So to preface this trip, you all can see from my other trips that I have done this before. Same length, same itinerary, and same cruise line. What's not the same? Different ship, different time of the year, different travel partner, and a more solid plan.
My idea of a good trip this time is that a buddy of mine and I are going to go with the idea of just having a good time and seeing what we can get in to. He's never been to Nassau before, but he's done the cruising thing before, so I won't have to walk him through anything special like that.
Another new addition to this trip is that my sister and brother-in-law are also going as their first trip. After reading my first trip on here, they started expressing interest and I talked them into a booking. They are going to get a new experience and have lots of fun.
Now the things I have looked up that I think I would like to try and do will be to visit the Cloisters, see the Queen's Staricase, and do a photo shoot on Paradise Island. If I can do all of these things, I know the trip is going to yield many different and great photos.
Be sure to read through the whole thing and check out my flickr page. I will even be trying to twitter a few things once I get on the island... :)
Packing Bags is never fun, but once it's over, it's time for some.
Had the flu last week and still feel a little less than perfect today, but this is the Sunday that I have to pack and get ready for my trip... Vitamin C by the buckets and lots of water is my idea of making sure I am ready for this trip.
Tomorrow all of us are going to be packing up, heading to the port, and setting sail. Can't wait to see what adventures await us on our trip. I even wonder if I'll see my sister and her husband much other than dinner...haha :)
<-- A View of the pool deck
Getting frisky with a statue on the pool deck -->
Day 1: So the alarm starts ringing at 4:15am and the day begins. I roll out of bed, turn off my phone and take a quick shower. After getting out, I grab my bag, my cell charger, and a drink. My sister and her husband are now ready too and we tell everyone bye and hit the door.
Will is driving for the first part of the trip and it's still dark out, so I thought I would be able to sleep. It didn't happen. Skip forward a few hours and we stop in Gainesville for gas and a quick trip to Target. The trip is pretty much uneventful up to this point and I take over driving to the port.
After about (what seemed like) 30 toll booths, we finish rolling out the driving and pull into the port, pay to park, and head to the boat.
Baggage check-in... Andy has not yet made it to the port yet from Tampa, but he said he is only about 5-10 minutes behind us, so we go on with our task. We had some room changes last minute on our trip, so we didn't have any luggage tags to tell them where to take our checked bags. We get that situated about the time Andy shows up. He gets his bags checked and we proceed to the secured areas.
Since we aren't allowed to take photos there, I didn't... Simple thought process, right? No photos = no jail time. So I learned something new too while going through security. I emptied my pockets and all metal, but they made me hold my cash and credit cards while my money clip went by itself. I found that a little odd, but it was all good. We go upstairs into another line and eventually check in to get boarding passes and let onto the boat.
So now I get on the boat with the 3 other people on this trip. Andy heads straight to the light up drinks like a gnat to a bug zapper and I just try to get out of everyone's way. We got there a little later than we all had wanted, but our rooms were already ready, so that was nice. I got to my room and my luggage was already there like normal, so I was super happy for that. So we explorered a little and then I went to sleep. The evening was pretty much relaxed and not much went on other than the welcome show that I somehow missed.
<-- Welcome papers and a happy birthday card.
<--- Welcome Sign
My sister got a good shot of this fish while floating around with a snorkle and fins. --->
Day 2: Coco Cay (Pronounced "KEY")
I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to Andy coming in talking about how he found some chicks and that they were supposed to come back to the room with him, but instead they left with some other guys. First I don't believe that, but if it was true... minus 10 points for not closing the deal.
So when I finally was able to get back to sleep and wake up at a decent hour, I got up, had some breakfast and headed over to the private island owned by Royal Caribbean. I got some good photos over there, but it started to rain on me, so I came back and actually enjoyed getting some peaceful sleep.
So things to do there, however, are snorkle, rent wave runners, just float on a beach float, swim by yourself, sleep in a hammock, or whatever you want really. It's a nice place, but after the few weeks I had prior to this trip, the best thing I could have done was just go and sleep in the room without having anyone bother me. That really was just so nice...
Scenes for Coco Cay
Once everyone was back on the ship for departure to Nassau, we got ready for dinner and the rest of the evening. We all sat to dinner and had a good meal while recounting the day we each had. Stephanie and Will snorkled, Andy got denied access to a jet ski because he started drinking, and I felt the warm embrace of a relaxing sleep like I've not had in a while.
After dinner, we all gambled a little bit, look around at the shops onboard and prepared for the day to follow. I packed my camera equipment, reflectors, passport, panama hat, and model releases. Tomorrow was to be my day and I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I had the morning and midday hours planned out.
Day 3: Part 1: Morning...
Well, right now is where you will notice the trend that it is better to travel with someone you are either in a relationship with or that you know is not a complete (dirty words may be placed here to describe the type of person who would do what I am about to explain).
