a fuller life

adventures… eats… laughs… life

Kickin’ it in the Caribbean with Cool Cats – 2015 Edition

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This blog has been brought to you from the back seat of Sue’s car while she and Greg listen to the Bruins game…

st_thomasDay 1 – The Philadelphia Beer Vortex

Adventure time!  With snow up to my neck in the yard, you have no idea how desperate we were to get the hell out of dodge…

Wee hour of the morning departure, as per usual. Stop for harvest nut and grain pancakes and Starbucks en route (holy shit, in America they have coconut milk as an option!), got to Manchester early… killed some time at the mall (very out of character for us, but essentially this stop was just for stretching our legs), dropped the car at the hotel (Homewood Suites Manchester Airport – highly recommend… park & fly, free shuttle, free breaky and ninnernet) and off to the airport. Tasty beers to start off the trip, while watching the gang (whoever wasn’t already in PR) check in stop to stop online (that part of FB is super fun). Flight was short and completely uneventful. Time to kill in Newark, so there may have been beer, food, and more Starbucks.

Flight to San Juan leaves late after a gate change so I check in with Alice to let her know that we’d be arriving at the hotel we’re sharing late…. only to discover they’ve decided to take the scenic route to PR and we won’t see them until we’re on the ship. And when you don’t sit anywhere near your husband on the plane, the best method to communicate this information is by secret_harborwriting it really big on a piece of paper and waiting for him to look in your direction. Using a doodle app on a tablet later on also works. We flew United for this trek of the trip, and while the plane was nice and we had lots of leg room in the emergency rows, they still get a fail for their stupid fucking DirectTV. I paid to  get on the plane, I paid for my luggage to come on the plane, I have to pay if I want to eat anything on the plane, but I draw the fucking line at paying to watch TV or movies on the plane. Plus, a lot of it only works in US airspace. Get bent you bunch of corporate pigs!  So I watched some Doctor Who on my tablet and dozed off and on (since we had been in transit for 20 hours or so by then).

Arrived in PR around 2am, phoned the hotel to make sure someone was there so I could convince them to give us the rooms booked by the people still in Philly, waited forever for luggage to come out, and then off to the hotel. We stayed at the Dreams hotel in the university and medical area of San Juan. The hotel wasn’t much to look at from the outside and it’s definitely in a party area (party in a pouch!), but it was nice on the inside and totally fine for the 8 hours we were kicking around. It was also crazy cheap, which is just about unheard of in San Juan. We crashed brimstone_hillright away after stealing a Wi-Fi signal from somewhere.

Got up early morning after a whopping 3 hours of sleep, wandered around a bit and got some granola bars for breakfast at Walgreens, and got back to the hotel before getting hit by a downpour. Gathered up Sue, went and had some breakfast at Panchy’s Bakery, muled some wine, and headed to the ship around 11. Someone from the hotel gave us a lift to the port for $20 – thanks hotel guy!

We had planned to just leave our bags at the port and then wander around, but there was barely anyone at the cruise terminal and we were leaving from the terminal not in old San Juan, so we decided to just get on the ship and explore. We were on the ship within 15 minutes at the most and off to figure out what’s what. We may have been thirsty!

Met up with the gang piece by piece (hooray!) and hung out in the lovely warm. Had all our luggage by 4:30, got some lovely treats in our room (thanks Alice and Bill), met our steward Eric, napped, showered, unpacked, hung out… met for drinks before muster and waited there until it was time for the firing line… muster was around 8 and it was long and boring because jerks take forever to get there (they were very specific with this one, actually calling role call for the rooms in that zone). I get that it’s important but I don’t have to like it.shipwreck_beach

Had the gang all together for late dinner, though RCCL messed things up with all of the other tables (much like they messed up lots of other stuff… more on that later)… early night for most everyone after long travel days. It was nice to actually get some sleep for sure.

Day 2 – $7 Rum and That’s What D Said

Today is the day formerly known as Tortola. About 2 weeks before we sailed, RC changed our awesome day in Tortola to one of my two least favourite ports in the world (and conveniently we now ended up with both of them in one sailing)… so we ended up in St Thomas with plans just to wing it that day with a later start than the other days. So we grabbed a cab, got him to take us somewhere not too busy (we were thankfully the only ship in port that day)… so we ended up a Secret Harbor at a resort beach where us interlopers could kind of hang out off to the side. There may have been a stop at a grocery store on the way there for a bag cooler full of beer, rum, etc. Mmmm fruit jacko_fallsmedley rum.

It was definitely the best day I’ve had in St Thomas – floating around in the lovely warm drinking with great friends. Our handy dandy taxi driver Roy came back for us around 3:00, and we headed back to the port with 3 additional Canadians in tow. There may have been van-wide tickle-fest as Greg kept their daughter Jane entertained the whole way back to the port. Quick look around the port (so Greg could buy Jane a mermaid magnet) and then back onto the ship.

There was no really good hang out on the ship, and you never knew which bar was going to be open when… so there was a lot of random hanging out with friends, but not much for the blog since we don’t do ship events.

