Sunday -> Cruise Day #1 -- We got a cab to the pier from our hotel. The embarkation really wasn't too bad. We waited around to be processed and was on the ship in about an hour or so. We were guided towards the buffet restaurant where the food was pretty average. We ate and explored for the afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised when we found our cabin #6201. It was an outside cabin even though I had ordered the cheapest inside cabin. It was also right at the front of the ship or bow as we sailors call it. It was right under the captain's bridge. So if he decides to take a little snooze, we can keep watch from our window for him.
There's a lot of bars on board and people started drinking right away. We did a lot of walking. We ended up with late seating dinner, with Marge and Charlie from MA. The dinner was excellent. I ordered the fruit plate starter, excellent; the mushroom soup, really excellent, and the rack of lamb, as good as mine and very similar. We then went to the Toulouse lounge where they have all their shows and we met the cruise director, Steve Castle, a very funny and personable guy. Afterwards, a ventriloquist/comedian came on. Then back to the cabin. I was tired, but kept feeling sporadic lurching. I thought it was Mike, but it turned out to be the ship movement. Its not quite as even-keeled as they lead you to think. I finally got to sleep but it was a little difficult.
Monday -> First day at sea. Wake up not entirely rested as I'm not yet acclimated to the ship's rocking. Looked out the window and we're out in the middle of nowhere. The weather's a bit warmer as yesterday was quite cold in N.O. Its about 68 deg. We had breakfast in the Monet Restaurant and sat with Ian and Hazel from Oxford, England. They were very nice and had a son and daughter same age as my Matt and Steve. Breakfast of poached eggs and toast. The bacon and fruit was very good. Mike had his favorite eggs benedict. Afterwards, we heard a talk about the shore excursions. We had already reserved tours in Jamaica and Cayman through local tour companies on the internet, but we decided definitely on the ship tour of Tulum for our Cozumel stop. Went back to the cabin and made our reservations through the TV. What a world we live in. By the time lunch rolled by, I didn't think I'd be ready for any more food, however, when I saw them making hot fresh tempura, I changed my mind. It was so delicious! Every day they had a "taste of some country" and today's was Japan. Afterwards, though, my stomach was really bothering me. I don't know if it was the excess of food or the swaying of the ship. The waves were considered "moderate" at 4-1/2' to 7'. I know because spent a bit of time in front of the map that shows you the route and a current "you are here" with little tiny lights. We then went down to the atrium lounge where they had a couple singing. The woman had a beautiful voice and did a lot of Carpenters music. After this we watched an Austin Powers dance class on the Lido Deck. Very funny.
We then went back to the room to get ready for "formal Night". I wore my black dressy pants and Chinese-style velvet top. We went to a lounge for the Captain's cocktail party. Free drinks and dancing. We had a little of both. Then to the formal dining. This was the only night they would be offering lobster and from what I could see everyone took advantage of it. I did too. I had the Caesar salad, with the lobster entree and pineapple sherbert for dessert, all delicious. Mike had the quail and said it was ok. Dinner ended at about 10. I didn't think we'd make it in time to see the public performance of the Irish singers that were part of the celtic group that was on board. They were wonderful. They even had a little dance instruction during on of the numbers which I joined. It didn't end until midnight and we stayed 'til the end. It was so beautiful listening to the Irish music under the moonlit sky. I loved it.
It's Already Tuesday -> Second day at sea. Woke up late. We had to set the clocks ahead, thus losing an hour. So I think we ended up getting to breakfast at 11am. The monet restaurant was already closed so we had a light breakfast at the buffet. It's hard fitting all this eating into our schedule. We ate lunch at 1:30 and went to the country line dancing class at 2:30. The line dancing was lots of fun. We did Tush Push. After line dancing we did an Irish Dance Class that was open to the public. Great. We had dinner at the restaurant. Marge and Charlie were back with us. We snuck a pre-dinner salad at the Cezanne buffet as their Caesar dressing here is excellent. We then went to dinner at Renoir. I got the veal parm. It wasn't that great. We then went back to the room and watched a movie on the portable dvd player that we brought with us.
