My First Cruise Journal
A bit of Sun in the middle of the cold winter
My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary almost four years ago. Our three daughters gave us a tremendous gift! They sent us on a 10 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. We'd been dreaming of a cruise for the last several years, but just couldn't get the funds together, but the girls made it possible (and God provided our spending money so we actually got to do some fun stuff while we were gone!)
On Tuesday, January 11, 2011 we boarded the Norwegian Gem. We set sail about 4:30 p.m. and passed the Statue of Liberty just after dark. I insisted on standing out on the front of the ship until we got past her. I was FREEZING!! A huge storm hit New York just after we left, and the wind was already whipping.
We returned to New York on January 21, just one day after another huge storm covered the Northeast. So we missed out on a couple of big snow storms here in our Northeast/Midwest home. The weather was beautiful. This was one of the most (if not THE most) relaxing vacations we've ever experienced. In fact, we're already dreaming about the next one!
So read on and take in some of the pictures! Enjoy!
There are a lot of pictures below. If you see white space, hold up for just a moment, a picture will be there shortly.
Day One - Setting Sail
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
To make sure we arrived in plenty of time, we'd taken a flight on Monday and stayed in a hotel Monday evening near La Guardia. So on Tuesday morning we took a car from the hotel to the dock. The driver was really good, and Steve decided he was glad he didn't have to drive in the city.
We arrived just a little after Noon, and since boarding was delayed till 12:30 p.m., our timing was perfect. (Originally we were supposed to have been able to begin boarding at Noon. We later were told it had been pushed back until 1 p.m., but the first announcement we heard was that the time would be earlier than anticipated, we would be boarding at 12:30) We had a bit of a line ahead of us, but figured we didn't stand in line any longer than those who'd gotten there at 11:00 to be first in line, and since we didn't have to be checked in until 2 p.m. and the boat wouldn't leave until four, our wait was just about the best we could hope for.
We got on the ship by about 1:15 p.m., but couldn't get into our 5th Deck Stateroom until 2:30, so we scouted around a bit and had our first meal. Since only two dining rooms were open and everyone was eating at the same time, seating was difficult. We got outside seating, which on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning will be wonderful, but today, we froze.
We were able to get into our rooms by 2:30 p.m.; however, our luggage didn't get there until much later. So we dropped off our coats and did more scouting. Everything is so beautiful and elegant. I haven't decided if the wood is really highly polished mahogany or a laminate, but either way it's lovely and everything is clean, spotless in fact (except the glass flowers anchored on the balcony - and I don't know how they'd begin to get to them) .
At 4 p.m. we went up on deck to watch the New York coastline disappear. When we got up there, we noticed that the ship was still tethered to the dock (those are some big ropes) and the fuel lines were still attached. So after we checked out what we believed to be all of the decks, we went back inside to get warmed up for a while. At 4:40 Steve noticed a slight movement, so we went to the back of the ship to watch her back out. Watching the turn out of the dock was awesome. It was almost as if someone was pushing from the other side. As soon as we were almost all the way turned around, we hurried to the bow of the ship where we had a great spot in front of the "windshield." It took about 40 minutes to get down the Hudson River and past the Statue of Liberty and by this time it was dark. New York was beautiful at night. The light in the Statue of Liberty was awesome and all that we saw beyond that were the lights along the shoreline. From a distance we saw a huge building that look much like a church in the dusk. It was lovely. But when we got closer and I discovered it was right there near Lady Liberty, I am sure that was Ellis Island.
The "wind shield" didn't go all the way to the floor, so my feet and ankles were freezing. I was literally shivering. Steve had been trying to keep me warm, but that wind coming off the water was just way too cold. I can't imagine having been on the Titanic when she went down! We stopped into one of the restaurants and I had some hot chocolate and Steve had a cup of coffee.
