Travel

Musings on our past and future wanderings.

Enchantment of the Seas – Day 5

Originally published October 20th on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards.

Friday, October 20

Since our departure time was slated for 9:10am, I set my alarm for 7. We were awake before that though, because at 2am I realized I packed my keys into the big suitcase that I left out last night and what if the bag doesn’t make it to Philadelphia and my keys aren’t there and how will I get home and I don’t want to call my husband and say the keys are lost and .. and … and… That kind of put a damper on my sleep quality for the rest of the night. At 6:30 Mom and I sat in the dark in our cabin as we glided by Miami’s pink and blue lights and docked for the last time of our cruise. SIGH.

Welcome back to Miami. Here’s your view now. Get out.


Mom went up to the Windjammer to get a table (good plan, it was crowded) and I went to pick up my photo DVD and get boarding passes printed out.

When I got up to the Windjammer it was bedlam. As God is my witness it was like nobody was going to EVER eat again. People were running and grabbing and stacking plates high with food. It’s a freaking hashbrown, people – they sell them at McDonald’s. Get a grip. Of course with all of the chaos, people were spilling things left and right and the floor was dive-bar-level sticky. Mom had her usual gluten-free grub. Two truths and a lie: To fit in I had 3 pieces of that sweet bread, 5 pieces of chocolate covered banana and did a keg stand at the orange juice dispenser.

This one’s for you, Mom.


After that we walked the pool deck one last time. We went to the Spotlight Lounge at 9:00 and at 9:10 we were processed off of the ship and into the terminal. Something happened with Customs and we waited an extra 30 minutes before being able to get downstairs to the baggage carousels. I found the bags without a problem, and we got into the other line to be cleared by the Customs agent. Which made us late for the shuttle from the port to Ft. Lauderdale airport, but gave me time to feel through my bag and find my keys. All of the fruit that people collected during the morning’s breakfastpocolypse ended up abandoned.

The ground transportation area of the terminal was loud and crowded and chaotic. We ended up on the 10:30 Miami Port Express shuttle. Major props to them, because they kept in touch with me though all the delays. The FLL -> MCO -> PHL flights went without a hitch, and on the flight I typed out Day 4’s blog post and scrolled through pictures. Sadly. Wistfully.

Got back to PHL, found our bags, shoved onto the Economy Parking shuttle, got to the car (oh crap I only have 1/8 tank gas left thanks Past Kim for leaving me this mess), stopped at the nearest gas station (Wawa, and this Jersey girl DOES pump gas when she has to), headed back to Jersey, dropped off Mom, went home. Reunited with husband, hopped on the sofa with my two snorfly spaniels, fell asleep.

Day 5: B-. Points off for being told we had to get off of the ship.

Enchantment of the Seas – Day 4

Originally published October 20th on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards.

Thursday, October 19

Day 4: I woke up on my own at 7am, which is good because we had to clear immigration at 9:30. It would have been 11:15 based on our muster station, but since we had an 11am excursion, we got to leave earlier. We got dressed and headed to our beloved windjammer for breakfast. Mom got her usual gluten free grub, I got “fruit” (chocolate covered bananas), some sweet bread with berries in it and sugar on top, a grilled tomato (good and I think something I can do at home), carved ham (apologies to yesterday’s pig) and coffee. And mimosas, of course. After that we took our second cups of coffee to the pool area to watch us dock at Key West.

Sunset Key at Key West. I can’t afford to stay there.


We went to MDR at 9:30, and were trooped up the stairs, across the ship to the theater, and down those stairs. Our group was puzzled, but compliant. The very nice agent looked at our documents and cleared us to leave the ship. (background music: Neil Diamond’s “America”)

I chose the Conch Train Tour for our excursion because it was hop-on, hop-off and that was an easy way to get Mom around town. Plus, it looks like a cute little train! What I didn’t realize (I probably should have researched it more instead of gazing lovingly at port webcams) was that there is a 50 minute tour ride between Stop A and Stop B, AND that Stop B was only a few blocks away from Stop A. We were driven right by the Southernmost point buoy without the opportunity to hop off.

