Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back to Reality

I had every intention to blog sooner than today...but...I had a good excuse! About half of my family and I just returned from vacation - a Caribbean Cruise vacation! Though certainly not jewelry related, I thought I would share a few of memories here today.

I planned this vacation well over a year and a half ago. We sailed aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Sea - man this is a huge ship! This was my 5th (I think) cruise and if you ever want to cruise, I highly recommend Royal Caribbean. It is not just the ship and the immense is the superb customer service. Every single crew member greeted me with a smile and salutation worthy of Royalty (no pun intended). That means a lot to me.

We flew to Miami from Dulles International Airport - just a hop, skip, and a drive from my home in Northern Virginia. However, it was a 6 AM flight out, so we stayed at a hotel near the airport the night before, just in case we hit traffic that is infamous to this area.

Upon arrival on the ship, the first place we stopped was Deck 6 - Central Park. really looks like a park! We were "greeted" by a couple who had just said their marriage vows (there were numerous wedding ceremonies this particular week). It was incredibly hot and I felt so sorry for those ladies in those heavy, ornate dresses.

A view below of "Central Park" from Deck 17. Now, there are birds chirping in this park and it really makes you wonder if they are real. However, there were several "real" butterfly sightings...which mesmerized me once we were out to sea.

Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico.

It was absolutely stunning.  Ninety-nine percent of the "water pictures" were taken from my balcony. The colors were just beautiful!  My mom was one of the family members accompanying us on this cruise. She and I stayed aboard this port, as it was stifling hot (duh...Caribbean in July!). The family went shopping and my sister gifted me with my Senor Frog t-shirt (thank you Lori)!

The next port-of-call was Falmouth, Jamaica. I had not been to Falmouth before.  Apparently, the past 5 years a gorgeous shopping port-of-call was constructed steps from the ship. Over 32,000 acres of shops. Standard fare (jewelry, trinkets, t-shirts) and after a while, each shop looked the same. However, it was gorgeous...and still Hot!

Jimmy Buffet was here...okay...just his trademark, but still...

In the picture below, taken outside of Margaritaville, my niece Sarah is holding her nephew (my great-nephew) Gavin. This poor guy to her right was in full costume making balloon animals for the kids. It had to be at least 90+ degrees and the humidity was off the charts.

Although it looks like a hotel in this picture, that is a partial shot of our ship, Oasis of the Seas, taken from the Centre Square.

I don't partake of alcoholic drinks much anymore. Well, I cannot say that truthfully after this cruise! Between the Gin and Tonic's and this drink...I certainly had my share! It is called a Bailey's Banana Colada and OMG was it smooth! There is a recipe if you follow the link. On the ship, they only used  Banana Liquor - no "real" banana. I have already stocked up on the ingredients and hope to recreate this memory this weekend! :)  Also - if you do try the recipe, add a swirl of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup to the top...just trust me!

The last port-of-call was Labadee, Haiti. This was our 3rd trip here over the years and I think it only just gets better!  Royal Caribbean "owns" this little piece of heaven. 
The approach to Labadee, Haiti
The landscape and paved trails are so lush! We visited a private beach called Barefoot Beach. I rented a couple of cabanas for the day (there are ceiling fans inside!!!) to protect us...especially Gavin...from the heat. The sand is the softest sand of any beach I have ever visited, and so white and pure!

View inside one of the cabanas - hi Mom!)

View looking out from one of the cabanas

I finally got a picture of the entire ship as we returned (Mom and I only lasted about 2 hours due to the heat - but everyone else took full advantage of the sun!)

Royal Caribbean offered a barbecue cookout at Barefoot Beach.  I tell you there is nothing better than a burger, hot dog, or steak charcoal-grilled!  NOTHING!

About 2 hours prior to departure, the skies turned ominous - very cool to hear thunder when you are on water.

The mountains of Labadee in a storm disappear in the storm clouds

Goodbye Labadee!  Until next time!

We returned to Ft. Lauderdale about 5:30/6:00 am.

Back to reality - flight was delayed on the tarmac for over an hour and a half. Barely any a/c. American Airlines stated the delay was due in part because of a "lack of assignment of grounds crew"...and oh yeah "cargo has not been loaded yet".  Pffft.  However, this was our ONE AND ONLY TRAVEL SNAG in the entire trip.

My view for an hour and a half awaiting takeoff
But once we took view improved. 

Miami from the air
Even Virginia looks good from the air - the following photo was taken about 40 miles from Dulles Airport.

I am closing this post with the best picture of the day! We have the most marvelous pet sitter - really a part of our family for the past 12-14 years or so! She not only stayed at our home and took care of our pup Sarge, but also, my nieces' pups Thor (German Shepherd) and Griffin (White Golden Retriever), my sister's pup Klondike (White Husky), and two "regulars" of hers, Sophie and Watson. I swear she is a Dog Whisperer - not sure I could get 6 dogs to pose like this! :)

L-R:  Watson, Sarge, Klondike, Griffin, Thor, and Sophie
Oh - one more picture! I did buy me, myself, and I a little present in Jamaica - and no, not diamonds! I fell in love with this coffee after my first cruise years ago. It is truly the BEST coffee in the world! Going to savor it for sure!

Great memories were made and I feel so blessed to have spent time with my family in these special places.

Thank you so much for stopping by today! I hope you all have/will enjoy some place special this summer as well!