We went back to the room to get freshened up for the evening. After a light dinner in the Blue Lagoon, we went to the late variety show. It was nice. The entertainment for the week looks pretty good. Only one or two that make me wonder why I didn't audition for a job there. "The Cat's Pajama's" were awesome. We'll probably go see them on Thursday evening. The picture to the left there is from the curtain in the Stardust Theater. It is absolutely gorgeous. I'm guessing it seats nearly 1000 with an entrance from Deck 6 and Deck 7. We entered tonight from Deck 6, because we thought the balcony was the only thing on Deck 7; however the path that way took us through the Casino (the only place you can smoke on the ship), so we'll find a different route next time we come to a show.
We came back to the room from the show and went straight to bed. We were both pretty tired from traveling all day yesterday and the standing today. Julia, our fitness motivated daughter, will be proud of us. We've only used the elevator twice, our first trip to the room and one time from the fifth floor to the twelfth when Steve's knees were bothering him. So, all the stairs added to our weariness.
We didn't take very many pictures on the first day, so keep on scrolling down. It gets better and better!
Day Two & Three - At Sea
Wednesday & Thursday, January 12 & 13
I slept pretty well on Tuesday evening, but had to get up several times during the night to look out the porthole, which is actually a very nice sized window. The magnificence of the waves never ceases to put me in awe of our Creator, and I couldn't resist looking at them. They probably reached 20 to 30 feet high about 2 p.m. The boat rocked all night, but we didn't seem to get sea sick, so I think we'll be all right.
I wrote that last paragraph in the morning before I went to breakfast . . . But you can get a little idea of the waves in the picture on the right . . .
Well, I was wrong. Steve is sea sick. We put some of the medicine on behind his ears and now he's sleeping. He'll wake up soon. Hopefully, rested and ready to go. Fortunately, it's still a bit chilly to go out on deck, so I read some my book (I'm reading the "Circle Trilogy" by Ted Dekker) and did a little writing, because tomorrow it should be a warm day at sea!
That's a picture of me outside on Wednesday. It's definitely warmer than home, but still a little cold to be running around in my shorts.
and that paragraph was before lunch . . .
Steve slept all day, and he's still not feeling really well tonight. We went Italian for dinner. Not bad, but worth an extra $10 per person? Not sure. Norwegian has "specialty restaurants" that have a cover charge over and above your cruise fee. We had planned to check out the Steakhouse one night, but we're giving that a second thought.
The show in the Stardust tonight was OK. "Improv Comedy - Chicago something." They said a lot of Saturday Night Live stars started there, and that makes sense. Their comedy was very Saturday Nigh Liveish . . . Some Think it's very funny, but not that much to me.
Came back to the room to find a "shark" (I think) on the bed . . . the towel was folded like some kind of animal - very cute!
Went to sleep very early. Slept well and when I woke in the middle of the night, I could tell the seas had calmed.
On Thursday we slept in . . .
After breakfast we did some line dancing in the Spinaker lounge. That was fun! Then we spent some time lying in the 70 degree weather. The Sun was still behind the clouds, but it feels very nice out. We relaxed most of the day, just hanging out on the front deck on these huge wicker chairs. Nothing but sea in front of us. It is the "Quiet Deck," so it's the perfect place to relax and read.
By this time the ocean was beginning to look a bit bluer than home. I can't believe we didn't take any pictures of these chairs! They are about six feet in diameter with a high back. Two fit comfortably. Perfect for us!
Steve snapped this picture of the two of us while we were on the deck relaxing. Not too bad considering he just held his arm out and pushed the button!
We got dressed up for dinner and ate in the Grand Pacific. We arrived early for our reservation, so we took a "stroll" around the Promenade Deck. Even though it was dark already, the stars were out, the moon was bright and the air was warm. We're definitely heading into the tropics. The dining room was very elegant. 2 huge staircases down into it. After dinner we went to the Theatre for the show. It was the best one so far. A "Gem Production" called Colorz with a lot of singing and dancing with costume changes every song or two. The Gem production crew includes 12 "kids" (ages 25-35), 8 are dancers and 4 are singers. Plus, they have a great "stage band" that played from the balcony. The entire show was phenomenal.
We ended the evening listening to a "Not-so Country" Band called Kenosis play country music. They did a great job, but you could tell they weren't country at heart (as was also evident of the crew who helped with the line dancing); however, it was fun. I danced about four line dances (by myself - Steve's joints hurt too bad this morning when we line danced), and after a final walk around the pool and upper deck, we called it a night!
