Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Week to Get Back Into the Rat Race

Well, it was back to work this week. A lot of e-mails to catch up on. I think that our trip was truly the best vacation we've had. I would book that trip again in a heartbeat! Time to start saving my pennies again!

I did pick up a hook and some yarn and I'm making another half-granny shawl in autumn colors. I'll post photos as I go along.

Little Justin stopped by in his "mall" Halloween costume last night. He was a tiger, and cute as a button. Here is a video of Justin dancing to the music of a toy I brought home for him:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 10, Day 11 and Home Again

Day 10 was a lovely port in Aruba - Orangestad. What a colorful and peaceful looking harbor. There are lots of shops visible from the ship. Wayne went scuba diving on this island, but wasn't at all happy with his excursion. He went with a shop called Mermaid Diving. They did everything that he was taught not to do! They were very careless with their divers' safety (one of the divemasters would not do a safety stop on the way to the surface). Wayne did a safety stop in spite of the divemaster. The excursion leaders also touched and broke off pieces of coral! You never touch living coral in the sea - a touch can kill it! One of the divemasters also reached into a hole in the coral and pulled an octopus from its lair. You should never bother the animals you find either, especially not for the entertainment of your tour group! Wayne was so angry when he returned.

Day 11 was another quiet day at sea - sobering to think it was our last full day on the cruise. We sunned, attended some shows and said our goodbyes to our stateroom attendants and our dinner companions.

Day 12 - we left the ship at approximately 10:00 am and headed for the airport. We didn't arrive home until 8:30 at night, due to a delay in our flight out of San Juan.

I don't want to call this a trip of a lifetime, because that implies that we won't make a trip like that again. I would certainly love to make another trip like this, but I was glad to arrive at home to see my kids and grandson again. I missed them all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Days 8 and 9

Day 8 is a quiet day at sea. Time to rest and relax after visiting 6 islands. I’ll take a few minutes to tell you about our dinner companions. We were fortunate with our seating assignment this time. We have 2 ladies traveling independently – Susan from Alabama and Mel from Alberta, Canada. Mel has been having fun participating in a lot of the ship activities, especially scrapbooking. Susan takes the adventurous excursions, like zip-lining.
Chris and Peter are a married couple from the UK, together for 46 years. They are a delightful pair and have been trading grandchildren stories with Wayne and me.
The food on the cruise has been great. I think Wayne has had escargots for appetizers every night. The few times we’ve eaten at the buffet for lunch or breakfast has been fine as well.
Day 9
Curacao is just beautiful! Bright colored houses everywhere. Wayne had a diving excursion planned here with the Dive Bus. I went along for the ride, and intended to hang out on the public beach across the street from the dive shop. It really wasn’t much of a beach. I’m wishing now that I had taken an excursion with the ship instead. I thought it was going to be a relaxing beach, but the ground was so hard and rocky, you couldn’t lie down on it on a towel to get some sun. I sat for a while reading my Kindle until a local kid stopped and asked me what the Kindle was. I explained about e-readers and then he asked me to find Jesus on the Kindle. He went on to tell me that he had Jesus inside him, and I agreed that we all have Jesus inside us. He gave me a blessing and then showed me the “national plant” tattooed on his chest. Marijuana. OOOOOooo-kay…
Headed across the road to await Wayne’s return there.
Curacao is certainly a place I would like to visit again, and Wayne said the diving there was spectacular.

I'll be back with photos as soon as I can.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Days 5,6 and 7

