So I finally was able to wrap up editing my Canada vlogs from our June 2015 Trip! Here is the complete series for you to enjoy from start to finish, including one bonus video at the end, of us unboxing and trying out some of our Duty Free Goodies we got before hitting the road back to the states. One word of advice if you are planning on shopping duty free in Niagara: Do not shop duty free unless that is the very last thing you plan on doing! Your car will not be allowed to leave the lot unless it is to clear customs and leave the country! Yea we made that mistake and had to walk to whatever else we wanted to do until we left.
Check out some of my reviews on Trip Advisor to get my advice on some of the other activities during our time in Niagara:
Sheraton on the Falls (Hotel Review)
WATCH MY NIAGARA CANADA ADVENTURES DOWN BELOW
I hope you enjoyed our adventure! Please don’t forget to comment, rate, & subscribe to my channel!
Til the Next Adventure!
We went to Lancaster the second to last week of September this past year, for my father’s birthday. Our trip was done on a budget, so originally we had opted to stay at the Lancaster Family Resort (it was only a 2 night trip!) After the nightmare of an experience that we had upon just checking into that hellhole, we had all decided that we would rough it there for one night and then try to find another option for our 2nd night in Lancaster.
My mother made a quick phone call to Denise (My mother and father have stayed at the Limestone before, so she had the contact information and the already established relationship with the more than hospitable owners) and she was MORE than accommodating! A couple rooms had just opened up, so we were booked there for night 2 of our stay in Lancaster!
After spending a great day shopping in Downtown Lancaster, we went to check in at the Limestone. We arrived at this quaint little cobblestone colonial which made me feel like I had stepped into a quaint little Hallmark Movie. The grounds are well kept, with beautiful foliage, a trickling pond, festive fall scarecrows, and jack-o’-lantern decorations to get us in the mood for fall.
Upon entering the historical establishment, it was like traveling back in time. The building was established in the 1700s so it was fun to imagine the history that has taken place behind these walls throughout the years. The lobby of the B&B was very cozy and had a cabin type feel with some very accommodating amenities. There were comfy country couches, boardgames, books, and a little table where you could pour yourself some tea and enjoy a slice of homemade country pie courtesy of Denise.
Denise’s husband Rick welcomed us to their abode and was extremely informative, giving us the rundown of events happening in the area as well as a little background info behind many of the interesting guests who were also staying there! One girl was a watch designer from Israel, another was a psychologist specializing and making breakthroughs in the Amish community… it was very interesting to learn about the many different people who pass through their doors; Rick and Denise welcome people from all walks of life, and it shows in their great hospitality!
Rick led us up 2 floors of an enchanting creaky old wooden staircase to our comfy little rooms on the attic level. We really lucked out because the 4 of us had the whole level to ourselves for the one night we were there. We had 2 rooms and 2 bathrooms all to ourselves, that had great natural lighting from the skylights. Our rooms included our wifi password, some complimentary candies, and super comfortable country style beds. The decor was very old country and very homey, it makes you feel right at home!
My boyfriend and I had the middle room with a window, which also enabled us to see a clear view of the beautiful full moon that night! (We went to Lancaster specifically for the Full Harvest/Bloon Moon Festival, which they do at the Wolf Sanctuary a couple towns over from Strasburg where the Inn was located). Falling asleep to the glow of the full moon was a perfect ending to our magical night.
The next morning Denise cooked breakfast for everyone around 9 am and serves it up in her formal country dining room, designed to enable the different guests to meet and mingle with one another. Her homemade dishes are amazingly creative and have a country flavor, blending the sweet and the savory. It is really a treat for the palette! She made us these little peach tarts which were a nice little sweet treat, followed by a savory black bean waffle and eggs with a chicken and mustard gravy. Coffee and Tea were also available.
You can tell that Denise really loves to spoil her guests, and loves talking and learning about each and every one of them. She is so accommodating and hospitable and it really feels like going to visit a distant relative. Everyone is family to Rick and Denise!
I would stay here again in a heartbeat, and the price was definitely worth the accommodation!
This past month I had the pleasure of visiting the Lancaster, Pennsylvania Wolf Sanctuary in celebration of my father’s birthday. It was something he really wanted to do as he has always been drawn to the mystery behind the demeanor or such fascinating creatures. We had jumped at the chance to experience this with him, because not only was it a chance to see some of these magical beasts in the closest thing to ther natural habitat (the animals are fenced off from visitors, but are given room to roam freely in their woodland surroundings), this was also a chance to experience the magic during the best time you possibly can, and that was during the September Harvest Full Moon. The full moon this past September was also a Blood Moon!
A Blood Moon is a total lunar eclipse in which the Earth eclipses a full, and the direct sunlight is blocked, but the sun’s rays still light up the moon. However, this light has travelled through the Earth’s atmosphere first, which causes the totally eclipsed Moon to sometimes look a red or brownish hue. The next Blood Moon is said to not come back around until January 2018! So this fact alone, made this even all the more special!
There were about 40 wolves in the sanctuary, total. Some cages had 3-4 wolves, then there was one cage in particular which housed a “lone” wolf. He was deaf and blind and could not be put in the cage with others as it posed a threat to the other wolves. Throughout the night, we would hear his soft howl against the glow of the moonlight. The coolest thing I learned was that all of the people and guides working the informational posts had their very own special relationship with each wolf, and were all there as volunteers, because they truly have a passion for working with these animals. That spoke
volumes to me.
The only thing that I thought was a bit unfortunate, was that it was a bit overcrowded and it was hard to make way up to the front of each pen to see the wolves a bit better. The crowds gathered around the tour guides and it was also hard to hear the things they were saying about the wolves from a distance. Also, there is one section of pens that is up on a hill and the incline might be difficult for some to walk up.
One of the coolest things that I thought the sanctuary had to offer was a huge bonfire in the main area of the camp. The fire had to have stood about 8-10 feet high which anyone was allowed to roast marshmallows or hotdogs in. There was also an authentic native american tribal drumming ceremony commencing throughout the whole night. There were descendants of tribes such as the Blackfoot and Cherokee, dressed in their full garb, drumming, chanting, and dancing circles around the fire. They engaged the audience to join in with them, stomping the ground with their ankle bells and spiritual
intention. Everyone joined hands, circled the fire together and every now and then would howl at the moon!
This night truly made me feel like I was one with the pack. It brought me back to my own sense of instinct, encouraging me to release my own humanly inhibitions and revert back to the wild animal I once was. This truly was a magickal night to remember AAAAWOOOOOOHHHH!!!
READ MY REVIEW ON TRIPADVISOR!INTERESTED IN PLANNING A TRIP TO THIS WOLF SANCTUARY?
THIS EDITORIAL PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE SPRING 2016 "MOVEMENT" ISSUE OF ABRAZINE. YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THIS ISSUE IN ITS ENTIRETY HERE!
This past October I took a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania with my parents for my father’s birthday. My parents have been frequenting this quaint little section of PA for the past 5 years or so and they made it a point to bring me along this time. Among our travels, we decided to spend a whole day exploring Downtown, Lancaster which is filled with little vintage shops, boutiques, and art galleries. I remember one of the very first shops that we walked past, right after we had parked our car. It was a cute little art gallery called “The Christiane David Gallery”, and in the window was a watercolor painting of a girl with fiery red hair, playing a purplish colored violin.
Throughout the painting, there were passionate streaks of yellows, blues, oranges, purples, and greens, and it was apparent through the expression on the girl’s face that she was enveloped in this music that she was creating. As I stood there entranced in this work of art, I felt that I was just as moved in experiencing a painting this beautiful, as this girl in the painting was, in making her music.
Just as I was admiring this beautiful work of art, I noticed a lovely woman trimming some of the vibrant red flowers out in front of the gallery. She asked if I would like to come inside of the gallery and browse more works of art. I asked her if she worked there, and she proudly exclaimed that it was her gallery, and she was the artist who had painted this piece that I have found myself so drawn to. She was indeed Miss Christiane David! I excitedly accepted her invite into her gallery!
As she brought me into her magickal little space, my family trailed in behind me, exploring the stark white walls splashed with her colorful paintings. I wandered around the space with a wide-eyed sense of wonder and curiosity, like that of a child finding it’s way through a toy store.
The first room I noticed, and fell in love with right away after we walked through the entrance, was a little foyer with a black and white checkered floor, and a spiral staircase adorned in twiggy foliage, faux owls and twinkling lights. The decor wrapped around the staircase’s ornate banister which ascended up into heavenly bright sunlight. I wondered if I followed the spiral trail up the stairs, would i then disappear into a whimsical time warp-reversed rabbit hole and land in a realm of fantasy lost in space and time? I didn’t dare attempt this voyage, but it was quite tempting.
I continued through the main floor; was enchanting to walk the creaky wood floors and observe each brush stroke that decorated her quaint little creative abode. Her son-in-law who ran the floor and her sales had directed me to the prints that she had available, and right away I started looking for the violin girl with the fiery red hair. I looked through stacks and stacks of colorful prints of paintings that had become her life’s work. Finally I happened upon the one that had entranced me in the storefront window.
IT WAS THE LAST ONE!
You know that feeling when you know something is just meant to be yours? The print was $60.00 and although money was tight, I didn’t know if I would ever see this painting again. It had moved me too much to not have permanently in my life. I said to her, “I’ll take it!”, and motioned to the register to cash out on my splurge item. We had gotten to talking, and she started to tell me a little bit about the painting that I had picked out. She would invite musicians to come play in her gallery and paint them as she played. She would also attend the Lancaster Symphony charity and fundraising events and paint the orchestra as they were playing as well. She talked to us for awhile about how she was inspired by capturing the musicians and their movement, in her visual works of art. She is so moved by their music, she lets her brush be guided by their sound, and matches the strokes to everything she hears, translating it all, visually onto canvas.
We then chatted about my musical endeavors and she invited me back sometime to play in her gallery so maybe one day she will paint me! I would be so honored! After I purchased my print, we were so wrapped up in conversation that she was excited to show us her basement that they just started to renovate for classes, and extra studio space. She took us down the stairs and showed us all the things that she was imagining to bring this space to life! It was exciting for me to see someone so successful in a field that most deem “impractical” as a means to make a living. Most only give attention to the term “starving artist”, but she is in fact a “thriving artist” and the living that she has been able to make for herself through her art is extremely inspiring and moving to me!
After we toured her basement, she took us out onto a little veranda off the back of her studio that was adorned in green foliage and bright pink and orange tropical flowers. She had a mischievous little cat that wandered around the terrace as she chatted more with us about her upbringing in Belgium, her studies of art and architecture in Brussels, and her travels through Europe and Italy. Her whole demeanor and life was something out of a quaint little novel that I wish I could pack up and take home with me. I would read it on days when I was feeling less than inspired.
Picking the brain of someone as accomplished in the arts as Christiane was a nice and unexpected experience for me on this trip, and I hope to one day take her up on her offer to go back and be painted by her wonderful “stroke” of genius. I also hope to one day be as accomplished of an artist as she.
LEARN MORE ABOUT CHRISTIANE DAVID AND HER MAGICKAL GALLERY AT HER WEBSITE:
Day 6 was in the Grand Cayman Islands where we had plans to visit a turtle and dolphin park. I was pretty excited to be able to interact with aquatic animals! I did a dolphin interaction experience when I was about 9 years old in Cancun, Mexico, but I think I was too young to really appreciate it. I also was not brave enough. I actually remember clinging to my mother and getting a bit anxiety over it. I had never experienced being around any sort of exotic animal that young in life, so I was pretty excited to be able to do it again as an adult and kind of redeem myself here.
First of all, Grand Cayman was by far the most BEAUTIFUL stop on this trip, and definitely the wealthiest. There were 5 star hotels and resorts all around the island, not to mention the most tourist friendly, with fast food chains every few miles. The boat actually anchored in the ocean at this stop, so we had to take about a 15 minute tender to the docs. Right outside the docks there was a main street filled with nice restaurants, gift shops, trendy galleries, and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. I feel like there's one of those, everywhere hahaha!
So the turtle/dolphin park was about a 20-30 minute drive from the docks. I was pretty groggy on the way there because I had popped a Dramamine tablet in fear of more nausea ruining my day. Had I known the tender ride was so short, I probably would not have done that. Anyway, we got to the park, and were directed to the turtle portion first. It was so amazing to see the sea turtles, which swam in large clusters in the saltwater pool. You could hear the clacking of their shells as they simulated bumper car motions into each other to get to the food that was dropped in, before their friends got to it. You could purchase turtle food to feed them, but we did not. I did not have to feed a turtle to validate my experience here, things are never cheap at these places.
I just had a great time observing them from over the balcony, their shells glistening and reflecting the sunlight off the water. It was fun to watch and listen to them as they came up for air, peaking their tiny little heads out of the water, letting out an enormous gasps, sucking all the air back in for the next dive. Turtles can spend long durations underwater and surface only to breathe for about 1 - 3 seconds before going back under. They can replace the air in their lungs in one single breath! Green Sea Turtles have been known to swim up to 35 mph, and males are known to spend their entire lives at sea; rarely, if ever, returning to land.
The only two predators the turtle really has to worry about are sharks, and humans, as turtle meat actually remains a traditional dish on the island today, but I will get to that in a little bit! We roamed the giant sea turtle area for a bit, even passed by the tank of Smiley, the islands only living crocodile since the mid-1950s. When they captured her in 2008, they ran DNA testing to discover that she was actually a hybrid between two different species of crocodile. Smiley is a 9 foot Saltwater Crocodile, but can survive in both salt and fresh water. This day it was rather hot, and she was hiding under huge palm leaves, so we didn't stop here for too long.
We soon made our way to the baby turtle wading pool. This was the part I was so excited about and it even gave us a chance to use Avi's new water cam! We had so much fun with these little guys, I really wish that we got to spend more time with them. They only allowed about 4 people in the pool with them at once, so things felt a bit rushed here. We got to pick them up though, by their shell only, and take some photos with them. Their shells felt so smooth, decorated beautifully in different patterns. They also had beautiful patterns on their flapper fins and on their heads. The one I picked up was pretty timid, but the one Avi picked up was rather opinionated! It flapped it's little flippers in a fit of range during the duration of our picture taking, until he was put back in the water. After exiting the pool, we washed off our hands and feet at the sanitization station, because turtles and other reptiles have been known to spread Salmonella and other bacterial diseases. Always sanitize after handling reptiles & amphibians!
