Vacation Day Three: THE PROPOSAL!!

Honestly, I knew before the end of December that I was going to propose to Sunshine at some point in 2012. I didn’t want to let on that I was going to, so hopefully she didn’t get too much of a hint. Sure, it was discussed…but I usually tried to change the topic of conversation whenever it was brought up.

Even when we had her ring finger sized back in January, I did my best to make it a “non-issue” and didn’t discuss it again. Of course, for those who don’t follow me on Twitter you may not have seen the following message…

I didn’t have a day or time picked out when I took this photo, but the moment we confirmed that we were going to go on a cruise I knew exactly when I was going to do it: the first formal-wear evening of the week (March 19th). Of course, having made that decision meant there were a LOT of variables I hadn’t yet finalized:

  • How, exactly, should I propose?
  • Where do I get a ring?
  • How do I hide the ring from her?
  • How do I pull this off??

The first thing I did was go to my dad, who buys and sells jewelry through eBay for fun. He opened his safe and pulled out a few trinkets for me to look at. He initially suggested one of my mother’s rings, but it had a HUGE diamond in it.  Wait…that’s not supposed to be a bad thing, is it?  Well, Sunshine isn’t one for flashy or gaudy. She wants unique and meaningful. So dad took out another ring which actually was an engagement ring/wedding band set where the band fit-in with the engagement ring. I knew immediately that I had to buy that one for her.

I knew that Sunshine preferred white gold, so I went to dad’s favorite jewelry store to “re-dip” the ring and have it re-sized. With about a week to go before the vacation was to begin, the ring was ready for her finger.

I had a couple of scenarios running through my head about how I was going to propose. I had three different options, actually.

  1. Take Sunshine up on Lido deck at night and find a quiet corner of the ship, then propose to her under the stars. Now I realize that this was the uber-romantic option to take, but it wasn’t quite “us”. I mean, I’m all about romance…but this just wasn’t how I wanted to do things.
  2. Walk past the numerous photographers on formal night en route to dinner. During our meal, I would excuse myself to use the washroom and run to the photographer that I would hope she liked. I was going to tell him/her my plan to propose and then hope they remembered me when I showed up after the meal. Then voila~!! Instant pictures and memories from the proposal itself.
  3. Contact the cruise director somehow in order to set-up an on-stage proposal during one of the main shows they have during the week. It wouldn’t be romantic at all, but it’d be on video and it’d certainly be memorable.

Honestly? I wanted to try option #3 first. I sent emails to Carnival, I sent emails to John Heald (three, in fact), and I even went on CruiseCritic.com trying to see if this was even a good idea or not. I didn’t get any answer to finding out (a) who the cruise director was going to be on the Legend and (b) how to contact them before we set sail. Without a ton of time to do some real digging, I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to work out.  And looking back now, my choice in the end was probably the best.

Then came the whole idea of just how to hide the ring from her. I wanted to just hide it in my suitcase, but people went nuts when I made that suggestion (because I told EVERYBODY at work about my plans…lol) and said I absolutely needed to hide it in my carry-on luggage. The only problem is that I NEVER take a carry-on with me.

Yikes.

So I found a bag that I could use and tried to hide the box in a dress sock. That didn’t work. I tried to hide it in one of my dress shoes. That didn’t work, either. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to hide the damn box in different socks before finally using a thick pair of wool ones that I stuffed in the bottom of my carry-on. I casually mentioned to Sunshine that I didn’t want to take any chances with luggage so I was going to bring a carry-on with me for the trip. Luckily, she was none the wiser.

The morning of the flight out of Halifax we were going through customs. Now it was probably about 5:15am and we were jittery enough from a lack of sleep and excitement, but my nerves were terrible because I knew if my plan was going to fail it would probably be at customs.

Sunshine went ahead of me and waited on the other side of the big ol’ scanning machine for her bag. I then went and stood next to her. Her bag came out. Mine didn’t. To my absolute horror, they had STOPPED the conveyor belt to look at my bag. A finger pointed to a small box with a circle in it. Then they ZOOMED IN ON IT.

