Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#gretchensbooks2018 - March



Three months in and I've officially hit my goal of reading 24 books in 2018! I was looking at my "to read" list on Goodreads and was slightly intimidated by its 200+ listings, so I've decided to up my goal to 52 books for this year!

(Reminder: descriptions come from Amazon.com but all reviews are my own.  You can find previous book reviews here.)

15. Unreal by Riley Moreno (4/5 ★)


"Julie and Kim knew better. They went  anyways! When an innocent road trip takes a dark turn, two young women will end up fighting for their lives.

To celebrate her college graduation, Julie Edwards and her best friend, Kim, take off on a road trip across the country. But a simple pit stop becomes the end of the road when the two young women get tangled up into something they never saw coming... in their wildest dreams!"

I am going to start this review out with a trigger warning. If you are sensitive to events involving sexual assault then this book is not for you.  The craziness of this story picks up early in the book, so it doesn’t take long to be captivated by the plot line. There were multiple twists in the story that keep you guessing until the very end. It wasn’t the most suspenseful thriller I have ever read, but I really enjoyed it! Plus, if you follow the link in the title, you can get the kindle version of the book for free!


16. Bossypants by Tina Fey (4/5 ★) 

"Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.
At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy."

I listened to this book on audiobook, and was really unsure of it in the beginning.  Tina Fey is a performer, but I wasn't crazy about her "reading" voice.  I wonder if its because I expect it to be like watching her on TV or in a movie. Anyway, I did enjoy this one once I got into it (which didn't take very long).  I especially liked that I could relate some of the things she talked about in her young life to the most quoted movie of all time, Mean Girls. (Don't fight me on that last part; I will win).  She even told about the person IRL that inspired her to write the character Damian from Mean Girls.  



17. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (4/5 ★)

"Does losing her dog mean losing everything? Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She's thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose's rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose's obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose's father shouldn't have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose's point of view."

This book is definitely geared toward upper elementary/early middle school aged kids, but I really  enjoyed the last non-Baby Sitters' Club book that I read by her last year, so I wanted to give this newer one a shot.  I loved the message in this book and I highly, highly recommend this as a classroom read aloud! It gives kids the insight to a girl with Asperger's Syndrome which I love because it is likely they will come across a classmate like her in their school years and learning about differences through books and stories is so beneficial!  I gave it 4 stars only because it is so kid-oriented. It's not one of those books that I LOVED as an adult, but it is one that should belong in every elementary aged classroom.


18. The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon (4/5 ★)

"In 1991, fourteen-year-old Brent Runyon came home from school, doused his bathrobe in gasoline, put it on, and lit a match. He suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body and spent the next year recovering in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that year of physical recovery, Runyon began to question what he’d done, undertaking the complicated journey from near-death back to high school, and from suicide back to the emotional mainstream of life."

I really enjoyed this non-fiction story because it gives the insight into someone's life who attempted suicide but failed.  I thought it was interesting to hear how his life changed after his suicide attempt.  Also, since it was such an unordinary means that he tried to use, it was interesting to see how burn victims cope and heal after their tragedies.  THe only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is that since the book was written ten years after the events actually took place, it is hard to know what is real and what is falsely remembered (because as much truth as this story holds, I would imagine it is likely that memories changed too).

19. House Rules by Jodi Picoult (4/5 ★)

"Jacob Hunt is a teen with Asperger’s syndrome. He’s hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject—forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he’s always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he’s usually right.

But when Jacob’s small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob’s behaviors are hallmark Asperger’s, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob’s mother, Emma, it’s a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it’s another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?"


For many years I have heard people rave about how much they love Jodi Picoult's books.  I read my first one in high school and struggled hard to get through it. I read another by her two years ago, and though I liked it better, it still took me longer than it usually takes me to get through a book.  I had been recommended this book by a friend, but since I haven't been crazy about her books in the past, I decided to try this one on audiobook to see if it would be easier to get through.  I love that her stories have multiple perspectives, and what made the audiobook even more enjoyable was that each perspective was read my a different narrator.  This made it easy to follow along with and I didn't have to glance at the display monitor to see who each chapter was about as I was driving. Verdict was that I definitely enjoyed this book more than the others.  I'm not sure if it was the topic and plotline that I enjoyed more, or if the audiobook format made it more exciting for me. The only downside was that I predicted the outcome pretty early into the story which made the rest of the book lose some of the suspense.


