Friday, April 24, 2015

Carnival Cruise Day 5: Final Sea Day

We managed to fill our final sea day with so much stuff that we barely had time to be bored today. We got up around 7 and ate breakfast in the Lido buffet. Then it was off to the main lounge for the morning show again, where I mentioned that Nick and I were celebrating our anniversary to our cruise director and he had a bottle of champagne and an autographed photo of the ship sent to our room this evening. He also gave us Carnival medallions, which I thought were pretty cool. We got the champagne tonight during our turn down service. Now since we don’t drink, we didn’t want to keep it, so we wandered around the ship until we found someone who looked like they would enjoy it. We stumbled across a group of friends playing cards in the library, and they all had wine glasses on the table so I popped in and asked if they wanted the bottle. They were very excited about free alcohol and it turns out that one of the couples in there had recently gotten married so it was a fun choice.
In case you are wondering about my little piggy...it has turned a nice shade of purple, blue, and some green around my toe area and underneath it. Surprisingly, it doesn't hurt all that much when I walk, only when I try to move my toes in certain ways. So I don't think we have to amputate.
So back to this morning…after the morning show was over we stayed in the main lounge and did the towel folding class. We got to make a towel elephant and a puppy. We watched just a little bit of the towel animal theater, but left because I thought it was lame and shopped the clearance t-shirt sale instead. Then we went back to the future cruise and travel talk because they were having a couple of raffles, but we didn’t win anything.
By this time we had to head inside to the casino bar for one-hit wonder music trivia and then cartoon tunes trivia. Again, we lost both of them. We ran up 4 decks for a quick Guy’s Burger on Lido before going back down to deck 3 for the Love & Marriage show in the main lounge. It’s basically like a newlywed game and provided a good solid hour of laughing. When that ended, we had our first free time of the day so Nick did a little bit of studying and I walked around out on the front decks of the ship and took some photos and video. Mostly I just stared at the ocean as it went by. I took the opportunity to pack our things during this time as well because our luggage needed to be out in the hallway by 11 pm.

Before I knew it, we were getting dressed for dinner. We took a few more photos tonight at the Carnival backdrops, which we ended up buying a few, and then it was one last time to dinner with Kamal and the guys. For our appetizers, we shared a crab cake and I had asparagus vichyssoise, which is a cold asparagus soup. I really liked the taste of it, but I could not get past it being cold so I didn’t eat much. Soup should always be warm. Nick had two orders of sushi for his appetizer. For our main courses, Nick ordered their southern fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I had a grilled fillet of mahi mahi. Then again, for dessert, one last ramekin of deliciousness and my last taste of warm chocolate melting cake. I really, really wanted to order two of them. But I knew I would regret it. Nick had baked Alaska.
After dinner, we hit the comedy club for the PG show with John McDonnell. Then we headed to the main lounge again for the Big Easy show about New Orleans. The dancers and singers on the Triumph are extremely talented and entertaining. We had to head back to the comedy club after that to hear Azeem for his PG act.
I’m sad that this is our last night, but I am definitely ready to see my little girl and give her some great big hugs and kisses. We have had a really wonderful week though and I’m so thankful that we were able to take this trip together. I’m also ready to book the next cruise!

Our towel animal today:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Carnival Cruise Day 4: Cozumel

Hola! We are back on ship after spending a day in Cozumel. Now Cozumel is a major tourist destination, and there were three ships in port today: us, the Carnival Breeze, and the Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas. So to say that Cozumel is the exact opposite of Progreso would be an understatement. Personally, I felt much safer and a little more relaxed today, mainly because I didn’t feel so out of place and it’s much cleaner. No offense, Progreso.

