Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Honeymoonin' {Days 8-9: Sea day and traveling home}

Friday, August 5 was our last day at sea (*tear*). Neither of us wanted our vacation to had been so nice!

We laid around all day, just basking in the glory of being able to be lazy on a weekday. :) It rained for a good portion of the day, so we didn't feel bad about spending the majority of the day napping in our cabin instead of socializing with the other cruisers on the top deck.

We had our last dinner on the ship, and the waiters all sang us a farewell song. It was kind-of sad!

We did have another formal night on the cruise, but I guess we failed to get pictures of it. Whoops. Lots of times, we were too busy having fun to snap pictures! :)

We saw a couple shows and took a picture of our last night in the lounge while we were waiting for the production to begin:

Our room service was amazing, and they always left a towel-creation for us at night. On our last night, we got this:

I guess Carnival takes honeymooners seriously! lol.

On Saturday, August 6, we docked back in New Orleans. Driving home wasn't nearly as fun; our honeymoon was over and I had a to-do list a mile long to check off when we got back home. Boo! We unpacked a few things on Saturday night when we returned, and then rented "Limitless" to watch before crashing. (Great movie, by the way!)

It was an awesome vacation/honeymoon, and we wish it wasn't over!

There were lots of pictures we took that I wasn't able to include in the posts. If you want, you can visit our facebook honeymoon album to view all the pictures. Just click on this link and enjoy! 

Honeymoonin' {Day 7: Cozumel, Mexico}

On Thursday, August 4, we docked in Cozumel. There were 3 other ships already there. One was from Carnival, one was from the Norwegian line, and the other was Royal Caribbean. It put into perspective just how many tourists these people see each day! I think I'd get tired of Americans if I were them! lol.

When I cruised with my family in '06, we went to Cozumel. We had to tender to the shore, so that's what I was expecting. So it was a surprise when the director announced that there was a brand new dock in Cozumel, so we would get to just walk right off the ship like we had the day before. Yay!

Our excursion this time started even later, so we slept in a little and then got off the boat to look around at the shops. Last time I was in Cozumel, my sister and I got name bracelets. A guy takes some plastic and some string and weaves it around. He can form any letter or symbol that you want, and it usually only takes about 5 minutes per bracelet. In '06, my sister and I got our first names, but this time, I had my heart set on getting one with my new last name. We ended up getting several: J got one with his first name in our wedding colors, I got mine in my new last name, and then we both got one to wear to game days at OSU.

Our excursion this time was called Playa Mia Beach Break Deluxe. There were lots of things included, so it made it really nice for the price.

We took a 15 minute bus ride to the beach. We immediately found some beach chairs and got an umbrella. It was warm, but wasn't HOT, but a part of me just thought we needed an umbrella, so I got one. We had a good time playing in the sand and water:

The pictures we got weren't fabulous, since the water camera kept getting foggy, but I can't complain; I would have far less pictures of our vacation if all I'd taken was the digital camera!

Just like the day before, there were lots of water toys to rent, unlimited free drinks, and several activities going on in the sand (volleyball, football-throwing contest, etc). There was a buffet included (fruit, chips and dip, enchiladas, etc.), so we took advantage. Just as we were finishing eating, there was an enormous clap of thunder. Kids started screaming and the intercoms started squawking: "GET OUT OF THE WATER. IT IS MANDATORY. GET OUT OF THE WATER." The eating area started getting flooded with people, and J and I were happily enjoying our lunch when we realized: we left our backpack with all of our belonging in our the pouring rain. *D'oh*

We finished eating quickly and scurried to our chairs. Luckily, we had thought to put most of our stuff under our umbrella (thanks, woman's intuition, for making me get that umbrella!). J and I scooched the umbrella deeper into the sand so that it was really close to the tops of our heads and would block the rain from blowing in sideways. We watched the whole storm from our water-side chairs. It poured freezing rain for a couple of hours, which definitely put a damper on our excursion. I know the excursion people can't control when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, though, and I'd be happy to pick this excursion again if we visit Cozumel in the future!

There were some folks who just couldn't comprehend that lightning + water = a bad, bad thing. So our poor lifeguards had their work cut out for them! They kept having to go over and yell/blow their whistles at particular groups of people. He must have been thinking "stupid Americans!" I know those swimmers just wanted to enjoy their beach vacation, but...gotta be smart, folks! So J and I had rain AND a show. haha. We played in the sand while we waited for the all-clear intercom signal, and then enjoyed a few more minutes in the ocean before our bus left. The water looked so ominous, but still beautiful. I loved how clear and turquoise it was:

We had time to do some more shopping by the dock before we boarded the ship, and bought our final souvenirs.