We hopped off at B and decided to walk down Duval Street in the 85+ degree weather to the Southernmost point buoy and then walk back to Train stop C to continue on. YES my mother is still walking slowly with a cane, NO I didn’t think this out, and YES I stink at map skills.

Conch fritters


My first stop was at a shack that claimed to have Best Conch Fritters. I had a 3-piece and I can verify that they are the best conch fritters I ever had. We meandered down Duval Street into and out of shops. Sloppy Joe’s was full, so I mugged at the Duval Street webcam instead. My productivity is going to improve 100% once I get back to work because my second monitor will no longer have 5 webcam feeds running on it all day long. We saw the oldest (still-standing) house in Key West. I squeed at the Margaritaville restaurant but we didn’t eat there because I was full of chocolate covered bananas and conch fritters. Instead, I bought a shirt with a parrot and “it’s 5:00 somewhere – Key West” on it because I excel at being a tourist. After about an hour of walking, I brought up Google Maps and had my expectations reset as to how quickly we’d get to the buoy. It was literally closer to go back to Stop B and ride down to Stop C. We turned around and walked back, hopped back on the train and rode to Stop C at Truman and Duval Streets, which was still a good 5 blocks away from the buoy. GOTTA GET THAT PICTURE!

ACHIEVEMENT!


Wouldn’t you know, that the buoy was repainted yesterday (Wednesday) because of the damage it sustained from Hurricane Irma? The colors are painted onto it but the words haven’t been redone yet. So we had our picture taken in front of the plain buoy. I smiled for the webcam and considered the walk back to Truman/Duval. And then we saw him. Like an angel sent from above to save my mother from her daughter’s bad decisions…a young man with a pedicab. It was very hot, and I ran out of my liter bottle of water.

In the sweet shade of the pedicab.


He took us back to Mallory Square and it was a gorgeous, breezy ride. Just amazing. We tipped him well. We bought touristy things at the open-air shops (more non-magnet souvenirs for the nephew and a wooden Key West sign for me, and I don’t know where I’m going to put this thing) there and called our trip to Key West good. I didn’t have an alcoholic beverage or a slice of pie, but I loved the artsy, beachy, slightly drunken vibe there. I’d like to spend 3-4 days there in the future, drinking at sticky bars and listening to music. I’d have rather been docked at Key West until midnight instead of Nassau.

If I had to do it again (I hope I get the chance to do this again!) I would take the Trolley tour instead of the Conch Train because the trolley tour had more stops around town.

You can see Olliebear waiting for us in the middle window.


My clothes were stuck to me, so I tossed on the sundress I wore on the first day because it’s the coolest non-swimsuit item I brought. We missed Windjammer lunch but Windjammer afternoon snack time is just about the same thing. I had a hot dog and a fruit crumble drowned in chocolate sauce and then we returned to our solarium lounge chairs. I wonder how much it would cost to renovate my living room into a mini Solarium?

Sunburned and slightly soused.


We went to the photo shop to make our tough decisions about photos. It wasn’t open yet so genius me used the kiosk. I ordered the digital 4-photo package, put in my stateroom, prepared to slice 20 photos down to 4 and … it thanked me for my order. Uh. When do I choose the photos? I guess I’ll find out after dinner.

Bingo was starting up it the Centrum. I smugly prepared to walk by until my Bingo Boo JP announced that the jackpot was $300 and it was only a $25 package instead of $33. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. We bought 2 packages, got the third one for free, and lost AGAIN. Bingo is gambling. Don’t be like me. By then it was 5:45. Mom went to get a sweater and I watched us pull away from Key West. Sadly. Wistfully. Lip-quiveringly.

Our tablemates didn’t come to MDR that night, so again we had the table to ourselves. I had French Onion soup which was oh my goodness so good. I could have had 3 more bowls and skipped everything else. Instead I had a turkey dinner and carrot cake. Mom had shrimp cocktail, Angus beef sliders without the buns, and a gluten free sugar free chocolate cappuccino mousse. Ajay and Jesus (assistant waiter) wished us well and said they’d miss us. We were THIS CLOSE to breaking down into ugly cries but pulled it together.

After dinner we went back to the cabin to pack. Sadly. Wistfully. We were almost done when I saw that it was 8pm. Parade of Flags! We need to see this! We dropped everything and fled back to the Centrum.