I was going absolutely insane on the inside. I nervously looked at Sunshine next to me and she wasn’t paying attention to the situation at all. I looked back at the screen and they were changing colours and views in order to try to figure out just what they were looking at.

Kids…if I had to pull out the ring and propose in the middle of customs at the frickin’ Halifax Airport, I would have been PISSED. Just as I was about to pass out I heard, “We’re good” and the conveyor belt began moving again.

My heart began beating again and we made our way onto the plane a short while later.

So fast-forward to the ship. I had quickly realized that it would be mighty suspicious to just get up and leave Sunshine for any reason in a lame attempt to go to Guest Services and leave a message for the cruise director. So in my mind, option #2 was what I was going to go with. Even better was that the “Captain’s Celebration” (i.e. a meet-n-greet) was taking place in the main lobby before supper, so I would get a better idea of what background she preferred before we went to eat and I could hatch my “bathroom break plan of awesomeness”.

I did my absolute best to NOT act anxious or nervous in the final hour we were getting ready. She noticed I was hovering, though…and that made me even MORE nervous. Once dressed, I realized that I needed her to go to the washroom for more than 10 seconds so I could snatch the ring out of my carry-on. That made me even MORE stressed because she was almost ready.

Thankfully, Sunshine snuck away to powder something and I grabbed the box and stuffed it in my pants pocket. After confirming that you couldn’t really see the box sticking out of the side of my pants, I began to have a surreal feeling…I was actually about to do this!!!

Just as we were about ready to go, we took pictures that we always took before leaving the room…

You have NO IDEA just how nervous I was taking this picture knowing that the ring was in my pocket and I was about to propose.

I then put the camera in my pocket…only it was in the pocket I had the ring in.

CLUNK

I looked at Sunshine and she looked right back at me. The jig was up!

She asked, “What?”  I responded with, “Nothin’.” 

Crisis averted.

I then snuck off to the washroom to complain about my complexion (or something or other) as I was actually changing the ring from one pocket to another.  We then head out the door and I took yet another deep breath, totally ready to make the best decision of my life.

After introducing ourselves to Kirk Benning, the Legend’s cruise director, we each grabbed a drink and casually made our way around the room…talking to people and checking out the photo backgrounds.

At this point I immediately realized that it was too far to run from the restaurant to the lobby area…I’d be gone 10-20 minutes trying to pull off this plan. In addition, the line-ups were starting to grow at some of the better backgrounds…so it’d take even longer just to TALK to one of the photographers.

We then noticed that the line-up for the stairs wasn’t too bad. Sunshine really liked it and I did, too, so we decided to get in line and get a picture done BEFORE dinner. 

My mind switched on and said THIS IS IT!! I gulped down my beer to kill off my nerves and we inched closer to the photographer. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, our turn was next.

I pushed nudged Sunshine towards the stairs and immediately grabbed the photographer by the arm. I whispered in his ear, “I’m about to propose to my girlfriend right now. I need to make sure you get photos of her reaction.”

Without skipping a beat, he said that it wouldn’t be a problem and casually directed me towards the stairs…like he had known all along.

We posed for about two or three seconds before I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Now I may be off here with my memory, but I’m pretty sure I said the following…

Wait a second. Before we go on any further…

(I turned to Sunshine)

You know how much I love you, right?

(Sunshine nodded with a perplexed look on her face)

Well..

(I pulled the box out of my pocket)

…I just wanted to let you know that you are the wind beneath my wings.

You are the sunshine of my life.

You are all I need.

You are every single cheesy 80’s song come to life.

And there is nothing I would rather do than to grow old with you.

So having said that...

(I opened the box and got down on one knee)

…will you do me the honor of being my wife?

She was beaming. My heart was pounding. We both couldn’t stop smiling.

And then she said “YES!”

It was truly the happiest moment of my life.

As we hugged and kissed and celebrated, the large crowd of a couple hundred people began to applaud. Most didn’t know what was going on, but word spread around the lobby pretty quick with so many people there.

It was exactly as I had hoped it would be.

