Cruisin’ into Stress

So this post has sat in draft form for nearly 3 months because as usual, life got in the way. Because the outside world keeps stressing me the hell out, I thought now would be as good a time as any to relieve our big cruise vacation at the end of July.

We had originally planned on going to Belize with another couple and those plans fell through pretty quickly. My boss didn’t let me take the original start date of the vacation off after all, and then we waited too long and the couple couldn’t go. We thought about what else we could do since we could still take a week off, but just not go to Belize anymore since we also waited too long to get our money refunded (don’t worry, we used the credit for a trip to the Bahamas in December, so it all worked out just fine).

I ended up finding a 7-night cruise that took us from Fort Lauderdale, Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize, to Cozumel aboard the Caribbean Princess from Princess Cruise Lines.

I absolutely LOVE cruises! There’s just something about boarding and not having to worry about anything: no driving, no taking luggage all over the place, no having to worry about drinking or where to eat or how to get to different places. You just get on the boat, unpack, and let the ship take you to the next location.

With the exception of maybe 4 major cruise lines, I’ve now been on them all at least once. I had never been on Princess but had only heard good things, so we booked and off we went!

And it wasn’t that great.

Let’s just say that the week started with me PMS-ing haaaaaarrrdd, and I wasn’t exactly the most delightful person to be around. Combine that with Timmy’s incessant lateness, and we didn’t have the best start or middle part to the trip. It was like the perfect storm of ugh.

The boat was beautiful but old, and many areas really REALLY needed an update. Our room was in the very back with a beautiful view and a huge balcony, but other than that, it was very late 80s in decor and nothing incredibly special.

Added to this delightful mix was the HORRID customer service we received from most of the wait staff at nearly all the locations except the specialty restaurants that cost extra,  the lackluster food selection, and we were left totally underwhelmed. And we spent a pretty penny on this trip, from the additional packages, massages, drinks, room, and food…just 100% disappointing all around.

We actually left one dinner early and ended up skipping our last two nights of the main dining service because our servers were just that bad. I’ve really never experienced anything like the service we had on board. At all the bars, the coffee places, the frozen yogurt spot, all of it was terrible. I’ve had better service on Carnival, which is just for like spring breakers and 20 year olds. I’ve had better service anywhere but Princess.

But let’s not dwell on the bad (believe me, we did enough of that on the trip). The excursions were the saving grace of our trip. Everything we did on port was something active and totally worth it. We’re usually not excursion people because they cost so much most of the time, but this trip we agreed we wanted to see the sites in a unique and active way.

Our first stop was Georgetown, Grand Cayman. We’d both been here before, so we decided to sign up for a bike ride around the town, which was super fun. We saw the major sights (including the Turtle sanctuary we stopped at during our Disney Cruise 5 years ago), sweated a ton, but definitely spent a unique afternoon seeing Georgetown!

Our next stop was Roatán, Honduras. I had never thought to go to Honduras, but this little tiny island was so interesting. We took about an hour-long ride to get to the other side which was totally uninhabited and free of most tourists. We passed through some of the most abject poverty I’ve seen. It’s always so hard to go these types of places but you know tourism is their main economy so support is necessary. This day, we did horseback riding in the ocean, which is an item we can now safely check off the bucket list. The views were incredible, the staff was amazing there, and we had a really relaxing, memorable time there.

The next day we were in Belize City, Belize, which, if you can believe it, English is the main language spoken there! We were so surprised, expecting to speak in Spanish first, which we still did because practice makes perfect. In Belize, we booked a zip-line tour of the jungle and underground cave tubing adventure. It took us almost an hour and a half to reach our location but the tour guide was one of the best we’ve ever had because it only felt like 30 minutes! We learned a crazy amount of information, like most Belizeans had kept panthers as pets before an educational campaign told them this wasn’t the best idea, most Florida orange juice contains a majority of Belizean oranges, and more! After our adventure above and below, we got some fresh coconuts (yum!) and when we did the additional rum, the bartender went overboard and I’m pretty sure my coconut ended up being 70% rum.

Our last stop was Cozumel, Mexico. I’ve been here, honestly, I don’t even know how many times. It’s such a popular cruise stop, and I’ve done the bar drinking, partying, and seeing the ruins before. Timmy had seen ruins in Belize in high school, so we made the decision together to do something totally different and took a cooking class instead.

This ended up being my favorite day the entire trip! We each had our own stations, and there were only 5 of us there: one other much older couple, a woman from Montreal, and us. We made delicious food from start to finish (nearly. It would have been even better if we’d been able to make our tortillas from scratch) and the staff was amazing.