I thought this would be the hokiest event EVER. It really looked like it would be. I rolled my eyes as my GenX people do. Whatever. Let’s watch this. You know what’s coming, right? Because you’ve all seen this before.

It. Was. So. Fun. We really enjoyed the dancing interludes and the love and pride the crew has for the countries they are from. (USA’s dance was to Cotton Eyed Joe which, okay fine.) When the Cruise Director Michelle said if the over 800 crew members from over 50-some countries can work together and be a family, so could we all, I got a little choked up. Let’s all be nice to each other. We all want food, love, warmth – that should be more than enough to overlook whether or not I voted for that candidate or that the lady over there wears a headscarf or that other weird person thinks chocolate covered bananas are awful. I’m glad we took the time to see it and still feel guilty for mocking it prematurely.

Captain Toni is from Croatia.


We finished packing, put the bags out, and went back to the photo store. Turns out that the digital package is a computer program that allows me to pick 4 photos to download once I go home. Perfect. The best hard decision is a postponed one. After that good news we went to the Spotlight Lounge to watch another round of karaoke. I collected my final drink of the day, the Citrus Cooler. We had 14 fantastic performances and one guy who drank too much and wanted attention. I will listen to people sing off key all night as long as they’re trying in earnest. But when Drunky McLookAtMe tries to be cute, I’m done. On the positive side, there was a young German couple who sang “Stumbling In” (“Our love is alive, and so we begin…”) perfectly and got a standing ovation. When we went back to our cabin, they were rebroadcasting the Parade of Flags on the RCI channel so we watched it again. Mom told me this was the best vacation she ever had and thanked me for planning it and I cried because I’m a giant baby.

It was a great end to a long day and a beautiful cruise.

Day 4: A++

Enchantment of the Seas – Day 3

(rabbit rabbit!)

Originally published October 19th on the Royal Caribbean Blog message boards.

Wednesday, October 18

I woke up on my own at 7:10 which is me still waking up for work, but VERY late for work. We go up to breakfast as usual – I have a pancake, bacon, fruit, and a chocolate covered banana. Mom gets potatoes, bacon, fruit, and a gluten free roll. We have coffee and mimosas because WHY NOT? Captain Toni was in the Windjammer too! He may have just had fruit, which is good because he’s a sea guy and we don’t want him to get scurvy. (Oh, the things I remember from grade school…)

Deck 9 – Pool Deck.



We had our second cup of coffee out on deck 9 and watched our approach to Coco Cay. I’m stupidly excited for this day, because I love the beach. At 9:30 we decided to get moving. From our room on deck 3 we could see the tenders glide back and forth outside, as well as the supplies being loaded onto another craft. I teased mom that the shipping list for that boat was “20 Limbo sticks, 15 volleyballs, 30 hula hoops, and one gluten free roll.”

We boarded the tender which looked remarkably unsafe but we rolled with it. We’re seated on the top level and the breeze and view can’t be beat.

On the unsafe-seeming tender which was pretty darn safe after all.


We didn’t bring any of our gigantic water haul with us to Coco Cay because the message hammered home was DO NOT BRING ANYTHING OFF OF THE BOAT WITH YOU. On the tender there we saw people with coffee cups and bottles of water. Remember the old cartoons where the main character slowly turned into a lollipop with a “SUCKER” label on it? Me.

We landed at the docks and man, it took my breath away. I know this is a completely manufactured environment but it rang all of my bells for “perfect island beach!” All of the buildings are brightly colored and clearly named. The dock construction was going on, but the noise was easily ignored. We had the Coco Cay photos taken because we are cruise noobs. I rented the 2 loungers/sunshade back when we booked the cruise. South Beach is a LONG way away and we were thankful for the tram that took us there. There were three rows of chairs/sunshades there and once you turn in voucher to the employee, they are first come, first served. We ended up in the second row, which is what we get for being lazy. We also got fancy VIP bracelets.

I was a little happy.


Immediately we waded into the water. It was warm yet refreshing and what’s better, I could see my feet! Don’t get me wrong — I love my home state of NJ and I grew up at those beaches but the surf is rough and constantly kicking up sand so you can’t see the bottom. Walking into the Atlantic from the Jersey shore is akin to a trust fall. On Coco Cay, not only could I see my feet but there were teeny fish darting around! The water was shallow and although I walked pretty far, it never came up above my knees. Is this a result of Hurricane Irma?

