Sad Birthdays and Forgotten Lyrics

VACATION DAY EIGHT: DAY AT SEA

Enjoying our last day at sea together.

This day was spent heading back to Miami’s port after an amazing cruise through the Caribbean. And really, out of all of the days, this one was one of the most difficult for a couple of reasons.

First of all, this was a very lazy day for us. We didn’t do much other than relax and lounge around a bit…feeling both a bit anxious and a bit sad about having our trip ending the following day. I, however, was feeling more nervous than anything else.

What?  Why nervous?

Well…remember how I said I had auditioned for a role in the Carnival Legends show as Elton John?  For a guy who normally thrives on getting up in front of a crowd, I was really scared for this one. The biggest problem wasn’t getting up in front of 500 people (or however many filled the Amber Show Palace on the Carnival Glory).  The biggest problem was that I had to sing “Crocodile Rock” and, quite frankly, I really didn’t like the song very much before this cruise and didn’t know it at all.  I spent a couple hours that afternoon trying to memorize the song in my room with Sunshine, and kept flubbing my lines and making myself even MORE nervous.

I’m a guy who can do anything in the world if he is confident in what he does.  However, much like writing exams back in university, if I’m even slightly nervous about my ability to do something or not quite 100% confident, then my mind goes blank.

So I was pretty much a wreck all afternoon, making myself crazy about this performance.  I just wanted to put on the best show out of anybody (especially in front of Sunshine and dad) but after rehearsal earlier in the day (a 2-hour rehearsal, at that), I realized that almost everybody else not only could sing REALLY well but most knew their words, too.

Yikes.

So that was weighing heavily on my mind all day.  In addition to that, my dad’s birthday was also weighing heavily on my mind.  He turned 65 on this day and it was a very bittersweet moment for him.

Sunshine started off by giving him a hug at breakfast and wishing “the old man”  happy birthday.  He chuckled and then got choked up.  Y’see, this was his first birthday alone after mom passed away in February…and while he had been doing good most of the cruise (except for a few moments here and there), this day was really tough on him because they both would have been 65 together.

I can only imagine how tough this day was for him, where he would have been married 45 years in April (due to be another extremely difficult time for him) and having to spend special dates without his life partner going forward.

Happy birthday dad.

At supper my little brother had arranged for the waiters to sing “Happy Birthday” to dad.  While he was smiling and was appreciative of the gesture, he still began to cry a bit after blowing out the candles.  It was so difficult watching him so I just kept staring intently at him…wanting to make sure he was okay.  One of the great folks who had dined with us all week happened to see me staring and mentioned how awesome it was to see the love we show for dad.  That started getting me a little choked up because I then started to think about mom and how she would have LOVED to have been here for this.

Our last dinner on board the ship: 03-19-11

Once supper was over, I attended one more trivia game with the family and then head backstage to get ready for my performance.  I was NERVOUS.  I then put on my Elton John costume and while a bit confident in how I looked, I really didn’t feel confident in my knowledge of the song…and that led to me being more and more nervous.  I was a WRECK by the time the show started.

“James Brown” was on first. He was pretty darn entertaining.  Of course he knew the words because there’s only ten words in “I Feel Good”…jeez. And then”Aretha Franklin” got up onstage and she was incredible. I definitely got the sense that she had done this before.

Then it was MY turn…

My debut as Elton John

I played it up as best I could, but once I got on the microphone I went blank.

BLANK~!!

Sigh…

Once the performance was over, I really felt terrible.  Sure, I had gotten a nice ovation and the crowd seemed to love the outfit…but I am my own worst critic and I skewered myself.  The fellow guests backstage didn’t care, though…they high-fived me and said that it was really entertaining.  I tried to feign happiness but my immediate reaction was utter disappointment.

Right after me were two of the “Fun Patrol” (i.e. crew members responsible for running the activities on board the ship) singing “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher. The tall skinny guy played Cher and a woman got on her knees to play Sonny.  The good news for me was that they were terrible (lol). They couldn’t sing and forgot their words, too…and that made me feel a bit better.

A young woman playing Britney Spears came up next and pretty much rocked singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time”.  She even got back-up dancers! It was quite entertaining.  Up next was Madonna singing “Like a virgin” with MALE dancers in mesh shirts and bootie shorts (lol). Then came Garth Brooks doing “Friends In Low Places”.  He wasn’t that great, either…which made me feel a bit better.  Is that wrong?

Up next was (I think) Gloria Estafan doing “Rhythm is Gonna Getcha”. She looked ridiculous but sounded great and remembered all of her words.  Then they had the illusionist who had done his magic show earlier in the cruise play Ricky Martin singing “Livin’ La Vida Loca”.  He remember most of the words but couldn’t really sing.  And then there was Elvis singing a medley of “Jailhouse Rock” and “Hound Dog”.  Dude drank all day and wrote the lyrics down on his hand…so when he posed and sang, most people didn’t realize he was reading the words because of his sunglasses (Sunshine could tell, but she was in the front row).

