Friday, March 16, 2012

The Grand Cayman Islands

Welcome to my post about the Grand Cayman Islands.  In the previous posts that I wrote Cody complained that I wrote too much, and that it was too long to read through it.  Well... I'll try to keep this one shorter, but I can't promise you anything!

 


The Grand Cayman's was the first port that we went to.  Cody and I really didn't have much planned for the island so we didn't wake up super early to go onto the island.  Our ship had to be tendered to the port.  This means that the Grand Cayman harbor is too shallow for cruise ships to pull up next to and dock at so they have to bring little ships in to ferry people to and from the island.  Carnival pays for these tender boats... not us!  Yippee!  Here is a picture of the ship from our tender.  This tender was a short distance from our ship... it only took about 5 minutes to get to shore, and since we arrived a little later we didn't have to wait in line to get into a tender boat.  We literally walked right onto it, and off it went a minute later when it got full.



Isn't this an awesome picture??  This picture was in the "Cody is complaining about pictures stage"  he really didn't want to stop and take it, but I liked it!!  Once we got into the Grand Cayman's people were everywhere advertising different excursion that you could go on.  One group advertised a $15 tour of the island.  We liked that idea and we ended up going on it.



But first we explored the area a little bit.  From the tender we saw a Margaritaville and a Hard Rock and we wanted to get pictures at them.  I've noticed that it seems pretty common that wherever there is a Hard Rock a Margaritaville is pretty close by, or at least its that way in the US and the Caribbean.  I can't say the same for Europe.



Here is Cody by the Margaritaville Parrot.  I think Margaritaville was the only store that we went into that had their items priced in Grand Cayman currency every other store we went to was priced in US dollars.  We didn't have to worry about exchanging our money for the local currency at any point in our trip.  US dollars were always accepted.  And I never received change in any other currency either.  It seemed like there were TONS of chains here.  They had all of the usual fast food restaurants that you would expect to see in a US city.... except that they did not have a McDonald's.



Here we both are!  We walked around to quite a bit of shops in this area.  There were quite a few souvenir shops, but there were a ton of higher end stores there as well.  I guess this is because they expect people coming off of the cruise ships to have money to buy expensive things!  But then again I guess tourism is their primary industry there so it would make sense to have shops like that.



And here I am at the Hard Rock Cafe!  Yippee!!  Another one off my list.




Here is the view of it from the other side.


This picture took so much effort to get that I can't help but post it.  The sidewalks in this area were very narrow and you can see the wall behind us.  I wanted a good picture of our ship with us in the background, and this was our first opportunity to get it.  Well the guy taking our picture actually had to step out onto the road to take the picture.  I was a little bit concerned for him, because the Grand Cayman's is a British colony so people drive on the opposite side of the road there!!



I'm not sure if you can see the sign or not in this picture but gas is 5.72 a gallon in Grand Cayman money which is like $7 or $8 US dollars!!  Yikes!  I hope our gas doesn't go that high anytime soon!  Needless to say we saw a lot of people riding bicycles around!



Here is the governor's residence.  The Grand Cayman Island's is its own country so we passed the Parliament building, court house, and library.  The island itself is 22 miles long and 8 miles wide.  So the tour we went on virtually went around the entire island in a couple hours time.



This picture highlights the damage that was done to the area by hurricane Ivan in 2004.  You can tell that some of the trees were wiped out and that they haven't grown back yet.  I'm glad we weren't there during hurricane season!!  Yikes!



Here is a not so great shot of some of the typical houses in the area.  They are very small houses on the island, but they are extremely expensive for what you get.  A small house on the island starts at $175,000!!  For a little tiny house!  Yikes!  Good luck trying to get a house here house hunters international haha!



Here is a picture of the oldest houses on the island.  When the past hurricanes came most of the island was damaged and destroyed but this old houses didn't even have a scratch on them.  I guess things aren't built like they used to be... or maybe these two houses were built on the "right spot".



While driving around it is common to see metal wrapped around trees throughout the island.  Why you might ask??  Is it to help stabilize them from hurricanes or help them grow straight (which was my initial thought when I saw them)???



NOPE!  It's to keep this little guys from being able to climb up them.  Iguanas are very common in the area and we saw quite a few of them.  They are like our squirrels there.



Here is a closer up shot.  Cody took this picture by the way.  He was excited about seeing the iguana.



Here is a picture of the 7 mile beach.  We didn't get to stop there our tour only drove by it, and I took a quick picture...




We might not have stopped at the beach but we sure did stop at Hell!


