Day 1: Ft. Lauderdale
Our flight departed out of Washington Dulles at 8am, which meant we had to be up at 5 and out of the house by 6. Yuck. Considering I forced myself to go to bed at approximately 7pm the night before, I woke up surprisingly well rested.
My flight anxiety reared it’s ugly head about an hour before the flight, but thanks to God for the magic of Xanax, I was fine about 15 minutes after take-off.
I was comfortably reading in my window seat in row 3, when suddenly over the intercom we hear “Medical 55!!” WTF? The flight attendant in the front of the plane dropped what she was doing, grabbed an emergency bag from a cabinet, and raced to the back of the airplane.
At this point, we had no idea what was going on, so all I could do was pray to Jesus, Allah, and Britney that we wouldn’t have to make an emergency landing to get this person off of the plane. Call me selfish, but I didn’t want to have to takeoff and land twice in one day.
After a doctor on board checked the man out, it was obvious that no emergency landing was necessary (praise Britney), and we made our way to Ft. Lauderdale. The ill person was whisked away immediately upon landing, but he was an older gentleman, probably in his late 80’s, and was able to make his way off of the airplane on his own two feet.
Once off of the aircraft and safely in the airport, I contemplated a shot of vodka or perhaps locking myself in the smoking lounge for a few minutes, but instead made my way into the hot and sticky air that is known as Florida.
We made our way to our hotel for the night, actually put some effort into getting ready for lunch and took a cab to a part of town known as Las Olas. Ft. Lauderdale is only about 40 minutes from Miami, so there are a lot of similar traits. We had lunch at an asian bistro (i know, right? where’s the cuban food!), and then we made our way down to the beach where the bars, restaurants and shops were. Lovely. Mom and Dad decided to start their vacation immediately and ordered the largest margarita’s known to man.
They were lured by a sign that read “two for one margaritas,” so we plopped down on the comfy teal cushions and had ourselves a little beverage. I stuck to the virgin strawberry daiquiri, which I must say, was delicious.
The check came, and I died laughing when the “two for one margarita’s” were actually $40 each! What a bargain! 2 margarita’s for $40! WTF!
By 4pm, I was exhausted and was about 2 seconds away from throwing a temper tantrum that would kick a fussy two year old’s ass, so we decided to go back to the hotel to relax for the rest of the night. So thrilling.
I was asleep by 9:30, and have officially declared myself a senior citizen.
Day 2: Embarkation onto the Emerald Princess
We woke up in Ft. Lauderdale like it was Christmas freaking morning. It was officially cruise day. Princess Cruise Lines teased the hell out of us and told us we couldn’t get on the boat until after 2pm, so after waking up at 8, we had nothing to do. After a long, drawn out breakfast of croissants and coffee, we said “screw it” and left the hotel around noon to head for the dock. It’s always more fun to wait with 3,000 people than to sit in a hotel room all day. Right?
Wrong. Clusterfuck central.
The taxi dropped us off, our bags were whisked away before they even touched the ground, and we were led like cattle into an enormous line that would eventually take us to the security checkpoint. The line moved fast enough and we were soon in the midst of a million crazies just as anxious as us to get on board.
About 45 minutes later, groups were called to board, and we got into yet another line to gather our packet of information. On cruise ships, you get these plastic cards similar to a credit card that you can use all over the ship. It’s all linked to your cabin, so it makes for a paperless economy on board. It also acts as your room key, which makes it even more convenient. Don’t get too excited though – it’s also a dangerous little beast. You can use it in the casino to get money from your account, and oh boy did I ever. :) More about that later.
So we finally get on the boat and make our way to our room. Viva la Dolphin Deck! We had to get a mini-suite so that I could go on the trip since those are the only rooms that can fit more than two people, and we were actually happy with the size of the room. Most of the stories I’ve heard about cruise ships are that the cabins are the size of a box of band-aids. But, this was good.
