Posts Tagged ‘st. maarten’

Insanely Long And Picture Filled Vacation Post

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Hello Internet! I missed you bunches! And my Google reader is as stuffed with backed up posts as I am with desserts so it’s going to take me a few days to get back to normal – although normal is sort of the wrong word. Vacation was everything I had hoped for and more. I feel like I have literally been recharged in every way. I am no longer at the end of my rope. Instead, I am at the very top of a very long rope and I can totally handle toddler tantrums and busted lips and picky eating and 6 am wake-up calls and Bubble Guppie marathons for at least another few months – since I handled ALL OF THEM just in the past 48 hours. Then I’m going to need to start vacation planning again. Then if you’d like to travel in real class for your business we suggest this amazing chauffeur service in London as they are just incredible so if you are close to there then definitely give them a call.

I have a lot of problems and things to do checklists deciding what I want out of a vacation – Total relaxation? Adventure? Staying at a beachfront vacation condo or hotel? Getting 12 hours of sleep? Eating tons of fatty food? Extra gym time? – and it turns out a cruise is perfect to do ALL THE THINGS. One evening we went to the night club and danced like crazy until after 1 am. The next night we went to bed at 8:30 pm. As in, ASLEEP by 8:30. It was glorious. There was lots of day drinking and dinner drinking and night drinking and drinking with my in-laws and drinking with the strangers we made friends with in St. Thomas and yet there were zero hangovers. The Caribbean is MAGIC.

I will say if you’re looking for an incredibly glamorous vacation a cruise is NOT what you want. It’s a cruise. There are lots of old people and unstylish people and stereotypical touristy people. There is an enormous amount of food served in buffets. You stand in a lot of lines. Nothing about it feels exclusive or private. But it is easy and (relatively) affordable and you get to see a lot of things. I can totally picture us taking the kids on a cruise in the future, although we’d go into it with different expectations (less drinking, less adventure, more laid back beach time). I might have even started Googling Disney cruises while at the airport on the way back (They have one that leaves from NYC! Mickey Mouse!!!)

Our itinerary was a Sunday-Sunday cruise on the Ruby Princess leaving from Ft. Lauderdale then stopping in pismo beach , a day at sea, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Grand Turk, another day at sea and then back to Ft. Lauderdale.. We treated ourselves to a balcony room (on our honeymoon we only had a window and we were unimpressed). Our balcony was directly off the back of the boat on the 11th deck (out of 19 total) and was very private. My inlaws had a balcony on the 9th floor, but on the side of the boat, and everyone on every floor above could look right down into it. They also got better views when we were in port and a better breeze at sea, so it’s sort of a personal preference.

Queen sized bed, plenty of storage and hangers. Tiiiiiny bathroom, but whatevs.

Champagne toast while leaving Florida

The actual POINT of the cruise – besides just being an amazing vacation for us – was E’s parents as well as two sets of aunts/uncles were renewing their wedding vows for 23, 35, and 40 years of marriage. Between the vow renewal package and their travel agent, E’s folks got FIVE bottles of champagne and a bottle of wine…but they don’t drink. I had more champagne last week than I’ve had the entire previous 29 years of my life.

The Atrium in the middle of the ship

While we were on the boat at sea, we did lots of fun but not-really-photo-worthy stuff. We took ballroom dance lessons, watched movies by the pool, saw two shows plus an illusionist and a comedian, went to the gym, wandered around the decks, browsed in the jewelry shops, lost at blackjack and kicked ass at team trivia (played 5 times, won 3 of them). Also, we ate. A LOT. We don’t get to eat out very often – or at fancy restaurants EVER – so we took advantage of the upscale dining room every night. I can understand that some people would rather wear flip flops for their entire vacation but for me dressing up is way more fun. Plus, ohmigod, the FOOD. This is all from the same night:

Poached seafood and avocado salad with lime vinaigrette

Mussels in white wine butter sauce

E’s dinner: giant steak and french fries

The Love Boat – chocolate mouse over a chocolate brownie

And then we went to some beaches.

Snorkeling on Princess Cay

Where the tenders dock at Princess Cay

Princess Cay is Princess Cruise’s “private island”. Actually, it’s an island called Eleuthera with about 12,000 people who live on the non-Princess side. It’s a flat cay (as opposed to the Virgin Islands, which are tall and volcanic) so there isn’t much to look at but the beach is nice. There was a lot of food for free and souvenirs for not free, and we decided to just crash on our towels instead of renting chairs or a cabana. We brought our own snorkel and flippers so it was a cheap day. The boat anchored off shore and brought us in on tenders which meant lots of waiting around to catch a boat, so we went back to the ship early and chilled rather than rush at the last minute.

Tuesday night was a formal night (and the vow renewal) so we got fancy. Instead of renting a tux, E brought his dress blues. Which are actually black. The Navy is color blind. (p.s. My dress is from ModCloth)

Self portrait in our balcony door

In front of the champagne waterfall. MORE CHAMPAGNE.

Wednesday we went to St. Maarten, which is the Dutch half of St. Martin (the other half is French, but we never saw that side). We got off the boat early and used some of the shopping “coupons” to hit the stores. The cruise ships have some kind of deal with the jewelry stores where the ships make a HUGE DEAL about WHAT A BARGAIN all the jewelry is in the Caribbean and in return the stores give the customers free stuff. Although by “free stuff” I mean a crappy half plastic charm bracelet and a 1 ct “sapphire” that I’m pretty sure is just a shard of blue glass.

