Thursday, May 03, 2007

the honeymoon

if you need to get caught up, read the previous post. then start here :)

so with a 8 am flight, we needed to be at the airport around 6:30. we caught the shuttle from the hotel and made it through check-in and security without any trouble. during the flight, we got to see charleston, sc, and kennedy space center from the air. we landed shortly after ten, and not knowing when the next meal might be, ate a quick lunch at the airport. as we went towards baggage claim, i heard my name being paged and headed over the baggage counter as quickly as possible.

on our flight, we had a passenger in a motorized wheelchair that was stowed under the plane with the luggage. this was a fairly small plane, though, and the weight distribution was thrown off so a few suitcases had to be left behind to follow on another flight. they assured us that it was luggage that had been checked plane-side. however, as i made my way to the baggage counter, it became obvious that that wasn't the case. we were reassured that my suitcase was coming on a flight from atlanta and would definitely be here in time to get on the boat (to lessen the suspense--it did).

so then it was over the ship on the bus and through the long process of checking in. we were actually in our room by about one o'clock, so we ate lunch and explored the ship, had our muster station drill, and came back to find that yes, my suitcase made it. we got cleaned up and had our first dinner on the ship, watching the sunset off the stern of boat afterwards.

our two days at sea were a lot of sleeping in late and having breakfast in bed, lounging around on the sun deck (well sun-screened, of course), exploring the ship, taking in movies on the big LCD movie screen, watching shows in the theater, and enjoying huge five course meals. though we enjoyed our time on the ship, it certainly was exciting to wake up wednesday morning to bright sun of st. maarten/martin.

we boarded our bus outside of the ship to take us on our tour of the island. we stopped first at a souvenir marketplace called the village plantation, where we were offered rum punch and the chance to buy various trinkets. the rum punch became a theme at all of these places--more likely for you to buy things, i suppose. next stop was the flea market in the french capital, marigot. this was my favorite stop, simply for the photo opportunities and the wonderful crafts that were being sold. we picked up a small watercolor painting there, as well as a quick snack to tide us over until lunch. i loved the colors, the sounds, the smells, the whole environment of the flea market. we took our still-warm sandwiches back to the bus and headed on to the beach.

the boo boo jam beach (yes, actual name) was located on part of orient beach, the widely popular "nude" beach on the island. though our touristy beach section was pretty much free from nudity (thank goodness) we did see some as we strayed away to more public sections of the beach. the water was gorgeous, though, clear and amazing blue all the way out to the horizon. we slathered on sunscreen, drank lots of water, and swam to keep cool in the almost noon-day sun. alas, this where i got my sunburn for the week, but it was a great beach experience otherwise.

we headed back to the ship to shower and eat lunch before we ventured off once more, just long enough to explore the shops around the port and get a drink at one of the bars nearby. as we watched catamarans come in and all the passengers walk back and forth from the dock, we talked with the locals working there and took it all in. such an interesting island--a mix of french culture, dutch heritage and the tropical lifestyle.

st. thomas was our next stop, and the morning presented itself rainy and windy. i had invested in a floppy straw hat after my day in the sun before, but that proved not to be a problem on thursday morning. we ran through the pouring rain from the ship to our open-air safari vans. thankfully, the rain let up in time for the tour to start, and it was overcast but comfortable for the rest of the morning. we visited mountain top, where we sampled their world famous banana daquiris, drove around to various vistas off of the moutain roads, made another stop at st. peter's great house where, yet again, rum punch was available, and then headed to downtown charlotte amalie where they were celebrating "carnivale"--their own version of mardi gras. the streets were crowded with locals in very skimpy carnivale costumes, roads were closed, traffic was crazy and as we were let off at one of the major intersections, that's about the time that the bottom let out and it began to pour again. we took a wrong turn, ended up in the not-so-good neighborhood, and had to walk back to the shopping area in the rain.

this was the point at which i had my mini-melt down. i don't like being lost in a place i don't know surrounded by lots of locals in the pouring down rain. it's slightly stressful and not that much fun.

justin saved the day by getting us back to our starting point and taking us far enough in the downtown area to catch a cab going to the other end of the town. we finally got to our destination, paradise point, and rode tiny trams up to the top of the mountain where we were greeted with shops, a wonderful restaurant and, eventually...sunshine. after some food and an amazing concoction called the bushwhacker, the sun came out and we were able to enjoy our view of st. thomas and charlotte amalie before heading back to the ship.

our day at sea was a busy one, with a tour of the galley and cooking show in the morning, ice carving demonstration in the afternoon, and a big event for me--the "on deck for the cure" 3k walk for the susan g. komen foundation. this was the first week the ship had held the walk, but they're trying to raise $1m for breast cancer research along with other ships in the industry. though it was warm, it was definitely worth it and i had a great time (and have a cool hat to remember it). we got ready for our last formal night and then had a full evening of dinner, comedy, hypnosis, champagne waterfall and "london pub night" which kept us out until 1 am.

we did have to get up the next morning for princess cay, the cruise ship's private island in the bahamas where we were able to snorkel, swim, eat (of course), and relax along the sandy beaches as we watched people fall off the banana boat rides. seriously, they had a ton of watersport activities with sailing, paddleboats and those big bike contraptions to keep everyone entertained. after a few hours on shore, it was time to take the tender back in and prepare for our last night on the ship.

along with a wonderful dinner, our last night was spent staking out spots to watch our favorite entertainer, bert. i first heard bert the second night of the cruise as we walked past crooner's bar along the atrium. he was leading all of the audience in his own rendition of "sweet caroline," and i told justin, we should come back and see him tomorrow night. well, we did and we were both hooked. he's a combination of jim carrey and victor borga at the piano, with an awesome repetoire of broadway, oldies, rock and roll and his own material. he coins phrases, encourages audience "participitation," and actually makes you sing parts over again if he doesn't feel you did it up to snuff. we ended up standing outside of crooner's several nights singing along with bert, and made it to his full show in one of the lounges as well. i can't really explain why he was so addicting, so you can look him up on youtube or check out his website, he actually has fans that book their cruises based on which ship he's on at the time.

other interesting notes about the ship:
justin ate a ton of food. those of you who know justin know that he is not a big eater. but man, there must have been something in the water cause the boy ate all the time. didn't gain a pound, but atleast he tried :)

only one towel animal, but he was cute.

best coffee i've ever had from a non-coffeehouse place. i had coffee all the time just because it was so consistently good.

i remembered to tip people. made me feel very grown-up :)

and finally--if you have the pleasure of going on a cruise, eat dessert. every night. trust me.

disembarkation was uneventful, and we had way too much time to kill at the airport before our flight. the transition from cruise food to airport food is a difficult one. and now we're back and in to the end of school routine, waiting patiently for our house to be ready so we can sign the papers and move on in. we had the joy of watching maggie and baxter get married last weekend in winston salem, and this weekend i'm helping celebrating linda and brandon's upcoming nuptials and the arrival of baby girl mcanally with katie and nathan with a couple of showers. life is good for everyone right about now...

check out flickr for pictures and anything else i might've missed. videos are posted on justin's website, the link is to the right.

that's all for now. later, y'all...