Cruise 09

Our Western Caribbean Cruise (Part Two)

Lost? You can catch up here with the precursor and part one.

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I’d like to preface this entry by saying: I’m not a big water sports person. In fact, it’s safe to say I’m a teensy-weensy bit scared of the water in general.

Scratch that. Whenever I’m in over my head, literally, I’m actually PRETTY NERVOUS. It’s just not something I care to do. I’ll participate, but it’s a grudging participation.

I’m not the greatest swimmer – I CAN swim, just not that great. I CAN tread water, but not for long periods of time before I start sinking. My wide berth will be the death of me yet.

So when Kevin suggested we go snorkeling, I swallowed my dread. I’ve been snorkeling before, but it was right off the coast and I never felt out of control or out of my depth; as a result, I quite enjoyed the experience.

But that didn’t deter me from steering clear of the snorkeling excursions that required jumping off a boat in the middle of the ocean. Just the thought of that and not having any solid footing to sink my toes into just a few feet away was enough to cause me to hyperventilate.

We compromised. We signed up for a snorkeling excursion, but it was a shore excursion and not a boat excursion. I thought I was home free on the deep thing.

Wrong.

We arrived at Grand Cayman at 8:00 a.m. Our excursion was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. So, I dragged the boys out of bed, we ate a quick breakfast and then loaded the tender to be shipped over to the mainland.

I have to interject here: Carnival has these shore excursions DOWN. It was very organized and we quickly found our group. When enough of us had arrived, they began walking us to the spot.

That was another reason we picked this particular excursion, it was within walking distance of the pier.

We were a bit disappointed when we arrived. It was nothing like we envisioned. We pictured a white sands sort of beach where we could just walk into the water and begin our snorkeling adventure.

Wrong again.

The “beach” was all rock. (There’s a picture of it in the slideshow below). And our guide gave us all life jackets to wear.

I was immediately apprehensive. If we were going to be required to wear life jackets then that must of meant we were going to be out in deep water.

*GULP*

I kept my cool. I didn’t want to panic in front of the boys, who didn’t appear all that nervous, quite frankly. Apparently, I was the wuss in the group.

Kevin, Dude and Jazz quickly donned their gear and headed out into the water. It took me a bit longer to adjust my stupid mask. I have a rather prominent bump in my nose and I couldn’t get the mask to sit over that bump comfortably.

Damn this crooked nose.

When I finally got situated, had the fins on my feet and I flopped awkwardly slid gracefully into the water, I had lost track of the guys. Kevin I wasn’t worried about, but this was the first time for the boys and I wasn’t sure how they would handle it.

I once again swallowed my panic (which by this time was beginning to taste pretty sour) because I figured they had their life jackets on and were pretty good swiimmers and did a little snorkeling.

Again, I was disappointed. The landscape was brown and not at all pretty, but I chocked that up to the fact that so many humans had trespassed on the area and killed any remaining coral.

So, I ventured out a little further. And then my mother instinct kicked in and I surfaced, in a panic (really no reason why, just a feeling) and started looking around for the boys.

There were several people in the water and they all looked the same with their masks on – I had no clue where they were.

I started flailing because I was in deep water and well, deep water freaks me out. But luckily, Kevin was behind me so I had a visual anchor. However, he didn’t know where the boys were so my panic doubled.

In the meantime, I’m bobbing like a drunk frat boy on the water, whipping my head from side to side in an attempt to see where the boys were. And in the process, swallowed about half the ocean to boot.

I started feeling queasy.

But I ignored it, my children were not in sight.

Even though they are teenagers, and boys to boot, it doesn’t matter, a mother’s instinct never ages. I needed to know where they were so I could resume drowning, er, snorkeling.

I found Dude first, and he was beginning to look green around the cheekbones. I knew that look. He got that look from me.

“Are you okay?” I asked him, careful to keep my voice down so he wouldn’t be embarrassed.

“Not really,” he muttered and I nodded. It was time to get out of the water.

I caught Kevin’s attention and told him to look for Jazz, I was taking Dude back to shore.

