Ok wanted to spread the towel out to lay down, so of course Katie had to follow.
I keep thinking about my previous list of Random Things, and reading other people’s lists, and I wanted to have another go at it.
Our last sea day on our way home—how sad. Although having said that, we both agreed that eight days is almost too long (or at least it felt that way). So we agree that seven days is probably the prime cruising time.
First things first—we slept in, since we were up late the night before. Unfortunately, last night I started feeling sick after I finished journaling and tried to go to sleep—I only had three drinks, but I think I mixed too many liquors trying to decide what sounded good. And Tom had drunk a little too much so he finally slept in as well. He made it up in time to attend the debarkation meeting at 11.
We decided it was finally time to play mini golf—since that was one of the few “entertainment” things I actually wanted to do on the ship. Unfortunately, we chose the wrong day—a sea day is NOT the day to play mini golf, since it’s on the top deck and windy as hell. So we only played the three holes that were most sheltered from the wind. I also wanted to go down the waterslide, but Tom assured me it was NOTHING special and could really be avoided.
We just sort of hung around all day, running into friends and chatting, hitting up the wifi, and I think we even got in another nap—then right before dinner we had a little farewell get-together with some of our Cruise Critic friends. Then it was off to our last dinner, which interestingly was my most favorite meal of the whole week (not including the supper club dinner earlier in the week). Tom and I both had the New England Lobster and Crab Cake (Served with Herb Salad and Roasted Pepper Remoulade) which was really good, then I had the Caesar Salad (which was the same salad I’d been getting all week, but it just tasted better tonight) and Tom had the Heart of Iceberg Lettuce Salad Garnished with Florida Orange and Grapefruit Segments. For the main course, then I had the Neptune Platter (Fried Large Black Tiger Prawns, Calamari Rings and Breaded Fish Filet Served with Fried Potatoes and Roasted Bell Pepper Remoulade) which just hit the spot and was very good. Tom had the Tender Roasted Prime Rib of American Beef au Jus and a Baked Potato wit Traditional Toppings. Dessert was a Grand Marnier Souffle Served with Orange Vanilla Sauce which everyone just went gaga over, and while it was yummy, I am not a huge custard fan, so I let Tom finish it for me.
After dinner we went back to the room to start packing, as our luggage had to be out in the hallway by midnight, and we had plans to see the last show, Carnival Legends. Now, if you haven’t heard of this show, it’s made up of Carnival guests who won karaoke contests throughout the week—singing parts like Madonna, Garth Brooks, Britney Spears, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Frank Sinatra. We actually knew two people ibn the show—the Britney, who had done it before on another cruise and had such a fun time she wanted to do it again…and Elton, one of our friends who was completely drunk during karaoke and we goaded him into singing, and then we got him to agree to do the Legends show. Needless to say he hated us since he didn’t realize he was agreeing to a full-fledged performance on the main stage for the entire ship! So, our whole group was there to support him, sitting in the front row! It was an absolute riot!!
After the show, we sat and chatted and said some goodbyes, then we decided to hit the dance club one last time. On the way through the casino, I sat down with $1 at the penny slots and tripled my money in a few minutes—woohoo! I was still down overall for the week, but not by much. We didn’t stay too long at the dance club because we were exhausted…and they were playing sucky music. So it was back to the cabin to finish packing the odds and ends and then hitting the sheets.
Another early early morning due to an excursion, ugh. We were looking forward to it, of course, but man I hate early mornings, especially after late nights. Thank heavens for room service.
We were able to get on an earlier tender than we had hoped, so were off about 8am along with our new friends John and Erica (the couple from California that we met on the beach after ziplining), headed for our cave tubing excursion. We were a bit hungry so Tom and John went off to find us some food—and came back with a delicious assortment including two croissants, a piece of johnnycake (not cornbread, almost a biscuit), and a cinnamon roll…for a total of $2!
There were three guys running the cave-tubing show, and they were all a hoot. On the 35-45 minute drive to the caves, we got some comedy and local flavor along with a few history lessons. Oh, and a taste of a local beverage—cashew wine (jokingly called the poor man’s whiskey). It was interesting, but nothing I needed (or wanted) to bring home with me. They always asked if there were any questions, so I asked if there were restrooms, and they said no, they had “quicklies”—you want to quickly go in and quickly come out. And when someone asked if there were snakes, he said oh yes, Belize has something like 58 varieties of snakes, 35 of which are poisonous. “Just kidding, just kidding.” The whole 40 minutes was like that, it was really fun.
Once we got to the caves, we were handed headlamps, tubes, and life jackets, and were led down the trail toward the river. They said it was going to be about a 30-minute walk, so we were all surprised when we hit the river after no more than five minutes. Yeah, that was just the starting point—we had to cross the river to get to the trail. They also wanted us to get wet so we’d get the feel for the water and wouldn’t be surprised later. We were all a little shocked at how cold it was—on the bus, someone had asked what the water temperature was and he said it was “refreshing” and when pressed, said between 72 and 78 degrees. MY ASS. That water was nowhere near 72-78 degrees, LOL. Maybe 70 at the tops, I’m guessing. But we all got in and some even jumped off a high rock formation.
Then it was back on the trail, where we got an unexpected surprise about 15 minutes in…the guides told the women to drop their tubes, and they would carry them the rest of the way! (I had read in their reviews that they did that, but I didn’t realize it was an all-the-time thing.) At first I was like “I can carry my own damn tube” but as the trail got a bit rougher, I was glad I didn’t have to worry about it—especially with my ankles. As it was, I was barely taking in the surroundings—I was more concerned with watching my every step, as the trail we were on was all dirt, big rocks, and roots. And a stupid kid in front of me kept shuffling her feet and kicking stones into my path. GRRR. I finally made a break for it when there was room to pass. Anyway, the guides all looked like the Michelin man—each carrying like five or six tubes, and flying over the trails with ease. They would stop us to point out interesting trees like the one that produces the avocado and one that helps prevent the onset of a poisonous snake bite if you chew the bark.
At about 25 minutes we hit a fork in the path and they told us that the cruise ship excursions took the path to the right—and they only got to go through one cave. If we wanted to walk about another six minutes, we would be able to tube through two caves. Of course, we opted for the additional six minutes. When we finally reached the destination/starting point, we were split up into groups of about nine and we all kerplunked into the river and were tethered in a human chain—you tucked your feet under the armpits of the person in front of you.
It was actually a little chilly going down river—you were not in the sun at all (because you were underground in the caves) and your butt was in the water! The guides would point out neat things, and keep us moving in slower water or steer us in the right direction if we started to get off course, but the most important thing they did was yell BUTTS UP at us when the river got too shallow (it varied from 28 FEET to 4 INCHES) so when they yelled BUTTS UP, it meant get your butt up out of the water, at least higher than the tube bottom, otherwise you would scrape your butt on the rocks. There were a few times we did hit bottom—you could hear the rocks scraping on the tube—but we never got fully stuck. Butts up was hard because you had to pretty much lay flat on top of the tube, which sort of unlocked your feet a little from the person in front of you, but you had to keep hold of them so you didn’t come unattached…meanwhile trying to hold your head up out of the water—unless you wanted a cold, wet head. Oh, and the head lamps didn’t do much to help us see into the vast darkness, but were actually more for the guides to see where we were and to keep track of us.
Of course the guides were just as much of a riot as they were on the bus, and they made the whole trip worthwhile. They definitely appeared to love their jobs and take pride in what they did. On the way back to town we stopped at a place to get snacks and t-shirts, and I actually had an orange Fanta out of a glass bottle (we also both got shirts). The strangest yet neatest thing about this trip? You didn’t pay until you were done—and satisfied! Which, we have to say, we were COMPLETELY satisfied. In addition to getting a better excursion for about half of what Carnival was charging, I am sure we got much more personality and personalized service as well. Definitely worth the money and we would recommend Cave-Tubing.com to anyone.
Once back in town, we only had a short amount of time to do some shopping. We dreamily priced Hearts-On-Fire solitaire earrings and a necklace at Diamonds International. When we were done choking on the prices, we searched for some affordable souvenirs but nothing hit the spot so we just went back to the ship where we did our usual quick lunch and then relaxed on the balcony while the ship left port (it was a neat, meandering course, as we had to wind around the protected barrier reefs).
Soon it was time for dinner… and another few starters for me, LOL. I had to have the Thai Beef Salad (Sliced Prime Beef, Onions and Peppers, Marinated with Oriental Dressing) and the Crepes Filled with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese (Parmesan and Cold Pressed Olive Oil Dressing, Cucumber Confit). I also wanted the Lasagna Bolognese which sounded DIVINE (Baked Casserole with Layers of Pasta, Lean Ground Beef, Tomatoes, Spinach and Mozzarella, Served on a Lake of Pomodoro Sauce). About half our table thought the same thing—except when it arrived, it was NOT nearly as good as we had hoped. It wasn’t horrible tasting, but it was all ground meat with barely any tomatoes or sauce—just very strange. (Many thanks to Earl, our headwaiter, who told me ahead of time I didn’t want it for my main course, and to try it as a starter instead. He rocks.) Tom also had the Crepes for a starter. We both had the Mixed Garden and Field Greens Salad.
For our main course, Tom had Coq au Vin de Chambertin—Supreme of Chicken Marinated and Cooked in Red Burgundy Wine Garnished with Silver Onions, Mushrooms and Wine Dough Crisps. I had the Blackened Fillet of Tilapia, Topped with Shrimp and Seafood, Served over Jambalya Rice. Tom said his was good, and mine was okay—the best part was actually the seafood topping and the unmentioned very-thinly-sliced fried okra strips.
I was off my game again, and forgot to take a picture of the dessert menu, but I had some Apple and Nuts wrapped in Phyllo thing, with vanilla sauce and ice cream, which was probably my most favorite dessert so far (aside from the vanilla ice cream in the buffet line). Tom had some chocolate chocolaty chocolate fudge cake thing, which was just a little rich and chocolaty.
After dinner we took photos with our friends, we walked through the casino on the way back to our room, and I proceeded to lose another $5—but I had fun doing it:
Then it was back to the room to change and relax a bit while waiting for our late-dinner-seating friends to finish eating. Everyone was having fun drinking and chatting, except me (the alcohol just wasn’t going down well). Then it was off to the Lido Deck for the Midnight Mexican Buffet—and a live band. It was quite fun—we were just hanging out and chatting with all our new friends. Everyone (except me) was getting a little drunk, and they were all a riot. I actually called it a night before everyone else, because what little alcohol I had had wasn’t settling well and I just wanted to go to bed. And I was thrilled to know I could sleep in as late as I wanted the following morning, as it was out last sea day and we didn’t have to be anywhere!
The morning started entirely too early, when our room service appeared at 6am. We were to meet our ShoreTrips tour guide at 8am on the pier, so there was no sleeping in. And I have to admit, not being a morning person in the least, there was a brief moment when I honestly wanted to say “Screw ziplining, I want to sleep in.” But man am I glad I didn’t.
Ziplining through the Honduran rainforest was, simply, amazing. It was hot and took some effort—but it was so worth the $57 per person. After our group got off the pier, we had to wait about 15 minutes for the van to come pick us up. Then it was off through tiny winding roads with crazy as hell drivers and pedestrians with a death wish. In about 10 minutes or so, we were on the other side of the island at the South Shore Ziplining Company (I think it was called). There were four guides with us, and they got us all belted, harnessed, cinched, and helmeted up, then there was a quick 3-minute safety brief and we were off!
Oh, they told us we were NOT to take pictures—we were to concentrate on keeping our hands in the positions they told us (so we would keep ourselves headed straight and so we could brake). But, as soon as they said we couldn’t take pictures, they said they would take them for us! So one guide had like four cameras on his arm and around his neck, and he just alternated using each of them for taking pictures throughout the morning. (So we all have to do an email exchange so we can make sure we get the pictures that are on everyone else’s cameras!)
I was the very first one off the platform, and it was sooooooo exhilarating! It went so quickly you had to remember to take time to look down and around (instead of just forward to the next platform)—with the lush greenery whizzing by on all sides. (Well, actually, I didn’t remember to look down until about the third platform.) Some platforms we all fit on, so they waited until we were all there before starting the next line. Others were smaller platforms, so they would start us on the next line while people were still coming in. Between a few of the platforms, we had to walk up flights of stairs (and when I say flights, I mean steps cut into the side of the mountain, braced with pieces of wood—and in a very few instances, real wooden stairs) or up mountain paths—with roots and rocks and trees and all.
The guides were absolutely wonderful, even though there was a bit of a language barrier between us (some more than others). You could tell they did this all day, every day—as they knew exactly what they were doing (a good thing when your life is on the line), when to stop for us to catch our breath, and when to stop for photo ops—and they seemed to move around and up and down like monkeys. We all moved along fairly quickly, and soon we were nearing the end. I didn’t count how many lines we did, but I’d guess it was at least eight or nine. The best one was at the highest point, looking out over the ocean, and it was our photo opportunity:
They also warned us it was the fastest line of them all. All morning long they had pretty much been telling us NOT to brake because we’d end up going too slow and then we’d have to drag ourselves to the platform (not fun, a few of us ended up having to do it) but on this one, they said feel free to brake ALL the way down otherwise you will come in TOO fast. I’m not sure if they didn’t trust me or what, but they sent me down with a guide. I honestly didn’t care why they did it, because it gave me a chance to just look around and not have to worry about keeping myself straight or braking or slamming into a tree at the end of the line. So, I got to go down sideways, and enjoyed a nice view of the ocean as my legs swished a few tiny tree branches on the looooong way down.
