Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just a Cruisin...

Curtis and I went on a couple's marriage cruise with 14 other couples in our church. The church has put a cruise together for several years now and Curtis finally agreed to go (after many years of begging).

Here are the kids with Grammy and Papa bidding farewell as we left the church. Check out the emotions in the faces.

Our itenerary was bus ride to Cape Canaveral on Sunday. Sail from Port Canaveral with Royal Caribbean on the Monarch of the Seas on Monday. Visit the Bahamas island of CocoCay and Nassau. Return to land on Friday and drive home.

We stayed overnight in a hotel (to be nameless) close to the port. They weren't much for service or protection from the weather... but the pool was pretty. The rooms all had sleep number beds too. We thought that was pretty cool. It was nice to have that overnight rest before boarding the ship. Hate to start a vacation all worn out and all!

We had a great group that went. A few couples that we knew, some we knew of, and some we didn't know at all. We were the youngest couple (although there was one girl a little younger than us... her husband is not, so we voted ourselves as the youngest!) :) and the dear sweet Knolls were the oldest... the expert cruisers!!

Our dinner table was right by the window and was such a beautiful view each evening. We ate the early dinner... so it ended up right at sunset for dessert. Our table mates were Keith and Anne Jennings. We tend to hang a good bit with them on dry land, so I was thankful to enjoy their company this week as well. We laughed a lot, talked a lot and thoroughly enjoyed our time together. and we're ready to go again.

Here's our waiter, Alex.

Our head waiter... we never got his picture.

Here's our assistant waiter with Keith and Anne. Curtis called his name a bunch and he always brought him whatever he wanted... and more. He was very personable!

We ate breakfast one morning with this couple, Andrew and June, from Kissimee, FL. Originally, they are both from Giahana South Africa and have just recently come to the states. They are believers as well and we had good morning conversation with them. Super nice people!! She's a nurse in the ICU and is planning a marriage cruise for her church couples for next summer. Here's our on-deck photo as we were leaving port... Anne and Jenny.

Keith and Curtis... and the last of the Florida coastline.

The Monarch anchors just off the Coco Cay coast and tenders all the passengers back and forth all day long. We went to the beach early morning and hung out swimming and relaxing all day. Curtis snorkled for several hours and saw tons of cool underwater fish, boats, airplane, etc. If we ever get copies of the underwater camera I'll try to post some of those pics as well. I was going to float on a mat while he snorkled, but it was an all boy snorkling adventure so I opted to float in my own little cove and sit under a tree for a while. I would have visited with Anne since Keith was also in the water, but she fell asleep. I could post that picture here -> .....but I won't. :)

We had lunch on the island and headed back to the ship before they pulled up anchor at 5. That was also our "formal" night so we cleaned up and got all pretty for dinner. See!?!?!

We also had a huge group photo after dinner of all 15 couples all dressed up. It was quite an impressive staircase - but it's on Al's camera. There were some tuxedos and fancy gals. I was please with Curtis' coat and tie. Doesn't it look nice??

Wednesday we spent the day docked in Nassau, Bahamas. We took our time getting off and started walking the usual street stores. We roamed around with John and Mindy Winters until lunchtime, when they had an excursion date. Then we finished our "shopping" for all our free bling jewelry for the kids and paused for a quick Starbucks break. I had a headache and blamed the lack of caffeine, although it was probably the sun and heat. We also wanted a souvenir cup that said "Nassau" on it... this store had none. Well, there was one under the cabinet that Curtis found when he opened the cabinet with his foot... but the handle was broken. So the young man behind the counter said we could just have it but he needed to check with his manager. So while he's in the back room, Curtis continues to peruse the cabinets and two well dressed gentlemen who were in line behind us questioned his motives. Turns out the one dude was a Starbucks district manager or something high up who was there for lunch and was protecting the company assets. The store manager comes out and in true Bahamian style, starts bartering with Curtis over how much he'll pay for the broken mug. This man in line just says no, and gives it to us for nothing. So, now we have a free broken handled mug from Starbucks and a new lunch friend. He sat next to us at the counter and told Curtis all about the local customs in customer service, or lack of. He also directed us to a local diner (if you call them diners) for some conch fritters. This was the same place the lady in Diamonds International pointed us to. Or was that Tanzanite International? Or Gold International? There were a bunch of International stores that sold all the same stuff for the same price...

