Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Our First Anniversary and First Cruise

On November 1st Michael and I took a plane to JFK from Pittsburgh, and then another plane to Fort Lauderdale to board onto a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship for our one year anniversary. Initially we were planning a trip to Florence, Italy but then we found out our former church was going to Israel in 2015; then of course that ship sailed when I found I was pregnant in July. Since we still wanted to do something special for our anniversary, we decided to go on a 7-day cruise to the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Marteens.

My first impression of the Oasis of the Seas was that “it’s gigantic” (Quantum of the Seas is their newest ship and it’s even bigger) and there are lots and lots of senior adults and an occasional couple, and a sprinkling of children. Our stateroom was small and cozy with a nice balcony that we used to overlook the seas.  As I mentioned before, the ship is GIGANTIC and has neighborhoods on each floor; I was most impressed by Central Park which resembled an outdoor park with live trees and plants. 
Not having been on a cruise before we both weren't sure which places to eat were free and which ones weren't; so naturally we asked someone who worked there. She said that pretty much everything was free; except for the specialty restaurants. After that was settled we headed to the nearest café in Central Park called Park Café which specialized in build your own salads, wraps, fresh roast beef sandwiches and panini. I didn't get any pictures of our meals there or any of our lunches on the boat since most of the time it was always too crowded and kind of overwhelming; I’m sorry!

Prior to coming on the cruise, Michael and I had made all our dinner and show reservations ahead of time. And for some reason on the first night we weren't scheduled to eat until 9pm; which at the time felt like an eternity. We quickly learned that despite having a reservation going to dinner earlier or later wasn't the end of the world. At the dining room there are two separate lines for people with and without reservations and both lines moved fast. The first time we went without a reservation we were placed with two other couples but throughout the rest of the week we ate in a table by ourselves. The service in the dining room was impeccable and the food wasn't too shabby either. The staff kindly accommodated my dietary needs which gave me lots of relief! My favorite meal in the dining room was a chicken coconut curry with rice and vegetables that I ordered towards the end of the cruise. Michael’s favorite was a lamb shank with vegetables. Cruises are funny in a way that you can eat as much food as your heart desires. For example you can order a main entree after you've eaten three (or more) appetizers and vice versa; it's excessive but the truth!

The only two nights we didn't eat at the dining room for dinner were on our anniversary and on Wednesday night. Before we went on the cruise we had a reservation to eat at a Japanese restaurant but a few days after the cruise they cancelled our reservation, later we find out the restaurant wasn't open yet and they gave us a complimentary meal at any of the other specialty restaurants. Which I’ll share with you all in just a moment; first let me discuss the day we docked at the Bahamas.

Michael and I had excursions lined up for each island and on our anniversary we were scheduled to go snorkeling. We took a boat with other fellow cruisers to the snorkeling location and while the day was sunny, the temperature couldn't be more than 70 degrees. When it came time to go off the boat and into the ocean, I put on the life vest, goggles and flippers that they handed me. As I climbed off the ladder, I began feeling anxiety as I felt the coldness of the water and once I was in the water I knew wanted to get out. It was uncomfortably cold for me! Around 15 minutes later Michael got out of the water too but at least he was able to get some underwater pictures of the fish. The excursion was called “snorkeling with seahorses” and no one saw seahorses! I was disappointed because the seahorses were the only reason why I wanted to go snorkeling; otherwise I’m not too keen on swimming in the deep ocean! The boat ride back to the ship wasn't too fun either because we were all shivering as the wind blew on our wet swimsuits. Once we got off the boat we walked around the Bahamas for a little while before heading back to the boat.

That night we went to 150 Central Park for our anniversary dinner and it was a magnificent experience. The tasting menu was created by Miami chef Michael Schwartz and consisted of 5 courses but to start we were given bread, butter and olive oil and gourmet salts from different countries. There was an interesting salt that tasted exactly like a hard-boiled egg! Sounds weird but it was actually quite delicious on the bread lightly saturated in olive oil. Because I don’t do dairy the chef was able to tailor each course to my dietary needs; so instead of giving me the tortellini pasta, I was given spaghetti in marinara sauce and for dessert I had mixed berries instead of the lemon tart which were both good. We missed an ice-skating show because it conflicted with our time at our dinner, but I think that night we watched the Love & Marriage game show which was pretty amusing, awkward and disturbing all at the same time.
an elephant was there greet us when we went back to our room :)
The next day we were at sea and on those days we spent time by the pool, explored the ship and ate food. Eventually we discovered a self-serve frozen yogurt machine on the pool deck which was always crowded and always satisfied. The last two days of the cruise we went to see a comedy show and a musical called “Come fly with me.” Unfortunately we missed Hairspray because they forgot to mention that it was no longer playing and missed a diving show called “Oasis of Dreams” because we fell asleep…Oops.

On Wednesday we were docked at St. Thomas and the weather was dreary but we were scheduled to go sailing again and then to the beach for a Caribbean BBQ. As we sailed to Christmas Coves, it started to rain and when you’re on a boat rainfall hurts! But it was all good, the people who were in charge were really friendly and talked to us the whole ride.  The rain stopped and Michael and some of the other people on the boat went snorkeling, and I chose to stay on the boat and eat crackers with a virgin coconut drink. Michael got to see some turtles and took some pictures; I can’t wait to see them! After snorkeling we sailed to Honeymoon Beach for a lunch that the crew made; it was ribs, chicken, baked beans, macaroni salad, salad and bread; pretty tasty. Despite the grayness of the sky, the beach was beautiful and the water was warmer than the land. Then it started to rain violently with lightening and I sat under an umbrella but was still getting soaked. After waiting for the rainstorm to calm down we were able to get back onto the boat and safely sail back to the ship. Though the weather wasn’t ideal, the people who put together the excursion were fun and relaxed which made it our favorite of the three excursions! After dinner that day we went to see the headliner “Jeff Tracta” and he did a bunch of impersonations that the older people seemed to really love. We thought it was a little weird though. Sorry Jeff Tracta; or should I say, Jeff Fritatta (we kept forgetting his last name so that's who he became.)

On Wednesday we were docked at St. Marteens and had plans to go sightseeing in Marigot, and then to the beach for a little relaxation. At around 11:30AM we got on a bus and the driver told us all about the areas we drove past. I learned that most of St. Marteens was destroyed due to a hurricane in 1999 and they were still in the process of bringing things back together. We spent a couple of hours in Marigot which is the French part of St. Marteens where we walked around and ate lunch at one of the restaurants. The food wasn't too far off from Puerto Rican cuisine so we were pleased and after that we all went back on the bus to the beach. All and all it was a relaxing day and as soon as we got back on the boat we took a nap. After our nap we got dinner at Solarium which also became our go-to spot for a free breakfast buffet. I started dinner with coconut pumpkin soup and Michael got tuna sashimi; then I ordered duck and he got bison (there were sides but I can’t remember them!) and to finish he got chocolate panna cotta and I got berries and this little almond cluster dipped in dark chocolate. Yum!

Overall the cruise was a relaxing week away with my husband. It was amusing people watching, eating/questioning our will power, and being a tourist and getting much needed sleep. I’m sure by reading this you got the impression that we’re sleepy heads and that may be the case as of late, but to me it’s perfectly normal to indulge in sleep before having your first human child. Just to make this clear our first child is Zoe who we happened to miss the entirety of the cruise! She nearly exploded from excitement when we came to pick her up at my in-laws house. 

xo, Jessica

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