As promised! *grin*
Here's my lengthy trip report!
Day One: Miami, Florida
We got up at 3 AM. Well... I got up at 3 AM. Hubby got up at 3:20, and it took us until almost 3:50 to get Son up. And we had to leave at 4, sharp. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled with our roaring start. Son was cranky, but he did chill out on the ride to the airport. We got to the airport at 5:00 for our 6:00 flight. (We flew Delta on the way down to Miami.) We checked our bags without incident.We got to the gate and had a few minutes to sit around.
The guy at the counter was a complete moron. He told us there was a slight delay because there was a mechanical problem. "Hopefully it's not anything serious," he says into the loudspeaker.
WTH?? Idiot. He must have missed "Gloss Over Everything" Day at airline employee training. Then he announces that there's no working toilet on the plane, so use the restroom now. Turns out the mechanical problem was a faulty latch on the cargo hold. They fixed it, and away we went.
It was Son's first time flying and he was really nervous. I was trying to reassure him, while not admitting that I was a tad apprehensive myself. Some people should NOT be allowed to have access to loudspeakers.We finally took off at 6:30, with plenty of time to make our connection in Atlanta. Son decided flying was pretty cool. The clouds were huge and puffy and white against the perfect blue background. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Atlanta airport is HUGE. We went to our gate to wait for our connection, and I got to charge my cell phone. They have nifty stations set up - round tables with outlets so you can plug stuff in or work while you wait for your flight. They also had a Cinnabon, so guess what we had for breakfast!
The flight from Atlanta to Miami was a bit smoother... no idiots making announcements there! Unfortunately, Hubby & I both got really bad earaches. We each had one ear that just refused to pop and it hurt like hell. Not to mention not being able to hear right. Ugh.
Getting onto the ship was smooth as could be. Royal Caribbean is uber-organized and absolutely wonderful at making sure you're on VACATION. They keep all the paperwork and checking in stuff to a minimum. They now have a fabulous online checkin process, which I used, so we just had to go to the counter, show our ID and credit card (for on-board purchases) and we got our SeaPass cards and onto the ship we went.
We got on board and went right to our room to unload our carry-on stuff, which mysteriously got heavier and heavier by the minute. After we unloaded, we went up to the Windjammer for a buffet lunch. Hubby & I both thought it was excellent, but Son was less than impressed. We went back to the room, where I took a cat-nap and they went off to explore the ship.We decided that since we only go on vacation every 5+ years, we were springing for the good room. I'm glad we did. We got a Junior Suite, which has its own bathroom and a private balcony. It was WELL worth the extra cost.
Around 2:00, there was a big thunderstorm that lasted about 2 1/2 hours. After it was done, it was absolutely beautiful! It took out all the humidity, and it was just lovely. On the hot side, but very comfortable!
At 4:30 we had the mandatory life jacket drill. Afterwards, we came back to the room to relax for a little bit. (Relax for the guys meant checking out the flat-screen TV in our room. For me, it meant digging out all the toiletries and putting our travel documents in a safe place.) We watched the ship pulling out of the dock and heading out into the ocean.
For dinner, we went to Johnny Rocket's. It was awesome. It's a little 50's style diner with jukeboxes on the tables and a red and chrome decor. Very fun! It reminded me a lot of Zimmie's (local diner that went out of business YEARS ago), which I miss tons!
In the evening, we walked around the ship and just hung out. Very low-key. We were back to the room and in bed by 9 because we were all exhausted and the dolphin encounter was first thing Tuesday morning, so we wanted to be rested up.
Day Two: Nassau, Bahamas
When I got up at 7, we were pulling into the dock. We got breakfast at the Windjammer (gotta love those buffets!) and then got ready to leave for our Dolphin Encounter on Blue Lagoon Island. We followed our tour guide out and - of course - she conveniently led us through a cluster of little merchants and shops and down a side street to a water ferry. We rode the ferry about 25 minutes to the island. We saw the Atlantis resort and lots of amazingly beautiful homes along the shore. The water was crystal clear, and you could see to the bottom. Very very cool.
We got to the island and walked down a little pier into the Dolphin Encounter. They split us into groups of 30 people, and then each group went onto a square platform in the water. Inside each square was a sort of "sidewalk" type platform. We sat around the square, just watching a few dolphins frolicking a few feet away. Awesome.