 


Here are the rock formations!  Sure looks like Hell right??  I guess there was a man from Britain hunting one day and he tried to shot a bird and he missed it and he said ahhh hell.  Then he looked around and was like wow this place really does look like Hell.  And so the area was named.  It consists of three tiny gift shops and a post office.  You can buy two postcards for a $1 and then mail them out for $.25 a piece.  They didn't have any postcards of the rocks when we were there though!!  I was totally excited about sending my parents postcards from hell haha.



Here is another stupid long shot.  I don't care if my shoes are in the picture people!!!  You can't even see the rocks in this one!!


Good thing I check my pictures after someone takes them for me and I knew I had to get a better picture of us.  Our guide told us that the entire Grand Cayman Islands used to be underwater and the formations of the rock that you see now is a dried up coral reef.



When you look at it from this angle you can see how it could have once been a coral reef.  It's pretty original though. I've never seen anything really like it before.



However, when you walk out into the front of the area... this is what you see.  If that's hell... I feel like I'm alright with that haha.


 
Here is the store where we stopped to try Rum Cakes!  Rum cakes are pretty good.  In the ones that we tried you could barely taste any rum.  It was basically just a really moist sweet tasting cake.  I ended up buying a pack of 6 mini rum cakes that I brought home.  I gave some to Cody and I'm planning on giving the rest to my mom and dad.




Here we are on the porch outside of the shop.

 


Isn't the view so pretty??  Everywhere we went was like the perfect place to take a picture!

 


Here we are on the beach.  If the beach wasn't in the background it kind of looks similar to Hell doesn't it???

 


Like I said before... if this is Hell... I guess I'll take it haha.

 


There was a group of two women on this tour that were taking all of these pictures for us.  We were each others unofficial photographers.  It was funny every place that I wanted a picture at they were like ohhh this is a great place for a picture!  Haha so they ended up taking a picture with this sign too.

 


Our tour went around the island and it stopped at different places for a while.  We stopped in Hell for about 10 minutes.  Then we were at the Rum Cake place for about 20 minutes, and then we stopped in this area for a half an hour.  This was the place where you could get an excursion to swim and play with the dolphins. We were able to go in free and watch the people playing with dolphins and the dolphins doing tricks, or we were able to go across the street to a turtle farm and play with the turtles.  It cost $10 a person to go see the turtles and we only had a half an hour so we didn't think it was worth going to it.  We ended up just walking around and going to the different shops.  I ended up buying a turtle necklace here for my mom.

 

 
We went over by the water and Cody goes "Oh my god!  Look at the size of those spiders!!"  So I look over and I go... "Those are crabs dear"  and I couldn't help but laugh.




Here is a zoomed in picture of them.  They really blended in a lot into the actual rock area, but this rock was a different color than the others so you can see them.  Everywhere else you really had to look hard to see them.  If they didn't move you probably wouldn't have known they were there.

 

The waves kept hitting this rock and the water would wash over the crabs.  We kept watching to see if the crabs would get washed away, but apparently they have a pretty good grip.  They were always still there after the wave had surpassed.

 


Like I said before houses are expensive here.  These houses start at 2.9 million dollars!!  And there were tons and tons of houses like this, and I'm sure that a lot of them were even more expensive than that!

 


In this picture you can kind of see the four cruise ships in the port.  The Grand Cayman's definitely depends on tourism.  We had a pretty good time in the Grand Cayman's and I'm glad that we went on our little tour.  I would have liked to have swam with the string rays there which is what the Grand Cayman's is known for, but overall I'm happy with what we did.  It was fun to get to see all of the different areas of the island.  This was a fun place for us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Our First Cruise!

Welcome to my blog!!  Cody and I went on our first cruise on March 4th through March 11th!!  It was an unique experience for both of us.  We really weren't sure what to expect on the ship.  But overall we had a lot of fun.  We were on the cruise for 7 days so there is a lot to talk about!!  We visited four ports and were on the ship a lot.  Therefore, I decided to split my blog up.  I already wrote a blog about the ship we were on in general and all the different areas of the ship.  Here I am going to write about our experiences on the ship, and then I am going to write a blog for each port that we went to.  I thought this was a better idea than trying to write one MASSIVE post.  Because trust me... I have a feeling each post is going to be long by themselves!!