Tonight we found this adorable rabbit (or is it a dog) on our bed!
Day Four -San Juan, Puerto Rico
Friday, January 14, 2011
Finally, the sun!!! It must have been in the 80's today. We spent the morning on the deck in the sun (and the redness on our skin shows it). The boat docked in San Juan about 3 p.m. and by 4 we were able to go on shore. We weren't too impressed with San Juan.
We were only in the old part of San Juan, but it was kind of dirty and Steve said it smelled. Our goal for the day was to go to the ruins we could see from the ship. We had no idea what it was when we left, but it wasn't difficult to find.
The ruins were Castillo San Cristobal, a fort built partly by Ponce De Leon and finished by the US Army during WWII. It was fascinating and huge. Plus it had a tremendous view of the southern part of the islet and the Atlantic south of the city. Lots of pictures today!
We saw a family of iquana at the fort. They were huge! Plus we could see the ocean, it was so blue, as well as new San Juan.
San Juan celebrated the festival of San Sebastian while we were there. We headed back to the ship before the festivities began. Dinner at the Magenta (my first taste of Coq au vin) and the lamest magician we've ever seen completed the evening. We found a swan towel design on our bed when we got back to the room. But nothing beat the sun!
Day Five - Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Saturday, January 15, 2011
I woke up early today to watch us pull into port. We arrived in Charlotte Amalie about 8 a.m. And after breakfast we went into St. Thomas. We rode a skyride up to the top of the hill and then climbed a walking path even higher. It is absolutely beautiful. The water is so blue, but sort of aqua. Sailboats dot the harbor and the houses and businesses are lovely. Such a contrast to San Juan. We bought most of our "souveneirs" today. Lots of Jewelry and a couple of shirts.
The scenery at the top of the hill was beautiful! Flowers we'd never seen before, a zebra striped butterfly, a tree that grew some kind of nut that we never did figure out what it was. It was all so beautiful. And we had a lot of privacy up on the hill. I think most of the ship's tourists had come earlier with an excursion.
After we got back from town, Steve went to the hot tub (I went back to finish spending money). Then Steve watched the Steelers just barely beat the Baltimore Ravens. A quick dinner and then the best show on the boat so far. The Cats Pajamas are not only a talented Vocal Band, they also are great entertainers. We got back to the room a bit early because we have to get up early tomorrow for snorkeling. A little disappointed that we won't be having church anywhere.
Day Six - Antigua
Sunday, January 16, 2011
St. Johns, Antigua
We got up early this morning to go on an excursion. Left the boat about 8:30 a.m. and headed for the west side of the island by taxibus. Saw a somewhat impoverished island and thanks to the driver, we learned much about the island. We were surprised to learn that slavery existed an Antigua less than 35 years ago. And until that bus ride, I didn't realize that Antigua is pronounced without the "u" by Antigans.
On the other side of the Island, however, we encountered a beautiful bay with small islands. Antigua Paddles is a family owned company with a tremendous guide. We started by taking a speed boat with about 20 others to a dock in the middle of several islands. Then we kayaked for about 40-50 minutes (no watch, so no idea how long!) Lots of fun (and lots of sun). We saw jellyfish lying on the bottom of the ocean floor. They'd eaten and were laying upside down. They looked like flowers until the guide pointed out they were really jelly fish. Then we could see them "breathing." They weren't big, Maybe 6-10 inches across and their tentacles didn't look long, but they were fascinating. We learned that Jelly Fish lay that way so the food they've just eaten will turn into carbon.
Further along our journey we saw an island with dozens of brown pelicans nesting. Their nests were huge and there they sat on eggs with their bills tucked down. We also got to hold a starfish. He weighed about a pound. Probably 10 inches from end to end. We learned they regenerate, so if you cut one leg off they'll grow that leg back and the missing leg (if put back in the ocean) will grow into a full star fish. He was orange - bright orange, and about 3 inches thick. I asked how long he could stay out of the water, and our guide said they will be alright for about 14 minutes.
