Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bermuda, BAHAMAS, Come on Pretty Mama...

Here's my attempt at being positive for the week. Photos and commentary from our cruise this past weekend below.

But before I carry on with smiles and giggles, I first have to state a couple annoyances.
1. I just had to pay Google $5 to buy storage for this "free" resource. And even more annoying, I'll never reach 20 GB in one year, but it expires on 3/2/12. So every year from here on out, I pay the man. I know $5 is no big deal, but seriously... nothing in life is ever free.

2. I'm so tired of seeing things on facebook about babies. I finally deleted 1/3 of my friends list yesterday and may continue. Don't be offended if I unfriended you. I just can't handle the daily reminder of what I'm missing that all you moms out there have been so blessed with. It kills me to see those photos. I'm sorry if you don't understand but my shoes are really unpleasant to be in. A lot more unpleasant than someone unfriending you on facebook. You can get over it and then go hug your babies, I can't.

Also, I have to be honest and say that during our first day on the cruise, we were playing a game of table tennis and I commented that this was a pretty crappy consolation prize we've been given {the cruise v. being at home with our newborn son}. I thought to title this post "Consolation Prize" but figured I could think of something more positive since it was mostly a nice experience in and of itself. The only reason we booked a cruise in the first place, though, was because when we returned home from the hospital empty-handed on 12/8/10, we had to figure out what to do with our plane tickets we had booked for California (scheduled for early March). We were planning to have a post-birth baby shower to bring Andrew to my hometown in California and show him off to all our friends and family. So much for that. We re-booked our flights (thanks Southwest for no penalties!) to Florida instead to get away. If Andrew were here, this cruise wouldn't have been happening and I wouldn't have wanted to go anywhere that would mean leaving my son behind!

So, here's the re-cap of our consolation prize cruise. We did try and make the most of it. It felt really nice to be out of Chicago and the freezing temperatures to experience 80-degrees every single day!

Leaving Miami beach...
Here's the Majesty of the Seas, Royal Caribbean boat we took. We're in Nassau, Bahamas as we took this photo and the cruise ship is behind us. I think we counted 5 or 6 cruise ships in the Bahamas on the day we were there. Do the math. That's a whole lotta peeps. The day before we arrived the Disney Cruise ship was there. The day after we left, the newest, largest cruise ship was scheduled to arrive in port.
They trap you (just like all tourist islands) in this building that force you through all their shops and you get haggled on your way out the door. I paused here to take a photo with this cool thing.
In the land of the Caribbean, Cuban cigars are legal. Well, they're legal everywhere except America, actually.
We took a ferry boat ($6) over to Paradise Island where the Atlantis hotel is located. We had full intentions of buying passes to go down their lazy river because the Wilsons love lazy rivers. We walked through this crazy Vegas-like hotel and waited in a line that seemed like forever for them to tell us it would cost $120 per person to use any part of their facility for the day. Yeah right! $240 for a lazy river ride? We were not having any of that, so we decided to follow what the ferry Bahamian guy told us to do-- walk to the right of the hotel onto the beach. It's public. They can't kick you off. Then proceed to walk toward the Atlantis hotel and no one will stop you. So, we did. We paid nothing to walk around the Atlantis resort and could very well have used any and all of their facilities without paying. Before you comment about our dishonesty (and let's be honest, they are ripping people off!!!), I'd like to say we didn't use a single facility-- not even a bathroom! We didn't get in the water and didn't go on the lazy river. We just walked around for about 30 minutes to check out why on earth anyone would ever pay $120/person to go down their waterslides! I snapped some photos of what you see below...