That night, at dinner, we got another rendition of "happy honeymoon to you" with free "honeymoon cake." With the absence of our "kissy, kissy!" waiter, it wasn't nearly as bad this time. But I was stuffed and couldn't even eat the cake....whoops. We got our US customs form to fill out and attended some on-board shows before the day was over.

Honeymoonin' {Day 6: Roatan, Honduras}

On Wednesday, August 3, our boat docked at Mahogany Bay in Roatan, Honduras. I really appreciated being able to just walk off the boat instead of having to tender over to land... so much easier and much less time-consuming!

Our excursion for the day was called Canopy and Gumbalimba Park, and it left an hour later than our Mayan Ruin excursion did the day before... hooray for sleeping in! There was a tourist sign on the dock, so we roped in a little old man to take our picture in front of it. That poor guy had the HARDEST time figuring out how to work our disposable, waterproof camera. After about 10 minutes of his fumbling around, this is the picture we got, lol:

We rode in a big bus up the side of a mountain to get to Gumbalimba Park. They asked us to leave our cameras and other luggage on the bus during the ziplining, so I wasn't able to get any pictures. Fortunately, though, there was a photographer that was set up on one of the platforms, and he took pictures of everyone coming in. After your group got done ziplining, you could track him down by the little restaurant, and check out your pics. He gave everyone the opportunity to buy the pictures (which we took advantage of -- they were cheap!) and burned them to a disc for those that purchased. He even put his e-mail address on the disc so that we could have access to the pictures in case something happened to our disc and we couldn't see the images! How thoughtful! Here are a couple images from the disc we bought:

J went first. You can see that we had lots of safety equipment no worries, Mom! :) But we ziplined through the rainforest and had an amazing view! Some lines were long and others were short. Our brake was our hand (yikes!). You could see the ocean from some of the lines, since it was close and the lines were so high. Here's a picture of me that's a little farther away, so you can see our surroundings better:

The photographer did take a close-up picture of me, but my facial expression is down-right goofy, so I'm opting not to include that in this post. lol.

I don't know how many lines we were able to zip across...over 10, I know that! Some were over 120 feet long. We made friends with a family that stood in line behind us. They'd ziplined in Belize the day before, and were saying that this zipline in Honduras was MUCH better. Hooray for picking the right excursion! :)

After our ziplining was done and we had had a chance to visit the restaurant for a drink and/or look at pictures, we went to the birds and monkey exhibit at the park. The national bird for Honduras is the parrot, so there were lots there to look at. We had the option to take a picture with one on our shoulder. J opted out of that, since he has that opportunity every day at his work! But I went for it:

That bird happened to be sitting on the shoulder that got severely sunburned on our first day on the boat (in fact, it's still peeling...ick!). Right after this picture, he started digging his grubby little claws into my shoulder, so J took the opportunity to snap a picture of my "hey, bird! That HURTS!" face. I'm electing to not include that in this post, either.

Then we went to the monkey portion. Our tour guide made us take off all backpacks and sunglasses, as the monkeys will take your sunglasses to wear and pilfer through your bags in search of a water bottle. She said they are tricky and can open any bag you have, so we all had to leave it with the guard. There were 4-5 monkeys jumping around in the park. Sometimes they would come down to let us play with them, but mostly, they just played in their little houses. There was a line where we could hold one particular monkey, so J and I both did that. I fell in love with that little guy!

He was so sweet, and slept the majority of the time. His little heart wasn't beating very fast at all, and he was super-lethargic, compared to all the other monkeys in the park. J and I figure that being passed from tourist to tourist all day just wears him out. :( But I wanted to put him in my backpack and take him home with me! I've been begging J to buy me a baby monkey, but he keeps refusing. I guess I need to refine my pouty-puppy-dog face...I don't know why it's not working! In any case, here I am, holding the little guy:

There was a beach included in our excursion, but neither J nor I knew it was an option, so we forgot our swimsuits. (Darn.) The water was beautiful, though!

Looked just like a screensaver! We could rent all kinds of water gear, a chair, or just swim in the ocean. We looked around at the craft shop and then took the bus back to the dock. We had a little time to explore the craft shops at the pier -- which was neat -- and then we boarded the ship again. We bought some jewelry and J haggled with the owners.