Wednesday -> Jamaica 1/26 -- We set the clock for an early excursion. We woke up and immediately looked out the window to see .... land! It looked wonderful. We could see lots of trees and mountains and beaches. We had a quick breakfast in the buffet restaurant. We didn't know what to bring and so ended up dragging a big bag along with us. We walked off the ship to a wonderful calypso band playing in the front of the terminal. Our instructions from tour guide Carolyn were to go to the back of the terminal and not to ask a "big official-looking Jamaican" who had once lost one of her tours. We got there before Carolyn (Barrett's Tours). She got stuck in some traffic. We met the others who would be taking the tour with us. We got into a mini-van. There were 4 couples and we drove with Errol, Carolyn's husband. There were some others who had a slightly different itinerary and they went with Carolyn in another van. Our itinerary was a 2 hour drive into the mountains of Jamaica, a stop at Y-S Falls for tubing and experiencing the falls, a jerk chicken lunch and a little time at the shops. The drive up the mountain was extremely interesting. We passed a few little villages where people had little businesses run out of tiny little buildings no bigger than a shed. It was early and people were starting their day. Moms and dads were walking cute little children dressed in their clean pressed school uniforms to the bus stop for school. Families were cooking outside on little home-made barbecues. I saw a chicken put on a spit. Goats roamed free, eating grass here and there. There were people out everywhere. A big difference from my neighborhood where you'd only see solitary joggers and people in their cars rushing off to work. The people were quite obviously dirt-poor, but living so simply, in such beauty and so closely with family and friends, it didn't look too bad. We then stopped at a local farm. The farmer's name was Rowan and his wife showed us around their farm. His 17 year old daughter was holding the new baby who was 4 months old and quite darling. I made the faux pas in asking if the baby was her grand child. "No" she said "that's my baby". They grew pineapples on the farm among other things and we were in for a sampling. Let me tell you, it was the most delicious pineapple I have ever tasted. We got back in the van and the properties started looking nicers and there were less people around. Finally, we got to Y-S Falls. It is also a breeding farm for horses and cattle. We were pulled by tractor and tram to a beautiful stream-fed pool with people sunning themselves. Here we got our tubes. We had Jamaican guides leading us down the stream. It was incredible. There were stands of bamboo and countless trees. Along the way were small falls. Our handsome, young guides were hoisting us over falls, pushing us if we lagged behind. By the looks of them, this is an exercise regime that I highly recommend. The 45 minutes tubing was far too short. I could have stayed there forever and that was before I even saw what there was up-stream. If possible, it was even far lovelier. There were falls atop of falls. Swimming holes created by the falls where you could swim, dive or let the cascading water tumble over you. The middle waterfall had a rope swing that was incredible fun, again with the strong Jamaicans hoisting up the large Americans onto the rope. There are signs warning about the risk and we saw 2 people screw up. One woman slipped down the rope and got sort of dragged into the water. The other, a man also slipped off into the rocks. Mike and I did perfectly though, several times in fact. We only tore ourselves away with the promise of the jerk chicken lunch. Was it delicious, or was it all that activity that made us ravenous? I'll never know. We returned to town by a different route without all the giant ruts in the road. We had barely 40 minutes of shopping time near Margaritaville, which was more than enough time to buy some Jamaican run, rum cakes and coffee. Then back to the ship. We made it back in plenty of time before dinner. We had some time to kill and so watched the female magician act. There were dancing acts in between each set. It was entertaining and the dancing was fun to watch.
We still had some time to kill before our late seating dinner of 8:30, so we watched some Karaoke in one of the lounges. Who doesn't like Karaoke? Dinner was a shrimp in cream sauce in a puff pastry. It was very good, but just not my favorite. At this point we were exhausted and so went back to our cabin. We watched a DVD for awhile, but couldn't stay up any longer and conked out.
Day 4 - Grand Cayman (Thurs. Jan 27) -- I mistakenly thought we were setting the clock back an hour for today, but I was wrong. It's tonight. Still we woke up early. We opened the curtains to see Grand Cayman. I was surprised it wasn't quite as lush as Jamaica, but I was told later that the hurricane pretty much knocked down all the trees and killed them. Still, it was a beautiful place. We ate a quick breakfast and got our tickets for the tender and made our way to shore. The terminal was a little crowded and confusing, but we got through the crowds and down the street to Captain Marvin's. We were taken by shuttle to a pier and about 20 of us boarded the boat. We had the 2 hour tour. There's a 3 hour one for $5 more but I didn't think my fair skin would withstand the extra hour in the tropical sun. Turns out 2 hours was perfect. We boated out to a coral reef and put on the snorkel gear they provided for us. It was incredible. There were all kinds and colors of beautiful fish swimming around the coral. We got back into the boat and went a little further to a sand bar where the water was about 3 or 4 feet deep called Stingray City. We got off the boat and hand fed the sting rays fishie things while they would beg and jump up against us looking for the food. They were soft and adorable and so damn cute! At one point I had some food and they all surrounded me, brushing up and crowding me. It was a little frightening at first but exciting. We even got to hold one of the sting rays named Emily. The guide told us that he met this particularly friendly stingray about 7 years ago and she looks for him every time he comes round. He said they live to be around 40 years old. All in all the tour was wonderful. The bus took us back to the shopping area of Grand Cayman. It was a neat place. You could see and feel the British influence here. They are still a British colony! The stores here are a bit upscale. Since I really don't know the value of diamonds and precious stones, we didn't make any purchases. We got back to the ship for a late lunch. We decided that we would go to the hamburger/grill stand. So did everyone else. There was a 10 or 15 minute wait on the line. The hot dog was fabulous. The minute steak sandwich was so-so. After lunch we went out to the lido deck and listened to the calypso band, we sat in the hot tub for awhile. The temp wasn't really hot thought, more like luke-warm. That evening was the 2nd formal night. We went and changed our attire for dinner. I had tenderloin that I again couldn't eat (too much food all day).