The show finished up with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and he was really great. We all came out on stage during the song and ended up doing our final bows to the crowd before heading out to the lobby area to take a cast photo…

Carnival Glory Legends: 03-19-11
"Elton" & a fan

Then something weird happened…people wanted to take pictures with me.  I know I was dressed up fairly odd, but I didn’t expect anybody to really care.  But no…here they actually wanted to take pictures with some dude from Canada dressed as Elton John!!  Well, at this point I began thinking about mom again and how she would have LOVED to have seen this.  And really…I’m sure she was looking down on us from above and smiling.

And of course, I just HAD to take pictures with Sunshine (I think she enjoyed me in this costume almost as much as I did…lol).

Ahhh yes...Sunshine with her Elton John. I may have been playing it up for pictures a bit...
Guess who found a piano??
C'mon...don't act like you're not impressed!

Okay…you’ve seen the pictures, you’ve read the story.  Now since you’re all the way at the bottom of the page, you’re now going to get rewarded (or abused…depending on your reaction).

Against my better judgment, here is the video of me performing “Crocodile Rock” as Elton John.  Again…I totally realize that I flubbed the words (and though you can’t hear it, the crowd was TOTALLY singing the “la la la” part), so please be gentle in your comments:

Y’know, looking back I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy the whole performance until after the show was over. I really was too hard on myself. Sure I forgot the words, but I still think I entertained people.  Having said that, I totally was a do-over of the performance.  I’ve been singing that damn song in my head for two straight weeks now and know every line by heart.  So I guess I’ve either found a new song to perform at karaoke or I’ve got even more incentive to go back on another cruise and do this again.

We had one last towel animal in our room one the night had ended.  It was simple, it was cool, and it capped off a very impressive week of towel animal fun by our room steward.

The towel snake.

Tomorrow’s post is the trip back home, reflections, and the possibility of a “Blogger Cruise”!  Until then…

It’s Not Far Down To Paradise

VACATION DAY SEVEN: GRAND TURK, TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS

Honestly…I don’t really think that my words or my pictures will truly be able to do Grand Turk justice, but I’ll try.

Quite simply put, Grand Turk is the most amazing beach I have ever seen in my entire life.

Ever.

Trust me...the beach was a LOT more beautiful than this picture shows.

And after breaking Sunshine’s camera the day before in Puerto Rico, I had to rely on my dad’s camera for the day.  The good news? It took pictures. The bad news? Not all of the pictures turned out very good or not at all and I ended up with a lot of little red x’s on my computer when all was said and done.

So let’s see if I can tell a story anyway…

Yeah...we're ready for exercise at 7am on our vacation.

Sunshine and I were up early (again) to meet dad for a walk around the ship. We weren’t docking until about 10 or 11 so we knew we could have breakfast and still have lots of time to get ready before arriving in Grand Turk.  This morning, however, was REALLY windy and walking really wasn’t very much fun at all.  Sunshine began running and was starting to lap me when I happened to see my dad sitting on the Lido Deck below watching the news so I quickly excused myself.

Entering port in Grand Turk.

After breakfast was done, we got changed and made our way up to the top of the ship to see where we had ended up.  I had done a bit of research on Grand Turk but didn’t really know much about it.  While on board, we were told by our awesome cruise director Jorge that Carnival had purchased a large portion of the island and that they were the only cruise line to visit this port.

Photo courtesy: msnbcmedia3.msn.com

The amazing thing about Grand Turk was that the depth of the water surrounding the island drops significantly just 100 feet or so from shore, and this allowed not only the ships incredible close proximity access to the island but also the ability to do “deep sea” things (fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc) very close to shore.

How close did the ship dock?  Well…we were literally right next to the beach.

The Carnival Glory (and a Princess cruise ship next to it) docked in Grand Turk.

Absolutely incredible.

Photo courtesy: http://www.grandturktravel.com

When we first arrived, we were the only cruise ship there.  We looked down up on the white-sand beach below and were taken aback by the sight.  Because the area was run by Carnival, the beach was reserved for us. There had to be a couple hundred beach chairs laid out for us.

This was a case where my dad’s camera didn’t work because we took a lot of pictures from the deck of the at the gorgeous empty beach below, but you can get a slight idea of what it looked like with the picture to the right.

We made our way on shore and there was a shopping area specifically created for cruise line passengers.  Now here is your tip: unless you’ve got money, buy your souvenirs BEFORE arriving in Grand Turk. The place may be spectacularly beautiful, but the shops are not like the discount souvenir shops that we encountered in each of the previous three ports.

One-man Reggae band.

Having said that, it was a gorgeous spot. A one-man Reggae band was playing music to welcome us while we made our way from shop to shop. People were scattering all over the place at this point. Some were going to rent vehicles at about $90/each so they could drive around the island, some where heading straight to the beach so they could get the best spot possible, some went to the stores, and some went straight to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

Why Margaritaville?  Well…this wasn’t only a restaurant and gift shop ($50 t-shirts, anyone?), it also was an incredible pool area with swim-up bar that was there specifically for cruise line guests…so it was totally available for use by anybody that wanted to use it.

Margaritaville's pool area (BEFORE the spring breakers consumed it), Grand Turk

I was quite impressed that they even had this area available for those who weren’t “beach people”.  I was also impressed by the large Margaritaville parrot that I simply HAD to get a picture taken with…

Oh yeah...my "little" brother was absolutely thrilled to have his picture taken with me. Y'know, I tend to forget that not everybody is as photo-friendly as Sunshine and I. Oh well...suck it up, princess!!