20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

For the first time, J.K. Rowling's beloved Harry Potter books will be presented in lavishly illustrated full-color editions. Kate Greenaway-award-winning artist Jim Kay has created over 100 stunning illustrations, making this deluxe format a perfect gift as much for a child being introduced to the series, as for the dedicated fan.
 Harry Potter has never been the star of a Quidditch team, scoring points while riding a broom far above the ground. He knows no spells, has never helped to hatch a dragon, and has never worn a cloak of invisibility. All he knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys, his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley -- a great big swollen spoiled bully. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years. But all that is about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to an incredible place that Harry -- and anyone who reads about him -- will find unforgettable.


21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated Edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)

Award-winning artist Jim Kay illustrates year two of Harry Potter's adventures at Hogwarts, in a stunning, gift-ready format.

The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike. And strike it does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny. But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone -- or something -- starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects... Harry Potter himself?


22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (illustrated edition) by JK Rowling (5/5 ★)


For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort. Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts . . . he's at Hogwarts."  Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.

I am LOVING the illustrated versions of these books! Obviously all Harry Potter books will be 5-stars, but I'm including the reviews anyway.  If you love HP I highly recommend getting the illustrated copies!  As of 2017, only books 1-3 have been released in illustrated form, and the fourth book will be coming out in 2019.  I began reading the HP stories in elementary school, when only the first few were published.  Books 5-7 I read as soon as they were released, but since I have only read each book once, I figured it was time to give them another go-round this year.  Since I've had a dozen or six Harry Potter movie marathons (shout out to you, ABC Family), I know the movies like the back of my hand, so it has been fun to see what happens in the books that is different that the movies.


23. Resistance by Anita Shreve (2/5 ★)

Claire Daussois, the wife of a Belgian resistance worker, shelters a wounded American bomber pilot in a secret attic hideaway. As she nurses him back to health, Claire is drawn into an affair that seems strong enough to conquer all--until the brutal realities of war intrude, shattering every idea she ever had about love, trust, and betrayal.

I had a coupon for a free book at my local used book store, and since I'm a sucker for WWII historical fiction, I thought this would be the perfect pick. Unfortunately, that was not the case.  I really struggled to get through this one. Also this so-called affair doesn't even begin until over half way through the book, and there really isn't anything interesting leading up to it. 


24. Cut by Patricia McCormick (4/5 ★)


Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside. Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak. But Callie can only stay silent for so long...

This book has been on my to-read list since high school and I only just now checked it out from the library.  I was reading it on a mini road trip and apparently I got into it enough that when my boyfriend asked me a question, it took me a minute to answer because I felt like I wasn't supposed to talk (like the main character in the book). Anyway, it is definitely geared toward more upper middle school readers than 26-year olds, but I still enjoyed it enough.


New Goal: 24/52 books read in 2018

Stay tuned for April's reads, coming to the blog on May 1st!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

DIY Brown Sugar Scrub Cubes




Goodbye, dry skin! Okay y'all, I have been OBSESSED with sugar scrubs lately.  I had originally gotten a sample of a coffee scrub from Lush and when I finally used it I was in love and made my own coffee scrub (that you can find here).  Then, I realized that I had a Mary Kay sugar scrub from years ago sitting in my linen closet. I had never used it because I thought it was just another body wash. When I realized what it was, I went through it so fast that I decided I needed to make my own sugar scrub as well.  I'm sharing my recipe, but there are many variations you could make depending on what you are looking to get out of it!



Ingredients/Supplies:

  • Orange essential oil
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • mixing bowl
  • ice cube tray
  • gel food coloring (optional)



Directions:
  1. Combine the brown and white sugar in the mixing bowl and mix until fully combined
  2. Add the honey, coconut oil, and essential oil and mix until fully combined
  3. Separate into ice cube tray departments and freeze for an hour or two
  4. To use: you can either store your scrub in the freezer and take it out when you want to use it, or store them in a separate container in a space that is room temperature or cooler.  Typical frequency of use is about 1-2 times each week depending on your skin and the season (looking at you, never-ending winter..)

