Friday, May 27, 2011

Epic Vacation: Bermuda

After 2 full days at sea, we docked in Bermuda! The islands were very small and scattered so it didn't feel crowded at all, and the water was the prettiest color I've ever seen in nature!

We got off the ship and wandered around the dock for a little bit until we figured out what we wanted to do. In the meantime... we got some pretty cool shots of our fantastically ginormous ship!

Finally we found a little tour group that was setting sail on a catamaran to go snorkeling in a private area. We hopped on board and enjoyed a BEAUTIFUL ride through the islands whilst our Hilariously TMI Tour Guide told us about the islands, the Bermuda Triangle, their footless birds, and her cat that gave her fleas. :)

After about an hour of sailing we arrived at our destination and geared up for some snorkeling. It was a little cold that day so most of the tourists stayed on board and drank rum while the few and the brave jumped in and started exploring. And since we were the only ones uninterested in the rum-filled after party, we were the last ones to get back on the boat before heading back to shore.

The ride back was even colder then the ride in since we were all wet! But it was still beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing,

After our excursion was over, we showered, ate another huge meal at the buffet, and then headed out for some shopping on shore.

We ended up entering an old building with a giant clock tower that turned out to be a MALL! We got all sorts of fun souvenirs for the girls and then moved on to some other shopping areas where we found wild chickens and trees that looked like GIANT pineapples. YUM!

Then we headed back to the ship in hopes of boarding before it took off again!

We made it just on time, but to our surprise... so did everyone else. At all the other ports we just walked on and off the ship freely, but security was REALLY strict in Bermuda (I got yelled at for wearing my sunglasses while they were checking my photo ID) and it slowed down the line considerably.

But that's OK! We got to chat with some interesting people, and Dad (who boarded before we even finished shopping) was able to catch us on camera from a birds eye view!

When we got on board it was back to the dinner table to stuff our guts and then some playtime before we were off to bed and our last day at sea.

To be continued...

Epic Vacation: Sea Days!

After we left Antigua, we had 2 full days at sea, a stop in Bermuda, and then another full sea day before landing in New York. On a cruise, sea days are designed to be just as fun as days at port. Our ship had EVERYTHING on it, including several pools, a spa, library, dance club, art gallery, dance shows, music shows, comedians ,cooking shows, galley tours, 24 hour fitness center with classes, ping pong, basket ball, golf, movies in the pool, etc.

But my favorite thing was simply watching the ocean pass us by. It was fascinating to travel in and out of water that came in every color and temperature but was all part of one giant ocean.

We also got to watch some amazing sun rises and sunsets, spot dolphins and flying fish, see birds of every kind, and snatch a peek at a "whale" (aka a spout of water that Kevin insists was a whale.)

When we weren't enjoying the scenery and entertainment, we were enjoying the FOOD! All of us got to dress up every night and head into a formal dining room where we were fed to the point of popping.

In fact, we were always so busy eating that we forgot to take pictures in the dining room or of the food, but we did get some before shots and I managed to bring home 12 extra pounds as a souvenir!!!

When we weren't eating in the formal dining room, we were ordering room service, eating at the 24 hour all-you-can-eat buffet, or snarfing down our unlimited supply of free ice cream!

All that eating aside, Kevin and I also got to see a fun song and dance show, watch a pretty impressive impressionist, window shop, exercise, and spend endless hours sitting on our balcony enjoying the view.

Unfortunately, I spent most of my time at sea in our bedroom. Turns out I'm kind of weak-sauce when I hit the waves. I never got nauseous, but I couldn't see straight, was walking into walls, and had a wicked-awful headache. But its all gravy! I really needed a little relaxation and sleep anyway, so I took the opportunity to get some R&R while Kevin ran several miles around the ship deck and enjoyed hanging out with his parents.

By the time we'd docked in Bermuda and headed out for our last sea day, I'd gotten a pretty good grip on things and was able to enjoy my time with the family. We, of course, used that time to eat some more, hang out, and check out the remainder of the ship.

We even got to attend a cooking show put on by the head chef and ship maitre d! It was one of my favorite shows on board and kept me laughing and drooling the whole time! When it was over, the crew members took us on a tour through the ship galleys where we got to see all the fancy foods they make and get our cookbooks signed my the guys in charge!

Being on board for those sea days was definitely an adventure in and of itself, and one that I will never forget! Now stay tuned for more about our stop in Bermuda!

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Epic Vacation: Antigua

On May 3rd, we woke up in beautiful Antigua and immediately headed a few decks up to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast! Woot!

And in case you were wondering, the view outside of our window consisted of tropical islands, blue water, dolphins, and competing cruise lines.

We quickly got our ducks in a row and hopped off the ship to start our first adventure of the day. Mom and Dad were nice enough to send Kevin and I on a special Nature Tour while they enjoyed some shopping.

The tour started out with us taking a bus, that took us to a speed boat, that took us to a dock, that unloaded us on kayaks! We quickly got on and were off through the mangroves. The water was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and our tour guides were on point! They pulled sea cucumbers and starfish out of the water for us to see and made sure no one got lost... even when Kevin tried to rebel and paddle off where no one could find us. (Luckily I was on the same kayak as him and was able to set him straight!)

When we'd seen all we could in the mangroves, our guides took us to a little cove and let us snorkel. We didn't get any pictures though cause we didn't want our camera to get wet.