At this point we lost my dad and my brother to the beach while we checked out the shops a little more. After spending an hour or so going around looking for deals (there weren’t many), we walked back to the ship to drop off our purchases and change into our bathing suits (another HUGE advantage to having docked so close to the port).

The area between the beach and the shopping section.

We thought there was absolutely no way we would find my dad and brother on the beach, now filled with hundreds of sunbathers. We walked all of five minutes and ended up finding dad…just off the beach underneath the palm trees. And lucky for us, he had saved two extra seats (gotta love the guy). We literally sat there for about a minute when Sunshine jumped up and head for the water.

Relaxing on Grand Turk beach.

Now kids, I’m not a beach-going kinda guy.  I’m also a guy who doesn’t enjoy taking his shirt off in public (I’m shy that way). But there was something about this beach that not only made me feel like going into the warm water to swim, but also gave me a sense of ease…a comfort level that I don’t normally have at beaches back home. I just took off my shirt and walked down to the water.

It was awesome. Floating in the water…talking to fellow cruise ship guests…about halfway between the beach and the ship. It was just an experience that I’ll never, ever forget and one I’d love to experience again some day.

How could anybody NOT want to return here??

This night was our final of two “Cruise Elegant” evenings so we got to dress up again. While a ton of photos were taken, we ended up only buying a family photo of the three boys together.  So even though the scan isn’t the best, I think we cleaned up rather well…

My brother, my dad, and me

We were out and about that night, but the highlight for me was going to the “discotheque” at around midnight and dancing to a couple of classic 80’s songs with Sunshine.  She had never danced with me before, so we couldn’t help but whip out some old school moves to two songs.

This one (seriously) and THIS one (which ended up being a blast). I think we laughed as much as we danced and I’m looking forward to hitting the dance floor again with Sunshine at some point in the future.

Finally, this was our towel animal…and we were quite pleased to see the room steward used my hat, her sunglasses, and two of our FIVE “Ship on a Stick” awards.

Okay...this elephant is now officially REALLY cool because of the accessories.

So what’s left?  A day at sea on the way back to Miami.

Oh…and maybe a video to accompany this!

Stay tuned!!

The Twisting Kaleidoscope

VACATION DAY SIX: SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

A sunrise over a sailboat in San Juan.

We knew that San Juan, Puerto Rico was scheduled to be an early arrival…so that, in addition to wanting to go for a walk up on the top of the ship, meant that we were up just as the sun was making it’s appearance.

I’ve seen a lot of sunrises in my lifetime.  I’ve seen a few memorable sunrises with Sunshine over the past couple of years.  My friends, I don’t know if I can truly describe the feeling of watching a sunrise over the ocean or over the old fortresses that surround Puerto Rico.

The sun rising behind Fort San Felipe del Morro

Every time we made a lap around the ship’s running track I had to stop and take yet another picture. I not only wanted to soak in the beauty of it all, but I wanted to make sure Sunshine and I made a memory.  I mean here we were, standing on top of a cruise ship in the Caribbean, entering the port of San Juan as the sun began to rise over Fort San Felipe del Morro…for a couple of Canucks who don’t get the opportunity to travel very often together, this was a pretty big deal.

And, as is usually the case with us, somebody noticed us taking pictures of ourselves and acting blissfully happy (is it getting old yet?) and offered to take our picture.  C’mon…how is THIS for a memory??

Enjoying the sunrise in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 03-17-11

Shortly before we were to begin being tourists in Old San Juan with my dad and my brother, Sunshine and I actually had a “spat”.

YES…I KNOW!!  CRAZY!!

As we were going over the day’s “Fun Times” and seeing the itinerary for the rest of the day, Sunshine noted a “couple vs. couple” contest taking place in the evening that she thought looked like fun as we would kick some ass. I read it and said that I thought it was actually something else (battle of the sexes or something…I don’t remember now), and Sunshine got a little miffed at my reaction. I was taken aback because I had zero clue why she was upset…and I was initially mad that she even got upset at me.

Then I thought about things.  I thought about the situation as it actually happened and tried to really see why she was mad.  I realized that she got mad because she had gone along with everything I had wanted to do so far on the cruise without hesitation or without complaint, and here she was finally excited to suggest doing something and I didn’t react positively.  My reaction made it appear that I didn’t care about her wants and that I made her feel unheard.

It took about an hour of silence (mainly because my dad and my little brother were kinda in the way and we never really had time to be alone), but I finally got to apologize to her.  I told her that if I made her feel unheard or unappreciated, I was absolutely sorry because it wasn’t my intention at all.  She accepted my apology and that, my friends, was the ONLY time we didn’t get along on the entire trip.

So crisis averted, the four of us found an air-conditioned taxi that held 20 people and for $10/person went out on a tour of old San Juan. This tour lasted about an hour or so and included a lot of very interesting things.  The thing I noticed the most was that right now in San Juan, the majority of the tourist areas are empty.  The hotels…the condos…the housing…they are EVERYWHERE but the tour guide kept saying how this place was empty and this place was empty. It was a bit sad, but where San Juan was so beautiful I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the economy bounces back and the people return in droves.