    


Variations:
  1. The amount of brown sugar vs. white sugar that you use is dependent on its use. Use one cup of sugar in all, but divide it based on the benefits you are looking for listed below
  2. If you decide to use all white sugar (or mostly), you may want to use gel food coloring to give it an orange color (it shouldn't turn your skin orange)
  3. Though fractionated coconut oil is typically recommended (because it is already in liquid form), I like to melt down regular coconut oil and use it because I feel like it holds everything together better.  If you wanted to just put the scrub in a jar altogether instead of making it into cubes, fractionated coconut oil would likely be the better choice.
  4. Other essential oils could be used in place.  Additionally, the amount of oil needed varies based on the brand.  I used doTERRA which is pretty high quality, so I only needed a couple of drops

Benefits:
  1. Sugar pulls moisture from the air around you into your skin to hydrate it.  It also helps to break down the glue between skin cells, helping with cell turnover and removing dead skin cells, therefore healthier looking skin
  2. Brown sugar vs. white sugar: brown sugar is softer and better for sensitive skin or sensitive areas like the face whereas white sugar is coarser and is typically used for the rest of the body
  3. Orange essential oil helps to wake you up, but also has  a load of health benefits as well.  It is known to be used as an anti-depressant as well as a sedative- but not in the typical means of the word.  While it relaxes you and relieves anxiety, it also keeps you alert.  Orange oil helps with inflammation due to allergies or infection, and has anti-septic properties. 

Pin me for later!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Haiti: 5 Days on a Royal Caribbean Cruise, Part 2





If you missed part 1, you can read it here, first! The following account is written journal-style, to incorporate my thoughts/feelings about that day and its experiences!


Day 4 - Labadee, Haiti

Thursday, February 22, 2018

After waking up and reading on the balcony for awhile, Carl and I meandered to breakfast in the Windjammer.  They have these delicious cinnamon roll type breakfast pastries that I just cannot get enough of!

We had some time after breakfast to continue reading on our balcony, because we weren't due to dock in Labadee, Haiti until 9 AM.  We used the binoculars Carl's parents had brought to peer at the island and skim over it, looking for signs of its inhabitants.


As we docked, a string of boats drove in a large ellipse in front of us, treating us to a mini parade!


Around 9:30, we were able to vacate the ship.  We wandered our way down to the white, sandy beach and claimed a spot in the sun next to a large palm tree.  I waded into the water a little, but it was COLD!  It was really nice laying in the sun, but then the wind started to pick up and was blowing sand everywhere.  Carl and I started to amble back to the ship some time after noon for lunch.


On our way back, I got a Jamaican rum drink called a "pineapple lava flow," and it came in a pineapple!  We took some pictures, then headed back to the ship for a late lunch.  We met a family in the elevator who shared with us that they had just gotten off the ship and walked to the end of the pier, but were turned away because of the strong wind.


After a quick shower to cleanse ourselves of sand, the captain came over the speaker to tell us that the ship was planning on changing the departure time to 2:30 instead of 5 due to the strong winds at port; it was too difficult to keep the ship docked.

We ate lunch in the Windjammer, and then got our books to read in the Olive & Twist bar up on the fourteenth floor for the afternoon.  We ended up departing Haiti around 2:45 PM and could see the storm approaching in the distance.


For dinner, Carl and I had a reservation for just the two of us at the Romeo and Juliet dining hall.  I indulged in creamy wild mushroom soup as a starter, chicken Marsala with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and asparagus for my main dish, and warm chocolate hazelnut cake for dessert.



After dinner, we came upstairs so we could both finish off our books before finding the others.  It was nice listening to the rain pour into the seas below us as we reveled in the cool breeze that swirled across our balcony.  The sun drained me of m energy (and left me a little more sunburned than I realized), so by 10 PM I crawled into bed, ready to start my fourth book of the trip before slumber hit.