Today my littlest piggy has turned a lovely shade of purple and blue, with a little red thrown in for good measure. At least I can still walk, although I seem to be limited to only wearing my sandals at this juncture. I tried to wear my cute cruise shoes earlier and they were too tight around my toes.
We ate breakfast in one of the main dining rooms this time and sat with another first time cruising couple and then one of the 4 diamond members on our ship right now, John. This is his 43rd cruise since 2005. Forty-three! In 10 years! I want John’s life.
We had an excursion planned with Playa Mia tours, so once we got off the ship we only had a little bit of time to shop before we had to be at their offices. We stopped by the Pandora shop and Nick let me pick out a couple of new charms for my bracelet. It’s nice not having to pay sales tax. We walked over to the Playa Mia office and after signing our waivers we were put in a cab to head to the downtown pier. Our had docked at the Puerta Maya pier. It was just a few minutes by cab, so after we arrived to downtown we had time to go in another little shop and pick up a couple more things for Kate. We also found a restroom that we had to pay a room attendant a couple of bucks to give us paper towels after washing our hands. I don't know if he was legit or if he just found a free bathroom and decided to claim it as his money-making spot, but we gave the guy $2 anyway.
At 11 we boarded the Aqua Dream II catamaran with several other people and started out to the snorkeling area. I would estimate about 40 people in all on the boat. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the Columbia Reef, where we were going to begin snorkeling. We used the current to drift over to the Palancar Reef as well, so we got to see two different reef areas.
Hey, we just came from one of these guys. Ours is the middle ship.
I had never snorkeled before, so I was very excited and also anxious. It was pretty windy today, and I thought the waves were big, at least in my opinion. What do I know, being a land kind of girl. I do know that a cruise ship had to skip the port yesterday because of the currents, so perhaps I'm not too off base with my assessment. We were shown everything we needed to know on board, and then it was time to jump off the boat and into the water. I opted to jump in rather than walk down the steps, which was kind of scary to be honest. It was quite a jump! I swallowed my fair share of sea water, which is just oh so nasty tasting but man, is it beautiful! I have never seen turquoise and teal green water before. Simply breathtaking.
It was quite difficult to get your bearings in the water because the surf was so crazy. Nick was having a difficult time because his mask kept leaking. Once I convinced myself to relax, I found snorkeling quite easy and comfortable. In fact, I had more trouble when I would try to stop and stay upright than I did when I just put my face in the water and let the current take me. Our guide stayed with us and lead the way, although I can’t imagine how much anxiety he had because we had a large group and people kept spreading out quite a bit from him, partially due to the waves pushing you all over the place. It would have made my blood pressure sky high trying to keep track of everyone.
The reefs were amazing. It was just like I’ve seen on TV and in movies. Seriously so hard to believe that it was so beautiful right below my feet. I saw one sea turtle and a couple of sting rays among all of the colorful fish, including several fish that I don’t know that I’ve ever seen before. I tried free diving down a couple of times, but I couldn’t get more than about 5’ underwater with the surf being so crazy….and the fact that I was pretty new to all of this.
It was also exhausting, which I wasn’t expecting. Fins are kind of hard to adjust to, and I was having a hard time keeping my feet and legs under the water enough to make myself move. Then once you wanted to stop, like if I wanted to find Nick again, it was very difficult to get yourself upright from a laying position in the water. I would forget about my snorkel here and there and turn my head to find Nick, which would put the top of the snorkel in the water and I’d have to spit it out to get the water out. I think I probably swallowed more sea water than anyone should.
By the time our 45 minutes of snorkeling was up, I was seriously done with the experience. I had literally just said to Nick that I wanted to go back to the boat when it was announced that we were finished and to get back on the boat. Nick had to help push me out of the water on the steps, again because the waves were making things quite tricky to deal with. By this time, my stomach was churning and I felt really seasick. 

