Archive for December, 2007

cruise!!

December 26, 2007

So I’ve been back home (still feels great to say that word) for over a week and want to update about the cruise Erik and I went on before too much time passes…
We went on an 8-day 7-night Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean from December 9th – 16th.
To anyone considering going on a cruise, I would definitely recommend Carnival. They were amazing. The service was phenomenal. The food was overwhelming. The ports were gorgeous. I can’t find a single bad thing to say about them except maybe it would’ve been nice to stay longer 😉
Day 1 – Miami, ship sets sail
We arrived in Miami pretty early in the morning and took a shuttle bus to the cruise terminal. Boarded the ship (which was HUGE!!) and wandered around until it was time to drop our stuff off in our stateroom. The room itself was actually really nice; a queen bed and a pretty big ocean view window. Tons of closet space, a couch, TV, desk, and a quaint (nice way of saying small) bathroom. Our room steward Rodrigo was wonderful. He knew us by name about two hours after b
oarding even when we were nowhere near our room. Impressive!
Spent the rest of the day exploring and enjoying cocktails as we set sail for our first destination.
The ship (they do not like it when you call it a boat) had several swimming pools, a few hot tubs, a water slide, a jogging track, basketball courts, gym/spa facilities, tons of restaurants/clubs, shopping and more. It was like a little floating city.
We had the late seating for dinner and were assigned to a table with two other really fantastic couples. Susie and Rick (from Minnesota and North Dakota, respectively) were one of the cutest/funniest couples I’ve ever met. Absolute darlings with delightfully sick senses of humor. The other couple, Amy and Shaun (from Massachusetts) had just gotten engaged last month and were awesome to hang out with. Our table quickly earned a reputation as one of the loudest (since we were constantly laughing and having a good time) and even a special nickname from the Maitre D’ himself (he called us his “Boom Boom” table).
After dinner every night there was a show of some sort in the theater. The first night was a Welcome Aboard sort of thing with singing and dancing. After that there was a comedian (Will Marfori). He was absolutely *hysterical*. He has Cerebral Palsy and his skit totally used it to his advantage. If you haven’t seen him, I suggest you YouTube him righ
t away.

Rum Point Beach in Grand Cayman
Day 2 – “Fun Day at Sea”
Spent the day hanging around the ship, attending “what to expect” seminars, eating, sleeping, more eating, etc.
The food on the ship was amazing. Dinner every night was a 4-course meal and the food was delicious. Not to mention the buffet that featured a different style of food every day and was open from sunup to sundown, the 24-hour ice cream and pizza places, the sandwich place, the asian cafe, the coffee joint, the sushi bar, complimentary room service… and so on.
This was also our first of two “Formal Nights”. Each night around dinner time they have photographers set up backdrops and you can get tons of portraits taken but our formal night ones came out really well (I wound up buying a couple later in the week). Also had the Captain’s “Welcome Aboard” Cocktail Party with free drinks and yummy appetizers. Thanks Cap’n!
That night they did a Las Vegas style revue. I have to give the dancers a lot of credit. Those routines aren’t easy, especially when you throw in the crazy costumes *and* the boat rocking/moving like hell while they’re
on stage prancing around in heels… The show itself was great though; they did songs from all the famous classic clubs (Studio54, Copa Cabana, etc.).

We sure do clean up nicely…
Day 3 – Grand Cayman: Stingray City
Our first day of shore excursions! Hooray!
We were originally signed up to do a stingray snorkel with these waverunner thingies but it was really windy and the water was very choppy so that tour got canceled and we wound up doing another stingray swim instead. Amy and Shaun from dinner were doing the same excursion so we got to hang with them all day.
We took a boat out to this sandbar called Stingray City off the coast of Grand Cayman. The water was crystal clear and waist deep. The only sucky part was that because it was so windy there were crazy waves that kept crashing over my head and it made trying to stay standing somewhat difficult. The stingrays were *huge* and arrived by the dozen. They swarmed all around us and kept bumping into us. It was amazing. They’re actually pretty harmless unless they feel threatened, and since these were used to being handled and fed by countless tourists, we had not
hing to worry about. I got to hold one and got a kiss from one and then fed them. They feed by smell and suck the food with their mouths at 50x the strength of a vacuum cleaner. I held a squid in my hand and one came and yanked it out, then about 7 more surrounded me and it was absolute chaos being surrounded by hungry rays all of a sudden but it was seriously fun.
After the ray feeding we set sail for Rum Point beach for lunch and some relaxation before heading back to the boat, er, ship. We sat on the beach and ate then went for a walk around the shore to take pictures. The water was the prettiest shades of turquoise, aqua and blue. It was warm and sunny and an overall perfect day.