After our time at the turtle park, we headed over to Dolphin Discovery. I was pretty excited to get some footage of us with the dolphins but the park would not allow us to take in our own camera, even though it was a water camera. It was actually a load of bs, so we had to pay an obscene amount of money for subpar pictures that were taken by their staff… but hey, it worked, so who are the suckers here? I refused to go home without some snapshots of my experience with these wondrous creatures. So back to the actual experience.
We suited up in our life vests and followed the photographer staff women toward the pool we were to enter after the "OK" from our dolphin trainer. We all entered the pool in a single file line, there was a russian family of 4 in front of Avi and I, then behind us there was another family of 4. We all entered the pool and stood on the platform as our dolphin trainer introduced himself as Luis. The dolphin that we got to interact with today was Galileo, and he had such a funny personality! Luis would give entertain us with some tricks, we would hold our hands out in front of us, and Galileo would start at the front of the line and swim past everyone so we got to run our hands across his cartilage like body & fins. Then he would roll over and come back the other way so we got to do the same to feel his belly. We did this a few times here and there.
In between tricks, Luis would enlighten us with more information about dolphins. Like how their fins act as a fingerprint, all dolphins have different series and patterns of ridges on their dorsal fin, which is the fin that stands up on their back. The sound that they make also comes out of their blowholes which they also breathe out of. Dolphins do have sharp little teeth mostly used to catch fish, but not to chew them. They swallow their food whole and can consume up to 30 pounds of food a day. Dolphins can swim up to 25 mph, which Luis proved when he had Galileo do some diving tricks. One minute the dolphin was in the air, and faster than you can blink, as soon as it hit the water again, it was right back across the pool at Luis's hand for a fishy treat! He did leaps and dives, jumping 20 feet into the air, splashing all of us below! We also did some individual tricks, each one of us got to step out slap our hand on the water and Galileo would swim up to our other hand in the air and touch his nose to it. Then we would put our arms out to his fins and he would lift himself halfway out of the water and use his strong tail to balance and dance with us. This was the cutest trick: we would hold our hands out in a cupped position and when Luis gave him the signal, he would swim over to us, left his bottled nose and place it into our hands. We would then pucker up for a dolphiny kiss and a photo opp. After my turn, Luis asked if Galileo enjoyed it, and he let out a series of high pitched squeals and squeaks with his head nodding "yes" motion. Everyone got a laugh out of that!
They really are such playful animals, and as much as I had fun interacting with them in this park that enabled us to, it also made me very sad to see such wondrous creatures in captivity. However, Luis insisted that these dolphins survive longer in these parks which act more like conservations. Apparently it is hard for dolphins to find a sufficient amount of food in the wild to allow them to live as long as they should, and also they are hunted by sharks or harmed by human conditions. Before our time was up with them, we got to do a few more belly rubs and ever throw a piece of fish into Galileo's mouth. After we finished in the dolphin pool, we did some souvenir shopping and then headed to our bus stop which would take us back to the main strip by the port.
While we were waiting, our new friend Courtney who we met on the crazy Cozumel tender, had started up a conversation with Avi regarding how we enjoyed our experience here. She then proceeded to tell us that her and her mother who was standing beside her, were going to check out a restaurant who served this island delicacy of Turtle Burgers. Avi not really thinking I would go for this asked me, "Would you wanna go eat turtle burgers with them?" I thought about it for maybe a few seconds and though "When in Rome…" I mean, WHY NOT!? When is the next time I'm going to have this adventure? NEVER! Yes, I may have other adventures, but not this same one, right here, right NOW. So Avi and I took them up on the offer, and joined them at the Paradise Restaurant for some turtle burgers, rice n' beans, and some locally brewed beer.
I also spotted some TURTLE SOUP on the menu, which I had asked my cousin Danielle about in our last issue's travel piece about her trip to the Galapagos. She had never had it, but I was determined to find out for myself what this had tasted like! Curiosity had definitely gotten the best of me on this trip, and I was gung-ho about every experience! So Avi and I sunk our teeth into the turtley goodness.
Many people ask what it tastes like, and let me just say, I would definitely eat it again. The burgers were a nice reddish crisp on the outside, and the inside texture was somewhat of a slightly undercooked meatloaf. It definitely did not taste like chop meat, but it didn't taste like raw meat either, it was somewhere oddly in between. Courtney and her mom also joked how we must have been just as twisted as them to be playing with cute little baby turtles in a wading pool one minute, and then scarfing them down on a burger bun the next. (Not the same turtles we held, cuz THAT would just be way too weird ) :-P
This was the last excursion day we had. We spend the last whole day at sea doing activities around the ship, and lying out on the top deck for some last minute sun. As Avi and I stood at the balcony overlooking the large wake being left behind by our enormous ship, we spotted two little fish jumping in and out of the waves. They jumped a couple times, and as we looked closer, we noticed they were dolphins! Beautiful magical, mystical, WILD dolphins. Not in captivity…. free to roam the seas that they belong in. It reminded me that the ocean really is such a mysterious and beautiful place. It can be a very scary place, it can swallow you whole in an instant… but it is also a place that should be marveled at for all of it's natural beauty. It was the perfect ending to such an amazing adventure I will forever cherish in my box of memories. We looked onto the horizon and we were on our way home…
The first thing you notice when waking up in the port in Roatan, is the huge abandoned ship which has rusted over and partially sunken into the bed of the ocean. It looks like something out of a movie set, like it had been placed there for tourists to get a kick out of. Upon exiting the ship at the port in Roatan, everything seemed like a big party. There were islanders banging on drums and dancing around to the tribal grooves, pulling in tourists to dance with them. They danced like they were conjuring up spirits, or ridding their bodies of evil forces. On this day, we enjoyed our excursion along with my friend Kristin, her mom Jackie, Jackie's friend Cheryl, and Kristin's boyfriend David. We found our tour bus shortly after watching the dancing fiasco.
We were greeted by our tour guide, Joy. She was very funny and knowledgable about the island. The first thing she mentioned was the abandoned ship that we saw earlier, and informed us that it was actually a Carnival Cruise Ship that never made it back home. After she scared the wits out of all the bus passengers, she relieved us with "JUST KIDDING GUYS!" and proceeded to tell us the real history behind the ship. It was actually a cargo ship that got pushed into the bay and sunk during Hurricane Mitch in the 90s. As we zipped through the narrow twisting and turning roads of the island, Joy also told us that there were no speed limits in Honduras, and that STOP signs are merely suggestions. That put us all at ease as well! These tour guides really like to keep you on your toes!
We also learned some pretty interesting information pertaining to the lifestyle here. Teachers actually make more than doctors, and the highest paying salary you can get in Honduras is about $200 a month flat rate, no overtime. She also pointed out the colorful houses throughout the island and informed us that instead of delivering the mail according to house number, they deliver it according to the color combinations. No two houses have the same roof and house color combination. I also noticed many little Coca-Cola and Pepsi stands on the island. We must have driven by at least 20 of them.
She also talked about some of the wildlife here including the Rabbit of Roatan, which she made clear was not like the cute little white fluffy tailed hippity hoppity creatures that we were used to back home in the states. She referred to the rabbits of the island here as "Rabbits on Steroids", and then said, "You'll See". GREAT!! We soon arrived at Gumbalimba Park which was named after the Gumbalimba Tree. We ventured to Gumbalimba to explore various tropical wildlife such as parrots and capuchin monkeys. Before we could see these beautiful animals, we had to experience a little adventure first!
There was a replica cave dedicated to Pirate Captain John Coxen which we walked through for a short tour. Being that this was a man made cave, I was not expecting it to be inhabited by low flying fruit bats. I had to scream and duck for cover at least twice, giving the less skiddish quite the laugh. We learned a bit about Captain John Coxen here, who was a pirate infamously known for raiding the Gulf of Honduras. He also had an eyepatch and a hook on his hand, which legend has it, a mosquito was flying around his face, and forgetting that he had a hook for a hand, swatted the bug out of the way, and in turn, gauging out his eye. I am not sure how entirely true this legend is, I can't seem to find much about this guy on the internet referring to his hooked hand, patched eye, or pegged leg.
After the cave replica, we proceeded across a suspension bridge which stretched out across a murky river filled with turtles. I think we had the most fun on here, and I had flashbacks to my favorite scene in Indiana Jone's "Temple of Doom". We took our time walking across, as it didn't take much for the bridge to start swinging. We finally made it across and didn't realize that Joy was already waiting for us on the other side. There was an alternate, much faster route called "The Chicken Path" for those who were too nervous to cross the suspension bridge. She led us to an area with beautiful Amazon parrots and McCaws resting freely amongst the trees. There was a bird trainer also holding a Green Amazon parrot, allowing people to take their pictures with them. Everyone in our group had lots of fun with this. I allowed the heavy bird to sit on my left shoulder as it squawked ever so loudly in my ear. I've owned birds before, little cockatiels, but this was horse…errr… bird of a different color.
After we had fun with the crazy birds, Joy regrouped us and kind of reminded us about the rules and regulations when dealing with the monkeys. We had bought a locker so I didn't have to bring in any of the bags, because apparently these little guys are quite the pick pocketers! We were also instructed to leave our water bottles on the benches off to the side while we played with the monkeys. On the way into the monkey reserve, we heard rustling in the bushes. All of the sudden there were these two crazy guinea pig looking animals who were running at at least 25 miles an hour after each other, not even acknowledging the humans in their path. These were the Steroid Bunnies as Joy liked to call them. They really minded their own, but crazy they were indeed!
The experience with the monkeys definitely was not long enough. I really wish I could have spent my whole time at this park, in this section. There were also about 30 other people in this section at one time, so your time with your monkey, IF they even came over to you, was pretty abrupt. The monkeys were allowed to roam here freely, jumping on whoever they deemed interesting at any given moment. There were cute little baby ones and larger adult ones all mixed together. I had some time with about two different monkeys for a few minutes each. They would sit on my shoulder, and climb on my head, resting their human like little fingers on my forehead. The personality they all have is hilarious, and it's crazy how intelligent they are. So intelligent in fact that one of them saw our water bottle over on the bench and must have mistaken it for a toilet bowl because it decided to spray feces all over it! GROSS INDEED! We definitely chucked that right way!
On the way back to the park's entrance area we stopped at an Insectarium and bug museum which was just a little shack containing thousands of dried species of bugs in glass display cases. There were literally thousands of moths, beetles, roaches, butterflies, filling up each wall with their scientific names next to each. After we were done here it was time to head back to the main area to wait for our bus and collect some souvenirs. I bought a cute pair of monkey earrings made from the wood of a coconut tree, a bracelet, and a couple pocket knives in resin cases made from mahogany trees, all from a nice merchant lady. We then were picked up by our shuttle van that was more than scary, twisting and turning once more through the hills of Roatan as it rushed us back to the port to meet our ship. Every day on this trip, was one adventure after the next!
Photo Credits - Avinash Patel
See our next cruise stop - The Grand Cayman Islands!...
Carnival Cruise (Belize) – Day 4 of our adventures, we woke up in Belize! This place was probably the most adventurous due to the physical activities that we chose to take part in this day! We were going zip lining through the jungles and cave tubing! I was extremely nervous about the zip lining, but we’ll get to that in a sec.
We woke up and got ready for the day, packing our water shoes, bathing suits, and other gear for the excursion. We went to the lido deck for our morning breakfast buffet as usual, before meeting up with our excursion group. The ship didn’t dock here, but anchored, so upon exiting the ship we had to take a small tender boat to shore. It was maybe a 15 minute ride and I was able to keep my nausea in check. We then took a bus ride from the shore to the theme park which was a little over an hour long.
Our tour guide, Niori was a nice Belizan guy who informed us that our time with him would be in fact “UN-BELIZE-ABLE!” He also gave us a little insight to the culture on this rather new independent nation. Belize used to be the Republic of Honduras, under British rule until about 1983 or so. The main dialect on the island is not French Kriol, but Belizan Kriol. The phrase of the trip was “YAH MAN!” Upon pulling out of the bus station we drove through the streets of Belize City, in which Niori told us that there are only 7 traffic lights on the whole island of Belize, and only 6 of them work.
That was assuring! There is also only one cinema and one bowling alley on the whole island. Currency in Belize is double the USD, so gas prices there are about $12, which is about $6 a gallon, USD. We should feel lucky things for us here are still hovering below the $4 mark (well, in Jersey anyway). On this bus ride we also passed a school, and a cemetery in which the tombs were oddly above ground. Niori explained to us that this was because if you dig past 3 feet underground you hit water. So in the case of a husband and wife being buried together, the first person was buried 3 feet underground, and then the second person was just placed on top of the ground, to equal 6 feet. Belize is also known for its export of tropical produce such as mangoes, oranges, pineapples, coconuts, etc. He said about 97% of the oranges found in Florida orange juices comes from Belize. Do not believe the 100% Florida Oranges Labels!
He also explained why cashews are so expensive here! They are one of the most dangerous nuts to harvest. Cashews actually grow in a fruit, which looks like a cross between a red bell pepper and an apple. The nut rests on top. You cannot eat the fruit because it is highly toxic! In order to extract the nut from the fruit and dry them, they must take them out into a field and burn them which produces a chemical so potent that it could blind you! This dangerous process is why we pay so much for these nuts! We take for granted the things we have no idea went into making such a small tin of nuts. Niori passed back multiple pamphlets on all of the information he was talking about. There was one male couple who appeared to be from Sweden or somewhere of the sort.
They kept annoying Avi and I because they kept hogging all of the pamphlets and we wanted to see the information! Haha! As we indulged on all of this information, we made our way into a more rural area of the island. In the distance, we could see a mountain range that locals call “The Sleeping Giant”. It looks like the profile of a large man’s head lying face up. Niori said that’s where we were headed, and to be aware for the place we were going to be inhabiting for the remainder of the afternoon was called Jaguar Paw Park, and that actual Jaguars do live there. They do not believe in restricting their wildlife from where they want to go, just for the sake of tourism, but he did assure us that they would see us, before we saw them, and they would actually avoid us.
Trust me, this did not put my mind at ease one bit!! I just tried to ignore this information and enjoy the day. We continued on our bus journey down long stretches of road with hut-like houses scattered along the way. As we approached the park area a bit closer, we had slowed down our pace a bit and were able to see the curious locals making their way out of their houses to catch a glimpse of the tour buses coming through. Little children were playing in their front yards and running up to the bus and waving. It was the cutest thing ever.
After more twisty and turned roads, we had arrived at the welcome area of the Caves Branch Outpost Adventure Park. We were driven up a dirt path and upon exiting our air conditioned bus, we were escorted to a more “earthy” school bus. It was literally a school bus. A hot and sweaty one at that! Avi and I ushered ourselves into a 2 seater with our backpacks like eager grade schoolers on the first day. As all of the adventure seekers got situated on the bus, Niori gave us a little pep talk.