We had eaten breakfast this morning in the dining room, but I guess I hadn’t quite stuffed myself as much as I needed to because it was now after 1 pm and I had an empty stomach full of sea water. Not a good combination. By the time I got up on the boat and out of my snorkel gear, I felt nauseas and generally awful. I went to the bathroom on board and tried to throw up, because I really thought I was going to be sick, but nothing ever happened. I could not stop shaking though, both my legs and my hands, and I think Nick was pretty freaked out. He grabbed me a Sprite from the bar tender, but I couldn’t bear to drink more than a few sips. Thankfully it was a relatively short ride back to Playa Mia, rather than another hour like it was to get there, and we were immediately escorted to the free buffet were I managed to eat some chips and refried beans. I couldn’t stomach much else at that point, but just being back on land seemed to ease most of my discomfort.
We hopped in a cab back to the Puerta Maya pier rather than stay with the catamaran group. They weren’t leaving Playa Mia until 3:20, and we had to be back on our ship by 3:30. We made it back in plenty of time and immediately hopped in the shower to get rid of the sea water funkiness we both had going on.
After cleaning up, Nick headed down to the casino bar to participate in an 80’s music trivia game and I went out on the deck to watch sail away and see if we had any pier runners. We didn’t, but it was still neat to watch the ship leave. Since we were parked right next to the Carnival Breeze, I got a really good look at her as we pulled away.
We headed back to the main dining room again and asked for Kamal. He has been so sweet all week and his team are really great as well. I have enjoyed having the same team of waiters every night. Tonight we both had soup for appetizer: I have corn chowder Maryland and Nick has chilled creamy bing cherry soup. We also split an order for frog legs, but I didn’t really like them so Nick ended up eating it all. At least I tried it. I would say they were sort of like chewier chicken, which wasn’t a good texture for me, and I had a really hard time getting past the fact that they were frog legs and they looked like it. I mean, if they had removed the meat from the bone, chopped it up and maybe rolled it into a ball and battered it, I may have had an easier time eating them. I still wouldn’t have cared for the texture though.

For my main course I had fish and shrimp and Nick ordered blackened supreme of spring chicken. I really regretted not ordering the chatueabriand though, so next time it’s offered I will definitely choose that. I, of course, had chocolate melting cake for dessert and Nick ordered a soufflĂ© with a vanilla cream sauce poured inside that was amazing. Pretty much I ate them both. Don't judge - you would've eaten them both too.

We finally had a pretty sunset! I have been waiting for a pretty sunset this entire week, but every evening it has been overcast and disappointing when the sun went down. Today it was actually nice, so we went out on the deck three balcony area and watched the sun go down. We ran into a couple that we sat with at breakfast, so we talked to them about their day in Cozumel and shared stories about ours.
Nick played another trivia game, this time about movies, and I joined him at the very end of it. We still didn’t win though, and then we stayed in the main lounge to watch and participate in a gender showdown type game between the men and the women. We stuck around for the Liars Club, a really funny show put on with our cruise director and some of the cast. By the time that was over and we had finished finding our photos and deciding whether to purchase more or not, I was beat so Nick brought me back up to the room. He went back down and caught part of the guest talent show before he came back up to the room for the night. We only have one sea day left, which is really depressing.

Our towel animal today:
I'm not quite sure what it's supposed to be, but I could tell you when we thought it was as the lights were slowly coming on except that this is a PG rated blog so I'll just let you figure it out on your own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carnival Cruise Day 3: Bievenido Progreso!

It was finally time to get off the ship for a little while, and I was pretty excited this morning. The ship docked in Progreso at 7:30, and I’d say we got off around 9 am. Progreso is home to the longest pier in the entire world – it’s 4.2 miles from the cruise dock to land. Busses take you back and forth to Progreso for free. Once we got to the bus terminal, we hopped on a different bus and headed to Merida, a large city about 45 minutes away from Progreso. We planned on walking around and doing some shopping.

You can sort of see Progreso, 4.2 miles in the distance.
The ride into Merida was not pretty, which was kind of disappointing, and the bus was also part of the city bus system too so we made several stops along the way. I found that weird. Merida is a really big city, and we got to see quite a bit as the plaza that they took us to was in the heart of the city. We spotted a Costco and shopping mall on the way into town too. I would say our driver was insane, but he seemed to be driving exactly like every other crazy person on the road in Mexico. We were literally inches from other cars and busses – I’m pretty certain I could have shaken some hands here and there if my window had been open, and the people on mopeds and small motorcycles weave around the traffic like it’s not even there. Our driver honked his horn two or three different times. It was kind of scary but I was very thankful to not be the one driving.