We began to make our way through the crowd to head to dinner. The handshakes and congratulations were coming in from every direction. If I hadn’t been smiling so damn much I would have been crying with joyous tears.

Jaime, the assistant cruise director, was filming an interview segment with guests for the in-house Carnival show. She stopped us and asked if we could be interviewed by her. Of course we agreed.

Watching it back on the television about a thousand times as the week went on, the pure happiness and bliss and joy in both of our faces was impossible to ignore. It just cemented what I already knew…this was the RIGHT decision to make.

That meal didn't stand a chance on this night.

Off we went to dinner…beaming. People were congratulating us all the way from the middle of the ship to the aft, where the restaurant was housed. Our cheeks were starting to hurt because we were smiling so much. And while every other night of the cruise we ate with other people, on this night we dined alone. 

After mowing through an amazing seafood dinner we decided to pose for some more pictures, and as it turns out a couple of them turned out to be pretty awesome engagement photos that we’ll be able to cherish forever.

So there you have it. From beginning to end, that is how I proposed to Sunshine. Hopefully her memories of this evening are even half of what mine are…because even then they are amazing memories.

Soul meet mate.

The vacation recap continues on Monday. Have a great weekend everybody!

Vacation Day Three: Carnival Legend’s First Day At Sea

Wow…where do I begin to describe this day? I mean, it really started off with this post…but the actual proposal didn’t come until that evening (and the post describing the details won’t happen until tomorrow…heh).

So I suppose things started off by us getting a 5:45am wake-up call so we could hit the gym.

Yes…seriously.

This actually happened multiple mornings during our vacation. Honestly. I even have photographic evidence…

I was slightly excited to get to the gym so early.

I’m on a new healthy lifestyle kick and Sunshine is right there along with me for the ride. While watching TV on my treadmill, the curtains at the front of the ship raised automatically at around 6:15am. Unfortunately it was still dark outside so I just kept on watching TV on my treadmill.

I know it’s a bit lame, but I think that’s just a really cool thing to experience.

After a quick breakfast we head up to the Sun Deck to watch the sunrise. I gotta be honest, things weren’t looking that great initially because of the clouds in the background. Sunshine told me to wait for it because it was going to be awesome once the sun reached a certain point in the sky. And man was she right…

This has to be one of the most spectacular sunrises I've ever seen.

We head back to our room to shower and get ready for the day. At this point we realized that The Morning Show was on. Each ship has in-house television channels that promote everything Carnival, from excursions to shows to embarkation information. Three times during this week-long cruise, the cruise director (Kirk Benning, who was AWESOME all week long) would have a guest and do a live call-in show from a room on the ship. This particular show would be co-hosted by the assistant cruise director Jaime, who would be leaving in a few days to graduate to cruise director of her very own Carnival ship (she hosted the game show I had been on the night before).

What we did is highlighted in red.

ANYWAY…I ended up calling in and instantly became a hit (of course I did). Next thing we know we were told that something would be sent to our room that night. SWEET!! We both were hoping for another ship-on-a-stick, though I was secretly hoping for a bottle of champagne so we could celebrate my impending proposal later in the evening.

Once the show ended we took off for Kirk’s “Fun Ashore & Fun Abroad Presentation” in the Follies theatre. This was basically an overview of the best excursions to enjoy at each port,which was pretty interesting to watch even if we did have private excursions booked for later in the week.

After a quick lunch we decided to check out the “Digital Camera Scavenger Hunt”. Basically, it was a number of teams who had only 20 minutes to complete a number of tasks, all of which had to be recorded with either a photo or a video. We were game even though there were only two of us vs teams of four or more.  Here’s the list of things we were required to do…

Trust me...this was a LOT harder than it looks on paper.

So…how did we do?

Picture with Wilt Chamberlain — I knew we were right next to the sports bar, so it only made sense that a picture of Chamberlain would be in there. Thankfully, I was right.

