Monday, August 20, 2012

Carnival: Cayman Islands!

Do any of you remember this?


This was our wedding. The most wonderful day ever.
Look a little closer at this guy:


His name is Jon.
He lives in the Cayman Islands.

When we began to plan our cruise, we had the brilliant idea to include his homeland in our planned route.
He and Dusty are the same person, in a lot of ways. They met in college at CBU, and became instant brothers. He's one of the friends that was the hardest to leave, once we graduated.
Dusty was so glad Jon had the opportunity to come and be in our wedding.

The only downside to going to Grand Cayman on our cruise was that we just did not have enough time there.
Once Jonny J decides to get married, and moves back to Cayman permanently...we'll definitely be imposing upon them on a yearly basis.


We had to take a little boat shuttle from the cruise ship into the harbor.


We were worried we were running late...we had told Jon we'd be there around 9, but it took much longer to unload us from the ship than we thought.
Luckily, he was going by Cayman time, and we were going by ship time, so we got there right around the same time!
He picked us up and we headed out.


He drove us through the island, and the first stop was his house.
The plan for the day was to eat lunch, and go out to Stingray City.
Does that title give you as many chills as it gave me?

The JJ Casa:


Try to withhold your intense envy.




Standing on their porch. 
Needless to say, it was gorgeous.
Their house sat right on the edge of the water, perfectly serene.
The weather was warming up, but it ended up being a clear, beautiful day.

The Jorge house was beautifully decorated. The living room centered around their TV, with large windows looking out onto the water behind it. I could sit there all day!
A wooden winding staircase led up to the master bed and bath, which had a balcony that led out to another stunning view of the water. Their bed faced the glass double doors and windows. Imagine waking up to that every morning!





This chair sat right behind the doors, the most incredibly perfect reading spot.
I immediately thought of my mom, and the intense damage she could do, reading through hundreds of books. Book in one hand, fruity smoothie in the other.


I made Dusty promise to get me a chair like that.

Once we got the tour, we gathered up their snorkeling gear (which they were graciously going to let us use!). Knowing that we had to be back to the ship by that afternoon (sadly) we had to hurry to the beach to get lunch and await our Stingray City expedition...

We stopped to get gas, and this was where their gas station was:
(Gas station was to my left).


I mean, come on people!

Jon's mom was so sweet, always offering to take pictures of us and having us pose wherever we went. :)


We drove to the beach, the Jorge's pointing out little details of their island as we drove.
We could have stayed there for weeks.

We passed by an 80 million dollar house. Needless to say, we don't want to (can't) live there...but we'll definitely take advantage of Jon living there. :)

We drove up to the most adorable place ever.

This is where we were going to eat lunch.
It was the spot right next to the pier that would lead us to our Stingray City adventure.



Coconuts sat on each table, attached to the menus.





They were setting up a section of the beach for a private event, and there were only a handful of other people playing in the shallows. We were almost the only people eating. It was relatively early still, and it was really nice to have the place to ourselves.
While we waited for our food, Dusty and I hopped over to the gift shop to grab a Cayman Islands picture frame (we found one for $8!!) and a Stingray City magnet. :)



A typical Cayman Island treat is Conch Fritters.
They're similar to crab cakes/bites, but they're made with Conch meat. At this place, they were served with Jerk Mayo.
It's weird, because we never really associate conch shells with the creatures they inhabit...we just prance along the seashore collecting shells, forgetting that they were once homes to creepy little crawlers.

That reminds me of the horrible moment a few years ago when I realized there was still a little creature in one of the shells in my jar of shells from Rocky Point, Mexico once we got home from vacation. (That was a really long, weird sentence). He was struggling for life and I sat staring at him, stuck in the middle of the jar, with no good ideas for how to save him. That was a hard day.

I made the huge mistake just now of Googling "conch". I'm really glad I ate those fritters before now.