We walked from the bus station down to the main plaza and once we got there a teeny tiny little Mexican lady started trying to sell us an excursion. I’m not kidding, she was maybe 3’5” tall. We told her we were just sight-seeing and shopping, no thank you, so she proceeded to walk us over to a market place with all kinds of Mayan pottery, blankets, shirts, jewelry, knick-knacks….and lots more. I bought one ceramic cross, and we headed back to the main plaza. I think Nick was a little freaked out that I followed her so willingly, to be honest.
Our little Mexican tour guide....sort of.
We spotted a couple of old cathedrals and wandered in an out of some shops, but it was SO HOT today that we really weren’t enjoying it that much. Someone told us it was 99*, and I believe it, and since Merida is nothing but concrete everywhere we felt like we were walking around on a hot plate. We weren’t hungry, so we decided after a couple of hours to head back to Progreso and check out the shops and beach there. I actually took a nap on the bus back to Progreso, as did most of the other passengers.

Progreso is not a tourist town, like Cancun or Cozumel…it’s basically a slum. Authentic Mexico, financially challenged- however you put it, it’s not a pretty town, but the people are all very nice. Along the beach area there are markets and shops everywhere, and each one had 3 or 4 people trying to get you to come in and buy something. They want to get you in the door and then they start showing you everything they offer, which is pretty much the exact same crap as the shop next door. They are good at making deals as well, and man – Michael Kors knock-off purses are everywhere. When in Rome, do as the Romans and buy a fake MK bag. So I did, and I knocked him down over half the price he first quoted me. It’s not like I’m ever going to spring for a real one, so might as well.

We made our way to the beach because I wanted to get a bag of sand from both ports we visited, plus I wanted to at least step into the water once. Nick stayed on the pier and I trekked across the sand to fetch a handful of sand and shells, and of course grab a few photos. Since Progreso is still on the Gulf side of the Yucatan peninsula, the water isn't quite as clear as it is on the other side, but still a pretier color than the brown Galveston water. We meandered around a little bit longer, but then decided we were getting hungry and hotter so it was time to head back onto the cruise pier.
Nick didn't want to get his feet sandy. He's so precious.
There is a market on the actual pier as well, so we bought a few more things there and picked up a couple of souvenirs for Kate. They were really pushy about the sales, but it was hard not to get angry with them – this is their livelihood in most cases. At least most of them were very friendly when you said “no thank you” and let you keep walking.

Back on board the ship, we headed up to Lido and had tacos and burritos from the cantina again. After hitting the gym again to walk, this time together, it was just about time for sail away, so we walked back to the back of the ship to watch her pull away from the dock. On the way back there, I managed to walk too closely to one of the deck chairs and caught my little toe on the leg of the chair. My toe bent all the way out, like perpendicular from the way it normally lays, and I was pretty certain at that moment that I broke the piggy that cried wee wee all the way home. Nick went to get me an ice pack. A pretty nasty bruise has now appeared on my toe and even worked its way around to the inside, confirming that it indeed broke. Since there is pretty much nothing to be done for it, I've just been icing the poor thing.

I went back to a ladies pampering party and got a free mini facial. They offered those of us who came to the pamper party a deal on a spa package, which I couldn’t pass up, so I scheduled some spa time for just a little bit later. I spent 75 minutes getting a hydrating facial, foot and ankle massage, arm and hand massage, scalp massage, and a back/neck/shoulder massage with hot stones. It was pretty darn heavenly for 75 minutes and I felt completely relaxed.

I had to shower after my spa treatment though, since my technician rubbed some weird oil in my hair and I looked like a meth addict who hadn't washed her hair in 8 months. Then we dressed for dinner again, and tonight Nick ordered chicken noodle soup and cured salmon with stewed apples and grapes for an appetizer and I had the navy bean soup. For our entrée, Nick had the seared fillet of redfish with yam and pumpkin hash and green beans. I ordered the jerked pork loin with fried rice, crisp green beans and a plantain chip. I also had the pumpkin hash on my plate. I think Kamal is a fan of ours. Tonight I got two scoops of ice cream with my melting cake.