There were multiple tour groups here at this park, so he decided to give us a code name so we knew when we had to meet up throughout the day. He called us “Niori’s Legendary Crazy Cashew Nuts”, and we were directed to respond with a “YAH MAN!” so he knew where we were. The bus had started it’s journey through a small section of brush and then we came to a steep hill surrounded by jungle on both sides. The bus accelerated with all of its might to make its way up this hill. The way down on the other side was just as steep, and it was scary to think what would have happened if the breaks would have went out! OH MY!
Upon landing at the bottom of the hill, all of the passengers’ heads chaotically moved to and fro like bobble head dolls as the wheels at the back of the bus bounced, grounding us once more. We came to an area of little huts with straw roofs scattered throughout the park, where we exited the bus. We were directed to water shoe rentals or to purchase our locker keys from the attendant, which was about $5.00. The beauty of a cruise is that you don’t really have to worry about money conversions, as most of these excursion parks accept USD. If you are doing any sort of water sport at a park like this, I HIGHLY suggest that you bring your own water shoes!! I bought a cheap $12 pair from target, and Avi invested in his a little more and bout a pair of Merrell Water Sneakers for about $100.
It really doesn’t matter how much money you spend on these, cuz they’re gonna get wet and dirty. It’s just important to have your own because I am pretty certain that the ones they offer at the parks are never cleaned, and you never know what kind of foot fungus other people could be spreading around. Just the thought of that grosses me out! I was skeeved out enough as it is, wearing a sopping wet life vest that someone else had worn before me. Most of the life vests smelled like a gnarly combination of wet dog and body odor, it was really not pleasant at all. Anyway, we had skipped over the water shoe rental and hit up the locker key stand instead.
After we got our keys, we headed to the locker area and put our stuff away as the sounds of Caribbean music filled the tropical air. I was so excited to get going! Avi and I both went to the bathroom and then met back up outside to make our way to the gear station. As we walked there, we heard screams from above. As we looked up, we saw zip liners crazily zooming across the jungle over our heads. I nervously looked up and Avi caught wind of the possibility that I may have very well been shitting my pants in anticipation of this new thrill seeking venture. HAD I COMPLETELY LOST MY MIND!??! He assured me that 200 feet above ground isn’t really all that high. “That’s about like, 50 of you”, he reassured me. He was not helping.
We made our way closer to the front of the gear line and eventually suited up. The gear was pretty heavy, and I felt sorry for Avi’s suffocated “man parts” due to that restricting harness. After getting all situated, a nice person offered to take our picture of us in our gear. Afterward, our group had hiked about a half mile uphill into the jungle toward our safety briefing. As we climbed up the man-made stairs up this very REAL mountain, Avi and I joked about how we felt like we were contestants on Legends of the Hidden Temple (If this doesn’t show our age)! I passively made conversation and laughed as I secretly was keeping an eye out for snakes.
All of the sudden I spotted a coiled up looking creature resting on the stairs in front of me. Before my eyes could focus on what it was, I assumed the worst, and jumped about 5 feet into the air. I scared Avi, and the people behind us were laughing at me hysterically. I am a spaz! The coiled creature was just a dried up palm leaf or something of that nature. I felt like an idiot, but needless to say we all got a good laugh about it, so I’m glad I could have provided some entertainment along our monotonous 2 mile trek up a mountain with 10 extra pounds of solid gear on, in the tropical heat. NBD.
Eventually we came to a rest area for our safety briefing with a little island man named Richard. There was a sample zip line running over a half moon shaped area of about 3 rows of stadium seating which reminded me of Survivor’s Tribal Council area. All we needed were torches and an immunity necklace. My eyes wandered around wondering who I would vote off if I could. Richard welcomed us all and demonstrated some different techniques for braking and remaining a forward position. He swung back and forth like a little monkey and made things look so easy. I was still not completely convinced that I knew what I was doing.
After he dismissed us from our briefing, we walked more and got in line on a staircase leading up to a platform high in the trees. I was anxiously shaking in anticipation as we waited in line to do the first line (which was the longest, and highest, at about 200 ft). Yea, cuz that’s not scary! The workers would yelp like monkeys across the way to the guy at the other end of the line, to let them know when they were ready for the next victim. We laughed our asses off at the random shit people would scream on their zip across the first line. I went ahead of Avi, and he filmed my first zip line. The look on my face was definitely one of uncertainty as the jamaican sounding island man pulled me by my harness and instructed me to stand on a wooden crate to get my footing. He looked frustrated with me because I didn’t understand him through his thick island accent.
When he finally got me hooked up and ready to go, I took one last unsure glance at Avi’s camera as if to say, “Well it’s been nice knowing you babe!” As I floated away on the line, you could hear the relief in my “WOOHOO!” as I ascended into the jungle at lightning speed. The wind rushed past my body as I floated upon the canopy of palms, ferns, and mahogany trees which are native to this land. I remember doing what they tell you not to do, which was looking down! I WANTED to see how high I was, to seize just how adventurous this whole experience actually was. As I made it to the other side, Avi close behind me, I felt all of the adrenaline rush out of me, totally stoked that there were 4 more lines to come! This was by far one of the most adventurous things I have ever done.
It all went by so fast, I really wish I had a Go Pro cam so we could have filmed more of our experience. I tried filming Avi during his, but we had on thick utility gloves so it was hard to get things set up quickly. He got yelled at for trying to film, but he managed to leave the camera running and tied to his belt as he went across the second line. This was by far a great experience, and I would do zip lining again in a heart beat. I just wish there were more lines here for all the money we paid to do it, but I guess when they’re cramming in a double adventure, that’s the price you pay. They have to get their people back to their cruises on time, and we still had to do our cave tubing.
After the zip line, we had regrouped with Niori before being sent off with our cave tubing guide, Peter. We got on our water shoes from our lockers and then went to pick up our lifejackets, light helmets and neon green inflatable tubes. As we got our supplies, we trudged up yet another mountain toward the caves. Peter stopped every now and then at different trees marked with signs to identify them. We saw Mahogany Trees, Prickly Yellows, Cotton Trees, and Coconut Trees. We finally arrived to the clearing, the entrance of the cave which was surrounded by lush greenery and fresh water filled with tiny little clear minnows. I was hoping they were harmless! There were about 10 people in our group, 2 people per row, all hooked together by putting their legs under the person’s armpit in front of them. Avi and I were placed in the very back, right behind none other than the same Swedish dudes who were annoying us on the bus! My foot was wedged under the one guy’s armpit and I swear he was squeezing my ankle on purpose.
I was in pain the whole time, so if you’re gonna go on a tube tour that uses this method, I suggest trying your best to make a b line to the front. Also in the back, it was a bit hard to hear our tour guide because there were about 5 other tours going on in front and behind us. Even if you whisper in a cave, the sound just bounces around, so all it sounded like was a trail of echoes. I got a few bits of information, like the red deposits on the ceiling were iron, and there were also limestone deposits. Also the Mayans used to come into these caves to perform sacred rituals. There was also a section of the cave that was exposed to light, due to a sinkhole that had collapsed the earth where that part of the cave was. The water in the cave was shallow for the most part, but went up to 40 feet deep in some parts. I did witness a fruit bat flying through the cave upon entering. They live in the holes of the cave ceiling and eat up to 1000 insects per hour.
Also if you are going to do this excursion, be sure to lift your ass in the shallow parts because you will cut it on the rocks! Those rocks are a bit sharp… Avi’s butt snagged a few! I was paranoid and kept lifting my ass. The tube tour started off fun, but it slowly became a bit annoying between not being able to hear our tour guide, snagging butts on rocks, and our ankles being twisted under the armpits of the complete strangers in front of us. The cave tubing was fun, but the zip lining totally took the cake here. After we exited the cave, we had to trek back down the mountains with our tubes and returned all our gear. By this point we were STARVING!
We headed back to the lockers, put some dry clothes on, and headed to the bar for some grub and a cold one. We feasted upon some delicious authentic Belizan cuisine: Stewed Chicken, Rice & Beans, and Cole Slaw. Avi also got us some chicken tacos and we washed it all down with some cold Belikins which was the local beer of Belize. After, we hit the gift shop where I bought a bright blue beach bag with fish on it, for my mom, a postcard with an iguana on it, and a cute wooden butterfly keychain that said Belize on it.
The bus arrived as we were checking out, and Niori shouted for his “Legendary Nuts”! We hurried back aboard the bus with our gifts and Belekins in hand. We got situated in our seats and the bus wasn’t leaving yet because there were a couple people missing from the group. They took like 15-20 extra minutes just trying to track these people down! They finally got on the bus and we headed back to the port. During the ride back, Avi and I both drifted off to dreamland as Niori answered some questions from our curious tour group. I heard him telling them that he goes to night school to study. I forget what exactly it was that he was studying, as I was drifting to a deep sleep.
We had awoken to the sound of the bus brakes as we had pulled up back to the terminal. As we gathered our things to disembark, Niori thanked us for coming on his tour and taught us one more phrase to take home with us. When asked where we went on our adventures, we should say in Belizian Kriol “Ahm be gone, ahm Belize!” We had a wonderful time here, and we left with great knowledge of this beautiful island. As we prepared to exit the bus, Niori explained to us that we had about one whole hour to do some shopping along the tender docks where we were dropped off when we got there earlier in the day.
I think we were something like Dock 10. Avi and I strolled along the docks drifting in and out of a few shops. I bought a cute red gauze sling bag and a little woven bookmark with a little cloth doll hanging on the end, which both said BELIZE on them. We were in the shop maybe 10 minutes or so, and Avi started getting noticeable anxious. For some reason he sensed that we needed to get to our pier ASAP. We ran down to dock ten so Avi could ask the lady what time our tender gets there. She saw that we were with The Legend Ship and directed to the pier all the way completely at the other end of the pier. He was like “Oh Shit! Do you know what time it leaves?” She told us that it was leaving NOW. It’s a good thing Avi had that gut feeling, or we would have been stranded in Belize without our passports, since Avi insisted that we keep them locked in our room safe on the ship.
I mean, I understand you don’t wanna lose something like that, but what good does it do in there, if you’re in an emergency like that!? I didn’t even want to imagine what would have happened! So we booked it to the other end of the pier and hopped on the tender just as they were about to close the door. The tender hand had made sure we were on The Legend, and then intercommed over to someone that he had found “The Two”… You mean we were holding this shit up? OMG. Why did Niori tell us we had a whole hour to shop and that we were already by our tender dock? RULE: Don’t ever rely on what guides tell you, always double check yourself with travel times! We nervously boarded the tender by the skin of our teeth, and the tender hand continued to intercom with the Legend’s captain. Apparently we weren’t the last 2. There were another 3 people missing from the tender, but unfortunately they didn’t luck out so much. The tender hand wanted to wait for the couple a bit longer, and was arguing with The Legend captain because he wanted to leave on schedule.
The captain had won that battle, and we were back off across the sea as we made our way back to the ship. YIKES for that trio! I hope they had their passports on them! The only option they had at this point, was to get a flight from Belize’s tiny little airport and meet up with our cruise in the next stop which was Roatan, Honduras. If there were no flights out, they would have had to get a flight back to port in Tampa or wherever, but if their passports were on the ship, then they wouldn’t be able to enter the country. Also, what about their bags? Carnival had everything! Talk about an expensive mistake! These were all of the things Avi and I were realizing when thinking about what we would have had to go through had that actually been us. We were so relieved we made it when we did…
When we finally got back on the ship, we had to start getting ready for our dinner reservations at the steakhouse with Kristin, David, Jackie, and Cheryl. This was probably the only meal we actually paid for on deck, I think it was something like $35 a person for a 4 course meal and the dress attire was elegant, so we had all had a reason to get all fancy shmancy! I wore a really pretty blue cotton top maxi dress with flowing chiffon in a blue and orange mandala print, and my hair in an up do. Avi looked equally handsome in a dark olive button down shirt and his hair slicked to the side. We had some time to kill before dinner, so we headed down to the bar in the main lobby and watched the Polynesian Live Wedding Style Band as we sipped on Miami Vices and Pina Coladas. Afterward, we took the elevator all the way to the top level of the ship, where the exquisite restaurant was located.
As we walked into the cathedral ceiling dining room, we were seated at a big round table and waited for the rest of our party to arrive. The decor was beautiful, wooden banisters and a greek mural which stretched along the top of the back wall. Soon after, Kristin arrived with David, and Jackie and Cheryl followed soon after. We started with some appetizers. Avi was brave enough to try the Escargot Bourguignonne which was a garlic herb butter sauce. I had the Lobster Bisque with Vintage Cognac, which was quite delicious. We were also brought out little dainty cups of chilled tomato soup, compliments of the chef. They were pretty tasty! We all had some salad, and ordered our main courses. I think Avi and I both got the Surf & Turf if I remember correctly.
All the food was just so delicious, we were so stuffed after, but we still had to order dessert! I got the chocolate sampler which came with little shot glasses filled with different flavors like Bittersweet Chocolate Cake, Banana Pannacotta, Tiramisu, and Chocolate Marquise. Avi opted for the cheesecake which was larger than his head. Like, literally! We took most of it back to the room. We all had wonderful conversation throughout dinner. Kristin’s coworker also had family on the ship as well, and they were dining across the room from us. Her boyfriend had actually proposed to her which was fun to watch happen.
After dinner, Jackie and Cheryl decided to go back to their rooms or something of the sort. Kristin had the night off from shows, so she wanted to hang out with us and wander about the ship. We decided to hit up the bar and lounge area in front of the Medusa Night Club for awhile where Angie, the ship’s acoustic guitarist was stationed, entertaining passer-byers or other folks lounging around the area. Kristin bought us some drinks at the bar, and we chatted in some plush leather lounge chairs for awhile, about life and her plans, and how long she plans on working for Carnival, etc.
Some of her friends came down from dinner and everyone was congratulating her friend on her engagement. People came and left the area, and as time had passed we started getting bored and tired, so we decided to go inside the Medusa club and get a round of shots. We had some fireball whisky and danced mostly on the top level. We had fun people watching the disco dance floor from above. We were laughing at all of the drunk white girls dancing, down below the balcony we were watching from. YIKES. If I remember correctly, there may have been a scuffle and some people had gotten kicked out of the club.
