Sunday, November 19, 2023

Day 9 - Our last Day!

Today is our last day of the cruise as we stop for a relaxing day on the island of Coco Cay.  Coco Cay is an island that is owned by Royal Caribbean.  It's pretty ,cool in that its just an extension of the ship but you are on land.  There are waterslides, beaches with chairs and umbrellas, restaurants and of course, more bars.  Just a great place to relax with everything still included.  Paddle boards, volleyball, basketball all happening. Want a burger?  No problem.  Want a Frozen Mudslide? No problem.  

It's a nice concept and we spent some time just relaxing by the ocean then walked around the entire island.  

After that, we headed back to the ship. A little sad knowing tonight is our last night on the ship.  Probably a good thing as we are worn out.  We frequently talk about a 14 day cruise but I don't think our bodies could take it!

Still a lot left to do however.  Saturday afternoon was the Rugby World Cup final (nope, I didn't know either) between South Africa and New Zealand.  Just so happens that there was a large contingent of South African fans on board. I don't know much about Rugby but it was an exciting one point game and fortunately South Africa won or there could have been trouble.   

The seas have calmed down and two shows are schedule for tonight so we are ending with a bang.  But first, one final trivia game.  This time it was Michael Jackson songs.  14/20!  Not a bad way to end it.

The two shows were Fine Line and Grease.  Fine line was a water show on the back of the ship.  It had dancers, divers, lights and water splashing everywhere.  It was very unique and fun to watch.  After the show was over, we had to high tail it to the front of the ship (no small task I must say) to get seats for Grease.  I have seen the movie Grease and mulitple plays and this was as good if not better than any of them.  It was a young cast but their talent and enthusiasm was amazing. After the show, we had to get back to the cabin and finish packing as they pick up luggage the night before.  

We scheduled this cruise during Christmas so we had 10 months to look forward to it and it was worth the wait.  Great weather and a magnificent ship ship.  Can't wait for the next cruise but we need to go home a dry out a bit. 

So until the next adventure.... 

Day 8 - Don't fold those clothes!

We are on our way to our final stop, the Royal Caribbean Island of Coco Cay.  Another day at sea on the ship.  We love these.  We started the day as we usually do in the gym.  With the ocean still being a little rough thanks to Tammie, my session on the elliptical was interesting.  Feeling the ship rock back and forth, forward and back, while trying to move your arms and legs back and forth added a new dimension to my exercise routine.  Interesting.

When I got back to shower, I got ready to toss my wet clothes on the corner on the floor like I normally do and noticed that all my old clothes were folded.  For those who have never been on a cruise, one thing to look forward to is exceptional service.  That said, I did not expect the steward to even TOUCH my nasty sweaty clothes, let along FOLD them.  Of course I told Archie that I appreciated what he did but it was not necessary.  

Still on a mission to visit every bar on the ship we headed to Central Park on deck 8.  Surprisingly, we haven't spent much time in Central park even though our balcony overlooks this beautiful part of the ship. 

It is a massive terrarium with restaurants and of course bars.  Tonight we each got a glass of wine at the Trellis Bar.  Very nice and peaceful with outdoor furniture and a guitar playing in the background.  

Time for another try at trivia.  This time it was sports trivia!  Got to be a lock for me right?  Well, it was much better.  We answered 12/15 correctly and even got second place!  I didn't know a hockey puck was an inch thick.  I was thinking 1.5.  Should have phoned a friend. (my Canadian college roommate.  Hey Marv!)

We had another bar to visit.  This one raises and lowers three decks.  Starts on the Promenade (deck 5 and goes up to Central Park (deck 8).  Doesn't go too fast for obvious reasons but it's pretty cool slowly rising above everyone while you sip a drink.  While in the promenade they had a passenger flash mob which was fun to watch.

Finally, the moment we have all be waiting for......Bingo.  No cruise would be complete without a Bingo session.  Of course we participated and of course we didn't win.  It's always fun.  Hey, we are 60 now and that's what you due.  I think we'll hit the local church or Elks Club when we get home.

Tomorrow is our last stop.  Coco Cay Island.