One waterslide takes you through a clear tunnel. Sharks surround you in the water. It's pretty cool and we were able to see it from the underground access.
This is the waterslide. There are two ways-- one without an inner tube and one with a tube.
 View of Atlantis
 Here's the hotel from the Atlantis resort grounds. I snapped this shot before we left.
From the cruise ship, we looked down on the island of Nassau (capital of the Bahamas). Romantic, huh? Yeah, not so much. If you look closely, you'll see that a large portion of buildings on the left of the yellow tower were completely demolished by a fire. The cause of the fire (just 2 weeks before we arrived) was said to be a faulty telephone electrical box.
My husband drinking a local brew, the Kalik. It's legal to walk the streets with alcohol in the Bahamas as long as it's in one of those super classy paper bags.
 We attempted to go into this bar, but it was so packed and just smelled of sweaty people and drunkenness. Yuck.
 Sunset on our second night at sea.
If you know us well, you know we're not really the formal, dressy type. We're casual and like it that way. Maybe it's the beach culture I grew up in, but I would rather throw on a pair of jeans and a tank top any day than wear heals and fancy dresses. Rather then pack too much luggage we'd just have to check and schlep everywhere, we packed light, hence our unformal attire on "formal" night. I at least get credit for a. wearing a skirt, and b. painting my toenails in the winter months! Here's a photo in the ship's lobby.
This one's for Tommy Ferguson. Two words: Poker Face.
{Tommy and his wife Alli went on the same cruise ship just two months prior to our trip. We intended to replicate some of their photos. Tommy had many poker face photos. We only managed to take one}
 A tree with paper-like bark. I can't remember the name...
 It's blurry, but can you spot the large, striped iguana tail? I'm so bummed I didn't get a real photo of him. He was huge!
 We went on a nature trail walk on the island of Coco Cay-- our second (and final) stop in the Bahamas before returning back to Florida. It was really nice and very few people chose to do any walking. Most people just headed straight to lay out on the beach. We, being the active folks that we are, chose to walk the trail to find two infamous chairs our friends Alli & Tommy were telling us about on this walk. Here's Elliot exaggerating about being tired at the end of the trail. Halfway through our trail walk, I stopped off at the restroom. I walked in to be scared half-to-death by a CAT sitting on the toilet and drinking the toilet water. Yummy.
Our cruise ship in the background. This was at the very end of our nature walk on Coco Cay.

