Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carnival: Jamaica!

"Yea, Man!"

Believe it or not, I have a bracelet that says that.
I'll have to show it to you sometime.

On July 30th, we set out to the absolute best vacation of our lives. The plan is for every new adventure to be better than the last, simply because,

"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road." - Jack Kerouac

Things started out fine, but turned sketchy pretty quickly.
We drove the three hours to Raleigh, and luckily Dusty had a friend from school that allowed us to park our car at her house for the entire trip! Which allowed us to skip the long-term parking fees.
Our flight was a little late, which we were nervous about. Our ship was headed out at 4pm, and we were scheduled to land at 1pm. So we didn't have a whole lot of time to spare!

Once we landed, we found our Carnival representative that was going to be setting us up for a shuttle from the airport to the docks.
We had to wait a while for our luggage, but we were doing well, time-wise.

But then the incompetency of humankind came into play.
For some reason, we ended up waiting for over half an hour, after our luggage was ready. I'm guessing it was because the bus that was coming for us was running late, but they weren't telling us anything.
It was $60 for the shuttle.
We headed out, glad that we made it onto their transportation, and hoping that Carnival wouldn't leave us. Especially since we were riding in their bus.
We got there around 3:15 I think, but we were happy because we were going to our ship first.
Except that we didn't, because he mixed up the names.

So we frantically headed out to "Destiny" after the "Liberty" peeps unloaded.


We pulled into a side parking lot, and unloaded all of our bags to the helper-men that would be loading them onto the ship.
They then hustled us into giving them money, by repeatedly coming really close to our faces and whispering, "Gratuity is greatly appreciated, if you have anything to show your thanks now is the time..."
They kept rounding back to us, until we gave them something.
I don't like being hustled.

Then, the head luggage-helper-man yelled at the bus driver to load us back in and take us to the next door over.
Which was maybe 100 feet away. We kept saying we could walk, especially since it was 3:40.
The poor bus driver, let's call him Frank, was sweating profusely.
As he was about to close the door, a portly man, let's call him Bothersome Boyd, poked his head in.
I've never heard a man speak so slowly before. "Excuse me, sir, we...is there a way, we could...well, you see, we rode one of these buses, is there a number? We may have left something, could we look, or...I'm not sure, was this the one? Should we call someone, do you think..."
This is when a second language would come in handy, because you could start speaking really quickly to intimidate Bothersome Boyd to move outta the way, without actually being verbally abusive.

Fortunately, Frank knew what was up, and hurried the man away.
We drove for about 7.9 seconds, and then we RAN off the bus and into the building to the ticket counter.
The man couldn't even check us all the way in, because the Carnival "Hurry-Horns" were blazing.
If they employed those intense cruise-ship blaring horns every time you were late to school, work or church, you'd never be late again.

He told us, "Here's your key, you'll finish the process inside. Just get the #@(( onto the ship."
True story.

Thanks, Helpful Hank!

We made it!
Walking onto the ship was so exciting. 
I had never been on a cruise before, so my expectations were pretty much Titanic. I had no other form of reference.

While the grand entryway wasn't exactly like this,


It was pretty grand in its own way.




There were several levels, all packed with shops, all packed with things we couldn't afford.

One of the first things we had to do was do our safety check/tutorial line-up. It was pretty obnoxious, waiting for people to quiet down and line up, all in the immense heat.
We were in section "F", which made things a whole lot worse.
There's always that guy to the side that already has a foofy beverage in his hand, making "F" jokes.
"What the 'F' is going on down here?"
"Would everyone just quiet the 'F' down?"
(giggle, giggle, hiccup)

Before we left the port, we headed up to the deck, to take advantage of the beautiful view and to see the ship take off!



The ship seemed so huge. Travelling on a giant hotel.

It was a pretty great feeling, feeling the sun shining and looking forward to the kind of trip that neither of us had ever experienced.
Our phones would be off, we would be off on our own, and we'd enjoy every second of it.


We snuck out to one of the side decks once we were out to sea, taking in the beautiful (and entirely terrifying) view of non-stop water.



But all was well.
We bought our bottomless soda cards, for endless soda for the entire cruise, and life was pretty swell.