Everyone just had an ABSOLUTE blast and it could not have gone better…and everyone in our group was extremely thankful to Tom (and me) for setting it all up. I am sure Costa Rica would have been great as well, but we were very satisfied by the whole experience. I can easily see us doing this again and again, whenever and wherever we get the chance. I highly recommend it to anyone.
Afterwards, they said they could take us to the beach at no extra charge—except most of us didn’t have suits, as the beach hadn’t been on the itinerary. So after some discussion, it was decided those who wanted to get off at the beach would do so, and the rest would continue on to the ship. Of course, there were more language barriers to overcome, and unfortunately, we never really did—as we got to the beach, there were four of our group left in the van, and the driver just disappeared (although the van was still running so we were sure he would come back). Then the other couple decided they would just stay, so it was just me and Tom left in the van.
Neither of us had our suits and I didn’t want to go to the beach if I couldn’t go swimming, so I just wanted to go back to the ship so we could shower and/or change, then we could go back to the beach. I was also feeling kind of non-social so didn’t feel like hanging out at the beach with a group of people. But the driver didn’t come back. And didn’t come back. And didn’t come back. And we saw him wandering around. So Tom was like, “Well, I guess we’re staying.” So I was immediately crabby because I did NOT want to be there, it was NOT what I wanted to do, and I was seemingly being forced to do it anyway.
So I took of my shoes and socks (and ankle braces!) and stomped off to at least go stand in the ocean. After a few minutes it was so hot I said screw it, took off my t-shirt, flung it onto the beach, and waded out farther into the water and dove in. Everyone was like “What the—?” and before I knew it, Heidi was taking her t-shirt off and coming in as well. She said she never would have done it if I hadn’t, so she was glad. So we were out in our shorts and bras just having a good ol’ time. The water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature—just slightly cool but warm enough once you were in it for a bit.
Then the others started heading into the water, and the guys yelled out to us (we were probably 30 yards farther out) some comment about going topless, so I took off my bra and waved it over my head. Again, much laughter from the group—and cameras were coming out of pockets. Heidi quickly followed suit, and then another girl joined in the fray as well. It was hilarious! I can’t wait to see the pics of the three of us waving our bras over our heads!
While we were there, we struck up some conversation with the people in the cabana next to ours—a bunch of really nice people overall, but there was one couple from California that we really clicked with, so we chatted with them quite a bit. Tom said he had actually seen them the night before at the Disco (after I had gone back to the room to preserve my ankles). We were talking about shore excursions for Belize, and ended up inviting them to go cave tubing with us—and we were all really looking forward to it.
A few drinks, a bit of sun, and two hours later, it was back on the van. Some of the guys wanted to buy some rum, so the guide said he would take us to the grocery store—which ended up to be about a 30-minute round trip. (I thought it was somewhat asinine to want to buy alcohol here, when we had been at other ports where alcohol was more easily accessible—plus you could buy it pretty cheaply on the ship, but oh well, what can you do? Apparently we had no say in anything once we booked the trip, LOL.) At least we got a good view of the ship from where we were—and we got to experience even MORE crazy driving (some of us just shut our eyes). Then they dropped us off back at the pier and some went one way to go shopping and we went back to the ship, perusing a few of the booths that were set up in between. There were lots of neat wood bowl sets and intricately hand-carved jewelry box-type things for pretty cheap prices, but we really don’t need any of that, so I bought two tiny carved keychains.
Then it was back on the ship to get out of the wet clothes and grab lunch. Then it was back to the room to shower and watch us debark. As I type, we are on our way to Belize… I wish I had time for a nap, but unfortunately, dinner is in an hour and Tom’s alarm is going off in 10 minutes. So I may just close my eyes for a quick few minutes.
Which I did, and woke up in a frenzy because I had slept for what I thought was way more than 10 minutes, and Tom hadn’t woken me up, so I was thinking we had either missed dinner or were going to be late. Except we weren’t—I had been looking at the time on the laptop, which is not the real time. You see, Daylight Savings took place while we were on the ship but we were instructed to NOT change our time until we were headed away from Belize Wednesday night—apparently it would be easier to just keep the original time as long as possible. We also had to deal with time differences in Roatan today, double- and triple-checking the time to make sure we got back to the boat in time. So anyway, the laptop doesn’t know we weren’t supposed to make the time change, so it changed automatically, so when I awoke with a start and thought it was 5:15 it was only 4:15. I know, damn, I could have slept longer. It’s amazing how tired you feel once you stop moving.
It was our last formal night, so it was dress blues again for Tom and a new dress for me, bought especially for the cruise. We had more photos taken on the way to dinner, just in case we ended up with a good one (although we blew our wad on photos earlier in the week, with the other formal photos). Our dinner table was sparse, as one couple was at the supper club and we aren’t sure where another was, so there were only six of us. Moments after we sat down I realized we hadn’t brought the camera—on the way out of the room I asked if we were going to need it and we both thought no. Duh. I’ve only been taking it to dinner EVERY night to take pictures of the menus (so I can describe the meals) and the actual meals themselves. Oh well.
So for starters, I couldn’t decide between the three soup offerings, so I had a Corn Chowder, a Lobster Bisque, and a Chilled Bing Cherry soup. The best was the Lobster Bisque. Tom had something with shrimp and crawfish in it (yummy). For salads, I went basic with a Caesar and Tom had something with green beans and cherry tomatoes. For dinner, he had grouper and I had Chateaubriand, which was amazingly good. The dessert special for the evening was Baked Alaska, which we both had—then we finished up with a hot chocolate (me) and an espresso (Tom).
After dinner we stopped in the casino and I lost another $2 (getting up to a $5 gain during the process). I just had a $10 left so decided to quit there. I’ve lost track along the way, but I think I am down about $4—not too bad in the grand scheme of things. Then it was back up to the room to get out of the dress duds and relax for a bit before our friends got out of their late dinner and we headed to the comedy show at 10:30. We went downstairs to hang out around the piano bar while I surfed the net a bit and posted to the blog. Jennie (my coworker who is watching Maggie) sent pics of her daughter playing with Maggie—and although we LOVED them, it made us miss her!!
While we were sitting at the piano bar, who do we see walk in but the couple from the beach! I went in to say hi and chat for a few minutes, except it was so loud it was difficult so we said we would see them later at the comedy show. Our other friends then met us outside the bar, where we visited for a bit, then went to the show. The comedian was excellent—much better than the first one earlier this week.
After the show, it was off to the dining room for the midnight Gala Buffet—where the chefs go all out to create these masterpieces…of mostly crap you’d never want to eat, LOL. It was all beautiful and creative and amazing…but after the hour-long photo session (during which we just gabbed away with the couple from the beach), when we all got to eat, most of it we determined was completely inedible. Lots of gelatinous ooze, weird flavors we couldn’t tell were either fishy or fruity (seriously), a plate of sushi-looking items but with that strange jelly holding it all together, etc. In the end, we had a big plate of REJECTED items, and we ended up not eating much at all. By the time we were done eating and ready to go to bed, it was about 1:30am, so it was off to bed as we had to be up at 6am to get ready for our cave-tubing excursion!
This was supposed to be our Costa Rica day, but instead was another sea day on our way to Isla Roatan, Honduras. The seasick pills make you tired, and I could barely drag myself out of bed when Tom got back from the gym around 9:30. I showered while he was up eating breakfast, and then it was off to meet at the Bacchus dining room, where we were both participating in the On Deck for the Cure one mile walk around the ship.
We had both “donated” $10 to participate, and received a t-shirt and bracelet. I was really surprised at the turnout—there were probably 200 people! The cool part was seeing part of the ship (Gatsby’s Gardens) which we never even knew was there! At the end of our three laps around Deck 3, we got pink lemonade, and then it was immediately off to the Phantom lounge to meet for the Galley Tour! We ran into our friends there, so went through the tour with them. I was tempted to buy the cookbook because it had the recipe for the coconut cake in there, but it looked fairly simple—white cake mix with coconut flavoring, and buttercream frosting with coconut flavoring and real coconut in it. I am sure google will turn up a similar recipe for free, as opposed to the $15 cookbook! They also had the towel-animal instruction booklet for sale, which I was tempted to get—but seriously, when am I EVER going to make towel animals?
Then it was up to Horatio’s (the lido buffet) for a quick lunch, and then back to the room for a nap (for Tom) and journaling (for me). On the way we ran into more of our Cruise Critic group, so chatted in a hallway for a bit with them. And then once we started moving again, we ran into yet another couple so stopped to chat with them. Finally back in the room, a nap sounded very good, but if I don’t keep up with the journal, I will never remember everything. Besides, what better excuse to sit on the balcony and watch the ocean go by? The balcony is shaded but you get a good breeze. Who knows…I may even take a nap out here if the mood strikes!
And a nap I did take, albeit a somewhat short one, or at least it felt that way. Unfortunately, the chaise isn’t terribly comfortable to nap on, but I refuse to be inside the cabin when there is a balcony just sitting there! Tom was totally crashed, and finally dragged his butt out of bed to get ready for dinner.
For starters, I couldn’t decide between the Vine Ripe Beefsteak Tomatoes and Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (Marinated with Basil Leaves and Virgin Olive Oil) and the South Western Style Egg Roll (with Marinated Baby Lettuce and Sweet & Sour Salsa). Tom wanted the Cream of Fresh Garden Broccoli (Enhanced with Aged Wisconsin Cheddar) and I convinced him he also wanted to try the Penne, Tossed in a Tomato Cream with Vodka (and Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese) which was a dinner option but also available as a side. It was worth convincing him, LOL.
You know, some nights there is one obvious choice for your main course. And then there are nights like tonight when I seriously wanted everything—or to at least taste everything. We had the penne as a starter so that was one less dish I had to order. Then I finally decided on the Pan Fried Fillet of Red Snapper (with Crispy Fried Vegetables, Black Olives, Cauliflower, and Grilled Tomato, with a Lemon and Caper Sauce and then the Oven Roasted Tom Turkey (with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Orange Glazed yams, Sautéed Scallions, Roasted Cauliflower, and Cranberry Relish) that someone else at the table also wanted to sample. (I also wanted to try the Veal Parmigiana and the Vegetarian Lasagna but refrained.) Tom went with the Grilled Filet Mignon of the Finest Aged American Beef (with Sautéed Young Root Vegetables, Potato Gratin, and a Red Burgundy Wine Sauce). Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as good as the steaks (and filet) we had had at the fine dining restaurant earlier in the week, so that was a bit of a disappointment. (I had predicted that would happen, so I avoided that selection.)
This was also the first meal I forgot to take pictures of everything BEFORE we started eating…and I just realized I forgot to take a picture of the dessert menu. So, I had apple pie a la mode and Tom had the aforementioned Chocolate Melting Cake. I had more hot chocolate because it’s SOOO good and Tom had an espresso. (If you order it in the dining room it’s free—elsewhere on the ship you have to pay like $5 for it.)
We wandered through the casino and I managed to zip through my first $1 in record time (damn nickel slots) so a 1c slot opened up and I was there in a flash. I managed to turn my $1 into $5, and then proceeded to lose it all. I have been trying to keep track overall, and I think I’m still up by at least $1 overall.
Back at our room, we had a stingray towel (very cute). Then it was off to wander the ship a bit, and we ended up back in the casino. I think I blew through another $5, so now I am back to $4 in the hole. Still not too bad, though. Around 9:30 we headed off to Karaoke, at which one of our friends was trying out for the Legends show at the end of the cruise (she was trying out for Britney Spears). Audience voting (i.e. screaming and applause) determines the winner, so we all had to be there for her. Unfortunately, the auditions weren’t until 10:30 so we went to the piano bar to meet some other friends and ended up just sitting outside the bar so we could hear the music but still hear each other—and stay out of the smoke. At 10:30 we all went back to karaoke and got there just in time to see our friend perform. And we voted, and she won. The other Britney Spears wasn’t too thrilled. Oh well.
Then everyone wanted to go to Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab again for Disco Night. So off we went. Unfortunately, it was going to be pretty boring for me since I was not planning on dancing. The 80s night really wreaked havoc on my ankles and I didn’t want to go through that again—so I left Tom down there with our group (and a DW—designated walker) and headed back up to the room, leaving him instructions to not come home too late since we have to be up at oh dark thirty to go ziplining (and as I type, it’s 1am and he’s not back yet, LOL).
It’s hard to believe we still have three full days left before we get back to Fort Lauderdale…and real life. We are NOT looking forward to it at all, other than we miss our animals and our own laundry facilities!
I slept in while Tom went to the gym (are you sensing a trend here?). Well, let me backtrack. Our room phone rang at about 7am and I was so dead asleep I didn’t know what it even was, then I thought it was Tom’s alarm. By the time I realized it was the phone, Tom was answering it. Of course I could only hear his side of the conversation, but I couldn’t tell who was on the phone or what was going on.