At one point, we got out to stop and walked down to a beach. I saw Sunshine dipping her feet in the water and I fell in love with her all over again…

I fall in love with her more and more every time I see this photo.
Fort San Felipe del Morro

After this we made our way around the city and go to see quite a few sights.  We got to see where Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony live…we got to see where Ricky Martin lives…we got to see the two buildings that were the primary feature to the movie Assassins (I was a bit hyped about this one because it’s one of my favorite movies)…and we arrived at Fort San Felipe del Morro, which is a major tourist attraction in the area. This place was absolutely beautiful, and there were a ton of people there.

Kite flying next to the ocean in San Juan.

We had the option to tour the place or head down to the shopping district, and needless to say we decided to check out the shopping district. But because we were there for a few minutes, we had time to look around a bit and take in the sights. There were a lot of kids flying kites and where the area was extremely windy that day, these kites were really getting some air. A few times kids would lose the kites to the wind and tourists would scramble to save the kite and hold it for the kids.

Then Sunshine had an idea.

I want to roll down the hill”.

“You want to roll down the hill?”

“Yeah…”

“Want some company?”

“You want to roll down the hill with me?”

“To prove how much I love you, I’ll totally roll down the hill with you.”

We immediately handed our stuff off to dad and…

You're only as old as you feel, kids.

And then?  Well…let’s just set blame aside and say that her knee met my head somehow.  We then stopped rolling and began laughing.  Well, SHE began laughing as I rubbed my sore head and pointed at her like I was tattle-tailing on a kid who stole my milk carton at school.

It was totally HER fault!!
Shopping in Old San Juan.

After recovering from our escapade, the tour ended downtown in a shopping district.  We ended up on a one-way cobblestone street where there were more souvenir shops than I could shake a stick at. After about 30 minutes, dad and my brother made their way back to the ship so that left Sunshine and I with the opportunity to enjoy the shopping.

A cobblestone side street.

Other than Sunshine almost getting clipped by a speeding motorcycle (while standing on the sidewalk!!), it was a pretty relaxing time for us. We went in and out of countless shops and enjoyed every second of it (you gotta love those 3-for-$10 t-shirt specials).

After shopping for a couple of hours, we started to head back to the ship. I found a beautiful fountain that I absolutely needed to take a picture of with Sunshine (she looks great in front of fountains). Unfortunately, this picture was the last picture to ever be taken with her camera…

My beautiful Sunshine in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Immediately after taking this picture, we tried to get a self-portrait taken. The camera slipped out of my hand and landed, lens first, on the cobblestone below. Her awesome camera died a sad death that day and I felt horrible about it…absolutely horrible. Sunshine could have gotten REALLY upset, but she simply told me that she’s sad but it was an accident and off we went back to the ship (where my dad lent us his camera for the remainder of the trip).

Back on board, Sunshine felt like having a drink (she hadn’t ordered a drink the entire cruise).  The waiters were bringing around pina coladas inside of coconuts carved to look like monkey heads, and Sunshine simply HAD to have one.

I love my carved monkey coconut head!

But her tune changed a bit once she found out that the drink was actually $14.95!!

I paid HOW MUCH for this drink?

At the end of the day, though, Sunshine couldn’t stop loving her carved monkey coconut head drink.

I can't NOT love my carved monkey coconut head!

And yes…she brought the coconut back home with her.

That evening we ended up going to a couple of trivia contests and had an absolute blast. One of them was a musical challenge. Basically, they’d play 20 classic rock songs for a 30 seconds each and you’d have to write down both the song title and the artist…getting a point for each correct answer.

It wasn’t even close, kids. You’re looking at Mr. 40-40!!  The host of the contest, Kiwi, even took my card to make sure I had valid answers because she hadn’t had a 100% card before. My prize?  Yet another “Ship on a Stick”!!!

SHIP ON A STICK, BABY!!!! (again)

Me being me, I had developed a bit of rapport with Kiwi and we “jaw-jacked” back and forth a little bit. After a bit of teasing, she looked at Sunshine and asked if she was with me.  After finding out she was, Kiwi ended up giving her a “Ship on a Stick” strictly for PUTTING UP WITH ME.  No word of lie.

Somebody's a bit smug. Thankfully, my dad was there to photobomb the whole thing.

So after yet another fun night we head back to our room and found the most amazing towel animal of the entire cruise.  I had gone in first and said, “Oh my god…”. Then Sunshine came in and actually screamed.  Why?  Well…how would YOU react if you entered a dimly-lit room and found this???

The cadaver!!

Honestly…how incredible is that?? We were just blown away by the whole thing and I even had to poke it just to make sure it wasn’t really a person. After a few minutes, Sunshine began warming up to it…

Yeah...it didn't take long for her to warm-up to her new boyfriend.
Okay...I was starting to get a bit jealous here. Heh...

That’s it for San Juan, kids.  Tomorrow?  Bar none the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen…

In The Day I Glow; In The Night I Light

VACATION DAY FIVE: ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

We were up early and ready to go!

Arriving in St. Thomas wasn’t scheduled to take place until around 10am, so we had a bit of time to have some breakfast before watching the ship dock.