Dusty got a Jerk Burger, and I got Fish and Chips! Mmmm.



Before long, it was time to head down the pier to catch our ride.




Photo from Jon's Flickr :)
This one's going in our new Cayman frame!
I'm not gonna lie, I was starting to get really nervous.
In a moment of pure foolish courage, I told Dusty to plan whatever he wanted with Jon, and that I'd get over it. As long as it didn't involved sharks, I could deal with it.
But as we began to drive out to sea, I began to realize how crazy that was.

Goodbye land. Sweet, sweet land.



I put on a brave face. But I think I started hallucinating.
Every time I saw a dark spot in the water (bunches of coral), I knew it was a leviathan. A giant beast. I waited to see the blinking eyes, the razor-sharp teeth and the slimy fins.

Whoever you are, please don't eat me.
Guys, when you think "stingray"....what comes to mind?
I'm guessing that, like mine, your most common reference would be Seaworld.
Like this picture I found.


Aw, look how happy that child is!
Well, that's because those stingrays could easily be beaten down if they decided to attack.
He's way bigger than them. They don't pose any real threat. Plus, that's a lagoon. Not a city.

Well, this is what we arrived to.


Jon had told us that this sand bar had become the home of the stingrays, because a long time ago it's where fishermen would dispose of their fishy waste. So the stingrays began to hang around, and now they're kept there by continual tourists and squid treats.
I don't know why, but I had this horrible vision of a sand bar covered, inch by inch, in stingrays. So much so that you had to shuffle your feet, unable to move properly, in fear of stepping on them and dying a Steve Irwin-type death.
I'm not really proud of how many times I referenced Steve Irwin's death during this experience. I promise it was all very respectful, because I cried when he died. It was a really sad day.
So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when the area was much larger than I had anticipated, and the stingrays were leisurely swimming around.


But guys. THESE STINGRAYS ARE HUGE.


And they do THAT.
They swim right up to you, like a water-dog trying to lick your face.
They're so dang big, they can knock you over. They nudge against you, investigating you and whipping you in the face with their tails. Their death-bringing, barb-holding tails. 



Look at them! What in the world.
So much for bottom-feeding, docile laziness.

I had imagined handling this whole thing really well. But as soon as I got in the water, I began to yell at Dusty to hold me still. The waves were pushing me around and I just knew I was going to step on one.
I'm really glad he loves me, and that he knew how scared I was.

On average, these stingrays weigh about 40 pounds more than me. So, unlike that gleeful child above, I would not win a fight against one of these guys.


Pretty soon after I got in, one of them snuck up behind me and bumped into me. I screamed like I've never screamed before. It was one of those full-out, I'm-going-to-die, painful, exhausting screams. I think I may have blacked out.

Pretty soon, our instructor/guide grabbed one of them and began to talk about her.

He's insane.

video

I don't really remember anything that he said.
I remember that the females are the largest, and are much smoother on top. They're very strange-feeling.
The males are actually more like Seaworld size, very small and feel like sandpaper.


This is when we were really happy that we had our under-water camera.
Granted, I was so scared and jumpy that I somehow hit "record", thinking I hit "off", and for the rest of the time our videos were backwards. I recorded the blank space, and hit "off" when I thought I was hitting "record".
But, we still got some pretty good pictures of it all.


Squid-in-hand.
This girl knows what's up. She's getting the heck outta there.
This is probably my favorite picture.
It's one of Jon's.


Dusty on the left, me on the right. Oh, if only pictures could talk.
If only you could hear the mind-numbing scream coming outta me.

Death-bringing, barb-holding tails.


video


Oh. And P.S.? We found out that the reason why we kept being swarmed by stingrays is because Jon was throwing squid next to us the entire time. He even put one in Dusty's swim trunks at one point.

Jerk.


Horror movie. 



 I gotta say, I couldn't help but feel a little proud of my accomplishment. I screamed less than 10 times.
Unless you count "squealing" as "screaming", then...I lost count.
But, all in all, I survived. And it was the most incredible experience. It was awesome.