Next, we were hauled to shore where everyone was given free rum before a short hike to two beautiful blow holes. Kev and I happily turned down the rum and asked for Hawaiian punch instead, but ended up dumping it in the bush because it tasted like "burning." The good news, they let us have extra banana bread to fill in the imaginary gaps in our bellies!

Then we were on to the hike, which was only about 150 feet up, but allowed us to see the islands from a much better vantage point.

We lingered for awhile and then headed to the speed boat. They drove us back a different way so we could see some sting rays and then headed back to shore. Unfortunately, we ran out of gas before we got there. No worries though. There were 2 speed boats, so we all loaded onto one and slowly headed home. Randomly, when we boarded the other boat we met another couple from Utah that are currently attending BYU! Kind of fun!

After our tour was done, we cleaned up and met with mom and dad for some more site seeing. We got to see a beautiful old cathedral and shop at some pretty fun markets.

It was pretty hot toward the end of the day, but worth it to see the town and the people who lived there.

We even convinced this guy to let us take a picture of him and his nifty little broom!

At the end of the day, we lugged our camera man and souvenirs back to the ship where we spent, yet another night, stuffing our guts with several pounds of gourmet food. YUMMO! Then it was to bed with the over-stuffed travelers in preparation of our upcoming sea days.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Epic Vacation: St. Thomas

Our ship left San Juan at 11:00 pm on the 1st of May, and when we woke up in the morning, we were nestled into a beautiful bay on the island of St. Thomas. Kevin and I took the opportunity to check things out via a short run along the beach. The island was beautiful, enchanting, and clean.

After we got back and showered, we headed into town to meet mom and dad for some shopping. (St. Thomas is well known for having the best shopping around. Some people take cruises there just to buy the diamonds they sell!)

By the time we reached her, she had already found some fantastic deals and was quite pleased with herself :)

She even managed to hook us up with Roy, who is the number one tour guide on the island (he showed us the newspaper article to prove it) and was the only one who could get us in to see Blue Beards Castle!

He loaded us, and about 20 other tourists, into his modified truck and we were on our way! It was quite terrifying actually. The roads were very small and looked like they were built for one and a half cars only. Roy drove on them like he was on a 6 lane freeway. I even got whipped by some tree branches once and several times I saw the other tourists duck simultaneously or flash some white knuckles from holding on so tight. But it totally made the adventure all the more fun!

Roy took us up to the castle and told us all about the feud between Black Beard and Blue Beard, and then proceeded to tell us what a womanizing criminal Blue Beard really was. The amazing thing to me was that honeymoon couples pay $1,000 a night to sleep in the castle where Blue Beard use to kill his abused wives. Yuck!

When we left the castle, Roy took us around the whole island, telling us about the culture, economy, history, etc. It was very interesting and the island was SUPER beautiful!

At the end of the tour Roy dropped us off at a peaceful little beach with the promise of picking us up in a few hours (a promise that he thankfully kept.) The ocean water was as warm as a bathtub! I loved relaxing on the beach and in the waves, and as you can see, Kevin loved showing off and monkeying around!

When we were done with the beach, Roy took us back to the ship where we showered and dressed for our first formal dinner, and let me tell you...

BEST. NIGHT. EVER!!! The meal (as well as every meal that followed) was 5 courses of delicious, gooey, wonderful goodness! (Insert drooling here.) I stuffed my guts, finished all 5 courses, returned to my room, watched a movie, ordered pizza... yeah I'm disgusting, and then fell asleep anticipating our morning arrival in Antigua!

To be continued...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Epic Vacation: San Juan

The morning after we arrived in San Juan, we packed up are things and headed to the El Yunque National Rain forest.

Anyone who knows me, also knows that this was a fulfillment of half of my life-long-dream (the other half was to be a National Geographic photographer) and thus, my FAVORITE part of the entire trip!

The rain forest was truly the most beautiful place I've ever been. I've never felt so amazed and so relaxed at the same time. Everything was super green and super wet and it was AWESOME!

Upon entering the forest, we grabbed a map and immediately started hiking toward a waterfall. Woohoo! But it wasn't long before it started to rain. (We were in the rain forest after all.)Dad unsuccessfully tried to shield himself with this over sized, holey leaf!

Mom had a better idea though and coaxed us under a little pavilion somewhere along the trail.

Soon we realized that the rain wasn't going to stop and we were going to get soaked no matter what (which I actually didn't mind at all since the rain was so warm) and we headed out to finish our hike.

We eventually made it to the waterfall and it was totally worth hiking in the rain for!

We snapped a few pictures, enjoyed the sound of rushing water, soaked in some more moisture, and then headed out in the opposite direction to explore the rest of the trail.

When we made it back, Kevin had to run about 2 miles back up a road to fetch our car and then we did a little more exploring before heading back to San Juan for some more adventures!

Upon arriving back in San Juan we decided to go visit an old fort called El Morro.

It was really an amazing structure and had an even more amazing view since it was right up against the ocean.

We checked it out from top to bottom, looking down tunnels, standing in watch towers, and inspecting old cannons.

Kevin even braved the edge of a very tall wall just to get this picture!

Some parts of the structure were pretty scary. You could walk down these little cannon port thingies and stare straight down to your impending doom. There wasn't even a fence to protect you from falling. Kevin wasn't afraid of course, and thus, we got a pretty cool picture of a GIANT lizard hanging out at the bottom of one of those thingies.

Anyway, when all was said and done, we headed over to board our ship and officially begin our Caribbean cruise!

To be continued...