Things started getting out of hand so after some dancing and drinks, we left the nightclub and hung out outside the club a bit as the bouncers were doing their job. Kristin was telling us about how there was a jail, a hospital, and a morgue on deck. Then things got really heavy and she was telling us about some of the people who have jumped off the ship, committing suicide, during her time working there. That thought is pretty scary. Not that I’ve thought about it, but that doesn’t seem like the best way to go if you ask me. If you jump, and you live, now you’re floating in the middle of nowhere in the freezing cold ocean, until a shark decides to come and eat you alive. No Thanks!
Well anyway… we may or may not have made our way down to crew bar that night. I know by the end of this day, I was extremely exhausted, and we needed a good night’s sleep because the next day was Roatan, Honduras where we will get to interact with monkeys and parrots! Goodnight all!
Day 3 - We docked at the port in Cozumel, Mexico. We rose bright and early so we could get dressed and head down to the buffet on lido deck for some fuel for the day. I think we had eggs, bacon, potatoes, fresh fruit, and we even both shoved some banana in our bag in case we got hungry on our excursion. After breakfast we made our way down to the ever so gaudy Comedy Club to meet up with the tour group which was to depart around 8:30. We were a bit early, so we bought a couple of cold waters from the vendor in front of the theater. As we sat in the overly air conditioned theater, me freezing my ass off, wearing nothing but a washcloth of a shirt over a bikini top and coochie cutter shorts, the tour guide arrived and told us the rules and regulations of leaving the ship. We were not allowed to take any fruits off the boat, so I had to leave my bananas behind. I saw another guy take my bananas where I left them and put them in his own bag to try to smuggle them in. The nerve of some people!
Avi and filed into the line as we made our way out of the theater and down to the security checkout. The ship was actually docked at this port so we were able to walk right off the ship here. Upon exiting the ship, we entered a circus of excited tourists, ship security, and photo ops with paid carnival employees dressed in pirate stowaways on stilts. We were quickly motioned to hurry up and pose and act surprised or scared, and then whisked away by our tour guide toward little boat tenders which were to take us to the actual Cozumel shore. It was about a 45 minute ride, choppy as ever!! If there is one thing REAL Pirates don’t get, it’s seasick! And boy was I ever! A nice stranger gave me some mint gum to settle my stomach as we got off. We also met up with our tour guide, Angel who told me that it helps if I sit down and elevate my legs a little bit to alleviate some of the nausea. I did this and chewed on the mint gum for a few minutes while the rest of the tour group was filing off of the tender. I fought through the nausea and got up so we could make our way toward our bus.
As we walked off of the tender landing and onto the shore, we approached many little restaurants and touristy bistros which looked so relaxing. It was so tempting to just go into one of those and pop a squat and order a cold one after the rough ride we had endured, but Avi and I had agreed that we would have rather spent the extra money on an excursion to learn about the culture. We could sit on a beach any time we wanted to, but we were here, in Mexico, in the presence of one of the most mysterious ancient civilizations… it was a privilege to be here and explore the Mayan territories. So we did just that…
Avi and I enjoyed the air conditioned bus ride, as we listened to our very informative guide, Angel, talk about the Ancient Mayan Ruins of Tulum. He told us about the Obsidian, which is naturally formed volcanic glass that was found on the bottom of the ocean. It turns a gold hue when placed in the light. The ancient Mayans, the REAL LIFE MERMAIDS, would free dive, holding their breath into the depths of the ocean to chisel off this obsidian and bring it back to use in every day rituals, or in making tools, spears, etc. The Mayans relied heavily on nature to give them the answers, the secrets to life. They relied on the sun, the moon, the stars, and Mother Earth to build their empire. They were the most technologically advanced civilization for their time, and when the Spaniards invaded the Yucatan, they sadly tried to destroy most of the Mayan culture. Angel also made sure that he made the distinction that the Mayans and the Aztecs were in no way shape or form related, as Hollywood and American Stereotypes have brainwashed us to think. They actually did not even exist within the same time period, the Mayans establishing their civilization around 2000 BC and ruling their empire until the Spaniards arrived around 900 AD, where the Aztecs did not even establish their empire until about 1400 AD. There were many interesting facts that Angel enlightened us about, especially with the cuisine.
In the Yucatan, burritos do not exist because they don’t have access to livestock such as cattle or pig, like they do in Northern Mexico. In the Yucatan, they feed mostly on fish & other seafood. Also, tacos here were flat, and soft shelled. If you wanted a taco shell here, it is actually called a Tostada. They season their seafood tacos with fresh ingredients like lemon or lime, garlic, cilantro, and fresh salsa that they called Ay Ay Ay! This Ay Ay Ay salsa contained 10 habanero peppers to every 1 tomato, NOW THAT’S HOT! The whole ride there, he shared a wealth of information with us, and also told us about the “Cartouche”. These cartouches were pendants made out of the obsidian I had mentioned earlier, and they were inscribed with mayan hieroglyphs to spell out a name. He gave us forms to fill out if we wanted to purchase one and pick up on the way back to the bus on our way back. I chose the shortened version of my name JUST, so I could all different letters. It was like $10 a letter, so yup, you guessed it, I paid a whopping $40 bucks for this thing.. I will get to this a little later on. Now back to the actual trip.
Before we had actually gone to the ruins of Tulum, we stopped at a little shop area first, so Angel could enlighten us more on the Obsidian. He had actual chunks of Obsidian that he held in his hand which would change to the goldish hue in the sunlight, as the crowd around him Oo’d and Ah’d. We had about 20 minutes after this demonstration to rush inside this tourist trap and gather all of the souvenirs we could carry (or afford) before we had to rush back to the bus and pose for a photo op against a green screen background, to which they superimposed us in front of the Paris Louvre, complete with the saying “I thought we were going to Mexico!” We were able to download this online for free after our trip.
We got back onto to bus and drove another few miles til we got to a parking lot. We all filed off the bus and handed in our cartouche order forms and then followed Angel over to a little village of shops where he told us our local beer and food options. We passed by many vendors and came to an area of people dressed up like ancient mayan warriors. He warned us to have our money ready if we wanted to take a picture with them, because that’s what they did for a living. Note to self: No pictures with the fake Mayan Warriors. Onward. We had a choice to either take a bus to the ruins, or do the mile walk in order to hear more of Angels lessons on ancient Mayan history. We opted to walk! We made an effort the whole way to stay as close to the front of the line as possible!
Angel stopped at things along the way like ginormous ant hives in trees. Since the ground is filled with water, the ants had to adapt to new habitats off of the ground, so they would form huge ant hives which looked like gigantic clumps of dirt up in the trees. We also spotted some wild Guati, which looks like a weird combination of a Monkey, raccoon, and Ardvark or Anteater. Before we got to the ruins, we also stopped along some large trees which the Mayan’s used for many things. They believed that the spirits of the dead would pass through these trees into other worlds because of how hollow it was. They also used the hollow trees as drums as music was a huge part of ancient ceremony. Since the ground is rich in limestone, the trees would absorb a lot of the water into the base, so this was another way the Mayans would use nature in their survival. The leaves would also produce cotton, which is how they made their linens. They really found uses for everything around them.
After the tree talk, we went to another little area located underneath a hut with a diorama of the whole island in a glass case centered in the hut area. The crowd congregated around Angel and the diorama as he explained the need for certain things, such as a decoy landing for ships so that the island wouldn’t be attacked or infiltrated. That bit of information was very interesting. Here, we also learned that the hammock is the bed of the Yucatan, since the swinging motion simulates a breeze in the conditions of extreme heat and humidity. After this bit of information, he took us to a rest area to use the bathrooms and stuff one more time before we headed into the ruins area. I quickly went (as fast as I could mind you), and came out to Avi in a panic, motioning me to hurry the fuck up because our group was leaving! I wiped as fast as I could! Jeez! We caught up and walked through the turnstile with our excursion paper wristbands that allowed us to pass.
We walked quite a bit, upstairs, through flora and fauna, and little caves as Angel dispersed more information about ancient mayan civilization. We passed through one more little cave before we finally came to a clearing. From here, you could see the ruins settled on the lush green landscape, and scattered for miles, which were beyond breathtaking. It was a gorgeous utopia rich with palm trees, a warm salty aired tropical breeze that rolled off the ocean and caressed your face, which you could also hear crashing in the background. You could even see the bits of crystal blue waters peaking above the land in the distance.
Iguanas and large lizards were everywhere you turned, but they didn’t bother you if you didn’t bother them. These ruins overlooked a white sand beach that lead out to beautiful crystal clear blue waters!! It was unfortunately closed this day due to high tide, so we couldn’t go down and explore. Anyway, the ruins were built in such a way that allowed them to withstand the conditions of erosion over time. They were built at an angle which allowed ocean water, wind, and other precipitation to just go in one direction and roll right off rather than sit on the ruins and destroy things faster.
Angel also told us a lot about how the Mayan culture believed that your birthdate is actually the moment you were conceived, as opposed to the moment you are actually born into the world. He could have written a book with all of the information he had given us. He led us to one more ruin centered in the island before he parted ways with us and told us to feel free to explore the island on our own, as long as we were back on the bus in an hour 1/2 or so. He gave us specific directions for heading back to the bus, “Once you go over the bridge, make a right, because if you make a left, you will end up in Belize!” That was funny since our next cruise stop was in Belize, we were joking that we could just meet the cruise there, if that happened. So we parted ways with Angel, for now, and we took our time strolling along in the Yucatan heat.
We walked up the steps past the first ruin and over a hill to get to the cliff overlooking the ocean. We went to the railing and looked onto the white sandy beach. It was no wonder we weren’t allowed to go down and enjoy it, the tide was so high, the white waves crashed past the shoreline and hit the base of the mountain of which we were standing, below. We wandered around this lookout point for the next 20 minutes or so, stopping here and there to take some photos. One nice person offered to take the only shot we have of the both of us, standing on the lookout point above the chaotic beach below. The crowds did start to get a bit annoying, every time we tried to take a picture in front of a nice backdrop, other people would come in and try to take the same picture… I didn’t really have time to pose for many of them, so I got stuck in some of them with the stupid huge water bottle I was carrying, in my arms. LOL! I look so awkward in the photos with them.
On the walk back, I rested on some rocks with my new iguana pals while Avi took a photo of me with them. We decided to leave the beach area, and discover more of the ruins back on the land part of the island, so we made our way back over the hilltop and down the steps past herds of tourists heading our way. Wow! We really beat the real crowd! We decided to explore less crowded ruins for photo opps on the walk back to the bus. I remember stripping my top half down to just my bikini because it was so hot out this day! I remember my sunburnt arms stinging as my backpack straps rubbed against my skin. Each step was a bit painful since Avi and I were burn so bad from not putting sunscreen on the day before. The funny thing was, that morning when Avi went to put his shoes on, he goes, “That’s weird, my feet are the only part that don’t burn”… I was like, “Dummy, your feet were the ONLY thing you decided to put sunblock on.” He just remembered and we both started cracking up. Gotta love him.
We made our trek back to the village shopping area, and made sure to hitch a RIGHT off the bridge, instead of the left. Didn’t want to end up walking to Belize! So we walked back, sweating and starving as ever. We walked back on a path between two sides of Yucatan jungle filled with Guati and oversized ant hives. Tourists and Bicyclists bustled about the path as we made our way past fresh coconut water stands, sold right from the coconut itself! These looked so quenching right about now, but I think they were like $6 a piece, so we decided to hold out for our cervezas right outside the bus stop. We made our way through the village where the shop and merchant area was filled with the photo opp merchants and people holding lizards. I walked up to one who had a large scaly iguana draped around his neck like a scarf, and I asked him if I could pet it. I ran my fingers along its bumpy boddess, and then he tried to get me to take a picture with him. I kindly refused his offer and we pressed on. There were toothless island natives selling their homemade wares to us, chunks of obsidian, wooden skulls and crocheted hammocks.
We kindly passed up their offers, when all the sudden an island native man with raggedy clothing and a toothless grin appeared out of nowhere, holding a baby lion cub. Avi and I just looked at each other and pretty much read each other’s mind at that moment, “Is this dude seriously holding a baby lion? And where the fuck did he get THAT in the middle of the Yucatan!?” We are nowhere near Africa, or a zoo, so the randomness of this was extremely hilarious. The man asked if we wanted to take a picture with it, and I motioned toward him but then remembered Angel’s warning, “This is what these people do for a living and every picture costs money”, so then I kindly said, “No, gracias, lo siento”. The lion cub looked like it was in a bit of a daze, it was ever so calm, just resting in his arms. It then hit me that it was probably tranquilized in order to behave for touchy tourists dying to pet it. I then felt a wave of disgust come over and walked away feeling a bit sad for the poor little animal.
We soon happened upon the little food stand that made the best fish tacos on the island. Avi and I placed 2 orders of the tacos de pescado y arroz y negros along with 2 of the local beers from the nice little Mexican man taking the orders there. We got one Leon and one Montejo beer for the road. Avi got the Ay Ay Ay extra hot sauce for his! He’s Brave! The good thing about these tourist excursion stops is that we were able to use USD for all purchases. After the food stand, we made our way over to the Cartouche place so we could pick up our customized name necklaces in Mayan Hieroglyphs. We got in line with our hands full of our food orders and told the spanish speaking clerk what our names were. They took awhile to find mine, they kept giving me someone else’s so I had to write it down for her, lol.
After we got our necklaces, we made our way to the bus where Angel was there to greet us with a couple tour staff with a drink stand, and clean towelettes to freshen up with. He was also selling Tulum informational booklets that apparently we would not be able to find ANYWHERE else. We decided to pass on this offer, and head into the bus so we could start chowing down on this local cuisine. When we are in the presence of food, there is NOTHING else in our way :-D. We got on the bus, found our seats, popped a squat, and dug in! We were on the bus for maybe 10-15 minutes eating, and waiting for the rest of the herd to get back. As Angel rounded up the rest of the troops, our bus driver, Manuel made his way up and down the aisle yelling, “Quienes Esta Boleta?” Someone lost their bag, YIKES!
We soon headed back on our way to the tender boat port. On the way there, Angel was thanking us for coming with him on this tour. He also told us to come back and check out some of the many other hundred of Mayan Ruin sites all over the Yucatan Peninsula. This trip was just a wealth of information that is hard to come by here in the States. Angel himself is of Mayan heritage and told us things that are not commercially advertised properly here in the US. We see so many stereotypes here, and he really made it his #1 priority to open our eyes to the truth of the Mayan culture & history. He also told us that this tour was the least popular excursion of all of the excursions that Carnival has to offer. It saddened Avi and I, because most people go on these cruises to just sit on a beach all day. I think that’s what separates vacationers from travelers. We were the Scallywags in this case, seeking out adventure in learning more about this ancient rich culture! When you go to a new place, try to learn about the CULTURE! Sure beaches are nice, but you can do that anywhere! I am SO grateful for my experience at the Ancient Ruins of Tulum in Cozumel, Mexico.