Long story short, one of the guys in our group, who was part of the group excursion we bought tickets for when Costa Rica fell through, was calling us to tell us he had decided to do the Carnival-sponsored trip instead, he just felt more comfortable, yada yada yada, and Tom somehow convinced him to stay with our group. I mean, HELLO? Was he planning on screwing us out of the money since we had already purchased the tickets? And why call us at 7am? You never call ANYONE on a ship at that ungodly hour. So anyway, we were both pissed—both at being woken up and at him being an asshat. (He has not been our favorite person thus far.)
We both fell back to sleep for a bit, then Tom went to the gym. I got up and showered after he came back and we went up for a late breakfast. Again, nothing much interested me, so I just had a bagel with cream cheese, a few pieces of bacon, and a banana. Tom ate his usual oatmeal with some granola he brought from the room. As I was in line getting my food, Earl (our dinner waiter)s came up behind me and said he missed us last night and I laughed and told him we had eaten at Nick & Nora’s, but that we would surely see him tonight!
The ship was pretty empty since we were docked in Panama. We had not planned any excursions and really had no strong desire to go into town (we were warned it wasn’t a place you really wanted to just walk around). We lazed about a bit, confirmed our ziplining reservations, and then decided we might as well at least walk through the port in Panama. And that was more than enough, LOL.
It was hot and humid and there were tons of people milling about. We walked through some of the local shops in the immediate vicinity of the port, but all of them had the same touristy crap—think Mackinac Island, LOL, except the employees aren’t trying to make deals with you to get you to buy something. We wandered through a grocery store, where we saw quite a few ship employees buying necessities. (We had been looking for some cold sore medicine for me, but there was nothing.) Outside there was a lady with a monkey who was offering to take pictures for $1, but we just felt too badly for the poor little monkey who was all dressed up that we said no thank you. We did stop by a coffee shop and I got a fruit smoothie and Tom got some coffee drink. I was expecting a nice fresh fruit smoothie but was severely disappointed—she took out a carton, unscrewed it, and dumped some anemic-looking pink sludge into the blender with about a gallon of ice. Yuck. Tom said his coffee wasn’t bad (not exactly a ringing endorsement).
The only thing we bought aside from the two mediocre (at best) beverages at that shop was…more alcohol at the duty free store. The prices were better than what was on the ship (for some things we already bought) so we took pictures of the prices so we could get a refund (which Tom did later on that evening—$17 back for two bottles of Appletons Rum). Needless to say the hour we spent in Panama, just to say we visited Panama, was plenty.
Then it was back to the ship, and we decided to hit the pool for the first time (we just aren’t sit-by-the-pool-and-sun-ourselves type of people). We went up to the Adults Only pool and sat in the pool for maybe 15 minutes (were surprised it was saltwater, although now it seems obvious), then laid in the sun and read for maybe 15 minutes, at which point Tom left because he was getting burned. I left shortly thereafter—not because I was getting too much sun, but because it was just too hot and bright. Also, I didn’t want to get too red—I have been tanning for a few months and have no tan lines, but 15 minutes in the equatorial sun usually leaves tan lines you can NEVER get rid of. On the way back to the room I decided to grab some fries, then ran across our friends by another pool, so stopped to chat with them for a few.
Back in the room, it was naptime for Tom while I sat on the balcony and read. We were on the port side, so I had a view of the city. The port had a bunch of pastel buildings in a row, but beyond that it was sad and pathetic. The nap monster eventually overtook me, and it was nice napping on the balcony with the sun and the breeze…
We relaxed until dinner, and we were pulling out of port on our way to dinner. Unfortunately, there were some high winds, so the ship was ROCKING. It was extremely noticeable, and it was fun watching people walk—they all sidestepped at the same moments when the ship shifted. But it wasn’t fun dealing with the after effects. We were all kind of iffy (oogy) at dinner, and I am sure it was just the power of suggestion, but we all started getting headaches and drinking alcohol was the farthest thing from our minds.
For starters, I couldn’t decide between the Fried Mozzarella on Mixed Greens Served with Mannara Sauce and the Cream of Sun-ripened Tomatoes Enhanced with a Touch of Gin so I had both, followed by the Greek Farmer Salad (Iceberg Lettuce, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Onions, Black Olives and Feta Cheese Tossed with Vinaigrette), and Assorted Seafood, Newburg Style (Black Tiger Prawns, Ocean Scallops and Fish Fillets, Tossed with a Creamy Lobster Sauce, Served with Saffron Pilaf Rice). I have to say I was less than thrilled with the Newburg, but didn’t want to get anything else, even after our head waiter assured me he would bring me anything else. Well, since I had already had two pieces of bread, two appetizers, and a salad, it wasn’t critical to me I have a full dinner (especially since I wanted dessert). And oh, what a dessert—it was coconut cake! Ironically, it was the Diet option, but it was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it…with some strawberry ice cream and hot chocolate.
Tom had the Duet of Mussels and Shrimps Provencale Sauteed in Virgin Olive Oil, with Tomatoes, Herbs and Garlic for his starter, followed by the Greek Farmer Salad as well, followed by the main course of Tenderloin of Beef Wellington, a Filet of Beef Topped with Mushroom Mousse, Delicately Wrapped in Puff Pastry, Ginger Carrot Puree and Butters Broccoli Florets.
This was entertainment night in the dining room, so after the main course and while waiting for dessert, everyone was invited to join the conga line. Only two people from our table joined in. Again, since the ship was still rocking, you could see everyone kind of hop from side to side as the ship tilted. For dessert, I was geeked about the Coconut Cake (my new favorite obsession), which was actually the Diet Coconut Sponge Cake with a Low Calorie Cream Dessert Prepared with a Sugar Substitute. It was quite yummy. Tom couldn’t decide between the Bitter and Blanc (Warm, Dark and White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce) and Tiramisu (A Delicious Creamy Combination of Contrasting Flavors of Mascarpone Cheese with Coffee and Sweet Chocolate). I am not a bread pudding fan, but the Bitter and Blanc was DELICIOUS and definitely won top honors at our table.
After dinner we went back to the room and hung out for a bit, got changed, and decided to run our “errands”—Tom went to get the refund on the alcohol and I went to print out our excursion vouchers. We went to pick up our formal pictures we had ordered earlier in the week but they weren’t ready yet. Then we strolled through the casino and I quickly lost my $4—so much for always doubling my money. By that time, Tom was feeling a little woozy, so he went back up to the room and I just hung around downstairs for a bit. I went back up to the room to catch up on my journaling, and after a bit, Tom was feeling better and I was feeling oogy. I took a seasick pill JUST IN CASE and then it was off to meet our friends for some DVD Movie Trivia—which we almost won, dang it. Afterwards, we had planned on doing something, but I really just wanted to go back and go to bed, and Tom was raring to go (somehow, we always seem to be on opposite OOGY schedules). So we went back to the room, and I read for a bit and then we both went to bed.
Tom got up to work out at about 6am, and even at that hour, our neighbors were moving their deck chairs around again. I just thought “What the hell are they doing this early?” then managed to go back to sleep. When Tom came back and I got up for good, I finally made the connection (with his help)—we are RIGHT BELOW the lido deck, where the pools are…and where ALL of the deck chairs are, LOL. So last night it was the crew putting the chairs away, and this morning it was the crew setting up the chairs for the day! I felt like an idiot for not making that connection earlier, because we had even commented how cool it was to be below the lido deck, because we got the benefit of the music (live bands) without being blasted out or sitting on the deck with a bunch of people and screaming kids!
So I finally got to sleep in—9:30, woohoo! We went upstairs to breakfast. Fortunately, not much appealed to me so it was a light meal (and if you can believe it, even with unlimited access to bacon, I only had a few slices). The restaurant buffet food just doesn’t seem to be that great on this cruise…which sounds kind of sucky but in reality is a good thing since the last time I ate way too much and always felt stuffed.
After breakfast we just hung around the room for a bit then went to check out our photos from the previous evening. They were all decent, but one was actually quite good…so we splurged and got a canvas print. (The day’s deal was if you bought a canvas print, the 8×10 was free. The 8×10 was expensive anyway, so it wasn’t really THAT much more to get the print. And it is a good picture!)
At noon, it was off to Nick & Nora’s, the high-end dining restaurant for a Food & Wine Pairing event. I am not a big wine drinker (as you probably know) but I was intrigued to see how wines went with different foods. It was very interesting, although somewhat hard to understand the women—one was from Indonesia and the other was from Romania. We learned things about tannins and acidity and if you eat something sweet before drinking a sweet wine, the wine is less sweet. (Yes, that one seems obvious, but it’s one of the few I remember, LOL.) And with a certain red wine, it tasted much smoother if you put lemon and salt on the filet mignon (something about like being like, maybe?) and with a white wine, if you ate something acidic before it, it tasted horrible. I could never possibly remember all the rules, and honestly I am not sure how much we will remember or be able to put what we learned into practice—and that’s why I’m not a sommelier.
Then it was off to the waterslide, where we were to meet our Cruise Critic friends. I am still on my “being vain” kick because we are going to a nice dinner tonight and I am not getting my hair wet…so Tom was the only one of us to go down the slide. Later this week, I definitely will—just not today. Then we ate lunch (again, nothing that really knocked my socks off) and Tom got a drink special that comes in a coconut with a monkey face (yes, you will see a picture). Then it was back to the room where we took a nap and then I sat on the balcony and starting reading one of the four books I brought!
As I got up to head inside, I saw a dolphin swim by! I called into Tom so he could come out and see it, but by the time he got out there, it was gone. So we waited a few more minutes and then a pair of dolphins appeared! It wasn’t until then, of course, that I decided to run and get the camera—and by the time I got back, they had disappeared again. We watched for another five minutes, but never saw them again.
At 5:30 we headed down to the Atrium for drinks with our group—and got a big shock as we saw posters announcing that Costa Rica was cancelled! Apparently there was a massive dock-worker strike scheduled for the day we were to be there, and the authorities thought it best if we skipped that port, since it would likely affect the docking, excursions, and all transportation. We were all immediately upset—we had booked an excellent and highly-recommended ziplining excursion in Costa Rica (outside of Carnival) and now we weren’t going! The only somewhat silver lining was that it wasn’t pre-paid so we didn’t have to worry about getting a refund. Carnival was scrambling to set up new excursions at our new port of call—Isla Roatan, Honduras—and we were all kind of freaking out because we all REALLY wanted to do the ziplining. It was really the ONLY thing I wanted to do, as well. We mentioned we should see if ShoreTrips (the company we used for our dolphin swim the last time) had any excursions, and everyone thought that was a great idea, so Tom ran up and brought the laptop down. They did have one, so we counted off and 10 wanted the tour, so we took a leap of faith and purchased 10 excursions…on OUR credit card (easier than everyone trying to order on their own). It was (is) a bit scary, since we don’t REALLY know these people, but I am sure it will all work out. Unfortunately, you typically have to wait three days for your vouchers to arrive via email, but we would be docking there in two days—and there was no place for notes on the order. I emailed them immediately and told them of our situation (rerouted ports) and asked if they could please rush our order. There was nothing else we could do at that point, so we enjoyed our drinks, ate some sushi (from the sushi cart by the dining room that is only open a few hours a day), then went back to the room to relax a bit before getting changed for appetizers and dinner.
Our appetizers (canapés) arrived a hair before 7:30 and we about fell over when we saw how many there were. We honestly imagined that the canapé order would be a plate of food—so that when they said we had two orders, we figured that would be just right for four people, and had them bring both at the same time (I even asked if that would be sufficient for four people and they said yes). So imagine our surprise when they arrived and we saw it was two PLATTERS—with probably 40 pieces on each one!
HOLY SHIT! It was entirely too much food for four people, but we managed to eat most of one tray. We called room service to at least bring us a few plates so we could divide up the leftovers to put in the fridge (and we sent one plate home with our friends). Everything was delicious—and we enjoyed some wine and conversation for an hour before dinner. Oh, and we didn’t get any announcement of who sent the appetizers, so we either have to ask room service or just ask all our friends and family!
We arrived at Nick & Nora’s promptly at 8:30 and were seated at a table right on the dance floor. There was live music (and singing) and it was actually a little loud—we had to shout a bit to hear each other, and I could not hear one word the sommelier or meat guy said. (Yeah, meat guy, LOL. I can’t be sure of his official title since I couldn’t hear it, but he was the guy who brought out the meat tray to showcase the night’s offerings.) I completely forgot to take a picture of the menu so I have to go from memory…
All of the starters looked amazing to me, and I asked if there was any way to order more than one, or to get a sampler. To my delight, I was able to order three starters if I skipped the salad, which was fine with me since I wasn’t thrilled with any of them. So I had a beef carpaccio which was DIVINE. It was sliced so think that it was almost a mush when you tried to eat it…but I could definitely eat that again. I also had a crab cake and lobster bisque. I stopped taking pictures after the carpaccio because the lighting wasn’t good and the flash was too difficult to get just right. Tom had onion soup, Heidi had escargot, and Geoff also ordered the escargot for us to share, as he is deathly allergic to seafood. We tried each other’s dishes and it was all amazing.