(And door open now) It's somewhere between 2-4am and the lights come on. "Bro, I got these two hot chicks coming back to the room, they said they'll be here in like 30 minutes." After I groan and tell him that nobody is coming, I roll over and try to go back to sleep. He uses the bathroom and finally leaves after pouring a drink that he brought with him in his checked luggage. A little bit later, the door flings open again and he has company this time.
As it turns out, he had brought company back, just not of the female persuasion and it appeared that they only wanted to get drunk and make lots of noise. After getting them all to leave, I was able to finally get some sleep to charge my creative batteries and get ready for the next part of my day.
<--- Coming back from the shoot.
Typical tourist photo. --->
Okay, so part two goes like this...
I wake up and make just as much noise and turn on all the lights to give a little bit of payback for what happened a few hours before. I then gear up and get some breakfast. After eating a little bit I head for the island to where I will meet up with the girls for the shoot. While wandering around to kill some time before I have to meet up with the girls, I discover a Dunkin Donuts that offers free WiFi, so I will be able to later go back and use my phone to get on the web and check my email as well as make a few phone calls.
When I get back to the place where we were meeting, I discover one of the girls is there waiting on me. We get together and walk around and chat some while waiting for the other girl to meet us. She got confused on the place we were meeting, so she was a little late, but it's okay, I was on vacation, right? We all board a ferry and head over from Nassau to Paradise Island.
The rest of the group that I came with were doing their own things. Stephanie and Will were wandering and shopping while Andy was sleeping off his drunken experiences from the night before. Stephanie and Will managed to wander into the middle of a protest of police brutallity, but despite it all, they got some good photos and nobody even bothered them or said that they shouldn't be there. I guess that goes to show you how much they depend and appreciate tourism. A political coo doesn't mean a tourist has anything they can't do on a normal occasion...haha I later even saw the SWAT team driving around that area, but they were just as safe and unbothered as they would have been any other day of the week.
Once on P.I. we make our way to the beach and get ready to shoot. We start shooting and get some great shots right off the bat. We even hijacked a jetski on the beach to shoot on and got some great shots. One girl got the bright idea to scale a wall and shoot on the back porch of this one house overlooking the shore. I said a quick "please don't let me get arrested" prayer and we got some great shots at someone's place. A few shots (409) later, we were wrapped and headed back to Nassau.
<--- Many people told me I was incredibly lucky to have these two women with me for the day. It's so funny since I looked like such a pimp already...haha
Nassau At Night
We all managed to get back to the ship at the same time after our morning and midday activities. Andy woke up, Stephanie and Will had changed and recharged for another round, and I changed and was simmering in how great my shoot went.
We all head together to the island again off the ship since Andy insisted he was going to buy us lunch. We get through the welcome center and start walking toward Señor Frog's when Andy discovered he could rent a scooter. We didn't see him again the rest of the time spent on the island. I still went and got a burger since I wanted to just sit out in the open and enjoy the island. Stephanie and Will got a dessert that appeared to be really good. It was some chocolate and icecream something... smelled great! Just don't expect wonderful service though, cause they charge the gratuity up front, so they know they don't have to work for tips. That is why she only got like a 38 cent tip...
The three of us all walk around some more, go to Dunkin Donuts and use the WiFi to call home and just enjoy being tourists. I even found a shop called A. Baker and Sons that sold hats and bow ties and all. The lady there showed me their Panama Hats, and I really wanted one, but they didn't have any in white, only creme/beige. We also visited Effy jewelers, Del Sol, Gucci, etc.
That evening, we went back to the ship and I had an invitation to a special meet and greet for the crown and anchor society, so I went to that enjoyed some free drinks and cocktails before dinner. It was there that I personally got to meet the captain and shake his hand.
At dinner, my sister got reminded by me to ask the waiter how she could get the cook book of the food served on the ship. He went and got her one and then to do one better, he took it back to the kitchen and the head chef signed it for her and helped make her first cruise a special event with that little bit of extra service.
After dinner, Stephanie and Will and I all went back to Dunkin Donuts to make a few more calls on my world phone and they headed back to the ship. On the way back, this Chinese couple (yes, from China) was walking toward us and my sister had commented how she had seen a rat. All of a sudden, "AHHHHHHH!!!!!" the Chinese girl screeched because a rat ran right by here feet... I started laughing and then another one ran by her and she belted out another chord of the scared song.... I just wish I had that on video.
<--- Free Drinks
Cookbook signed by the head chef --->
<--- Making my trip pay for itself in the casino.
Shuffle Board! --->
Ah the day at sea!
Day 4 was basically just us floating around out in the Altantic on a slow trip back to the states. The day usually has lots of things planned for some fun in the sun type activities, but what really happened was that we had to head straight into a storm.
After getting up and wandering around for a ltitle bit, I discovered that the cold rain and high winds closed off the top sunning decks and made the crew tie down the chaise lounges. Today was going to pretty much be spent indoors. Off to the Casino Royale!