Our dolphin was Andy, but he was rather temperemental and didn't feel like interacting. All the dolphin activities are voluntary, which is cool, so we had to wait for another dolphin who was in the mood to interact. We got Goombay, who turned out to be perfect. He was really into being in the group, and we had an amazing time. First, they led each family onto the water platform, where we got a family picture with one of us getting a kiss from the dolphin. Son was a bit timid, so I got the kiss. *grin* The picture turned out awesome, I love love love it.
After the families were done, we were split into 3 groups of 10. We were in the first group. We all walked into the water on the platform and the trainer brought the dolphin around to each of us. We all hugged the dolphin and gave him a kiss, then we got to rub his back and his belly. Then we danced with him. It was so much fun! Son was still a bit timid, I think it was mostly because the water under our platform was deep and it was freaking him out.When our group of 10 was done, we got to leave the platform. We wandered around the gift shop and then out back to see the Sea Lions, who were hiding. Only one was lounging in the water. We went back through the gift shop and they had DVDs for sale of our group interacting. The DVDs were $58, so we decided to not buy it. We did, however, buy $59 worth of photos. (The minute we left, I regretted not buying the DVD. Turns out, you can order them online, so I ordered it. Now I'll have to pay an arm & a leg for shipping, but I don't care. Reverse buyer's remorse????)
We rode the ferry back to the dock. For some reason, it was rough, and I wasn't feeling so well by the time we got back to the dock. I got a massive headache, thanks to the rough ride and the high humidity. So we got back to the ship and I took a short nap. I felt a LOT better, so we went back on shore and checked out a ton of little shops. There was a Hard Rock Cafe, a Burger King, and a Subway. Not quite what I think of when I think "Bahamas".
Dinner in the Windjammer. Yum.
Day Three: CocoCay, Bahamas
Wow. The ocean in the Bahamas is the most amazing mixture of colors. And so clear you can almost see the bottom. In fact, in the more shallow areas, you can. It's just breathtaking.Today, we were anchored off the shore of CocoCay and had to take a ferry from the ship to the shore. We were the first off the boat, so we had some time to walk around before our Glass-bottom boat tour. I was really looking forward to seeing some colorful ocean life.
We chilled on lounge chairs while we waited. CocoCay is reserved for Royal Caribbean's private use only. It's basically a beachy extention of the ship. There are a handful of little shops and thousands of lounge chairs. And little else.
We weren't allowed to take any shells from the island, which was a bummer. Son and I found a ton of tiny little shells that would have been perfect for in the scrapbook, or in a little jar. Or something. But we did the Right Thing and didn't smuggle any back on board.
The glass bottom boat tour was a huge disappointment. I suppose it's my own fault for having such high expectations. I thought it would be a big boat. With a glass bottom. That you can look through. Crazy, I know. Turns out it's not. It's a 3-level boat with glass panels on the bottom deck. So we had to sit on the upper decks and take turns going below to see what we could see. Which was, not surprisingly, not much of anything. We saw a few starfish and some plants. And sand. Lots and lots of sand. Meh.
At the end of the tour, the boat pulled close to the shore and we fed bread crumbs to some colorful fish. That was pretty cool. The fish would actually jump out of the water trying to get the bread before all the other fish got to it.
Overall, it was just hot and crowded and lame. Won't be doing THAT again.
By the time we got back to the island, it was so miserable hot that we all had sweat just running down our faces and backs. Ick. We poked around the shops VERY briefly and hopped the first ferry we could back to the ship.
We grabbed some lunch and then I sat on the balcony to write in my journal. We were positioned perfectly! We were on the shady side of the ship, and there was a wonderful air going, so it was comfortable out there.
CocoCay was a fair disappointment for all of us. We decided that if we do that cruise again, we'll just stay on board for CocoCay. We were very much looking forward to the next day: Key West.
Day Four: Key West, Florida
We had high, high hopes for Key West, as it was our very favorite place when Hubby & I cruised 5 years ago.
As luck would have it, the captain announced that we would be arriving early and would have an extra hour and a half in Key West. Yay!
As MY luck would have it, we had to go through an on-board customs checkpoint before we could leave the ship.
Surprisingly, we had more good luck. We were supposed to be in the first group to go through customs, at 7:00 AM. We got there at about 6:45 and were probably about the tenth people in line. By 7, there were at least 100 people in line. So we got to zip right through. It was super easy - just show our ID and travel documents and off we went.
