Guys, I have a secret to tell you. While it may seem that I spent last week at a computer blogging my little heart out, I was actually kicked back in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico looking at this view...
Yep. I put this blog on auto-pilot (mostly) and I set sail on a cruise with my husband, my best friend, and some random dude. Kidding. Random dude is my best friend's husband.
Let me back you up real quick. I've mentioned a couple of times that my best friend, whom I call Ronald (not her real name), graduated from nursing school. Her husband (Ryan) called us up a while back before the holidays and told us he was surprising Ron with a cruise to the Bahamas as a graduation present. He asked if we wanted join. I was furiously nodding my head before we even finished reading the text message. This was the first cruise any of us but Ryan had ever taken, and we've been planning our little adventure for a few months now. I didn't mention it because I didn't think it would be very smart to alert the internet that I would be out of the country. So, sorry for all the secrecy, but I took about 80,000 photos to make up for it. Fair warning: if you don't like looking at lots of pictures of other people's vacation, you might want to jump ship now (#cruisepuns). This was the first real vacation Joel and I had taken in about 4 years and I documented the heck out of it.
Our cruise was from Saturday to Saturday, but because we had an eight hour road trip from Fort Worth to New Orleans, we actually left the night before. We piled our bags into the back of Ryan's truck and took off for an extremely boring trip to the great city of Alexandria, Louisiana where we pulled into what I think was a La Quinta around 1 A.M. Joel kept us up all night with his snoring and then we piled back in the truck for another three hour leg to the Port of New Orleans. Ronald and I passed the time with selfies.
We gave Joel a little payback by making him take a bunch of pictures of us while Ryan was driving. We couldn't help it. We were super excited. Can't you tell?
Driving through Louisiana was actually kind of cool. Some parts of the state were absolutely gorgeous. Others were... interesting. Things started to get a lot prettier around Baton Rouge. I loved all of the scraggly trees and all the water everywhere. Lots of Sasquatch jokes were made.
We got to the port, schlepped all of our bags out of the truck (#overpackersanonymous) and stood in a giant long line (one of many I would soon find). We looked around and quickly realized we were the youngest people boarding the boat... by several decades. We ended up finding other people who weren't AARP members once we were actually on the boat, but I just couldn't help but crack up a little at all the sweet old ladies in their perfectly coordinated cruise attire and all of the old men who looked like they would rather be taking a nap.
Once we unloaded our bags, laughed at how teeny the room really was, and mentioned how happy we were that we paid a little extra for balconies, we made a b-line for the cafe and found a spot near the back of the boat to inhale our lunch. Then we spent the next hour or two walking around the boat, unpacking, going to the mandatory safety drill, and just tried to soak in a little bit of the 'I'm finally on vacation' air.
The boat crawled out of the channel and made it's way toward the Gulf right as the sun was going down. Perfect.
The boat itself was pretty crazy. I kind of didn't know what to think about being on a giant floating hotel. I found out just before we left that it was roughly twice the size of the Titanic. I was kind of amazed when we got on the boat that it didn't feel more crowded. I guess that's what happens when you spread 2,200 people plus 800 crew members out over 13 decks, 900 feet, and 90,000 tons.
After we got the lay of the land, we all changed and headed down the stairs (SO MANY STAIRS) to the main dining room where we proceeded to fill ourselves to the point of misery with a bunch of delicious food. Turns out we would do that again, every night, for the next week. Poor us. ;)
We crashed not too long after. I was pretty dang exhausted despite mostly sitting in chairs and standing in lines all day. Excitement I guess. Well, the exciting stuff was only just beginning because I opened my eyes at 7 A.M. the next morning, looked to my left, and saw a view that looked pretty close to this...
When you take a cruise for the first time, you logically know that you're going to be out in the open water and there will be no land visible at all. Knowing it and seeing it for the first time are two completely different things. It was incredible. The only time I've ever seen Joel pop out of bed and get dressed that fast has been when he's running extremely late for work. It was just so cool.
I managed to hold off my itch to take pictures until after we had all grabbed some breakfast. You'll notice I was using my phone camera. I was too nervous to bring my DSLR so all of the photos I took are with the good ol' iPhone. I think if I ever take another cruise (highly likely) that I will go ahead and bring my big camera, risk be damned. There were just so many gorgeous photo opportunities. You also may or may not notice that I'm not wearing my wedding ring either. Ronald and I were both too nervous to lose them in the ocean and didn't want to worry about putting them in the room safe so we decided to just leave them home.
I bumped up the exposure of this photo a little bit to try and capture the authentic color of the water. It really is that blue. And yes, I totally imagined what it would be like to jump off the back of that boat.
Clearly I refrained.
I totally felt like a real sailor. Except for that whole 'knowledge about sailing' part. Details.
Me and my co-captain would have totally figured it out.
After we fired our first mates for insubordination. ;)
After breakfast Ron and Ryan headed back to the room for a little while and Joel and I went straight to the bar. What's the point of being on vacation if you can't start drinking frozen mojitos at 11 in the morning?
We sat and talked to one of the crew members, a sweet guy from Mexico. We talked about how long he'd been on the boat (six months), where we was from (grew up on the beaches of Cancun), and where he had traveled (everywhere). He told us a little about life on the boat. I was totally fascinated. I love talking to people from other walks of life. Apparently a lot of the crew members are couples who met on the boat and eventually got married. Many of our boat's crew were from Mexico, Great Britain, The Philippines, and Eastern Europe (mostly Romania, Ukraine, the Czech Republic), and of course, 'Murica. I loved hearing all of the different accents and languages on the ship. We spent a lot of time talking to the crew and all of them were exceptionally friendly, especially our cabin attendant (who memorized all of our names on day one), and our waitstaff.
This is a giant, red chair I wanted to steal.
We walked up to the very tippy top of the boat (well, as far as they would let us go) and took even more pictures. I just could not get over how beautiful the water was. Pro tip: don't walk on the top deck of a giant boat where the wind blows so hard it nearly knocks you over with an open cup of very hot coffee in your hand.
I don't even remember what we did for the rest of the day but I know we just kept smiling and talking about how excited we were.
We eventually went to dinner and when we came back we received our first towel animal of the trip. You know you're excited when you feel the need to take a picture of a bunch of white towels in the shape of an elephant.
After dinner I was so wiped out that I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation with Joel. He's a total night owl and doesn't ever go to bed before midnight so he was still pretty restless. I was down for the count and so was Ryan. We're old. Ron and Joel were still wide awake so they left us to sleep and headed down to the casino for the evening. I was so glad I got some rest because I needed it for the next three days of activities. More on that tomorrow. Hint: I may or may not have become friends with a dolphin.
Have you ever been on a cruise? Where did you go if you have? Were you super excited the first time? If you've never been on one would you go? I had a lot of reservation about it (more on that later in the week), but I have to say it really exceeded my expectations. I may have started looking up other cruises the day we got home (I'm intrigued by Alaska). But that's gotta wait for another day. I haven't finished telling you about this one.