I have to say, it was strange being in Haiti, realizing that it was a third world country, and that although we were contained in the Royal Caribbean resort in Labadee,  just over the mountains was a whole population living in poverty. My privilege hit me hard.

Day 5 - Cruising

Friday, February 23, 2018

Our last day at sea! (booo!)  On one hand, I am ready to go home - there is only so much you can do on a floating hotel before you start to get bored.  On the other hand, it has been really nice being away from everything - no responsibilities, no plans, no connection to the real world.  I didn't even bring my planner and "to do" notebook with, so I was forced to relax and take a vacation from everything.

Carl and I went to breakfast a little later this morning because we slept in (until 6:45!)  We then wandered the boat so I could get a few more pictures.  It was really cool seeing/standing in the bow of the ship.  It was like a Jack and Rose moment (minus the whole hitting an iceberg thing and without Celine Dion singing in the background).


We met up with Carl's parents a little later and say up at the pool for a little while.  Carl ended up going to the hot tub with the girls and I did a little more wandering around the ship.


For lunch, there were (finally!) tacos.  They also had a GIANT 3-layer cake (think 5 feet long by three feet wide!) that said, "Thank you for cruising!"  After lunch, we continued to roam the boat.  We watched the belly boarding on the Flow Rider, played some shuffleboard, checked out the map (we were passing Cuba), and looked at the pictures that the photographers had taken throughout the week.


Over the course of the afternoon we lounged out on the balcony, enjoying each other's company and our last day of watching the waves and feeling the cool, sea breeze.


At 7 PM, Carl and I went to the end-of-the-cruise show, where we were entertained by a juggler/magician/comedian who was actually really good.  They ended the show with a song and dance number performed by some of the cruise staff members and the cruise orchestra.



At 8:15 PM, Carl and I met the girls for our last dinner at the Romeo and Juliet dining hall.  For my last meal, I ate fruit as my starter, beef tenderloin (best thing I ate all week!) in a morel mushroom sauce with mashed potatoes and asparagus as a main dish, and carrot cake for dessert.



Our night (eh...early morning?) ended at the Dog & Badger Pub, an Irish pub on the fifth deck within the Royal Promenade.  We watched the night's performer, Amy Hendrickson (who is awesome! Seriously, look her up!), play her guitar and sing for a couple hours with Ryan, Jodi, and Carl's parents.  Plenty of rum & Coke later, it was after midnight and the pub was forcing a shut down despite the still very lively crowd.  (We were told it was because all taps, even water, were turned off at that time).  After finishing our drinks, we headed across the way for some pizza before meandering up to bed.


On our way up to the seventh deck, we stopped at the map, which told us we were out in sea, just off the Floridian coast.  It was at this point that I realized that my fitbit showed I was just short of 20,000 steps for the day (there's a lot of walking to do on a fifteen floor cruise ship!) so Carl drug me up the stairs to the eleventh floor.  We observed the lit up city-scape in the distance before heading back down to our room for a short night of sleep.  We happened to look out on our balcony and saw that we could no longer see the city lights.  Eventually we realized the ship was cruising in circles, because we were not due to dock for a few more hours.  Finally, I fell asleep around 1:30 AM to catch some zzzs before my alarm was set to go off a little after 6.

Day 6 - Arrival

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Early in the 5 o'clock hour, Carl and I both woke up wide awake.  After turning my phone off airplane mode, I decided to avoid the overwhelming number of messages and notifications and hop in the shower so we could hit up breakfast ASAP.  The Windjammer opened at 6, an hour earlier than usual, so we headed up right away in hopes of catching the sunrise while we filled our tummies.  I got to enjoy my favorite cinnamon roll sticky buns one last time.

Once breakfast was over, we headed down to our rooms one last time to pack our last remaining belongings before exiting the boat.  We were told the doors would be opened for our departure at 7:30 AM, but ended up exiting the ship, going through customs, and taking the shuttle to my parked car all by 7:39 AM.


Final Thoughts

Cruises are perfect for people who like to vacation.  While I am undeniably more of a traveler than a vacationer, I am definitely looking forward to hopping aboard another cruise in the future!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jamaica: 5 Days on a Royal Caribbean Cruise, Part 1





Though I have done a lot of traveling, this was my first ever cruise!  I went with my boyfriend, his parents, his sister, two of his sister's friends, and his godmother/cousin and her husband.  The following account is written journal style to incorporate my thoughts/feelings about that day and its experiences!

