Well, I’m back from sailing the Caribbean Sea … albeit, reluctantly. If I didn’t have to return to work to make up for all the money we spent on this trip, I would still be out there in the wide open waters.

I blame the Cancerian in me. Having been born under a water sign, I find myself being attracted to oceans and lakes. And I also blame the Filipino in me. After all, the Philippines is a country formed by a multitude of islands (over a thousand, in fact) in the Pacific Ocean. That definitely makes me think I should be a permanent “Island Girl.”

Anyway, back to our Royal Caribbean Cruise. The reason we booked this vacation was mainly to celebrate my parents’ retirement. This was going to be the first family vacation in over 15 years and was to include my brother & his wife along with Hubby & me. Unfortunately it was only to be Hubby & me with my parents. (Ha … that only meant more chocolate and dessert for me! Tee-hee!) Regardless, we all had TONS of fun and enjoyed an absolutely relaxing vacation.

We sailed out of Port Canaveral on Sunday the 18th on our ship, the Mariner of the Seas and spent the entire first day of the cruise at sea. The ship is literally a city on water. Not only did they have the typical amnemities of your usual cruise ship (theatre, beautiful dining rooms, many lounges and bars, huge pools), but they also had an ice rink, a basketball court, and a 9-hole mini-golf course. I swear, we lived in this “city” for 7 whole days, and I STILL feel like I haven’t explored it all.

The first port we docked at (on Tuesday) was Labadee, Haiti. Now I know what you’re thinking … why would ANY cruise ship include a stop in Haiti. However, I am here to tell you that of all the ports we docked at, Haiti was both Hubby & my favorite. But that’s because where we were staying was a private beach owned by Royal Caribbean. There was honestly not a whole lot of activities to do at that destination … but we didn’t care. The beach was beautiful and the water was refreshingly cool. We checked out some local tourist attractions and learned a little history. (For instance … Did you know that Haiti was the first completely run slave country to gain it’s independence? Or that a buccaneer is a “retired pirate” who was now supporting piracy on land by mostly running trading posts?) But mostly we just hung out at the beach enjoying the slight breeze and napping on lounge chairs while listening to the waves. It was THE BEST place to start off our vacation.

The next day (Wednesday), our ship docked at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I was looking forward to our tour excursion at this location because this was the day that was going to be able to encounter dolphins. We headed out to Dolphin Cove in the morning where we were first told to explore the whole park. This place not only had dolphin, but they apparently had a shark show (which we didn’t see). They also had areas throughout the park where you could encounter other animals. I actually got to handle one of the beautiful parrots and Hubby & I also got to hold a giant iguana … it was definitely a unique experience. But the main attraction of the day was being able to touch and feel and KISS Misty, our dolphin. She was an absolute cutie! We were able to witness her do some awesome tricks in front of us, too. Although I wish we could have done a little swimming with her (that package was mucho expensive!), I’m glad we didn’t … as we didn’t see those groups witness any more than we did, nor did they actually get to hold onto their fins and swim with them.

While still in Ocho Rios, our next stop was the Dunn’s River Falls. Our tour excursion included the ability to climb these falls and then relax in all it’s glory. So here I’m thinking of my trip to Oregon, where climbing the falls meant taking a wooded trail to the top. Oh no. In Jamaica, climbing Dunn’s Falls actually meant climbing the tiered rock-formation falls. Now, I think all would have been fine and dandy if we would have known exactly how these falls looked like before we decided NOT to take the 45-minute guided tour up to the top with the regular “tour group.” Instead, we were approached by a tour guide who offered to take us up the falls all by ourselves. Well. It was definitely an adventure for us and after about a half hour of climbing against strong currents and taking the “nontraditional” tour group route (not to mention acquiring a few war wounds along the way), we made it up to the top of the falls, out of breath but proud of ourselves for surviving the climb. Afterwards, we were planning on doing a little shopping but … 1) We were too annoyed by many of the locals at the Dunn’s River Falls market approaching us and trying to get us to buy something we didn’t want, and 2) We were too freakin’ exhausted after that climb. So instead, we headed back to our trusty Mariner and relaxed the rest of the day.

Our fifth day of our cruise (Thursday), we docked in George Town, Grand Cayman. Again, we booked a tour excursion that would take us around most of the island. Our first stop was to check out Cheeseburger Reef (aptly named for the fact that the reef sits directly in front of the local Burger King … at least that’s what we were told) to see all the exotic marine life via a semi-submersible boat. Along the way to the reef, we got to see a few shipwrecks underwater (the Cali and the Balboa) as well as a few stingrays.

Afterwards, we climbed aboard our “tour bus” and got the tour of the island including a stop at the famous “Seven Mile Beach” as well as the Tortuga Rum shop where we could sample both rum and delicious rum cakes. Eventually we ended up at a little town called Hell. Of course we had to take pictures of ourselves in Hell, go to the bathroom in Hell, and even send a postcard to a couple of our friends (those whose addresses we could remember!) from Hell. Way too many puns to come up with when you visit a town called Hell. Seriously though, the reason the town was named Hell was because of the interesting rock formations that were found in the area. Makes you wonder if this is what Hell really looks like.