At dinner that night, they surprised us with free "honeymoon cake" and sang us a song. It was MEGA-embarrassing because the lead waiter was singing "happy honeymoon to you" while his assistant kept calling out, "kissy kissy!" and urging us to smooch through the song. I'm not a fan of having people watch me like that (too weird), so I definitely did not appreciate this little surprise attack.... *grump, grump* Still a fun day, though.

Honeymoonin' {Day 5: Belize City, Belize}

On Tuesday, August 2, our boat finally found its way to our first port: Belize City, Belize. Neither of us had ever been to Belize before, so we were excited!

Carnival allows you to choose these things called "excursions" at every port of call. You don't have to participate in an excursion, but it gives you something to do. The great thing about booking an excursion through Carnival is that you never run the risk of missing the boat, since the excursion guides are constantly in contact with our captain. However, if you book an excursion that's NOT through Carnival, and something goes wrong to make you late, the ship leaves. (Yikes!) So even though the Carnival excursions are a little too pricey for my tastes, we decided to err on the side of caution since we didn't know the terrain or routines yet. It turned out to be a good choice.

We had a hard time picking our excursions, but finally narrowed down our choices and had them all ready to go before we even boarded the ship. This turned out to be a good thing, since a lot of people book their excursions the day before, and sometimes the tickets sell out. What I didn't know, however, was that the cruise director would have a seminar over all the possible excursions at each port of call, and she would give more detail than the little blurb on their website did. Oh, well. We picked good ones, anyway! :)

For Belize, we picked the Xanatunich Mayan Ruins. I wasn't thrilled with this option (since it involves history, which is SO not my cup of tea), but it seemed to be the best fit for us. There was an option to go cave tubing that we ALMOST chose, but it turned out to be a good thing that we didn't; that excursion got cancelled (with no refund, of course) because of all the rain!

The Xanatunich Mayan Ruins was the longest excursion of the bunch. We left the boat at 8 am. We had to tender to our Belize port, since our boat couldn't get close enough to let us dock. It was drizzling when we finally made it to the dock in our tender boat.  Here is a list of all the modes of transportation we took that day:

  1. Tendered to the Belize dock = 20 minutes
  2. Bus ride to Xanatunich = 2 hours
  3. Ferry ride over the river = 2 minutes
  4. Van ride to the parking lot and "watering hole" = 5-10 minutes
  5. Walking up the steepest hill I've ever seen in my life = 5 minutes
  6. Toured the ruins
  7. Back down the steep hill, back into the van, over the river via ferry, 2 hour ride on the bus, and tender boat back to our ship. 
Phew! For you elementary teachers that are reading this, just know that when I think of this journey, I sing that "Goin' on a Bear Hunt!" song in my head. lol.

Now for some more detail. I didn't get a lot of pictures of Belize because 1) it was raining all day and I had to focus on where I was stepping! and 2) We spent a lot of time traveling in places that didn't bode well for good photographs. But I'll try to include some pics in this post.

We had two tour guides who talked about Belize during the entire 2-hour bus ride. Belize reminded me a lot of Jamaica, and it made me feel very fortunate to have what J and I have. Below is a picture of a school:

Obviously, this is normal for them, but it made me thankful for every single school with working a/c and a brightly painted exterior I've seen in the US. Education is so important, but this building doesn't make it look very exciting! Their schooling system is much different than ours, and students have the option to start "college" at the age of 12. In Belize, "college" and "university" are two different things. I don't remember all the breaks in education or the proper names, so I'm not even going to waste your time and risk flubbing it all up! :)

Once our bus ride ended, we were dropped at a little station with some shops. Our tour guide kept talking about how we were on a very tight time limit and that we would have exactly 10 minutes to shop there when we were done, so we all walked past the shops like good boys and girls. One of the things about Belize that reminded me of Jamaica was not only the terrain and look of the buildings, but also the way the shop keepers operate. They are so desperate to sell their arts and crafts to passerby that they pretty much swarm anyone who passes. They intentionally set up camp next to a tourist excursion, and they wasted NO time in finding people to beg and shirt sleeves to tug. I remember a similar experience from Jamaica, and while it's a tiny bit overwhelming at first, I am a seasoned Black Friday shopper, so I wasn't fazed! :-D

There was a murky river that we had to cross over to get to the ruins. Our tour guide told us that all the families around come to this river to wash their clothes. The kids play in the river (with alligators!) while the grown-ups gossip. So maybe it isn't TOO much unlike America (minus the alligators). :)

Above is a picture of our ferry. It took one of the vans across on it first. On the right side of the ferry, there's a man who works there all day long. He churns the pulley that makes the ferry travel across the cable and to the other side of the river. I know it probably sounds really dorky of me, but seriously, the first thought I had when I saw this was that we were traveling on a modern-day equivalent of a Huck Finn-esque raft! haha. It looked so rickety, but since it held the van, I knew it would hold 50 people.

