a fuller life

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Beer, beaches, and turnips! turnips! turnips!

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More super fun hijinks in the Caribbean with friends on board the Carnival Breeze.20150927_112458

Day 1 – Heading south and breaking cameras…

Adventure time!  And I can even omit the part where I whine about how we have to drive for ages to be able to get to flights with a reasonable cost associated with them… we flew from home for a price we could live with. We this time is Greg and I, and our friends Nicole and Lloyd. Arrived in Florida by noon, straight to the hotel by way of a shuttle service that looped around a bit because we were nice enough to let them wait for the other group of people (who were trashed already and obnoxious… of course.. not that we haven’t also been that group at some time or another). We stayed in downtown Miami (Courtyard Downtown), went and found some cheap eats, got some beer to have our own tasting at the hotel, and mostly chilled out for a bit. Then we walked around some, headed to the Beer and Burger joint for the obvious 20150928_082322choices in a restaurant with this name (I may have also found cupcakes and Starbucks), and then back to the hotel for the night. Crazy party animals. We were tired (we had to be at the airport for our first flight at a time you should only ever reach by staying up all night) and it was humid as fuck!  About 2 minutes before we got back to the hotel, I stopped to take a picture and my camera died. Like unfixable died. Not no more battery died. Hooray!

Day 2 – Cupcakes for breakfast

Up early-ish and I had the best intention of going for a run, but because it was humid as fuck, that was a no go. So instead I laid in 20150928_110944bed and ate cupcakes 🙂  Greg and Lloyd ran though… so at least someone did. We strolled around downtown, had some breakfast, looked for somewhere to either fix or replace a camera that wasn’t sketchy (no luck, so photography by mediocre phone camera it is), found coffee and wine… and then it was time to find us a cruise ship.

Platinum embark was a clusterfuck in Miami… but mostly because people just won’t listen and selfishly think that somehow they are more important than everyone else. One of my biggest pet peeves in the known universe, but I try to turn it off when on holidays. I succeed most of the time. We were on the ship quick enough and headed right for 20150928_155310the pub.  It was more because it was going to be an easy meeting place for our friends who were in the non-platinum line, but we ended up being the first ones in the pub. And to our surprise, it meant we got free beer. Free Carnival gross red beer, but free beer all the same. Greg likes it well enough, so it’s all good. Our friends were 3rd and 4th in the pub, so they can be cool kids too!

We were late sailing away by at least three hours and they never did tell us why… and once we left Miami, we didn’t see another cruise ship again until we were sailing back to Miami a week later. That is not normal. But it was kind of nice having all the ports to ourselves.

Everything cruise-related was fine… we drank beer, chilled out, and ate food.  Food is the same old, same old. I eat it but with few exceptions, I’m not a huge fan. They are doing some new American table thing, which appears to be a random combination of not using table cloths, alternating bread plates with weird patterns, getting rid of the stupid big decorative plate, and letting you pour your 20150928_171225own water and serve yourself bread. Pretty much indifferent on the whole thing, but since we’re not American, we feigned offense of course (free cruise!). We hit up the pub after supper… the guitar player was a guy named James. He’s friendly and can play, but he might be too interactive for me. Just finish a song goddammit!

Day 3 – The calm before…

Sea day! The last time we were on the Breeze, we were in Europe and didn’t have much time for lounging around the ship… so we made the best of it. Started the morning off with a super humid 5K at sea (showing our support for friends doing the Fall Classic back at home). The running track on the ship is effin terrible (above and beyond people strolling on it hand-in-hand and stopping to take 20150929_111148pictures)… it’s not a shape that is conducive to running around and it temporarily broke Nicole’s back. Wouldn’t be a cruise without someone being broken.

The ocean was ridiculously calm all day…  the calm before Hurricane Joaquin perhaps (which did not affect us in any way). We really didn’t get up to much of anything. We found some craft beers from Florida (Invasion Pale Ale from Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa) hiding on the ship and they saved the day. We watched people learn how to do the Thriller dance. We also started to notice on this sailing that there was way more of the kind of annoying fellow cruisers than normal. I love people (unlike most everyone else I travel with), so I have a pretty high level of tolerance and will chat with just about anyone… but this was a weird one. We started referring to them as aliens since they were always within earshot.. if they were super annoying, they became turnips. Go turnips! Or go away turnips!20150930_063025

Football was watched, and Greg and Lloyd may have been left alone too long in the pub. Long enough that the bartender even had an alibi ready for them when I came down to check on Greg, not that they were in trouble… it was just time to get elegant. You all already know what I think about the concept of changing your clothes to eat mediocre food in a giant room with fancy light fixtures. There wasn’t really anyone sitting by us anyways.