Of course, that’s all just a ruse to get you into the store because once you’re in there with all the sparkly things and a super attentive sales person offering you drinks and telling you everything is 60% off special just for you today…you’re probably buying something. We managed to keep it down to just ONE something – a really gorgeous tanzanite and diamond ring – but we probably still paid WAAAAY too much. But it’s a fantastic souvenir and I wear every day and it counts as my 30th birthday present too so I’m pretending it was worth blowing our budget.

Shopping in St. Maarten

The rest of the time in St. Maarten was on a shore, uh, sea excursion. We took a catamaran trip to a reef for snorkeling and a beach for swimming plus free rum punch and sandwiches. On the ride back I sat right on the very front of the boat with my feet hanging off and after a couple of rum punches I felt like I was flying. It was amazing.

Where we snorkeled in St. Maarten

That’s our boat anchored off the beach. We liked pretending we didn’t have to share it with 30 other people.

St. Maarten was nice but busy.  There were seven cruise ships in port that day so it was REALLY crowded. I would love to go back to the island and explore both sides of it over a few days time since I don’t feel like I saw it at all.

We got to St. Thomas pretty early on Thursday and were off the boat and on one of the crazy converted pick-up truck taxis by 8:45 am. The excursion was described as a tour of the city, Blackbeard’s Castle, a rum factory and the amber museum, but we spent the first two hours hanging out at Magen’s Bay beach. Not that I’m complaining about getting to spend some time on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but E didn’t bring his swimsuit and we didn’t bring any towels. Luckily the beach front bar started serving at 9:30 am so we stopped caring about towels pretty fast.

At the very far left side of the beach – it ends in a big rock wall

Posing on some very pointy rocks

After the beach we went to Blackbeard’s Castle (which is just a tower, a hotel and a couple pools), the rum factory (which was just a room with some distilling equipment – but had lots of free rum samples), and the amber museum (spoken: gift shop). We also followed the signs to a historic hotel bar for a drink that had five different kinds of rum in it. DELICIOUS. After wandering down the hill we browsed the open air market before catching a boat back to the ship.

Pirate Blackbeard in front of his castle tower

View of St. Thomas from the top of Blackbeard’s Castle

The rocks beside the ship were COVERED in iguanas

Thursday night was another formal night, but for some reason I don’t have any pictures. I have no idea how that happened except that we were having a really good time and just forgot. One of the nicest surprises of this vacation was discovering how much I still really like my husband. I think we might have even had a better time than on our honeymoon cruise – we know each other so much better than we did eight years ago. I’m already hoping we can swing another adults-only vacation for our 10 year anniversary in 2014.

Friday morning we were still cruising, but Friday afternoon we pulled into Grand Turk and wow is that a good looking place. It’s another super flat island with incredibly clear blue water.

Grand Turk

See where the water goes from turquoise to black? There’s a drop off there that is 7,000 feet deep. Our snorkeling boat took us out and had everyone look over the side and it is…kind of terrifying. I can’t even IMAGINE 7,o00 feet deep.

I had heard there wasn’t much to do on Grand Turk (the people we talked with who took a 4-wheeler tour of the island confirmed it was pretty boring) so we signed up for a snorkeling trip to a reef and to see the stingrays who hang out off of Gibb’s Cay. It was definitely the coolest excursion.

Grand Turk is technically in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean. It didn’t mater, the water was just as warm as the other places.

Underwater camera FTW!

One of the TWO giant barracuda I was just a few feet away from that day

Sergeant Fish

Doing my best mermaid impression

E kisses a stingray

And here’s video of me getting to meet/kiss/get a massage from a stingray. (The adorable bathing suit is from ModCloth – I’m totally smitten with it.)

Conch shell monument(?) on Gibb’s Cay

After the boat adventure we headed back to the Grand Turk cruise port. Cruise ports aren’t real places. They’re imaginary towns with shiny happy stores painted bright colors where all the prices are insanely inflated but someone sweeps all the streets every night. The one in Grand Turk has a huge Margaritaville with a swim up bar. E was thrilled. I found some of our cruise friends and had nachos, so I was thrilled too. We hung out until the very last minute before getting back on the ship and getting dressed for dinner.

The last time I wore that dress was to my bff Erin’s wedding a zillion years ago. I was so excited to get to wear it again.

Sunset from Grand Turk

Saturday was another day at sea. I took a nap. It was very very relaxing and kind of depressing since I knew vacation was almost over. We went to the Wheelhouse Bar for fish and chips for lunch and wondered if they were serving green beer for St. Patrick’s Day (they were). We played bingo and did not win anything.

For dinner, all 24 of us – in-laws, Granny, aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, etc – went to the formal dining room. We heard about everyone’s adventures over the past week and they all confirmed they had a wonderful time too.

Dressed up for dinner the last night (ModCloth again!)

And then we were back in Florida and vacation was over.

Post-vacation sad faces

We stood in a lot of lines and waited. We cleared customs without anyone even asking about the 4 bottles of rum in our checked baggage. We got to the airport TWELVE HOURS before our evening flight and managed to catch an earlier one (Thank God). But it all went extremely smoothly and we made it home just in time to see the kids before bed.

I think both kids missed us a little – Caroline probably more – but my parents kept them super busy so they didn’t take it too hard. Being in their regular beds, going to their regular places, and eating their regular food definitely helped keep things as normal as possible. Unfortunately, now they’re used to people who grant them their every train-playing, horsey-ride, french fry eating wish so being told “No” by Mommy is the END OF THE WORLD. But hey, screaming kids are no biggie when I’m so refreshed.

Wow, if you made it through all of that you totally deserve a pina colada. Come on over, I have lots of rum.

I posted the rest of the pictures on Facebook, so if you’re still eager to see more just friend me over there.