Tom had prime rib, Heidi and I had surf and turf (6oz lobster tail and 6oz filet mignon), and Geoff had the 9oz filet mignon. The surf and turf came with pumpkin ravioli which was yummy—and almost a dessert—and Heidi and I both chose the wasabi mashed potatoes which came wrapped in a phyllo dough-style crust. Of course everything was presented beautifully—and there was SO much food it was insane. (Here is our surf and turf presentation:
Nothing in the dessert menu really stood out to me, but the Washington Apple Tarte I had was good, and everyone else enjoyed their orders (I think there was a mango cheesecake and a trio platter with a chocolate torte, tiramisu, and a mousse). Oh, we also enjoyed two bottles of a DELICIOUS Riesling (I still have to try to find the name). Overall, the meal was very nice, but I would say I don’t have to do it again (beforehand, we contemplated doing it more than once). If it was a bit lesser surcharge, we might—but at $30pp extra, it wasn’t THAT good. I feel kind of snobby saying that, but it’s the truth. It was very good, just not something I want to spend an extra $60 on again. One of the best parts of the night was getting to dance a few slow songs—I always tell Tom that since we didn’t get to dance at our wedding, we always have to take advantage whenever we can.
After dinner it was back to our room to change for the bar. We were headed back to Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab for 80s night. An Officially-titled 80s Night—none of that “70s & 80s” business from the previous night. And to our delight, there were many more people in attendance, even though there still weren’t nearly as many as we’d thought there would be. We sweated our asses off dancing for maybe two hours. Heidi is a dance fiend and Geoff was drunk so they were a total hoot. Tom was thrilled to finally be dancing—he has been jonesing to go out dancing ever since he got home.
We closed the bar down and went back to our room and CRASHED. But a good time was had by all! We are thrilled to have clicked with Heidi and Geoff—we are the exact same ages (Heidi and I are 34 and graduated in 1991 and Tom and Geoff are 35 and graduated in 1990) and I am sure we will keep in touch!!
We both slept fairly well—the waters were calm, the ship was quiet, and the bed and pillows were sufficiently comfortable. We had scheduled room service to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 since the only breakfast available that early anywhere on the ship was coffee and danishes—and they arrived a bit early at 6:25, waking us up. While I was impressed with the prompt service, we were less than impressed with the actual food. Tom’s teeny tiny yogurt was still semi-frozen (and once he ate it, he said it was almost inedible until he added some Splenda). When asking for a bagel and cream cheese, I had hoped for a delicious, big, homemade-style chewy bagel, and instead got something resembling your typical store-bought tiny hard bagel. The cream cheese and banana were hard to mess up, LOL. But, it was okay overall since I didn’t really want a huge breakfast—the past few days we’ve eaten so much food that a light breakfast sounded perfect.
Tom headed to the gym as I headed to the spa. A tiny foreign guy did my hair (I forgot to check his nationality on his name tag, but he was Teodoro), and told him to pick whatever colors he thought were best, but I was thinking red or blonde. He ended up doing some medium blonde and dark red highlights—and it turned out very nice. The major luxury was, of course, having him straighten it. Unfortunately, it was still humid as hell, so I decided to be completely vain and stay inside today—not wanting to ruin the expensive ‘do. (Aside from the humidity, it’s really windy by the pool or at the pool bars, and that wind just snarls my hair something fierce.)
Tom came to check up on me and I was almost done so he waited, then we went back to the room and decided to just go hang out in the lobby area. He read a magazine while I wrote in my journal (i.e. this diary) and surfed a little bit.
Here’s me (and Tom!) with my new ‘do:
Interestingly, I got an email from my coworker saying that one of my bosses screwed something up and had emailed me asking how to fix it. Can you say DON’T CARE? Seriously, he had two tiny jobs of mine while I was gone, and he can’t even manage to do them by following the precise step-by-step instructions I left him? She told me he joked that they should have paid for my internet service so they could ask me questions. I told her that was fine if they still wanted to do it, but I cannot guarantee a timely response and I’m not doing anything other than answering emails. We’ll see what response I get when I check my email tomorrow.
Finally, it was time for lunch…and I was Hungry with a capital H. The lines are hit or miss, so I tend to go for the less crowded stations—which in this case was Asian, so I grabbed a spring roll and some type of beef dish, then went around the corner for the nationality of the day, Mexican, and had some yummy soup, homemade jalapeno tortilla chips with cheese sauce, a shrimp quesadilla, and grilled vegetables. I was sure I was missing a lot of food, but I had a plateful which was plenty, and figured I would check out the other stations on other days. I did finish with a tiny ice cream cone. Tom had a piece of fish, some ham, and dill pickles. Interesting, I know.
Then it was back to the room to relax and nap a bit before our 2:30 Meet & Greet—which I actually bailed on when I realized it was at one of the pool bars. I just could not be out in the wind with the new ‘do. Tom stayed to visit, and I headed to the lobby area again to upload my blog and surf—with a great view of the ocean cruising by. Unfortunately, there are VERY FEW outlets anywhere in the public areas of the ship—and the ones I knew where they were? Already being occupied by the photographers who were setting up for the evening. GRRR. So it wasn’t long before my battery died and I had to head back to the room. As soon as I walked in the door, one of our new friends called to say they wanted to hang out later (after their late-seating dinner) because they wanted to see Tom in his dress blues (tonight is formal night). Oh, and she also won the $500 slot tournament so they wanted to buy us drinks! Then Tom came in and we just sat and watched the ocean.
Then we got a call asking when we wanted our hors d’ oeuvres. Wait, huh? Yep, someone else bought us something! We are making guesses as to who it was, but will not find out until we get them—which we actually scheduled for tomorrow since they couldn’t get them to our room in time for tonight (we had to leave early for the Captain’s Meet & Greet). So we got all gussied up—me in a red ball gown and him in his dress blues. We looked good, damn good, LOL. So then it was off to the Phantom theatre where we had a free drink and some finger food. There was no real hand-shaking meet and greet, but rather the Captain and his crew introduced themselves up on stage. Most were foreign, but one girl was from New Jersey.
We left a little bit early, since we had to get pictures taken. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know the drill. If you haven’t been on a cruise, every night, there are photographers lined up along the way to dinner and you can get your pictures taken. There is never any charge unless you want to buy the photos—which will be on display the following day. Since we were dressed to the nines, we got a few photos taken with the background of our choice. We kept our fingers crossed they would turn out, as we don’t have too many good photos of us in formal wear. Here is a self-portrait:
Our choices for starters included Black Tiger Shrimp Cocktail Served with American Cocktail Sauce (Tom) and I couldn’t decide between the Strawberry Bisque (a Chilled Creamy Strawberry Soup with Fresh Mint) and Spaghetti Carbonara (Tossed with a Creamy Bacon, Cheese and Garlic Sauce) so I had both (the soup was good, the carbonara not so much)! I forgot to order a salad, and Tom had the Wilted Spinach and Portobello Mushrooms with Fresh Bacon Bits with Walnut and Blue Cheese Dressing.
Since it was Formal Night, the main feature of dinner was the Duet of Broiled Main Lobster Tail and Grilled Jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp (presented with Mushroom Risotto and Broccoli). I went with that, and since Tom isn’t a huge lobster fan, he had the Roaster Prime Rib of Aged American Beef with a Baked Potato, Balsamic Glazed Tomatoes, and Sauteed Green Beans and Roasted Cauliflower. Tom was impressed because they actually managed to cook the steak as rare as he likes it. Tom couldn’t find anything he had to have on the dessert menu, but I indulged in the Caramelized Apples on Puff Pastry, served with Vanilla Cream and Caramel Sauce. It was good, but I was getting full so Tom finished it for me!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling quite up to par—it was actually the roughest seas we had had thus far (the captain said the waves were about six feet) and the ship was rolling more than normal…so while it wasn’t too bad overall, I was feeling it.
Also unfortunately, I have been feeling a bit like a hypochondriac this trip, as I think I am just paranoid that I am going to get sick and waste the cruise. The night before we left, my throat started hurting. It could have been the weather or allergies, but I was sure I was getting strep or something, LOL. So Tom and I started taking Airborne, just as a precaution (who knows if it actually works, some people swear by it, but others think it’s worthless). Then, once on the ship, I became somewhat paranoid about getting seasick. I am not one to generally get seasick (and on the last cruise, only started to feel bad when the seas were REALLY bad) but somehow I felt more predisposed to it this go-round and every time I had a headache or my stomach felt off, I was sure I was getting seasick. Or maybe I was hungry, but I knew I wasn’t. Or maybe it was just a headache. Or maybe I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie. Or maybe I was really getting sick. Of course, our friends joked that maybe I was pregnant (which is definitely NOT the case). So at dinner, while the food was good, it wasn’t great (even the lobster and shrimp main course) and it didn’t seem to be settling too well and I felt bad for not really enjoying it as much as I normally would.
After dinner we headed back up to the room because Tom wanted to get out of his blues. He had thought he’d want to hang out in them, hit a few bars and whatnot, but once he gets them on, he really remembers how uncomfortable they are. We did stop by our friends’ room so they could see him dressed up and they took some pics of us as well. We also invited them to our high end dinner the following night (the dining room you have to pay a surcharge for, but it’s always worth it) and they were geeked about that, so we are looking forward to that.
We made it back to the room and saw our first towel animal! A dog that happened to be wearing my sunglasses! SOOOO CUTE! We changed out of our fancy clothes and we were both tired, in addition to me feeling oogy (yes, oogy—isn’t that a great word?) so we actually laid in bed and watched some TV shows we had on the laptop. Then there was a phone call…from room service again, telling us they had just received an email ordering us another appetizer tray! Again, we are not sure who ordered this for us, although I swear she said it was courtesy of Abbie—and the only Abbie we know is Jason and Julie’s Boston Terrier puppy (that we just saw in Floriday)…so if that’s the case, Jason and Julie have done too much, LOL. We will find out for sure tomorrow. So anyway, we called our friends to remind them to come to our room early for appetizers before dinner—which is a good thing, since we had to reschedule our dinner for 8:30 instead of 7 (when we changed to four people).
A little while later there was a knock on the door—it was our friends, just getting back from their late-seating dinner, wanting to know if we wanted to go to the dance club later because it was 70s/80s Flashback night. They were a little surprised we were both in bed, but we said we may try to make it. I was still feeling WAY oogy so I didn’t really want to go, but on the other hand, I felt like a schmuck staying in the room when I didn’t really feel THAT bad—guessing it was really just mostly in my head. Also, I had just—seriously, not five minutes earlier—taken out my contacts and taken off all my makeup! So we got dressed, I put makeup on again, and went up to the restaurant to grab a snack, thinking that might make me feel better. I had a Reuben and it was okay, but didn’t make me feel better or worse. We stopped by the front desk to pick up some sea sickness pills (just in case) and then it was off to the bar.
The dance club (Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab) was, well, less than we expected. It had the potential to be a lot of fun, but it was dead in there! You would think that with a ship of—what, 2500 people?—there would be more than 20 people on a Friday night who wanted to enjoy “oldies” music?? The other sucky thing was that other than the two 80s songs they played when they opened the doors (and we were still waiting for our friends), they played a rash of bad 70s music that just wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to dance to. The husband tried to pull me out on the dance floor—like, literally pull me—but I just didn’t feel in the mood because the music sucked. They all danced a few songs, and we ended up leaving after half an hour to go the comedy show at midnight. The guy was okay, nothing spectacular, and I actually nodded off a few times because I was exhausted (remember, I was up at 6:30 to get to the spa by 8). We went back to the room and crashed. And…maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy??? But when I took off my lipstick for the second time that night?? I discovered I am getting another cold sore. UGH. I had one about a week before we left (still have the scar where it was) and now I have another one. And I have no medication or pills for it because, well, I usually get them twice a year, so why would I expect to get two in two weeks? Ugh.
As we were falling asleep, we wondered what the hell our neighbors were doing, moving their deck chairs around so much and making a TON of noise that late at night, but didn’t think much about it… until the next morning…
It was a dark and stormy…day. We arrived at the port terminal under rain and thunder storms, hoping against hope that it wasn’t a sign of weather to come. The check-in process could not have gone more smoothly (or quickly) and we were very impressed—we were on the ship within a half hour, wandering somewhat aimlessly in the general direction of our room, taking in all the sights.
The ship is actually decorated quite nicely—everything has a literary theme (Frankenstein’s Lab and Phantom of the Opera, for example). This ship is larger than the ship we were on the last time (Holland America’s Zuiderdam) but there are nice (if somewhat gaudy) color-changing “lite brite”-looking signs all over and it’s fairly easy to navigate…although I still get turned around very easily (it will probably be Monday before I know which way to turn once I get off the elevator!).
Our room is just a bit smaller than the last room we had, but the balcony is a bit more private. The bathroom is nice, albeit smaller than our previous one—and we have a tiny shower instead of a tub/shower combo…but it has a detachable shower head and great water pressure!
