wet mushroom. So cool. Thanks for the advice everyone.

As we headed back to the ship, we stopped to try some conch fritters (delicious) and get a couple souvenirs. There are little kids everywhere selling tchatchkies. They'd come up to us and ask for a dollar if they sing you a song. How can you resist?

The only bad thing that happened was that I cut my toe, I assume, on a rock at the bottom of the ocean. It bled a lot, but didn't hurt too much. I was mostly concerned with the ugliness of the band-aid on my toe in sandals for the rest of the week. So, we came up with a solution....

No one could tell the difference :)

Monday, January 22, 2007

My Big Fat Eating Cruise

It's been a little over a week since we got back from vacation. Last night, I finally finished unpacking. Normally I'm pretty good about staying on top of things such as working out, waking up at a decent hour, eating well, cleaning etc, but after this trip it was really hard to get back into the swing of things.

I've been trying to figure out the best way to tell you about all about our cruise. There were so many great things about it. I guess I'll just split it up in categories. The first is probably the main reason I've had a hard time getting adjusted to regular life. It's also one of the main staples on a cruise. THE FOOD!

The first thing you have to know about the food on a cruise is the sheer volume of it. Not only are the portions humongous, but it's always available.

There's the casual dining on the Lido deck where we usually ate breakfast. Ahh, bacon in the Bahamas, can't beat that. The Lido deck also has a 24 hour pizza bar and 24 hour soft serve ice cream. Every day, they'd also have a different theme - A Mexican buffet or "Taste of Italy." We ate it all. Seriously.

Most nights we ate diner in the formal dining room. Since the group we were with had been on several cruises, they taught us the right way to order. If you're looking at the menu and can't decide between two appetizers, order both! The steak AND the lobster sound delicious, okay! Need 3 desserts? No one will judge.

This is from the chocolate buffet out on the Lido deck one day. No, that's not sushi, that's delicious heavenly dessert!

The formal dining room also offered a lot of new foods I hadn't tried. If I'm at a restaurant, I won't order something I'm not sure that I'll like because I don't' want to spend the money on it if I don't end up eating it. Since everything was included on the ship, I was adventurous and tried it all.

Surprisingly, escargot is really good. Granted it was soaked in garlic butter and I ate it on some toast, so I probably just loved the butter, but still. I ate snails!

Lobster's not too bad either, though I was nervous about trying it.

Midnight Buffet

One of the most impressive parts about the food was 'The Grand Buffet.' One night only they had a midnight buffet. Just to help you realize the impressiveness of this, they open the buffet 45 minutes early, just for picture taking. It's like something you'd see on Food Network.

The elaborate carvings are all made out of food.

This palm tree is made out of watermelon!

The birds are made out of butternut squash!

It was all ridiculously rich and an overindulgent treat at midnight. Sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night with a faint smell of chocolate in my nostrils.

"THE FOOD" overall favorites

Overall, the whole food experience was amazing.
From the edible sculptures, to trying new foods and the great company, it was so much fun.

I know quail isn't exotic, but it was new to me. Coochie, coochie, coo - aren't they adorable?!

In the dining room with the girls. Some of you might recognize Anna sitting next to me (my maid of honor and best friend since I was a baby), but these other girls quickly became friends too.

Corey's favorite, almost to a scary point - The Chocolate Melting Cake. I believe he ordered it every night. Also believe me when I say, you do not mess with Corey's Chocolate Melting Cake.

One of the best parts about dinner was our double jointed waiter - Subi. His great Indonesian accent and strange sense of humor made the experience that much better.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

...And We're back!

We're home and I just don't understand what this white stuff on the ground is. It doesn't feel good between my toes, it's not warm or have a salty body of water rushing over it. No, it's freezing and wet and icky. The only thing good about coming back to cold snow is that our godlike bronzed bodies are the envy of everyone.

We had a blast on our cruise. Hands down the best vacation either of us have ever taken. I'm sorry we don't have more pictures up yet, don't worry, we'll get more up through out the week. We have over 300 of them to wade through, so it takes some time.

So what did we do? Well, besides eating like kings non-stop, we also snorkled, swam with stingrays (thanks for the advice everyone - it was amazing), parasailed over a nude beach, shopped, haggled and bought a 5, yes, 5 carat sapphire pendant necklace. We relaxed in some of the most gorgeous scenery with the bluest waters you've ever laid eyes upon. We met some really great people. We were with a group of about 25 in all. I knew about 10 or so from when I was a kid, but only Anna, my best friend, very close. Anna lives with 5 other girls, so for most of the trip it was us 6 girls and Corey. He was a total stud. The girls were SOOO much fun. They made something as simple as dinner a blast. We've definately made some lifetime friends. And we'll definately be going on another cruise with them in the future.

Now we're just settling back into real life. I'll be honest, it's rough. I was heading over to the copy machine this morning at work and couldn't find the 24 hour soft serve ice cream maker. Boo.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Our life is so hard

We've come across a very difficult decision in our life. If you know us well, you know that we don't do well with making decisions. We leave for Florida tomorrow. As we're finalizing everything, we have to start making decisions about such things as which excusions to book. They strongly encourage you to book anything that's a 'must do' ahead of time to make sure it doesn't fill up. So, which do we do? Swim with the stingray, which includes snorkeling. Or a dolphin encounter, which is not an official 'swim with the dolphin' activity, but is still freakin' dolphins. In either choice we'd get to feed and pet them, though I think the dolphin one is more expensive and in more of a pool or even just a platform type environment versus in an open cove like the stingray would be, but it's still freakin' dolphins. Anyone had experience with either? I think we're leaning towards the stingray. Seriously, what a rough life.