Amazing Get Away

At the end of October, we managed our dream get away. Having never had a honeymoon due to family from out of town coming for our wedding and then being posted coast to coast during hubby’s Air force career – and oh, not to mention 4 kids – who could we have ever left them with for a get away? That’s not to say we didn’t do family holidays or get a weekend away every now and again, but we never experiences a true vacation. Well we certainly did with our Western Caribbean Cruise with Royal Caribbean & the High Seas Rally (Google for more info).

Was I excited? You bet! We left here on an early flight into Seattle where we had a little encounter with “Woody” the beagle. Woody is a sniffer dog who sniffs out agricultural products. Well didn’t we have a mini scare when Woody decided to sit down beside one of our carry-on bags!?!?! Apparently Woody was just off as it was first thing in the morning and we were on our way. After a long but direct from Seattle flight, we arrived in Orlando where we were greeted by our friends that we were going to cruise with. They had rented a car so onto Port Canaveral we went. The weather was warm & humid compared to what we left back on the West Coast. We checked into the Radisson and headed out for dinner, a few drinks and catching up. On Friday we just hung around the pool chatting and meeting people has they arrived for the rally.

Saturday more and more folks arrived. We were introduced to Ricks “Apple Pie” moonshine. It truly did taste just like apple pie! Hubby was learning about the enjoyment of a good cigar while I enjoyed the pool. Our other friends cruising with us arrived on Saturday & we were set to go!  Sunday morning we were ready to head to the cruise ship. Heading by bus to the cruise ship, I was crying I was so excited and happy. I got even more excited as we began our boarding process and almost peed myself as I walked across the gangway onto the Freedom of the Seas! What an amazing ship!

Delighted with our balcony cabin on Deck 6, we started to explore the ship. We quickly discovered the Wind Jammer cafe for a bite to eat quickly followed by the discovery of the Sky Bar and outdoor lounge areas. The ship departed at 4:30 pm. I had to claim my luggage as I tried to bring my duty free on board – no no. I turned my bottle of vodka over – which was returned out last night. Our dinner seating was at 8:30 pm – unfortunately it was rather rough seas heading out of Florida and I was very sick my first night – having to leave dinner and return to the cabin. Next I will be better prepared for the first night at sea! Hubby thoroughly enjoyed the rough seas and being out on the balcony feeling the spray on his face & the fresh salt air. The Rally Show was from 10:30PM-12:30 AM – which I missed being bedridden in our cabin.

The next day was at sea. I was feeling much better and was happy to hear that Seasoned Cruisers were unwell the previous night! We enjoyed the upper deck by lounging on the chairs & beverages from the Sky Bar. It was fun meeting people from various places around the US and elsewhere.

We had a Halloween Party that night. The costumes were amazing. We were Riff Raff and Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were done partying by midnight as the next morning was out first port – Labadee, Hispaniola – a private Royal Caribbean spot off Haiti.  We stood out on our balcony as the ship slipped into the port of Labadee. Locals came around the ship in their small boats. You could feel the heat & change in temperature – it was VERY warm – near 40’c with the humidity.

We were excited to disembark the ship as we had excursion booked for Labadee. Our first adventure was the Dragon Tail Coaster. This was a fun quick coaster ride where you controlled your speed by pushing forward (faster on wheels) or pulling back on the control that would apply the brakes. Hubby went first of course. We had fun with this and hubby went back at the end of the day with a couple of our friends who enjoyed the ride as well. Your got your second ride for $5 and hubby said – yeah, it’s our second ride, so they both got a deal on their ride. Anyway, after the 1st dragon tail coaster ride, we went to the beach area to enjoy the shade of the bar & some island beverages. hubby of course liked this fruity slushy drink with rum while I enjoyed vodka. After a bit we headed over to where we were to para sail. Now this was an activity I was VERY hesitant to part take in as I am SO scared of heights. When my girls heard the we were going on a Caribbean cruise, they asked me to please para sail as it was a once in a life time experience – I agreed so did this for them. Knowing we would be para sailing tandem made me at ease about doing this excursion.

Getting onto the boat was easy and fun. There were 5 other couples on the boat the whisked us out of the harbour. We scooted around the cruise ship out to the open ocean. Safety chat was given & then we began to see equipment. The crew asked for someone to go first and hubby volunteered us. I was nervous and excited. We started to get the harnesses on as we prepared to “sail”. The nervousness was increasing and before I knew it, we were up soaring above the boat, now looking SO tiny down below. I was terrified. I couldn’t breathe – all I could hear was this voice telling me to “move your hands down” over and over again. Then I could hear “breathe honey, breathe, wiggle your toes, relax into the harness” and with that I was able to sit back into the harness & lower my hands – which unknown to me at the time was holding open the carabiner that hooked onto the overhead bar!! I was happiest when we began getting lowered & the boat became larger! Sitting on the boat, watching & enjoying other people have their parasail adventure was a lot of fun. Once back on dry land, the first stop was a drink! We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the beach. We got a bite to eat and then I enjoyed swimming in the warm Caribbean ocean. Once back on the ship, we had a short rest and then got ready for 50’s, 60’s & 70’s night.  We met our friends at one of the ship lounges for a pre dinner drink and then headed to an amazing dinner – lobster bisque, shrimp cocktail & incredible escargots. Entree was beef tenderloin that melted in your mouth followed by chocolate souffle. It was a great first day ports! The evening at the show, our friends won a $1000 towards Ultimate Seat Products!  After the nightly draw show, we went to the Rock Britannia party on the promenade deck. It was British rock music through the ages with the cruise director and cast. It was a whole lot of fun with dancing and singing. Thoroughly enjoyed the show.