We also had two completely unexpected surprises waiting for us (well, yes, I guess surprises are generally unexpected, lol). A box of fresh cookies and a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries and fancy chocolates were gifted to us on debarkation from some of our Tivo friends! (Thanks Amy and Julie & Jason! You guys rock!)
Then it was off for more exploration—we wanted to hit the spa and internet café to take advantage of any debarkation specials they might be offering. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a private spa/hot tub offering like the Zuiderdam had that Tom was hoping for, but he was mildly impressed with the gym facilities (which was a big deal, now that he works out at least an hour a day). I had decided against any massages, since my previous one (a hot stone massage) was less than impressive in my opinion—so instead opted for the $99 Crazy for Hair (or some similarly-named) package that included color, cut, and style! Ironically, I just got my hair cut last week (who knew I would want to get my hair cut on the cruise?) but I desperately wanted the color, as I’ve wanted to get my hair colored for quite some time (I threatened to do it the entire time Tom was gone and never did). I scheduled it for 10am so I could sleep in!
A funny side story. Tom was out on the mezzanine while I was in making my spa appointment. It took forever (of course, when I decided to make my reservation, there were about six people in front of me who all wanted like four spa treatments) so he was out there for probably 20 minutes. When I finished, he said one of the spa girls had come up to him and asked what he did for a living. He replied that he was an officer in the Marine Corps and she pumped her hand and said “YES! I WIN!” and then went back to tell her friends that she had been correct. He was flattered.
Then it was off to the internet café where we about choked on the prices—although if you bought a package that day, you also got extra minutes, plus were entered into a contest to win 500 minutes…so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. I hated to spend the money, but that cost plus my salon visit totaled about the same as the stupid hot stone massage the last time so all is well.
Then it was time for the life boat muster—the only necessary evil of cruising. It’s not really that bad, but it just seems like such a fustercluck because people don’t really know where to go, people are freaked out they are in the wrong spot, they are worried they’re not doing something right, and many are late in arriving. Ugh. Here we are as disgruntled yet still happy muster attendees:
Of course, to top it all off, it’s hot and muggy and you look like an idiot in the live vest. But then again, everyone looks like an idiot, lol, so we’re all in good company. After that 45 minutes was over (the actual drill takes 15 minutes, but with all the waiting, it was near 45 minutes) we headed back to the room and unpacked a bit since our luggage had already arrived.
Then it was time for a quick freshening up before heading off to the bar for our first Meet & Greet with the folks from Cruise Critic (a cruising forum where there are forums for each ship, which is further broken down into threads for each cruise date, so people can post and meet others who will be on the same cruise). We have been chatting with them for a few months, and of course, internet forums and meeting people on them is nothing new for us…but I hadn’t refreshed my memory on who was who or what people looked like, so I didn’t recognize anyone. Everyone, however, pretty much recognized us, lol. It was only slightly overwhelming trying to meet and talk to everyone, but there were a few couples we hit it off with. The funniest part was taking the group picture—they wrangled some Japanese man to take it, but then everyone started putting their cameras down and he ended up with about 15 cameras he had to use! He was a very good sport about it.
We had to cut the meet short in order to go to dinner—since we have the early seating. (We were teased by our Atlanta friends about being old people eating so early, but both of us don’t want to eat a full meal that late—but if we did that, we’d both want to go to sleep right after dinner! With the early seating, we have time to go back to the room or wherever and relax before going out for the evening.) We had prearranged to sit with other Cruise Critic board members—we figured we might as well sit with less random strangers if at all possible! (I still would have enjoyed sitting at a table by ourselves a little bit more, however.) The food was quite good and we enjoyed everything…
We started with a 2006 Piesporter Michelsberg Riesling Spatlese—which looked to be a later version of the same Riesling we had back on our 2005 cruise (I’d have to check the pictures to confirm).
For starters, Tom had Hickory Smoked Alaskan Salmon, Garnished with Purple Onion Rings, Fresh Dill, and Baby Capers. I had Asparagus Veloute, an asparagus cream soup.
Tom had a lettuce wedge salad and I had the Caesar salad.
For our main courses, Tom had Grilled, Aged New York Sirloin Steak with Three Peppercorn Sauce, Broccoli Roses, and Roasted Red Bliss Potato Wedges. I had Pan Seared Fillet of Tilapia, Herb Butter Sauce with Tomato, Stewed Shallots, and Eggplant Mash.
For dessert, Tom had a Black Forest Gateau with Cherries (damn, I thought I got a photo of that menu but I didn’t!) and I had the highly-recommended-by-anyone-who-has-ever-been-on-a-Carnival-cruise Warm Chocolate Melting Cake served with Vanilla Ice Cream.
I do have pictures of everything, so stay tuned for all the photos when I get home.
After dinner we crashed in the room for a bit, and then went down for some alcohol tasting in the shops. The guy was putting on quite a show and it was a riot to stand there and drink a few of his inspired recipe shots (“How about pineapple and coconut rum plus Baileys! How about mango and pineapple and coconut rum? Any suggestions?”)—and the alcohol was SO cheap we ended up buying about 10 bottles of various yummy things. (Lest you think we are alcoholics, those 10 bottles will last us about a year.) We hoped to win the 10pm drawing—your day’s alcohol purchase paid—but we didn’t.
Then we were just walking around and stopped by the Phantom Theatre where we caught the Welcome Aboard show, which was entirely cheesy with singers and dancers and the Carnival mascot. The comedian wasn’t too bad, but we hope the shows get better.
Heading back to the room, we had to pass through the casino. It’s great because there is a non-smoking section and plenty of 5c and 1c machines. I just do it for the fun, not the hopes of some grand monetary winnings, so I have all the fun I need with nickels and pennies! Anyway, I managed to double my money! I turned my $2 worth of nickels into $4!! WOOHOO! I felt kinda bad because I wasted $1 on the quarter slots, but oh well—I still came out ahead and the 20 minutes I was there was plenty for the night.
Then it was back to the room where we crashed and were in bed by midnight—I had to be up early to get to the spa (they called to reschedule me for 8am in order to give me a free foot and ankle massage—YES, PLEASE!) and Tom always gets up early to work out!
Other than the rain storm upon arrival and the resulting humidity wreaking havoc on my just-straightened hair (I went from sleek and shiny to poufy and wavy by dinner), overall it was a great first day!!
We got up fairly early and finished our packing and went to our last breakfast. We waited in our room until they called our tag number (blue 2) around 9am. We were off the ship and through immigration by 9:15 and then walked straight into hell, LOL. It is NOT fair to finish a very relaxing 7-day cruise by being hoarded into a warehouse to find your luggage, and then deal with 2000 people trying to find their own luggage and exit at the same time. What made it worse yet was the porters who kept pushing their way through the line, telling us to move to let them through—I’m just not sure where they expected us to move since we were all packed in like sardines. (It was definitely not as well-run as the embarkation was, and was a disappointing end to an otherwise nice experience.) Kathryn picked us up with no problems and soon we were back at the house and getting hugs from the girls! Later tonight, it’s off to Chuck E. Cheese’s as a reward for Izzy’s successful graduation from pull-ups to big-girl underwear!
I didn’t sleep much last night. It was storming most of the night, so the ship was rolling more than normal. It’s actually not too bad falling asleep, but if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night (which I always do to go to the bathroom) then it’s harder to fall asleep. I swear, even though I know it can’t physically happen, when you feel yourself rolling and you can see how far the ship is actually moving from side to side/up and down, you do have a fleeting moment when you think the ship is just going to continue to roll completely over! Also, for whatever reason, my back really started hurting (Tom has been complaining about the hard bed all week, but it hasn’t bothered me until now.)
Tom got up early and went to the gym, then went to his “alpha capsule” massage—basically an enclosed chamber (you lay in it and stick your head out) that vibrates and emits aromatherapy scents. (It was something we got to test out for a few moments on our initial tour of the spa the first day and Tom really enjoyed it, so that was his treat.)
While we were getting ready for breakfast, the weather cleared up and we had high hopes of having a gorgeous day in Nassau. During breakfast, we looked out over the expanse of ocean and it was sunny blue skies as far as the eye could see. However, since returning from breakfast, the weather has varied from overcast with the occasional sprinkle (as felt from my seat on our balcony) to now partially clearing (but still mostly cloudy) skies with mostly calm waters.
We got off the ship and walked into town. It was all the same shops we’d just seen and visited in St. Thomas (which I liked better). Tom bought some cheap T-shirts (basically for running, except he can say he got them in Nassau) and then we decided we might as well try to get to a beach. Of course, it was a $10 taxi ride there and we didn’t even get dropped at the beach which TICKED. ME. OFF. I specifically asked the guy if he went to the beach and said we wanted to go directly to the beach, but he dropped us off at Atlantis (the upscale resort of the area). So, we thought he would know the best and that we would have easy access to the beach so we started wandering around and around and walked through the casino (everything from penny slots to $25 slots!) and guess what? No beach. As we knew from port briefings, we would not be allowed to use the beaches at Atlantis but there was supposedly a beach a few minutes’ walk away. We asked someone and they gave us directions…but we obviously missed a turn or something, so we’re walking and walking and walking and it’s hot and humid and I’m tired and we’re walking and walking and we finally see a beach access sign so follow that and keep walking and walking and walking and I am getting REALLY cranky and, frankly, bitchy because I had wanted to be dropped off at the beach initially to avoid this very thing! So, we FINALLY get to the beach (after climbing up a huge sand dune) and we can see the clouds rolling in (we were not surprised). So we look around for some sort of changing room and…oh, yes, you can change in the restroom at Atlantis down the beach. YOU. HAVE. GOT. TO. BE. KIDDING. ME. We were just there (practically). So now we have to trudge probably 50 yards down the beach to change into our suits. And you can just imagine how thrilled I was, as tired and cranky as I was, to now have to walk through the sand… So we got changed, took a dip in the ocean, took a few pictures, watched the clouds rolling closer, swam around a bit…and about 10 seconds after we decided to go lay on the beach, it started raining. So we quickly dried off, grabbed our stuff, and headed to the waiting taxis. A nice sunny day at the beach (hell, a sunny vacation!) was just NOT in our cards. So once we made it through inspection to get back to the ship, it started POURING. We were also wet from swimming, so we just got wetter. At this point, all we could do is laugh—so much for a typical sunny Caribbean vacation (most of our pictures have a dreary overcast look to them and/or you can see the clouds rolling in).
Once we got back on the ship, we decided to hit the pool since we were already wet! So, for the first time this week, we sat in the hot tub and I took a dip in the pool. It was also so warm and humid that I didn’t even want to sit on the balcony! We checked out our formal pictures we had taken last night and didn’t like any of them (crap!) but that saved us at least $20!
Our last dinner was actually sad…we really hated to say goodbye to the people (workers) we had come to know over the past week! Tom and I were actually a bit teary-eyed as we shook their hands and said our farewells (we’re such saps!). I had forgotten my camera (again), so I wanted a menu to take with me, so we asked Rudi (one of the main dining room manager-type stewards) for one. He said no problem and disappeared for a good two or three minutes. When he came back, he had the menus from all seven days! THAT is a perfect example of the type of service we’ve had all week…and why we’ve decided we really want to take another cruise on this ship!! (If we had planned it correctly, we could have stayed on the ship and continued on to the Western Caribbean—the ship leaves Fort Lauderdale tomorrow!)
So, for the last dinner review… Tom and I actually chose the same appetizer tonight—Thai Crispy Spring Roll (this was actually the first night where neither of us wanted any of the other appetizers—we’ve been tasting each other’s meals all week!). I actually wanted to try all three of the soups tonight, but gave up on the Chilled Avocado and Smoked Salmon in favor of the Bahamian Conch Chowder while Tom had Famous Italian Wedding Soup. (I know I could have asked for a second bowl, but honestly…we’re getting tired of eating!!) We both had the Greek Salad and then I had the Sesame Crusted Tuna Steak (with “crackling broccoli tempura and hot spicy wasabi mashed potatoes”) and Tom had the Caribbean Island Pot Roast (topped with “frizzled onions” and “pineapple-mashed yams”). For dessert, I had Strawberry Shortcake and Tom had Chocolate Truffle (crap, I forget what it was—we didn’t get dessert menus!) with a side scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream.
Then it was back to the room where we happened to start watching a movie on TV (Spanglish—it was very cute) and now here I am writing the final bit of the journal and using up the last of our internet minutes. Tom is upstairs packing—our bags have to be outside our room by 1am.
We are really going to miss this ship and everyone we’ve come into contact with, but it has been a great experience…and a great honeymoon!
I managed to sleep most of the night, but once I woke up to pee about 6am, that was about all she wrote—although I did manage to get a few catnaps after that. It’s hard because I really like sleeping on my side but that act is IMPOSSIBLE when the ship is rolling from side to side—you literally fall over—so you have to sleep on your back or your stomach. Luckily I can also sleep on my stomach, but once it’s about time to get up you can’t go back to sleep because you still feel every roll. I’ve decided that I don’t much care for the “at sea” days—that has been when the worst of the rolling happens (now, if the sea was totally calm, that would be another story and I would LOVE at sea days). From our higher level (7th deck) the ocean surface doesn’t look too bad—there are very tiny whitecaps and you can tell the ocean is moving…but when you get down to the 2nd deck…wow, you can REALLY see the water moving and you can tell why the ship is rolling so much! It’s not nearly as headache-inducing sitting on the balcony, however, so that’s where I tend to spend the majority of my time.
