Allison and I just returned from a week long cruise to the Caribbean, where in addition to spending 3 full days at sea we visited Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Marteen. I've never been much for boats (or water) but this cruise was about as painless an experience as I could have hoped for. Very rarely did I feel the boat moving, it was usually only when the ship was at top speed (22 knots, or 25 mph) that I could detect a slight rocking back and forth. So no seasickness for me, although I did nearly blow it during a bus ride on St. Marteen that was more than a little bumpy, but other than that I had no problems....
Sunday, October 14th
We had an uneventful trip to Port Canaveral, FL where the ships are launched from. It took about 5 hours to get there, and the highlight for me was a trip to 7 Eleven where I was able to procure my idea of heaven on Earth - a Mt. Dew Slurpee. The drive was easy - we really didn't even need the GPS. Straight shot down I-95, then one exit to Port Canaveral then another exit to the cruise terminal. We unloaded our bags (where we issued the first of many, many tips to Royal Caribbean personal), parked and got in our first line of the day - the line to enter the cruise terminal. 20 minutes of that lead into a fairly long line at the security checkpoint, then that lead into a 45 minute line to check in. During all this waiting in line, I experienced what would be a recurring theme during this trip - people pointing at me and yelling "GO ROCKIES!!!!". Whether it was wearing a Rockies jersey or just the Rockies cap, people seemed fascinated by the sight of an actual living, breathing Rockies fan. Anyway, we finally boarded the Mariner of the Seas and made our way to the cabin. The room was small to be sure, but it wasn't as small as people had made it out to be. Either that or I just didn't mind the cramped quarters. Now, the bathroom on the other hand....yikes. TINY doesn't really describe it....the only upside is that if you forget the soap or shampoo you can always just reach out of the shower and the counter is right there!
We explored the ship for a little while, finding the pools, basketball court, miniature golf course, rock climbing wall, casino, ice skating rink and about a million other things to do and see. We found our assigned dining room and met our table-mates for the rest of the cruise, Sheryl and Mark. Now, if you know me you know I'm not much of a people person (no, really!) and don't generally gravitate towards strangers, but thankfully they were really cool and we all got along great for the whole trip. Also at dinner we met our waiter Francis, who could very well been the highlight of the trip. He was from India (the crew came from 47 different countries) and while his English wasn't the greatest, he had a quirky sense of humor (one night he folded a napkin into the shape of a rodent and made me pet his "naughty mouse"....so take that for what you will) and made every dinner enjoyable. After dinner I found the sports bar to see if I could watch the Rockies game, and thankfully they had it on. There were a few people from Colorado there rooting for the Rockies, but there was also some loud jackass Diamondbacks fan that was just in a pissy mood cuz his team was getting beat. When Yorvit hit the 3 run homer he was pretty pissed, but my new friends and I were going crazy. After the game was over we returned to the cabin to get some much needed sleep.
Monday, October 15th
The day began with news from the Captain that the weather in Coco Cay wasn't very good, so we were skipping that and going instead to San Juan, Puerto Rico. This meant a full day at sea, and we'd arrive in San Juan at 2PM Tuesday. We found plenty to do on board Monday, including turning $5 at the casino into $25 at the slots...and then promptly losing said $25. Oops. We also saw a show with some comedian that I'd never heard of but apparently had been on the Tonight Show or something. He got a laugh when he was describing the amazing amount of suction that comes from the onboard toilets...."the first time I sat down to use the toilet I was fully dressed and chewing gum - after I flushed I was naked and the gum was gone....". The day ended watching the Rockies win Game 4 and become National League champs. I was glad they wrapped it up when they did so that I didn't have to worry about finding time to watch them more during the cruise.
Tuesday, October 16th
In the morning I decided to tackle the rock wall. Now, I don't have a lot of what the cool kids call "upper body strength", so I was a little hesitant to do it, but ultimately decided to go for it. I did pause however when I had to fill out a waiver (the 'if you fall and kill yourself it's not our fault' waiver) and the guy told me to put down the date.....October 16th - which just happens to be the day my Father died. I looked at the date I'd just written down, looked up at the wall, looked at Allison who also knew the significance of the day.....and decided to take my chances. What's the worst that could happen right?! I got all strapped in and started my climb....I had made it about halfway when I became aware that my heart was pounding and arms/legs were burning. It was a fairly unpleasant feeling, but I soldiered on....after a few tense moments, I made my way to the top and rang the bell. If I hadn't been so completely out of breath I would have taken a moment to appreciate my accomplishment, but I was more interested in getting down right about then, so I let go of the wall and the dude on the ground reeled me back down. After I caught my breath, I decided that I was pretty darn proud of myself, and that perhaps not all the athleticism has left my body after all.
In the afternoon we got off the boat and headed into San Juan...we walked to the old fort San Cristobal which was pretty cool, then walked in the old downtown area. There were shops all over the place (mostly jewelry....which must be pretty big in this part of the world because that's all there was to buy in St. Thomas and St. Marteen too), and Allison found a great deal on some manner of expensive purse. She has decided to believe that it is not a knock-off. Overall I liked San Juan....it wasn't America, and yet it kind of was. At least I found a Mt. Dew in a convenience store, which I saved for dinner on the last night.