Day 4 – Beach bumming in Grand Turk…

There’s not a ton going on in Grand Turk and we’ve been there before… so we opted for some easy relaxing, with overpriced drinks 20150930_145149from Margaritaville. We walked down the beach the other way first (not much going on there either except a whale sculpture), and then parked it in the shade and occasionally threw ourselves in the ocean to cool off.  I love beach days!  PS: It was still humid as fuck – there’s a theme here. Our time in Grand Turk was actually pretty short, so it was back to the ship to hang out and take it easy for the rest of the day. We watched sailaway from the shade up top, while listening to an alien take a stack of deck chairs for a walk.

We played some douche factor 22 trivia while sitting around… people get crazy competitive and worked up over games on ships. For most games, you win nothing that matters at all… a piece of shiny plastic. But you would think that you were winning your right to live with how 20150930_151937much people argue with the poor entertainment staff over this stuff… and they cheat… it’s really all quite astounding to watch. We, however, found trivia that matters… in the Red Frog every night, they had pub trivia… where you win booze!  So we played and we won a beer tube!  Team Crazy Canucks (who picked that name?!?) for the win!

So, know what’s also pretty neat?  A lunar eclipse during a lightning storm at sea, with a side of shooting stars.

Day 5 – The King of the turnips decrees all tatas should be freed

Next port up, Dominican Republic (country 43)… and the start of “stairs aren’t chairs” for the week. If you are on a cruise ship, and you cannot walk on stairs or can barely walk at all, here’s my helpful tip… sit the fuck down somewhere out of the way until all of us who can walk on stairs get off the ship… and then you can take your time getting off the ship without anyone trying to quash you… there’s even a whole team of cruise ship staff that can help you with this… win win! <rant complete> There’s nearly nothing by the port in this country (which I love, because it means less stupid fucking diamond stores… but don’t worry, they already had a duty free shop you had to walk through to get out of the port) and the port workers were 20150930_153616having fun taking pictures of themselves with our ship as it came in… Cruises are fun and a good value, but I am torn on what tourism is doing to some of these countries – especially the ones abandoning all other industry for tourism alone…

We taxied to Bayahibe, and then took a rocking speed boat ride along the coast of the National Park of the East to Saona island. Since we didn’t have to share the island with a thousand of our closest friends, it was lovely. All you could drink (never good for some people, especially the king of the turnips… also, I’m not entirely sure that in your swim suit top is the best place to store your drink), buffet lunch, and a beautiful beach. Can’t ask for more than that. On the way back, we stopped to spend some time at the natural swimming pool, which is a sandbar in the ocean where you can find starfishes. We had happy hour in the ocean. It was most awesome and one of my fave parts of the trip. After that, more speed boat, a quick stop to the men’s room because ladies take too effin long to pee, and back to the port. (PS: People peddling tourist junk are somewhat aggressive at Bayahibe, FYI)20150930_153945

Just before getting to the port, the taxi driver asked the group (there was more than just us) if we wanted to see some houses of the rich and the famous. It’s not my cup of tea at all, but I have now seen the Dominican Republic island getaways of Sammy Sosa, Vin Diesel, Big Papi, and Julio Iglesias, as well as a lot of golf courses.

Pub trivia results – we came in second, but would have tied for 1st had we not changed a right answer to wrong… we learned our lesson eventually. Dr. Doolittle! There was also dinner and hanging out.

20150930_174626Day 6 – Work a little, live a lot

Up before the sun to go for a run… to beat the never-ending humidity. It was a smart plan for sure!  And the reward was a super pretty sunrise. Had some pasta for lunch and there was one penne noodle in my farfalle! (free cruise!)

Good afternoon Curacao (country 44)… pleased to meet you. We booked a tour around the island with a man named Martin who hates cruisers, tourists, and cruise ships. It was a hoot, not the least bit PC, and you really had to be there for any of it to be funny. Just know you cannot exceed average size to take his tour. We raced the hell out of dodge to get out to Shete Boka National Park before any of the buses 20151001_114452made their way out there (with a quick stop at a plantation house, now restaurant). We spent some time exploring Boka Tabla and watching the waves crash into a cave… and Boka Pistol, where the crashing waves hit like a pistol and crash up through a blow hole. Martin showed us around a bit more of the park and then we toured around the island some more… we stopped at Knip Beach, which has amazingly blue water, and at a resort where scads of iguanas lay out in the sun and eat scraps from customer meals.

After that, back to the downtown area. We walked around near the pretty coloured buildings, checked out the produce market that comes over on boats daily from South America, and found some beer. And some more beer. And more beer again. And tried to find a Birkenstock store that didn’t exist. And checked out the views. Greg and Lloyd watched some drunk kiddos while Nicole and I explored. It was fun being in port in the evening for a change, and interesting not getting in until 1:00pm.