Oh, we did have a nice view this morning… Tom turned on the TV and happened to stop on the channel that shows the view from the bridge—and there was a stunning rainbow off the starboard side (our side!) so we rushed to the balcony and indeed, there was the rainbow! It was hard to get a great picture since we’re right behind and below the bridge deck (which is therefore hard to cut out of pictures) but we did get it. I said we should run up to the observation deck for an unobstructed view/picture, but neither of us felt like doing that since we had just rolled out of bed and weren’t really even fully awake yet!
We decided to eat breakfast in the dining room this morning, instead of on the Lido Deck as we usually do. I honestly hadn’t thought of eating in the dining room, but I saw it listed so we decided to try it. Of course, we hadn’t thought ahead about having to sit with anyone, so that was a bit awkward at first—but it ended up okay. As it turns out, it’s a small world. The older couple at the table (maybe late 60s) currently lived in New Zealand but had lived in Michigan for five years. The other couple (I’m guessing in their late 40s) had grown up in Michigan and now lived in Atlanta. The older couple had a few cruises under their belts, while the other couple was enjoying their first cruise. Oh, yes—the food report. I had a croissant, then Belgian Waffles with Strawberry Compote and Tom had a croissant and some sort of omelet and potatoes. After breakfast, we went up to the Lido deck because I had a hankering for some hash browns and bacon (I could have probably ordered some in the dining room, but I didn’t really think of it—I tend to not think outside the box from what’s listed on the menu). Tom also wanted more coffee! Then we grabbed the laptop and headed to the Crow’s Nest so I could work on the journal and watch where we were going. It was amazing at how much you could see the ship rolling around—we were on swivel chairs and it took some steadying to keep the chairs from turning with every motion.
At this time, let me take a moment to talk about stupid people. I needed to use the restroom while were at the Crow’s Nest so I walked out to where the handicapped bathroom is. I didn’t think much about it when I saw a gentleman outside the door, but when the ship rolled, the door started to fall open and you could tell someone was in there, and the guy made a grab for the door to try and hold it shut (which was about impossible because there was no handle, as the door was operated by a push button). Okay, I had been in that bathroom before and couldn’t figure out why they were having problems. So as the woman was exiting, the husband said something to the effect of “Watch that door. It just flies open!” in this totally flabbergasted manner. So, of course, I felt compelled to let him know there WAS a lock on the door and you just had to actually use it. I mean, have you ever seen a bathroom door without a lock? It wasn’t hard to find—it was right on the door where a normal lock would be (like in any of the other bathrooms). And this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened… One night after dinner, I stopped by a restroom and tried opening a stall door (the stalls are totally enclosed, so you can’t tell if it’s occupied by looking for feet!) and it opened so I started to push the door in and some old lady started freaking out because she was in there! Before I could stop myself, I said, “The doors do have locks!” or something like that. WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT LOCKING THE DAMN DOOR? But I digress.
So then was the mandatory disembarkation meeting. Blah blah blah, pack your bags and put them in the hall the night before. But, we did get mimosas and the Cruise Activity Director was quite funny in his presentation—he warned us not to pack ALL our clothes, otherwise we’d be disembarking in PJs or the shower curtain (which he said happens more often than you’d think). We are, however, able to stay in our staterooms while waiting to disembark (this is apparently different than it used to be) so that’s nice. We will be able to eat breakfast, as well. The only bad thing is that we were told we’ll be getting our tentative charge list tomorrow. Eek. I am not looking forward to that. We haven’t bought much on board, but it all adds up—$10 here, $7 there, $20 at the bar (you get the idea). I was trying to keep a running tally in my head so I wouldn’t be totally surprised, but once it hit a certain amount, I gave up!
Now, Tom is at the gym and I’m on the balcony typing away. The ocean sounds absolutely wonderful (it’s actually quite loud, although not loud enough to drown out our neighbors chatting on their balcony!) and the rocking is not nearly as noticeable out here—thankfully. Of course, the weather is absolutely gorgeous…so the big joke is that it’s going to rain tomorrow in port (because it’s rained at every port so far). We’d love to hit the beach in Nassau so we can take a swim in the ocean (the only ocean we’ve been in was when swimming with the dolphins and that wasn’t really “swimming”), but any of the beach excursions are like $45pp, which is ridiculous just to go to a beach. If it’s nice, we may see what we can do to get to a beach (of course, it’s usually a $20 round trip cab ride from the dock) but if it’s crystal clear with blue water, we might just have to do it. After all, I need at least one or two good pictures of a lush Caribbean setting!!
Lunch was our usual trip to the Lido Deck (we both had Italian today) and then it was off to see a movie. I didn’t really care if I saw it or not, so I actually thought I would take a little nap. Or would try to, I should say. First, let me say that I hate people who come into a movie late and then have absolutely NO consideration for those already seated. We got there early so we could have a good view, and 10 minutes after the movie starts, some asshat comes in and sits directly in front of Tom! If he would have taken a minute to look around, he would have seen a multitude of other chairs he could have sat in…so, Tom got up and went to sit next to him. So, it’s at this point at which I decided to lie down on the booth and take a nap. The movie had been going about 15 minutes so I figured I was safe. As a precaution, I took off my shoes and placed them in front of me, so if anyone happened to try to sit there or move past me, they would literally have to trip over my shoes so they would at least know someone was there. So what happens within the first 10 minutes? Some guy is trying to get past me and I wake up because he kicked my shoes—but he doesn’t even break stride and then puts a hand down ON ME like he’s going to sit down. And then you could tell he didn’t feel what he thought he should be feeling (the hard seat) so HE PUT HIS HAND DOWN ON ME AGAIN! Hello? Have you ever heard of LOOKING before putting your hand somewhere? Especially if it doesn’t feel right the first time? Yes, I realize it’s not common to have someone napping on the bench in a theater setting, but didn’t you notice the shoes you tripped over (and made a ruckus)? And why would you just put your hand down on the seat without looking? ARGH. Of course, he was apologetic, but still…a bit more common sense could have avoided the situation altogether. So, fast forward maybe an hour (so now it’s the middle of the movie) and some woman actually sat on me!! Which means she had to trip over my shoes to get past me, then NOT EVEN LOOKING just sat down—on me. HELLO? Who are these people? And it’s not like it was pitch black in the theater—there was plenty of light to see me…if she would have taken two seconds. It’s the same thing as like with the old people pushing past everyone to get seats—it’s like some of these people have absolutely no regard for anyone but themselves! After the movie, Tom asked me how I liked being sat upon—he could tell what happened from the three rows in front of me!
Anyway, after the movie, it was straight to the dining room for the Dessert Extravaganza. We had our choice of a multitude of desserts, including a chocolate fondue fountain. We were then seated at a table of six and got to meet a few new people as we tasted the wonderful desserts (some better than others, of course). And we all joked about having to go back to the room to go get ready for dinner (it was announced during the Extravaganza that tonight is Lobster & Steak night). On the way back from the dessert feast, we picked up our professional photos—they weren’t bad at all, except we didn’t like either of the ones he took where we were in odd positions…so we chose the headshot. They will be taking photos tonight (it’s the last formal night) so we may try having more shots taken (and this time we will not be splayed on the ground, as Tom will be in his dress blues and I will be in a formal dress) to hope we get something fabulous.
So on the way to dinner, we were stopped by a photographer (yes!) and she took a few pictures—I can’t wait to see them and hope they turn out well enough that we want one of them! Dinner tonight was the “Farewell Dinner” plus it was the formal dinner, so it was fan-ceeeee. Tom looked absolutely smashing in his dress blues (of course) and he actually got stopped a few times by people saying “Thank you for serving” and shaking his hand. It’s amazing how your dining staff get to know you—all four of them commented about us not being there last night and they all knew we had eaten at the Pinnacle Grill! We told them we had a great time, but missed them all! (They enjoyed hearing that!) We had our second (and last) bottle of wine with dinner—and chose to have the same Riesling we had the first night. Unfortunately, we were still full from the Dessert Extravaganza…but I forced my way through the pain (okay, not really pain) because I was NOT going to miss any of the great food!! (Tom, on the other hand, skipped his salad. Wuss. Tonight’s lineup for me was Escargots Bourguignonne (don’t ask me how to pronounce it but it was “delectable snails marinated in Pernod and Chablis and lightly baked in an herb garlic butter with French bread”), Chilled Strawberry Bisque, Caesar Salad, and Surf & Turf (lobster and petite filet mignon)—while Tom enjoyed a Trio of Salmon with Grilled Shrimp and Pearls of the Ocean (“a selected tasting of delicately hot smoked salmon, pickled salmon and gravlox, with grilled shrimp and a salmon caviar garnish with creamed horseradish mayonnaise”), Dos Frijoles – Cuban Specialty (a two-bean soup), and Penne with Seafood Bolognese. Dessert tonight was an affair to remember, as they did Baked Alaska and all the waitstaff and cooks carried the desserts throughout the dining room to great fanfare with patriotic music blaring—it was quite the production (and of course hard to get good pictures of since the lights were out so we could see the flames).
We went back to the room to ditch the dress clothes and Tom is now sleeping (or probably, more accurately, listening to his ipod) and I’m down in the computer lab finishing up this entry. I had wanted to go to a show tonight, but oh well… Thomas seemed to forget he said we could go once he hit the bed!! (It’s amazing how exhausted you can get from doing nothing but eating!)
The ship is still really rolling (and it sounds like it’s raining—go figure) so I hope I can get to sleep…and stay asleep. I’ve already decided—if and when there’s ever a next cruise…sleeping pills.
We pulled into St. Thomas bright and early—and I do mean bright and and I do mean early. It was something like 6am and it was blindingly sunny and bright when Tom pulled back the curtains! All passengers had to pass through on-board immigration so by the time they got to our deck, we had already had breakfast and were ready to hit the town. We hadn’t really decided what we were going to do (aside from shopping) because the weather has been shaky all week. Once we got off the taxi in town, we were bombarded with “I’ll make you a special deal” offers of tours around the island with swimming stops at the beaches. Part of me wanted to take one, but I always feel I’m getting ripped off (although I’m sure it was a fine deal)…and we weren’t really sure we wanted to go to the beach or see the island anyway. So, we went shopping. And when I say we went shopping, I mean we looked at some things and couldn’t even bring ourselves to go into stores like Cartier. St. Thomas is ALL about shopping and good deals on diamonds and jewels and watches, but we just didn’t have money in our budget for anything expensive, so our shopping was mainly just the window variety. Just wandering in and out of the shops was fun, though, and we now know where we need to come back to when we can afford Tom’s Rolex (didn’t even look at prices) and the Hearts-On-Fire earrings to match my wedding ring (the smallest pair they had could have been mine for the low low price of $850)!
We did get some small souvenirs like a beach tote (to carry all our stuff—the bag the ship gave us was too small), a T-shirt, and a silver dolphin slide for a necklace I already have at home. The one thing that did start to get a bit annoying was all the shopkeeps standing on the street, beckoning you into their stores with tales of “50% off all jewelry” or whatever their particular bargain is…because EVERYTHING is on sale in St. Thomas!! We wandered for quite some time and found a few gifts, meanwhile chatting with some of the (obviously) non-native workers. One girl had a coffee mug with a UP sticker on it and I jokingly asked Tom what he thought it stood for and he said “Upper Peninsula” and I said “Yeah, right” and asked the girl and she said “Upper Peninsula.” Turns out she was from Marquette. Small world.
We did end up splurging on a watch for each of us—Tom has been drooling over watches on board the ship all week, and he found a better deal on a watch he liked better, so we decided it would be his present for when he makes captain, LOL, and that he can wear it to formal night tomorrow, but he can’t wear it at home until he actually makes Captain. (Yeah, I doubt that will happen, either!) I got a dress watch that’s really quite pretty (two-tone with an oval, diamond-encrusted, mother-of-pearl face)…I figure I would never spend that much on a watch, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t bad at all (my massage was more if you can believe it—and just thinking about that makes me sick because had I known—or even thought—I was going to get a watch, I would not have gotten the massage)…but the watch will probably last me the rest of my life (what with the few times I have a need to wear a dress watch) so it’s all good.
At one point, we had stopped to have a seat to gather our thoughts and plan where we wanted to go next, and a couple stopped us to ask what we thought of our ship. The husband was a bit confused and asked her how she knew we were on that particular cruise (since there are three ships in port) and she pointed to our “Zuiderdam” bag we were carrying! Long story short, they wanted our opinion on the ship/line because they had been on 12 cruises and were thinking of trying Holland America. We admitted this was our first cruise so we had absolutely nothing to compare it to, but the ship was nice, the food has been excellent, and the service unparalleled. They said they had heard great things and would now seriously consider the line. We asked what recommendations they had, and they warned us to stay away from Carnival and Princess—that we had been spoiled by the service on HAL and would not be happy with some of the other lines!—but that they would recommend Royal Caribbean. So, it looks like we really lucked out with the cruise we chose. It’s really interesting to just sit back and listen to people talk about cruising—it’s amazing the number of people who cruise extensively. We overheard two couples talking about this being their fifth or so cruise this year. THIS YEAR! And talking about cruising like we’d talk about going to town for dinner. I WANT TO BE THEM!!