Getting all makey-outy with a stingray!
Day 4 – Roatan Island, Honduras: Canopy Zipline & Tabyana Beach
We were originally supposed to do a horseback riding excursion but it got canceled due to lack of sign ups. Instead we decided to do a treetop canopy zipline tour at Gumbalimba Park.
There were about 12 ziplines about 80-100 feet up going from tree to tree from the top of Roatan Island all the way to the beach. I was nervous initially bec
ause I’m just a tiny bit afraid of heights, so Erik went first and I got over my fear by the second or so line. It was really cool to be up so high up in the forest zipping through the treetops hearing monkeys and parrots screeching as we went by. One of the lines flew us over this crazy river which was scary but thrilling at the same time. The ziplines dropped us off at a pretty beach/resort and then we were bussed to another, even nicer, beach.
Tabyana Beach, home of warm water, friendly fish, and supposedly the filming location for the Corona “Miles Away From Ordinary” commercials.
This was by far the prettiest beach I have ever been to. The water was warm and clear and not very deep with reefs all around and tons of fish. We had lunch on the beach and wound up hanging out with Amy and Shaun again. While we were hanging out in the water a bunch of fish kept swimming by. There was this big 14″ silver one who swam right through my legs and a school of about 40-50 angel fish that kept swimming by us. We walked out to a reef and watched the fish without having to put our heads underwater; it was so clear you could see everything just standing there. Then we rented a kayak to go a little further out and did the same with the reefs out there.
After kayaking, we were enjoying the water and talking to a couple when the angel fish came back, except this time they stayed for about 30 minutes. There we
re dozens of them just swimming in little circles all around us, nibbling our toes and just hanging out. No matter how many people came over to look, they just stayed. It was absolutely unreal.
That night the show was an 80’s Night which had all the dancers singing and doing routines to classic 80’s songs which was fantastic. They even had super-80’s-corny laser lights! The whole audience was signing along and it totally rocked.

Surrounded by a school of angel fish in Roatan
Day 5 – Belize: Xunantunich Mayan Ruins
By this point I’m totally in love with our cruise. Just felt the need to state the obvious there… Anyway.
So we got to Belize and boarded a coach bus for a 2-hour drive to the ancient Mayan site of Xunantunich (roughly translates to “Stone Lady”). Along the way we drove through Belizian towns and saw people going about their daily lives.
Upon arrival at the site, we had to take this little hand-crank boat across a river. On the way back I asked the operator if I could crank it and he let me. We were loaded up with two cars and a bunch of passengers yet I still got us across. Woot!
The ruins themselves were gorgeous and overwhelming. It was really odd to think that people lived there once (650 – 1000 AD). We got to climb the temples and had a great guide teach us about the site. The main temple was 130′ tall and we climbed to the top of it and it had the most amazing view. Supposedly you could see Guatemala from up there but I wasn’t sure which direction we were supposed to be looking in, heh. It was really hot out and exhausting but definitely a once in a lifetime experience. There were no handrails or bars or anything. It was just as it had been thousands of years ago.
After the ruins we were bussed back to Belize City to get back on the ship. Along the way we stopped at a cute little tourist resort place for lunch. We had the traditional Belizian dish of boiled chicken, beans and rice and fried plantains along with a locally brewed beer. Delicious!
Our second fancy-schmancy formal night was that night. More food, more fun, more pictures!