Here we are in Tampa after Cody's aunt dropped us off at port.  Before she dropped us off she took us to a Wynn Dixie grocery store to pick up some drinks for the cruise.  All of the drinks you buy have to be in your carry on... so you can see Cody rearranging things here!!  It's a good thing we weren't trying to smuggle in alcohol because they checked each and every one of our bottles to make sure that they were sealed and didn't have alcohol in them.  We were going to have lunch with Cody's aunt but due to a snow delay in Ohio our plane got in a little late... so we ended up heading right onto our ship.  A couple things I didn't realize ahead of time... they told us we could board between 12:30 and 2:30 and then the ship sailed at 4.  Well I thought that we could get on the ship anytime before 4... but this was not the case!!  We had our safety drill at 3!!  Had we been late I don't know if we would have gotten on!  Also we HAD to have our passports to get onto the ship.  This was a little bit misleading because I had read that if you sail out of and then back into the same US port you don't have to have a passport.  Cody got his passport just for the heck of it... BUT in order to even get on the ship you needed it!!!  We had to go through a security check to get onto the ship and if we wouldn't have had it they probably wouldn't have let us on!  ALSO we needed it to go through customs after we got off the ship!  They need to be more clear on that.



Here is the first picture we took of ourselves when we got in the ship.  First we went to our room (if you'd like to see our room please check my other post) and then we went to explore the ship.  We are on the 10th floor in this picture.  You can also see the other cruise ships that are loading their passengers in the background.  For the first couple of days we sailed side by side with a Celebrity cruise line ship.


Here we are waiting in line for dinner the first night.  We had about a 10 or 15 minute wait for dinner that night, because we choose anytime dining.  I was a little bit worried that we were going to have to wait for dinner every night, but it turned out that first night was the only time we really had to wait for any length of time.




Here we are at our dinner table in Truffles.  That night we choose to sit with two other women to eat dinner with, but we never shared a table with anyone again.  It was really rocky in Truffles restaurant!!  You could really feel the boat moving there.  It was really bad the first and fourth night. 



House keeping came into our room twice a day.  First during the day they would clean up our room, and then at night they would pull our sheets down and leave us a day planner for the next day and a towel animal!  The Fun Times listed all the activities and information that you needed to know for the next day.  It also had an area that you could rip off that had all of the times and locations listed so that you could carry it around in your pocket.




Here is our first towel animal!  I thought they were so cute so I took a picture of all of them.  This is our rabbit.



On the second night we found this guy hanging up like that!!  I thought the monkey was too cool.




The next night we found a swan in our room.  I was a little bit disappointed, because on another night on our cruise we had another swan animal.  Or we got a duplicate.  I was hoping for a new animal.  We got five towel animals all together, because on two of the nights we went to bed early or before our guy could come into our room for the night.




Here is our last towel shape.  It's a heart!  Isn't it sweet.  On the last day at sea they had a towel folding class and a book on how to make all the towel animals for sale.  I really wish that I would have gone to the class because I think it is really cool.  It would have been fun to make towel animals... maybe next time I go on a cruise I'll look into it.



The casino!!  We did not do so great in the casino... and I don't think anyone really did.  The only luck that I had was with this machine.



This is the game where the quarters hang on the edge and you throw another quarter in to try to push the other ones off the ledge.  Well... Cody and I were walking by this machine and I stopped at it.  I sat down and I was like... hrmm should I play??  Then the ship rocked and about $7 worth of quarters dropped.  I was like yippeee!!  Looks like I am going to play. 


As you can see there are some chips and key chains in the machine.  We ended up winning a free drink, a t-shirt, and a key chain... along with walking away with about $7 in quarters!  If only I had stopped there... haha.  You can't see it in this picture but they also had $25 in singles bundled together that you could win.  There was one machine that had the bundle really close to the edge.  But can you see on the right hand side there is a little lip there... well the bills pretty much got stuck under that.  SO many people were playing and trying to win... but as we were leaving the ship we had to walk through the casino and I looked at that machine and the $25 was still there... no one had won it.  I gave back my $7 and put another $10 in trying to win.  Other people were spending money like crazy trying to win.



Here we are on the first formal night!!  I'm so proud that I was able to wear this dress!  It was itchy though, because of the bottom... so I actually took it off after dinner.  But I was still happy!!



Oh this was the lobster night too!!  I don't even know why Cody was looking at the menu.  We already knew what we were going to get from the moment we walked into the room.  Lobster and jumbo tiger shrimp please!!



Here I am waiting for our waiter to take our order!



And here are the two lobsters that I ate!!  Cody had two as well.  They were really good!!  And so were the shrimp.  I think that was probably my favorite dinner night.  After we ate our first dinner we asked our waiter if we could have another lobster each.  He brought us out another whole dinner!!  I was so stuffed I couldn't even eat my last bite of lobster!  Don't worry it didn't go to waste.  Cody was all about snatching it up!