About this time, we decided to head back to the ship, as we saw some dark clouds rolling in—and we also wanted to make it back in time for lunch! (We did, however, stop to get a small order of sushi, just so I could say I had sushi on St. Thomas.) We made it back just in time, as it started POURING while we were eating. (Now, about an hour later, it’s cloudy and overcast but it has stopped raining.) We had tossed around the idea of going back out (there’s a mini mall shopping area right next to the dock, but it’s pretty much all the same stores we visited today and we’ve seriously blown our wad already so why tempt fate? There is a skyway tram ride I’d sort of be interested in (within walking distance even) but I’m actually feeling quite content right now…and I might actually need to take a nap if we’re going to be up late tonight (we have dinner reservations at 6:30 in the upscale restaurant, plus we want to go to the late show tonight at 10:30). Since we’ve not been up past 11 since the cruise started, we figure we should get at least one late night in!
On our way to dinner, we stopped to get our portraits taken—a few times a week, they have photographers around the ship to take professional-style portraits and the prices are NOT bad at all. Hopefully we will get a great shot and we’ll have a nice picture of us. The only bad thing is that the poses were really at the photographer’s discretion and they were (to me) unnatural poses. We’ll see what we think of them when we see them tomorrow. Like I said, I am hoping for at least ONE good one.
So, dinner. I just have one word: EXTRAORDINARY! Really. Of course, it started with delicious bread with seasoned oil for dipping. Oh. My. God. I could have made an entire meal out of just that! Tom didn’t eat any bread at all since he had already snuck a peak at the menu and was thinking about the 22oz porterhouse! It took about three seconds to decide what I wanted—as soon as I saw filet mignon with béarnaise sauce…that’s my favorite cut of meat and my favorite sauce! However, just in case we hadn’t decided, they rolled out the meat tray (okay, meat tray sounds bad, but it was really quite fancy!) and showed us the exact cuts we would be getting. It was gorgeous just sitting on the platter! So, I had the petite cut filet mignon (their petite was 7oz and the pinnacle cut was 10oz!) and asparagus, both with béarnaise. Tom had the 22oz porterhouse with béarnaise and scalloped potatoes. We were both really wondering what the actual quality of the meal was going to be—yes, it’s the fancy schmancy restaurant that you have to pay extra to eat at—but we’d been eating great meals all week in the dining room, so we couldn’t wait to compare. Then our meals came.
My filet was honestly the best steak I have even eaten in my life. It had the most delicious seasoned crust, it was cooked a perfect medium rare, and it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Tom said his steak was in his top five (so I guess my steak was better!). After we gorged ourselves on dinner, out came the dessert menu. I had Warm Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano Cake (“the ultimate chocolate experience”) and Tom had Pinnacle Crème Brûlee (“flavors of chocolate, coffee & vanilla bean”). I also had a glass of Claar Cellars Late Harvest Riesling—we have GOT to find that wine on shore!! We walked out pleasantly stuffed and very pleased with our dinner! (Although, admittedly, we felt a little guilty for not eating in the dining room!)
After dinner we went up to the Crow’s Nest to have the drink of the day—a Lemon Drop. The ship was rolling so much that it was hard to walk with the drink (in a martini glass) without spilling it! We had some time to waste before the 9:30 show, so we decided to go to the 8:30 show featuring a past Olympic gymnast, Lance Ringnald. Unfortunately, we were a few minutes late so the lights were already down and we couldn’t find anywhere to sit, so we had to stand for most of it (until a couple near us left and we took their seats). He was really quite good—and funny. When he said he needed to take a break (after performing a rigorous routine on the silks—the strips of fabric hanging from the ceiling, as seen on Cirque de Soleil) he jumped up on stage with the band and played the piano and sang! We honestly hadn’t been expecting much with the show, so it was a really nice surprise! After that show, we had a bit more time to waste until the 10:30 comedy show, so Tom suggested we go to the casino (it was another smokeless night). I didn’t really want to go—I didn’t want to chance losing any money (since I had come out ahead both other nights) but we each got our roll of nickels…and were done in about 15 minutes. We didn’t win anything. Bah humbug. We’re still up for the week, but it really bothers me that we lost $4 for nothing. (Now you can see why I only play nickels. I would have a REALLY hard time losing quarters.)
We decided to head to the lounge a little early, figuring we would just get seats and take it easy while waiting…except there was already a karaoke show going on and the place was packed—standing room only! So, of course, when it was over, about 95% of the people stayed, so there really weren’t enough seats for everyone there. And let me just take a minute here to complain about the old people on this cruise. I have rarely seen such rudeness. (I know, not all of them, but a few rotten apples…) Before the lights even came up (so you could have a chance to see where there might be seats), and instead of waiting their turn in the line that had been forming, they were literally pushing you aside to get in front of you. I was pushed aside by no less than four couples rushing to get seats. Not one of them ever issued a single “excuse me.” ARGH! So, we ended up standing for the entire hour show—the second one in a row. Damn old people. Anyway, the comedy show was funny and we’re glad we went, even though we did have to stand.
After the show, we went back to our room—stumbling the whole way because the ship was STILL really rocking and rolling. As soon as we got back, I started to get a headache…I’m not sure why the motion hits me more in our room and nowhere else, but it was enough to worry me about sleeping. I took a seasick pill, just as preventative medicine.
Well, so much for the sunrise. We were up in plenty of time, but it was overcast so we didn’t get to see the spectacular sunrise we had hoped to (and I doubt I will be up that early again this trip). The sleeping, however, was awesome. We both got a great night’s sleep—it was very calm going. We ate an early breakfast and then it was off to Tortola for our Royal Dolphin Swim.
Unfortunately, in our excitement to get to the dolphins, we didn’t really plan ahead as well as we should have, and we arrived over two hours early! So, we sat around for a while—and it was SO hot that we eventually changed into our suits just to cool off. Of course, as soon as we did this, it became overcast and…it started raining! Fortunately, they took us early, so off we went!
The best thing was that Tom and I were the ONLY ones there…so we got ALL the dolphin time to ourselves (typically, you would have to share the period with the other guests). Everything the dolphins are trained to do is accomplished through hand signals and fish treats after they complete their task. We started by standing about chest deep in water and holding our hands out in front of us, palms down…and the dolphins swam right under our hands, so we got to rub their backs. After we did this a few times, it was time to “ride” the dolphins. Taking turns, we each swam out to the middle of the enclosure and waited with arms outstretched, palms down. Before you knew it, two dolphins were at your sides and you had to grab on to their fins and they pulled you back to the dock. It was great! But the best was yet to come!! Then came the “push” where we once again took turns in the middle of the enclosure and waited floating on our stomachs, toes pointed down and knees locked. Before you knew it, two dolphins were pushing you forward and you actually came up out of the water! (Forgive the bad picture—it’s a screen capture of a video we took.)
It really was a unique experience—definitely once in a lifetime! After we did this, we spent more time touching them and enjoying their tricks (splashing, chattering, rolling, jumping)—all amidst the rain. The only bad thing about the rain is that it made for dark pictures. And speaking of pictures…they had a photographer and a videographer out there the whole time—which was great, except that they charge an arm and a leg for the products. We went into it thinking we’d get the DVD because even at outrageous prices we’d want a great memory of it…except we didn’t quite anticipate just HOW outrageous the prices would be. We honestly thought $30 would be pushing it…but it was $50! FIFTY! For a 15-minute DVD!! No way, no how, so sorry dolphins. (I swear, they would sell SO many more DVDs if the price was somewhat more reasonable!) And the pictures? A 5×7 was $12. Of course, we wanted SOME memento so we got one of each of us. They really aren’t that great (remember, the weather was gray and dreary) but we couldn’t take our own pictures so we were stuck with theirs. (Oh, they let you take your camera in the water, but we were kept so busy with the dolphins that we rarely had time to take pictures. So, I guess that was the catch-22…we were spoiled by lots of face time with the dolphins, but because we had so much time, we didn’t have time to take any pictures.) And of course I hated how I looked in the video and pictures (I should never be seen with wet hair in a ponytail, as well as in a bathing suit or from the side or in anything sleeveless!) so I’m sorta glad we didn’t buy the video—I would have been embarrassed to show it to anyone!! Tom did get a hat (because he forgot his at home) and I got a wooden dolphin to go with the camel on our mantle.
After the swim, we took a taxi back to town and walked around Tortola—but there wasn’t much to see. We hit a few shops, but it was mostly touristy stuff (you know the drill—plastic figurines with TORTOLA written on it). Of course, there were some nice things, but nothing we were interested in. (Apparently the Caribbean is THE place to get watches, diamonds, and emeralds…but we could really care less about any of that.) We did pick up our Christmas ornament, however…and will be on the lookout for something else to bring home as a souvenir. As it was still rainy and overcast and we were hungry, we headed back to the ship in time for lunch, and then we caught a matinee. Now, Tom is at the gym and I’m catching up on my writing. It’s not quite as great sitting on the balcony when it’s not all sunshiny…but a yucky day in the British Virgin Islands on a cruise ship is still miles ahead of a yucky day having to work in North Carolina!
Before dinner we had drinks at one of the multitude of bars—we splurged because today’s drink special ($4.25 vs. $6.25 regularly) was my favorite, a margarita. Now, for the prerequisite dinner menu choices from tonight—complete with descriptions from the menu as a one-time event—were as follows:
Appetizers: Chef’s Dutch Country Pâté—A savory duck, pistachio, and port wine pâté with lingonberry marmalade and crunchy waldorf salad (Tom) and Pasteitje with Seafood—Pastry shell filled with a light seafood râgout (Jen).
Soups: Island Chicken Gumbo—A Caribbean soup generous with sweet okra, tomatoes, and onions and spiked with Creole seasonings (Tom) and Dutch Green Pea Soup—Simmered until meltingly rich with meaty ham hocks, celeriac, and smoked sausage (Jen).
Salads: Chiffonade of Bibb Lettuce with Tuna—Bibb lettuce, diced cucumber, tomato, olives, green beans, and boiled potato with flakes of tuna garnished with a hard-cooked egg and red onions (Tom) and Classic Caesar Salad—Romaine tossed in a fresh-made Caesar dressing topped with cheese shavings and fresh garlic croutons (Jen).
Entreés: Zander Perch Meunière—Drizzled with a lemon and parsley browned butter sauce and served with bright steamed asparagus, carrot sticks, and minted new potatoes (Tom) and Nasi Goreng—Indonesian fried rice feast with juicy pork saté, spicy chicken drumstick, beef Sumatra, scallions and julienne of omelet, served with a pickled cucumber, crisp prawn crackers and crisp-creamy fried banana (Jen).
Desserts (no full menu description—it was on a different menu I forgot to ask for): Banana and Coconut Soufflé (Tom) and Chocolate Mousse (Jen).
Of course, everything was deeeelicious!! You got the full menu descriptions tonight because I forgot to take the camera (to take a picture of the menu so I can remember what we ate) so I asked for an entire menu. Of course, I only tell you the things we chose, but there were four appetizer choices, three soups, seven entreés, and about 12 desserts. It’s really neat how your stewards (I still can’t remember if that’s what the dinner people are called, and I keep forgetting to look on their name tags) get to know you. Tonight, there was a diet coke ready and waiting for Tom before we even sat down and, after the meal, coffee was brought without even asking. As I’ve said before, the service is AMAZING. Tom and I joked tonight that we’re going to really have a hard time surviving at home without them!
After dinner we decided to hit the casino again—but only because it was a smoke-free evening!! So, Tom and I each took a roll of nickels and hit the slot machines. Tom quickly lost his entire roll, but I raked in the winnings…again! However, on the way to the cashier, Tom put his lone dollar bill in a $1 slot machine…and won $5!! We kept two of the coins for souvenirs and cashed out the rest. My total winnings were $17.80 (a mere 5¢ less than my previous night’s winnings) in about the same amount of time. Okay, this time, I swear it was our last casino venture!!
We topped off the evening with another margarita in the Crow’s Nest and then went back to our room to relax and go to bed. Isn’t it sad that we’re on this great vacation and we’re generally in bed by 10? But then again, we’ve been up since six. Tomorrow we do plan to stay up late (the show is a comedian and it doesn’t start until 10:30) so we will have to take a nap sometime after we return from St. Thomas.
Sleeping was even worse last night than the night before! We were rocking and rolling ALL night! However, Tom actually slept better because he was so completely exhausted from the previous night’s lack of sleep! When I woke up, Tom was just coming home from the gym…saying he didn’t feel too well and had actually had to stop and get off the bike. Uh oh. Then, by the power of suggestion (I assume, since I’ve never gotten seasick in my life) I started feeling not-so-good myself. Not anything terrible, but something just in the very pit of my stomach that I wanted to get rid of before it became worse. It wasn’t nearly as bad standing or sitting on the balcony, but we couldn’t spend all day there, so before breakfast, we hit the front desk for some magic seasick pills and each took one after breakfast. (We both felt fine the rest of the day, thankfully.) Tom said he heard some woman complaining that this was the worst cruise she had ever been on (stability wise)…but for all I know, this is completely normal with the weather we’re having.