We boarded the tender boat which was shaking restlessly amongst the choppy waves. This tender was a bit nicer, it was indoor and air conditioned and there were TV screens playing movies, I don’t remember what movie was on. Avi and I found our seats and got comfortable. I was hoping and praying that the ride back wasn’t as nauseating, so I popped a piece of ginger gum, and closed my eyes as I rested my head on Avi’s shoulder. As the boat made it’s way off the docking station, Angel waved goodbye to us as he disappeared in the distance. The waves were choppy, but not enough to make me nauseous, just enough to lull me to sleep. Before we knew it, we had arrived back to our Carnival Legend port, and walked back to the ship. We went through security and walked up to our cabin to get refreshed, drop some stuff off, and decided to explore the ship a bit more. We went all the way to the highest point of the ship, where there was a walking/running track, mini golf, and I think basketball hoops. There were children playing and laughing, and we just stood atop the balconies taking in the view. Avi also used this opportunity to test his panoramic features on his camera. We started to get a little hungry so we made our way up to Lido deck for a snack.
We were supposed to meet Kristin and the whole gang for dinner in the Truffles dining hall, but I don’t think Avi and I had stomachs suited for a full 3 course meal this evening. I was feeling ok enough at this point to stomach some gourmet pizza. We got one personal pie, which was about 2 slices each, so we got half Prosciutto and Arugula, and half a mushroom pie. We tried a bit of each other’s slices as we sat in the dining room looking out onto the choppy Cozumel water. The prosciutto was a bit weird, it was more like Ham than actual prosciutto, so we were calling it Ham-sciutto! LOL! It was still delicious, nonetheless, and after we were finished, we took our drinks and headed out to the Serenity deck area to snag one of those little bungalo beds facing the water. We cozied up in one of those and just snuggled and took in the beauty of the sunset.
It was so nice to be able to relax and just have one on one time after such a long and exhausting, but fun day! We were still docked, so my stomach was still pretty settled at this point. Soon, the clouds made their way past the sun as it hit the horizon, so unfortunately we did not get the ultimate sunset experience we so hoped for. Avi brought up a good point that we had to get ready for Kristin’s Magic Show that was in just a couple hours, so we made our way down to our room to shower and get dressed for the night.
I put on a cute Mexican printed sundress with some tan straw wedges, and left my hair a tussled but neat mess once again. I was really loving what the Caribbean salty air was naturally doing to my hair. I put on my little black velour hoodie and we made our way down to Truffles to try to get a little more in our stomach before the show. We started with some shrimp cocktail, followed by some lobster mac n cheese which I could not even finish because I was starting to feel nauseous again. I’m pretty sure the boat started moving again at this point. I think Avi was getting frustrated with the service because we had a show to catch, and also with me cuz I just felt like crap and he felt helpless. We finished up dinner, and left almost full plates to scurry our way through cocktail bars and smoky casinos, all across to the front of the ship to the Follie’s Theater.
The front of the ship gets the brunt of the choppiness so you can only imagine what it felt like embarking back onto the crazy Cozumel waters after a full day of on and off nausea, and a full belly of not yet digested food, mind you. We sat there in the front row of the theater with Kristin’s Mom and her friends, as the waves bounced and bobbled us around like porcelain dolls on a water bed. Each motion made me clench my stomach and throat muscles in efforts to choke back the bile from exploding out of me like an erupting volcano. There were reports from the show announcer over the theater’s loudspeaker, that if the turbulence got any worse, that the show would be cancelled for the safety of the dancers. I was secretly hoping this were true so I could go back to our cabin and just sleep off this demon. I tried to ignore my nausea as best as I could and focus on the scantily clad dancers adorned in pleather mid drifts and “come fuck me” boots, sifting across the stage on road cases on wheels, swinging around on ropes, and random explosions of pyrotechnics.
The lead magician looked something like Cris Angel’s long lost brother who had a little too much fun with his stick of guyliner, prior to the show. The show was edgy and awesome, backed by dark industrial thumping beats, and I would have totally enjoyed it had it not been for the “choppy” circumstances. The whole time Kristin pranced about on stage in her Gothika gear, I kept a peripheral eye on Alice’s God-fearing face. Her expressions were hilarious, you would have thought Satan himself had appeared right before her very eyes. Before we knew it, the show was over and I so wanted to make a B line right for our cabin, but Kristin’s mother wanted to take a picture of us with the cast and stuff, so we had to wait for the cast to come back out, and the lines of other fans to get theirs in first. I held off the nausea for as long as I could.
Finally the cast was free from the surrounding crowd, and Alice actually complimented Kristin on how amazing the show was. We were all shocked! We finally got our picture with the cast and then Kristin asked us to come down to crew bar again. Avi and I told her about my nausea all day, and she told me that drinking would actually help my nausea because it throws off your equilibrium so you wouldn’t be as focused as if you were sober. I’m sure she was right because she deals with this on a daily basis, but I however, was not accustomed to the ways of the ocean, so I thought it was best to pass this one up. I felt horrible, and I really did want to hang out with my best friend who I never see, but I just knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself feeling the way that I did. I think Avi was a bit annoyed too because he is a social butterfly and I was holding him back from having a good time. I felt horrible for bailing on everyone, but what are you gonna do? We thanked her for the invite and headed back to our cabin.
We got back and I slipped into my pjs and asked Avi to order me some room service. The awesome thing about room service on a cruise, is that it’s still all inclusive, and you still don’t have to tip! So why the eff not!?!? I think I just wanted some ginger ale to settle my stomach, and also we split a sub par turkey bacon sandwich or something of the sort. It was pretty late, so I’m sure the staff was less than enthusiastic to prepare food for a call at that hour. It was a bit cold, a bit stale, it could have been sitting around for awhile before they finally got it up to our room. I guess what do you want for free? I got down as much as I could, sipped on my ginger ale, and cozied up next to my love, dozing off to the sounds of late night sitcoms on our cabin tv. I hoped and prayed the next day wouldn’t be this bad.
So this day Avi and I woke up feeling pretty refreshed. I believe we slept in a little bit, around 8:30 or 9 or so . We got our bathing suits on I got my little pool bag packed with a book and our sunblock, etc.
The book of choice on this trip was Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve seen the movie about a MILLION times, and I tried reading the book once, but don’t even think I got 100 pages in before I had other priorities and abandoned ship (no pun intended). But I wanted to actually finish it this time, and what better time to read about traveling adventures, than when I’m actually on my own travel adventure myself. I didn’t even really bother to put sunscreen on this first day. I wanted a tan, and I didn’t mind the burn.
So before we headed out to the pool, we figured we would hit up brunch in the Truffle’s Dining Room Lower Level. We walk in and see Kristin, her mom, & David sitting at a booth table with some chairs on the other side, so they motioned for us to come sit down. The table area in front of the seats we filled were a bit crumby as if someone had been sitting there before us and left. Alice & Cheryl had been to breakfast and then left to go do things on their own, so we took their seats. We apologetically asked for some menus the next time the waiter came over, and he seemed a bit annoyed since he thought he was done with that table. Kristin and her mom had already finished brunch and had already moved on to the banana cream pie. So the waiter brought us some menus and as we were deciding what to order, Kristin and Jackie decided to enlighten Avi and I with how they felt about Alice wanting to constantly say prayer before the meals. I didn’t realize that they were as against it as they were, I never really conversed with them about religion, but I was relieved that they had the same stance on it as Avi and I had. I mean, let me put this into a better perspective. We are not really AGAINST religion, or anyone wanting to practice their own beliefs on their own accord. The thing we are mostly against, are overly religious people, trying to push their beliefs on other people, and trying to make you take part in THEIR religious practices and rituals against your own free will, just for the sake of spiking an argument over the war on religion. Some people just like to do this for a rise, for an opportunity to say how much better their beliefs are than yours. The more they told us about Alice, the more this type of person she seemed to be. Avi and I had a discussion about the awkwardness of the first night’s dinner prior to this brunch, and we decided that if we got caught in another one of Alice’s trick Graces, and she asked either of us to lead.. we were going to just start reciting The Pledge of Allegiance (Christmas Vacation Grandma Style) or The Preamble to the Constitution. Kristin and Jackie really got a kick out of that idea as we all laughed. Avi and I finally put in our order; he got the steak and eggs and I got the huevos rancheros which was AMAZING. I practically ate 3/4 of the thing, and it was a hefty portion. It came with three different salsas. One looked like a dark red chili paste, then there was a mild to spicy green salsa verde, and then your regular tomato salsa. The green one tasted the best on everything as a whole. Kristin, Jackie, & David left us to our own devices as we finished our meal and we agreed to meet up later. Avi and I finished our brunch, and then headed up to Deck 9 to the Serenity Pool lounge.
Upon entering, we headed to towel check out. They actually sign out towels to you, solely to lie out on, and you have to return it when you leave. There was a couple that had JUST dropped off their towels while we were standing there waiting to be assigned 2 towels. There was also a whole wall of freshly folded towels right behind the towel clerk. The clerk rolled up the two towels that the couple had JUST returned, and gave them to Avi and I. Avi took them and we went to leave. I said to Avi, “Um.. I’m pretty sure that guy just gave us those people’s dirty towels”. Avi usually oblivious to this sorta thing fought me on it, “No wayyyy, why would he do that? These should be fine, I don’t think they would give us dirty towels.” I thought maybe I was just seeing things, so I said, “Ok If you say so” and ignored the possible argument that could have ensued. We focused our attention to finding somewhere to lie instead. Finding a spot to lay out on this day was a bit more hectic than the first afternoon on board. It was actually almost IMPOSSIBLE. I left Avi with the task of supplying us with some frozen drinks, while I scoped out potential leavers so we could swoop in and steal their seats. This place was HOPPIN! There was literally nowhere to claim. Every layout chair, canopy cabana, and hammock was taken. The sky was clear, the sun was high, and the heat was HOT. Finally out of my frustration, I decided to pop a squat on the wooden bench right off the pool. Avi brought the drinks over, “Any Luck?” I was starting to get frustrated, but was determined to snag a chair. “Nope.”
A “happier than necessary” Carnival photographer was circling the area like a shark, asking couples to pose together with their drinks. They paparazzi the shit out of you while you’re trying to relax, and then charge you up the ass for the photograph if you want to buy it. I was annoyed at this point, still not able to find a chair, but reluctantly forced a smile. The photographer walked away and finally we saw a couple leaving to the right of us. I pretty much ran to secure my spot! So we settled on 2 layout chairs one row back from the edge looking out into the ocean. It was a nice spot, I was happy with it! We went to roll out our “clean” yellow towels to cover our chairs when Avi goes, “Ewww what the hell is that!?” It looked like a huge red stain like someone either menstruated on it, or spilled their drink on it. I screamed, “I TOLD YOU HE GAVE US DIRTY TOWELS!”. I handed mine to him and disgustedly asked him to take them back, and added, “AND TELL HIM TO GIVE US CLEAN ONES!”
Avi returned with the clean towels and we proceeded to lie out. I started reading Eat Pray Love and Avi and I both started to burn. We figured we would just burn the first day and get a head start on our tans. As olive skinned as we both are, we were pretty pasty from being bundled up in New Jersey all winter long. It felt good to just have the sun on my skin. Avi did however, decide that regardless of not using sunscreen on the majority of his body, he did want to sunscreen his feet. So we laid out at the pool for a majority of the morning. We took turns watching the stuff when one of of would get too hot, and let the other go take a dip in the salt water pool. At one point, we started to sizzle so much out there on deck, that I decided to go get us a couple of waters to stay hydrated since we had been throwing back Miami Vices all morning. Miami Vices were a magical frozen concoction of Half Pina Colada and Half Strawberry Daquiri. It was our drink of choice throughout the whole trip. But anyway!….
I decided to go to the bar to get a couple glasses of ice water for Avi and I, and one of the female bartenders kept ignoring me. I was like thinking to myself, why is this such a big deal, it’s just 2 cups of ice water, and it’s not like we are able to tip them anyway, so that excuse was irrelevant here. Finally, one of the guy bartenders took notice and filled me one glass… I was like, “Oh I asked for two”… The way they both went about the situation was just kind of rude, like they had better things to do then fill my glass with water. The nerve! Anyway, I finally got our glasses of water and headed back to our chairs on deck. We stayed out here until about 2:00 PM as we were getting a bit hungry. We returned our towels and then headed back inside to get some food. Unfortunately, the buffet had just been cleaned up for the hour, so we walked down a level or a few to the other pool deck which had a stage with some live entertainment, and a buffet line with BBQ food! We snagged some plates and got a light snack since dinner would be in just a couple hours. I grabbed some nacho chips and fresh salsa along with some potato salad and some iced tea, Avi got the same thing but added a hot dog and fries to his mix. We sat on the deck, enjoying the warm climate, and the break from our sunshine filled morning. We ate and chatted as the acoustic guitarist onstage, Angie, would serenade the crowd with 90s chick rock. Avi was testing out his new water camera throughout our little snack meal and I awkwardly posed for him with my cup of iced tea. After our snack, Avi was still fiending for something sweet, so he helped himself to one of the soft serve ice cream machines right next to the BBQ buffet. It was very tempting, believe me, but I wanted to save my room for dinner at Truffle’s dining hall that night!
We went back to the room to shower and get all fancy shmancy because before dinner, we were going to meet up with the whole gang at David’s bar right outside of Truffles to take some formal photos. I put on a cute little coral color Vera Wang chiffon sundress with sexy criss cross back straps, some matching coral lacquer Vince Camuto heels, and left my hair as loose beachy mermaid waves, garnished with a faux hibiscus flower hair clip on one side. Avi looked equally stunning in his dark Iris colored button down with nice slacks and dress shoes, his hair nicely parted to one side. We headed down to David’s bar around 4:00 or so, and he made us some very special martinis which Kristin put on her Sign and Sail card. He made me a Tiramisu Martini, which he first spider webbed the glass with chocolate syrup and garnished with a maraschino cherry before filling it with 100% alcohol, no fillers. I don’t remember exactly what kind of liquor was in this, but I can assure you it was HEAVEN in a glass! Avi ordered a regular Dirty Martini with the olives. As we sipped on our classy cocktails, the group made their way down to the bar, dressed to the nines. The photographer was a little mexican man who had a fake backdrop set behind a baby grand piano a few feet in front of the bar. Kristin, her mom, Alice, and Cheryl were getting some formal photos done before Avi and I had joined them. We alternated, some with just Avi and I, some with Avi, Kristin, and I, some with just Kristin and her mom, and some with the whole group together. The pictures really came out beautifully. After the photos, we sat at the bar awhile longer and chit chatted until Truffles was opened.
