under 50 pounds. After succeeding with that, it was off to Florida for a cruise adventure with my parent's and their neighbors. Below is a quick text recap of each day and pictures. I hope you enjoy the memories.
Day 0: After packing, it was off to the airport. We had layovers in Los Angeles and Dallas before finally making it to Fort Lauderdale. On the trip I saw Arco Arena (Power Balance Pavilion) and got another Coca-Cola can to add to a collection of international cans that is at my parent's house.
Day 1: We boarded Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas after sitting in the "Emerald Lounge." Once on board we saw (and used) our first automatic Purell dispenser ... the best way to make sure everyone on the cruise doesn't get sick, use lots of Purell. We unpacked all of our bags and shockingly everything fit in our closet and drawers. My brother and his wife also surprised my mom with a birthday present ... two bottles of wine and a cheese plate were waiting for us in the room, while Royal Caribbean sent a "Welcome Back" basket of snacks. As we left Port Everglades we saw what could be the only Flowrider (wave machine that you can surf on) in someone's backyard, it was kind of amazing, at $1 million a piece the only time I have used one was on a Royal Caribbean ship.
Day 2 and 3: We enjoyed a relaxing time aboard the Jewel of the Seas, I finished book one (Unbroken), played checkers and of course, ate.
Day 4: After 1,000 nautical miles we made it to Aruba. We went to De Palma Island, home to a fantastic water park, unlimited food and beverages, and spectacular snorkeling. After our adventure, and my mom's first time on water slides, we walked around town, checked out some jewels and went to a local bar ... where they had free wifi! For you Starbucks fans, yes they do have one of the island. Once back on the ship, we ventured out to an evening pool party, played Uno and enjoyed a poolside dessert buffet.
Day 5: After a few nights of dismal service in the main dining room we were transferred to a new table. Not only did we have amazing service every night in the dining room after the move, we were at the Captain's Table and our waiter was the same one that we had during our 2005 family cruise aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas.
Day 6: The Jewel of the Seas pulled into the spectacular port city of Cartagena, Columbia. We took a city tour to see the "Old City," and many of the other highlights. It was a great experience and a beautiful city. I especially enjoyed a sign that told drivers not to honk their horns.
Day 7: We took a train ride from one side of Panama to the other side and a bus ride back. It's pretty amazing that in about 50 miles you can go from the Caribbean to the Pacific, but it's very possible. We started out on the rails where we went along the famous Panama Canal, then transferred to a bus for a quick tour near Panama City and went to the Miraflores Locks. Seeing a ship using the locks was simply breathtaking and I look forward to eventually being on a ship that goes through the canal, perhaps once the new set of larger locks opens in/around 2014. My mom ventured out on her own to the Gamboa nature preserve where she took an aerial tram ride through the rainforest.
Day 8: Costa Rica = spectacular. We chose to go with a company called Greenway for this tour and didn't go through Royal Caribbean to book our adventure. First my parent's and I swung through the trees on zip-lines, then we went to a banana plantation (as many of you know, I love bananas, so it was nice to see where they come from), took a boat ride in the canals (we saw monkeys, sloths, a caiman - looks like a baby alligator- and the "Jesus Lizard" - it can run across the water).
Day 9: After finishing Radical and Heaven is for Real, I moved on to Water for Elephants and to my surprise I looked up and saw that I was reading the presence of elephants. We also had our second formal night, saw how they make a fruit sculpture and went to a special night for people that cruise with Royal Caribbean a lot (in other words another opportunity for free champagne).
Day 10: I kissed a dolphin in Grand Cayman, along with my mom and their neighbor. It was a really cool experience to swim and play with the dolphins and if you ever have the opportunity I highly recommend it. After swimming with Flipper, we headed across the street to a turtle farm, where we saw some huge and some tiny turtles. Once back downtown we found a picture of William and Kate, so in honor of their pending nuptials decided to take our picture. Since you have the tender into the port I was also able to get some great shots of the Jewel of the Seas and because not everyone went to see the dolphins we all looked at pictures before starting a game of Phase 10.
Day 11: As we headed back to Port Everglades it was time to do everything on the ship that we hadn't done yet. First I participated in a walk with Captain James to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Then climbed the rock wall, played pool (they have self leveling pool tables, kind of freaky to watch, but awesome at the same time) and after eating three desserts we headed to the back of the ship to play some miniature golf.
Day 12: Sadly we had to say goodbye to the Jewel of the Seas after watching the Royal Wedding in our stateroom. In the harbor with us, a US Marine amphibious unit, complete with a few attack ships, a small aircraft carrier for helicopters and a nuclear submarine. Next we boarded the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi to look at multimillion dollar homes (one home pays $44k a month in property taxes, another pays $2,800 a year for an island that is underwater) and amazing yachts that are worth more that most homes in the world. As we were walking down one of the streets downtown we noticed that they were setting up for a party. I liked the tablecloths and the work side of me liked that they were using QR codes for each of the vendors.
Now I am back home, have done all of my laundry and watched all of the TV that I missed (fast forwarding is a very helpful tool). I cannot wait to plan my next adventure!