After dinner we went to check out our elegant night photos and chose 4 that we purchased. It was hard to narrow them down and agree on our favorites, and if they weren’t so expensive we probably would have purchased a lot more. Then it was time for a showgirl and magician show in the main lounge. Now, it’s time for bed.
Our towel animal today:

Tomorrow, Cozumel!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Carnival Cruise Day 2: First Sea Day!

We began our first sea day by hitting up the Blue Iguana Cantina for a quick breakfast burrito so we could make the cruise director’s morning show in the main lounge. It turned out to be a pretty funny show and we were happy we made the effort to go rather than just watch it on our TV. Not too long after the morning show, we found our way back to the Paris dining room for sea day brunch. It’s not every day you get to enjoy filet mignon and scrambled eggs, after all. We sat at a large round table with a couple from Azle which is just up the road from our town, one couple from Kansas, and another military couple originally from Texas but currently stationed in Alaska. Good conversation and very yummy food.

Sometime around 12:30, Nick decided to go down to the ship’s library to do some studying for a certification he’s trying to achieve, so changed my clothes and made my way up to the gym to walk on the treadmill for a little while. I did two miles and giggled silently at the two older ladies who jumped on the treadmills beside me, in their flip flops no less, and proceeded to walk 2 miles per hour for 10 minutes before they declared they had done enough.

Nick finished studying because he got sleepy, so he decided to take a nap….in the middle of the day….on a TUESDAY! Yay for vacation! I changed from my gym clothes into my swimsuit and headed out to the pool area to grab an empty lounge chair and sun for a little while. I was just in time to watch the Very Hairy Chest contest, yay for me. I spent about an hour out there, and then it was time for the cabin crawl. Somewhere during that time, I grabbed a Guy's Burger again. These burgers were going to be trouble, I can tell you already.

My cruise group online arranged a cabin crawl so that everyone could visit various types of staterooms to see how they differ. We visited a grand suite, ocean suite, aft wrap balcony room, extended balcony, regular balcony, ocean view window, and a regular stateroom. Oh, and an interior handicapped room, which was quite spacious. It was pretty cool seeing all the different types of rooms that I’m never going to pay money to stay in because they’re ridiculously more expensive than a regular stateroom an really, we haven’t spent much time in our cabin to justify the added expense. But most of the rooms gave out goodies for us each so that was fun. There were about 40 of us exploring the rooms together.
When the cabin crawl ended we decided to go back out on the Lido deck and hang out. Nick wanted to walk on the jogging track since he didn’t get to go to the gym earlier, so I grabbed another lounge chair and proceeded to drift in an out of sleep on my stomach while he walked 18 laps or so. There was live music going and the pool was hopping quite a bit, so it was a pretty good time. That filled the remainder of the afternoon until it was ready to come back in to get ready for elegant night.

We had our photo made with the captain and then walked around to several of the backdrops along the lobby area to have as many photos taken as possible, that way we would have a decent selection to choose from for purchasing. Dinner was delicious and we chose to sit in Kamal’s section again. Nick ordered strawberry bisque for his appetizer and I had West Indian roasted pumpkin soup for mine, then we split the spicy alligator fritters. For dinner, we both ordered the lobster tail and grilled shrimp, because any time you get to eat free lobster, you eat free lobster. For dessert I had the chocolate melting cake again and also tried the bitter 'n blanc bread pudding. The melting cake is way better so Nick ate that one. I’m so going to miss that cake at the end of this trip.
We watched two comedy shows tonight and then went to the late show in the main lounge, but we didn’t stay for the whole show because I kept falling asleep during the songs. I finally told Nick if we didn’t go to bed I might end up sleeping in the Rome Lounge. It had been a long, busy day.

Our towel animal tonight:

Tomorrow, Progreso!