Good eating!!  I'm glad that our lobsters came out tasting good.  It appeared that the kitchen made up all of the plates of food at the same time, and then just heated up the food to give to us.  Because at other times during the cruise we asked for just an additional part of the dinner and they brought us out the whole dinner.  I felt bad in those cases because I ended up wasting a lot of food.  But not this night though!!  I did feel guilty a couple of nights and I couldn't eat my food.  This happens to be a lot when I eat shrimp, mahi mahi, or apparently snails.  I feel bad eating dolphin!  I've heard that mahi mahi is really good... but I look at it and I think of Flipper and I just don't have the stomach to eat it.  This happened to me on the cruise when I was trying to eat a luke warm shrimp and snails!!  I like hot shrimp, but for some reason warm or cold shrimp are starting to make me feel bad and I just don't have the stomach for them anymore. :(  which sucks because I love shrimp!!  Stupid Shark Tales... I wish I'd have never seen that movie!!



I hate it when I ask someone to take a picture for me and they take it the long ways. 
This is a perfectly good picture...  too bad that you have to turn your head sideways to see it.  I wish I knew how to rotate it on here, but I can't figure it out.  Some of my pictures below automatically rotated.  I don't know why this one didn't.   But anyways... this is Cody and I all dressed up in the entrance of Truffles.



This is the next day at sunset.  It was overcast a lot during our trip so we didn't really get to see any spectacular sunsets.  This was probably the best one we saw.  You can see the clouds over in the distance.  I guess a couple days before we went on our cruise a cold front/storm went through the area.  So it was in the mid 70's and 80's on our trip.  We only had one really hot and sunny day during our trip which was the day we went to Roatan.



This picture is a little bit dark, but here is Cody outside.


And here is just a picture of the sunset.  We never saw the sunrise.  We had an inside room so we never knew what time it was outside because we didn't have any sun light in our room.  So we never knew what time the sun would start to rise, and we never got up early enough to check. The sun usually set around 7 pm which was the time that we went to see the night time shows... so usually we missed it. 





Here was our favorite area!!  This is the adults only Serenity lounge!  There honestly weren't too many kids on the ship, or at least they didn't annoy me at any point.  Except when they were playing in the pools every now and then.  But we loved this area because of the soft padded chairs.  This area was soooo much more comfortable than the other other sitting areas in the ship.  We came here everyday and sat around.  I tried getting a tan but it didn't really work out too well.  My chest got burned and my legs got burned on another day but that's it.  Today my forehead is peeling really weirdly!!  Cody on the other hand burns quickly!!  The poor thing... he was a lobster a couple of times.



Here we are on the next formal night.  The first formal night was on Monday.  This formal night was on Friday.  So you can see that there are some gaps in my blog... which will be filled in with the individual ports that we went to in future blogs.



My bangs were so hard to get to stay put!!  They just wanted to move around.  I spent a long time straightening my hair and putting on my make up!  One night we went to walk outside to stand out on the deck and it was SUPER windy!  My hair instantly started blowing around.  I immediately screamed and ran inside.  On this night I told Cody we should go outside and watch the sunset... and he laughed at me and said "Pshh you're not going outside"  and I was like... ohhh yeah... that's right!  I'm not!  Haha




I wanted a picture of us on this staircase soooo badly!!  They were taking professional pictures or ones that you had to buy from Carnival on it all week so I was worried I wouldn't get a picture on it, but luckily this night I did!!  Yippee!!




Here we are heading to the late night shows.  This night I did wear my dress around for the night.  Cody was upset because I was getting glitter all over him haha.




Here we are in front of the fancy elevators.  There were some elevators that were made out of glass that you could view the ship as you went up.  You can see on in the background of this picture.




I couldn't resist... every time we walked by I had to stop and get a picture on the staircases!!  Cody truly was a trooper!  He only complained/whinnied about the pictures a little bit.  There were a few times when he got mad at me for it, but I think he'll be happy that we have the pictures now!




