Saturday, September 13, 2008
Remembering Our Cruise
So last night Lisa and I were talking about the Caribbean cruise we took last year. It was a lot of fun, definitely better than I thought it would be. For those of you who've been to my Myspace or Facebook pages, all this is old news. But I thought I'd recap the experience here once and for all. Besides, it gives me an excuse to look through some old pics!
I took the above pic of our ship, the Royal Caribbean's "Freedom of the Seas," from the private beach at Haiti. The cruise left Miami on a Sunday for a week long excursion around the western Caribbean. Besides Haiti, our other ports of call were: Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Cozumel (Mexico). At the time, Freedom was RC's largest ship, and we certainly believed it. The thing was like a floating city.
Here we are in our cabin, standing out on the balcony. I was so glad I insisted we pay extra for a nice balcony room. Two of the seven days was going to be spent completely out at sea, so I wanted to have something to look at during the times we were in the room (which turned out to be not often).
Lisa's best friend, Sherlene, took the photo. This was supposed to be our second anniversary celebration, but earlier in the year Lisa had asked if it was okay if a bunch of her friends came along. Since I knew them all pretty well, I didn't see the problem with it. After all, Lisa and I would always have our own private time in our cabin whenever we needed it, so it wasn't like they were taking her away from me. But, as always happens, all but one of her friends ended up having to cancel. Except for Sherlene. She felt like she was going to be the odd (wo)man out and get in the way of our anniversary. But we felt bad since she already paid for her trip and I told Lisa I had no problem with her coming along. Worked out for the best, tho, as they got to go and do girly things like go to the spa and go shopping while I lounged around on the upper deck.
This was the view from our balcony when we woke up the next morning. I believe Cuba's somewhere way over that horizon. We were able to keep track of the ship's progress by viewing a live, real-time satellite map on one of the tv channels in our cabin. So cool!
This is the main level of the ship, or the promenade. It's ginormous! In addition to a pizza shop, duty-free shop, general store, an English pub, barber shop, wine bar, and sports apparel store, there was a Ben & Jerry's ice-cream shop! Yum!!! The pizza and snacks (from the pub) were included in the room comp, so I had to exercise enormous restraint by not going piggy on the place. I still had a major oink, oink experience regardless.
Topside on the upper deck, everybody was already out and about soaking up the sun. There was a lot to do up here. In addition to three separate pools, there was a wave pool for surfing, a climbing wall, miniature golf course, full basketball court, and two jacuzzis which had glass bottoms and stuck out from the ship so that you could see down into the ocean below. These were a favorite spot at night time when the jacuzzis were lit up.
We got all gussied up for dinner. You had many choices for where to take your meals, including several swanky restaurants which were extra cost and not included on the main bill. We opted to just stick to the main mess hall where almost everyone ate. Funny thing is, the main hall was just as fancy as most restaurants!
Out table was assigned on the third level, which was fine by me. The table was for 8, but for some reason our guests never showed up the entire time we were there, so the three of us had it all to ourselves. How cool is that? Our waiters were great, and hilarious. They were always so attentive to our every need. We tipped them very generously at the end of the cruise. Oh, and the food was to die for. I swear, I've been to fancy restaurants back home in New York that were not up to this level of food quality. Unfortunately, I don't have any food shots (sorry Cindy!), because it was just so good that we scarfed it all down before I could remember to take a pic. :-)
We docked in Ocho Rios, Jamaica on our third morning. Lisa's originally from Kingston, which is way on the opposite end of the island. It would have taken 9 hours or longer to drive there, so we didn't bother. The only thing that sucked was that we had already been to Ocho Rios 8 years prior on our first overseas trip together. So most of the available activities were for things we had done before. We eventually settled on a tour of the Shaw Park Gardens, which had beautiful botanicals and waterfalls on display. Here we are standing by one such waterfall. The Jamaican guides kept giving me weird looks, then staring at Lisa. Guess they were wondering how I'd managed to steal away one of their own. (ha, ha)
When we got to Georgetown on Grand Cayman island, we took a small skiff to the middle of the harbor and waited for our submarine. Yes, we joined a submarine tour since I've always wanted to travel to the bottom of the sea. Not being able to swim, Lisa was petrified. So I pointed out that even if she could swim it wouldn't matter if something went wrong down there -- we'd all die anyway! Hmm, my logic doesn't always have the intended calming effect I wish it did. Something Lisa is often quick to point out. Eventually the ocean started to froth and bubble before us, and up popped the submarine you see above. The boat for the previous tour group onboard has pulled up aside it to load back its passengers.
Now it's our turn to board the submarine. It was quite cozy in here, definitely not for the claustrophobic. Lisa's smiling here, but don't let her fool you. She was a-scared!
We dropped to 20 ft, then 40, then 80, and finally 105 -- all the while checking out all the coral reefs and marine life. Everything came out blue-washed in these photos, so its hard to detect all the colors that were on display to us. But take my word for it, it was stunning!
When we got down to the dock in Cozumel, one of those annoying photographers managed to corral us behind a booth to take this cheezy picture. We were off to see (and swim with) the dolphins in the ocean, so I didn't feel much like tarrying in the duty-free section nearby. We hopped straight into a taxi and high-tailed it towards the private beaches.
Sherlene was even more afraid of the water than Lisa, so she opted out of this experience. Lisa, for her part, put on a brave front. With the help of a life vest, she got down into the water and got a kiss on the cheek from a dolphin as her reward. She freaked out when it was time to swim out into the middle of the lagoon, but with help from me and one of the guides, she did it!
Everyone had to wear a life vest, unfortunately. I would have been fine without one, but apprently liability lawsuits aren't just popular in the U.S. Of course, out of all the people there that day, the guides chose me to be the guinea pig and swim way out into the middle of the deep end first. I had to wait and tread water there until a dolphin, at a signal, came torpedoing through the water straight at me. It then swam under my feet, swerved around me, and then all but leaped into my arms here. That's a miffed expression I have there, but not because I was surprised (which I was), but because they had taught us not to block the dolphin's air passages, and I was worried I was doing it wrong. The dolphin looks happy, tho, no? Cute little bugger. After the photo op, I held on for dear life as it dragged me back to the dock. I felt like I was hanging on to a jet ski!
That night, the cruise threw a midnight buffet party, complete with ice sculptures. I was more interested in all the yummy fruit. Lisa was of the same mind, and so we dove at the display table you see above. I'm sure we devoured half of the table, between the three of us. :-)
After dinner on the last day, we strolled around the deck and got to enjoy our last sunset of the cruise. We were sad, but this view more than made up for it. Isn't that simply gorgeous?
All in all it was one of the best times we've had. I certainly wasn't expecting to be pampered and catered to so much by the wonderful RC crew members. When we disembarked at Miami the next morning, it didn't feel like we were heading back home to NYC . . . but, rather, leaving home behind. We're thinking of taking our next cruise around the western Mediterranean -- Spain, France, Italy. It might even be through RC, although their Mediterranean ships are a tad smaller than the Freedom of the Seas. But either way, we'll be back!
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