Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cruise Report! Part 2

[If you missed Part 1, click here. ]

After all the snorkeling and kayaking in Roatan, we went back to the ship to change, then walked down the pier to the shops there.

And found Fat Tuesday's! Home of the spectacular frozen drink - margaritas, daiquiris, whatever they can mix up. And then, once you've had one of those... realize something has happened to your shoes and you have to stay there! We wandered around sipping on something cold and looking at all the goods. There was an inlaid-wood ice bucket that I'm still kicking myself for not getting. Hey! If anybody's gonna be in that neighborhood, pick one up for me, k?

On to Belize!
Had a fun evening on the boat while we made our way to Belize for the 2nd excursion. Brenda and Doug were going on a different one from the rest of us -- cave tubing -- and they left early that Wednesday morning. Ours didn't leave until almost noon, and we boarded a boat directly from the ship, so we were never actually in Belize City. But we saw it from our balcony. We were anchored about 6 miles out.
We hopped onto the boat that would take us to our snorkeling site - about 20 minutes out, we thought. It was a bit cool, and we asked about the water temperature -- "refreshing" was the description. I was a little anxious, but what can you do?

After about a 25-minute ride, we finally got to the island where we'd get our gear. First, we saw these little houses:
Available for rent!

And around the corner was a little island setup with a gift shop (of course!), a dive shop, and a restaurant. We stopped there for just a bit, then got back on the boat for the cruise to the coral reef.
Waaaaaay off in the distance, there's another boat.
That's where we're going...
We could see the water color change and small breakers where the water got shallower - that was our target area. Then, it was into the water (refreshing, yes!) in a group of 9 with our dive guide. He warned us about spiny urchins, fire coral, and jellyfish. The water was only about 5 feet deep where we put in, and maybe 12 feet at the most. The view was spectacular and quite different from what we saw in Roatan.

There's one of those spiny urchins.
 And then there was this beautiful guy!

The reef was beautiful and big! Sea fans and feather dusters were everywhere, and Kelly found a jellyfish that looked like a tube -- luckily she stayed away from it!

We were out there for a full hour and it felt like no time at all. We re-boarded the boat and headed back to the island for a pit stop before getting back to the ship.

These two have never met a camera they won't pose for,
but I'm really showing the little beach that was behind the restaurant.
Those little houses are to the right from here.
On the way back, we finally got to see our entire ship:

When we got back, we rested a bit before getting ready for dinner. I thought Brenda and Doug would have been back for hours, but it turns out their excursion was all day! They hiked, tubed down a river, wandered in town...they're wild ones, those two!

This was our actual anniversary day, so dinner was special:

Our waiters Luis and Marius sang to us and took the picture. Marshall and Kelly had gone for a dinner in the steak house to celebrate their anniversary, so it was just the four of us. I had every intention of writing down what we ate each night, but completely failed on that. Seems like this one was steak for me, but who knows.

What about the evenings?
I've not written a lot about what we did in the evenings after dinner, quite frankly because we were all over the place on that. The first night, RDub and I bailed and were asleep by 10. In our defense, we'd been up since 5 and driving from Fort Worth to Galveston. The entire group was made up of people who get up early for their jobs -- 5am, 6am... -- and changing that habit just for vacation is hard. But we managed a few of these...
We actually have video of this, too, but I'll spare you the truly bad music -- I think the band had talent, but they were trying to sing "Achy Breaky Heart" to get us to dance. You really shouldn't sing that song with a Romanian accent. They were more like a polka band, but when we came in, they asked what we'd dance to. With country as the answer, they did their best. We didn't stay long after this dance...

For the first time ever, I didn't go see any of the stage shows. We went to the traditional "Newlywed/Middle-wed/Old-wed" game -- they ask three couples to answer questions like "What's your husband's most disgusting habit" and then see if their answers match. That was followed by a comedian, but the entertaining part was deciding which of us would get to kill the rude people who kept coming in late and trying stand in front of our chairs. We turned some old guy into our own personal bouncer.

Somewhere there is very likely video of us at the rooftop club doing "Gangham Style" but you can't prove it was me.

Well, we're down to our last two days on the ship, and already beginning to miss it. Next installment: COZUMEL! We're pretty sure our picture is on a wall somewhere, and we may or may not be allowed to return...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cruise Report! Part 1

I should realize I'm too old to wait very long before writing things down -- with my memory, two weeks is just asking for trouble!

The Setup
RDub and I settled on a cruise after weeks (months?) of discussing what we wanted to do for our 25th anniversary. We looked into all-inclusive resorts, travel to Europe, and any number of other options. We didn't have an unlimited budget, but we knew this would be a splurge and didn't want to worry too much about it once we decided what to do. We've cruised before (twice together, and another time for me) and have had good experiences -- nothing like what just happened to the Carnival cruise ship!

While we were considering, RDub was talking to a friend who had sailed on this cruise line when he and his wife got married. Their tenth anniversary was 3 days before ours, and just like that, this became a party! The splurge was to make it a full week, and to get a balcony room. Now we're a party of four.

But wait, there's more. Exactly one month after our wedding, my sister got married, so that means this is their 25th year, too. Yep, they signed on, too, and it was their first cruise!