We settled into our chairs, toasty and thankful. And then … the people in front of us left! After getting the OK from the attendant, we moved into the front row, and we were even more thankful. As I said, I grew up going to the Jersey shore. Which can be very crowded, especially in the shore towns with boardwalks. There were no distractions at South Beach — no amusements behind you, no airplanes towing banners, no Jersey shore scents like pizza or Drakkar Noir. It was beautiful and everything I needed it to be.

My view from the Coco Cay loungers

Lunch is served from 11:30-1:30. I was expecting hot dogs and hamburgers. I was not expecting gyros, curry, ribs, and a roast suckling pig, severed head prominiently displayed on the carving board. I have the heart of a vegetarian but the appetite of someone who makes steak/moo jokes. Mom went to the grill, gave her room number and recived a gluten free roll for her buger. This place is seriously approaching Santa Claus level of service. She had a burger, fries, and fruit. I had a hot dog (classy broad), macaroni and cheese, fruit, lemon cake. We shared a picnic table from a family from Minnesota. I’m one of those people who will write on the internet all day long but who is awkward around new people in real life. But everyone here is so nice that even I’m finding it easy. (Mom can make friends with anyone but apparently not Mario.)

A well-traveled bear.

(Other OllieBear adventures: Atlanta, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas.)

After lunch we poked around the straw market, took some of our own photos, and then found 2 empty beach chairs under an umbrella. Plop. At 3 we reluctantly took the vaguely unsafe looking tender back to the ship.

Wildlife seen on Coco Cay without even trying because who has time for a nature walk when there is tanning to do?:
> small fish
> large fish
> tiny crabs
> chickens (live)
> iguanas
> sea gulls
> pig (head of, deceased, roasted)

We dumped off things in our room and went to Windjammer for coffee. Annnnnnnnnnnd ended up with a plate of nachos with queso. I’m going to be wearing tents to work next week. We hoovered down the nachos and took our coffees out to the pool deck. We watched the belly flop competition which was a lot of fun.

Time for an important decision: today’s bingo was going to be a 3-game session, and they were giving away a free cruise. However, the entry price for the regular one-game session was $33 so I was figuring that the price for that big session would be around $100. $100 for a huge chance to lose. And the deck was so nice and we wanted to watch as we sailed away from Coco Cay. And thus, the bingo addiction was broken. I saw our photos from formal night and I kid you not, the one of of me alone on the stairs is one of the best photos I’ve taken. We’re not going to spend the $199 for the package, so we have some hard decisions to make.

We showered all of the beach funk off before dinner. I have given up trying to keep the water within the boundary of the shower, and just wipe the bathroom floor down when I’m done. The shower curtain has boundary issues and likely works for a notable Hollywood producer because it touches me without consent.

Our tablemates from night 1 were back and we had a great time chatting about our various excurisons. Ajay was phenomenal again (any WWE fans out there? just me? ok.) I had a caprese salad, garlic tiger shrimp, and key lime pie. I’ve had a glass of Wolf Blass Merlot each night, too. Mom had a salad, tiger shrimp (prepared without gluten) and they made her a sugar free, gluten free chocolate mousse for dessert.

The boat started rocking during dinner. Not enough to make us sick, but it was the first time I felt it the whole trip. It would continue to rock throughout the night, stopping right before morning.

I cashed in my chips from Monday night at Casino Royale’s craps table at a $25-0 exchange rate. Boo, hiss. Gambling is horrible. Don’t be like me. On a whim we went to the karaoke event in the Spotlight lounge. I watched 15 super-courageous people bring the house down. We were going to go to bed then but … there was a 70s party about to bust out in the Centrum. It was quite fun and was well received. But … I’m 45 and these were songs from when I was a kid. I have to wonder if they could maybe do a 70s night and then an 80s/90s night to try and shake off the “cruising is for old people” myth.

These ladies KILLED IT at karaoke. “Sweet Sixties” – if this was a competition you’d have won the record contract!


But then I went to bed right after that so maybe I’m old too! 😉

Day 3: A+++

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