One of the cool things about cruising is being on the upper decks (or in a room with a balcony) and watching these massive ships gingerly maneuver their way into port.  In some cases (like this one), there were two other ships already docked there that we had to move around.  In other cases (like Grand Turk) there was a very VERY small area to dock at, so the margin for error was great.

Like a glove!!

But these ships are state-of-the-art and 99% of the time I didn’t even know we were docking (on this night at dinner, I didn’t even know we had begun to leave until my dad mentioned it as you could see it through the back window).

St. Thomas is one of three major islands (along with about 50 other small islands and cays) and is only about 31 square miles in size.  Without question, this stop was one of the most beautiful locales I’ve ever seen.

The houses were almost all built into the side of the beautiful grassy hills, the waterfront properties did not seem to be over-run with commercialization, and the water was the bluest I had ever seen…

I don't even think my photo does the water justice.

The view to the immediate left of us was spectacular.  It was a lagoon absolutely filled with yachts and sailboats, but in a way that was more beautiful than it was congested.

This yacht was about the size of my house. This thing was massive and dwarfed almost every other boat in the area.
Just from the Lido Deck of the Carnival Glory, you could see just how gorgeous St. Thomas really was. Almost every picture seemed like a postcard.
SkyRide to Paradise Point

Carnival offers excursions at every port, whether they be snorkeling or going to the beach or hiking through historic properties…if you have a few extra bucks to shell out these excursions are really amazing (and because they’re booked through Carnival, they’re guaranteed to not be rip-offs, either). The only thing is that “a few extra bucks” is putting it nicely, so we never went on any Carnival-booked excursions…though we talked to many people who did and each had a great time.

The view from the tram.

I had done a bit of research on St. Thomas and knew my options were basically shopping, snorkeling, going to the beach on the other side of the island, or going up the SkyRide and taking in the views down below. I chose the SkyRide. When we got there we found that the mobile tram came around every seven minutes, so we didn’t have to wait too long to jump on and make our ascent 700ft above the island. The top of the tram was a location called Paradise Point…and it really didn’t take long to figure out why once you were up there.

Breathtaking.

Breathtaking. That’s really the only way to describe the view when you’re up there. And on top of everything else, there was a nature trail that we could have hiked (but didn’t because my dad didn’t want to make the trip up with us and was waiting below) and there was also a bar/restaurant overlooking the island that we didn’t go to (again…didn’t want dad to wait).

Spectacular.

I have a big fear of heights, so going up and coming back down weren’t the greatest experiences for me but it would be impossible to say that it wasn’t worth it. The views we soaked in were some that we’ll never experience again (probably) in our lifetime and it was totally worth it.

I mean c’mon…how many couples can say that they’ve been to Paradise?

Paradise experienced.
Smaller islands in the distance.

So we made our way back down and were quite thankful that we had gone immediately to the SkyRide once we had docked before doing anything else. The line-up of people had grown exponentially and it looked to be at least a 30-minute wait to get up the hill.  Still…I’d say it was still totally worth it, especially if you were going to check out the restaurant/bar and/or the walking trail.

Our ship, the Carnival Glory.

A quick tip: walk straight from the ship to the SkyRide if that’s what you want to go on first. It’s literally a five minute walk.  Do NOT let any of the taxi guys try to drive you or give you “tickets” or anything like that. I know that they’re just trying to make a living, but where the ride itself is just so close to the port it doesn’t make any sense to do anything other than walk there.

This dude was the mascot for the SkyRide. C'mon...it's not like I *WASN'T* going to get my picture taken with him!!
We loved this sign!

Once we got back down and met up with my dad, we decided to check out the shopping area that’s located directly next to the port for the cruise ships. It took all of ten minutes for my dad and brother to get bored with waiting for Sunshine and I, so they took off back to the ship.  We spent (at least) the next hour going in and out of shops. There were a TON of jewellery stores and a TON of souvenir shops, so there was plenty of opportunity to pick up something to take back home.

Sunshine in St. Thomas.

One of the things that Sunshine had noticed was that the cost of power must be pretty reasonable in these areas because 90% of the stores had their doors WIDE open and the air conditioning CRANKED. And not just a bit of air, either…it sometimes took your breath away when you walked into a store because they had it blasting at the entrance (y’know…the OPEN entrance?). Anyway…we just thought that was really interesting.

On the way to Lido Deck via glass elevator.

We made our way back to the ship to have lunch and just relax. We found dad sitting on Lido Deck in an area that was sheltered and right next to a window…so we ate while over-looking the lagoon below. It really was quite the scene to take in.  Once finished, we decided to go up top and have a game of miniature golf.

Yes...Sunshine beat me at miniature golf.

Okay…let that sink in for a second. We were in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, on a beautiful sunny day, on top of a gorgeous cruise ship playing miniature golf.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT???

She beat me by one stroke (wait…that’s what SHE said…heh).

Before cleaning up for dinner, I asked Sunshine to pose on a camel that was located in the casino area of the ship (Deck 5, if I’m not mistaken). How much does Sunshine love me?

THIS MUCH!!

Sunshine wasn't overly enthused to be on this camel. NOT HAPPY.
In this one instance, at least, I know that Sunshine knows how to fake it with me. HAPPY ON CAMEL!!
Oh yeah...we clean up nicely.