Our cruise ship and the sister cruise ship (Monarch of the Seas) in the background.
 The two chairs we found at the end of our nature trail walk. We weren't sure if these were the two chairs our friends told us about, but we took advantage anyway! There wasn't a soul anywhere around!
These stacks were found all around-- someone was obviously a little artsy that came before us. But being honest, MANY people had been there before us. This island is basically Royal Caribbean's privately leased island in the Bahamas. It's real name is actually Little Stirrup Cay. But that doesn't sound so romantic or island-like, so it was re-named by a cruise company and now Royal Caribbean calls it home to one of their Caribbean stops. Adjacent to it is Great Stirrup Cay that is owned by Norwegian cruise lines-- that was their second stop. We could see their boat. Our island had little significance, but theirs has a ton of history!
Just relaxing on our private ocean-front property... for an hour or so. I look ghostlike here and I'm not ashamed. Ever since my skin cancer incident, the shade of white skin seems much more appealing to me. I <3 sunscreen.
Trying to replicate a photo my friend Alli took on her cruise here. She was standing on the edge of a rock and her husband shot a photo from the background.
Starfish sighting #1!
Hanging out with a starfish and some live coral in the gorgeous water.
Starfish sighting #2!
Starfish sighting #3! See my linea negra? A little piece of Andrew still with me. I both hate it and love it. I sort of never want it to go away, but some days I hate it because it's a painful reminder, too.
 Here birdie, birdie. Wait, nevermind. Don't come near me, thanks.
Doing a little kayaking in the Caribbean water. It cost $15 for 30 minutes. We thought that was a rockin' deal compared to the $120/per person at Atlantis! They also ran by the honor system on time. Gotta love the Bahamian people!
Heading back to shore.
We found this cozy little spot to hang out away from the sun but still enjoying the views. We were peacefully sitting when a couple walked up to have their picture taken in front of the water. They started talking with the couple who took their picture and wouldn't leave! I don't know what it is about the need people have to meet friends on their cruise vacations, but I'm not signing up for that.
Our priorities were clearly different. :)
Our ship had a rock wall. Cool, except they were open exactly 7 whole hours (sporadically) of the 68 hours we spent on the ship. If you're doing the math, that's just over 10% of the time. Boo. I did have a chance to try it once, though. Being that high and only seeing water in the horizon made the experience a lot different than climbing at a rock gym.
The only dinner (food) photo I took. This one is to show that my husband managed to eat two whole desserts that night. I certainly can't speak... I had an ice cream every single day and I don't think there was a day that went by we didn't eat pizza (you know, just because it's there) after we had dinner already!
When we stepped off the boat, it was 8 a.m. Our flight was not scheduled to depart back to Chicago until 8 p.m. What to do with 12 hours of time in southern Florida? Rent a car and drive down to the bottom of the state, of course! We wanted to check out the Everglades National Park (since we love national parks!) and we were only about 50 miles away. Once we arrived, we explored two spots before heading back north to Ft. Lauderdale. Here is some of the wildlife we saw:
Vultures were everywhere! When we drove into the parking lot of a nature trail, we saw cars with plastic bags attached to their windshield wipers and other places. Why? Because they eat car parts! Here's a photo + article if you're interested.
We counted about 42 alligators and I'm sure that is a modest count considering we only had access to nature trails and there was lots of brush around.
 Up close and personal with my happy husband. :)
We have tons of photos of really interesting birds, but I'll spare you the whole album.
We drove further south to the very bottom of Everglades National Park and stopped at the water. ENP actually extends to hundreds of "keys" (islands), but we stayed ashore. We were attempting to find salt water crocodiles and came across a pelican.
And here's the crocodile!
There couldn't possibly be any place more appropriate (other than on a key itself) to enjoy Florida Key Lime Pie! I looove key lime pie when done right (which is almost never... must be key lime juice from Florida for it to be worthy of my praise!). Just past the pink visitor's center is water... and in that water are the keys. If we wanted to, we could've taken a boat out to one. There are so many of those little islands everywhere. I just had no idea until we were given a map! We saw about 10 just by looking out from the end of the water. The closest one was easily less than a mile offshore. I stared at the Keys eating Key Lime Pie! It was seriously delicious. Good timing, too. February 28th was my dessert/sugar cutoff!
After the Everglades, we headed up early because we feared lots of traffic. With the extra time before heading to the airport, we checked out a beach at Lauderdale-by-the-sea. We were walking along the beach and noticed hundreds of these washed up all along the shores. Portuguese Man-of-War everywhere! These little guys are super dangerous and can sting humans pretty badly. Needless to say, that's why we saw very few people in the water. They are not jellyfish, I learned, but a siphonophore. They "travel" (though they can't move and are only moved by currents and wind) in groups of 1,000+, so it wasn't weird to see hundreds onshore at the same time.

...speaking of Beach Boys songs, did you know Kokomo {the name of the Beach Boy's song I referenced in the title of this post} is actually a fictional island? There is such a thing as Kokomo, Indiana, but no such island. Sandals later went on to use the name at one of their all-inclusive resorts.

The March 1 no sugar, no alcohol, no soda cutoff  has officially begun! I'm on day 3 and doing very well!