Day 5
St. Lucia is a lovely island. We did the beach excursion here. I was a little disappointed. I thought we should have gotten more beach time here. I did a little snorkeling here and saw a few fish and some spiny urchins. The water was calm and clear. Lots of residents wandering the beach trying to sell jewelry and fresh fruit to the tourists. Wayne had to ask one man to move on when he sat down on my beach chair! All told, I think we were less than 2 hours on the beach. There were a few complaints from some of the group of passengers on this trip. The water was very refreshing and I’m glad we got to see the beach.
Day 6
Our day at Barbados was good and bad. They have a real set up here. The cruise ship passengers don’t get to the tour buses until they pass entirely through the terminal with all their shops. On the way back after your tour – same thing. They have doors blocked off so that you have to walk all the way through the shopping area, past every single store. At least it was fixed up some since we were here last. They don’t have the open-air vendors anymore.
Our excursion was the turtle snorkel, shipwreck and beach tour. What a frightening day! I headed into the water with my snorkel gear and started viewing fish and a couple of turtles that were drawn by the chum the crew members were tossing into the water. When I looked up to see where I was, I was so far from our boat that it shocked me. We were caught in 3-4 knot currents there and just swept away from the boat. In the meantime, as I’m trying to make my way back to the boat against the current, the crew members were calling us back to the boat (I’m trying! I’m trying!). There were two other boats there getting ready to leave and I was afraid of getting run over. My husband had to tow me back to the boat, also swimming against the current. The last 75 feet or so, one of the crew members towed my sorry behind back to the boat. I am not a good swimmer to begin with, but my husband said that we never should have been put into the water at all. I did see 3 sea turtles, but I’m not sure it was worth it. At the second stop over the shipwreck and reef, I decided not to get into the water again. My husband snorkeled but said the current was just as bad there, and he was glad I didn’t join him in the water. It would have been too much for me. It wasn’t just me having problems – the crew actually had to launch the dinghy to bring some of the swimmers back to the boat. They were also caught up in the current and tired themselves out trying to swim out of it. At the third stop, a beach stop, we weren’t allowed to swim to the beach, again because of the current. I think the captain decided against it because of all the trouble they had earlier. I decided to enter the water, intending to hang around the back of the boat and the ladder. It was an effort to hold onto the ladder, as the water kept trying to sweep me away around the port side of the boat. All in all I do think it was a mistake to drop all of those passengers into a current like that, but I’m thankful that there weren’t any mishaps.
Tomorrow is Grenada and I’m looking forward to that stop.
Day 7
Grenada was fantastic! I love the island – what I saw of it anyway. The people were fantastic. We took another catamaran tour here and loved every minute of it. There was snorkeling at one stop over some underwater sculptures and a reef. Wayne said the reef was a dead reef. It’s sad – the locals told us the reef was destroyed by a hurricane some time back. I wonder why they don’t take their passengers to view another reef instead. Anyway, after the snorkeling there (which I chose not to do again – I was afraid I’d having trouble getting back onto the boat), we traveled to Grand Anse beach. It was nice there and we did a little snorkeling there. Not many fish to view, but we did travel over one area with sea life, and spotted some sort of eel. I’ll have to remember to look it up to see what kind it was.
The hosts on the boat couldn’t have been nicer. I have heard of swim-up bars, but this was the first time I saw the bartender swim out to the customers. Okay – he waded out, carrying a tray of water, a various selection of sodas, and “holiday juice” (rum punch). They made us all feel so welcome, and it made the day a lot of fun.
After returning our snorkeling equipment to the ship, we ventured out into the shopping area. I was intent on purchasing some spices, since Grenada is known as the Spice Island. I am sitting here now, next to my purchases, and the cabin smells heavenly. Nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, curry, ginger, bay leaves, lemon pepper, red pepper and cocoa all combined into a sensory delight. I’ll be sharing some of these goodies with family members.This has been a wonderful trip so far, and I’m enjoying it immensely. No photos today - they are still on my canera.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Days 2,3 and 4 in the Southern Caribbean

Day 2 - St. Croix DH has gone scuba diving this morning, leaving me to get into trouble on my own! I attended the Cruise Critic meet and greet at 10:00 am and I was impressed that the ship’s officers went out of their way to attend. There was coffee, tea, orange juice and pastries set out for the meeting and the officers took the time to speak to us about their duties. One of the gentlemen was in charge of food services, and I was impressed. Over half of the ship’s crew was under his direction. There are about 500 employees working in the food sector. Each of the officers then spent time talking to all of us individually or in groups, answering any questions we might have had. After the get-together I headed for the Aqua Spa for a facial and massage. Heaven! When Wayne returned from his excursion, we took a walk around the small vendor tents along the end of the pier and found a T-shirt for Justin. Not much else going on there, so we returned to the ship. I wish I was braver and felt comfortable taking trips by myself. I’m sorry to say that the highlight of visiting St Croix for me was seeing a dolphin swimming in the harbor. If I’m ever here again, I will sign up for one of the ship’s excursions to tour the island and not be such a big baby.

Day 3 - St. Kitts St. Kitts was wonderful. Such a beautiful island. I accompanied Wayne on his scuba tour, and was a passenger on the boat. It was perfect just relaxing with the waves rocking you gently and the breezes keeping you cool. A welcome breeze, I might add, as it was very hot when we left the ship to meet the tour operators.

Day 4 - Dominica My favorite stop so far! I absolutely loved it! I took a whale-watching trip while Wayne was diving. We spotted sperm whales about 30 minutes after leaving the pier. Captain Jerry stopped and dropped the hydrophone into the water, listened for a few minutes and announced that there were whales in the vicinity. He gave a courtesy call to the whale-watch operator of the ship's tour (this one was booked independently), so that they could ensure that the ship's passengers on that boat also were able to see the whales. Soon enough, we spotted 2 whales in the distance, moving toward us. We worked our way closer and I have to tell you that I was awed by the sight. Eventually, they were joined by three more, and then they moved themselves toward 3 or 4 more animals and formed a small group where they socialized for a while. There were 6 adults and 2 calves! I took some video, and apologize for the shakiness. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The whales were so close to the boat, they actually swam up underneath us and surfaced behind us. Then they swam along side the boat, no farther than 15 feet away. One whale gave us the eye as he (or she) swam by. One of them had to be at least 30 feet long. This day has been my highlight so far. I can't believe the wonders of our earth and sea.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 1 and 2 - Southern Caribbean

