Cruising with a Friend

This January my friend, Helaine, and I took a cruise together to the western Caribbean. As in Italy last October, I played “tourist” and didn’t take my photography gear, opting instead for photos using my iPhone.

Friday, January 5

After parking the car and making note of where it was parked, I waited for the bus to the airport. Someone at the stop pointed out a bus that then came by, but continued on with an “Out of Service” sign lit up. Another bus swept by the growing number of people, and again, an “Out of Service” was written on the front. It was shift change time. Ten minutes later a bus stopped. In the meantime I received a text notice from Delta that my flight was being delayed by about an hour. Perfect.

At the airport I ditched my puffy vest, tucking it neatly into the front pocket of my check bag for use when I came back home. The kiosk for Delta spit out a bag tag for me and I attached it and stuck two of the scan codes on the sides, turned it in to the attendant and headed to the CLEAR lane. Not being labeled TSA Pre-Check, CLEAR made it very easy to get through without hassle.

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale and retrieved my bag then waited for Helaine to pick me up. Once we’d wrangled my bag into her car we drove to the hotel and checked in. Dinner was at a Greek hole-in-the-wall restaurant – the food was pretty good though.

Saturday, January 6

We checked out of the hotel and drove to purchase bagels for breakfast and a coffee for Helaine, then dashed to the port, parked the car, checked in and got our “medallions”, then walked onboard the Sky Princess. This will be our home for the next seven days as we cruise the Caribbean.

The ship was still decorated for Christmas, so it was a little extra pretty for this cruise. Throughout the cruise, bit by bit, the decorations were taken down.

We spent most of our afternoon exploring the ship, stopping for a quick lunch at the buffet. The Spa had tours going, so we took advantage of that and signed up for the Enclave – a huge room with three different types of hot room/saunas, very large hot tub, and heated (tiled) loungers. We ended up taking advantage of the Enclave everyday.

In the evening we tried out the Enclave, took a quick shower at the spa, then we each enjoyed a 2 minute massage. I made an appointment for a wash and blow dry while Helaine went in for an acupuncture session.

Once we were done at the spa we attended a quiz show then went to dinner. After dinner we saw a show with a very talented singer, LaShanda Reese. From there we checked out some of the shops, then Helaine had an egg salad sandwich as a late night snack before we called it a night.

Sunday, January 7

I slept very well. I usually do on cruises. Motion of the ocean and all that.

This morning we had breakfast together, then I attended a non-denominational church service. Later we both watched a talk about the different ports we would be visiting, then I and got a hair consultation while Helaine went to the fitness center. After my consultation I found I couldn’t access our room because my medallion’s battery had died. Guest services replaced it and it was good as new again. Helaine suggested we do sushi for lunch, so we did. The service was slow, but I thought the meal was delicious.

After we’d filled up on the sushi we dashed over for arts and crafts. This was fun, especially for Helaine because she doesn’t feel like she has any crafts she likes. For this craft we each made a greeting card designed with paper quilling. What a neat craft – and not terribly expensive; just some glue, thin strips of color paper, and a quilling tool that costs about $5.

Back at the room I meditated while Helaine went for another workout. Later I enjoyed the Enclave again, then got ready for dress-up night, kicked back and waited for Helaine to get back from her fun. We had dinner then watched the tail end of a comedian’s set. Helaine went to watch the big show at the theater while I hung out for the comedian’s second set.

Monday, January 8

After a good breakfast and the requisite three coffees for Helaine (she is a coffee feind – haha), we went on an excursion in Cozumel, Mexico. The tour began with a drive to Playa Mia Grand Beach Park, a large and popular beach in Cozumel. Upon arriving, a very charming and funny chef lead us in the art of cooking some Mexican traditional cuisine. We were assigned a workstation with all the ingredients and utensils needed to prepare and serve plantains with chocolate for dessert, fish with veggies for the main meal, and a sopa with shrimp in a tomato based sauce as the appetizer. Once we were had finished cooking everything, we all enjoyed our own dished along with an open bar.

After lunch, we relaxed on the resort’s private beach and took advantage of the facilities, including a dip in the ocean.