Once we finally made it into Truffles, we were seated at the same table we were at the night before. This time, Kristin sat on the outside because she had to leave early to get ready for her show that evening which is where we were going after dinner. I don’t remember exactly what I had for this meal, I never took a photo of it :-(. This is why I have to take photos of everything, cuz I have a horrible memory! But anyway, during the dessert course there was a band in the dining hall that broke out into song with “That’s Amore”. All of the chandelier lights would flicker to the music in unison, and there were other little flickering red and white recessed lights doing the same thing in the ceiling as all the waiters and busboys stood in a row, singing along as all of the patrons on the double decker dining room stared around. Some were confused, some in amazement, some actually singing along (I was the latter). We swayed along with the crescendoing key change of the classic as we gobbled spoonfuls of refreshing and palette cleansing orange sherbert to finish up our dinner. If my memory serves me correctly, Alice was actually on her best behavior this time, and didn’t put anyone on the spot to say Grace. We all parted ways after dinner and agreed to meet in the theater for Kristin’s show later that night. Avi and I took the time to wander the halls a bit, sit by the window and overlook the water.
Soon after a little digestion and relaxation, we headed to the theater for Studio VIP, which was a pre show in which they had a small red carpet set up outside the theater with a live camera feed to the big screen inside the the theater. Willy, the hilarious British cruise director, would interview audience members on the red carpet and ask them where they were in the 70s, and what their favorite songs were in the 70s. It was really quite comical. Avi and I went at sat in the 2nd or 3rd row along with Jackie, Alice, & Cheryl. As we sat there, Willy came up to Avi and asked him to come be a “VIP” on the red carpet. Avi was hesitant at first, but then he went along with it. I was all excited, I had my camera ready to film his red carpet interview on the big screen in the theater, but there had actually been too many people in front of him, that by the time it got to him, they were ready for showtime. So Avi came back all disappointed, as was I, but we were still excited to see Kristin in her 2nd show of the cruise, Studio VIP, which was based in the 70s era, with afros and bell bottoms, and just amazing disco music. The dancing, the singing, the audience participation, it was all just amazing. If I remember correctly, they pulled up certain audience members on stage at the end to learn “The Hustle”, and whoever performed on the stage got to go to a VIP party with the cast afterward.
We didn’t’ take part in this, but it was fun to watch. After that show had ended, I think we may have just gone to get a drink at David’s bar, because Kristin was in another showing of Motor City’s Motown show, so she couldn’t hang out with us at that point. We also may have gone down to the comedy club again… I really don’t remember what we did in this block of time, as I have no photos of this to jog my memory LOL!
By 11:00 pm, Kristin was done with her shows, and we met up with her in the comedy club so she could take us downstairs into the cast n crew underground lol. We went downstairs for drinks and to hang out once again, and once again I felt like I needed toothpicks to hold my eyes open. Walking around on a ship all day, lying in the sun, and eating really takes a lot out of you, and mind you, we have not even started excursions yet at this point! I don’t think we hung out TOO late this evening, as we all had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn for our excursion in our first stop, Cozumel, Mexico.
Avi and I got back to our cabin and passed out as soon as we hit the pillow… We were looking forward to the next day ahead!
This past winter, I had decided that I wanted to do something BIG for my boyfriend Avi’s birthday since he threw me a surprise party for my 30th in December. I knew I wanted to surprise him with a trip, as we were both in MUCH NEED of a getaway! I had a rough winter with financial troubles, car troubles, health troubles, so I wanted to do something that would be the most affordable, but would be adventurous and different as well. Then I remembered that my best friend Kristin Turner, since 8 years old, has been working on Carnival Cruise Line’s ships for the past 5 years. She had been asking me every year to come out, but the timing was never right, and I never had the money. Shit, I didn’t even really have the money this year, but I said WHAT THE HELL and decided to slap most of it on a credit card. Life is too short to not see this beautiful earth of ours, and I wanted to see her as well, and see what her career life was like. Not to mention Avi had NEVER been on a cruise before! It was the PERFECT vacation and trip birthday surprise adventure!
Turner helped me plan everything, and was extremely helpful in that aspect. I did everything I could to make sure this trip went on without a hitch. I drove all the way to PHILADELPHIA from central Jersey to make SURE I had my passport renewed, and all of the necessary documents to travel outside of the US. So I just want to take this time right now to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who helped me get the things I need to make this trip go smoothly… My Aunt Maria who works for airlines, was able to book me a “trip” so I could put a speed delivery on my passport, My BFF Marie for making the trek to Philadelphia with me just to pick up the thing. That was fun anyway, we ended up making a day trip out of it, went to New Hope, PA for lunch, as sick as a dog that I was that week.
So I had this surprise element going with Avi for a really long time… probably up until about a week before the trip!!!! AHHH!!! It’s a good thing I decided to go to Carnival’s website and read more into the cruise we would be going on. I didn’t realize that we still had to book all of our SHORE EXCURSIONS!!! So it was then, that I decided to tell my love where we would be venturing to in just a week. I messaged him while he was at work and told him that when he got home later that night, I would be telling him where we would be going. He was so EXCITED! So he came over later that night, and over dinner I said, “So where do you THINK we’re going?” He was like, “I dunno, how would I know?” And I kept playing saying “Fine then I’m not telling you since you don’t wanna guess”, ahhahahahaha! So finally, I screamed, “WE’RE GOING ON A CRUISE!!!!” The look on his face was priceless, and he was like, “Seriously!?” Then I told him that we were going to see Kristin, and he started piecing things together saying, “So THAT’S why you said you needed to wait to hear back from her”.
So later that night, we went on Carnival’s website and checked out all of the cool attractions on the ship that we could take advantage of. We also looked into the shore excursions and weighed all of our options according to the reviews, the prices, and what we both thought we were adventurous enough to try.
The Cruise we booked was a 7 Day West Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Legend, traveling to Cozumel Mexico, Belize City Belize, Roatan Island in Honduras, and Grand Cayman Islands, with 2 full days at sea. We picked the tour of the ancient Mayan Ruins of Tulum in Cozumel, Ziplining and Cavetubing in Belize, the Pirate/Bird/Monkey Park in Roatan, and Dolphin Encounter n Turtle Park in Grand Cayman. I was SOOOO NERVOUS BOUT THE ZIPLINING!! I remember my friends Joe and Mel doing the zipline over Fremont Street in Vegas and thinking they were crazy. And that was only going over a street… never mind 200 feet above the Belizian JUNGLE!! We really want to get a snorkel excursion in there, but all of the good ones seemed to conflict with the other ones we picked. I figured the snorkel was a good thing to do on its own, on a separate trip.. so that just means we’ll have to go back to the caribbean to do this, and I’m fine with that! 🙂
Anyway, back to the cruise….
We would have to fly to Tampa, Fl where the boat is docked. About a month before the trip, Kristin’s mom had called me to tell me she was going on the same cruise as us, and she was on the same flight as well! She was going with her mother in-law and her girlfriend from work. So before our trip, Avi and I had gone mall shopping for all of the necessary things we need for our trip. Avi and I got so many bathing suits, some water shoes, etc. Avi also had bought a water camera, since we would be doing some water excursions, and such. He ended up getting a Nikon Coolpix AW120 Compact – 16.0 MP Digi Cam in bright orange. This camera has some great features and the sample vids we saw online we’re enough to convince. We also found that you can take photos WHILE you’re taking video without interrupting the video. That was a happy accident. There is also a video record button directly on the back panel so you can go into video mode without going into the camera’s settings in the menu, and anytime you’re not recording, it automatically keeps you in photo mode.
So on Saturday, April 26 we started to pack. Avi started clearing off all of his memory cards, charging camera batteries, etc. I got a head start on the packing while he was doing all of that. He left soon after that to start on his own packing. In the midst of packing, I would chat with my BFF Marie, as she was in Hawaii the same week we were going away as well. She made me laugh so hard cuz I was telling her how I was getting my buzz on as I was packing (My mom opened a bottle of white), so she was making fun of me saying how I’m going to get there and open my suitcase, and all I’m gonna find is wheel of cheese and chapstick! AHAHAH! Yea Kids, DON’T PACK TOO DRUNK! But anyway, I had my island reggae and latin jams on the cable music channels to get me in the Caribbean mood!
I think I packed all day up until 2:30 in the morning or so. Around then I had left to pick up Avi. His dad helped Avi get his bags in the trunk, and then before leaving, he told us “Have fun, Don’t do anything stupid!” LOL! Then I took Avi to the bank real quick to take some cash out of the ATM for spending money on the trip. After we got back to my house, I put on the TV and we decided to take a bit of a nap before my parents dropped us off at the airport. Along Came Polly was on, so we both napped a bit while that was on. At 3:30 am, I woke up to Avi tapping me to wake up. My parents helped us get our bags in the car, I decided to grab another sweatshirt as it was probably something like 45 degrees outside! Pretty brisk. So on the way to the airport, we all thought, “Hey, maybe Zizi Mari is working now!”… My Aunt always works the middle of the night to morning shifts at Newark Airport. So we pull up to the drop off terminal, and my dad is helping us get our bags out of my mom’s SUV. Sure enough he looks in the window at the checkin counters, and my aunt was working, so he makes a B-line for the sliding doors, as my mom’s standing there like “ROY! WE HAVE TO LEAVE, WE CAN STAY PARKED HERE!”, so she’s freaking out and goes to me “Go get your father!” So Avi and I go to the checkin counter, and my aunt is cracking up saying to the other staff “This is my brother!! And This is my niece and her boyfriend!” So my dad leaves, and my aunt starts checking us in. So she takes our passports, told me to sign mine (oops)… Then she checked our bags, and took us upstairs to security check. She stood in line with us for about 10 minutes, until the line started to move. She asked where we were going, then wished us a safe trip, and headed back to her checkin station downstairs.
Avi and I were pretty much at the start of the line, so we made it through security fairly quickly. I love flying that early, there’s really no one else around, and it’s nice and quiet, less lines, etc. So we got to our gate all the way at the end of the airport, and we sat down by the wall right by our zone, which was zone 3 or 4. There was a woman sitting on that row of chairs as well, and it looked like we were bothering her. So we sat down, tired from the one hour of sleep that we had gotten that night. I gave Avi a pair of my sunglasses, and I put mine on, with my hat over my eyes to shield the light and maybe try to take some sort of nap before we boarded. I had plugged my headphones into my ears and put on Madonna’s “Drowned World” from her Ray of Light album, which is the most relaxing song. As I’m dozing off, Avi decided he wanted to go see if any of the food stands were open, so I left my comfortableness… I guess I was kinda hungry at that point! So we went to this cafe around the corner from our gate. I don’t remember the name of the place, but they served these breakfast strombolis. Avi ended up ordering a breakfast stromboli, and I got a bagel with scallion cream cheese and a hot tea. We got to the register, and all of the orders kept getting backed up, and the staff kept giving people the wrong things. Once they finally corrected our order we sat down at a table right in front of the register, so we thoroughly enjoyed continuing to watch the amount of incorrect orders that ensued. We also spotted a little girl in line who reminded us both of me when I was little. She sat at a table behind us, and Avi was staring at her laughing the whole time, shaking his head at how much of a brat she was. He was like, “She’s just like you, always has to have the last word”. So that was funny. After we finished our food, we walked to a couple other stands so Avi could try to find a cheap pair of sunglasses, cuz he didn’t wanna bring his real $200 Aviators on the trip. None of the stands sold sunglasses, oddly enough, so then we figured we’d just get them on the trip. We made way for our gate, and as we arrived, our zone was called to board, so we got on pretty fast. Our seats were right in the middle of the plane on the right hand side, I had the window seat, Avi sat right next to me, and there was a guy on the outside aisle seat. As we are sitting there waiting for the rest of the plane to board, I see 2 middle aged light skinned black women getting situated in the row right in front of us, on the left side of the plane. I noticed one of them was my friend Kristin’s mom, getting situated in their seats, so I was getting ready to say hi. The other lady she was with looked at me like I had a staring problem as she was putting her carry ons in the overheard compartment, hahahah!! I guess it did look that way before she realized that I knew Jackie, my friend’s mom. So to save myself from looking like an idiot with a staring problem, I shouted across the aisle, “Jackie!” She turned around and looked so surprised to see us right there, out of all the seats on the plane! So we made some small chit chat through everyone else’s boarding process.
When the plane finally took off at 6 am, I was so unbelievably nauseous!! It’s a good thing I stopped at CVS the week prior and stocked up on some ginger gum, dramomine, & sea band wristlets to aid in motion sickness. I popped some ginger gum at take off, and then closed my eyes with my head against the window. Avi napped for a considerable amount of time… I couldn’t nap, I was just way too excited… and nauseous. I sat there with my iPod on, I listened to some Alanis trying to rid myself of the nausea. When Avi awoke, the drink cart came by and he got me a ginger ale with some ice. That helped settle my stomach a bit. We flipped through the sky mall catalogue a bit, and I oogled at the map in the back of one of the travel magazines in the backseat pocket of the chair in front me. Maps intrigue me, they always make me wonder where I will travel to next. Although the flight was a rough take off, the duration of the flight was a pretty smooth one, and even landing was pretty smooth. The flight lasted about 3 hours or so, and we landed in Tampa, Florida at about 9 am.
I texted my mom to let her know that we landed safely, and then we made way to baggage claim. We even got off the plane relatively fast, and as we exited the plane and through the gate terminal, I could feel the humidity warm my chilled Jersey bones. This was exactly what I needed!
