A little bit of background info. Our last cruise was in November of 2011 on the Emerald. That cruise was SO good that we booked it again as soon as we got home. Although a different itinerary, it is the same ship and we were hoping for another excellent experience. Over the course of the year while waiting for this cruise, life happened. Among the funny game of life were conflicts with my job and my spouse Brad's job and where exactly our future was. Luckily this worked out very successfully in our favor. Another was the sudden loss of one of our dogs. His name was Captain and he was a Jack Russell. We woke up one morning at the end of September and, out of the blue, he wasn't able to walk. The vet thought it might be a slipped disk or some kind of spine problem. They kept him overnight to monitor him, but as the day progressed they began to notice different changes. He was barking constantly, wasn't responding to reflex tests, staring at walls and was walking into things. The following day the doctors did an MRI on his brain. He had extreme swelling caused by encephalitis. They immediately started treatment, which had a 50/50 shot of working. It did not. After 4 days of not eating, drinking, or responding to meds, we put him to sleep. He was only 7 years old.
The doctor assured us that we did everything possible. His encephalitis was autoimmune which means his body did it to himself. And in the doctor's opinion, this is very rare. As was his symptoms which seemed to come out of nowhere and progress rapidly.
Captain (Cappy for short) was a part of our family for the past 6 years. We adopted him from a shelter when he was one year old and nursed him back to health. We don't want kids so Captain was essentially our 4-legged child. Those of you reading this who have owned pets (and subsequently lost them) know how hard it is. They become a part of your family. A part of you. To say we were devastated would be an understatement.
We had him cremated. Unfortunately, every time I would walk by his little box where the ashes are held I kept thinking how much I failed as a parent. I am a control freak. Why couldn't I just control this whole situation? Why couldn't I make this right? This wasn't supposed to happen. This wasn't in my life plan.
The month of October passed us by. We were in a daze. Before we knew it, it was time to cruise. There is something about being at sea that helps us heal. We needed this badly.
Precruise-- We drove down the day prior to embarkation and stayed at our favorite place, the Hyatt Pier 66. We enjoyed an afternoon tanning by the pool and then watching the sunset from our balcony on the 13th floor. A great start to vacation.
Day 1, embarkation-- After a leisurely morning having breakfast and coffee on our balcony we headed to park and fly at 10am. We parked, unloaded our bags and was dropped off at the port by 10:15. Terminal 2 was still under construction so we were at terminal 4. We checked in, got our cards and were ushered to a seating area. Then we were ushered upstairs to another seating area. Besides a few select individuals who thought the buffet was going to run out of food and decided to push their way to the front of the line, embarkation was VERY easy and organized. We were in our cabin by 11:30. We booked the same cabin as last year, C752. Love this cabin. Love this location. Love this balcony. Our private little piece of the world. And surprise surprise, our cabin steward was the same as last cruise. Great!!! He just came on board actually. We loved Angelo and are so happy to see him again. We spent the afternoon wandering around our new home, taking pictures and eating a light lunch in the atrium while watching everyone come on board. For sail away we decided to enjoy it from our balcony. Brad got us a bucket of beer and some pizza. Even more good news... While he was walking through the buffet he ran into a familiar face. Suttipong!! Our amazing wonderful fantastic great waiter from the last cruise waved Brad down from across the buffet. He is working in the same dining room and in the same section as last cruise. This is beyond perfect! We wandered around the ship for the evening, did some penny slots (big spender!) and showed up for dinner around 8:30. It was great catching up with Sutti and we made a standing reservation at 8:30 for the rest of the cruise. Table 290, a 4-top right by the window in his section. After dinner we enjoyed a nice red on the balcony and watched the world sail by.
Day 2, sea day-- We lost an hour of sleep. Ugh. So we ended up sleeping till 9:30. After a slow start we made our way to the atrium and had a light breakfast at the International Cafe and lots of coffee. Brad went to the gym. I went to my perch on the balcony and started a new book (The Kite Runner). Later in the afternoon we laid out by the pool sipping (pronounced 'gulping') Bloody Mary's then grabbed a light lunch at the international cafe. I didn't care for the dinner menu so we made an 8:30 reservation for the Crown Grill. We had a nice leisurely evening and headed to dinner around 8. To kill time we walked around the Promenade Deck for a bit and stumbled upon a very humorous domestic dispute. At one point the wife (who was clearly wasted) screamed out, "At least he could get it up you 'bleeping bleephole'." Hahahahahaha. You stay classy! Our dinner at the Crown Grill was as good as we remembered from last cruise. We both did surf and turf. And managed to finish it all. Success! Got back to the cabin around 10 and enjoyed more wine and a quiet evening at sea.