Back at port we did some shopping – I was looking for a souvenir pin while Helaine was looking for anything that appealed to her that had “Cozumel” on it.

On board the ship, we had a nice dinner, then watched a bit of the “Yes or No” game show, then comedian Gary Delena, who was very funny.

Tuesday, January 9

Today we landed in Roatan.

After the usual breakfast we went on an excursion to Cameo Castle where we watched an artist work his magic carving cameos out of coral and conch shells. There was lots of options for purchases, and a drawing to enter. My name was pulled for the second prize, but, seeing the fiery red coral starfish earrings, I just had to let Helaine pick what she wanted – she loves those colors. Later I opted to buy a pair of mermaid cameo earrings made from conch.

From the castle we were driven to West End Village were we enjoyed some beverages and then given some time to explore the town. We walked up and down the street, stumbling upon a cool park entrance, sunflowers hung over the street, and a recycle art shop. At souvenir shops I found a couple of pins and Helaine shopped for her own goodies.

Our last bit of fun was taking a ride in a “semi-sub” – a uniquely designed boat in which passengers ride below deck where there are windows on all sides below the water – it offers underwater views from the comfort of air-conditioning. We saw all sorts of fun little fish, and the best part was seeing a pod of dolphins playing about very close to us. They were on the opposite side of the boat, so I wasn’t able to get any good photos – but it was still a fun experience.

Back to port where I talked Helaine into going outside of the port shops area for some lunch. The place was Look Out Restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall on the water, and the food was good. Afterwards – shopping!

Wednesday, January 10

Today we visited Belize, and took an excursion. Getting to the port required riding a half-hour on a tender.

We took a guided tour of Xunantunich, the most architecturally significant ruins in the country. It features one of the tallest Mayan structures found in Belize and some of the most intricately detailed sculptures. To get there our group got off of our bus and stood on a ferry to cross a river. The ferry was powered by a hand crank. A few men took turns cranking the ferry back and forth.

Muri was our guide here and she was very good and knowledgeable. Helaine and I climbed all the way to the top if El Castillo, the tallest temple in the site, which is a bit over 135 feet tall. From the top we could see Guatemala!

After that bit of exercise, we went to Hode’s Place San in San Ignacio for a traditional Belizean lunch of rice and beans, stewed chicken (I had salad instead), and macaroni salad. When we got back to port we shopped a bit before standing in line for an hour and a half waiting to board one of the tenders back to the ship.

Thursday, January 11

I got up at 5:30am, dressed, and went down to the International Cafe (it’s open 24/7) to get Helaine her favorite coffee – a lavender latte because today is her birthday – I thought I’d try to get her off to a good start.

Our excursion today was in Costa Maya, Mexico where we rode on a bus to “The Place of the Red Corn,” Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. These ruins were only about a third the size of Xunantunich, and thank goodness for that because my thighs were aching from Wednesday’s climb! We climbed to the top (only about a third of the height compared to Wednesday’s ruin climb) of the “Gran Basamento” where we could see two of the sacred temples. From there we went to a private lagoon resort, where we had the opportunity to relax on a sun lounger and enjoy the of the open bar and a light snack. Leticia was our guide for the day.

Back at port Helaine shopped and shopped and shopped. Once we were back on the ship we changed into bathing suits, had a slice of pizza and a soda, then took a dip in the pool. Refreshed, Helaine decided to have a soft serve ice cream, so who was I to say no – I joined her. After that we headed down to the Enclave for a relaxing dip and steam. We finished that and showered then I went back to the room to start packing and Helaine went back down to get her hair done. I got mine done after her.

We went to Sabatini’s for Helaine’s special birthday dinner. While the service was achingly slow, the food was very good, and they surprised Helaine with a pretty chocolate cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her.

Friday, January 12

The last day of the cruise as a full day at sea.

I’d caught a cold earlier in the cruise and had managed to ward off the worst of it, but today it caught up to me and I opted to try and take it easy. I finished packing, attended a culinary demonstration with Helaine, and watched a bit of an ice carving demonstration. We had our final dinner at the regular dining room then attended the Farewell Show, sitting right down front. A perfect end to a great time with my friend.