We took a quick bus ride to a parking lot. We met there, since there were multiple vans to hold all of the guests in our tour group. We walked up one of the steepest hills I've ever seen, and there were the ruins. The tour guides were careful to explain that you must be invited to this ruin site, and there were lots of guards milling around to back up their words. The guards all had big shot guns slung across their chests, so I believed our guide. lol. The first ruin we saw wasn't anything TOO impressive:

It was just a widdle bump compared to the rest of them! But this picture cracks me up...J never misses a chance to show that he's ORANGE TO THE BONE! lol. (By the way: his multiple OSU shirts and hats that he wore on the cruise attracted lots of attention to him. We met lots of O-State fans on our ship...whoo!)

Then we saw the biggest ruin of the bunch:

If you look very carefully, you'll see some teeny little stick shadows at the very top. Those are people. I was OK with them being up there and me being down here, but the rest of our tour group thought differently. They begged to go to the top of that one, and our tour guide obliged. *gulp*

It had just finished raining, and there was lots of moss on the rock steps, which made them pretty slick. Of course, those unthoughtful Mayans forgot to put in handrails -- lol -- so there was nothing to hold on to except the wall...which sometimes had enormous flies and/or centipedes crawling on it. Yum. It took us probably 30 minutes to hike all the way to the top. We had a great view! This picture was taken at the halfway point:

I was a little nervous about climbing further (the steps were much more narrow and still slick, plus, I apparently have an aversion to heights...who knew?), but we did it, anyway. We got to see over the treetops and all the way to Guatemala. Our guide explains some of the hieroglyphs that were etched into the side of our big ruin, which was cool.

There were some ladies there in flip-flops and some elderly people there, and I have no idea how those people climbed to the top. The ledge at the very top was not very deep AT ALL, and I found myself hugging the centipede rock in the middle until we went back down. :) Going down was rough because there were no hand rails and it started to drizzle again. Then I popped something in my right knee -- owwie! We made it back down in one piece, though.

We had an authentic Belize meal afterwards at one of the neighboring restaurants. We had rice and beans, cole slaw (didn't know that was from Belize, but...whatever), a chicken leg, and fried plantains. We got our few minutes of shopping time and headed back to the dock to catch the tender boat. Our tour guide must have had a sore throat at the end of the day, because he talked CONSTANTLY. It was nice to hear about Belize, though. He told us some history and some personal experiences (like how he has to battle random wild animals in the middle of the night at his home... no, thanks!), as well as answered the typical FAQs. The exchange rate for money there is about 1 USD to every Belize dollar. Their gas is about 12 USD (*gulp*). They had a Subway a few years ago, but their footlongs were about $12-15. The people that had cable access kept seeing those singing commercials about the 5 dolla footlong and got so outraged that they refused to buy sandwiches from there anymore. The Subway company tried to explain that it was because of the exchange rate and the fact that they had to import all the goods, but the Belize folks weren't havin' it. They don't even have McDonald's. But there is some taco place where they can get 6 tacos for $0.50 USD...why didn't they take us there?!

Everyone in Belize speaks English, and then some speak Creole. There were churches everywhere, and we found out that on Sundays, the ENTIRE city closes down because everyone goes to church. 60% of Belize is Roman Catholic, and the other 40% are some other denomination of Christian.

Our ship captain had told us that the last tender was supposed to run at 4:15. However, if there was a long line of people waiting, the tenders would run until the last person was on board. We got to the dock at about 4 pm, and the line was incredibly long! They had to 4-5 more boats to our ship to get us all back, but I don't know of anyone who missed the ship.