We cleaned up for the evening and head out.  If I remember correctly, we had dinner and went to an illusionist (who really wasn’t that great, but it was a magic show included with the cruise so who cares?), and then karaoke (of course). I’m sure there were other things done that evening but it doesn’t really matter…these cruise ships always have something on the go. Is everything for everybody?  No, but there’s a LOT for everybody and you just need to pick your spots. We were very happy to have chosen ours.

Tomorrow we’re in San Juan, Puerto Rico!  Until then, here was our nightly towel animal…

I really don't know what this is. It's not an elephant as we got that later. A monkey, perhaps? Is it something I just don't see?

Holdin’ hands and skimmin’ stones

VACATION DAY FOUR: DAY AT SEA

Y’know, one of the things that I thought I did when packing to come home was keep all of the “Fun Times” info that was left in our room every evening that described the events that would take place the next day.

Apparently I didn’t pack them.  I wish I knew where they were, though…I’d scan ’em and let you see what we saw.

Anyway, this was our first day at sea as we were traveling from Nassau down to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Luckily for us it was a gorgeous day outside and so we all decided to hit the deck for some sun during the morning.

I’d love to post a pic of Sunshine in her bikini because, quite frankly, I think she looked phenomenal.  However, I think she’d disapprove of said photo so I’ll just keep that tasty morsel for myself.

Lido Deck...mid-morning

So we hit the Lido Deck (deck nine, for those keeping score at home) and lay out in the sun.  I was watching CNN for awhile on the big screen before they changed it to underwater videos of fish swimming around while music played in the background. It was really quite relaxing.

And of course there are a couple of pics that I can show you…

That's all you're gettin', kids...the rest is for my eyes only!
With the sun behind me, I was ready to make sure my huge chrome-dome didn't get burnt.

This is where the “Fun Times” would come in handy, because I really can’t remember a lot of what we did that day.  I’m sure we took a nap in the afternoon…I’m sure we participated in some kind of game or trivia contest that we totally rocked at…I’m sure we had a perfectly good dinner…I’m sure that Sunshine looked absolutely FABULOUS that evening…

Oh wait…I’ve got photographic proof of that one!

Who's lookin' fabu? YOU ARE, BABY!!

Oh that’s right, peeps…this girl is ALL MINE!!

I couldn't help it. It was a revealing top and Sunshine was lookin' F-I-N-E that night.

Unless I’m mistaken, this particular evening would culminate with us at karaoke again.  There was a slight difference this time, though, as my dad and brother tagged along for the ride (I think…it’s foggy).  So I was up on stage totally rockin’ the stylistic musical kick-ass beats of one Mr. Vanilla Ice, Mr. Neil Diamond, and Sir Mix-A-Lot (though to be fair, those were all sung over the course of two separate nights) and then I realized that this very evening were going to be auditions.

Auditions for what, you ask?  Auditions for an actual live performance for the rest of the ship on the last night of the cruise.  It wouldn’t be karaoke…it would be you dressed like a “musical legend” and having to sing (without the words) a pre-determined song by that particular artist (i.e. “musical legend”).

With me so far?  Good.

I'm sure this pic was taken immediately after looking down Sunshine's shirt...hence my reaction.

There were a few artists to choose from.  The guys could choose from James Brown, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Ricky Martin, Elvis Presley, or Frank Sinatra.  The ladies could choose from Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Britney Spears, or Gloria Estefan. Not a great selection, mind you…but certainly a selection I could find at least one song to sing from.

So I went up and noticed that people had their names down for Garth, Frank, Elvis, and Elton.  I didn’t think I was a good enough singer to beat out some of the competition so I looked at doing either James Brown (yeah…as if that would’ve worked) or Ricky Martin (eesh). Suddenly, a guy removed his name from the Elton sheet because he was comfortable with his name on the Frank Sinatra sheet.  I immediately wrote my name down without really thinking about it.

I auditioned by singing “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” and got a spot in the show by default because nobody else signed-up. Then I realized that I would have to sing a song I didn’t really like and didn’t know the words to: “Crocodile Rock“.

Yeesh.

Needless to say, there will be MUCH more to this story later when I talk about the performance itself.  Let’s just say that it was quite the event.

And that really summed-up our day at sea.  A little bit of this…a little bit of that…and an end to the day with yet another towel animal.

Okay...this is a frog or a crab or another vagina with sunglasses. YOU make the call!!

See you Monday when we’ll be visiting St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands!  Until then, have a great weekend everybody!

Protect ya tings!

VACATION DAY THREE: NASSAU, BAHAMAS

Without a shadow of a doubt, Sunshine and I were completely stoked and ready to hit the first port of our cruise…Nassau, Bahamas. We got up early and met my dad and brother for breakfast.

Who's ready to go? WE ARE!!

Just a quick word on the breakfast food…it was “okay”. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t that bad, either. There were numerous buffet lines set up around the Lido deck (you could also go downstairs and get waited on) and they had pretty much everything you could want in a breakfast: French toast, pancakes, bacon, ham, eggs, grits, oatmeal, fruit, cereal, omelets (made fresh in front of you), croissants, bread, and much more.  Now the only problem is, as you’d expect, it’s difficult to keep hot food hot and fresh in a buffet (so I’m certainly not going to complain about the freshness or anything). Trying to keep flavor to cold food items is pretty difficult. But at the end of the day, all that mattered was that there was a LOT of choice and it was all included in the cruise.  So no real big complaints.