Two members singing a Justin Bieber song — Now while my son may enjoy the croonings of the pop icon, Sunshine’s disdain for the Bieb’s music made this one difficult. I gave her a REALLY quick rundown of two lines of the chorus of the only song I could remember and proceeded to capture it on video. You could tell she was just over-joyed to do this one…

Two members slow dancing to music in lobby — This was one that wasn’t a problem to do, just a problem to record. We asked a stranger to video us. Keep in mind we were on a time crunch here…

 

Carnival Twister Waterslide — At this point I told Sunshine that we wouldn’t have time to do everything on the list and we should either skip this one or fake it. Sunshine said “HELL NO…I’M DOING IT!!”  Well…without a bathing suit on (that’s right…just wearing her clothes) she made her way to the top of the waterslide at the back of the ship. At this point it was so sunny outside that while I thought I was taking a video, I really wasn’t. So unfortunately we didn’t get the awesome video of her making her way down in her clothes, but I did get a pic of her at the very top getting ready to slide away…

What...you can't see her way up there??
There she is...just about to slide down fully clothed. That's my girl!!

Take a picture of a team member sinking a hole-in-one — Because this was “picture” and not “video”, we could TOTALLY fake this one (lol). We made our way to the opposite end of the ship and assaulted two young males playing mini golf. Sunshine, totally in “beast mode” at this point, faked celebrating a hole-in-one. Gotta love it.

Looks realistic enough, doesn't it?

Picture on the basketball court — Thankfully, the b-ball court was right next to the mini-golf course.

Who loves you, baby??

Lido Deck picture — Because it was a gorgeous day at sea, every single chair on Lido Deck was taken by a fellow cruiser. So we quickly sat on a chair when a lady stood up, tried to explain to her why we were stealing her seat, snapped a quick pic, and off we went back down to the start/finish line.

Sorry we stole your chair...not!

The last picture we took was at the start/finish line

With Sunshine still soaked from the waterslide and me winded from all the running, we tried to make the pic a good one. #mixedresults

Here’s the kicker…

Not only did another team end up getting all nine tasks completed in under 20 minutes (we didn’t get people skipping on Deck 3 because hardly anybody was around), but we were THREE MINUTES LATE…the contest was over and they had already moved on to another game with new guests.

BAH!!!

Still…Sunshine was a beast doing this and I was actually quite proud of the effort she put in. I think we both had a blast doing it and in the end that’s all that matters anyway.

We then made our way to Lido Deck to check out the “Hairy Chest Competition”. Once I told Sunshine that I wasn’t going to participate (she thinks I could have easily won), she said that if asked she’d definitely be a judge.  Well…not two minutes later the Entertainment Director, Dan, came over and asked if she was interested in judging. You couldn’t have held her back if you tried.

Of course, she didn’t realize that judging the contest meant actually touching strange (OLD) men’s chests…

Yeah...you're smiling now. Heh...
The smile is now 100% fake and she's officially creeped out. TRUST me.

Once the final judging took place and the winners were crowned, Sunshine was given a ship-on-a-stick of her very own as a congrats for doing a great job as a judge.

Guess who won her very own Ship-On-A-Stick???

At this point in the day, we got some clues for a week-long “Murder Mystery” (something we totally lost tabs on after the first night) and then head back to our room so we had plenty of time to get ready for the evening.

Of course, at this point I’m beginning to get REALLY nervous because I knew I was going to propose.

But THAT story, my friends, will have to come tomorrow!!

Vacation Day Two: Tampa & The Carnival Legend

After passing out just a little bit early the night before, Sunshine and I were awake before 6am on Sunday morning. For me, this was the perfect time to head out and get some exercise done.

So off we went…before the sun even touched the sky…to the walking track that was located behind the hotel.

Yep...we're on vacation and we're wide awake while it's completely dark outside.

As the sun slowly rose behind the hotel, we could begin to see just how beautiful the track was. It went around a small pond and included small rock structures, waterfalls, and palm trees. When the sun fully illuminated the world around us, we could then get a full appreciation of just how awesome it was.



Once exercising was over we grabbed some breakfast, got changed, and started waiting around until it was time to leave.

Somebody was happy to get her coffee!
A better view of the pond behind the Holiday Inn Express in Tampa, Florida.
Could we have looked any happier? Why yes...but that's to come later.

