Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Vacation: In Pictures…and A Lot of Words.

Is it too late to blog about our vacation. We've only been back a week, but it seems so far away.

Above is a pictorial review of our week-long Bahamas cruise. The highlights are as follows:

- We left for our 6AM flight at 2AM. Downtown was hopping while we drove through.
- It started to pour right when we crossed the Mississippi.
- Check in and security went easy-peasy at the airport…except Mike almost left his wallet.
- The ride up to cruising altitude was like riding a roller coaster, lots of stomach drops, but it could have been worse, right? The oxygen masks didn't drop, so it couldn't have been that bad.
- I managed to hold myself to only looking through 2 of my 5 magazines on the first leg of our trip. That took much self-control.
- We were able to check into our Miami hotel room 5 hours early. Upon arriving we ate a lunch buffet that included cheesecake, took a dip, then crashed for 5 hours before getting up and ordering room service to go along with our Vince Vaughn marathon. During that time I also managed to finish knitting one of Braydon's birthday presents, a Meathead hat (see that post soon), which I started on the plane.

- The next morning we went to the conveniently located Miami Mart (we were staying in the Miami Mart Airport Hotel) in search of a sun hat for me. Found one immediately for $7.50…a bargin.
-Took a shuttle at 11:30 to the Port of Miami, this was the first of many times Mike and I had to crawl to the back of one of those conversion vans. This time was understandable (all the old people); all the others times…not so much. I guess we're just really nice midwesterns.
- Boarded the Norwegian Sky with ease, and immediately went to enjoy our first of many buffets and hand sanitizer baths.
- After finally finding our room, we changed for a quick dip and lay in the sun while waiting for all the others to finally board. Then changed again (we did A LOT of changing) for disembarkation. No fancy send off. No waving crowds. Just a couple of old,drunk Norwegian women making bets on which way the boat would turn.
- Dinner in the main dining room, where we enjoyed a rather nice, 3 course sit down meal…you really can't go wrong with a creamy pasta. Though our "dinner mates" would beg to differ. The old couple whom were seated at the table next to us, complained from the moment they sat down. About Everything.
- The night ended with an introductory variety show of sorts. A british emcee, singing and dancing, a young Korean guy singing Johnny Cash's Folsum Prison song, and of course, a comedian who seemed to yell every word that came out of his mouth.
- We headed to the pool deck before heading to bed, tripod at the ready, hoping to catch some of those unbelievable night sky's everyone said not to miss, but were sorely disappointed. The first of many cloudy nights that prohibited the stars from shining. And then we were perplexed to find the deck void of all people and the pools netted and drained. Hmmm…

- An early wake up call, in order to make our excursion time. Breakfast, yes, I said breakfast. I ate things like french toast and eggs with no prodding. Perhaps I am growing up?
- Headed off the ship in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island and queued up for our kayaking excursion. Then was loaded on a coach bus and driven out into the middle of nowhere.
- We were dropped off on the side of the road, and loaded into another conversion van. And yes, again, Mike and I ended up in the back. The way back. Our tour guide was incredibly friendly, with a wonderful Bahamian accent and but that girl sitting in front, with all her questions. Ugh she was another story. 'How much do you make?' 'How old are you?' I'm surprised she didn't ask him for his medical history, that's how personal her questions were getting.
- Kayaking the ocean inlet in the two-person kayak (isn't that just a canoe?) went surprisingly well. Meaning we didn't tip as I tend to do in small boats. I have a feeling Mike was getting annoyed with my "help" at times. And my directional dyslexia did not help (it's a real thing! We read about it). But we DID NOT tip! I did manage to make a tree branch break Mike's glasses though. So that's something.
- Our reward for making it through some very narrow man-grove paths was a beautifully secluded beach. Crystal clear water where you could walk out a half mile without getting your hips wet. That and sandwiches with very domesticated raccoons. These things were practically human. Oh and I got a bonus…sunburned shoulder blades that peeled all this past week in a miserably itchy mess.
- Upon being returned to civilization, we headed back to the boat early. Showered and CHANGED, relaxed and explored a bit before heading to dinner. Where we were once again lucky enough to sit near Mr & Mrs Complainer-Pants.
- I also dragged Mike to a educational seminar at that gym about, well it turned out to be about detoxing your body. I learned it is completely normal for Mike to poop several times a day, and not normal for me to not poop everyday (is that too much information?) and that I will probably die of colon cancer because of this. We also learned about this amazing thing that would eat all the toxins in around my fat cells, thus getting rid of cellulite with diet and exercise and make me all around healthier…this amazing product is called Green & Red Algae! And will detox our bodies thus helping in weight loss in 6 months. Available for only $500 for a 1-person 6-month supply! Besides the sales pitch, in sounded pretty legit so we decided to look into it when we got back…surprises! It's not! Goodbye, miracle.
- The evening ended with a Broadway song and dance number, then I made make go back to the room and practice some 70s dance moves with me. And we were welcomed back to our cabin by a towel puppy, wearing my sun glasses. Cute, right?