Day 7 - Relaxing on Megan Beach

Todays stop is St Thomas, an Island that is part of the Virgin Islands.  We decided to be a little more intentional about making sure we see more of the island than we did in St Maarten.  So we grabbed our swimsuits, sun glasses and towels and off we went.  We didn't sign up for a shore excursion but noticed a lot of vendors offering places to go.  We met a lady named Allison who suggested Megan Beach.  It was on the other side of the island so we figure that would be good as we would get an opportunity to see the island as we drove there.  Boom, $45 round trip on taxi 356 and the day is planned!  It was a nice drive and we got some beautiful views of the island as we drove over the "mountain" to Megan's Beach.

The water this far south in Caribbean is the light turquoise blue and so beautiful.  It is VERY warm.

Though it is cooler than the outside temperature, its not by much.  We spent pretty much the entire day just laying on the beach and swimming in the ocean.  Not a bad day in St Thomas.

By the time we got on the ship we were starving so we had to scout out a restaurant.  The Harmony of the sees has 16 restaurants and 21 bars and our goal was to hit everyone of them.  We hadn't tried the solarium bistro which is in the "adult only" section of the ship.  Surprisingly they let us in!

There was a knockout tournament on the basketball court scheduled for today.  I was going to give that try and see how bad I could embarrass myself but due to the rough seas, it was cancelled.  Probably a good thing!

The rough seas also caused the shows to be cancelled but that was fine with me.  Another opportunity to sit on the back of the ship and watch Thursday Night Football on the big screen.  I love that!

One of the fun activities on Harmony is the robotic drink maker.  It is pretty amazing how it works. 

You decide what type of drink you want and type it in on the iPad.  Kind of alcohol, mixer, garnishes and even if you want it shaken or stirred (you hear that 007?)  Once you submit your order it is shown in queue on the big screen.  This would be the perfect addition to a man cave!  

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Day 6 - I'll Take a Mudslide

After 2 days at sea we are going to land at St. Maarten's Island.  As I mentioned earlier I was shocked to see how far south the island is.  If nothing else, the cruise is good for my geography.  It's part of the Netherlands so it made us think of our time in Amsterdam though I don't remember these beaches and beautiful weather when we were in The Netherlands.  I's not very big and only has a population of 43,000.  We didn't plan a formal excursion and decided to just walk and explore.  It was REALLY warm and humid.  Like 90 degrees and 90% humidity so we didn't do a lot.  

We purposely didnt sign up for the internet package so we could "disconnect" but we wanted to communicate with the family plus there were some on-line personal tasks we had to take care of so we scouted out a nice place for lunch and WiFi access.  We came upon Oualichi and had a terrific nacho and the view wasn't too bad either.  After catching up on email, sending out some pictures and tying up loose ends we did a little shopping (got a cigar in case on got the urge for a late night stogie on the deck of the ship!)

St Maarten is a nice little island with some great beaches but we didn't come prepared with our swimsuits and the heat and humidity was killing us so after a few hours we figured let's head back to the ship for some ship activities and some water sliding to beat the heat.  It's always nice to come back to the ship a little early as there are not many people and you have the ship to yourself.  

We love to watch the ship leave the dock but before that I have to get my traditional "departure drink."
I was going to get my basic Gin and Tonic or maybe a beer but I watched the bartender put some vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, in a blender full of ice.  As the blender was doing its thing, he took chocolate syrup and lined the inside of the glass with it.  He poured the ice mixture in the glass and handed to the happy customer and I said "heck with the Gin and Tonic, I want one of those!"  Turned out it is a Frozen Mudslide and it was delicious.  That's my new "departure drink."
No shows tonight as the water is a little rough from the remnants of Hurricane Tammie.  We did another round of trivia.  Madonna songs.  5/15 and our strong performance continues.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Day 5 - Roasted Marshmallows

Got started a little slow this morning.  I didn't mention in yesterday's recap that there is also a midnight celebration and balloon drop (think New Year's Celebration) and of course we had to participate in that and the dance party after.  I probably forgot to mention the additional drinks we got and a couple of slices of pizza for good measure.  Ended up being a 2 am bedtime for people celebrating their 40th anniversary.  Doubt that will happen again on this cruise.

I am proud to say that we did manage to get another workout in to set us up for another guilt free day of partying during our second day at sea.

Where to begin.  Of course no cruise would be complete without a few trips down the waterslide.  Rock

climbing yesterday, water slides today.  Just like a couple kids! I must say, I enjoyed the stairs going up more than rock climbing and the way down wasn't too shabby either.  There are three different slides (blue, yellow and green).  Most everyone likes the green route but my fat butt always got stuck halfway down so I preferred blue.  