We got off the ship and walked around a little bit before coming back to the pier to meet up with our tour. We opted for a repeat of the tour we took last time: a Conch train tour of the island, plus a visit to the Aquarium and the Shipwreck Historeum. We ended up on the very last seat of the train, facing backwards, with zero shade in intense heat. Needless to say, it wasn't my favorite tour. It was okay, though. Still better than CocoCay. :oP
After the train ride, which lasted about an hour, we were dropped in Old Town, which is walking distance from the pier. We went through the aquarium and the Shipwreck Historeum, then climbed the tower. Oy. My legs were shaky til we climbed back down. #1, I hate heights, and #2, I'm waaaaay out of shape. And I was peeved because it was so crowded that we couldn't get a good picture of us with the ship in the background. Although I did get a decent one of just Hubby & Son.
We checked out a bunch of little shops, and watched the chickens walking around the sidewalks. Yes, chickens. And one mangy cat.
One thing I noticed - Even though it was hot and humid and muggy everywhere we were, there weren't any bugs.
Anyway. We walked around Key West and just had a wonderful time. We took lots of pictures with statues. Hubby's favorite was a scantily clad pirate woman with big boobs. LOL
Key West was just perfect for us - lots to see, but everything is just so laid back and we just took our time and did what we wanted to. We can't wait to go back!
Finally we went back on the ship. We had to get our stuff packed and set out for disembarking in the morning.We were slated to exit the ship at 7, so we would have to get up at 6 to get dressed and pack up the last of our carry-on stuff.
Day Five: Miami, Florida
I was up at 5 because I kept waking up, panicking that I had put our travel documents in our checked luggage. I forgot my glasses, so I had to put my contacts in to check the papers in my carry-on bag. (Yes, I'm blind as a bat.) Of course the docs were right where they should have been.
We were up and around and to the Windjammer at 6:30 for breakfast. Along with everyone else on the ship. We were slated to exit in the 7:00 - 7:15 time slot, so we ate fast and went back to the room to grab our carry-ons and do a last minute check to make sure we didn't leave anything behind.
We got off the ship and onto a bus to head to the Miami airport. We were at the airport by about 7:45. Our flight wasn't until 2:55.We gave our checked luggage over to the US Airways rep and headed for the terminal and settled in for a loooooong wait.
We noticed that all the US Air flights were late coming in and going out. Hmmm.At 2:40, they decided to tell us that our flight was behind. Way behind. Great. We had a 50 minute connection to start with. They tell us that there's no way we're making our connection, and they'll put us up in Charlotte, or they can get us to Philadelphia and put us up. No thanks. We want to go the heck HOME.
We got on the plane to Charlotte. We made up some time in the air, and had about 8 minutes to get from Concourse B-4 to Concourse E-18. They made an announcement to please let off passengers with Indianapolis connections because they had such a tight connection. WTH? It wasn't as tight as ours, by a longshot. Screw it, we jumped off with the Indy people. US Air had a cart waiting for the Indy people. Who had more time and not as far to go. And nothing for us. Bastards.
So we ran. Literally RAN through the Charlotte airport. We made it! They held the doors for us, and then about 2 minutes later another group ran in, gasping and looking as rough as we were.
I was so relieved I almost cried. We flew to Harrisburg. (Almost home!)
One of our bags did not.
They managed to screw up and put someone else's name on our one suitcase. That someone else was bound for Houston. W.T.H???
So we came home. I was livid. The woman in Harrisburg was a complete idiot with the attention span and listening comprehension of a maggot.
Our bag was finally delivered to our door Sunday night around 8:30. Hooray. Everything was intact and fine. I hope the souvinirs had a nice time in Houston.
I left a LOT out of the last section, mostly because I'm sick of bitching about US Air and how much they suck. I wouldn't fly them again if I got free round trip tickets. (Well... maybe if they were FREE...)
Instead, I'll focus on the good stuff, which there was a LOT of. Son was perfectly behaved during the airport debacle. (Not going to point out the hissy fits during the cruise though. Tuesday morning was the worst, but after that he was very good.)
Nassau was beautiful and we'd go back in a heartbeat. We would definitely do the dolphin encounter again, too.
Key West is just wonderful. We picked up one of those freebie real estate guides, and if I ever come into an extra $6 mil, we're moving to Key West.
Royal Caribbean is fantastic. I highly recommend a cruise to anyone. It's the perfect vacation. You just get to the ship and everything else is taken care of. Food around the clock - delicious food, and such a variety! They had several different ethnic tables to serve all the different people on board. Every Royal Caribbean employee we came in contact with was friendly and pleasant. Not a grouch in sight. ;o)
CocoCay... Meh. I could take it or leave it.
All in all, it was a wonderful vacation. A much needed vaction. This has been a hard year for us, so it was great to be able to go and kick back and just not worry about anything. THAT is what a vacation should be. And it was.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
As promised! *grin*