almost 5 year anniversary cruise

Well, it looks like we're back from our cruise. We had a pretty amazing time for those 9 days. It's so relaxing being able to spend all day hanging out together, playing games, reading books, doing the various activities on the ship, and having absolutely no stress. I think I could sit in a chair and read as the waves pass by for weeks. Further reducing the stress, you never have to think about food. There's always as much as you want, tons of variety and great quality, and it's already paid for. Anyway, I will now attempt to summarize our awesome trip. Beware, this is my most picture-laden post (actually, I'm not entirely sure I've ever put a picture in a post, but this one has many).

I'm legally obligated to inform you that Sharayah was the overall victor in both minigolf and shuffleboard on the ship. I gave her a good run, but she wore me down in both. I think she technically won at ice-skating, since I fell once and she didn't fall at all (excepting when she fell during my fall because we were holding hands and one of us [cough] did not let go). She claims she won at reading (she finished 5 books to my 2.5), but I didn't know we were racing at that until just now when she said she won. I definitely won at Mad Gab (there is a room on the top deck with board games and tables, and they have Mad Gab, and we didn't know what it was so we tried it out). Apparently I am awesome at it. It's one of those "here is a nonsense phrase, but if you read it just right it sort of sounds like some real phrase or someone's name or something" kind of games (ex: "ask rude arrive her" is "a screwdriver"). It turns out I have some kind of innate ability to decipher those things pretty much immediately. I never knew I could win a game primarily involving verbal skills. I think I narrowly won at napkin folding, although we were both good at that, definitely the top two there (although most people who go to that are old, so our "opponents" may have had arthritis or bad eyes or something, and also may not have known they were competing...). I beat probably everyone at dessert, which is the game of "who ate more dessert". We did a lot of other stuff too, but as this post will already be very long, I'll just start in on the ports we visited.
I didn't tell her yet that I won at napkins.
I'm apparently a good sport while losing my 4th game in a row.
In Puerto Rico we walked around the walls of the island city of San Juan. They're these really old looking stone walls, maybe 50 feet high. We heard a tour guide (we went self-guided, but we passed by a tour at some point) saying the walls were started in 1630 and took over 100 years to complete. Between the wall and the ocean is a wide stone path you can walk along for a few miles. For most of it there's some grass or foliage (maybe 20 feet thick or so) between the path and the wall, and on the water side of the path there is usually between 10 and 30 feet of boulders, I'd say about 3 feet in diameter on average (though they're not round, so that's more like the larger dimension, and they're smaller in the other dimensions). Sometimes the water comes right up to the path. We walked the path between 5 and 7pm, it was in the mid 70s, and the sun was setting by the end. All you could hear were the waves and the birds. Oh yeah, and there were cats. We started seeing cats here and there on the path, and when it became apparent that there were more than just a few, we started counting. We got to 85. Not "lots, probably in the 80s, maybe 85". We actually counted 85 different cats. They were mostly small, I'd guess under 10 pounds based on their relative size to our cats, and  there were even about 6 kittens. We saw all different colors and patterns of cats, with both short and long hair. It was a little crazy how diverse they were considering it's a small island and we probably saw most of the breeding pool. It was completely unexpected, and just made that beautiful walk along the island wall that much better.
We walked there!
I want to call this a parapet, because it's a better word. But alas. Oh well. Turret!
The cats were many.
In St. Thomas... well, what more can be said about St. Thomas? We've been there a few times, and I'm sure we've brought it up before. That's where we went this past summer with my parents and siblings (and future sibling), and that's where Magen's Bay is. I don't know that we had any new experiences in St. Thomas this time, but your average day in St. Thomas is pretty great. We again went to Magen's Bay, which was beautiful as always and incredibly serene and relaxing. When the boat was leaving St. Thomas, we could see the resort we stayed at with my parents. It was a pretty cool sight.