Afterwards we went to see the Vegas-style show which was fun and then to the food exhibit with the ice sculpting that Jannel (our waiter) had done part of. Jannel was from the Philippeans and he told us that wood carving was a big part of their culture and heritage. So, they are very good at the ice sculpting.
Friday - Cozumel -- We got up and had a light breakfast in the buffet restaurant. We then went down to the lounge to wait with our group for the tour. We left the ship and walked a short distance and got on a ferry to take us to the mainland. The ferry ride was awful. As soon as we started off, it almost immediately started to get rough. The ferry attendant walked up and down the aisles handing out purple plastic bags for barfing. It was really awful. I started feeling really queasy. It was all I could do to breath slowly through my mouth and watch the horizon to keep my stomach calm. I could feel myself perspiring. Then it got worse. I could hear people all around me throwing up. I kept my cool and toughed out the longest 20 min. boat ride ever. I quickly recovered when we got to Cancun. Tip: bring Dramamine, you could make a fortune. We walked through the pier shopping district. It looked really interesting and I was dying to do a little browsing, but we had to keep pace with our group. We looked like school children on a field trip. We got to the bus and were each given a bag of snacks, crackers, grain bar, Fritos and apple juice. The bus ride was straight and dull, down an bland highway. It was a good road and tree lined but without anything really of interest to see. We made one stop for a bathroom break and souvenirs. It was overpriced and you can get better deals when you get to Tulum. At Tulum, we walked from the bus through a little shopping area. The ruins were about a 1/2 mile walk away. The ruins were quite impressive. We got a 30 min. tour by our guide who was with us on the bus. We were then free to wander around or walk down to an incredibly beautiful turquois beach. I was so sorry I hadn't put on my bathing suite. I had it with me but there was nowhere to change. We took off our shoes anyway and walked in the water. We took tons of pictures. The iguanas were really cute. The ferry ride back was much better. We got back just in time for our departure, no time for shopping. We stood in a long line to get back to the ship. We changed for dinner, watched some shows on the DVD and went down for dinner. We had the filet mignon, it was ok. The appetizer of mozzarella and tomato was a little bland (I like a little more balsamic vinegar with it). The onion soup was cold. I would've said something but we got there late and so I felt we were at fault. Afterwards, we went up to the lido deck for another performance of the Irish singers. They did another bang-up job. Then we went back to the cabin.
Last Day At Sea (Saturday, Jan 29) -- Woke up to a little rougher sea than we've been experiencing. We went to Monet for breakfast. Saw Janell our evening waiter working there. He was sweet and charming as usual. We then sat and caught up on our journaling. Then we went to the Toulouse Lounge for our disembarkation talk. The waves were rocking pretty good at this point so we went back to the cabin for some rest. I took a dramamine as I was feeling a bit off. At 2:30 we went down to Toulouse for a disco dance class. It was lots of fun. After that class, we went up to Henri's disco where a german polka trio was playing. We polka'd for awhile, then food again. We went to the pizza station and got a Caesar salad and pizza. We then listened to the calypso band San Racas. We wandered a bit looked for pictures at the photo gallery. We relaxed until dinner. Then we grabbed some sushi and listened to Karaoke for a bit. Our last dinner with our waiters Janell and Leonardo was sad. They'd been so nice, I felt like we were leaving family, but Leonardo said he would remember us. I know we'll remember them. We had a pork and prime rib. It was very good as usual, but at this point I was overeating so much for the past 7 days that I couldn't get too excited over anything, I have to make one exception here. Mike ordered the mango souffle for dessert and it was amazing. At this point we knew we were back in US as we could see car lights passing in the dark. It made me feel sad.
Sunday Jan 31, disembarkation -- We had to pack and leave our bags outside our door the night before, so it was pretty easy getting ready in the morning. We got up, showered and went up to Cezanne for buffet breakfast around 8. Everyone was there at the same time and there was a bit of a line. Everyone seemed tired and glum. We went back to the cabin and waited for our color, dark green to be called. We were last off the ship. It went very smoothly until we got out of the terminal when it got very chaotic. There was a mob waiting for cabs and they stuffed us in with as many people as would fit.
Pictures of the cruise at: http://www.sabinocreekstation.com/2005_01_Cruise/index.htm