Caribbean Queen

cruiseship

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been back for a whole week, and still haven’t blogged about my trip! What the hell is wrong with me! We’d better get started now, shall we…

So my eldest sister celebrated her 30th class reunion this year, and the organizing committee decided to celebrate with a cruise. The things you can do when you have a small class. My sister is unmarried and without a significant other, and did not want to do the cruise alone, so asked me to join along. Although I had a few reservations, what with a history of motion sickness and all, I decided what the hell, and signed on. Unfortunately, not many of my sister’s classmates signed on for the experience – there were only two others there. But screw all the spoilsports – we were going to have fun anyway.

We were on Princess Cruise Lines, the Caribbean Princess to be precise, and did a one week cruise around the Western Caribbean (they also have a one week cruise in the Eastern part of the Caribbean, and you can put them together for a two week jaunt, as some of our tablemates did, but more on that later…).

We started on a Sunday, in what felt like the longest day on earth, and actually had me feeling a bit trepiditious about the whole thing. We had to get up at 3 am as our flight left Kansas City at 6. Of course, heaven forbid there be any direct flights, so we had to fly to DC, change planes, and then fly to Ft. Lauderdale, where we were met by the cruise line at the airport. We shuttled over to the ship, which is ginormously huge – seriously, pictures do not prepare you for how huge these things actually are. Then we had go through all the embarkation rigamarole – along with the 3,000+ other passengers. Have I mentioned how much I hate people? And they were everywhere. You could not escape. What with being on a boat and all.

Then there was the sales pitches – you think you’ve paid enough just getting on the boat, but they totally want more. For instance, food on the ship is free. Drinks, including soda, are not. So you can either fork out 2 bucks everytime you want a drink (and by fork out, I mean present your room card, which they will charge and tally for you throughout the trip), or you could sign up for the soda package. For $28 you get a free Coke glass and all the Coke products you want (provided they aren’t the cans in your room – those are extra. As is the bottled water. Thank goodness the tap water was drinkable.). (And don’t even get me started on being held hostage by Coke all week – I have been revelling in Pepsi goodness since arriving back on shore.) I had also made a reservation for an already somewhat overpriced massage – when I called to confirm they tried to talk me into an even more expensive option. That evening after dinner, they had a welcome show in which they introduced a lot of the head crew members. Including the “Future Cruise” agent. That’s right, you’ve only been on the boat for three hours, but they’re trying to sell you on your next cruise! I was a little disillusioned. But perhaps I was just tired. Because the next day, my whole outlook changed.

Monday, the ship stopped at Princess Cays, which is the cruise line’s very own private island in the Bahamas. I, however, did not see the island. Primarily because that was the day I had scheduled my massage (and thank goodness I scheduled it before I got sunburned…). I slept in, had some breakfast in bed, then wandered up to my full-body Swedish massage. I have had professional massages before, but only the 30 minute focused ones that primarily concentrated on my back. This was my first full body experience, and it was very, very, very nice. Even if having my toes massaged felt a little, well, weird. (And of course, the massage was followed by a sales pitch to try to get me to buy a $61 bottle of seaweed oil to help ease the tension in my back – needless to say, I did not bite.) At the end, I was very relaxed, so I went to my room, grabbed a book, and headed to the upper decks for lunch and some sun. Then I changed into my bathing suit to hang out in the pool (because if you both hate people and hate being seen in a swimsuit, the best time to swim on a cruise ship is when most people are off visiting the port of call) and watch a movie. Did I mention that one of the pools has a giant movie screen? Oh, yeah. Of course, the movie wasn’t that great (“My Super Ex-Girlfriend”), but I hadn’t actually thought it would be. I just kind of wanted to see it without having to actually shell out money for it, and this allowed me to hang out in the pool at the same time.

Unfortunately, my SPF 55 sunblock was not as waterproof as advertised, and I got a little burned. And when I say a little, I mean I’m still peeling people. The girls took the brunt of it (likely because they are the area least likely to actually see the sun regularly and the neckline of my suit probably shifted while in the pool and exposed portions which did not get any sunscreen) and were actually a little scaly for a while. Yikes! My feet also took quite a hit. The burn was very uneven and retarded looking, so it’s probably best that, as usual, I’ve gone back to my normal pale self rather than retaining a tan.

In the evening, we went to one of their variety shows, called “Piano Man.” It was basically a Vegas-style review of the songs of Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Elton John, and some other people. Very cheesy. (Although seriously? All the shows were pretty cheesy. But that’s what people seem to like for some reason – my sister loved them – so who’s to blame them. I would prefer a different style of show, but that’s just me. I was still entertained, though, so that’s all that matters.)

