Monday, March 26, 2012

38 Things: Get off the Continent

OK, maybe the Caribbean isn't technically off our continent.  Maybe I should have said "Get out of the Country" but it will work for me!  But this was one of the more complicated items in my list of 38 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 39, requiring money, time, planning, house sitter, and more money.

Anyways, we made it back in one piece from our first cruise.  Lots of excitement (read anxiety) traveling to and from Miami with lots of near mishaps, but the cruise around the Caribbean was as easy and smooth as can be.  I never pictured myself as a cruise type of traveler and after this trip I still don't see myself going on any other cruises anytime in the near future, but I found plenty to enjoy on the ship.
The Norwegian Pearl left Miami and headed out on a loop that would take us to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel before returning to Miami one week later.   It was a very crowded ship as it was spring break.  We didn't realize it was spring break when we first signed up but that was the date that worked for everyone in the family, so we had to keep it.  It meant there was a lot more young party goers on the boat and at each port. 

Here's South Beach, Miami, as we were pulling out of port.  Crazy amount of people!

What I learned about myself and cruising on this trip:
1) I don't like big crowds at big buffets but luckily there are so many restaurants on board the ship that you can pretty much avoid the buffets.  We did do a couple lunches at the buffet which weren't so bad.  The meals at the restaurants are smaller portions than normal American portions so we didn't over eat as much as we thought we might.

2) I like peace and quiet to read and relax.  We bought passes to the spa for the week and it was the best thing we ever did.  $119 per person allowed us access to a hydro-therapy lounge that had lounge chairs, heated tile seats, hot tubs, whirl pools, cold plunge baths, sauna, steam baths, and peace and quiet.  We drank lemon water and tea every day while reading our books and then hopped into the hot tubs and saunas.  There were no drunken spring break revelers in the spa so it was quite a treat.

3) The daily drink is your friend.  Every day they had a special drink on board. Only you had to make sure to specify you didn't want their collectible cup or it would cost you $2 extra.  We only made that mistake once.

4) Cruises are good for large groups of people.  There were 6 of us on this trip and we all went our separate ways during the day but met up every evening for dinner which was nice.

5) Don't feel compelled to jump off the ship at every port.  It's worth it to have the ship to yourself!  We stayed on ship at the Bahamas port and the mostly empty ship was wonderful.  No waiting for a table or drinks.  The gym was empty.  We had the spa to ourselves.   We got off the ship for a little over an hour in Jamaica and it was a complete waste of time.  Cheap trinkets and people yelling at you from all angles to buy their wares or get in their taxi.  Maybe if we had taken part in one of the ship's excursions it would have been okay, but walking around on our own was not fun. 

6) The Caribbean islands main income is from tourism.   This photo is at the Grand Caymans.  You had to take a tender (small ship shuttle, not sure why it is called a tender) to the dock.  There were 5, yes FIVE giant cruise ships docked out in the water.  After buying a few gifts, we found a coffee shop to sit up out of the way and people watch.
7) Cruises are good for people watching.

It is astonishing to think of the 2500 passengers and 1100 crew members aboard this ship.  Many of the crew members are from all over the world and it is fun to talk to them about where they are from.  We upgraded to a balcony at last second and it was worth it to have the extra space.  Our stateroom was 2 decks above the top most gold star and maybe one balcony over.  
We didn't watch TV and we barely were on the internet during the trip.  A nice way to unplug and chill out all around.

Next posts I will tell you about the awesome cooking class we took in Cozumel and our day of culinary delights in Miami!  What I really need to find is a cooking cruise and then I will be a true cruise believer!

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