My brother, my dad, and Sunshine sit by waiting for Thomas to find more people for our tour.

Anyway, we left the ship with about a thousand other people (at least) and made our way down the wharf. There was already another Carnival ship there and the new Disney Dream was just entering port as we had breakfast, so there were definitely a ton of people entering Nassau on this day.

As you get towards the shopping area (just off the wharf), there were about 15 men there in shirts and ties all clamoring to take us for rides in their taxis. They were telling us that for $40 each they’d take us to Atlantis.  For $80 each they’d take us on a tour of the entire island.  Some of the prices thrown around were crazy.  We didn’t really want to spend much money and preferred to have a fairly low-key visit.

That’s when SMITTY arrived.

A waterfront housing complex

Thomas was an older man, around 70 if you believe him, who offered us a 2+ hour tour of Nassau for $20 each. All he needed to do was find another two to four people to fill out his ride.  Sure…but we wanted to be comfortable and don’t want to wait forever while you hustle more people.  No problem, said Thomas…he showed us pictures of his 2010 Toyota van and said that if he couldn’t find anybody else in the next 10 minutes, he’d take just the four of us.

SOLD!

The three cruise ships in port as viewed from the top of Fort Fincastle.

Dad told us that because the guy is older, he was probably more trustworthy.  I’d dare say he was right.  So off we went when Thomas found four more people. He told us (repeatedly, actually) that he was different from the other taxi drivers because he wasn’t there to rip anybody off and all he wanted was to give tourists a good experience.  As he was telling us this story, a taxi FILLED with almost 20 people drove by.  They looked cramped, uncomfortable, and probably paid $40 each just to be dropped off…so we were happy to be in our comfy air-conditioned NEW vehicle.

Oh…and you gotta love the Bahamas’ sense of public safety:

We weren't there more than five hours and we were already in trouble.

We then went on quite the 2-hour tour of Nassau. We were told about how the Chinese government spent around 8 billion dollars to purchase land in Nassau and are creating their own tourist areas. We were taken to the “ghetto” part of Nassau that most tours wouldn’t dare go (Thomas has been driving for 50+ years and EVERYBODY knows him…people were waving at him wherever we went so we always felt safe). We stopped to take some pictures of a beautiful waterfront housing area. We stopped to go shopping at a “straw market”. We toured a fort that was built and used but never ended up firing a shot. We drove to the famous Atlantis hotel and resort and marveled at not only the hotel itself but the huge yachts docked beside it. Here are some pics…

Care to purchase some waterfront property?
CBG, Sunshine, and dad in Nassau
This was called a "straw market". Basically, a ton of small local vendors sat there all day as tourists came and went. They primarily had t-shirts, hats, and other small souvenirs. Really, looking back, it was probably one of the best spots to get souvenirs on the entire trip.
Atlantis!
A water fountain in front of Atlantis.
Some of the yachts docked at Atlantis were bigger than my house!
This was just a portion of the foundation of the Atlantis resort. The detail was incredible.
At one point, a stretch golf-cart drove up to the yacht on the left and picked up some people to taxi them elsewhere. Gotta love boat-side service!
Don't know what this is or why it's there, but this was inside Atlantis right next to the casino.
Between the hotel itself (which I'm told has rooms STARTING at $300/night) and the condos/yachts, this truly told us how the "other half" lives. Quite the dream life to lead...

Trust me…it was $20 well spent. If you EVER stop off in Nassau, look for Thomas at the wharf. The other younger drivers don’t like him very much, but he put his FOUR KIDS through college doing this job and isn’t looking to make a quick buck.

Sunshine checking out the hand-painted bottles

We returned to our spot of origin next to the ship and Sunshine and I went walking around the shopping area while dad and my brother head back to the ship. Some of the hand-crafted items were quite intriguing, but I just had a feeling that they’d get broken at some point on the trip so what’s the point? Plus we were looking more for souvenirs for the kids than anything for us.

So we walked around and did our best to soak everything in. Whether it was hand-crafted bottles or a cheesy photo op (see below…heh), Sunshine and I did whatever we could do to ensure we soaked everything in and truly remembered our stop in the Bahamas.

I love that Sunshine took this picture strictly for my amusement.
It's showtime, folks!

Once returning to the ship, we relaxed until dinner. During our meal, we ended up getting treated to a song by all of the wait staff in the restaurant.  The lights changed, the music came on, and everybody started singing That’s Amore. This was fun and “showtime” took place almost every night after that. It was just one added treat to the great meals we had (lobster, lamb, duck, filet mignon, and Cornish game hen were just some of the entrees that were served on different nights).

After an evening of karaoke (the first of many, much to Sunshine’s shagrin…lol), we called it a night. But not before enjoying our nightly towel animal.

Ummm...incorporating Sunshine's sunglasses only made this even cooler. What started off as a rabbit (I think) turned into a "Lounge Bunny". I just think these things were awesome.