Based on our trivia performance yesterday we skipped that activity today.  They had a sexiest man competition that all the people around me were of course screaming for me to volunteer for (or maybe it was the 25 year old body builder next to me) but regardless, I decided to sit this one out.  

Cheryl and I did volunteer to be in the "newlywed game" but apparently 40 years disqualified us.  

Until you've been on a ship like this, you have no idea how to comprehend how big these things are.  They actually had a parade go through the promenade.  Yes a parade. It was a celebration of all the various holidays throughout the year.  Fun to watch.  

It wouldn't be a daily recap without mentioning a special drink I had.  Only in the Schooner Lounge do they have the roasted marshmallow Old Fashioned.  Comes with 4 roasted marshmallows on a toothpick.  Delicious! 

Getting off the ship tomorrow at St Maartens!

Day 4 - Because its there!

We are heading to the Virgin Islands (St Maarten and St Thomas specifically) which are waaaaay further south than I realized.  We're talking down near Venezuela!  So to get there, our first two days will be at sea.  Honestly, Cheryl and I enjoy the days at sea just as much as the ports of call.  There is always so much to do on these massive ships and if you simply want to relax on the deck you can always do that too!  Oh ya and then there is that unlimited drink card.  Got get our (well, the kids) money's worth on that baby.  

For the first time ever, we splurged and got a balcony off of our room.  Typically we go double economy and sleep with the crew down in the bowels of the ship.  It was nice having light in the room as the sun came up as well as being able to get outside for fresh air.  We didn't get an ocean view but it was nice just the same.  We decided to start with room service and breakfast on the balcony!  Not a bad way to start the day.   

Since eating and drinking will be a primary focus of the trip (shocker), we figured we should start each day in the gym.  Working out at sea always has a little different feel as you look out the window and see miles of ocean in front of you.  It's pretty nice. 

After working up a good sweat, we decided to walk back to the room to change clothes, get our sunglasses and start enjoying the ship.  As often happens, we walked by a restaurant and got distracted and had to drop in for a little snack. Hey, we worked out, it's OK!

We noted looking at the schedule for the week that there are lots of opportunity to try our hand at trivia and "name that tune."  Will be fun to see how we do on some of these.  The first on was name that tune 2000s edition.  Listening to the songs and watching the younger people zip right through them we knew we were out of our league and would be off to a shaky start.  We got 2/17.  2/17!! Ouch.  Later that day was straight trivia.  2/20.  2/20!!  Double ouch.  Its tough to even write that!  Could be a long week in this department.

On the back of the ship is an 8 story non water slide call the abyss.  We obviously had to try that.  There is also two rock climbing walls on the back of the ship we had to try as well.  Why?  Because it's there!  Can't remember the last time either of us rocked climbed, and considering my performance this time it might be a while before I attempt again.  Hey, at least we rang the bell (even though it was only half way up!).  Alex Honnold has nothing to worry about.

Every night they have a theme for the dinner.  Tonight is formal night and somehow we didn't get the memo (big surprise there) and didn't bring any formal attire.  I asked one of the employees if there was a place to buy/rent something formal for tonight and his words were "why do you give a shit, you are on vacation.  Do want you want."  Pretty good advice I must say.

As I mentioned yesterday, we could not communicate with our dinner tablemates, and the servers noticed this and actually found us a new table to sit at for the remainder of the cruise.  I felt bad simply not showing up for dinner so I asked if they had an interpreter to accompany me to the table to explain the situation to the two couples.  Of course they did and the interpreter explained the whole thing, we shook hands and that was that.  Worked out great!  Our new couple was from West Palm Beach, but Ukraine natives.  Very interesting couple who have many interesting stories to tell.  Going to be interesting dinners!

Busy evening with one more name that tune (women singers which we got 9/17!), Monday Night Football and a show in the main theater.  

Monday Night Football was awesome.  They play it on the big screen at the back of the ship.  Doesn't get much better than watching Monday Night Football on a ship in the Caribbean with an Old Fashioned in your hand.  Who played?  Who won?  I don't remember and don't care.  We're cruising baby!