This is an example of my fine videography.

video

I was supposed to get Dusty holding the stingray...which I...kind of did? At the end, when I thought I was hitting "record"...





So cool!

Buddies.


Such a fun day.
This is definitely the part of our trip where we got the most sunburned. Hours of sunshine!

After we left Stingray City, we headed over to a spot nearby to snorkel for a while.
We were only 8 feet deep, but it felt like much deeper than that.
I felt really exposed. To leviathans.

We jumped off the back of the boat like true enthusiasts, and all gathered around the section of reef where they wanted us to hang out at.
It was really cool.






Our guide-man began to shove a stick into a reef-hole, taunting an eel that lived there.
While I don't condone angering sea creatures, I couldn't help but watch.

video

I think Dusty's right. I shouldn't invest any hope in becoming a videographer.
But can you see the eel??

This is what happens when you take a picture on "underwater" mode.


I was the last one out of the water.
I don't know why that's important, but somehow, it was a very small but significant victory.
I remember that moment very clearly, floating in the water as everyone else got on the boat. I knew I'd look back and wish I had cherished the moment a little more. So I did. I memorized the day, the sky, the sun, the feel and color of the water, and the most exuberant feeling of total success.
I didn't get eaten today.

Before I knew it, we were back on land.
Land, sweet land.


We didn't have much time until we had to be back, but we took a few moments to get some delicious smoothies.


Stay Here, for Good Times & Good Friends. :)


We drove back to Jon's house, and had to say goodbye to his parents.
They were so generous, having taken us out to eat and to see Stingray City...it was so fun to have them join us for the whole day. I really hope we get to go back soon.
Jon drove us back to port, where we had to say goodbye. We grabbed a few souvenirs from a shop where he could get us a discount :)
Then said farewell to Jonny J.
We definitely would have missed our ship, if we had any other way to get home! It was tempting.

Before we headed onto our boat shuttle, we grabbed some yummy fresh-squeezed lemonades.



Pineapple and Wild Berry!

We stood in line, and had a girl take one last picture of us.
She decided she wanted her thumb to join us, too. Which I guess is okay.


Back to Destiny we go.


Bye Cayman.


When we got back in our room, we showered and fell asleep for almost 3 hours.
Sunshine will do that to ya!

We woke up just in time for dinner, and had a really relaxing night.

The next day was our last day on the cruise. Sigh.

We relished it, taking some time to soak up some more sun and taking advantage of our soda card.
And I bought another smoothie. I couldn't help it!




Memorabilia of our cruise companion, the summer '12 Olympics :)

That night, we got dressed up for our last dinner on the ship.
There was a really incredible sunset that night. :)





We headed down to our dining room, getting up the courage to say goodbye to Norris.
We also decided we were going to order everything we wanted.
Which ended up just being a lot of desserts. :)





We were obviously really excited to be heading to Florida, and to Harry Potter land, because when this ice cream arrived, our first thought was....this chocolate is a wizard's staff.



It wasn't easy leaving that table.
We took a picture with Norris, but unfortunately, we only brought our little underwater camera and it was too dark and too blurry.


This ends the Chronicles of our Carnival Cruise.
We still had a lot of trip left, but we had the most amazing time. Phones off, party-hats on, never-ending buffets, water activities, sea creatures, friends, Olympics, people-watching and lots of fun.
We have a lot of fun together, Dusty and I. And I hope we never stop traveling.

To infinity and beyond!

In love,
Cait

P.S. Next up: Florida with the Beigles!

2 comments:

  1. Seriously, your blog captivates me... I couldn't help but google "conch" also... scary. You make me jealous of your adventures =) lol

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  2. Oh, it was so good to see pictures of Jon again!!!! What a beautiful house--what a change Riverside is to THAT! Thanks for sharing again.

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