- Another early wake up call, another real breakfast. Then off the boat in Nassau in the hopes that our excursion wouldn't be canceled because we were the only people on a boat of a couple thousand that thought a Segway tour would be fun. Luckily we weren't. Just all the other cool people waited until after 7PM the night before to book the tour.
- So we crawled into the back of another conversion van, and were dropped off at the side of the road again. Where we were promptly led to a small building and outfitted with knee pads, elbow pads and helmets and given a short lesson on how to "trust" the Segway.
- After only about 20 minutes they had us Segwaying down the road and unlocked our speed regulators. All in all, Segways were awesome. We didn't see much of Nassau in our tour, but we were given plenty of opportunity to zoom around. I know understand why GOB never got off his.
- When our tour ended we ventured around town looking for conch (which our kayak tour guide raved about). Conch salad was not available at the establishment we went to, but we did have conch fritters and fried conch. Yummy, just like any other shellfish. But I am a bit disappointed that there was no fresh conch salad.
- As it got hotter out, we wandered through the Straw Market trying not to peter out on the port too early. The Market stressed me out, as most similar situations do. Tiny aisles. People harassing you to buy their goods. Lots of crap. And even more "pretty lady, pretty lady." The best thing I ended up with was a real Bahamian license plate, hopefully not stripped of somebody's car that morning (the second best: a Bahama Mama ornament, made of pinecones, with giant boobs).
- After returning to the boat and CHANGING into swimsuits this time, we spent some time in the pool before having a body assessment on board. Yup, that's my idea of a souvenir. Mike gets shot glasses and I find out my body fat percentage by having electrodes shot through my finger tips and toes. Seriously though, I've always been curious and we were offered a deal (2 for $35) at our detox seminar, so I went for it.
- So right after we found out how fat we really are, we got dressed up and headed for a fancy dinner at the on-board steakhouse. Crabcakes, Clam Chowder, Salmon and Crab Legs, you can't go wrong…unless you order the molten chocolate cake. Not as good as I thought they would be. I should have guessed, considering I don't like cake, let alone chocolate cake.
- Upon returning to the room we were great by another towel creature (an elephant), and CHANGED again to go to the comedy show and then the "white Hot party" on the pool deck. Which was not our thing and we left before it began to "snow." I actually think we went back and watched "Definitely, Maybe" so at least I don't need to add it to my netflix queue.