We finished up the day with singer Mark Preston.  We didn't know who he was, but found out during the show he was one of "The Letterman" a famous trio from the 70s.  Once we heard the songs we immediately recognized them.  He was a little cheesy and had that "lounge singer" way about him but it was fun nevertheless.  


Saturday, November 4, 2023

Day 3 Bon Voyage

Today is cruise day and now that we have all of our luggage are excited to get on the ship.  Unfortunately our embarking time is not until 2:30 pm so we have some time to kill.  After the hotel breakfast (minus the eggs and cream cheese) we decided to hit the famous South Beach.  We drove around the ritzy neighborhood on the Venetian Islands on the way over there to see how the other half lives.  I can tell you that it's not bad!

We received mixed reviews about South Beach prior to our trip but we both liked the vibe.  The beaches were surprisingly clean, there were a lot of people on bikes, skates and simply walking around.  There were some hoppin' restaurants and all in all we liked it.  Parking was a challenge and when we found a perfect parking spot on the other side of the street I tried to so a quick U Turn and unfortunately the smokey with Malibu (with cloth seats) didn't have the turning radius that I had anticipated and I had to do a couple "back and forths" and held up traffic for a bit.  I did get the parking spot though.

I specifically picked Payless rental car company not only for their great selection of white, smokey Malibus but because they had a drop off location near the dock with a shuttle to the terminal.  We arrived at 1:35 pm to turn in the car and leave us plenty of time to check in at our assigned time at 2:30 pm.  We were informed that the last shuttle left at 1:30 pm.  Say again please??  OK so I guess its Uber, no problem.  The port of Miami has 5 terminals with more on the way (ie lots of construction).  There is a ship at each terminal with 3-5 thousand people per ship (you do the math), all with lots of luggage all loading at the same time so it is pretty hectic.  Well, our paperwork said Terminal D and when we arrived that was for Carnival Cruise Ship Celebration.  We could see that Harmony of the Seas (our ship) was down one terminal at Terminal E.  It's one way traffic so we had to go all the way to Terminal 1 and circle back.  Unfortunately our Uber driver wasn't familiar with Port of Miami and missed the turn off to Terminal E so we did "the loop" one more time.  Thank goodness we gave ourselves plenty of time and we were checking in right at 2:30 pm.  

Check in was a breeze has we had all of our paperwork in order and by 2:30 pm the crowds had died down so we were on the ship with a drink in hand by 3:00 pm. 

It is at this point, I will say that as much as Cheryl and I like to have a drink or two, we were on the fence as to whether we wanted to get the unlimited drink package.  Sure it would be nice to simply walk up to the bar and order whatever you want whenever you want and have it all be included.  But seriously, did we need that, especially at our age and for 7 days?  Well.... the day before we left, our wonderful kids (who know us better than we know ourselves) purchased us the unlimited drink package!  Boy was that a great idea and decision on their part.  Overall it definitely saves money, but more than that, it is nice to simply not over to worry about it.  It was awesome (though it made some mornings difficult).  Thank you kids!

The first day on the ship is always the best.  The excitement of the week ahead as you explore the ship with a drink in hand of course.  Harmony of the Seas is HUGE.  Water slides, rock climbing, 18 restaurants and 21 bars. There is even an ice rink where our first show of the trip was ice dancing "1887."  It was fun.  

Dinner each night has always bee a favorite time for us on cruise ships as you get a delicious three course meal.  We rarely order appetizers and never order dessert when we go out so it' always nice to have that every evening during the cruise.  You sit at the same table every night with the same people which is a crap shoot as you're never sure who you'll be sitting with.  Well, for this cruise we sat with two very nice couples.  The only problem was, they didn't speak any English.  Only Spanish.  The other problem is, we don't speak Spanish.  Only English.  Well needless to say, it was an awkward first meal.  The meal was fantastic though.  

We finished off the night watching Sunday night football with some rabid KC fans in the sports bar (yes they have one of those).  All in all a terrific day.  