Guys, cruises are great.
Even though Carnival is probably the bottom-most rung of the "Nicest Cruise" latter, we still had a blast.
We spent a lot of time lounging in our room, watching the Olympics, laughing at our towel animals, eating a lot of food, watching movies...

By the by. Have you guys seen We Bought a Zoo? Neither had we. I don't know if we were just tired from too much down-time (that's a real condition) but we were both sobbing by the end.

This was our little hole-in-the-wall (quite literally):



That's all there was to it, folks.
But is it weird that I'm a little homesick for it?

Now it's time for the towel-animal show off:


We had dinner every night at 8:30pm, and it was always a blast.
We had the best waiter.
His name was Norris, and he was actually from Jamaica. He liked to guess what we'd order, and would never turn us down for any request.
Even when Dusty asked for 2 steak dinners.
He knew our names by the second night, always (at least acting) really excited to see us.
One of the drink waiters had two sodas waiting for us after our second night eating there, because he knew we'd always order one.
Same way Norris knew I'd always order coffee with dessert.

Honestly, it made me want to live in a big mansion and eat that way all the time. Maybe that's really selfish. Yeah, it's pretty self-indulgent. It was just so comforting. I wish I could have a butler like Michael Caine that was always around, always reliable, a part of the family.
I think we could be good snobs.



We sat at table 544, in the Universe dining room.




We were up on the second floor, at our own private table. Our table was to the right of this picture, right up the stairs from the main entrance below.

Our first night I got a delicious (and non-alcoholic) Peach/Mango beverage.
I kept seeing them around, and decided I needed a floofy drink. At least once.


 I also ordered this chocolate volcano cake almost every night:


We had one formal night, which was really fun.



It's always a hoot to see what different people's ideas of "formal" are.
Did I mention we did a lot of people-watching on this cruise?
Yes. There are several things we noticed about society as a whole. Or at least, the cruise society.
Even further, the Carnival cruise society.

1.) Obesity in children is increasing (or at least still going strong) at an alarming rate
2.) Parents of morbidly obese 8 year olds have to help them take off their shirts to go swimming, and also will go and get them more ice cream at their demand. I think this is attributing to the problem.
3.) If you act like you're foreign or don't understand english, you can easily cut the food line.
4.) We were tempted to do #3 on a daily basis but always chickened out.
5.) If there's ever a corner that can be cut to cut down costs, it will be cut.

We tended to keep to ourselves, not participating in too many events, and most definitely not ever going into the pool or hot tub.
Sorry, 14th-hairy-man-in-a-speedo, you've just completely eliminated my desire to even go near that small container of water.
And the hot tub packed full of 27 children?
Don't try and sway me that you don't know what children always do in pools.
Been there. Done that.

Perhaps my favorite times were sitting above deck, soaking up the sun, reading and drinking a Pina Colada smoothie. My fave.

Dusty bought some "Bro Tanks" specifically for this occasion.


I really could never get used to the ocean always surrounding us. It was dizzying at times.
I never got seasick, which I was really happy about.
There was only one night where people were tripping over themselves at dinner, trying to walk back and forth in the midst of the rocking-chair ship. I felt like I was on a see-saw.
We brought Dramamine, so it never got too intense. When we went to bed that night, I just tried to pretend like someone was rocking me to sleep.

We also loved hanging out in the casino.
Especially earlier in the day, when it wasn't crowded. It was always cool, crisp, and colorful.
We'd hang out at the bar, drinking our sodas and just relaxing. (aka people-watching).
It was one of my favorite things to do.


After a few nights at sea, we had our first port of call! Jamaicaaa.

We went up to the top deck, to see the island as we got closer.


This is what we saw when we climbed off the ship:


Amazing!

Before we left, the ship's announcer, Noonan, kept letting us know:
"Please remember: everything that is illegal in America is also illegal in Jamaica".
Haha!

Oh. And I should warn you, we decided to take our little handheld waterproof camera on the island with us, rather than our big expensive one. We didn't want to risk it getting broken, stolen or waterlogged.
So the picture quality of our island adventures is a little foggy and fuzzy at times!