Day 1 - Departure

Monday, February 19, 2018

After platefuls of chocolate chip pancakes, we packed our bags into the car and left the condo in Fort Myers around 9 AM.  After checking our bags with security and retrieving our SeaPass cards, we boarded our ship, The Independence of the Seas, and set out to find our state rooms.  Unfortunately, the rooms were not yet ready and we were stuck hauling our luggage around for another hour and a half or so.

We ended up snagging a table in the Windjammer Cafe, where we grabbed a small bite to eat and met up with Ryan and Jodi.  From there, we traipsed up to the twelfth floor with all our luggage, where we relaxed on lawn chairs until the all-call sounded, letting us know our rooms were ready to be inhabited. Once situated, Carl and I headed out to explore the ship.

At 3:45 PM, we all had to gather at our assigned emergency meeting places to go over the brief emergency procedures.  I was surprised that the meeting wasn't very detailed, as it is on an airplane.  I couldn't help but wonder exactly what the procedures were and what we were supposed to do in the event the ship started to sink (other than stand on deck with our life jackets).  How do we get into the safety boats? What are safety boats even called? How do we know where to go once in not-sure-what-its-actually-called safety boats? As soon as we gathered, we were dismissed.  By 4:30 PM, we were grouped at the top of the ship, waiving to the beach-goers as we departed Fort Lauderdale and turning our phones to airplane mode for a week of being unplugged.


There was a strong, cool breeze, making it less than ideal for swimming and/or sunbathing, so Carl and I decided to play a round of mini golf on the deck 13 course.  The course was easy, but the craziness of the wind threw things off a bit.  Our dinner reservations weren't until 8:30 PM, so we wandered the Royal Promenade on deck five, where we got some pizza, and more importantly, some dessert. (Let me tell you, I took full advantage of free pizza being available from 10 AM until 3 in the morning every day!)

The nine of us were seated for dinner at a round table in the rear of the Romeo and Juliet Dining Hall.  The dinners served are composed of three courses- a starter, a main dish, and a dessert.  I had fresh fruit as a starter, followed by turkey and gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, and stuffing as my main dish.  For dessert, I indulged in a piece of chocolate cake.



Thus far, my thoughts on cruise life are that it feels like I'm in an airplane hotel, only it can't fall out of the sky because it is floating on water.  Also, it feels like I'm constantly, "drunk swaying," even if I'm 100% sober.


Day 2 - Cruising

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Today we had a full day at sea.  Carl and I met his mom up at breakfast around 7, and I was pleasantly surprised.  Usually I eat very minimal at breakfasts, because I'm pretty picky when it comes to eating in the morning,  but here I always left full.  It was so lovely to watch the waves (from 11 stories up) as I ate my fruit, cinnamon roll, and cream cheese danish.

After breakfast, we headed down to our room and planned out our day.  Carl and I ended up reading for an hour or so next to a giant window on the eleventh deck, so the water was always in view.  We saw another cruise ship and cargo ship pass by, which was funny to me.  In the vast expanse of the water that we are sailing in, it seems like it would be unlikely for us to run into anyone else.

At around 11, we decided we were ready for lunch.  Unfortunately, lunch wasn't served in the Windjammer until 11:30, so we trekked over to the pizza place and snagged a few slices for a snack while we waited.  We also snagged a coupon book from the shopping presentation (which we bailed out of) so we could get some free goodies once we arrived in Jamaica.

Joined by Carl's parents and the girls, we ate lunch at the Windjammer.  Still full from the pizza, I just had some potatoes and apple crisp. From there, we went to an art auction, because we were promised free champagne.  In order to receive the bubbly, you had to actually sit through the auction, and ain't nobody got time for that! (Note for next time, free stuff isn't actually free! Well, it is, but you have to sit through some sort of presentation or something beforehand which is totally not worth it!)