And finally, our last stop was the Boatswain’s Beach / Cayman Turtle Farm where we got to see many a sea turtles in various stages of life (from little hatchlings all the way up to 20 to 30 year old sea turtles). The best part? We got to pick up the 2 year old sea turtles and feel their shells, fins, and soft heads. Way cool. The worst part? Well, knowing that we were actually visiting a “farm” where they breed turtles both for sustaining the species as well as for commercial reasons. In fact, after the tour was over, my Dad went over to the attached Botswain Resort’s restaurant and got himself a little cup of turtle soup where he proceeded to offer some to Hubby & me. All I could tell him was I could never bring myself to ever eat turtle soup again after meeting “Squirt” from “Finding Nemo.”

On Friday, the Mariner docked us on the last port of our cruise, the island of Cozumel in Mexico. After disembarking our ship, we were immediately directed onto this super-sleek looking ferry that would take us to Playa de Carmen. Oh, don’t let the mission statement of Mexico Waterjets fool you. They certainly got us to Playa de Carmen in a timely manner, but not without making the best of us (who, by the way have BEEN on a cruise ship now for over 5 days) absolutely sea-sick. It was not a pretty site, let me tell you.

But I digress. This particular shore excursion was the one reason that my parents picked this exact cruise itinerary. It was the ability to spend the afternoon at a well-known Mayan Ruin, Tulum. We had an awesome tour guide, Saul, who is half-Mayan and half-European. (That was the first of many things that I learned that day … that the Mayan people are quite alive and continuing to practice their traditions. Kinda made me feel silly, thinking that the Mayans were an extinct civilization). Once we got to the ruins, he took us on a rather quick walking tour of the site and gave us a brief history of what the ruins were used for (mostly a spiritual site with sacred temples). Afterwards, we were told to walk the ruins at our own leisure. I would have loved to spend the time walking around and reading all the different signs which would explain what each building was meant for … however, the minute Saul was finished with his part, the skies apparently decided to open up and let the flood gates open. Of all days, this was the day Hubby & I decided not to bring a change of clothes or towels, as we weren’t expecting to go swimming. But hey … we also weren’t expecting that there would be a beautiful beach at the Tulum Ruins either.

So since we were already soaked to the bone, we decided to head down to the shore and stick our feet in the sea. Let me tell you, not only was the beach and the sea absolutely breathtaking during the storm, but the water was incredibly warm and inviting! So after we “swam,” we figured we needed to find something to help us dry off. And that’s why we are now proud owners of a hand-made Mexican blanket. (I’m pretty darn sure we would have never bought one if we didn’t find it necessary.) We then headed back onto the ferry (dreading every moment of it) and was shuttled back to our ship. We would have loved to do some shopping back in Cozumel, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough time before our ship was to leave port.

The last day of our cruise was spent at sea, taking us back to Port Canaveral. I liked the itinerary of this cruise mainly because it sandwiched 4 days at different ports between 2 days at sea. That way you had time to get into “vacation mode” before spending 4 hectic days on each stop. And then you have the last day to unwind and relax before heading back home.

A few more notes before I finally end this long blog post.

• Hubby & I cracked up when we saw the day of the week placed on the carpet of the elevator on the ship. I mean really … why would they spend the time to change the day on the carpet every day? Well, we found out midway through our cruise that we DID start losing track of the days. (Now THAT’s a vacation!!)

• The food on the cruise was absolutely fantastic! The only “complaint” I had was that the chefs MUST put something in our food to make us hungry all the time. I mean, seriously. Two hours after eating this incredibly HUGE Thanksgiving meal, I was once again starved and ended up trying get my hands on as many chocolate-covered strawberries during the midnight buffet. (BTW, best Thanksgiving EVER … didn’t have to cook OR clean!)

• Our waiter, Francis and his assistant, Chouzyu (sp?), were wonderful. After a couple days, they both just seemed to know exactly what and when we needed certain things. Oh … and the fact that they supplied us with endless desserts always made my dinner all that much better. (One night, I swear, I couldn’t decide which one of the three desserts I really wanted … and then next thing I knew, Francis was bringing me ALL THREE of them. I swear, it was my wildest “dessert-lover’s dream” come true!)

• And Dad … I love you to death. But next time, ask us before you go out and buy FOUR cartons of duty-free cigarettes to bring back home … especially since you’re only allowed one carton … and ask us to claim the other two cartons. Next time, I really WON’T hesitate to flush them down the toilet.

Okay. I guess I best be wrapping up this post. I think I’ve made it long enough. But hey … I can’t help it. I’m seriously still on “vacation mode.” In fact, I REALLY want this feeling to last as long as I can.

Yeah, yeah … I can just hear you all saying “Quit it. Stop now. Jamaican me crazy!!”

If you’re interested in seeing more pics of our trip, click on the album below.

Caribbean Cruise 2007