Day 3 – For the Ladies…

Our second port day was St Kitts. We ended up doing a tour with Royston tours and it was a company we had used before. Our driver we were supposed to have was sick so we ended up with a guy named David. We did a tour around the island, mostly to places I had already been – Romney manor, Caribelle Batik, Brimstone Hill, a few look offs, etc. He grabbed us some lunch from a roadside vendorcoconut (which I love in concept, except that it was chicken and garlic bread, which definitely wouldn’t have been high on my list of things to eat). Stopped at Shipwreck Beach to eat while stealing a table at the Godfather beach bar) and had some beach time in pretty rough and seaweedy water… the beach we were planning to visit was closed for a private event. Dionne injured herself and we bought some beers to appease the owner of the beach bar that seemed to be irritated that we even existed.

A St Kitts highlight was the Shanty ginger beer – good find Alice. A non-highlight in most of the places is the poor monkeys (and sometimes even donkeys) that locals are pimping out.

Day 4 – Alice Couldn’t Find The Meat Sticks Under the Bed

Ahhh… St Maarten – my other least favourite port in the Caribbean. barbados_viewLovely warm waters, friendly people, great weather… but I don’t shop and it hurts my soul to see these islands give up awesome things (like growing tropical fruits that I am so jealous of) for an industry of tourism only.

So we did a bit of a tour around the island with Noel tours. He was late picking us up in the morning (he claimed traffic but we’re voting for slept in) but he was a fun guy. We had some beach time at Orient Bay with a rum punch and beach chair for $5 (there’s Wi-Fi, but there’s also a million people pestering you to buy shit), we stopped at Sandy’s for a delicious lunch (there’s more Wi-Fi), spent some time at Maho Beach watching the planes land and take off, and suffered through a LOT of shagging music in the van, visited with some salad-eating iguanas, met some sea creatures, and had a multi-version happy birthday-athon for Greg. I’m not sure how he knew there was a birthday so I’m thinking he had something confused somewhere, but we just went with it.

Back at the port at the end of the day, picked up some guavaberry liquor and back on board.

Day 5 – The Gyro Table, Paper Dick, Dancing Douches… and D is Too Cute for Jail

Day 5 found us in Dominica. We had booked a tour with a guy the last time we were there and he ended up in the hospital and we got a different tour…. So we booked him again and it all worked out this time. Though we steered clear of the group of older folks in the other van that followed us around. We don’t tend to play well with the other children. Stopped at Jacko Falls, windmillate some coconut, ordered some lunch, drove around the island, picked up lunch, went to the beach, ate the lunch (though my fish that I ordered turned into chicken… not sure why the universe kept trying to feed me chicken on this trip… screw off universe), drank some beer and rum punch, etc.

Back on the ship a few people tackled the rock wall… I sucked at that, but I’m only taking half the blame. The guys working it were complete douches. We spent the first 15 minutes waiting for one of them to finish flirting with some random jail bait who had climbed the wall while ignoring us. Then they didn’t pay any attention to most of us when we were climbing. The person running the ropes for me was lead douche for sure and just kept pulling and making me angry while I was trying to figure out where to put my hands and feet… inconveniently the hand holds I wanted were being used by Alice’s feet. So I gave up and am totally ok with that. Next time. Alice got trapped on the wall while her guy completely ignored her and talked on the phone. Great activity for something to do on a ship, wrong staff for the job for sure.

maho_beachI think this was the night they did the Quest activity on the ship, but I could be wrong since the days all blur together… but it was pretty much the only activity we took part in… the ship had been dead every night all over the place (except the golden oldies dancing center of the ship), but the lounge was packed for this one. If you don’t get there early you don’t really have a chance because it’s speed-based in getting stuff up to the front, but Gel and Dionne made a valiant effort and Sarah invented a dance that got the team more points than anyone else. It wasn’t the same without Michelle and Paul though for sure. But at least it wasn’t like on Carnival where the bitch working had it in for us.

There was also a silent dance party that we went to for a bit. It was stupid.

Day 6 – Masturbation is a Basic Human Rightbarbados

This was our last port day for the cruise and I think that’s likely best as the day drinking was tiring us all out. Today our stop was Barbados and it was our only new country for the cruise. We did a tour with Tyrone, where he pointed some stuff out (cricket stadium, rum distillery, where some pop star lives, where Tiger Woods got married, etc.) and we stopped at an old church, lots of nice look outs (including one where some bitchy local got mad that we wanted to take a picture where she was being a pain in the ass trying to sell ridiculous trinkets), and to get some beer ‘cause he came with rum punch and we drank it all. We also drove through a swanky area where we might have seen monkeys, except that the richy-riches that live there didn’t like cab drivers coming through there to show people monkeys and started scaring them off and roping off streets. Tyrone took good care of us and wouldn’t let us get beer until we could find a place we were it was no more than a dollar US per beer. We had some tasty lunch at Copacabana beach bar (mmm flying fish) on Carlisle beach at the end of the day and some time on the beach. Did a quick shop at the port to get some nutmeg and a mug and a couple of small gifts (we had to make sure Tyrone got back in time to pick up his wife!). Beware the rock with no stairs and watch for our new bathroom app – coming soon. Oh, and something I liked about Barbados… no private beaches.

carlisle_beachIn the evening on the ship, we played a round of Cards Against Humanity, once we finally found somewhere on the ship with some tables where they would let us sit. Not quite as drunken and bonkers as I am used to, but fun all the same.