Day 3, sea day-- Ok so we slept till 9:30 again. Can't blame it on a time change. So I'll just blame it on the wine. Or maybe it was the Bloody Mary's? Or both? Enjoyed our usual morning activities. Then slathered on the sunblock and made our way to the pool. Seemed to be cut throat to get a lounge chair. As usual we noticed the deck attendants standing around doing nothing. Had a lovely day in the sun and an equally good nap. Tonight was formal night. Blegh. Brad loves it. I don't. But in all honesty it wasn't as bad as I remember. Maybe it was the new suit Brad bought me. Or the 3 glasses of cheap champagne. Dinner was divine and we finished our evening with a show called "I Got The Music." We have seen it before. But this was the first time seeing it shortened to thirty minutes. Brad liked it. I thought it was meh.
Day 4, Antigua-- We were up early. Booked a private beach resort tour called something like Rex Halcyon. We had a very nice time despite the screeching child behind our lounge chairs. Got a lot of nice pictures and the weather was stunning. While we were lounging a local dude wanted to make me a coconut drink. It's some kind of aphrodisiac. He told me it would help me attract the ladies. Needless to say, I passed on that. He couldn't understand why... After lunch on board we took a nap and relaxed on the balcony for sail away. Antigua is a beautiful island. Especially at dusk with the sun setting behind the clouds. This evening for dinner Pad Thai was on the menu. I LOVE Thai food and have many recipes I enjoy making. I asked Sutti what he thought of the dish. He flat out said it wasn't good. So we ordered it as an appetizer to split. He was correct. Not good at all. Oh well we didn't starve. I was craving salmon so I had that as my entree. Even after 8 cruises I had never had this dish. It was delicious! So glad I tried something so "boring" according to Brad. It is now one of my favorites. We took an evening stroll on the Promenade deck then headed back to the cabin to enjoy our balcony. Once outside, I noticed we were cruising VERY close to a large island, called Guadeloupe I think. It was all lit up and the city lights flickered like diamonds. No sooner did I turn to look in the sky and I saw a bright shooting star streak across the night. I have a favorite quote that I share with a friend. It says, "Everything will be ok. This is your sign." This was my sign. It will all be ok. What a truly enchanting evening.
Day 5, St. Lucia-- Didn't book a tour here. We slept in, had a nice breakfast in the buffet and made our way to shore. Walked around the small shopping area then headed back on board to lie in the sun and gorge ourselves on pizza. Saw a beautiful rainbow and Princess did a nice tribute to the Veterans. Dinner and our evening rituals were wonderful as usual.
Day 6, Barbados-- Woke up to clouds and rain. We had a beach excursion booked. Not the best weather at Carlisle Bay, but a beautiful beach indeed. About an hour into the excursion I started to feel like crap. I mean really bad. Clammy and hot. I don't know if the drinking caught up to me. Or exhaustion. Or the little demon child who kept screaming at the top if its lungs and running between Brad and I's lounge chair (attention parents-- it's not cute). I decided it would be best to head back to the ship just in case. So we went back to the bar area of the beach and the owner called us a cab back. Went straight for the cabin and ended up sleeping for 3 hours. I woke up refreshed and normal. This evening after dinner our junior waiter, Somphong, who hasn't said more than 5 words for the entire cruise, said that Brad looked shorter than usual. He seems like a very shy and quiet guy. And his English isn't the best. So when he said that, it totally came out of right field and had us all laughing.
Day 7, St. Kitts-- We were most excited about this port. Booked a 4 hour hike through the rainforest and it was spectacular. Despite being listed as a "very active" excursion, many individuals on the tour complained that the walking was too much. Perhaps if they read their tickets they would have been more prepared. Ironically what we liked most about the tour was that it was so active. It was a nice change of pace working up a sweat while hiking instead of lying in a lounge chair like a sloth, which we did for the 6 previous days. Dinner tonight was the Chef's Dinner. We have been pretty happy with the food up till this point but tonight's dinner was absolutely abysmal. For the first time in many cruises we had a hard time finding at least one thing to order. The icing one the cake was having fried chicken on the menu. I couldn't find anything else to get so this is what I ordered and it was inedible. I really should have just ordered the salmon again. Brad said it best..."If this is a Chef's dinner, why is there fried chicken on the menu? Shouldn't there be dishes that showcase his talents?" Dessert was equally as bad with only 2 specialty items, and 1 was sugar-free. The bright side this evening was the new show, "Boogie Shoes." Wow! Great job Princess. Everything about this show was great and I hope it makes it way to the other ships.