But guys, this is Jamaica.

video

This was right outside the dolphin cove, our first destination!
We were incredibly excited. When we first walked into the building, there was a little hallway full of pictures of celebrities with the dolphins. Including Ben Stiller! And even Howie from the Backstreet Boys. Probably the most prestigious wall he's ever been on.
Anyway, we headed down a really pretty path until we came to the cove.


The Cove

We sat on small benches, mere feet from the water's edge. It was amazing just to watch all of the dolphins swimming back and forth!

The trainers were hanging out with them, getting them ready to hang out with us!



Arby, our dolphin :)
We sat, eagerly awaiting our turn.
Unfortunately for us, there was no photography allowed of the actual dolphin encounter.
They claimed it was because the dolphins would think our cameras were toys....
But really, they just wanted to charge us $13 per picture for the ones taken by their own cameraman.
We bought a few prints, and have them in our apartment. We couldn't resist.
Kissing (and being kissed by) Arby the dolphin is pretty priceless!

We took this little video before we got to get in the water:

video


After we had to say farewell to Dolphin Cove, we decided to take some time to wander.
We walked down the beach, and found a trail we could go down.





So much to do, so little time!
We followed the signs to the right, and found ourselves in front of a little hut of love birds.
There were people inside, and the little colorful creatures were flying all around them! There were trainers handing out bird seed, and anyone could go in there to feed them!
It was one of our little unexpected highlights.








A pirate and his parrot.
It was the best!
They were so cute and chirpy, and it made me miss having little parakeets all those years ago.
Too bad our cats would always try (sometimes succeed) to eat them.

Just down the path, we found an even more impressive gathering of birds.



Best picture ever.
I don't think either of us had been that giddy and excited in a really long time. When would we ever get to do these types of things again?
The next item on our agenda was to climb the Dunn's River Falls, but we were just taking our time, slowly walking down the paths and having no idea what kind of things we'd find.

We found:

A (decorative) man escaping a prison tower:



A row of shops:


SHARKS!?


These men spoke in rhythm, describing the terrifying creatures. There were so many. It made me queasy.
A pirate:



Jamaican frozen coffee: 


A special cove:


We spent a good while swimming in here. We were already pretty soaked from hanging out with Arby, so we figured, why not enjoy the incredible water in a private cove where no sharks can eat us?


 After we had our fill of water and sunshine, we went and bought our dolphin pictures, then went back around the trail to find the shuttle that would take us up to Dunn's River Falls.

We got in the freezing cold bus (which would have been awesome if we weren't soaked), and rode up the hill to the Falls.

As soon as we got off the bus, we were surrounded by extremely friendly Jamaican men.
One of them put 3 strands of necklaces around my neck!
I stammered thank you, but was distracted by a man talking to Dusty and handing him two little figurines.
He asked where we were from, kept referring to me as "your woman" to Dusty, and asked what our names were. He carved our names into each figurine, as well as "2012" and our anniversary date, "1-1-11".

He then said, "Most people give me $18."

Dusty and I blinked. "Oh, thanks, man, but we actually don't have any cash. Thank you, though," Dusty said.
The man was shocked and appalled.
Dusty fished in his backpack, and found a five. "Five. That's all I have, I'm sorry."
The man was astounded, "Five? I can't take five...you don't understand, I handmade these by hand. They're very special, handmade for you!"
"Sorry," Dusty insisted.
The man eyed us. "How bout you take one, for five?" he settled.
We agreed.
We kept Dusty's, since it had the dates on it. So he kindly carved my name in it, too.

What I wanna know is, what in the world is he going to do with a figuring with "Caitlin 2012" carved on it?

The other man snatched the necklaces back.

Completely baffled and way more alert than when we started, we headed toward the Falls.
But hey, I'm not sorry we got this guy:



We had made it!

We got assigned a tour guide, and headed down the path to the waterfall.
Our tour guide and videographer were hysterical.


They let us know what we'd be doing throughout the hike, and the videographer got up and spoke next.
He explained that he'd be asking us to participate, cheer, and keep up with everyone.
He also gave us all a warning. By "us" I mean us women.
He said, "There are moments when you will be under very strong currents of water. Make sure your tops are very secured. The water comes down, boobies pop out..."
He paused.
"And I zoom in!" he finished, to many cheers, laughter and applause.