The best part was when they learned I spoke Spanish. You would’ve thought I was a goddess who came down from heaven, the way they treated me. It made me laugh so hard because it reminded me of our senior year trip to Cancun when my mother and her best friend were our chaperones. One night, they went to dinner and when the staff learned that they were Spanish, OMG, it was like their own personal spring break. The waiters were just lavishing attention on them, giving them an entirely free bottle of Bailey’s, and were just crazy about them!

The chefs were all about me, let me tell you. If I ever need a self-confidence boost, I know EXACTLY were to go! 🙂

We also didn’t factor in the fact that we live in a beach town year-round now. When we went on our last cruise, we lived in hell-hole Lakeland, so a Caribbean trip was oh-so-needed. This time, we were like, “Oh cool, more hot weather. Nice, more palm trees. Cool, clear blue water again…” Not to sound jaded, but St. Pete is amazing and we’re no longer in that head-space where a trip in the Caribbean is a needed getaway.

Unfortunately, the cruise brought some crazy news regarding both Timmy and my jobs that undid any relaxation our amazing massages gave us (and they were no doubt, the best massages we have ever had). I’d give this trip overall a C+. It certainly wasn’t our worst trip together, but it definitely doesn’t land amongst the best (other than our excursions, which truly were memorable and awesome).

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our anniversary package

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one of the last nights on the cruise

Oh well, we can’t win them all, can we?

♥, VB

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Disney Cruise Memories

In December, my family and I went on our very first Disney cruise. There were laughs, there was anxiety, and there were amazing memories. Best of all, I got to see Frozen twice and Thor (part 2) in the on-board movie theatres. Since I never go to the movies anymore, that was a win for me.

We had planned this cruise over a year ago, and it seemed like FOREVER to get here, and wouldn’t you know, it was over likethat. What a bummer. But after 7 days of being on a cruise ship with lots and lots and LOTS of children, and crazily enough, not enough adults who wanted to party, Timmy and I were ready to return to our lives.

It was an easy enough 2 hour drive to Port Canaveral from Lakeland (this was pre-move). We checked in extremely fast, and got to our room, where we found this view.

Yes, this was our view the entire trip. Not bad.

Yes, this was our view the entire trip. Not bad.

Apparently, we had the most central, furthest back room on the boat. And you’d think we’d be blown out by engine noise, but that was truly not the case. We had no obstructing view, no pesky neighbors to see all our moves (they had to literally peer around the walls by climbing on the back wall), and the flag was only up when at port. It was incredible.

The rest of the cruise is what you think it would be. Lots of kids, lots of awesome food, lots of handing out of antibacterial wipes. The onboard entertainment was meh, but we’re also not 5 year olds, so that could have something to do with our lack of interest. I was able to workout consistently for the first time in over a year in a gym, which because of Lakeland, was like a Godsend. I actually managed to NOT gain weight, which is a victory for anyone on a cruise ship.

Although it wasn’t super fun for adults sans kids, Disney really outdid themselves. We were on the Fantasy, which was just unbelievable. The size, the space, the decor, from top to bottom, just brilliant. And the on-board tv cracked me up because one of the channels advertised various Disney things on a loop. One of the videos was of the Fantasy when it launched. I knew previously from FB that one of our high school friend’s family was featured in the commercial and his twin girls played a starring role. What I didn’t know was that the whole family was featured in the video on-board, so I got to see Justin, his wife, and twins about 700 times on that channel. It’s like we took the cruise with them.

The weather turned on us the last few days, so I wasn’t able to get as much sun as I would’ve liked. But it was such an incredible experience, to be able to travel with my family, see my nieces light up at all the Disney fun, and hang out with my loved ones. I would recommend it for anyone looking to have fun with their family with childcare they can trust and fun experiences for all ages.

We also did the port adventures, which were just freaking awesome. We rode with dolphins, pet baby sea turtles, drove high speed motor boats, snorkeled in the reef, and had the greatest time. Yes, I left that cruise more in debt than felt comfortable (really, when is it ever comfy) but God, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. When I say that I practically wet my pants from laughter driving that motor boat…

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from that amazing week. It turns out I didn’t have as many pix of my twin nieces as I would’ve liked because they had some sort of averse reaction to being on a Disney cruise which left them completely unable to leave their mom’s side without melting down. Sad, but hey, I wasn’t going to push it. A clingy, not crying child is preferable to a crazy, tantrum child any day.

♥, VB