Day 2 Alligators and Cougars

Today was a planned South Florida tourist day but there are two other important task to accomplish. 1) we want to watch the Cougs take on the Ducks and 2) we need to get our 3rd piece of luggage. Yes 3 tasks but I think it is manageable. We started out with a continental breakfast at the hotel. They had these premade, plain egg omelet but no cheese bacon/sausage, hash browns to go with it. So I decided to throw the egg onto a bagel with cream cheese (isnt cheese, cheese?). Well, it wasn’t to good. Failed experiment. Oh well, the waffles were pretty good so that will get me by until lunch. 
So off to the Everglades in the smoke car we went. A pleasant 45 minute drive with the windows down for fresh air. With only a few hours, it is impossible to even scratch the surface of the 1.5 million acre National Park so we decided on a 2 hour guided tour from Shark Valley visitor center. The tram travels an 8 mile road to the observation tower but stops are made whenever wildlife is spotted which is about every 100 feet. It was really interesting and our tour guides Eve and Kelly were fantastic (notice who's in the review mirror in the picture). We met our goal and saw a few alligators, including lot of babies since it is hatching season. One was literally 3-4 feet from me when we stopped the tram. Unfortunately no Gentle Ben sightings. 

We got the recommendation to visit a place called Superblue.  It's a gallery of sorts where the exhibits use light in various forms.  It is a very unique place to say the least.   There are only 4 sections  that use light images on the walls, hanging light bulbs and mirrors to provide interesting visual sensations.  It's one way traffic so once you leave you can't go back so you need to go slow and take it all in.  It was really fun and we were glad we went

Headed to downtown Miami to find a good place to watch the Coug/Duck game and stumbled on a terrific place called 42 Taps.  Not sure why it's called that because from what I could tell they had only about 10 or so beers on tap but that was fine with me.  I only need one good IPA and they had a few and of course I had a few!  The Cougs made it a game for the first half and got crushed after that.  

As we were finishing up at 42 Taps we got the good news that Delta had located our luggage and it was delivered to our hotel!  We went 3 for 3 on our tasks today!  Hitting our stride as we getting ready for the cruise to start TOMORROW!

Friday, November 3, 2023

Day 1 - 2 out of 3 aint bad

Cheryl and I have been married a loooong time.  40 years to be exact.  I'd say it seems like only yesterday but by the wrinkles on my face and gray hair on my head it does feel like 40 years ago.  On top of that, Cheryl and I both turned 60 this year so in terms of round numbers, this is the 60/60/40 year.  To celebrate, we decided to go on a cruise.  We've been on many cruises (think its 7 but remember, I'm 60 and starting to forget) but we have never been to the Virgin Islands in the Eastern Caribbean so that's where we are going.  In addition, we have never been to Miami so we will go a couple days early to see the Everglades and hopefully see an alligator or something exciting like Gentle Ben. 

We left on a Friday morning at 3:15 am (actually anything before 4 am is still night in my book) to catch a 6 am flight.  An intelligence report from a frequent flyer said Friday mornings are busy so we need to get there 2 hours early.  As it turned out, we were at our gate by 4:45 am.  So much for the intelligence report.  Normally, we have drinks at the airport on the first day of vacation but even a Bloody Mary doesn't sound good at 4:45 am.  Time to download a Netflix series to watch on the flight.

I decided to watch the "Quarterbacks" docuseries which was pretty good.  Got through 7 episodes so the time went by very quickly.  The flight was non eventful up until we had to pick up our luggage and were missing one.  Though Delta was unable to trace it, they were "confident" they could deliver it to our hotel by tomorrow.  Since our toiletries were in that bag they provide us with these fun toiletry bags.  I've never used a wooden toothbrush before.  

Next we were off to get our rental car.  Since it was our 40th anniversary, we spared no expense and rented a Chevy Malibu (white with cloth seats even) from Payless Car Rental.  As we opened the door we quickly noticed the glove compartment was literally laying on the floor.  Of course that's not going to work so after 30 minutes of trying to locate another car they found one with a functioning glove box.  Problem was, this white Malibu had been smoked in.  Ugh.  By this time we wanted out of the airport so we took the car and a bottle of Febreze.     

By the time we got to the hotel with 2 of our 3 bags we just wanted to get something to eat and start fresh in the morning.  We got a hotel near the airport because the Miami Airport is centrally located in the city so it seemed like a good location.  Well, it's not the best part of Miami.  We looked on yelp for a good Mexican restaurant and when we arrived at the "Top Rated" choice, it was a food cart (Birria King)!  Bad part of town, ordering at a food cart at 10 pm at night.  Perfect.  The food was actually delicious.    

Well there were a few bumps in the road but at least we made it to Miami.  Hopefully our 3rd piece of luggage does too!