Ain’t Life Amazing

VACATION DAY TWO: LEAVING PORT

We were all pretty tired after the previous 48 hours.  Sunshine and I had gotten about 2 hours sleep on Friday night and maybe 6 hours sleep on Saturday night…but once we made our way to the ship we were completely awake and ready to go.

Waiting in the outside line-up.

We arrived at the Carnival Glory around 12:30pm.  We left our luggage with an attendant and went to stand in line.  There were a TON of people standing in a line that snaked around the front of the building.  Luckily the weather had decided to co-operate…it was absolutely gorgeous outside without being too hot and hey, it wasn’t raining so that was definitely a good thing.

I was initially discouraged thinking that waiting in the line-up would take forever.  Surprisingly the line was moving quite rapidly around the building.  However, I became even MORE discouraged once I got inside the building itself…

Yikes...inside the "loading area" for the Carnival Glory.

But honestly, this room FULL of people made up about four or five lines and they moved at a decent pace. This was the customs portion of the cruise and I was quite surprised at how quickly everything moved. It was maybe a ten minute wait…not much considering around 2,800 people would go through this area over the course of the next three or four hours.

The cruise ship's "check-in counter".

So we moved to the next section of the boarding process, which basically was the check-in.  It was here that we got our Carnival ship “Sail and Sign” cards.  Y’see, once you’re on the ship there isn’t really a reason for money.  At all.  If you buy a drink, you use the card.  If you buy a photo, you use the card.  If you buy a souvenir in their gift shop, you use the card.  Each room had a safe so we could lock our wallets/purses/valuables in our room whenever we weren’t at a port. Really, this was an EXTREMELY simple way of going about our week.

After a few more minutes, we made our way on board…

This was only a tiny bit of the luggage that was gathered outside of the ship. But y'know what? No issues!! These guys are pros!
Y'know, for a family of four I could see this being EXTREMELY small. But for Sunshine and I it really was more than enough space for sleeping. Honestly, we didn't end up spending a ton of time in our room anyway.
TOTALLY stoked!

We only stayed in our room for a few minutes just to get situated.  We took the usual “self portrait” that we’re now famous for (lol) and head straight up on deck to enjoy the “Sail Away Party” that was going on.

I gotta tell you…Miami is one of the most beautiful cities I think I’ve ever seen. Would I like to stay there longer than a day or two?  No…but just check out the scenery from the 10th deck of the Carnival Glory:



Yeah...we were slightly happy knowing that we were in Miami, Florida en route to the Caribbean.
Nothing says "extravagence" like having a oceanfront pool right next to a sandy beach.

Each time we left a port there was a “Sail Away Party”.  This normally included a two-man band and then some line dancing.  Seriously…line dancing was a big part of the “party” experience.

The view from the 10th deck waterslide that over-looked the Lido deck pool area. People were definitely having a great time as we left port.
It was fun listening to the band playing "Margaritaville" in a Reggae style. Plus Sunshine and I would learn to love "Big ship sailing on the ocean"...which is quite simplistic in its lyrics but fun to sing along to. OH...and that big screen? They played news in the morning, concerts throughout the day, and movies at night. Really great.
Oh yes...the line dancing. LOTS of line dancing. Not really our bag, but it was fun to watch.

Let me just say for the record that if you’re NOT an extrovert or if you don’t really care to be around other people, then you probably won’t like a cruise. From the time we boarded to the time we left, this ship and its staff were all about having FUN, whether it be dancing or laughing or participating in something.  And y’know what?  I absolutely appreciated that. It wasn’t just a “thank you for the money, here are the sites” kind of trip.  This was an experience that Carnival wanted us to have and remember forever.

After supper we went to the Amber Palace, which would be a location we’d end up becoming VERY familiar with by the time the cruise was done. This would house the nightly shows and performances (more on those later) and it would also be the home to trivia games, contests, bingo, and a lot of other fun activities.

On stage ready to kick some butt!

The first night was “Game Show Night”.  Me being me, of course, immediately volunteered for Round One.  Luckily for me it was a “Name That Tune” contest that really was too easy (well…for me, at least…lol). Actually, at one point the host (Kiwi) had me stand to the side of the stage and start counting the lights in the chandalier in the middle of the room so that the other two had a chance to get back into the game.

But at the end of the day, I prevailed and ended up winning the first of FIVE trophies…the infamous “Ship on a Stick”. Can you tell how happy I was to win this beautiful piece of gold-plated plastic?

SHIP ON A STICK, BABY!!!

As the first day came to a close, Sunshine and I were absolutely exhausted. The party was still ongoing on deck but we just needed to catch up on our sleep and knew that we’d have PLENTY of time to further enjoy our experience.

This last picture became a nightly highlight for us. Y’see, every evening when the room steward turns down our sheets and provides us with a mini-newsletter of what’s happening on the ship the following day (yeah…how awesome is that?), they also make a little “towel animal” and leave it on our bed.  We were really impressed with this and it was just one more small, but extremely fun, detail that added to the overall enjoyment of the cruise.

Here is the towel animal from Day One:

Is this a seal or a vagina with eyes? I'll let YOU decide.

So ended the second day of the vacation. C’mon back tomorrow for more!