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.

You can find part two, here!

You can find all travel posts from Hey Dreamer Blog here.


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