Day 7 – Happy 40th Birthday Binja

Sea day!  We only had one this sailing, so we had to make the most of it… and that meant sleeping in, sitting around, eating, more rock wall climbing, watching the belly flop contest, considering future cruises, plotting how to take care of a house donkey, eating wiggly caterpillars for dessert, more day drinking, and having a surprise birthday party for Greg. Gang, he’s so appreciative of you taking the time out to visit with him and for the lovely, thoughtful gifts… thank you, thank you, thank you. We love you guys!

Day 8 – Musical Terminals in Phillyiguanas

Disembarkation day – boo!!  Though you could kind of tell everyone was exhausted and ready to go home by Saturday morning. I think mostly our livers were sleepy and angry. So we had a last breakfast on the ship, got off, taxied to airport, said goodbye to D who was in another terminal, had some food at Margaritaville, and then split off again from Alice and Bill and were on our way to Philly. We were flying US Airways this time. Flight was uneventful, plane was nice, and movies were free.

Time to kill in Philly with free Wi-Fi … hooray!  They switched our gate to 3 different terminals so we had a nice tour, we had some Chipotle (yum) and Starbucks (mmm tiramisu latte that we don’t have in Canada). Back into Manchester by 10-ish and off to the hotel. Crashed pretty soon after that.

smoothiesDay 9 – On the Road Again

And this brings us to now… 2/3 of the way through the 7 hour drive back home from the airport in NH. We had some breakfast at the hotel, stopped at Whole Foods for goodies and a liquid rainbow to give our livers a break (and ran into 2 of my fave market customers)… ok, we did also buy some Maine craft-brewed beer… we had some pizza in Bangor, and now we’re driving along listening to the hockey game (well I’m ignoring it). We’re likely less than 2 hours from home.

And for cruisers who care about cruising stuff… here’s the last of my ramblings. We’ve done most of our cruises on Carnival and this was our first on RC. The list of things we liked better on RC is small, but it exists. Here goes: no icky shower curtain touching me in the shower, our balcony was nice, there’s a Starbucks on the ship (even with a limited menu I was happy to see it)… they don’t make any announcements, pretty much ever (there was some at muster, one when they were refueling, and one during debark), and also the drink packages are better (they don’t make both people in a room buy one).

rocks

Things I wasn’t impressed with mostly occurred before we even left for the trip – pretty much any of our dealings with the RC group coordinator before the cruise. They didn’t follow through on anything they said was sorted (putting all our group together at dinner, making sure people had their group credits), they misinformed us about a lot of stuff while we were initially booking, they wouldn’t let us have a private cocktail party where we could include people who booked in the group and exclude people who didn’t drink, and we had to chase it down ourselves that one of our ports had changed. I don’t appreciate anyone making me have to work while on holidays. The people selling the drink packages were telling people the wrong information about what was included in them (but it was fairly quickly sorted at the desk). Sections of the ship were constantly getting locked down or closed for cleaning, and while I am all for cleaning the ship, sometimes it wasn’t really all that late… we were even asked to leave places in the middle of the day, so it’s hard to find a place to hang out. The boat was pretty rocky the entire trip (partially due to the design), and while it doesn’t bother me, it did a number on a bunch of the gang on more than one occasion. Bar prices outside of the packages are generally higher, the beer selection is shit (though that’s not uncommon on any ship for me since I am a fussy beer drinker), and there’s no drink menus barely anywhere. No real deal breakers here, but they cost more than Carnival but aren’t necessarily better… but I still cruise for ports.

shipsI didn’t like the design of the ship… it was hard to find a central place to just meet up, and there was too much wood paneling for me… very stuffy… but I don’t travel for the ship and that’s never a deal breaker. This one does need a bit of a face-lift though – very dated. The staff was always very cheerful and helpful. The food is the worst I’ve had on a ship, but that’s not to say we didn’t eat like a bunch of starving wild creatures all the time (though we put in our gym time to balance it all out) and if you don’t eat meat, it’s a struggle to find something in the dining room. If you’re a vegan, don’t even bother (though possibly you could contact them in advance and sort something there). There’s a juice bar during the morning in the adult pool area… it has a limited selection, but it exists. Progress! A juice and smoothie bar is the one thing I have been after on a ship since we started sailing them. They have pool tables on hydraulics to keep the flat (guaranteed to make you seasick if you aren’t already). The TVs show lots of cricket… which really makes no difference to me since we barely turn the TVs on, but it was fun trying to figure out the rules.

Gang – thanks for taking the boring out of St. Thomas and St. Maarten for me and the innumerable laughs that just don’t translate to the blog. Melissa – thanks for hanging late night. Ingrid – cheers for the help on the birthday celebration. Can’t wait until whatever happens next.

So that’s a wrap.

Ange out.

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