Belize is a country that is hungry for tourists. They were very nice and accepting of Americans and invited us back every chance they got. They kept reminding us that their country is "unBELIZEable!" :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Honeymoonin' {Days 1-4: New Orleans and sea days}

We're back from our honeymoon and finally settling back in. We took my digital camera, of course, but we also bought 4 of those old-fashioned, disposable, waterproof cameras, too. I was too scared of getting my digital camera messed up by all that water...I didn't trust myself not to drop it or let it get splashed! Anyway, we dropped the cameras off at the photo processing center yesterday, and I felt like I was back in 1999. Wasn't even positive that places developed those types of cameras anymore, lol. In any case, we just got the pictures back. I uploaded them to our online photo storage site and facebook, so I guess it's time to write posts about them. :)

We left on Friday, July 29th at about 6 am. We had to drive to New Orleans for this cruise (long story), so we decided to hit the road early.

After a few stops, we finally made it to our hotel around 4:30 pm. IT. WAS. SO. HUMID. Case in point: we left a stack of cruise-related papers on our desk from Friday at 4:30 pm - Saturday at 10:00 am and they were WET when we left. Nothing leaked...the humidity was just so darn high! Ugh.

Our hotel was within walking distance of the French Quarters and Bourbon Street, so we walked down there for dinner and to explore. It was pretty early when we walked down Bourbon Street for the first time. Although J had never been to New Orleans before, I had. But when I went, I was about 12 years old and with my family, so of course, my responsible parents didn't take me down Bourbon Street when there was any semblance of a party going on. So, needless to say, we pretty much felt like we were in a whole other world. We saw, interesting things while we were there. lol.

On Saturday, we went to the port after lots of driving aimlessly through New Orleans. It wasn't necessarily that we WANTED to wander around in our car...but we couldn't get anywhere! There were lots of crazy corners, random streets were one-ways, the blocks were super-short, and our GPS couldn't keep up with all the "recalculating" it was having to do. We were plenty early for our cruise, though. Here's our first look at the ship:

We were able to board pretty easily and quickly, which was a pleasant surprise...thanks, Carnival! Since it was our honeymoon, J opted for a room with a balcony:

We spent the rest of the day exploring the boat and relaxing. Because of how nauseous I got on just three roller coasters at Six Flags with my sister a couple weeks ago, I was dreading the sea-sickness thing. I'd gotten some pills from my regular doctor, some OTC anti-nausea meds, and "sea bands." I took one of the anti- pills before boarding the ship, but soon realized that wasn't the best idea. The box claimed that the person taking the medicine might feel "a little drowsy," but I could barely keep my eyes open! I took a long nap in the afternoon and was still a zombie during dinner. I decided not to take the meds the next day and see how things went. I didn't know how it would go (since I got a little nauseous looking at the shore when we were leaving New Orleans [over an hour late, might I add]), but I didn't want to sleep through the whole trip! Luckily, everything turned out fine. As long as I didn't look at anything that my brain knew wasn't supposed to be moving, I was OK. Hooray! The nice part about Carnival, though, is that they film most of the "big events" going on around the ship, and then they play the tapes on their special Carnival TV channels. So even if we missed something live, we still had an opportunity to see it in our room.

Sunday was our first full day at sea. We went to the top deck and basked in the sunshine for a few too many hours and wound up getting some gross sunburns (whoops!). It was only 86 degrees, but the reflection of the sun off the water is what got us, I guess.

Sunday, we went to this love and marriage game in one of the lounges. We were careful to keep our hands down when the hostess asked who was newly married (I'm not into being embarrassed in public, thank you), but they found three suitable couples with varying years of marriage under their belts. There was a really old couple that had been married 65 years, and they were hilarious! I wish I could've filmed the show. 

Sunday was also our first formal dinner night:

We had opted for the "any time dining," as opposed to the strict 5 pm or 9 pm dining time. Little did we know, that meant we weren't going to see 90% of the shows the waiters perform during dinner. Boo.  On Saturday night, when the waiter announced that Sunday would be our first formal dinner, he suggested that we wear our most form-fitting formal clothing Sunday because by the time we had our next formal night, we might not be able to fit into it. ...We laughed, but it was so true! I'm pretty sure I gained about 10 pounds on the cruise. I'll spend the next month trying to get it back off, but I guess it was worth it. :) 

*For future reference: I'm not really a cold-natured person, but I was FREEZING on the boat once the sun went down. They keep the rooms very cool, and I was CONSTANTLY wishing I'd brought some pants and a heavier jacket. ...I hope I remember that when we take our next cruise. :) 

Monday was our other day at sea. We applied sunscreen very liberally -- lol -- and laid out a little more. We attended some shows and other activities that were on the boat, including some comedians  they'd reeled in this season, as part of their new, on-board comedy club.

It was a great start to a great week!

I'll leave you with one more picture of the ocean. This was taken from the ship: