Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Our Caribbean Cruise // Pt. 1

A couple weeks ago, Beau and I had the opportunity to enjoy our very first cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas.  Beau's hard work paid off for him last year as he qualified for his first All-American with his company and scored he and a guest an 8-day trip to the Caribbean with 206 other agents from around the country.  And I'm pretty happy he decided to take me with him!  They don't mess around with this trip and while we knew it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up, there were a few things I was a little nervous about in the weeks leading up to it.  Namely a 3,700 passenger ship in the middle of the ocean. :)  It would also be the longest stint we have ever left the kids at home without us, not to mention the week before finals' week, a usually demanding week for me at work.  But, thanks to our parents who accepted the challenge to house sit and kid sit, an understanding department head, and a tiny container of Dramamine, we loaded up our cargo and headed to the Waterloo Airport bright and early Saturday, April 22, en route to sunny San Juan.

After an easy and relaxing day of flying (including a five-hour flight that allowed me to read an entire book with no interruptions other than a package of pretzels and a Diet Coke), we got our luggage and boarded the massive ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I expected the ship to be big, but wasn't prepared for just how enormous it was, and just how small we felt up to it.  We climbed a three-story walkway just to get to the main check-in area, and walked a never ending hallway to find our cabin and meet our stateroom attendant, Chris.  Our cabin was cozy, but fit just what we needed, and we loved our own private balcony so we could see the beautiful landscape around us and watch the captain leave and dock every day.  

To be completely honest, we weren't sure about cruise life our first night at sea.  Due to a few flights that were delayed, we left later than scheduled and the captain was going faster than typical to make up ground (ahem, sea).  The boat was really rocky our first night, to the point where we couldn't walk down the hallway to our room without looking completely intoxicated!  The outdoor decks were super windy, and it seemed there was a lifestyle aboard the ship that we were just not accustomed to!  We called it a night pretty early and went to bed a little dizzy and a lot more excited to step on the sand in St. Martin, our first port stop of the day...

Our first view of the island...  

Getting off the boat every day and seeing our boat never got old.  The thing was HUGE!

Things started to look up Sunday morning as we woke up to blue skies, eighty-degree air, and lush rainforest mountains around us.  Eager to see what these port days were all about, we grabbed a quick buffet breakfast with an ocean view before grabbing some towels and stepping foot on the island of St. Martin.  The salty sea air and friendly faces of St. Martin tourist ambassadors greeted us, and we hopped in a van with Perla, a lady who claimed to be the "Black Pearl of the Caribbean."  She gave us a rousing tour of the island, filled us in on its unique history, including the Dutch side and the French side, and even stopped for one long minute at Orient Beach, the only nude beach on the island.  And boy did we get an eyeful. ;)  While most cruise people tend to stay on the more touristy Dutch side of St. Martin, we told Perla we wanted to do what the locals do.  Call it ignorance if you will, but we were convinced we had hit the jackpot when Perla dropped us off at Pinel Island, a tiny little secluded island just a short ferry ride from the mainland.  

All it took was a five-minute ferry ride and my first spotting of a family of sea turtles swimming beside us to be convinced I may just like this cruise thing.  We were maybe two of twenty people there, including the bartender that mixed us mojitos at 10:30 in the morning. ;)  We discovered a high top bar table about twenty feet out in the turquoise water and enjoyed our first taste of Caribbean sunshine along with a gorgeous view of the mountainous St. Martin.  We browsed the tiny shops, hiked up a hill that overlooked the beach, and got some sun before hopping back on our ferry boat and back in the car with Perla for lunch.  Perla dropped us off in Grand Cayes, a local foodie district that she claimed is the "food capital of the Caribbean."  We once again felt like locals as we sat at a street-side table and ordered shrimp creole and red beans and rice.  It was here we decided we would one day be back to this unique and beautiful island.

We ended our first day of adventure in St. Martin at the well-known Maho Beach.  This popular beach is directly behind the St. Martin International Airport and is known for pilots giving beach goers a thrill as they land their jetliners just feet above their heads!  It really is a sight to be seen!  The Iowa agents gathered for a happy hour at the beachside restaurant there and it was fun to meet new faces and reconnect with familiar ones.  And by 5:30, it was back on the ship to say goodbye to St. Martin and set sail for our next leg of the adventure, the island of St. Kitts.


Surprisingly, our second night aboard Adventure of the Seas was nothing like the first one.  And I hardly felt her move for the rest of the trip.  It also didn't take us long to feel accustomed to cruise life.  It was quite the home away from home!  The main dining hall was huge and the plated dinner menu was delicious.  The promenade was bustling with energy, live music, shopping, and plenty of places to grab a cocktail.  There was an ice skaking rink, a theater with nightly entertainment, plenty of bars with live music, and of course, the large outdoor deck area with music, movies, a water park, hot tubs, and golfing.  We enjoyed getting ready for dinner every night, grabbing some cocktails, and heading to the front of the ship to watch it set sail in the sunset.  There was something both peaceful and majestic about being so small in the middle of something so big.  And I kind of felt like Jack and Kate aboard the Titanic.  Let's just say there were quite a few references thrown around this trip. :)

Stay tuned for adventures from St. Kitts!  And here to see Part 2 and Part 3 of our trip!                 

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