So we got off of the plane and Avi and I caught up with Jackie, and she introduced us to her friend Cheryl. We stopped at the restrooms real quick before we made our way downstairs to get the shuttle to baggage claim. As we walked around the airport on the way to the shuttle we noticed how beautiful this airport was. It was like a mini shopping mall! There were nice jewelry, & clothing shops everywhere, along with a Wine Bar, Starbucks, and a T.G.I. Friday’s! We were very impressed with Tampa’s airport, it was very clean and felt very open. So we got the shuttle to baggage claim and our luggage was the first few pieces to come out, it couldn’t have worked out more perfect! Avi and I tied some blue lacy ribbon to our red and black luggages so we could recognize ours at a first glance. It worked very well! So we gathered our luggage , and Jackie had asked us if we were taking the shuttle to the dock or a cab with them. We had already booked our shuttle to the dock, and she told us that we should have taken a cab because then we’ll have to wait around for who knows how long for the bus to pick us up. A girl from the carnival shuttle services spotted us and asked us if we had our shuttle booked, and Avi and I gave her our names so she found us on the list. The girl told us that we would only have to wait til 10:30 or so til the shuttle gets there, and explained to Jackie that the benefit of taking the shuttle is that they take our bags for us and don’t have to go through the bag check process once we board the ship. Carnival would take care of getting our bags to our room for us. So Avi and I were fine with that. The girl did however explain to us that if we wanted anything from our bags at that moment, then we should take it out now, because we wouldn’t see our bags again til 1:00 pm when they arrive at our room. Right away, I unlocked my bag and threw my sweat shirt in there since I wouldn’t be needing that in this heat! I also unpacked my flip flops, and took a pair of shorts and my bikini so we could hit the pool as soon as we got on the ship! So as Avi and I got the stuff we needed out of our bags and got situated, Jackie’s mother in law met up with them as we were standing there, so she introduced Alice. Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice parted ways with us here so they could go outside and wait for their cab. We agreed to meet them back on the ship. The girl with the carnival shuttle was making some conversation with us as she walked us to the shuttle pick up, just asking us where we were from, and how she also had some friends from Jersey. So she brought us outside to the bus terminals, and told us Helga would take it from there. Helga was a short little stocky foreign woman with a raspy accented voice, and thick clear framed glasses with brownish lenses. She explained to us, leave our bags with her, we have about an hour before the shuttle gets there, so to go inside and grab some coffee or tea, just be back and wait over on the sidewalk off of the bus terminal in an hour. Avi and I had some time to kill, so we figured we’d go inside and grab a drink (not a coffee). Yes we are lushes, at 10 am.
As we were walking back toward the building, we saw Jackie, Cheryl, and Alice waiting for their taxi, so we waived over to them. Jackie yelled, “See you guys on the ship!” We nodded, and headed back into the airport. We walked back, looking for escalators, and to our right found a immobile one. Avi said, “Let’s go”.. and I hesitated and was like, “Wait this doesn’t work”… He was like, “Uhhhh…. it still works you idiot, we’ll just have to climb stairs”. We got a good laugh out of that and started climbing. Much to our discontent, when we got to the top, we had discovered that we had come to a dead end, and the elevator on that floor did not work. So we walked back down and grabbed an elevator from that floor instead. We headed up to the 2nd floor and Avi spotted a Ron Jon Surf Shop in hopes of finding some glasses. We went in, and spotted a rack of fake Aviators, where I coined the new term “Fauxviators”. He tried on a few pairs and eventually settled on gold rimmed polarized blue lensed glasses. They were 20 bucks, which was extremely reasonable! I saw a lot of cute stuff in here that I was tempted to buy, but I knew I had to save my money for the week long trip which hadn’t even started yet! After we left that store, we circled the grounds for a bit to scope out what there was to drink around there. We spotted the Friday’s and agreed to go in for a drink. We grabbed a couple large red cushiony stools at the bar and took a seat. The bartender was a cool guy, maybe his mid 30s, head shaved bald. He greeted us and asked us what we wanted. Avi and I both spotted the same drink on the menu that caught both of our eye. No beer this time, we were going straight for the hard shit while the family at the 4 seated ground table behind us were scarfing down REAL breakfast, and not rum like a bunch of alcoholics. So the guy winced after we told him the signature drink that we both wanted, fearing they might not have what he needed to make the drink, but we told him and he was like, “OH, never mind, I could definitely do that.” I don’t even remember what was in it, it might have been pineapple juice, cranberry juice, and some seltzer, and a lime… OH and RUM.. how could I forget that!
After the guy fixed us our drinks, Avi asked if he could buy some shots. I just glanced at Avi and was like, “YOU GOIN HARD ALREADY!?” The bartender just laughed. So I asked, “What’s in a Surfer On Acid?” and as he was thinking about it, without skipping a beat, the waitress behind him, cleaning the other side of the bar spat out “JAEGER, PINEAPPLE JUICE, AND RUM”. Our bartender looked at her in shock, like WHOAAA, Did that really just happen? She apologized for eavesdropping on our conversation, but then proceeded to fix us the shots. We all got a good laugh about it. The shots were HUGE… I think I drank half of mine and then I let Avi have the other half, since he was obviously really eager to start getting shit faced already. During our relaxing drink, we relished at the fact that we don’t have to deal with bratty children like the people sitting behind us, and we cheers’d to the start of a great vacation!
We paid and closed out our tab and checked the time, and it was about time to make it back to the bus terminal. We headed back downstairs and stopped at the bathroom before heading out the door so Avi could change into his shorts. After this we went and waited on the benches on the sidewalk off the bus terminal. Helga was directing people with her clipboard to do the same. We sat on the bench feeling pretty buzzed and goofy already, so excited to get the week rolling! We waited on this bench for probably another 45 minutes before the bus even got there. We just did stupid shit like taking pictures of our feet. We were getting pretty bored and anxious. We had thought our bus was there, so we had stood up, only to find out that it wasn’t. So we lost our seat on the bench, and waited while we stood. A latino couple passed right by us and then reeked of musk and sex. I was like, “Avi, do you smell that?” He was like, “Yea, and look at the size of his ring.” I discreetly turned my head and glanced to find the biggest pimp daddy status ring I have ever seen on man. It was like unnecessarily ginormous, and we both chuckled over it. Our bus pulled up to the terminal finally! We made a B-line for the bus before the rest of the crowd realized it was ours. We found a seat, and it was nice and air conditioned on the bus. We kept an eye on our bags and made sure they made it onto the bottom of the bus. The bus was filled with many old, retirees from the deep south and beyond. We were clearly not in our element here. Our bus driver was a funny southern black woman who had funny one liners here and there. She kept us entertained as we drove through Florida’s palm tree lined twisty turny highways. It was a bright and beautiful sunny day, and it felt SO good to be out of Jersey!
So we finally pull up to the port, and Avi’s expression was just PRICELESS!! His jaw just dropped as he said in disbelief, “Wow… I didn’t realize the ships were THAT big”. We pull into the terminal as the luggage hands start unloading bags from beneath the bus. A short cowboy looking guy who worked for the cruise line came onto the bus and started explaining to us not to leave the bus yet. He also started mouthing some other directions that the angry hum of the bus prevented its passengers from deciphering. Some angry southerners from the back of the bus started shouting, “WE CAN’T HEAR YOU!”. He came a bit closer and started yelling the information this time. There were 2 older southern belle type of woman sitting in the seat right next to Avi and I, one of which raised her hand and exclaimed with a twang “I can hear yewwwww…”. Avi and I just looked at each other and laughed. The man was trying to explain to us that when we get off the bus, do not take our luggage upon exiting the bus (although they were all scattered throughout the terminal waiting to be collected), and have our passports and boarding passes ready for the door guards. We spotted our bags to make sure they were accounted for, then left them as we made our way to the entrance. Two very dark and tall caribbean looking african men in guard uniform stopped us as we got to the door. We handed them our passports and boarding passes as they scoped our profiles suspiciously before motioning us to the escalator. The sign in front of it read “Have one hand available to use escalator” with a female guard sitting there next to it making sure no one does anything stupid. Avi and I hop on and make our way to the top floor where we are motioned to go wait in a queued maze to speak to a check in clerk. The man working the line organization motioned for us to make our way to the clerk all the way to the left end of the room, closest to the entrance to the boat. The lady was very nice and asked us if this was our first cruise. Avi excitedly made sure she knew it was his first. She wished us much fun and supplied us with our Sign and Sail cards which we would be using as our cash on board throughout our time on the ship. Once we had those, we exited onto another area which had more Que poles and red ropes with a huge sign painted on the wall in Carnival’s signature red and blue lettering that said “WELCOME ALMOST ABOARD!”. I had Avi stop here for an overly excited photo op before making our way through another set of doors to a bag check, and a couple rounds of security. The scanner picked up something weird in Avi’s camera bag so he had to have it scanned again. After the 2nd time it was fine, and we laughed as people were putting their electronics in these containers that looked like dog bowls. We gathered our belongings and made our way to yet ANOTHER entrance with a photographer and a phony Carnival backdrop. We posed for one more photo op before grabbing our things again and making our way down a long white gangway corridor. We took some goofy pics in here as we clearly could not contain our excitement! We finally got to the entrance door to the lobby of the ship and the crew scanned our Sign and Sail cards to check us in onboard.
We made our way into the breathtaking, sky high lobby with elevators running up and down 9 floors. The room was open and airy, with cathedral meets Vegas like ambience and decor. The elevators were made of glass, constantly running up and down each floor, overlooking a wood dance floor and bar. Avi and I spotted Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice at the bar and went over to say hi. Jackie told us that Kristin would be down in a minute because she is not allowed up on deck unless family is there. The staff and crew are not allowed to fraternize with guests onboard. During the time that we were waiting for Kristin, Jackie said they were going to get some drinks. She seemed very friendly with the bartender, so I asked her, “Do you know the bartender?”… I did not realize that this was Kristin’s boyfriend! Jackie said, “No, that’s Kristin’s boyfriend David!” I said, “Ohhhh! I forgot he was a bartender on the ship”. So we all got a laugh about this and continued to wait for Kristin. Jackie proceeded to tell her girlfriends that Kristin and I have known each other for a very long time! We have grown up together basically.
I met Kristin when I was 8 years old. Our mothers both worked full time jobs so we were enrolled in an after school program called Latchkey which allowed us to hang out with each other every day after school up until about 6th grade. Then in middle school we would choreograph dances together for school talent shows. We didn’t talk or hang out much upon entering high school, but started hanging out again at the end of junior year when we both started doing school drama club and summer drama workshops. We also did competition cheering together, our team went to Florida and took home the National Championship trophy for our division in 2001! We graduated together and got even closer after high school, even when she went away to college. I abandoned dancing altogether, and Turner just flourished in it. She has been able to make a great career out of it, leaving college to dance for the New York Nicks, and the Boston Patriots. She has toured all over the world with dance companies, to Thailand, the Philippines, China, and even Iraq. In 2009, things seemed to calm down for her a bit and we both agreed to move out to LA together with my brother, since we were all aspiring entertainers. We rented a little moving truck and went to pick up her stuff from storage in Seattle where she worked at a radio show for awhile. We drove from Seattle, WA all the way down to LA, California and started to settle into a new place. About a week into living there, she had gotten offered a contract doing entertainment on a cruise line and she has been doing this line of work ever since. As envious as I am about her ability to travel all around the world, I don’t really think I have the heart it takes to be able to do that line of work and be so far from home more than 3/4 of the year.
So Turner soon makes her way down in a pretty flowy dress. We all greet each other and exchange hugs and Kristin puts the first round of welcome drinks on her Sign and Sail card. We all cheersed to the voyage ahead with some sparkling mimosas and took many pictures. She had to get back to work, so she let Avi and I go explore the ship. She led us up to the elevator and pointed us in the general direction of how to get around. We had all agreed to meet up for dinner in the Truffles dining room later that night. Avi and I had set off to explore this beautiful gigantic boat that we would be on for the coming week!
Before making our way to our room, we were pretty hungry from the whole journey in just getting to the boat and onto it, so we headed up to the 9th floor Lido Deck and found a buffet commencing. We grabbed some plates and dining ware and helped ourselves to the first meal of many onboard the Carnival Legend.
We grabbed some fried rice, chicken/mushroom/pepper stir fry, broiled fish, penne pasta with ham, and some broiled seasoned potatoes. We grabbed a seat at one of the many tables lined in front of the windows looking out onto the harbor in Tampa. We could spot the Norwegian Dawn, another cruise line from where we were docked. I pointed to it and showed Avi, since it was the last cruise ship that I was on. As we were eating our lunch, a girl came by and asked if we would like some drinks. She had some very tropical looking drinks with umbrellas in red souvenir cups with the Carnival logo on them. We couldn’t say no! I mean we were on vacation, and we were gonna do it right, damnit! She only had one on her tray, so she dropped that one off, and said she’d be back with the next. Avi let me have the first one, like the gentlemen that he is. As we were waiting on the other drink, another woman rolled up a cart with some wine bottle and choices of meats. She asked if we had made reservations to eat at the Steakhouse on board yet, and if she could get us to make a reservation with her. She told us about the wine specials, which were a complimentary bottle of their house red or white with a reservation for the first night, all in her russian accent. We had already talked about dining at the Steakhouse with Kristin, but not until the 4th night in Belize. So we kindly told her about our plans and that we knew someone who worked on the ship. She asked who we knew, and we said, “Kristin Turner, she’s a dancer.” She said, “Ohhh… I think I know her, she’s that short girl with the hair up to here…”, as she pointed to her chin. Avi and I both laughed at the obvious refrain at the mention of her skin color. Most people don’t want to make it a race thing these days, or be politically incorrect. I mean, everyone is guilty of this, even myself! We just said, “Yup, that’s her”. She insisted we enjoy our stay, and proceeded on to persuade some other passengers into the wine special reservation. She left, and we were still waiting for the other drink for quite a few minutes. We had even finished our meals first! After we finally received our other drink, we headed out to the pool area. The Legend ship has an area strictly reserved for adult relaxation, called SERENITY. And I must admit, it was very serene at the first impression. We walked out onto the deck to find a quaint salt water pool and hot tub as the centerpiece of the area. There were turquoise cushioned brown wicker chairs lining pool, along with some little turquoise cushioned beds nested in brown wicker canopy huts. These were prime real estate throughout the trip, it seemed, for the less avid tanners. Most of the people who hogged these, were book or kindle readers. They also had a couple hammocks on both sides of the floor plan as well. Also, the bar rested in the center of the entrances on both sides which was shaded, with some tables and some lounge chairs for eating or relaxing. We entered from the left and who do we see!?! Kristin having some lunch & cheesecake with her mother, Cheryl, & Alice. We all laughed and we joined to converse with them for a bit. During our conversation, Avi & I noticed this strange bug flying around. It looked like 2 mosquitoes or lighting bugs attached to each other, flying around. We asked Kristin what they were, and she told us that they were “Lovebugs”, and that they were harmless. Harmless they were indeed, but quite ANNOYING! They kept flying into things, and sometimes that thing was your face. She assured us that they would disappear once we set sail. Nothing can really hover or land on the ship once it has set sail, and the things that do, don’t survive. Sad huh? So after everyone had finished their lunch, Kristin had decided to give us a little tour of the ship. We started by heading up the stairs from the Serenity Lounge, and she showed us the new water slides the ship had added… That’s right… water slides… right above the adult’s “serene” retreat. And you know what water slides equal? SCREAMING KIDS. Kind of counter productive if you ask me! HAHA! So she showed us that, then she explained to us that the whale tail, which is Carnival’s signature emblem, actually had their own recycling system built into it, which is what the black smoke coming out of the top was. We made our way down to the front end of the ship, where she led us into the spa area, the gym, and the walking track. We literally walked A LOT, on this mini tour alone. After she wrapped things up with us, she told us that there would be a safety briefing around fourish or so.