Hearing the pool bellowing our names, we headed up to the twelfth deck clothed in swim suits and clutching our books.  Once through the automatic door, we nearly got blown overboard!  The wind was so forceful that you could hardly walk against it.  Only a quarter of the way around the track on the deck, we headed down the stairs, encouraged by the wind, giving us a shove the whole way down.



Today we are sailing around the coast of Cuba, out of the Atlantic and into the Gulf, in order for us to reach Jamaica in the morning.

At 4 PM we went to the ice skating show, "Freeze Frame."  It was okay.  There was a significant amount of falling, but I would guess that is due to the rocking of the ship.  The skaters performed their routine to songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.



Once the ice show was over, we headed back to our state rooms on the seventh deck, where we indulged in good conversation and copious amounts of adult beverages before dinner.

Our dinner reservations were set for 8:15 PM, because as it turns out, that is the only time the dining room can seat a group of nine.  I had a caesar salad as my starter, prime rib with mashed potatoes and green beans for my entree, and of course chocolate molten lava cake with ice cream and caramel sauce for dessert.



Following dinner, Carl and I took a walk around the uppermost deck, before crawling into bed for the night.

Day 3 - Ocho Rios, Jamaica 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

After an early wake up (as per usual- interesting how we have still been getting up before 6, despite being in a time zone that is an hour earlier than Alabama's) we went up for breakfast before docking in our port of call at 7 AM.  We didn't get let off the ship until after 7:45 AM, however.  As Carl and I got off the boat, they wouldn't stamp our passports, which was disappointing.  According to the security lady on shore, they won't stamp your passport unless you're in the country for 24+ hours (I think she was just lazy, but what do I know!)


We met up with Ryan and Jodi right away and took our sweet time wandering down the streets of Ocho Rios.  Wandering the streets was slightly stressful to me, because a bunch of natives kept hustling us, asking if we wanted a taxi, a tour, etc.  As we ignored them, one of the men yelled at Carl, telling him that a little bit of manners goes a long way! "PLEASE, leave us the heck alone!" I muttered to myself, not loud enough for him to actually hear.


Nothing seemed to open until after 8:30 AM, so we went to a coffee shop - Cafe Express - to wait.  After Carl and Ryan started in on their cups of coffee, Carl asked the employees where the best place would be to get rum native to Jamaica.  The owner of the shop shared his opinion and gave us more info about the things to do (not much).


From the coffee shop we meandered downstairs where it was sprinkling rain, intending to head back to the boat.  We ended up stopping at a bar instead (to no ones' objection!)  Ryan ordered us all rum punches just in time for Carl's parents to find us there. Another round of drinks was soon ordered, because when in Jamaica, you drink Jamaican rum!  Carl had ordered some Jamaican jerk chicken which was so good!


As we wandered back to the boat, we went through some shops.  I ended up getting myself a soccer jersey, which ended up being the only souvenir I bought the whole trip!

Since there wasn't much to do, and even the beaches had an entrance fare, we headed back to the ship where we ate in the Windjammer for lunch before heading to the pool deck to read, relax, and enjoy the hot tub while the rest of the ship's 4,000 guest capacity was still on shore.

Mildly sunburned, we went back to our room to shower and change before the on-board ice arena opened for open skate at 3:20 PM.  Thankfully we got there early.  The sheet of ice was so small - like maybe 1/4 the size of a standard rink! It didn't take but 15 minutes or so before we were annoyed with having to skate around everyone and left.  I don't think I've ever worn rental skates before and they were not the most comfortable things...plus we had to wear these goofy looking helmets!

We made it back to our room in time to watch the ship kick into gear and turn us away from the pier,  back into the Gulf.


Carl and I spent a couple hours reading on our balcony before meeting the rest of the crew for dinner at the Windjammer.  After two nights of not leaving the dining room until 10 because of our late reservation times, we needed an early buffet dinner so we would have the rest of the night for other activities. Funny enough, it was only 7:30  when we went back to our room to relax before bed!

I have to say, I was fairly disappointed with Jamaica.  You have to pay to do pretty much anything - even go to the beach- and you're constantly being accosted by persistent locals. I'm glad we stopped there for the day, but I have no desire to return in the future.



Edit: You can find part two, here!