Next day was onto Falmouth, Jamaica. This was the first HSR cruise that came into the Port of Falmouth. The Jimmy Buffet’s was not completed so the HSR group arranged for us to be bused to Ocho Rios for Jimmy Buffets. We were told it was a 1/2 hr bus ride and we could return anytime – which was our plan to visit & enjoy Falmouth. Well the bus ride turned into 1.5 hrs and which Ocho Rios had a Jimmy Buffet’s – they had little else as the shops had all but a few, closed up & moved to Falmouth. This was annoying to say the least once we found out we were stuck there till the buses all headed back to the ship at 4 pm. Hubby made the most of the $45 wrist band for all you could drink – I swear there was an Appleton’s shortage when we left Ocho Rios. There was lots of rum had, upside down drinks, beads in mustaches, rasta hat with dreds…. yes, hubby had a fine time in Jamaica but swears he was never there as he has no memory of the place  LOL Thanks to our friend who aided in getting hubby onto the bus back to the ship! Dinner was  beef tenderloin with prawns, fabulous coconut creme brule for dessert. Hubby passed on dinner & the show that night, enjoying pizza around midnight.

The next morning we anchored and were tendered into shore at Georgetown, Grand Cayman. The water is the most incredible blue/purple you have ever seen. It is so clear you can see to the bottom – truly stunning. I can understand why snorkel and scuba diving are so popular here. Something we will do when I return again for sure! Here our Dolphin/Turtle excursion time was changed so we checked out a couple of shops before our adventure. I was treated to a stunning diamond & tanzanite ring with matching earrings! We left my new treasures at the jewellery store as we had no idea what secure lock-up would be at the Turtle and Dolphins adventures. We met up with our group and headed out to the Turtle Farm. Once at the farm we saw the breeding area, various tanks and ponds with various stages of growing turtles. I even got to climb into one of the pools and catch a turtle and hold it. It was truly wonderful to see these creatures and learn about them. Across the road was our Dolphin Adventure. Now this was a tough decision as the idea of dolphins in captivity is not one that we agree with, yet, having access to these amazing mammals , we are able to learn so much from them. So it was with mixed feelings we went to swim with the dolphins. The dolphins are kept in a huge lagoon that is fed by the ocean so fresh water and creatures are constant in the lagoon. After a safety briefing and getting into our life jackets, we were brought to the world of the dolphin. We entered the water and stood on a platform. Here we met our dolphin friend. We were pushed across the lagoon on a knee board, we were pulled by the dolphin swimming on his back and us holding onto the front fins, we kissed and danced with our dolphin, lots of touching – incredibly soft is the dolphin skin, not slimy as some would expect. This truly was one of the highlights of the trip for me as I love the water (being a Cancer) and spending time in the water with the dolphin was amazing! After our play time with the dolphin we went to another tank where we got to touch and feel string rays. This was interesting but not nearly as wonderful as the time spent with the dolphins.

AS time was tight for your ride back to the dock – last tender was at 3:30 pm, we grabbed a cab to return to pick up my treasures and hubby picked up a stunning watch that he had been eying. We made it back to the tender with moments to spare as our friends at the Dolphin adventure just arrived. I was glad we headed back on our own. Really enjoyed our day in Grand Cayman and would certainly visit again.

The next day we were off to Cozumel with the Bar Hop Tour. A group of us – 30 or so, boarded a comfy bus and headed to the far side of Cozumel. Here was saw some stunning beaches, had some free drinks, posed with my top off on the beach at a bar called Rasta’s for a free tequila shot, drank a funky beverage out of a coconut and had a really enjoyable tour of rustic Cozumel.  Once back on the ship we enjoyed a lovely sunset with a beverage or two on the upper deck. We connected with our friends pre dinner for our usual drink.

Saturday was an at-sea day. We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room and let our friends for lunch in the dining room. Then we had a 3+hr final show for the HSR. While we didn’t win a bike, trike or free cabin, I did win a $500 Ultimate seat which was exactly what we planned on putting on my bike spring 2012! So that was very nice!

Dinner was a little sad as we were saying good bye to our table friends from Arkansas and our cruise was coming to an end. We did meet on Sunday morning for breakfast and then traveled back to the Radisson together where we share on last drink before heading off in various directions.

We decided to rent a car and head down to Key Largo as we had heard how wonderful it was. My brother recommended we take it in if time allowed. It was raining as we headed out on our adventure in our Kia – welcome to da swamp <G> After a couple of “no” motels, we found our jewel – Coconut Bay and Bay Harbour Resort. Our little piece of paradise! We had a suite that was right on the bay – living room, full kitchen, nice sized bedroom and private bath. There were lots of windows so we could enjoy the coconut palms and bay. We truly got to relax & deflate in Key Largo after a busy cruise. Our plan was to head back to Orlando on Tuesday afternoon but loved Key Largo so much that we stayed another night before heading back on Wednesday. It was meant to be. The sunsets were stunning and on our last night, we had a full moon that lit up the sand dance floor & we share a wonderful dance under the moonlight – it was truly magical in Key Largo.

Cruising was wonderful and we enjoyed being with our friends – will definitely cruise again!! Key Largo was a magical time for us and yes, we will return there – before another 30 yrs goes by!

Our trip was very special in so many way with some many special and wonderful memories. I love you Rob! I hope that you have a special place that creates those wonderful memories with people you love and care about. I know I certainly did on this wonderful trip. I tried new things – learned new things and fell in love all over again. Thanks for the memories, I am truly blessed.