Because we had paid for Carnival to take us to the port (and we didn’t want to take any chances), we decided to not use the hotel’s courtesy shuttle to the port and instead went back to the airport to meet up with them. We immediately found some Carnival staff and were directed to a waiting area as they took our information.  The bus arrived shortly thereafter and we were off!

The port in Tampa looked really nice and appeared to be a place where you could spend a lot of time if you were coming in on your own. Upon arriving, though, we saw a HUGE line-up that had to be several hundred people long and went around the block. That was a little disheartening to see, but we hoped it would move along quickly.

Much like the line-ups in the Miami port last year, it moved along VERY quickly and we were inside within five to ten minutes. Of course, the line lasted another half hour before we finally walked on board the ship itself, but we were always moving and I had no issues with the wait considering over 2,200 people were expected to get on board at the same time. We really weren’t in any hurry and kept ourselves amused.

We had a sense of deja vu as we entered our cabin (which was ready by the time we got on board). It was practically identical to the one we used last year, so we were calmed by a sense of recognition.

Room 1175 aboard the Carnival Legend.

We headed up to Lido Deck to grab some lunch and start taking a tour of the ship. We learned last year that it would make things a LOT easier to kind of tour around the ship while most people went up top to lay by the pool and watch us pull out of port. So we slowly took our time and tried to get to know the ship a little bit better.

Relaxing up on Lido Deck.
This was taken inside Madusa's Lair, which is the onboard discotheque. Sunshine just couldn't help herself...

We made our way upstairs to the Serenity Lounge area, which was located on the back of the ship. It’s an adult-only spot that’s simply one of the greatest, most relaxing places on the entire ship.

Serenity now!
Enjoying one of the four hammocks in the Serenity section of the Carnival Legend. We could have stayed here all afternoon, but knew we'd make our way back at some point during the cruise.

One of the great things about the folks on a cruise ship is that they’re all on vacation just like us. So that means if a total stranger sees you trying to take a self-portrait, they’ll offer to take your picture for you. Thankfully, this happened on a number of occassions over the course of the week…this one being the first:

The "slightly happy" couple waiting to set sail out of Tampa.

We were on “Your Time Dining” as opposed to having an early dining time of 6pm, which we had last year. We were a little concerned at first but quickly realized that we could go eat whenever we wanted to. In addition, we could choose to either eat by ourselves or join other passengers at a table. This would mean meeting new people every night and that sounded like a lot of fun. We didn’t normally wait in line any longer than 10 minutes, even when the line-up was really long…so it was very similar to a normal restaurant on a busy night.

Food on the first night was pretty decent. We didn’t have any REAL complaints about the food all week, to be honest…just little things here and there. Overall, the food was good to very good…never awful and sometimes “meh”. I think it was worth the money we paid for.

After dinner we made our way down to the Follies theater, which would be the location of many shows during the week and held about 1,200 passengers at once. Along the way we had to stop at the specialty coffee shop to see what they had. Sunshine began to drool at this…

These were the chocolate-covered strawberries that Sunshine absolutely drooled over. The worst part? By the time she decided that she wanted to eat some they were sold out!!

In Follies that night was the first of many entertaining evening events. This was a game show where three contestants would participate in answering questions based upon sound clips. Of course, I acted all silly to become one of the first three contestants.

In a race to 500 points, I was exuding just a little bit of confidence on this evening.

And of course, I acted REALLY silly in order to win the contest itself. Not only did I answer questions correctly, but I ended up dancing like Michael Jackson, acting like Miss America, and doing a horrible hula dance in order to win. And believe me…I was determined to win!

OF COURSE I won!! This was our first Ship On A Stick for the week.

Fully and completely exhausted, we turned in a bit early on this night. We loved having the slight movement of the ship rock us to sleep like laying down on a waterbed.

Tomorrow would be our first full day at sea.

Vacation Day One: Tampa, Florida

We were up REALLY early on Saturday morning to catch our 6:30am flight. I mean, we were in bed around 10pm and up at 2:30am.

Four hours of sleep? Yeah…four hours.