So after looking at the room, we decided to walk around the boat and explore a little since our luggage had not been delivered and we didn’t want to sit in the room and stare at each other.
I immediately wanted to go to the casino and lose all of my money, but I quickly discovered that NOTHING, not even the casino was open. At the most, we could get lunch and a cup of coffee, but all of the shops and basically anything involving money could not open until 30 minutes after sailing. Something about duty-free shopping and international waters or something. LAME.
So until the boat actually got moving at 5, we basically stuffed our faces at the buffet and watched the median age of 65 year old’s bicker, talk loudly, and brag about their grandchildren.
Finally, the boat started moving at the lightning fast speed of 2 knots (which I’m pretty sure is 2 mph) and we were off.
Once land disappeared, I made my way straight to the casino. I knew that for the next ten days I would basically be on the verge of joining gamblers anonymous, but hey, at least I was prepared. I threw $20 into the closest slot machine, and on spin number 3, had doubled my money. CHA-CHING. I cashed out on the winning machine, and headed towards the next machine. I put in $40, and five minutes later, was broke. Shit. At that point I was hungry and needed to remove myself from the temptation of losing more money, so I headed to the dining room for some dinner.
On cruise ships, the majority of your dining is done at large tables that seat 8 or so people, and you’re forced to have dinner with complete strangers. This is not my idea of a good time. Especially when said strangers are 4x my age. Oh well. I kept my head down, ate my steak, chugged my water and went back to the casino.
I lost track of time upon losing $100 more, told the slot machines to “suck it,” glared at Mom and Dad who were way up in the money by playing blackjack, and sulked my way back to the room. By 10pm, I was asleep, while the dinosaurs were partying on the lido deck.
Day 3: Princess Cays
Princess Cruise Lines, like most cruise lines, owns and operates their own private island in the Bahamas. This was our first stop.
Because there is no port in Princess Cays, the boat requires that passengers be “tendered” to the island. This means that the cruise ship anchors about 1/4 mile off of shore, and passengers get in a dingy and are brought ashore to get their beach on. I did not find tendering to be amusing or fun, and after our third near encounter of capsizing, I contemplated abandoning the dingy myself.
However, since I was wedged between 90 other people, I didn’t really feel like I had the ability to get up and ditch the boat, so I held on for dear life and prayed again to Jesus, Allah and Britney that we’d make it to shore.
After what feels like 6 months (but was probably 10 minutes), we get off of the dingy and are safely on land. Praise be to Britney.
We parked it on the beach, stared at the turquoise water and lounged.
We climbed back onto the dingy around 2:30 where again, I prayed for my life, and upon encountering less capsizing opportunities, we were back on the ship, and my breathing resumed to a normal rate before I knew it.
The remainder of the day was spent napping, gambling ( I won $60 back playing blackjack!), eating and generally tooling around. Fun times.
Day 4: At Sea
The interesting thing about cruises, is that you get to spend entire days at sea. One would think it would be extremely boring, but I must say, they did a really good job of providing a plethora of activities to keep us all entertained. Our day at sea consisted of:
- Bingo, which I totally won and walked away with $200!
- Random trivia
- Obviously hours in the casino, where I proceeded to win ALL of my money back on one slot machine!
- Watching an art auction which was actually fun.
- More gambling
- Golf chipping challenge
- More bingo, which Mom won this time and walked away with $100!
- More trivia
By 10pm, guess who was exhausted?
Day 5: St. Thomas
We woke up in St. Thomas, USVI, with a plan to spend half of the day at Magens Bay (which is listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world), and the rest of the day shopping.
After breakfast on the boat, we grabbed our beach bags, hailed a taxi, and were taken on a roller coaster of a ride through steep hills and crazy curves as we made our way to the other side of the island. It was worth it though. Magens bay was beautiful.
After a few hours of sun, sand and some really potent saltwater, we made our way downtown to get some lunch and experience the exceptional shopping we had heard of.