Here is Follies!  This is where most of the big shows and entertainment was at.  This picture is from the Welcome Abroad Show which was no the first night.  We got there a little late so we were in the back on the side.  Our ship director, Kirk, talked during the show.  He was the guy that coordinated all of the activities on the ship, and he was on the morning show that played on our tvs.  Anyways, back to the welcome abroad show.  Kirk says ok I need all of the married guys to stand up.  So all the guys stand up, and he says ok you can sit down as I go through these questions.  Guys you'll know when your out is.  So first he goes... "if you love your wife more than anything stay standing".  Half the guys sat down.  Then he goes "if you love your wife more than anything and you'll do anything for her stay standing"... more guys sat down.  The next question was like "if you love your wife more than anything and you'll do anything for her stay standing and you're willing to have everyone on this ship know who are you stay standing."  At this point a couple guys tried to sit down and their wives wouldn't let them.  Then Kirk said, "if you love your wife more than anything and you'll do anything for her stay standing and you're willing to have everyone on this ship know who are you, and you have full mobility in your body stay standing."  At this point there were about 10 guys standing, and Kirk says congratulations you have just volunteered to act like Tarzan and profess your love to your wife to everyone on board.  All of the guys went through their Tarzan routines and we eventually voted on the guy that we thought was the best.  Meet Earl!  He got up on stage and he was just hilarious!  From the first question he answered we knew he was going to be so funny!!  Kirk asked him where he was from, and in his southern accent Earl goes "from right back there."  It was so funny!!  Then throughout the whole thing he was just cracking up the room. Kirk had him repeat after him to profess his love to his wife.  So one line Kirk goes "I love my wife Rosie more than anything"  And Earl goes "Oh really?  Me too!"  Then then next line was "and I'll do anything for her."  And Earl goes "And he'll do anything for ya."  Everyone was cracking up. He was so quick and automatic with his responses it was just great.  He was the instant celebrity after that and everyone loved Earl.  He went on the morning show on both Wednesday and Saturday.  The show was only on 3 days.  Monday, Wednesday and Saturday... and it was Kirk and the assistant director, a girl named Jamie, talking about different stuff on the ship.  People were able to call in to talk to Earl and he was around places taking pictures with people.  The last night we walked past him and I wanted to get a picture with him and his wife but they were distracted and I felt awkward sticking around to ask for a picture.  But Earl was great!!


Speaking of pictures here is one of the 10 pictures that Cody took on our trip.  This was the last night in Follies.  We watched the Big Easy Show.  It was supposed to have been performed the night before, but for some reason it got canceled.  They had one of the singers for the show get up on stage and sing some songs.  He described the life on the ship saying that people work on 6 to 9 month contracts at a time and that they don't get to see people from home, and that they miss birthdays and other stuff like that.  Then he started singing the song Home by Blake Shelton, and I felt really bad for all of the crew.  It was a depressing song and I felt bad that all of these kids were stuck on the ship all the time.  He kept singing songs like that.... and everyone in the show was like... ehhh... ok...  it was pretty terrible honestly.  After a half an hour or so the cruise director got onto stage and started reading a list of the top ten stupid questions guests ask to crew members.  You know you're in a pinch when you get on stage and start reading lists like that to your guests.  That is like the cardinal sin of working in Guest Services.  You are never supposed to make fun of other guests in front of guests!!  I was pretty surprised by it.  The next night they showed the Big Easy Show which was supposed to have played that night... and it was just excellent!!  It was so much fun and it was just great.  It was one of my favorite shows!!  Also there was a guy named Marcus Anthony ... not to be confused with Marc Anthony...  he was an older man that was so energetic and exciting.  He sang mo-town songs.  We liked his show so much that we went back to the second show that night.  It wasn't so great the second time around because we already knew what was coming...  but it was good fun though.  We really liked the shows.  Later on that night another show played which was called the Carnival Legends where people from the cruise ship got up and sang songs from legends... like Madonna, Elvis, Elton John, Brittney Spears... and etc...  The one comedian was like yeah it's like them saying "Yeah we're out of shit what do you got?"  It was pretty funny!!  We loved the comedy shows.  We went to them every night.  The first couple of nights they had two women that rotated shows, and then the last nights they had two guys that rotated shows.  One guy was a ventriloquist and I think he was my favorite!!  He was super funny!!!



Overall I think that we really enjoyed our cruise.  It was so relaxing and peaceful.  Without Internet or phones or any real problems... we just laid around on the deck and relaxed everyday.  When we were in the ports we walked around and had fun.  Cruising is very convenient because you don't have to worry about going somewhere for dinner, and after about 5 pm there is a ton of good entertainment on the ship.  I don't know if it would be the only way I would ever vacation in the future... but I will probably go on another cruise at some point.  I would like to go to the eastern Caribbean, but it will probably be a while before we do that.  Cruising is pretty expensive, and there are a lot of other places that I would go to first before I went back on a cruise again.  It definitely wasn't bad... anyone that tells you a nice week long vacation in the Caribbean wasn't good is a spoiled brat...  but I wouldn't say that it's the only way to travel either.  On the whole it was really good and I loved spending so much time with Cody. We were together constantly and I'm so glad that we were on the cruise together.  It's definitely not the place for a single person.  Cruises are very couple oriented... I think we were a little young to cruise right now.  It seems like it is more aimed at married couples, but I'm still glad that we did it.  It was a great spring break!!