Day 8, St. Thomas-- Having been here many times before we didn't book any excursions. We slept late and woke up to find that we docked at Havensight instead of Crown Bay. Excellent!! Enjoyed a leisurely walk into town, great shopping and a delicious lunch at Cafe Amici. Unfortunately we were 1 of 5 ships in port today so by early afternoon the streets were far too congested. We headed back on board and enjoyed a quiet pool for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner tonight was Italian night. No more eggplant parm. No more tiramisu. No more limoncello sorbet. Sucks that they're gone but all the new things we tried were delicious. SO much better than the previous night. One observation on this cruise is that the headwaters have done NOTHING. They stand by the door and chitchat with their staff. Perhaps I'm wrong but maybe the headwaiters should be going to tables and checking with their guests to see how dinner is. We are very happy with our servers. But not a single headwaiter has come to our table for 8 days to see how things are. Oh well. Not everyone can be as good Antonio. We were spoiled with him on the last cruise. He was fantastic and saw to it that each table in his section (not just ours) received exceptional service. Such a polar opposite on this cruise.
Day 8, sea day-- At some point last night we sailed through a storm. Woke me up from a sound sleep. I went out on the balcony and watched the thunder and lightening. A very beautiful sight. Today being a sea day, it is another cut throat day for lounge chairs while the deck attendants stand uselessly to the side. Great weather for tanning and we did just that, or at least tried to. We both agreed that we had never seen a sea day SO busy as it was today. People crammed on top of people. Walkways were blocked by lounge chairs. Empty cups on the floor. Dirty plates on almost every table. Just a complete cluster. We spent maybe an hour attempting to tan, but there was nothing relaxing about that experience. So we gave up and made our way back to the cabin dodging lounge chairs, plates of food, hoverounds and oblivious passengers in the process. Tonight was formal night. Good news is that escargot and the surf and turf are still on the menu. Bad news is that I have to dress up again. But it was worth it. I left fat and happy. And a little tipsy off of the red we ordered too. The show tonight was "Blame it on the Boogie." Love this show. Great music too.
Day 9, Princess Cays-- Awoke to partly cloudy skies. Oh well. Princess Cays is still our favorite beach day. We were tendered over by 10:00 and relaxed in our clamshell by 10:15. Enjoyed our floats, a light lunch and a little exploring. Got a lot of nice pictures too. But the best part was no screaming demon child. Yay! The island definitely had some damage from Sandy. Mainly erosion. But it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Afternoon was spent enjoying the spa pool and packing up our cabin. Our last dinner was bittersweet. The food was excellent but we said our goodbyes to Sutti. Sad to leave him but we have his email and hope to dine with him in the future.
Day 10, disembarkation-- Always a hectic day. This was the first cruise where we didn't do walk off because we booked a hotel instead of driving home. We were out of the cabin by 8 and off the ship by 10:15. And there are 8 ships here. Such a busy and chaotic day. Luckily made it back to Park and Fly by 10:45. No problems at customs or with the car. Guess this means vacation is over.
Postcruise-- We checked back into the Hyatt around 11:15. Our usual room was ready so we unpacked and relaxed for a bit. For lunch we hiked over the 17th street bridge to Chipotle and then picked up subs for dinner at Publix. Enjoyed an afternoon of yacht spotting and people watching. And at 4:00 we made our way to our balcony in the sky to watch all the ships leave. Bye bye Emerald Princess. Until next time...
We left the Hyatt Sunday morning to head home. Set the cruise control to 90 and laughed hard with the windows down. We talked about our new adventures, fabulous food, attentive service and new friends. The last cruise on the Emerald we were amazed by everything. This cruise felt like coming home. Same ship. Same cabin. Same staff. Similar itinerary. Everything just felt right.
So here I sit. Typing away on the couch curled in a blanket. Our other dog Skipper (a 60 pound terrier hound mix) is asleep with his head on my knee. Thank you to Princess for another fabulous vacation and for putting life into perspective for us. We are so thankful we can afford to cruise. So thankful for supportive family and friends. So thankful to have found each other. And for the unconditional love of Skipper.
He just stretched out and stuck his paws on my chest and scratched me. That's true love...
"All of my sadness was taken by the sea."
Odds and ends.
**Never took the stairs once in 10 days. I was super proud of that. Now my legs are killing me.
**HORRIBLE pillows in our cabin. Random.
**While we didn't starve, we found a lot of the food on this cruise to not be as good as our last cruise on the Emerald. Even things we've always liked didn't taste as good. With that said, some things were out of this world.
**Such a friendly staff on board the Emerald. We saw so many familiar faces and everyone we encountered said hello to us.
**We noticed a lot of people who just STOP walking. This happened in the buffet. On the staircases. In the cabin hallways. By the pools. In the entry ways to lounges. Everywhere! Really started to bother us towards the end of the cruise. Please be conscious of the individuals around you and move out of the way. Ughhhhh.
**Our buddy Antonio emailed Brad a few days ago. He is currently on the Crown Princess and will be back on the Emerald in April. We have sorely missed him and want to cruise with him again.
**Lots of sharply dressed people on the cruise. And so many following the dress codes. That was a nice change.
Here is a link to my pics - http://flic.kr/s/aHsjCJDTpn