Tuesday we were at sea all day, and that was the only day I really felt any motion sickness. Although it may have just as easily been being overtired from the previous two days. I was mainly headachy rather than naseaus, so who knows? I wore motion sickness patches during the trip, and they seemed to work fine most of the time. They had a little port shopping presentation that morning, which was sat in on for a while before bailing. If they handouts they gave us are to be believed, a lot of people buy diamonds on cruises. Seriously, I threw down all my money on the trip itself – I am not buying several thousands of dollars worth of jewelry. But whatever. I could just be cheap. šŸ™‚

Wednesday we stopped in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, which was probably my least favorite of the stops. Don’t get me wrong, what I saw of the city was nice, and I’m sure that there is much fun to be had. However, the people (at least those working the tourist area around the ship) were overly pushy, which left me a little turned off. I mean, in the quarter mile from the gangway to the gate at the pier, we were accosted five times by potential cabbies. Even though we kept assuring all of them that we were more than cabable of the 10-15 minute walk to where we were heading. Once out the gate, we immediately had another cabbie hounding us. We said no and kept on walking. And then another one just started driving next to us and trying to hustle us in the cab! I finally decided it was worth the $2 each for the 1 minute drive just to get them to leave us the hell alone! (Although once in the cab, she tried to sell us on a whole island tour – we declined.) Once at the shopping center, we hit a few stores looking for souveniers and such. And even the tiniest shops had a battalion of sales people who would start bargaining with you if you looked at something for longer than a second. And as soon as you stepped outside the shop? Cabbies, ready to hustle you into their cars. Even though I just wanted to walk five feet to the next shop. We ended by eating at a Hard Rock Cafe, and I picked up t-shirts for Indie Boy and I. (Not matching ones. That would be weird. Al
though I kind of want his, but as mine is a fitted girlie tee, he probably won’t trade.)

Thursday was Grand Caymon, my favorite stop. We took a bus tour which took us through Georgetown, then stopped off at Hell. Guess where I mailed all my postcards! (Including to myself. I? Am a dork.) The rock formations were really interesting, and I naturally had to pick up a University of Hell t-shirt. We then went to a turtle farm, which I enjoyed immensely (mostly for the giant turtles, but also because the snack bar sold Pepsi). I used about half of my film on the damn turtles. We then stopped at a Tortuga rum cake factory (free samples!). More than one made its way back to Nebraska with me.

Friday was Cozumal, Mexico, which was a very pretty town. Since it was a longer day at port (people didn’t have to be back to the ship until 6, rather than 3:30 as on the other stops), I spent the morning enjoying the emptiness of the boat and doing some more swimming. I really enjoy swimming, but don’t do it very often. (Because public pools? Are not for me.) We went to shore in the early afternoon. We didn’t do too much other than pick up some souveniers, but I enjoyed it just the same.

Saturday was another sea day, and involved getting ready to disembark. I knew already that coming back was going to be hard, because I was getting used to being pampered. I mean, they cleaned our rooms during the day, and turned down our beds at night (with little chocolates on the pillow! Indie Boy apparently didn’t take me seriously when I said I expected this at home, as there has been nary a chocolate to be found when retiring at night.). They had activities all day long to entertain us (including trivia – I won a tote bag during the ’60s pop culture quiz), they waited on us, and then there’s the food. Oh, my god, the food! Was exquisite. Every afternoon at 3:30, they had a traditional English afternoon tea, with scones and pastries and little sandwiches. I do like the hot tea, and the scones (with giant dollops of cream and jam) were delectable. At night, we did traditional dining, which is where you have a set meal time and table, so you sit with the same people and have the same waiters throughout the cruise. This was fun in multiple respects, as you got a little more personalized service (after the first night, I didn’t have to order my drinks, because they just brought what I wanted automatically), and you got to know some of the other passengers. Our tablemates included a very cute couple from the north of England who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and a young couple from Oregon celebrating their honeymoon. They were all very nice, and I really enjoyed talking to them. Interestingly, the groom from the honeymooning couple was hearing impaired, as is my sister, so they had something in common (whether that’s why we were seated together, or whether it was just a coincidence, I don’t know). Our head waiter was avery nice man from Thailand, who apparently has a wife and three children although he’s on the boat for ten months out of the year! The junior waiter was from Argentina, and was very friendly. The meals were very fancy – the hour and a half five course affairs that you associate with fancy restaurants and Europeans. I generally don’t go for soup and salad, so I didn’t partake in all the courses, but I still got more than enough. The choices were great – I had sirloin, port roast, chicken kiev, beef wellington, and prime rib, and if I liked seafood, I would have had some really good choices, including lobster. The desserts were equally exquisite – they had a black forest torte that I wanted to bring home for Scott (who loves black forest cake), but I couldn’t so I just ate it instead. šŸ™‚ The last night, they served Baked Alaska, and they dimmed the lights and had all the waiters come out carrying the flaming desserts, winding throughout the dining room.

All in all, I ended up having a wonderful, relaxing time, and was simultaneously sad to see it end, but glad to come home. Especially as I was jonesing for my Indie Boy. I was a total dork and wrote him every day, although I beat all of the letters home (although my postcard from Hell showed up today – both here and in the mail of at least two friends who have called, so he should have some in his mailpile by now). I took off Monday and Tuesday last week (because why go back to work for that short amount of time when Wednesday was a holiday anyway? Plus I needed some recovery time.) And even though I didn’t go into work until 11 on Thursday, it felt like the longest day ever. It’s going to take me a while to get back on schedule, I think.

Anyway, it is nearly 11, and I should probably go to bed. Or watch my DVR’d episode of The Closer, then go to bed. Or something. Ah, living the high life, I am.

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