If I recall correctly: 2nd row from the bottom, 2nd building from the left, 2nd floor from the top, the 3 left-most windows.
In Samana, Dominican Republic, we went on a 3-mile bike ride on this old road through the jungle. Through the trees on our left, a few hundred feet away, was a 200 ft cliff (we were at the bottom of said cliff, not the top). On the right at about the same distance was the ocean, usually a cliff drop-off into the water instead of a beach. The road was gravely and full of huge potholes, and was mostly through the jungle, but also passed by a few small farms (single family subsistence, less than an acre, if I had to guess). It was really enjoyable. Near the end of our ride, we stopped to look at a mine (of sorts), where they use high-pressure water jets to cut enormous cubes of rock out of the cliff, mostly for the granite. They weren't mining when we were there, but some of the rocks they'd cut out were sitting out (and by some, I mean hundreds, all lined up for a few hundred yards).  The cubes were a little over 6 feet in each direction (they were taller than me) and incredibly smooth. It was difficult to believe they were cut out using water. It was also pretty neat seeing the holes cut in parts of the cliff. After biking, we hiked another mile or so through denser jungle and our guide showed us some interesting local plants. One crazy guy in our group ate everything the guide showed us. I don't know if that gave him any... issues... later, but he seemed to have a good time. At the end of the hike we came to a clearing and a cliff leading down to the water. At the first part of the clearing, as you walk through, hundreds of bees (or something like bees) buzz around you but don't sting for some reason. There was about 50 feet of rock and then the cliff. Apparently the cliff hollowed out into a cave at some points, because there was a hole in the rock through which we could hear the water echoing, and sometimes when a wave came in it would spit mist up through the hole. We also saw a mom and baby goat. The baby goat tiene dos meses! That's what the lady there said, anyway. After that we went to a beach and kayaked for a bit, but the waves weren't quite ideal for kayaking. It was still fun and kind of interesting, but not the best kayaking ever. Still a pretty successful day in Samana.
There are some rocks in these pictures. Also, voids where rocks once were.
He was just a little guy.
Our last stop was Labadee, Haiti. It's a little island owned by the cruise line. We spent pretty much the whole day there alternating between reading on lounge chairs on the beach and swimming. The water there was so calm you would barely know it was the ocean. That was pretty much the most relaxing day ever. Do not mistake the brief length of this paragraph to mean that we enjoyed it less than the other ports. It may have been my favorite stop, depending on when you ask me.
The water moved just enough to make this picture really difficult to get right... Or: wow, boats are heavy.
One of the best parts of the cruise was escaping the cold. It was 40 degrees the day we left (which actually isn't so bad, but it had been colder for a few weeks leading up to that point), and on the cruise it was between 65 and 85 every day (warmer in the middle, since that's when we were farthest south). On our last night on the boat, around 5 or 6 we were playing shuffleboard and watching the sun set. It was still about 65 degrees, with a nice crisp breeze. After dinner and packing, we went outside again to find it was in the 30s, extremely windy, and the biggest waves I've ever seen while cruising. It stormed for a while and we even thought we saw some snow. It was pretty cool. However, when we woke up the next morning in New Jersey, it was 20 degrees and windy. By the time we got to Philly for my mom to pick us up that evening, it was in the teens. Everyone thought it was freezing, obviously, but having come from 80 and sunny two days before, it was pretty chilling for us. I do like snow, though. It just takes some getting used to.

So, this has been pretty long. Apparently I didn't mention any shows (including the ice show), but that will have to wait. I think I'll wrap up. We had an amazing trip. If you ever get a chance to go on a cruise, especially with Royal Caribbean, go for it.
Our boat, The Explorer of the Seas, in St. Thomas.
That's all.

one thing remains


  1. Everything but the mouth on the goat looks like a donkey. He is cute though.

  2. Oh, and if Sharayah was the brown napkin, I think she won.

  3. Oops, that's because it -was- a donkey, not a goat.