And finally... since this was my first cruise ever, here's my take on them:
  • It's the middle-class way of overindulgence and luxury. For a good deal, you can have anything you want and have it all catered to you. 
  • It's too lazy for me! I like to explore, walk around, and go on hikes. Laying out by a pool, gambling, and eating non-stop isn't really my thing. 
  • I thought the food was outrageous-- too much and mostly mediocre. Quality lacks when food is cooked in large quantities. Surely that didn't stop (us) me from eating my weight every night. What is it about free food and all-inclusive deals that make people want to stuff themselves silly? It's only one meal, after all. You're still going to need breakfast no matter how much you eat for dinner. On our normal travel vacations, we often lose track of our mealtimes because we're so busy exploring (and exercising, what's that?) to notice that the clock struck 12 and the free lunch buffet is open.
  • It was a cheap way to get-away, but I'm not sure I'd like to go on any more Caribbean cruises-- possibly with friends, but never just the two of us again. I'd consider Europe (Mediterranean) & possibly Alaska.
  • I disliked being on a boat with all those people day in and day out. I felt trapped with them. And I was!
  • My final piece of criticism is this: I stepped off a boat to the Bahamas. I explored. I stepped back on the boat for lunch (you know, because it's free and huge!). I stepped back off the boat to explore some more. Then back on. It was like I couldn't leave little America behind! For goodness sakes, there was a Johnny Rockets on our ship! I mean, we honestly can't live without that "luxury" for a few days? I didn't like that I wasn't immersed is what I'm trying to say. I like to be immersed and forced to experience culture. But then again I also realize that the Bahamas are just a little over 100 miles off the coast of the United States-- they get all their food and much of their culture from us. So this example may not entirely apply, but the point was made.
I think I'm more of a plan, fly, hotel kind of girl myself. The kind of hotel that isn't moving. I'm not ruling them out forever, but I wasn't overly excited. I was excited for the weather and to get away with my amazing husband, though. And was it worth it for the experience, absolutely! We already tentatively planned a future winter-getaway to fly into Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and drive down to Key West. That's the same exposure to great weather and island living but road-trip style! :)  


Molly said... [Reply to comment]

First of all, let me take a cue from you and start with the positive: what a great post! I enjoyed the little trip away from my poor-pitiful-me attitude. :) And how cute are you??? :)

And now let me agree with you on cruises... I was nodding at every comment you made haha. my friend and I took one long ago and that was it for me! I hated the schedules, etc. i even cried once when we had to get back on our boat ha!

Also, I know you've heard me say this before, but (believe-it-or-not haha) I am in a MUCH better place now that I am off of Facebook. It is torture on a BLM. I am proud of you for cleaning house. that was the last thing I tried before i finally just bailed! Ha! i had hidden/deleted everyone that i even thought may post a new baby pic, pregnancy comment, etc. when some random posted a bunch of crap about her brother's new baby. omg! that was it. i was out. you just do whatever makes you happy and those who are worth it will understand. :)

Newlywed Next Door said... [Reply to comment]

This was a great post. Your pictures are beautiful -- what kind of camera do you use?

I've done the cruise thing with my family before and I agree with all of your criticisms. I think just booking a location you want to be in may be a better deal.

We also love lazy rivers -- we just booked a trip to AZ to the Westin Scottsdale for Memorial Day JUST to use the lazy river for 2 days :). That and enjoy some heat while CA is all "May Gray."

Katie Truelove said... [Reply to comment]

So glad you guys could get away and get some sunshine!!:) It must have been so fun to see all that wildlife up close too! I love the pic of the shell in focus with the two chairs and the beach in the background-- beautiful!

ps- I think it would be impossible for Jeremy not to take advantage of the 'walk on the street with a beer in a paper bag' thing as well;)

d.a.r. said... [Reply to comment]

Wow, these pictures are seriously good!! It looks like yall had a good time, but thank you for confirming the fact that I would loathe a cruise, haha.

Alli (and Tommy too!) said... [Reply to comment]

I never commented ... first, Tommy was thrilled to be mentioned in his first Windy City post. Second, you totally found the same spot with the chairs at the end. Way to go, you need to get away from all those people when you're on a ship. Third, we are super impressed with the man of war. Wow.

Alli (and Tommy too!) said... [Reply to comment]

I never commented ... first, Tommy was thrilled to be mentioned in his first Windy City post. Second, you totally found the same spot with the chairs at the end. Way to go, you need to get away from all those people when you're on a ship. Third, we are super impressed with the man of war. Wow.

LauraJane said... [Reply to comment]

I just re-ready this post. I started laughing when I looked at the Crocodile, um, he's smiling. haha

Samiya said... [Reply to comment]

I 100% agree with you on your comments about cruises! Hubby and I went 3 years ago and don't think we will ever be going back. Even though for some reason he brought it up last week, I think he has forgotten our experience. Wish I could!

Glad you got a chance to get some sunshine and be in some beautiful waters!