- We didn't have to get up early, but we did and were greeted by nothing but the ocean from our window. Our last destination was the Great Stirrup Cay, a private island of the cruiseline. We caught the first tender to shore, grabbed our snorkel gear and staked out a hammock in the shade.
- A day at the beach was relaxing as ever imagined. We snorkeled by ourselves, just puttering around in the crystal clear water until we got freaked out by how close the fish were getting. Then napped in a hammock in partial sun. Mike went on a "hike" to a lighthouse. I believe he put it as "hiking through a desert to a lighthouse you couldn't get close to." I chose to read magazines and nap. We had an island buffet with such exotic, native delicacies as…pizza and burgers. And then we splashed around in the water (and in the crowds, by then) until the seagulls started to "attack." With the beach and water so crowded, the water cloudy and several hours of sun under our belt, we decided to call our day on the beach quits and beat the tender rush back. But before we left, I had Mike covertly steal a bag of sand from the beach for our trip jar.
- As we wiled away the rest of the afternoon aboard, we tried out a trivia game (which we sucked at, the only answer I knew was Val Kilmer - who played Batman in Batman Forever?) and thought we'd stay for bingo. But not bingo for like $40 minimum with no chance at winning. So we walked out and checked the Cubs game out in our cabin.
- Our final dinner aboard was spent awaiting Mr & Mrs Complainer-Pants arrival, but to my surprise they didn't show. I think our dinner "out" the night before threw off our sychronization. There is no way they would have paid a cover charge for dinner.
- We went to one last show (another song & dance number) - where they finally suckered me into the Instant Win Pull Tab game. A winner on every ticket, with a chance to win $2000! For $20 I got 6 tickets and an NCL white tee shirt. I won $6. So really I bought a $14 white tee shirt with a small "sports at sea" logo on the chest. Maybe next time, right?
- Mike had tried to play craps at the casino the night before only to lose his money while playing by himself, so I promised to go with him our last night. We still ended up playing by ourselves, but Mike re-taught me to play and guided my bets. When a couple guys joined us, I did well and won them money. They did bad and lost me my money. All but $4. Stupid men. Then it was Mike's turn, and he managed to win my lost money back in like 5 minutes (he was by himself…AGAIN), so decided to take his chance at a couple different games. All in all we were down 5 bucks for an hour or more's fun. Not too bad.
- Our night ended shortly after that and we headed to bed with no set time we had to be off the boat.

- At who-knows-when-in- the-morning, we jerked awake and were able to see Miami asleep. I was basically asleep, so I only vaguely recall Mike saying "look at Miami," then craning my head around and dropping back to my pillow.
- Despite no set time to leave, it seemed we had to be getting off by ten. So we packed up first thing and ate a leisurely breakfast. Then walked right off with our three bags. Disembarking was easier than ever imagined, though our same birthdays and Mike's undeliberate lie about tobacco products almost caused some problems at customs. It didn't and they let us back into the US just fine.
- By that time it was only 9:30, but we didn't have much choice for what we could do. So we hopped in a cab and went to our hotel. 5 hours early. And this time we were denied ealry check-in. We tried re-booking our flight, but not for $170 extra each. So I coaxed (a pouty) Mike out to the pool area, where we sat in the salty shade and read (and I napped) for 3 hours. At which time I tried to check us in, and was happily given keys.
- We crashed again, just lounging in our separate double beds (I wasn't going to take a handicap room just for the king bed! What kind of person would I be?). Knitting for me, watching Home Improvement for Mike. We ordered room service (which took over an hour so we got it free). And then slept. When we awoke, we watched more tv, ordered more room service for dinner and bought an in-room movie (Baby Mama) and then slept again. Perfect way to wind down before our flight back the next afternoon.

- We woke up at our leisure and spent the morning repacking our bags from 2 carry ons and 1 checked, to 2 carry ons and 2 checked to avoid having a bag over 50 lbs (which would have a hefty charge). Our checked bag on our way had been 51, but the man was nice and let us slide.
- At the airport several hours early, went smoothly again. No wallets almost forgotten this time, yay! And the flight had not a bump or drop.
- We got home with plently of time to play with Nibbler, though she did bark really mean at Mike when he went in to let her out to me. But she was over it in no time. And we were a happy, relaxed family for the rest of the weekend.
- All in all, I came home with two completed knitting projects, 5 read magazine, a sun tan (and a bit of burn), and relaxing week spent with Mike with virtually no arguing (had one spat after spending all day in the sun kayaking but it was over within a half an hour).

The End.

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