Monday, December 22, 2008

Between the two, I find...

I much prefer snorkeling to shoveling snow.

Our trip was absolutely fantastic. I missed the kids like crazy, but I have to admit it was nice to not have to worry about them, and just be a kid myself. A few times, we sat near the kids' buffet area. When we heard the kids screaming and crying, I have to admit J and I exchanged looks, and with a sigh of relief announced we were thrilled it wasn't our kids.

On friday, we dropped K off at school, and S at her Aunt J's to play so she could go to school too. We took the boys with us down to Grandma Jane's house. We then caught a ride to the airport. I found myself pacing around, talking to myself. I discovered that kids were just a good way to hide my inability to sit still and tendency to talk to myself.

The flights were smooth, and we found ourselves in Miami around 11:30pm. We took the shuttle to the Embassy Suites in Miami. It was a beautiful hotel, with a large spacious suite.

We slept well, then took a shuttle to the port the next morning. Embarkation was really smooth, and we found ourselves onboard within a few minutes. The Norwegian Dawn was an absolutely stunning ship. The art and attention to detail were breathtaking.

Before we left on the cruise, I posted on a website called I joined a roll call group, and was able to meet quite a few people online who would be onboard with me. We had a get together scheduled for Sunday morning, but I was hoping to meet people before then. We were walking around the deck, when I suddenly heard someone yelling my name. It turned out to be Mimi and her husband, Chris. They are some of the funnest people I have ever met. They threw several awesome parties. Their parties were so fun that the ship's captain actually showed up!

As we were leaving muster drill, I saw one of th
e girls from the group. I got her attention, and we seemed to instantly click. I ended up counting Rochelle and Jack as fairly good friends by the end of the cruise. I also want to give a nod to "Mr. Fun" and his wife Patty. They were so smart, and great fonts of knowledge on fun things to do in each port. The "triplets", Julie, Wrayanne, and Sherry were also so much fun- they wore reindeer antlers and Santa hats the whole time. We also really enjoyed visiting with Dar & Gwenn. Marilyn and her husband were our trivia buddies, even though they kicked our butts.

Sunday morning was the cruise critic get together. We had
a surprisingly big group show up. We came from several age groups and several walks of life, but it made for a fun and interesting group. It was so fun to instantly have a dozen or two friends on board. We were constantly running into people from our group, and it was an absolute blast. I will never book a cruise again without joining a CC roll call group as well.

Monday was our day in Samana, Dominican Republic. J lived there for two years, so he was anxious to see the country again, though we would be hours from where he had lived. It was a very beautiful, but very poor country. As we began our tour, I saw this pickup truck filled with people. A few minutes later, we passed it. It had begun raining, and the people had a big tarp that they were holding over their heads.

Our tour took us to the Devil's Mouth, which was very cool. It was a blowhole about 50 feet or so from the ocean. It was really quite impressive.

After that, we drove on very small dirt roads to Playa
Rincon, which was easily the most beautiful beach we saw on our cruise. We would've loved hours and hours to explore this beach, but unfortunately, we were only given 20 minutes to look around before the tour operators had to load us up again and get us back to the pier at the time that the cruise line demanded. We were terribly disappointed about this, and more than a little angry with the cruise line for not allowing enough time to enjoy the beach.

I put together a bunch of little goody bags for the chi
ldren of the Dominican Republic. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to really stop and interact with the kids, so we ended up tossing them out of our tour bus when we saw kids by the side of the road. It was disappointing that we weren't able to actually talk with the kids, but hopefully it brightened their day a little.

The next day, we went to Tortola. We were scheduled to go on a s
hip sponsored snorkeling tour of Virgin Gorda's Baths, but the excursion was cancelled at the very last minute. They didn't notify us in a timely manner, so we weren't able to get a ferry to do the excursion on our own as several of our cruise critic friends did.

We ended up hiring a guy off the street to give us a tour of Tortola, and then take us to Cane Garden Beach. In and of itself, it was a great tour, and we saw some beautiful views from the top of the island. We still only had about 20 minutes on the beach, and we used that time to body surf, as the water was fairly rough. We met a lady on the tour named Mrs. Lazurus. She was in her 80s, and a real character. I was thrilled to get to know her, and ran into her numerous times on our vacation.

Wednesday was our day in St. Thomas. Thank go
odness we had no excursion scheduled though Norwegian Cruiselines (I couldn't commit to a beach). So, we took a tender to shore at 8:30am. It was pouring rain, and none of the shops were open where we were dropped off. No matter, they looked to be high end, and selling stuff I wouldn't pay for. We met up with Mike and his wife from CC, and decided to share a cab with them to Coki Beach. We first had to take a dollar cab to the downtown area. A local told us about it, and even rode the cab with us for a bit. It was set up exactly like the tour buses, except they had bicycle horns. If you wanted to get off, you honked the horn and the guy stopped. The ride was supposed to be $1. We watched other locals be charged that, and chatted with everyone as we rode. When we got off, the driver tried to charge us each $4. We fought him, and the locals on the bus even got involved. He ended up literally throwing our change at us and stomping off. We didn't care.

When we arrived at Coki Beach, it was 9:00, and pr
actically deserted. We were thrilled, as we had heard that it was usually crazy crowded, and with 5 or 6 ships in port that day, it was rumored to be even worse than usual. The snorkeling was really good, and we saw a lot of fish and coral. If you are looking out to sea, there is more coral at the left side of the beach. The right side had more fish and easier snorkeling, but a lot more people.These rainbow looking fish were amongst my favorites, but they were really difficult to properly photograph.

Around noon, we decided Coki was getting too crowded, as a ton of people had arrived from the tours. We took a cab over to Secret Harbor.
It truly was a secret. There was very people there, and several friendly iguanas. The snorkeling wasn't nearly as good, but we did see a sea turtle there, which made the trip well worth it.

By this point, we were getting pretty tired and hungry, and I was feeling a bit pink from all of the sun, so we headed back to town. We shopped around a little bit, but didn't see anything interesting, so we headed back on board.

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