My Travel Philosophy

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

Monday, January 30, 2012

Back to the Cold

We had a really wonderful time on our cruise and met some great people!  After clearing US waters (and losing our cell phones for a whole week), we started feeling some balmy air and seeing lots of sunshine.  As usual, we tried to get a whole summer's worth of sunshine in right away and had to be careful not to get burned.  [As it turned out, our last day at sea was cool and breezy so I ended up getting burned because I didn't put on lotion like I should have.]

Some of the highlights of our trip:

Salsa, Salsa, and Margaritas
Ours is the larger ship on the left.
Cozumel - we went on an excursion called Salsa, Salsa, & Margaritas.  We went to a resort (allowing us a great look at the area as we drove) where tables were already set up and ready for us to learn how to make 2 different types of margaritas and 7 different salsas (including pico de gallo and guacamole).  The margaritas were already being poured when we walked in, and continued to flow all afternoon.  After making and eating salsa all afternoon and drinking at least a dozen margaritas, our next step was learning to salsa dance.  We were both extremely graceful and quick studies, and I think we're going to consider "So You Think You Can Dance."  We didn't have much time for anything else, but I was able to grab a jacket at one of the shops at the port.  Note:  there was another Royal Caribbean ship in port next to us, and it was fun to be so close to the other ship and to see the size of them side-by-side.

Grand Cayman - Wow!  I haven't seen such beautiful beaches since Jamaica.  Because the port is fairly shallow, we had to be "tendered" in to shore.  This port must see a lot of activity as there are permanent tenders that are used and they're really big:  300 people on each one.  That's considerably larger than the ones that we're used to using.  There were 5 ships in this port while we were there.  Our excursion was later in the morning, so we could get a nice breakfast first and let the crush of people wanting to get ashore go ahead of us.  We, then, had to catch a bus that took us to the boat that took us to the sandbar where we were able to pet stingrays and enjoy the waters off Grand Cayman.  While we had a good time and I'm glad we went, I wouldn't do it again.  It literally took all day for this excursion that was supposed to last 2 1/2 hours.  Tendering into shore, the bus ride that took 30 minutes each way, the boat ride that took 1 1/2 hours each way, and then about 40 minutes in the water.  [Note:  the bus ride from the port to the boat was awesome!  Our bus was running late because we were waiting for some people so, to catch up, the driver drove like an Indy driver laying on the horn the whole time.  We were darting in and out of traffic and swerving around corners.  Then, on the last part of the drive, we saw iguanas everywhere:  big ones, small ones, green ones.  And chickens running all over the place.  It was awesome.]

Swimming with the Rays at Grand Cayman
The water around Grand Cayman is the most lovely shade of aqua, going out to the darker blue of the Caribbean.  It appears that there is a natural breakwater, which is where the sandbar is located where the stingrays gather.  The rays are really gentle and their bellies are very soft.  Our guides would pick them up and run them across your shoulder and back like a massage.  Some people gave them a little smooch, but I opted to just be good friends instead.

Very up close and personal
For some reason, I thought the rays would be really small, but it turned out that some of them were pretty good sized.  I tried to have my camera in the water with me as it was pretty shallow (in some places, it was knee-deep), but the waves were incredible.  After almost getting knocked over a couple of times and having the camera splashed, I decided to take it back on board.  However, I got a pretty good close-up of this guy before I left.

Lovely sand bar and warm water
From the upper deck of the boat, I could take some pretty good pictures of the swimming rays, and of the guide working with the rays standing within the group from the boat (including Jeff).

Again, I wouldn't want to do it again but it was a fun experience to do once -- and the water wasn't as salty as I expected it to be either.

Onboard the ship - there were a lot of fun experiences on the ship: some fun comedians and entertainers, really nice pool area and great food every single day, lovely couple at our dinner table (originally from Russia, now living in Ohio), but the one that was particular fun and discovered with only two nights left in the cruise was the entertainer in the Pig & Whistle.  The Pig & Whistle was the English pub and every evening was a entertainment called Adult Day Care at Night.  It was a mixture of karaoke and jokes with a whole lot of naughty song lyrics and just plain fun.  We had planned to turn in early our last night, but got really good seats in the pub so we stayed 'til the end.
Lots of people trying to pet the Rays

The departure experience has vastly improved!  We were able to stay in our stateroom until 8:00, at which time we went for breakfast in the Windjammer and, then, sat out on the pool deck until about 9:30.  Our departure time was scheduled for 9:50 and we had to simply make our way to the assigned waiting lounge on the ship where we waited for less than 10 minutes before being allowed to leave.  We found our luggage immediately, got through expedited customs (a really wonderful process in New Orleans), picked up the iron, and we were escorted by a friendly porter out of the long line waiting for cabs around to where he could get us one quickly.  With so much time saved, I had the cab run to Southern Candymakers so I could get some pralines before leaving town!  Our longest wait was at the airport because everything else had gone so smoothly we arrived way early for our flight.

Can't say that I liked coming back to the cold and snow, but having Stacy, Jack, and Anna pick us up at the airport was fun and.....we're only going to be here until Wednesday when we fly off to Vegas!

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