Dude and I dragged ourselves back to the rocky shore and gratefully sat on a rock. We were both sea sick from the bobbing and swallowing too much salt water. I walked Dude to the bathroom where he remained for nearly ten minutes.

I didn’t ask. He didn’t tell.

In the meantime, Kevin had found Jazz, who had ventured out near the buoys we weren’t supposed to swim past and was fine. In fact, he was more than fine, he was having a ball. So I concentrated on getting Dude back to our chairs where he promptly collapsed and covered his face with his t-shirt.

I gingerly sat down and waited for my own nausea to pass. I will admit, I panicked on the water. I hope I did a good job of hiding my panic from Dude, but he’s pretty intuitive – he might have noticed. The bob and salt combination nearly did me in and I thought I was going to upchuck for the entire group to not only see but likely swim through as well.

Which only made me more nervous. I’m sort of glad Dude was feeling queasy because it gave me an excuse to also go back to shore.

About fifteen minutes later, Jazz surfaced and collapsed onto his chair. He wasn’t having any trouble with the bobbing or the salt water, he was simply pooped out from all of the swimming.

Kevin joined us about fifteen minutes after that looking flushed and very pleased with himself. He had taken some underwater pictures (I talked about those yesterday) and he was excited to see how they turned out. He was disappointed that Dude and I didn’t have a better time, but what can I say – I have a motion sickness “thing.” Apparently, Dude is just like his momma. πŸ™‚

So, Dude’s first snorkeling experience didn’t go exactly as planned, but when (notice I said “when”) we go back to the Caribbean, we’ll try it again. At least the next time out, he’ll know what to expect.

We finished the rest of our time on Grand Cayman just walking around. George Town is a pretty little village but I’m afraid I just wasn’t that into it because all that was left to do was browse some shops and ya’ll know how much I hate to shop.

Being on a tropical island doesn’t change that fact.

Now moving on to the pictures …

You can see a larger version of this slideshow here.

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more about "Cruise 09 (Day 1)", posted with vodpod

(RSS Readers: I had to insert the slide shows using Vodpod. As a result, the slide shows won’t show up in your readers. Please click over to view. Sorry about that!)

ø The first set of pictures are a mixture of Miami, Grand Cayman and more of us around the boat. Because you can’t have too many pictures of yourself awkwardly posing around the boat. πŸ™‚

ø There’s one picture where Kevin has the camera at his eye and trained at something (Dude is in the background) and he’s standing on the ship track. This is where I walked … well here, Kevin took a video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Walking on the Ship Track on Vimeo", posted with vodpod

I have to tell you, listening to my music while walking on that track, in the open sea and fresh air was exhilarating. I felt close to God and it was a wonderful experience. I wish I had had more energy and time to devote to more walking.

I also wish we had taken more little videos like this. It makes it seem more real, doesn’t it?

ø When you take a cruise, one of the first things that you MUST do is participate in a lifeboat safety drill. You feel like an idiot wearing those bright orange vests and it seems like a waste of time, but it IS a good idea to know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.

ø Next few pictures are of the clubs (Kevin is playing air guitar on the “banana” stage). The train-looking room was The Caboose, this is where the teenagers could hang out.

ø I took the picture of Kevin with the walkie-talkie to remember that was how we communicated with the boys the entire time we were on the boat.

ø The next picture is of the tender we took to get to Grand Cayman.

ø After we reached the island, you can see us heading toward our snorkeling adventure. See the rocky shore? *sigh*

ø After we finished snorkeling, we ate at an open-air restaurant. Dude was feeling considerably better by then and after eating something, he was back to his sulking self. πŸ™‚ (Our boys are so skinny – I wish I had their problem).

ø Here are a few pictures from around George Town.

ø Here are a few more pictures from the first formal night.

ø We found a sword shop and the boys really enjoyed looking around and “testing” a few swords out. (They’re boys, what can I say). I think Jazz secretly wants to be a knight when he grows up.

And that was our experience on Grand Cayman. Next stop? Isla Rotan, Honduras. There’s nothing quite like being attacked by a monkey and dodging scary military soldiers to get your blood pumping.