Y’see, between the two of us getting ready…driving to the park-n-fly…getting shuttled to the terminal…waiting in line…going through customs…it was almost 5:30am by the time we got through to our gate. So by the time we got on our first flight we were already completely worn out.

Of course, no vacation would be complete without a delay…and since there had been snow and ice pellets the night before we were an hour late leaving because they had to de-ice the plane.  So we decided we’d pass the time in the only way we knew how…

How does this playbook thingy work?

Thankfully the flight out of Newark was one time, so we landed in Tampa before 1pm and head off to our hotel. Once there we were immediately told that there was a “maintenance issue” with our room and there weren’t any more rooms available, so we were upgraded to the Holiday Inn Express, which was next door. While not Marriott, it was a pretty decent hotel and both Sunshine and I have NO complaints about where we stayed.

The Holiday Inn Express in Tampa, Florida was definitely a nice, clean family hotel. Free internet, hot continental breakfast, very nice pool, and a great walking track out back. We've got zero complaints for what we paid.
The view of the pool from our hotel room.
This was the walking trail behind the hotel. It circled around a duck pond. Loved walking this on an early, warm morning.
This was the view of Raymond James Stadium from our hotel room. I'm a HUGE NFL fan (even tho the Bucs suck...lol) so it was pretty cool to be able to see the stadium like this, especially where I've never been to a game in person before. The Yankees had their spring training games right across the street from the stadium. It's definitely a great spot if you're a sports fan.

We wanted to head out to pick up some last-minute items that one of us forgot to pack (ahem…it wasn’t me…lol) so we head out to the WestShore Plaza. The mall was nice enough, though none of the stores really grabbed our attention too much (not our style, I guess). We did end up eating at a place that was unique to us, EVOS. After having some really great organic fast food, we continued to stroll around the mall for awhile before deciding to make our way back to the hotel.

At this point it was after 5pm and we were COMPLETELY wiped out. But c’mon…we couldn’t go to sleep at 5:30pm, right?  Well, at this point the most amazingly incredible infomercial magically appeared in front of us on the television. There was Jack Wagner himself waxing poetic about how awesome 80’s music was and how “easy listening” was just the best.  While my love of Poison and Quiet Riot may disagree a bit with his personal preference, I’m a HUGE fan of all 80’s music.  And just because we’re so bloody compatible, so is Sunshine.

So we watched.  And watched. And watched.

It was 6:30pm by the time the infomercial was over. We had sung and laughed and enjoyed the cheese that was the 80’s. And if I didn’t already have 99% of the songs on the 10-disc set (normally 8 discs with 2 more thrown in for good measure!!), I would probably seriously think about possibly purchasing the Easy 80’s set.

We conked out around 7:30pm for the night.  Yes, seriously…7:30pm. We slept for 10 hours before awaking the next morning ready to tackle Day Two of our amazing, life-changing vacation!

Which, of course, will be discussed in tomorrow’s post.

She Said “YES”!!

Listen…I’ve got a ton of stories to tell and a ton of photos to upload, but Sunshine and I just got back late last night and I’m off to work first thing this morning, so the stories and pics will have to wait until the next few days (or longer, as I expect there will be a lot of blog posts about the vacation over the coming weeks).

So until at least tomorrow, all you’re going to get is a taste.

But really, the only picture that you all want to see is this one…

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Psssst…I’ve Got A Secret To Tell You…

Pssssst!

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Hey you…

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…yeah you…

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…I know that Sunshine and I are on vacation right now down in the Caribbean, but I wanted to let you in on a secret…

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…you ready?

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…are you SURE that you’re ready?

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I’m going to propose to her.

In fact, I’m hoping to do it on this very evening. I’ve got the ring in hand and I’m ready to pop the question.

At this point in my life I know exactly what I want from a life partner and Sunshine is 100% that person for me. I love her unconditionally and I can’t wait to grow old with her by my side.

If my “proposal plan” works out, I’ll not only have a story to tell but a great picture of the actual proposal, too!

So keep your fingers crossed, everybody…a week from now I’m hoping we’ll be posting dueling blog posts about some very good news!

WISH ME LUCK!!!