Here’s a tip: Unless you’re planning on buying diamonds, emeralds, cases of alcohol and/or electronics, the shopping is not that great. However, if you’re on the verge of getting engaged, tell your boyfriend to fly to St. Thomas to buy your ring – I think it’d be worth it, even with the cost of the plane ticket.
We made our way back to the boat, got into the pool which was under an ENORMOUS tv screen which was playing football, laid out, lounged and proceeded to pretty much do that until it got dark and chilly.
Guess what we did after that! Casino! I was really into playing blackjack because I was seeing a good return on my money, and I really enjoyed it when it was just the 3 of us at the table. I was up about $40 when this douchebag sits down at the table with us. He apparently thinks he’s a professional blackjack player, because he’s telling us what to do with our hands. In one instance, the dealer had a 6 up, and I had a pair of two’s. I had been taught, and had watched MANY people double down on this, because in this case, the dealer is going to have to hit, and chances are, the dealer will bust. Well, douchebag decides that I should split my two’s and proceeds to huff, puff, and practically explode when I stand with my decision to double down. I lose the hand because the dealer gets 21, and the guy cashes out, grumbles shit under his breath and goes to the next table, blabbing loudly to his trailer trash girlfriend, douchebagette, about the hand that I played. The only other time I’ve encountered such behavior was in Vegas when I agree that I actually did make a wrong move – but this time, the guy was an asshole and really just made an ass out of himself more than anything. When the night was done, I was still up with my money, so I decided to go throw it away in some more slot machines. Fun times.
Day 6: St. Kitts & Nevis
I didn’t know what to expect when we woke up in St. Kitts. But, when I opened the curtains, I was swept away with my immediate view of the island. I instantly loved it and couldn’t wait to get off of the boat.
We had signed up for a tour of the island and 3 hours at the beach, and I was totally excited.
We met up with our tour guide, who happened to be awesome, and he drove us around the island for about an hour, pointing out important sights, explaining how the island is a work in progress and is really working on bringing in more tourists and building up their reputation. I fell in LOVE with the people of St. Kitts. Everyone was so warm, happy and inviting. Maybe they just wanted us to come back and spend money, but I loved them. We drove through town, which was a juxtaposition of beauty and tragedy. The wooden houses, struggling to stand didn’t fit with the beauty of the island, but somehow, it worked. After 10 minutes on the island, I discovered I would definitely fly there and vacation on just that one island.
After the tour of the island, we were taken to Frigate Bay to spend a few hours on the beach. I lathered on the sunscreen, perched myself on a lounge chair and let the sun absorb into my skin.
5 minutes later, I thought I was going to burst into flames. It is HOT in St. Kitts!
I threw off my flip flops, raced through the scalding hot sand and fought my way through the swells of the ocean to get some relief from the heat. Ahhhh, bliss.
Around 4pm we headed back to the boat, jumped straight into the pool, and commenced our usual nightly routine of eating and gambling. My parents went to some variety show, I won $150 on a slot machine, they played blackjack, I lost more money on a slot machine and we called it a night.
Or so we thought. At 1am that night, I woke up to the sound of someone getting violently ill in the bathroom. What the hell? Turns out, those viruses that you hear of on cruise ships really do exist. My Mom had caught some kind of bug and it was ravaging her body. She was down for 3 days and ended up missing the last 3 islands, Barbados, St. Lucia and Antigua. Sad face.
Day 7: Barbados
Since Mom was going to spend the day basically sleeping, Dad and I decided to proceed with our planned tour of snorkeling with turtles and sailing on a catamaran. We also thought it was wise to steer clear of the cabin so as not to catch polio or whatever it was that my Mom caught.