It was nice and sunny for a short slice of time in the morning (enough for us to sit on the balcony for about an hour after breakfast) but then it became overcast and really windy and it was getting damp and chilly so we headed inside. I went on the galley tour (one of the only things I really wanted to do this week) while Tom took a nap. The tour wasn’t nearly as exciting as I’d hoped—I thought we’d get more of a personal tour but it was more of an “open the doors and everyone quickly walks through” type of thing. But, with the 100 or so people there, I guess that’s how they have to do it. I’m still glad I went.
When I got back, it was still crappy weather for balcony-sitting, so I curled up with Tom and napped on and off until it was time for lunch. After lunch, I headed up to the art gallery preview display to see if there were any Thomas Kinkades I might be interested in bidding on at the auction. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) there weren’t many and not one of the three or four I would have been interested in were there. I could have stayed for the free champagne and the chance at winning the $500 raffle prize, but the cabin was calling my name…I wanted to nap more! So it was back to the cabin for more rest and relaxation until it was time for Tom to go to his wine tasting. I could have gone, but the bed just felt TOO good (and I wasn’t that interested in tasting wine anyway). I woke up when he came home an hour later (it went well, and he learned that specific wines really do make food taste better) and then we BOTH napped until dinner. We actually came close to missing dinner as the alarm didn’t go off at 5 like planned, and I woke up at about 5:15! (It wouldn’t have been life or death to miss dinner in the dining room since there is always food available elsewhere…but I can’t imagine missing a meal in the dining room since the food is SO good! Every night it baffles me to see empty tables!)
Tonight was formal night, which meant dress blues for him and a sparkly dress for me. We chose to have one of our two included-with-our-cruise-package wines with this dinner…but we upgraded to a German Riesling that was EXCELLENT. Of course, dinner was excellent (again)…appetizers of Pâté de Foie Gras for Tom and a Caribbean Island Fish Cake for me, soups included French Onion for Tom and Shrimp Bisque for me, salads were garden harvest and classic Caesar, entrees were Fillet of Beef Wellington for me and Oriental Style Rotisserie Duck for Tom, and desserts were Master Chef’s Rudi’s Double Strawberry Cheese Cake (for me) and Chocolate Soufflé for Tom. After dinner we went up to the Crow’s Nest for drinks, but it was still really early so there weren’t many people there (dancing) so we went back to the room. We hit the sack early (before 10) as I want to see at least one sunrise on this trip (hopefully the weather will be nicer in the morning) and tomorrow is our Dolphin Swim so we have to eat early and be on the island by 10am—so we figured we might as well get some good sleep and get the sunrise over and done with!
Sleeping wasn’t too bad…we were at sea overnight and I woke up a few times to rolling side to side but I would say it wasn’t bad at all since I always managed to get back to sleep (although I did dream about cruise ships!). Tom said he had a bit rougher time and maybe only slept two hours! Poor guy! For most of the time, it felt like you were sleeping in a camper and someone was moving around—just a slight motion. Other times, you could actually FEEL the ship rolling back and forth—not enough to have things slide off the counter, but enough to be able to physically feel it.
We had breakfast delivered in the morning so we could eat on our balcony—and it was quite good! Cheese and ham omelets, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, croissants, coffee, hot chocolate…mmmmm. After breakfast, I was off to the spa for my massage. It was nice…but certainly (and unfortunately) not worth the price of admission! It was a nice treat, however…but I won’t ever have to do it again (unless it’s about one-half or one-third the price). I also got a scalp massage that was really nice. Of course, they try to sell you the products….which I would be more than happy to purchase if they weren’t so ridiculously overpriced (a la the massage). Yep, they had stuff that was GUARANTEED to make my under eye circles disappear in two weeks…for $70 per tube. Hoo boy. If it was even half that they would have made an instant sale…but $140 is WAY too rich for my blood, even with the promise of non-raccoon eyes!
Tom went to the gym while I was at the salon and the plan for afterwards was to head to the shore just to look around. But the weather turned horrid (they actually suspended boats inland for awhile and had to reposition the ship) so we opted to stay on board while it was storming and blustery. Now, as I’m composing this on the balcony, it’s sunny and probably 85 degrees…almost too warm since you don’t get much breeze unless you stand up—the balcony is made of a sheet of glass so you don’t get any breeze except through the bottom 4” or over the top of the railing. It’s also VERY bright and sunny and I’m starting to get a headache, even having had sunglasses on the whole time. Tom was out here for a bit but is now in trying to take a nap to recoup some sleep he missed last night! I do feel a bit guilty for not physically doing something while we’re on the ship (there’s SO much to do and see!), but I just keep reminding myself this is a VACATION and we don’t have to be busy every single minute. So I assuage any residual guilt by enjoying the quiet time on our lovely balcony…writing my journal/blog or reading a book!
Oh, lunch was good, too. I had asked our waiter last night if there was sushi anywhere on board and he assured me I could find it in the Lido Restaurant…which we did. The Lido Restaurant is basically one gigantic cafeteria with different nationality foods (as well as a salad bar, soup bar, sandwich bar, dessert bar, etc.) so today we ate Japanese (in addition to sushi, I had lamb with garlic and fried noodles and Tom had Szechwan shrimp with fried noodles) and who knows what we’ll have tomorrow…I could easily have sushi again, but it’s “fast food” sushi and nothing made-to-order so I’m thinking to hell with semi-healthy and having chili cheese fries or loaded nachos instead, LOL! We also got to sneak a peak at tonight’s dinner menu and I already know I will have trouble deciding on a main course!!
I finally had to shower to get the flower essence oil off my head from the scalp massage earlier (it works better the longer you leave it on, but it made your hair look really greasy) so now I’m waiting for Tom to get up (he missed the Texas Hold’em Lessons that started 10 minutes ago) so we can do something before dinner.
Okay, so we ended up NOT doing anything before dinner…so let’s go directly to the dinner report, shall we? Appetizers were Sweet Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella, Oyster Rockefeller, and Duck and Black Bean Quesadilla (I had two because I just could NOT decide). Soups were Caribbean Corn Chowder (Tom) and Chilled Apple Vichyssoise (Jen)—both were absolutely divine! Salads were Californian Gourmet Greens (the ranch dressing was lacking, so I didn’t finish mine). Our main courses were mushroom ravioli (Tom) and Caribbean Island Style Paella (Jen). Each time dessert rolls around, I swear I am going to get the cheese and cracker platter, but something else always wins out. Tonight was Tiramisu (of course, for Tom) and Chocolate Avalanche Cake (Jen).
During dinner Tom signed up for a wine tasting tomorrow, but it conflicts with the art auction, so we will split up to hit both. (I have permission to buy a Thomas Kinkade if the price is right!) We headed back to the room to see what the evening events were, and nothing really excited us, so I said I wouldn’t mind hitting the casino. Tom didn’t care to go or play but he went with me anyway and listened to his ipod while standing behind me! (As a sidenote, we are cruising full speed ahead to Tortola, so the ship was rolling quite a bit—we actually felt a bit drunk while walking around the ship! I can’t even imagine if we were actually drinking!) So I got my $4 worth of nickels (and I swear the cashier had to stifle a laugh) and sat at a machine. I didn’t like any of the machines there (they had nine payout lines—I like the simple one payout line) but there weren’t many options. Within about five minutes I had won 200 nickels so I cashed out—and even though I completed my rules: leaving as soon as I win back what I started with—I said I couldn’t leave after only five minutes, so I played a few more rounds, never really winning much. Tom actually sat down to play a few minutes (and finish out my second roll of nickels) when I won again—another 200 or so. I cashed out and headed to the cashier window…and I walked away with $17.85 after less than a half hour. This time, the cashier actually congratulated me!! And the best part is I was completely satisfied and don’t need to go back again! So now I have margarita money come Wednesday when margaritas are the drink special of the day and are only $4.25!
Now we’re just back in the room, chilling. It will probably be an early night since Tom is still tired from his lack of sleep last night…
Kathryn and Izzy dropped us off at Holland America a little before one and we were through check-in and security by 1:30! I was really amazed at how easily the whole procedure was. The only thing I missed was getting a picture of the ship at the dock before boarding—it was a little bit of mass confusion once we arrived and handed off our baggage, so by the time I thought of it, we were already inside the hangar/warehouse and before you knew it, we were walking up the gangplank (do they still call it that?). Then it was off to find our room, except we didn’t have to look far—a steward (was that what he was called?) grabbed us and off we went!
Even though we knew ahead of time what the layout and size of the room was. We were still very surprised! There is a TON of closet space (room for all of our hanging clothes) plus room for all of our suitcases under the bed (so we don’t have to take up precious floor space). The balcony was great, as well—we were missing one chair, but before we barely had time to think about it, someone was delivering a chair! We can’t keep the door open (to hear the ocean) as I had hoped, but we do spend a good amount of time out here (I will write all daily drafts out there and will post later from one of the three wi-fi hotspots on board). The best surprise was the bathroom—it was MUCH larger than I EVER anticipated and has a medicine cabinet, detachable massager showerhead, and extra large bath towels!
We had a few hours to explore before the mandatory lifeboat drill at 4:15, so we wandered around the ship, turned in the necessary paperwork to the front office, scheduled our dinner reservation for the Pinnacle Grill (the fanciest restaurant on the ship—our package thankfully came with one dinner upgrade, otherwise it’s a $20 per person upcharge), and scheduled my birthday present at the spa—a hot stone massage! After the lifeboat drill, we had a short amount of time to prepare for dinner. It was a casual evening, so we didn’t have to do much! I had hoped to watch the departure from the Observation Deck on the 10th level (we’re on the 7th) but it was raining so that was not really an option. Instead, we chose to watch from our balcony—which was neat because you could look all around you and see everyone else on their balconies! I keep telling Tom it looks like a bunch of gophers with their heads sticking up out of their holes!
So, dinner…let me just say WOW. So we were waiting in line to get in and the greeter people (can’t remember what they were called!) look at your dining card and show you to your table. So they get to us (we were probably fifth in line) and right away, we sense something is different—instead of just having us follow them like everyone else, he made some comment like “I have to go see _____” or “I have to go ask ____” (I didn’t quite catch it). All I could think was “Oh, great. Something is wrong.” As it was, we were a little paranoid about getting the seating request we had made—I had requested a table for two instead of the typical table for six or eight where you eat with other people…but we had heard someone earlier saying that their request had been denied. So, imagine our surprise when another greeter guy stepped in, saw the number on our card, and said something to the effect of “Ah, a table for two, for the special couple, right this way!” EXCELLENT! And the food? Wow. Of course, everything started with bread and butter! We had two stewards (Mo and Al), a wine girl (Lillibeth), plus a manager-type person (Ruddin) came over, introduced himself, and said not to hesitate to contact him about ANYTHING we might be unhappy with. There were about four appetizers to choose from (I had crab salad on tomato and Tom had steamed mussels), three soups (I had chilled blueberry and Tom had hot island pepper), three salads (we had Caesar and spinach) and five or six main courses (I chose eggplant cannelloni parmigiano and Tom had prime rib—he said he could eat prime rib EVERY NIGHT…until he tried my eggplant and said he would have rather had that!). Dessert came later and there were about twelve choices—I actually skipped the chocolate cake (I know, can you believe it?) and had the apple strudel and Tom had a pineapple torte.
Then it was more wandering around the ship. We took a tour, signed up for wireless internet service (outrageous prices, of course), went to a free liquor tasting, visited the art gallery and signed up for the auction later in the week, took a gander at the casino, and ended the evening at a Mixology Class at the night club—which was an absolute blast. I hated to spend $10 a person, but we got to try four different signature drinks of Holland America cruise line. The first three were SPECTACULAR (Epic Spiced Daiquiri, Melon Drop, and a Tropical Tom [Collins])… but the last one (New-Fashioned Bermuda), made with either black rum or whiskey, was something I could not stomach. So, Tom, being the sport that he is, drank mine! We had some good laughs with the bartenders (excuse me, mixologists) and other guests.
Overall, we were very impressed with every aspect of the service. Our steward knew our names after having met us once and says “Hello Hudsons” every time we pass in the hallway. We stopped at the front desk to ask for a second robe and it was there within the hour. We received turn-down service between the time we left for dinner (5:30) and the time we stopped back at the room after dinner (7:30). We needed laundry pickup (pressing, actually) and they were at our door within 10 minutes. Amazing. Of course, the thing that we don’t like are all the little extra fees for everything—$30 for a week’s worth of soda (Tom only—I can live with water), $20 for the mixology class, $10 for a photo (we didn’t like our boarding photo, thankfully), $30 and up for internet service, tips for spa treatments, because they aren’t technically part of the ship (should have thought about it, but didn’t), and the list goes on! The only thing we don’t have an issue with is the $20 gratuity per day—the staff here definitely deserves it!!