Left to right: Me, Kelly, Marshall, Doug (bro-in-law), Brenda (sister),
and RDub is taking the picture.
We'd been on the boat about an hour.
The Details
This was a Saturday-to-Saturday cruise, leaving from Galveston on the Crown Princess. On Tuesday morning we'd be in Roatan, Honduras for the day. Wednesday was Belize, and Thursday was Cozumel. A day at sea Friday for the return trip, then back to the real world.

If you've cruised before, you know that a big part of it is the excursions you can choose to take when in port. We had booked excursions in Roatan and Belize, mostly because I love snorkeling above all things. We were all doing the same excursion in Roatan -- clear-bottom kayaking and snorkeling. We split up in Belize, with Brenda and Doug doing a cave-tubing trip, and the rest of us snorkeling the coral reef. Cozumel was reserved for shopping and just hanging around the pier.

The rest of the trip? Sitting on deck, drinking whatever was handy, and eating. Lots and lots of eating. Planning your whole day around which buffet to hit...

I'm exaggerating, but only a tiny bit. The food is ridiculous, and should probably get its own post. But then I'd have a record of how ridiculous it really was, and I'm not sure I want that!

Life on a Ship
Question: What are you supposed to do on a big ol' boat in the middle of the Gulf?
Answer: Anything you want! [mostly]
In this group, the main choice was lazing around on a deck chair, watching a movie/listening to a band, and talking smack about the other people on the ship. People will wear ANYTHING, I'm just sayin'.
Day 1: RDub was taking the picture. Doug was probably getting beer.
I have no idea what Kelly is doing to her face. The movie wasn't THAT dramatic.
The Gulf of Mexico is pretty big, did you know? As in, it's the largest gulf in the world. How do I know this, you ask? Because we came in 2nd in the team trivia contest and that was one of the questions. Here's another: What's a group of monkeys called? Where is Table Mountain?

Enough of that, I can't remember the others. But we tied with two other groups who got 18 out of 20 questions right and went to the tiebreaker: How many pounds of coffee beans does one tree produce?

Note from the guest writer: If we'd listened to RDub, we'd have won!

We tied with the other team by choosing the same answer. So tiebreaker #2: For how many days in a month is a cat in heat? I'll give you a moment.

We said 10 days. The other team said 7 days.

Neither team got it exactly right, but the other team was closer -- the answer is FIVE in case you've always wondered. RDub is still bitter that we didn't win the lovely pen.

In a nutshell, we didn't do much but eat, drink, and lay around for the two days it took us to get to Roatan. And then we got to do it again after Cozumel.

And remember that balcony? Here's a glimpse...
This was the last day. I was supposed to be packing.
Let's Go to Roatan!
The lazing stopped abruptly when we got to our first excursion. All six of us opted to do the kayaking and snorkeling at the coral reef. We had about a 30-minute bus ride to the other side of the island. We started at a sort of nature preserve that had beautiful trees and flowers, and a little wildlife.

We got suited up for the kayaking first.
Not sure what we were saying, but apparently it was in unison.
Then off we went like we knew what we were doing.

No one flipped a kayak, although a power boat tried to capsize Brenda and Doug.

After about 45 minutes paddling around, it was time for the main event (for me) -- snorkeling! I've heard about the reefs in Roatan and couldn't wait to get down there. The water was a max of probably 8 feet, maybe 10 in spots, and perfectly clear.

Lionfish - RDub was excited to get this -- we had a saltwater tank years ago,
and our lionfish was a major attraction. Until it stung him. 

Parrot fish were everywhere.

And then, there was this guy:

Biggest.Lobster.Ever. Dude was at least 3 feet long. I swear he was sizing us up for a little drawn butter dipping sauce. And there were TWO of them. I backpaddled pretty fast.

We were out for around 45 minutes, ending with this lovely thing:

I could feel his little sucker thingies on my hands, and he was moving all around. So very cool!

The bus took us back to the ship after an informal tour of the other side of the island.

It was truly a beautiful place, both above and below the water.

This is the longest post ever! I'll have to pick up in Belize in the next installment. But before I go, here are the answers to the trivia questions!

1. A group of monkeys is called a troop.
2. Table Mountain is in Africa (although one of the teams insisted there's one in Washington!)
3. A coffee bean tree can produce one pound of coffee beans.

Stay tuned for the trip to Belize and Cozumel, coming as soon as I can get the pictures edited and sit down to write!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Have you missed me??

I've missed being here! Things have been cray-zee lately but I'm trying to wrangle them back under control. Just a short list --

  • 7-day cruise was FABULOUS and I can't figure out why we came back! Oh, the kid probably had something to do with it. Posts with pictures coming.
  • Started an 8-week intensive personal training series -- it was my idea and for some reason decided that I couldn't put it off until some of the crazy ended...and now I'm too sore to move...
  • Maybe because I came back FOUR POUNDS heavier from the cruise! Granted, two of them were gone in two days, but still.
  • We have a house guest this month. And his dog. (Totals three dogs and a cat, if you're counting.)
  • Because of the food on the cruise, I came back determined to do the menus and such that I know I have to do, and detox this body. So I've cooked (not "thawed") every night this week after a training session. It's exhausting. I'm reworking that plan.
Anyway, about four posts are in process (in my head, if not physically), and my first goal is to get back to pre-cruise weight.

But hey! Laundry is all done!

Tiny preview of what's to come...