I had never been on a sailboat before, so I was a little nervous because I thought it was going to be a rough ride. Especially after that tendering experience in Princess Cays. However, it ended up being one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip. The boat was awesome, the crew was awesome, the snorkeling was awesome, and the turtles were even more awesome. When we jumped into the cove where the turtles lived, one of our crew members threw a handful of food at me and I was instantly surrounded by massive turtles. It was exciting, but slightly nerve wracking at the same time. I’m pretty sure in the midst of my excitement, I swallowed about half of the Caribbean sea, because I couldn’t stop coughing for a good five minutes.
We were gone literally ALL day, cruising up and down Barbados, swimming, eating, sunning and loving every moment of it.
By the time we got back to the boat, the sun had taken every ounce of engery out of me, as well as all of the swimming and drinking of the salt water. We checked on Mom, abandonded the cabin and drowned our sorrows of Mom being sick by putting $20 after $20 into slot machines. Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost, but it was a distraction and it was worth it.
We got back to the room sometime after 10, where I proceeded to pass out within 5 minutes of hitting the bed.
Day 8: St. Lucia
Dad and I had decided at the last minute that we wanted to do something a little adventurous and take a break from the beach, so we chose to rent ATV’s in St. Lucia. I was psyched, except that we were required to wear long pants and sneakers, and in 85 degree weather, that is not hot. Actually, no, it is hot. First of all, I should tell you that St. Lucia is gorgeous. It’s lush and has a rainforest look to it. I would definitely go back.
The ATV’s were definitely an adventure. For me at least. I’d never been on one, let alone ride it through a rainforest in a foreign country, but it was crazy fun. Once I got the hang of it and stopped giving myself whiplash by pushing the gas too much, I got excited and started flying down the trails. They took us to this place on the beach where we could really let loose and do fun stuff. It was awesome and I would like to own an ATV now. :)
After we got back to the boat, I decided to lay out at the pool, Dad ventured back into town for some more sight seeing, and Mom continued to sleep through the black death she had contracted.
I got ready for the night, crawled into bed to read for a little bit, and proceeded to pass out into a two hour nap. Whoops. Got up a little later, did dinner, and Dad and I took advantage of “Movies Under the Stars.” They turn all of the lounge chairs into these movie theater like seats, blankets and popcorn included and you watch a movie on the gigantic screen on the top deck of the boat. “Henry Poole is Here” was playing, and I’d wanted to see it for a while. It’s a random Indie movie and I’d give it a B-. Still, the experience was cool.
By the time the movie was over, it was well past 11pm, which you should know by now, is waaaaaaaaay past my bed time. Off to bed we went.
Day 9: Antigua & Barbuda
Since Mom was still down with the plague, Dad and I decided that our only mission of the day was to find and rent jet-skis. I figured if I could handle an ATV, I could certainly handle a jet-ski. We asked around and discovered a place called Dickinson Bay which had a place you could rent the water missles as I shal now refer to them.
Let me just say that Antigua was my least favorite island of them all, but Jesus on a popsicle stick was the beach GORGEOUS.
We rented the water missles for 30 minutes each, and after about 10 minutes on the thing, I was convinced I was going to accidently kill myself. Those things are insainely fun, but good god almighty – 20mph felt like I was going to break the sound barrier. I think the fastest I went was 30mph, and I got a little crazy and even sped over he wake of a large yacht. Big mistake – I almost flew off the thing. I had fun, totally got an addrenaline rush, but after 30 minutes, was happy to give the water missle back to the shop.
The island of Antigua wasn’t that impressive to me. The people were not friendly, the scenery (minus the beach) wasn’t that great, it was in very poor condition and I just wasn’t impressed. The jetski’s and the two pictures below were worth it though. During lunch, I snapped the following picture of 3 little boys chasing eachother in a plaza. I watched them for 10 minutes as they laughed and played and it was a beautiful moment.
Upon arriving back on the boat, we followed our usual routine of napping, lounging, eating and gambling. I was down about $150 and I was determined to win it back, which I did. The slot gods were looking down on me, and by the end of the night, I was close to being even on my gambling funds.