Here we go.

We got down to the bottom of the falls, and got ready to climb!


I was hoping not to get completely soaked, but there was no choice.
And I'm glad I did, in the end. It was way more fun. Our guides were great about it.
They forced us in the water, to sit in the falls, and they held our stuff and took pictures for us and made it a really great experience.

Our first full immersion in the cold water:


I couldn't believe how far the Falls went up. It seemed to go on forever! They were huge.

An example of a very foggy water-camera!
We had such a blast!
They had us yell "Yea Man!" whenever possible.




They loved giving us opportunities to get completely soaked.
They cheered us on, they pushed us in...
At every level, there were little pools and areas to take rests and swim. It was amazing how deep some of them were! You could always stand, but the amount of water and the strength of some of the currents were pretty incredible.
At one point, there was a little rock-slide you could go down.
Here, it was deep enough to just fall in!

video


Pretty awesome view.



It was actually kind of sad to get to the top.


Looking behind us:



They posed us one last time, in the last waterfall.

I managed to keep my boobies in.



We did it!

We survived Dunn's River Falls.



We didn't have a whole lot of time left, but we really wanted to get some souvenirs.
We had a small list of things we wanted, so we went down to the village area to find a bathroom and maybe do some shopping.

Right away, a man approached us.
And right away, I knew we were about to get hustled.
He personally walked us both all the way down to the bathrooms, and waited for us outside.
He then kept telling us he wanted to show me something. Something he had handmade just for me.
Somehow I doubted it, seeing as we just met, but maybe it was possible.

He then pulled out an identical figure to the one we'd already been hustled into purchasing.

Not only that, but we really didn't have any cash left. And the only other things this man had in his store were giant wooden figures.
We had contemplated buying a small dolphin figurine somewhere, to commemorate our dolphin encounter, but the only one he had was about 3 feet high. And $90.

I tried to imagine what that would be like to carry onto the plane with us.
And then, I comically imagined what it'd be like in our tiny little apartment.

We had to literally run from the premises. It didn't matter how many times we said no, how polite we were, or how mean we wanted to be. Running away was the only effective means of escape.
We decided we didn't really need souvenirs that badly, anyway.

We got back on our shuttle bus, and headed back to the main strip that led us to our cruise ship.
We walked through a few shops here and there, and managed to grab some Jamaican Jerk seasoning and sauce, which we were really excited about. We also got a Christmas ornament! Which was on our list.

We then went into Pirana Joe. My fave.





This place was serious about piranas.
We had a lot of fun in that shop. I bought an awesome hat.

Sadly, we failed to acquire any Jamaican Jerk chicken. We tried several times on our way out, but they either only took cash, or were actually out of chicken. Stupid tourists. (like us).

Luckily for us, we bought seasoning and sauce, and had fantastic Jamaican Jerk burgers when we got home. :)

As we walked back to the ship, we couldn't help but notice all of the Bob Marleys we passed.
There really are a surprising amount of dred-locks to be seen.

As we crossed the street, a man fitting that description walked towards us (very nonchalantly) and whispered, "You guys...you wanna smoke? ...smoke marijuana?"
He added "marijuana" so quietly and expertly, we almost wanted to congratulate him on his stealth.
But we still politely declined.
I guess Noonan wasn't just "blowing smoke" after all.

:)

Bye-bye Jamaica!

Very wiped from a very sunny day.

Hat-happy.

We were both incredibly happy to get back, get showered, and relax after such a long, wonderful day.

Dinner was even sweeter that night. It was like coming home after a long day.
And Norris was extra happy, since he had been able to see his wife and grandkids!


What a trip.

Keep your eyes peeled for our Cayman Island adventures.
Coming soon.

In love,
Cait

3 comments:

  1. I love, love, love the bird pictures! You guys are so cute and it sounds so fun! Makes me want to do it someday:)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh wow, what an awesome trip! I love all of the pictures and videos...thanks for sharing. That waterfall looked amazing! And swimming with dolphins...sooo cool! I might be slightly jealous. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. So glad you and Dusty could finally experience the joys of cruising! Makes me want to go on another one... :)

    ReplyDelete