Wednesday, October 17th
When we woke up we were already docked in St. Thomas. We had purchased a shore excursion, the "Ultimate Island Experience" ahead of time, so we got off the boat and got on a taxi where we were taken to a couple of locations where you could see some spectacular views, as well as stimulate the local economy (this picture of Allison and Monica Lewinski cost me $5....). Finally we made our way to the beach....now, as you may know, I don't like the beach. I can't stand salt water, I hate sand (it gets everywhere) and my people (computer nerds) generally don't react well to direct sunlight. But, I sucked it up, lathered myself with sunscreen and dove in. The water was nice but I got bored pretty fast, so I went back to the beach, found a tree and tried to take a nap. After our time was up at the beach we went to Blackbeards Castle and ate a hot dog. We caught a taxi back to the ship, and got back on board. I didn't really like St. Thomas all that much....too much panhandling and people pressuring me to buy something. Plus I had sand in my shoes, which was also irritating. Bah. That night we caught a show on board, as they were playing the Newlywed Game. They had three couples on stage that they were asking questions of - a couple that had been married for a week, a couple that had been married for 16 years, and a couple that had been married for 58 years. Naturally, the couple that had been together 58 years won, though it was more than a little uncomfortable watching this nice elderly couple try to answer the question of where the strangest place they ever had sex was (for the record, the back-seat of a '48 Pontiac - nice!).
Thursday, October 18th
We arrived in St. Marteen overnight, and we had another shore excursion lined up. I stepped off the boat and onto foreign soil for the first time....the Island is actually split into two countries, one belonging to France and the other to the Netherlands. We got on a bus and headed for the beach (starting in the Netherlands side and ending on the French side....after never having been out of the United States, I hit two different countries in the same morning!), and along the way our tour guide (who was from London, oddly enough) gave us some interesting facts about how the Island came to be split in two. This time when we arrived at the beach I decided not to make myself all gross with sun screen and sand, so I just kept my t-shirt, shorts and shoes on the whole time. After Allison got out of the water, we decided to walk down the shore a little...and came upon a nude beach. Now, I don't mind standing out in a crowd, but I have never felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb just by being clothed! Anyway, walking down that beach was quite an experience.....it wasn't the fact that people were naked so much, but more that they were a) seriously overweight (I mean, holy crap people...no one wants to see that.....I saw a grand total of ONE really attractive woman on that beach - I had to fight the urge to go up to her and shake her hand for taking care of her body) and b) a color that I'd never seen any human being be before. All of them were this dark bronze color, all wrinkled and just overall very, very strange looking. I suppose it's a lifestyle or something, but I don't understand why people want to do that to themselves - is the risk of skin cancer really worth looking like some kind of alien race? I guess so....ick.
Friday, October 19th
The first of two full days at sea. Not a whole lot left to do on board, other than to visit a few places on the ship we hadn't been to before and eat. We saw an Ice Show, went to the pool, and I bought Allison her Xmas present (some neckless....I don't know what she needs another neckless for, but then again I guess she doesn't understand why I need more than one computer so.....).
Saturday, October 20th
Our last day of the cruise....the highlight of the day for me was taking home a share of first place in the Sci-Fi trivia tournament. There were 15 Star Trek questions and 15 Star Wars questions - I got 28 out of 30 correct. I failed to remember the name of the song Picard and Data were singing in Insurrection (Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore) and the race the guards at Jabba's Palace belonged to (Guramarian - I knew it started with a G, but couldn't come up with it in time). I was called up to the front along with the other guy who got 28 questions correct, and I assumed we were going to have a tie-breaking question asked of us, but instead the host played the music and we (along with the 2nd and 3rd place people) each received our medals - a nice touch :) the rest of the day was spent packing and getting ready to leave - we had our final dinner with our new friends and Francis, then called it a night.
Sunday, October 21st
We left the boat around 8AM, and had a fairly painless trip through Customs (baggage claim was a different story, as they put our bags on a different conveyer than the one they told us to check) then made our way to the Kennedy Space Center for the final leg of our vacation. It turned out we actually were just a little early, as the Space Shuttle is on the pad and ready to be launched on Tuesday. To bad we have to go back to work otherwise we might have stayed to watch it. We couldn't get very close to it, but we could see it from the observation gantry, and did drive right past the crawler that moves the Shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad - the 1 mile trip that takes 8 hours. Then we were bused to the Apollo/Saturn V Center where you get to see an actual Saturn 5 rocket. From there we went to the International Space Station Center, and saw the actual components of the station that are still in production to be delivered on future Shuttle missions - very cool. We had to cut the trip a little short, as we needed to get on the road to make it home to see the Broncos beat the Steelers :)
We are both pretty tired, and Allison reports that she still thinks she's rocking back and forth slightly while standing up, but other than that we are ship-shape. Ha. While I didn't like being out of touch from work and the outside world in general, I came to realize that I did desperately need a vacation, as other than holiday's I hadn't had a day off in over 13 months. Next vacation will most likely be next spring and fall, as Allison wants to go home to Boise and I want to go to Denver next fall to see the Nugs and Avs play in person.