Ok... back to the story. We decided to walk the streets... a little further than the typical tourists walk. We went past the Straw Market, past Senor Frog's, around the Hilton and suddenly it seemed very... empty.... native... quiet. If I hadn't been with Curtis I would have turned around. But he was unconcerned and we walked on... and on... and on. The beach was really beautiful and I realized it was there for the smaller hotels that were right in front of us. We took a few pictures and moved on. Our goal was fritters! The natives call the area the Fish Fry and the restaurant of choice was Twin Brothers. Did you know there were TWO Twin Brothers? Apparently, as told by the local greeter girl, the brothers had one place and got in an argument over something so they each opened their own place. Both call themselves Twin Brothers, there just a very small 2 behind one of them. They claim the same food and prices, same service, same family recipes. I think it's a funny story and maybe they just did it to get people like us to come eat their food. It worked! We had Conch Fritters and Conch Salad... which is just fresh salsa, SPICY fresh salsa with chunks of conch thrown in. It was yummy... but we needed chips or bread or something to help with the heat. After lunch we crossed the highway (on foot!- have you seen them drive??) and walked through the cricket field up to the Fort Charlotte... we didn't go in, as we had approached from a less than public direction, so we didn't see the story, history or anything else about the Fort. They did have a good view of the water, ports, ships, and Paradise Island (Atlantis). We walked the long hike back to the docks and caught a water taxi over to Paradise Island. We did some more walking into the Atlantis and found the aquarium section... which is FREE. They call it "The Dig" which is set up like an archaeological dig within the fish... it's hard to explain but really cool to see. We were going to walk around the pools and hotels but it started raining so we had to retreat back inside the hotel... and without a room, our access was limited. And we were getting hungry and tired. We opted to try to catch the last water taxi of the day back to the dock... which we barely made. We missed dinner with our friends that night but caught good grub in the Windjammer Cafe instead... a solid back-up! That night was also the midnight buffet poolside as we left Nassau. That was fun dancing the conga line with Mindy and watching the island lights dim in the distance. Curtis was impressed over and over with how things aboard the ship functioned, how he didn't even know we had left the dock.. and he tried to figure out which direction we were going, what we were close to, what was next, etc.

Thursday at sunset we all met on the top deck and had a vow renewal ceremony led by James Dollar. We were all set to be serious when I noticed a launch had just taken place at the space center at Cape Canaveral. We paused our service and watched the rockets cross the entire span of sky... we got to see the second boosters fire and fall away, and we watched until the rocket was no longer visible by our eyes. Talk about fire works... really cool!

Friday we were back in port and had to leave. That's always a downer... but I was ready to get back to the kids. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and I knew they were well taken care of... but I was still ready to be home. Or have them with us at the beach, on a cruise, or vacation... but together, somewhere.

We loaded up our bus and headed back to Clermont as fast as we could... stopped twice for FAST food and were home, in our house by 9pm. Not bad for a day's travel!! The kids were glad we were home but none of the girls left Grandma's lap to greet us. Haarumph! Yep.... they were well taken care of!

Cruise Itinerary: 19 April: Port Canaveral, FL 20 April: Cococay, Bahamas 21 April: Nassau, Bahamas 22 April: Cruising 23 April: Port Canaveral, FL

The cruisers: Bill & Kristen Ellis, Al & Elaine Bell, Gene & Georgia DiBartolo, Rick & Rebecca Yarbrough, Tim & Terry McCune, John & Mary Knoll, Curtis & Jenny Davidson, John & Mindy Winters, Barry & Patti Lord, Danny & Sally Wise, Michael & Shannon Mooney, Brian & Sadie Hill, Keith & Anne Jennings, James & Harriet Dollar, Kirk & Denise Williamson.

And that's the story of our couple cruise to the Bahamas... well, most of it!

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