We then road the speed boats to Bird Island. There are many rare animals on that island including a long tailed sea bird that I can't remember the name of. From there we went out to some coral reefs and Steve snorkeled. He saw brain coral and a sea cucumber as well as some beautiful fish.
Because this was our first excursion and we knew we'd be swimming, we didn't take the camera. (However, we recommend that everyone take a camera on all the excursions. They are expecting tourists! They had a place for us to leave our camera while we snorkeled, kayaked and swam. Plus a waterproof camera would have been tremendous) So pictures that you see from today are close to port or on the ship. Here are a few:
Our Antigua AdventureClick thumbnail to view full-size
After several hours we returned to the ship and relaxed. I went to line dancing classes at 4:30 p.m. while Steve napped, and we have reservations at 8 for dinner. The cute little lobster there on the left was what we found on our bed after dinner. Those are Steve's Sunglasses our stewards used!
Day Seven - St. Maarten, Netherlands, Antilles
Sunday, January 17, 2011
Phillipsburg, St. Maartens, N.A.
We slept in a bit today since we had booked an excursion that began a bit later. Left the boat about 10:30 a.m. to walk about mile to another pier where we boarded a large catamaran - the Mirabella. It will hold about 80 people, but only 24 were on this excursion.
Started out by taking the catamaran around to a cove and Steve snorkeled for about 45 minutes. After a snack, we rode around another part of the island to a beautiful beach at the end of a runway. There it was a beach and an airport, right next to each other. Planes took off every few minutes.
We climbed stairs down out of the front of the catamaran and floated in the Caribbean with floating noodles. I had a hard time getting out from under the boat! Finally, I moved over to swim on my back and got enough power to get out and head toward the beach. I got too close for a bit and the waves just kept knocking me over. But further out I was able to just ride the waves. It was wonderful! After about 45 minutes we got back in and enjoyed a nice lunch of ribs and Johnny cakes.
We got a lot of sun today. Even with Sunscreen, it looks like we both got too much sun.
We ate dinner in the Grand Pacific dining room. It was really nice. And we were exhausted!
Our St. Maarten GalleryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Day Eight - Tortolla
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Roadside, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Today we slept in and then walked into town to do a little shopping and look around. Tortola looks a lot like the other islands we've visited and the couple of shops that had lovely locally made items were a bit too high for our budget, worth what they were asking; however, expensive. I'm really burnt. Got way too much sun yesterday. We spent the day laying around and relaxing in the sun since we'll only be able to enjoy it for a short time.
Photos from TortollaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Steve tried the Rock Climbing Wall later in the day. He made it all the way to the top! Had a blast!
Elvy Rose was the evening entertainment. We weren't very impressed. Obviously many weren't because quite a few left about way through the show.
Day Nine & Ten
Wednesday & Thursday, January 19 & 20
Slept in today since we didn't have to be anywhere. After breakfast at the Blue Lagoon we went up to the 14th deck and sat in the sun for a couple of hours. I went down to get our books after a bit. While I was out, I got permission to play the grand in the Grand Pacific. It was nice to be able to play.
After lunch, I took a nap while Steve walked a couple of miles around the deck
After dinner we went to the show. The Gem Production crew have been three of the best shows they've had all week. Only the Cat's Pajamas were really any better.
It was 75 all day today. Absolutely wonderful. Even this evening. It was raining, but still kind of warm when we walked up on the 12th deck. There was no one in the pools and only two people in one of the four hot tubs, so we came back down and changed and took over one of the hot tubs.
We left the hot tubs just in time to go to the chocolate buffet. The chocolate sculptures were beautiful. Better than the chocolate. I had some. Most wasn't that impressive. But it was lovely.
Our final picturesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Thursday was my birthday. The morning was still warm, but by lunchtime it was starting to be cool. We had a nice lazy day and explored a lot of the ship we hadn't been in too much throughout the week. We sat in some of the lounges and just relaxed. We finished the day with dinner at the Grand Pacific. They brought me a cake!
The final variety show was wonderful. Once again, the Gem Production Cast did a great job and the evening ended with Bud Anderson, one of the best comedians I've ever seen.
And on Friday morning when we awoke, we were heading toward the Hudson . . .