There isn't much to tell other than the casino had a raffle for lots of cool prizes and I didn't win a thing. I did, however, make out like a bandit at the roulette table. 13-Black will forever and always be my lucky fall. A lady who was playing the tables with me informed me that 13 is actually lucky in China and I had the thought that I might have to move to China to take a wife. I ended up saying that out loud and the lady suggested I see what the croupier's situation was. She was already engaged :(.
The rest of the evening was pretty much spent at some of the shows and whatnot around the ship. I also did my final shopping as the prices are always best of the last full day of the cruise.
<--- It's not a crusie if you dont eat half of your weight in foods.
Towel Animal --->
<--- This is how I would look steering a ship.
Packing the car to head home now. --->
Ah the fun we had leaving. Morning arrives and the bags are already gone from setting them out the night before. I get up, shower, get dressed, and head to eat one last time.
After breakfast, we then head to the holding area provided for us per our luggage tag colors. I had Beige so I was to exit the ship at 8:05 after holding in the Schooner Bar. Well about 8:25 rolls around and someone finally comes to get us. The guy explains that something out of their control was the reason for the holdup and they apologize though it really isn't their fault.
We head off the ship, down a hall and on to Customs. The lines are relatively short and people seem to basically be walking through it. It comes my turn and I had my declaration to the officer and show him my passport. He looks at me, smiles and says have a good day...
I figure something that Customs did caused the holdup and they were just trying to make up for it while letting people get through quickly. This pleased me and I headed to the luggage room. Will stands at the entrance where the luggage spits out and makes sure he gets his before anyone else can even see it. After laughing at that and watching him come back with his luggage, two of my pieces show up. My two suitcases are side by side and I pick them up, buckle them together and wait for my garment bag to arrive.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, about 15-20 minutes later, it still isn't here and I've seen the same red Marlboro bag come by three times already. I give up and head toward the exit where I meet up with the lost baggage lady. Here is where the story gets really fun. As I am explaining my garment bag is tannish, brownish, with like a darker green trim (I was way off!) there is a guy beside me yelling at the other lady behind the desk. She was just as nice as she could be, but he insisted she had an attitude and was really just making a scene for no reason. The lady finally yelled at him that she didn't have an attitude and that maybe her supervisor could help because she wasn't going to anymore.
After filling out all the paperwork, the lady helping me said "Let's just walk back here to the other area in case it got misplaced over there." The other area was the Non-U.S. Citizen area. I could tell she was just doing that for the reason that it couldn't be said she didn't try everything. Well what do you know... there it is! I think she was more surpised than I was, but hey, my suit and all would be leaving with me. She also then informed me that my bag was Olive with Khaki trim. I felt retarded for not knowing what my own bag looked like, but put in the same situation, I give you the challenge to properly describe your luggage if it isn't a solid color.
Anyway, elated, we tear up the lost luggage form and I head for the door. At this point Stephanie and Will have already made their way to the car. When I emerge from the back area to the front again, a Sheriff's Deputy was now beside the yelling cruiser and unbuckling his handcuffs and gun holster. I left before it all went down, but I'm about 78% sure he got arrested since he screamed he wasn't leaving without his lost camera.
As I get near the elevator at the parking garage, I notice a long line. Fortunately for me, Stephanie and Will are near the front and I just make my way to them. We get on the elevator and pack in about 9 of us with all of our luggage. Everyone pushes for 3, 4, and 5 but the elevator stops at 2. DING! The doors open and this guy looks in as we are all crammed with no room. He wants to go down, but we are all going up. As the door starts to shut, he litterally runs head first toward the elevator and it almost pinches his head as the closing doors eject him from the elevator doorway. Everyone in the elevator erupts into laugher as nobody can believe what was just witnessed. It was truly amazing how odd that way.
We get off the elevator, pack the car as I take one last picture and we all hop in. A few moments later, the GPS finds a signal, we find the expressway and head toward the house. The trip is now offically over.
<--- Turtle Bread
Towel Bunny Thing --->
The trip was overall a good one for me. There were some bad parts, but there were also some great parts. I always love travelling, but next time I will make sure to leave the alcoholic morons at home. It's hard to buy that he wasn't TRYING to ruin my trip, but it happens I guess. Next travel partner will either be with someone that I am with, as that seems to usually end well, or I can even book a room by myself if I have to.
I was a little dissappointed by all the rain we had, but it wasn't so bad that planned activities and even the spontaneous ones couldn't be had. My sister got to snorkel, I got to do my photo shoot, and Andy got to get drunk and charge $915.00 to his room credit.
I didn't get to go to the Cloisters or the Queen's Staircase, but I am sure I will be back before too long and I'll get to do that. I at least was able to do some more wandering and visit the Pompey Museum of Slavery & Emancipation. The museum wasn't terribly big, but the people were very nice, it only cost $3.00 and it was very interesting. We came across it trying to get out of the rain and I am glad we did. We learned that America only counted for like 4.7% of all the slavery... hmm... They told it how it was and I would lend my recommendation to it.
So for now I say Happy Sailing and I'll see you next trip!