Erik & me at the Xunantunich Mayan ruins in Belize
Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico: Swimming with Dolphins
Up until this day the weather had bee
n picture perfect. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Cozumel. It was cold (well, cold for them, warm for us considering it was December), windy and rainy. We were signed up for a dolphin swim excursion and we couldn’t wait.
The facility (Dolphinaris) was right on the coast and made to look like a little tropical island. Very cute. We donned our super-tourist-esque life vests and headed down to the tanks to meet Electra, our dolphin du jour.
We got to do a dolphin handshake, get a kiss, have a free-swim session to pet her, and my favorite, a belly ride! We swam into the middle of the tank and the dolphin came up to us, rolled onto her back and then we grabbed her fins for a belly-to-belly ride across the pool. It was so much fun!! The best part? When Erik was getting his “kiss” he stuck his tongue out at the dolphin and the trainer goes “Sir, please, no tongue, we do not French kiss the dolphins! She is only 12 years old!” Oh man it was absolutely *hysterical*!!
After the dolphins we had a great Mexican lunch on the deck overlooking the tanks. We walked down into town to wander around and check out the stores (but didn’t actually buy anything… even discounted expensive stuff is too expensive for us *pout*) and eventually caught a cab back to the cruise terminal where we enjoyed $1 Mexican beers and watched one of those “living statue” guys scar
e the living hell out of poor unsuspecting tourists.

Erik making out with a 12 year old.
Day 7 – “Fun Day at Sea”
All of our excursions had been, um, excured, and we were almost back to the States. Bummer. We spent our last full day on the ship hanging out, eating, and enjoying. I made Erik enter the Hairy Chest Contest where he placed last but still got a medal so now technically he has “award winning chest hair”.
That night’s show featured passengers on the ship who dressed up as their favorite singers and performed on stage. My favorite was a fat black chick who did Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time. Absolutely hysterical. And she was damn good, too! Our cruise director, Chris, dressed up as Dolly Parton and did one of her songs which was highly entertaining as well. Other notable performances: Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Madonna.

Susie and Rick, me and Erik, Amy and Shaun – the Boom Boom
table!
Day 8 – Miami, arrive home: Everglades
Arrived back in Miami at the buttcrack of dawn, cleared customs and said goodbye to the lovely Carnival Valor. But wait, it’s not over yet! We boarded yet another coach bus and drove to the Everglades!
We went for an airboat ride/tour through the Everglades and were even fortunate enough to see an alligator hanging out. Supposedly that’s rare. We saw lots of egrets and herons and other wildlife. Our airboat pilot gave a great tour, I just wish we could’ve seen more and stayed longer.
After the airboat they did a little alligator and crocodile presentation at the facility and I got to hold a little gator. It was SO freaking cute! I *love* reptiles 😀
Bussed back to the airport where Erik’s BFF from Miami, Jo, came to pick us up. We went and got some dinner and hung out with her and drove around Miami until it was time for our flight.

Me holding a cute little alligator.
Got back in to Atlanta late (around 11:30pm) and went home to pass out before we had to wake up for work the next day. Oof.
Other notable cruise
points of interest:

* They had a bunch of the Initial D v.3 arcade games on the ship (too cool!!!)
* Wii Bowling tournament
* Adorable towel animals in our stateroom every night (my favorite was the lobster)
* Foreign country passport stamping!
* Eating 4-5 meals a day (and I didn’t gain a single pound!)
* Meeting some really amazing people
* Our waiters at dinner was absolutely hysterically awesome. Odilon and Iwayan, best servers I’ve *ever* had!!
* It was our 3-year anniversary 🙂
My wonderful mommy got me the cruise as a graduation gift, in case anyone was wondering how the super-broke me was able to afford it 😉 THANKS MOM!!!
This was truly an experience of a lifetime. I’d love to do another cruise. Time to start saving my pennies…
If you want to see more pictures, I’ve got a Facebook gallery HERE.

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my desperate plea for help

December 8, 2007

Well, it’s no secret that I’m desperately broke because of my excruciatingly high student loan repayment payments… I’m trying my best to do what I can to earn extra money here and there to make ends meet (freelance design work, website building, skipping meals… etc.) but I really am trying to just cover absolutely all of my bases because I seriously am that desperate…
With that said, please visit my newest website:
http://www.StudentLowned.com
Please Help 😦
kthxbai