Thursday Thirteen

Thursday Thirteen – Self-Taught Travel Tips

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Here are a few things I’ve learned from my travel experiences:

1. Old sun tan lotion really DOESN’T work. Don’t be a cheap skate, like me, and buy yourself some fresh lotion. Your skin will thank you.

2. When you travel, splurge and buy yourself a carry-on bag that has wheels. Your back, shoulder and arm will thank you.

3. When you travel and one stop is the beach, don’t forget to pack a beach bag – something you can cram your (fresh) suntan lotion, camera, change of clothes, towel, etc. in and take with you. Also make sure that beach bag has a zippered compartment for your important things like cash, cards, keys, etc. Your sanity will thank you.

4. Don’t forget about the home front when you’re gone. Be sure you set up some timers and set up a few lamps around your house so that it looks like you’re home in the evening. Also, don’t forget to hold your mail and any newspaper deliveries — thieves actively look for houses that have a lot of unread newspapers lying in the driveway. Also, don’t forget to turn your thermostat up, or down, and unplug computers and other appliances to save on utilities while you’re gone. Oh, and don’t forget to put a little baking soda down your kitchen sink and empty your trash bins – nothing kills a homecoming like the smell of warm garbage.

And don’t leave dirty dishes in the dishwasher – either run it, or empty it. Trust me on this one. πŸ™‚

5. It’s always a good idea to get into decent shape before you go on a cruise, especially if you want to participate in any physical-type shore excursions (which most of them require a fair amount of walking). It’s also a good idea to get out in the sun, or tan at a tanning salon, and get a base tan before leaving so you will be less likely to get a sun burn on your trip.

6. Keep your makeup to a bare minimum. Wearing foundation is fruitless when you’re visiting islands with high humidity. I applied eye makeup and that was it. Hence the reason my face looked like one big freckle, but at least I didn’t stress about smearing makeup all over the place.

7. I used to want to book a cabin with a balcony, not so anymore! I have learned that the best cabin is on the lower deck in the middle of the ship – the boat sways a lot less and I don’t get sea sick down below. (Not to mention, it’s cheaper!)

8. Taking a cruise is really not all that expensive – the killer expense is the flight out there. We’ve always used American Airlines in the past due to our AA credit card. We should have enough points for all four of us to cash in for a cheap flight next year, (that is if the Obama administration doesn’t penalize credit card companies so much so that AA revokes the benefit in order to compensate) but when it comes time to pay full price for a flight again, we will shop around this time and not automatically assume we’re going with American Airlines. Big mistake this go-around.

9. Taking a trip really doesn’t require a travel agent. If you’re willing to do a lot of research, be patient, plan and read the fine print, you can book yourself an awesome vacation for pennies — save yourself the expense of using a travel agent, utilize the destination’s website whenever you can.

10. We took way too many bags this go-around. Next time, we’re going to buy two of those HUGE (not over 50 pounds) cases and use one for me and Kevin and one for the boys in order to save ourselves the expense of having to pay for our checked bags – both ways.

From American Airline website: Customers who purchase domestic economy class tickets will be charged $15 each way for the first checked bag and $25 each way for the second checked bag.

We had six bags to check this time around and the extra $200 + charge on our credit card was an unexpected, and unwelcome, surprise. I just hate it that airlines are charging for checked bags now.

11. Taking an e-reader device along with you is an absolute must. You can pack several books into one device and you don’t have to worry about the bulk. I took my Kindle and read two books while waiting to board and while on the flight. LOVED. IT.

12. I’m going to pack (of course, I’ll have to buy them first and there’s another drama) sundresses next time. I saw a lot of cute sundresses on the cruise and I felt a bit dowdy in my shorts and t-shirts.

13. If you take a cruise, you MUST be willing to sweat and to deal with physical discomfort. It’s simply impossible to look cute and fresh on islands that have 98% humidity. You WILL sweat, and you WILL wilt – chock it up to yet another experience and enjoy it while you can.

BONUS: 14. Roll with the punches. Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan and getting upset, or stressed, won’t help the situation. It also doesn’t make you very much fun to travel with. Trust me, I know. πŸ˜‰

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