Days 10 & 11: At Sea
We kept busy for the last two days on the boat, and Mom was finally well enough to venture out of the cabin. We played more bingo (Dad won $100), gambled more on the slots and blackjack, played in a slot tournament (which we lost, but won a free t-shirt), played trivia games and somehow got roped into a wooden horse race.
For $40, we “purchased” a horse that would compete in the next days race, and the winner would receive $285. There were only 6 horses, so our odds were pretty good. We were encouraged to “dress up” our horses, as there would also be a prize for best dressed.
Since we were convinced our horse would not win, we spent entirely too much time dressing it up and dying of laughter while doing so.
Maybe the funniest thing on the entire trip occurred during the “horse race.” We were required to name our horse and give it a back story to where it’s from, it’s diet, etc…
I suggested the name “that’s what she said,” because it’s funny. So, when my Dad was interviewed by our Cruise Director Neil, the following conversation occurred:
Neal: “And now we have horse number 3, ‘That’s what she said.’ ” (pause) ” What did she say?”
Dad: “That’s a hard one.”
Neal: “That’s what she said.”
We were correct in predicting we wouldn’t win the race, but our tireless effort in decorating our horse paid off, and we won best dressed! Our prize? Luggage tags. Neat.
We spent the rest of the day packing our bags, because our luggage was required to be outside of our cabins the night before we got off the boat, which was super annoying. We ate dinner, gambled one last time, where I became officialy broke, but whatever. We called it an early night and were ready to be home.
Day 12: Disembarkation & the long trip home
6am came early, as we had to be out of our rooms at 8am and off of the boat by 9:45. Talk about a clusterfuck. Getting off the boat was pretty seamless, but finding luggage, making our way through customs and fighting for a taxi was a nightmare. But that was just the beginning.
We flew home on the Saturday before Christmas, when 6 ships had just come into port. So combining holiday travel with 93284942398490 people flying home from a cruise, you’ve got a mess.
Lines, lines, lines everywhere. It took us 2 hours to check into our flight and make our way through security. Then, our flight was delayed 6 hours because our plane was coming from Boston which had apparently been hit with 2 miles of snow. Pretty much the entire airport was delayed which meant there were people everywhere. And I quickly realized that if you ever want to be stranded at an airport, Ft. Lauderdale International is NOT the place to be. It’s small and there were so many weird people I could hardly stand it. One lady wore a mini skirt and sat with her legs spread wide open, a man bought a bag of goodies including a twix bar, graham crackers, a blue tooth and magazines, to which he proceeded to open everything, eat it, and blatently throw his trash on the ground. He ripped ads out of his magazines and threw those around too. By the time he got up, it looked like a hurricane had attacked his seat. I could go on and on about the people I encountered, but I won’t. Lets just say it was weird and I was tired of being around masses of people.
Our flight that was supposed to depart at 2:30 departed at 6, and I was so ready to be home that I forgot to be anxious to fly. All was well, and upon our final approach, I could see the lights surrounding Dulles.
Suddenly, our plane lurched with power and we were heading up in some kind of stealth move. Not. Normal. Our pilot veered our plane quickly to the left as we continued to climb. What. The. Hell?
Five minutes later, the pilot comes on the intercom and tells us that air traffic control had us too close to another plane, and that we had to abort our landing. Gaaaaaaaaaaawd.
15 minutes later, we were on the ground, I was praising Jesus, Allah and Britney again, and was grateful to be home.
Day 13: Home & Recovery
Cruising was fun, but I think we all learned we’re not “cruise people.” It was cool to see different places on one trip and discover where we’d go again and where we’d avoid, but I think from now on, I’ll fly and stay somewhere for a few days. If I had to rate it, I’d give it a solid B.
And, if you’re interested, here’s a map of the Caribbean so you can see where exactly we went. :)
Happy Holidays! It’s good to be home. :)