Avi & I had decided to finally go back to the room to relax a bit before the safety briefing, and to see if our bags had shown up yet. We got to our room #4191 on Deck 4. It was booked as an “interior” cabin, but we still had a window. It was still classified as interior, because our view was obstructed by one of the life boats. It was a quaint sized cabin with a king sized bed, a couch (which our luggages used, instead of us), a vanity which I used to do my hair and makeup, and a cozy little bathroom with one of those little slab showers like the ones I mentioned in my Italy blogs. The only thing keeping the water from flooding was a tiny lip, maybe 5 inches high. So we got to our cabin, and there were no bags yet. When we got to the room, the TV was on, set on the cruise information channel. It kept relaying the same message over and over about how in the even of an emergency, you must report to your Muster Station. Avi and I were laughing at this, calling it the “Mustard” station. So while we are in the room, a luggage hand knocks on the door and delivers Avi’s luggage. Of course they deliver the man’s first! What could a man possibly need that he doesn’t already carry on him!! A woman always needs everything, including the kitchen sink. So I am a little annoyed that my bag didn’t arrive yet at this point. So we’re still listening to this Muster Station information on repeat, and Avi points out a jar of cookies with a cute rainbow ribbon tied around the top. It had a little note attached, which had a small umbrella logo at the top with the print “YOU’RE ON VACATION” and the handwriting read, “Welcome Aboard Juss & Avi <3 Kristin & David. It was so cute! I texted her to thank her as we still had cell service at this point (we hadn’t set sail yet). As we are waiting for the announcement to report to our Muster Station, there is another knock at the door. Thinking it was my bag, I excitedly opened the door. It was not my bag, however, it was our cabin stewardess, I-Wayan. He was a nice little pacific islander, polynesian man. He asked if everything was ok in his filipino accent and that he would be waiting on us for the week. I assured him everything was fine at the moment, that I was just waiting for my bag. He assured me that it would be at the room soon and that if he sees the bag sitting outside the door, that he would take it into the room for me if we were not there. I thanked him graciously and he left. Soon after the announcement came on into our cabins that it was now time to report to our Muster Stations for our safety briefing. Avi and I made our way to the end of the corridor and down 1 level of stairs, where a crowd of people were already herded up like a bunch of cattle. We proceeded out onto the deck at their approval and lined up against the wall. Lovebugs were all about, flying through the air, smacking into people. More people came and filed in line, in front of us. One extremely tall woman and her large infant, and husband stood right in front of me. That’s just so typical. I’m 4’11” and I always get the behemoth people in front of me. I huffed and puffed and Avi just gave me the “STOPPIT” look. Since I couldn’t see the safety demonstration going on in front of me any longer, I figured the only thing I COULD do, was look at the woman’s feet. They were extremely huge and her toes looked like little aliens with misshapen heads sticking out in all different directions. Her heel could crush a small rodent with the right amount of impact. I dazed off into these absurd scenarios about her hideous gargantuan peds and then realized, I would be utterly and completely fucked if this ship were to go down, all because the circus had let their oversized woman take a vacation leave the same week as me.
So after the safety briefing wrapped up, Avi and I had decided to go to the pool with whatever little time we had before we were to meet up for dinner in the Truffles dining room. We headed to SERENITY and managed to find 2 chairs right smack in front of the pool. Since Avi had gotten the first round of drinks, I picked up the second round as he held our spots at the chairs. I went to the bar and ordered myself a frozen Pina Colada, and Avi wanted their homemade mexican beer. I don’t remember what it was called, but he enjoyed it. I also got myself a bottle of water since I was already starting to feel pretty dehydrated from all the traveling we had been doing. The bill came to like $17, and I was still not familiar with the idea that gratuity was included, so I had actually tipped $3 which I was not supposed to. It is fine though, because I later looked on my Sign and Sail charges at the end of the trip, and they refunded that charge to me. So I brought over the drinks and we lied out a bit in the hot Florida sun, mind you we have STILL NOT SET SAIL! Lovebugs were still on the rampage smacking into my face as I’m trying to lie out, and Avi is getting pissy with me because he knows how I get pissy when bugs start to annoy me. I didn’t strip completely down to my bikini bottoms because I had realized that I needed to clean up my bikini area a bit more, oops! So we had maybe an hour out by the pool and one drink, before we went back to the room to clean up for dinner. We had FINALLY started to set sail! Upon arriving back to the room, we found my bag at the door! I jumped for joy and then lugged my bag into the room and onto the couch to decide what I was going to wear for the night’s festivities. As we entered the room, I-Wayan had already been there to do our turn down service for the night, which is when they pull your comforter down half way to make it easier to crawl into bed, and also leave a cute little animal made from the towels, with some chocolates and the itinerary for the next day. Our animal tonight was a little elephant. Avi was so surprised, I don’t think he’s ever seen these before! So anyway, I decided on a cute little blue and white romper with some beaded flip flops to wear to dinner. I also ran a flat iron through my hair. Avi cleaned himself up and changed into a nice light tan colored polo shirt with a sunset print across the front and some khaki shorts.
We made our way down to the ship’s lobby to meet up with everyone. We met the ladies seated on the couches and Kristin showed up shortly after with some blue lanyards with the Carnival red and white logos on them. attached was a CREW FAMILY PASS! This would allow us to go down to the crew level with her on the bottom of the ship. From there, we headed to her boyfriend David’s bar where things seemed a little more relaxed and we were able to talk to him more, as opposed to the crazy lobby bar he was stationed at earlier. Avi ordered himself a martini, slightly dirty and I ordered a Mojito. We sat at the bar for a bit before we headed into the Truffles dining lounge with everyone and our drinks. We were seated at a table for six. On one side it was Kristin, Alice, and I, and across from us it was Kristin’s mom Jackie, Cheryl, and Avi. As we had our appetizers, we all made some awkward small talk. I ordered the shrimp cocktail which was served in a little sampling dish. There were about 5 or 6 shrimp in a bed of lettuce and shaved carrots along with a dollop of cocktail sauce. It was quite refreshing. Alice and I marveled at how beautiful and elegantly the food had been plated, and both shared in our love of taking the mandatory photo of our food before we eat it. Jackie had also reminisced about how Kristin and I used to dance together, and I reminded Kristin at how we had named our act “Short and Sweet” in our middle school talent show. We all had a good laugh, and then the main courses had arrived. This is when things started to get a bit awkward. All of the sudden, Alice had asked, “Would everyone join me in a grace before we eat our food?” We all kind of just looked at each other, hoping one of us would break the awkward silence. Avi being the nice guy, said, “Sure”. We all kind of looked at each other and agreed under a muffled hesitance. Avi’s nice guy approach had backfired on him, because Alice had then singled him out and asked him, “Would you do the honors or leading us in our Grace?” At this point, a speechless Avi looked to me for help. I mean, I was raised Catholic and Christian, but I am not religious enough to even know how to lead a grace. Everyone else was just dead silent. I tried to relieve some of the awkwardness of Avi looking like an insensitive asshole toward something this woman obviously held very sacred to her heard, and turned to Alice and said, “Oh Alice, he didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just that Avi’s family is not Catholic or Christian, they are Hindu so they actually don’t do the grace thing.” She seemed a bit shocked and embarrassed, and apologized and asked, “Oh are you offended?” Avi said no, not at all, of course. He is a gentlemen. That did not make things any less awkward though. Dinner moved on, and everyone else finished their meals off with pastries and cakes, while I settled for a fresh fruit plate. It was only my first day, but I was already feeling pretty bloated.
After dinner, we had agreed to go our separate ways and meet up around 8ish for Kristin’s first show of the trip. Avi and I had gone back to the room so I could try to go to the bathroom, to which luck, I had none. I had opted to take a nap instead since we were still running on the 2 hours of sleep prior to the airport the night before. I literally could not keep my eyes open any longer. We both passed out for a good 2 hours or so… I remember waking up to Avi in hustle mode, telling us that we were running late and that Kristin’s show was about to start. I rushed up out of the bed and refreshed myself, brushing my hair and teeth.
We headed down to the theater which was already darkened and almost filled to capacity. We spotted Jackie, Cheryl, & Alice toward the front and center row in front of the stage, but we settled for lounge seats further back in the house. The show started with 2 comedians who were both pretty funny. One was a funny spunky black woman named Jaylyn Bishop. She was very funny and over the top… I don’t really remember what most of her skit was about. The second comedian was a seemingly laid back guy named Will Marfori. The whole basis of his skit was about his Cerebral Palsy, which was awkwardly funny. He was hilarious, and I enjoyed his set a lot more. He also made fun of Fantasia Barrino being dyslexic but writing a book about, saying, “Who is that gonna help?!?” I thought that was brilliant. After the comics, it was on with the show! Kristin’s first show of our trip! It was called Motor City and was based on all of the old Motown music from the 50s and 60s. The costumes, sets, choreography, performers were ALL amazing! It was a shame we couldn’t take any photos or videos. I wish I could have captured Kristin all dressed up in costume and stuff. I just didn’t want to deal with any old people threatening to tattle on me, cuz i’ve been in that situation before… and by the way, on this night, the theater was FILLED with old people. So the show lasted about a half hour, and we waited for most of the theater to file out before going down to the ladies and showing face. I didn’t want them to think that we skipped out on Kristin’s first show! I just REALLY needed a nap! So we went down and said hi and rant and raved about the show. Jackie said Kristin would be coming out shortly, so we waited at the back of the theater for her for a bit. During our time waiting for her, a few of her cast mates walked past us, said hi and asked us how we enjoyed the show. So we were introduced to them formally, by Jackie. Kristin came down and met up with us in one of the aisles to discuss the plans for the rest of the evening. She was going to the club on the ship called Medusa’s Lair, to do a promotional dance called The White Knights. They do these dances to get people into the club. So Cheryl and Alice said their goodnights here, and Jackie agreed to meet us at the club. We ended up sticking around the theater for some reason, Kristin said she’s be right back and then disappeared for awhile. Avi and I just sat there, recapping the whole first day/night on the ship. I filmed him doing a short vlog here. We were the only ones in the theater, besides the maids who were vacuuming confetti off of the sun motif’d rugs. The song “Closing Time” started playing, and I acknowledged it, “Maybe they’re trying to tell us something”.
So we waited around for Kristin a little longer, and then when she finally came out we agreed to meet her at Medusa’s Lair Club for her White Knight’s Performance. We headed to the club, which you probably wouldn’t have recognized as a club from just walking past if it weren’t for the 2 feet of red carpet and the velvet ropes on stanchions leading up to a revolving door which the music would bump from every time somebody entered or exited. There were some leather couches outside the club, because it was also right by a bar area and lounge. So we waited outside of the club and met Jackie there as she was all ready to capture Kristin with her camera. Kristin showed up with her dance team, 3 other members beside her: Christopher, Josh, and Fran (her dance captain). They were all dressed in white denim from head to toe, with little wings encrusted on the back of their vest jackets in white rhinestoned diamonds. Now I figured out why they were called the White Knights hahaha! So Kristin was getting ready with her crew, and told us to go wait inside the club cuz they were going to be down in a bit. The club was 2 floors. As soon as you walked in, the bar was to your left taking up the whole length of the wall. To the right there was a spiraling staircase that led to the lower level of the club. To the right of the staircase there was a ledge with a row of bar stools where the smokers congregated to creep on the dancers shaking their thangs on the light up discoesque floor below. I must admit, Avi, Kristin, & I were totally guilty of this (not the smoking, but the creeping), but I’ll get to that later. So we head down the lit up spiral staircase to the level below and to the left of the dance floor there was a little cove with a bunch of tables and chairs. Avi, Jackie, & I sat down at the closest table to the ramp to the dance floor to wait for Kristin’s dance to start. In the meantime, there was a plump middle aged white man on the dance floor, just tearing it up, by himself. He was the ONLY one on the dance floor. So I couldn’t NOT video record him. He went on for a good 20 minutes, just getting it on by himself. Soon after, Willie, the cruise director kicked him off the stage, which was a good laugh. He told him he was gonna buy him a Spring and then told him to SHOVE OFF in his British accent, which made me piss my pants. He then announced Kristin’s dance troupe. They ran down the spiral staircase dancing to a medley of “Without You” by Usher, “So Wake Me Up When It’s All Over” (I’m not sure what the exact name of that song is) and “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba which was a cool mixup. They did a huge block of dancing, then headed out to the audience to try to get them up on the floor. They even ran up the spiral staircase to engage some people at the bar. The really lit up that already lit up floor that was backed by a large head of Medusa covering the entire wall. It was such a cool club, and a cool vibe. After the first medley, it went into a medley of “Blurred Lines” & “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”. The whole dance was so much fun and I taped the whole thing as I was screaming “GET IT GIRL” from the sidelines. Soon most of the audience was up on the dance floor getting their groove on with the dancers. After Kristin’s dance thing, we hung out for a bit, and then exited the club and took some photos outside. We walked back to the theater with Kristin so she could get changed, and then we planned to go down to crew bar with her, which is where the crew actually lives. The crew is actually not allowed to hang out at the bars on the ship unless they’re working, so there is a specific hangout for them on the bottom of the ship where they also sleep and live. They also get things for A LOT cheaper down there. Drinks are about a dollar or 2 each. She got us 2 cranberry vodkas each and a HUGE bottle of water for our room, which she put on her sign and sail card. We then hung out for a bit in the bar below, which looked like a typical basement rec room. There were couches, tables n chairs, a tv playing the game, with faux portal windows which were actually mirrors lined with blue rope lighting. We plopped down on some couches right in front of the tv area and just caught up, and she told us about some behind the scenes things on the ship. Soon after David came down and hung out with us for a bit. We got to know him a little more, but he was still a bit quiet with us at first. He and Turner were teaching us a bit of how the Hungarian alphabet is set up and how certain things are pronounced, since David is Hungarian. We eventually wrapped up the night around 2 am. It was a LONNNNGGGGG day, and I could barely keep my eyes open any longer. I needed some toothpicks to hold them open just to carry on these conversations. So Kristin walked us back upstairs and we all said our goodnights.
I hit the pillow that night looking forward to the whole next relaxing day we would get to spend on board, and I was OUT like a light!
PICK AN ADVENTURE!