Hi from the ocean blue!
The first and second day of vacation are over – but there’s still plenty to look forward to!
We decided to fly to San Juan a day early, so that there would be a mad rush to the cruise ship pier on Monday afternoon. At the airport we were able to upgrade to first class seats for DH and I – what luxury! I was always one of those folks who said “First class – what’s the point? Economy class gets there at the same time.” Well, let me tell you that there is quite a difference. You aren’t squashed next to your neighbors like sardines, no one climbing over you every time they need to use the restroom, no one jostling you on their travels up and down the aisle. The seats reclined until you could lie flat and sleep as though you were home in your own bed! Well, you probably have a much better mattress, but you get the idea. Flight attendants really do bring you hot towels in first class – I thought that was a movie thing! Snacks and meals you don’t see in economy (I had 3 cheese quiche with turkey sausage for breakfast) were a very pleasant surprise. My husband is really spoiling me! Upon landing and claiming our baggage we were taken by taxi to the Caribe Hilton hotel in Old San Juan. What a beautiful place! The grounds are fantastic, there is a beach and at least 3 pools that I saw. Our room had the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in and a comforter type blanket to die for! There was a wedding reception held there during our stay on Sunday, and the bride and groom have to have the loveliest photos ever. I can’t imagine a wedding held in a tropical setting like this. One caveat – food is expensive (VERY EXPENSIVE!). I did leave there with the idea that I might like to visit again. The room did have a refrigerator, and staying for a week might involve doing your own shopping and eating sandwiches! LOL!
On Monday, after checking out, we were taxied to the pier. The Celebrity Millenium is beautiful! Luck was with us when we made our reservations. We have become spoiled cruisers and prefer to book a balcony cabin now. A month or so before the cruise, we were notified that we had been upgraded to what Celebrity calls their concierge class. It’s still a balcony cabin and has extra perks like fresh fruit every day, robes to use on your vacation and priority check-in. About a week before the cruise our travel agent called us to say that we were asked if we wanted to upgrade again, at no cost, to a sky suite! That made check-in a breeze. With our documentation in hand, we were sent to the representative at the desk who took a few minutes to process the paperwork and then escorted us to a gentleman who welcomed us personally and offered us a free dinner in the specialty restaurant, the Olympic. We booked our dinner reservation and then boarded the ship. While waiting for access to the stateroom, we wandered the ship from top to bottom, and had lunch at the buffet. There were mimosas offered to the boarding passengers, and everywhere we went, employees welcomed us aboard with a smile.
Our stateroom is marvelous. When we were offered the suite the cruise line advised us that the suite was handicapped accessible. It had remained unsold, which was the reason it was available for upgrade. The stateroom is huge, compared to previous staterooms we’ve had. We settled in, and our butler appeared to introduce himself and see if we needed any assistance unpacking! Yes, our butler! In addition to the stateroom attendant, we have a butler!

Our dinner was fantastic. We had a waiter named Made (Mar-day) from Bali and he was so helpful to us, a couple of hicks from Pennsylvania. I’m afraid I had to ask him which forks to use at dinner (I’m not too proud to ask for help). We really liked him a lot. DH had the duck for dinner and raved about it. I chose seafood risotto. It was delicious, but whereas I was expecting jumbo shrimp and scallops, the dish also included oysters – EWWWWWW! I shoved them to the side of the plate and ate the rest, Overall each and every course of the meal was great, and I would eat there again.
The ship departed San Juan at approximately 8:45 and I have to tell you that it is as smooth as can be. It is now 6:55 am on Tuesday and I was up early to watch the sunrise from my veranda. The ocean is so calm – you can hardly tell the ship is moving. I’m looking forward to a good day in St. Croix.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Ready for Vacation

On Sunday morning, we head for the airport. I've been looking forward to this cruise. I don't know if I'll want to come home. 11 nights - 8 ports. We will be visiting Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, St. Croix, St. Kitts and St. Lucia. Tomorrow will be a "last minute, running around, repacking" kind of day.

I have finished a shawl in autumn colors. I am making shawls - one for a SIL fighting Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and I will make one for my son's fiancee's aunt, valiantly fighting breast cancer. The shawl I finished is a half-granny shawl. I've only ever made these in solid colors, but I alternated rows of light tan, light sage green, carrot and a lighter shade of green (I don't remember what it's called). I do like the way it turned out - what do you think?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Countdown - 7 Days...

We're already packing for our trip! Are we anxious and excited? YES!
Gathering items as we think of them and adding them to a single bag. Watch us forget and leave the whole bag at home! LOL!
I still need to pick up some yarn. I intend to work on a shawl for my sister-in-law. I thought the half-granny shawl is a nice warm one. I made one for myself and one for a friend already.