20151001_105853Day 7 – Lube and drugs for the win…

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your scenic tour of all the hotels and resorts on Aruba (aka one happy island). The taxi driver Nicole tried to book wasn’t available and we ended up with another he recommended (I think). He was fine, but definitely not my style. I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the resorts and hotels on Aruba. It was better once we finally started stopping at places… and there was a lighthouse. I love lighthouses. We also did some climbing at the Casibari rock formations … I also love climbing things… I may have caught it from Greg… but because our guide wouldn’t stop talking about seeing a bear (it was a pig goddammit) in a rock because he had an excellent imagination as a child, a bunch of buses unloaded 20151001_093306and we had to work our way around a bunch of turnips that had no business trying to climb rock formations. And rude turnips that kept interfering with my few attempts to take a picture. I nearly lost my shit here, but only very briefly. I watched some lizards and found a different rock to climb instead. We also stopped at a church that had just been rebuilt because someone left candles burning unattended and it burned down (I went cactus exploring instead) and drove along the coast to where the natural bridge used to be (there’s still a small one there, but the ocean took out the larger one a few years back). We passed an old fortress-looking thinger where people had built up thousands of little rock sculptures (they call it a wish garden – they look like mini inukshuks) which was beautiful, but our guide just ranted and ranted about how people are stupid for wishing. He did have a very spacious van and rocking air conditioning. If you like lots of facts and talking from a guide about everything under the sun, he would be a good fit. I personally wouldn’t use him again. Awesome cemeteries here – they paint the mausoleums the same colours as their houses.

It was too effin hot on Aruba so once we got back to the port, we made a few stops 20151004_093128and then went back to the ship. Aruba is also expensive and we’re not big shoppers, so we opted for ship beer and air conditioning. We played some trivia and I made it to the semis of a bean bag tournament with a complete stranger. We were strangely participatory on this cruise. I blame the buckets of beer.

Pub trivia win again… with a little help from our friend Eli in the pub. Eating again, and watching sailaway.

Days 8 and 9 – Namaste mother fucker

Sea days – There was much relaxing and doing whatever on the ship, though we did get up and run first thing every morning… the last day was crazy windy… I’ll call it resistance training. We played trivia in the turnip vortex for a while and talked to some of the entertainment crew who always have the best 20151004_134139stories. The poor bastard Trent who ran the trivia was constantly getting yelled at (Mister is not the president’s name!), so we were extra nice to him. He’s quite funny and confirmed that the ship was extra turnip-y that sailing with some pretty funny stories. Apparently it happens a lot in the fall because of cheaper cruise prices during hurricane season. The second sea day also resulted in our third pub trivia win – for a total of 335 ounces of beer won on this cruise. Not too bad – three first place finishes, and 3 second place finishes (two of which we screwed ourselves on). We shared this beer tube with some of the other folks in the pub. I’m pretty sure I drank more beer on this cruise than I ever have… but only because there was finally one that didn’t suck. Thank you Cigar City!

Day 10 – We on it doggone it

Off the ship as quickly as possible (another cluster fuck) and to our hotel (Holiday Inn – Port of Miami) to dump our bags. We wandered around Bayside for a bit (our hotel was just across the street) and then headed out to meet our Miami Brew Bus tour. We started at Kush with a breakfast beer with our guide Ivan. Then onto the bus with Big Lou for the 3 20151004_150631minute drive to to Wynwood Brewing. They make tasty beer. We got a little tour in the back, had some food from the truck parked along side, and had a nice chat with some random Canadian that was at the bar watching the game. From Wynwood, we headed over to J. Wakefield Brewing… they make even tastier beer and were decorated up with some awesome Star Wars-inspired paintings. The IPA (hops for teacher) is effin awesome.. the weirdo beer that tastes like crabapples is not. Then Big Lou took us for a longer drive out to MIA Brewing… more tasty beers (including a crazy good chocolate and peanut butter stout), a tour, and some eats. We had 23 people on the tour and they were much friendlier and drunker by the end. Ivan was a great guide, didn’t talk too much, and he loved my referring to Miami as too sparkly. He may have even given us an extra free beer.20151004_135218

We had an easy night after that… some food at Bayside and some walking around, and back to the hotel to chill out.

Day 11 – Flying west to get east, as per usual

Flying home day… breakfast at the hotel, some Starbucks and breakfast beer, and then off to the airport. Pretty uneventful trip home. Miami airport wasn’t crazy busy since it was Monday, which was nice. More Starbucks. Miami to Toronto – not quite on the way home. More Starbucks. Toronto to Ottawa – heading in the opposite direction of home. Ottawa to Fredericton – finally home 13 hours later. Thanks Air Canada for cancelling all the morning flights out of Miami/FL to Canada that 20151004_153036day. We really appreciated it. At least we knew in advance and managed to shave a few hours off the schedule to get home at 10:30pm instead of 1:30am.

Good times gang – now we detox!  Thanks Allison and Danielle for keeping an eye on things for us.. and Alice and Bill for saving us some moolah at the airport!

Walked/jogged/ran over 110KM on holidays to balance out all the beer and food… Greg did too… sounds pretty badass to me!

Ange out.

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