As most of you might know we just returned from a 7 night Caribbean cruise with Celebrity cruises on board the beautiful Millenium ship. By we I am speaking of myself, my mom and dad, my brother, Ken, my sister Margaret and my BIL Ben. My mom's brother Stan and his wife Donna also went with us. We were celebrating the 10 year anniversary of my kidney transplant and we had been planning this cruise for about 4 years. Our ports of call were: San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Casa de Campo Dominican Republic and Labadee, Haiti. We were all very excited to get on the road and get going.
Dad, Mom and I left on Saturday the 19th of January to fly to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta. Margaret, Ben and Ken flew from Kansas City and my aunt and uncle flew from Salt Lake City. The plan was to be there in enough time to go out to dinner together but Mother Nature had different plans. It snowed in Atlanta for the first time in like 6 or maybe 100 years. Of course it had to snow on the ONE day that we needed to be there. Naturally, the Atlanta airport was a zoo and we were delayed. Margaret, Ben and Ken also were delayed but were able to connect in Atlanta and still be on the same flight with the rest of us from Atlanta. Aunt Donna and Uncle Stan arrived about 3 hours before we did at the hotel. All of us settled in for the night and our big day on Sunday.
Sunday January 20th
We woke up early so we could be ready to go on the first shuttle that left the hotel at 10:30 am at $7 a head to go to the dock. We had some great help from one of the Celebrity employees at the dock. He put Uncle Stan in a wheelchair and walked with us the whole way until we were nearly on the ship. We boarded the ship and were offered Champagne, Wine or Orange Juice. When we had all partaken of our OJ we proceeded to Deck 10 for lunch and to wait for the AquaSpa to open for appointments so we could book our various spa treatments. I scheduled a hot stone massage for the next day at 1:15. Our first dinner was a casual dinner so we didn't have to dress up too fancy. Our waiters name was Nina and her assistant was Balamir and they were great. Margaret and Ben, however, started to suffer from some motion sickness and didn't make it past the salad. We had mentioned that it was Dad's birthday so there was a cake and singing. It was great. Dad and I attended the show that night which was an introduction to the various musical acts that we would see throughtout the week.
Monday January 21st
This was our first sea day and we all had a good time hanging out on our balconies and searching the ship to find out where everything was. It was a fun day to just hang out, get a massage and be with eachother. Our dinner that night was also casual and we had yet another cake. Our wonderful travel agent had paid for a cake for Dad's birthday but the people in the kitchen didn't get it out to us on Sunday so we didn't get another song but we got another cake. Again. It was pretty cool. My massage was great but left me a little sore and I adored having the hot rocks just resting on my spine. When they were used as part of the massage I wasn't so happy but live and learn eh?
Tuesday January 22nd
Today we arrived in the beautiful port of San Juan Puerto Rico. We didn't arrive until about 3 because of the rocky start that we had with the wind and waves. But our stay was extended until 11pm so we had to be back on the ship at 10:45pm so that we could be ready to go by 11p. Mom, Dad, Aunt Donna and Uncle Stan had signed up for a bus tour of Old San Juan so Margaret, Ben, Ken and I set out on our own. We decided to walk and not pay someone to drive us around. We walked up to an old Spanish fort and toured it and ran into the "old folks" as well. The views from the different heights of the fort were incredible and it was cool to see Old and New San Juan. Then we decided to walk around and we eventually came to a cool park and the ocean then we walked back to the ship. Our dinner that night came from the buffet since we didn't back to the ship for dinner in the dining room that night.
Wednesday January 23rd
Today we arrived in St. Thomas. Margaret, Ben and Ken decided they wanted to go snorkeling so they went off happy and excited for their adventure that day. Aunt Donna found a local man, Dale, who has a limosine business and he came to pick us up in his van. We hired him for the whole day and it was a great day. He took us all around the island telling us all of the history of the island. We went to several fun and beautiful places. I really fell in love with all of St. Thomas and would love to go back sometime and just relax at a resort or something. Meagan's Bay was especially beautiful and we got to see it from high atop St. Thomas. Margaret, Ben and Ken went snorkeling in St. John at Trunk Bay and had a great time. I was afraid that my little sis would come back with a huge sunburn but she did fine! It was my favorite day of the cruise and the day I bought most of my souveniers.
Thursday January 24th
Today we arrived in Casa de Camp, Dominican Republic. Ben had served a mission here and lived here for two years a few years previously. Dad had decided to rent a van and we would all hop in while Ben drove us to the captial, Santo Domingo, which was about an hour and a half away from the ship. We got the van no problem and started off on our journey. I was amazed by the traffic there and lack of any kind of signals, stop signs or motorcycle helmets. Motorcycles went anywhere they wanted and sometimes had more than 2 occupants. I also realized why you don't litter as we visited the DR. We went to this really cool market place and Ben haggled with those that were selling things and we all bought some souveniers to take home with us. Not that we would need a rememberance of the DR as the ride back to the ship would have burned the memory inside of our skulls. But before we get to that, we had lunch at KFC which was good and we decided to "run by" the temple. When Ben had lived there the traffic wasn't as bad as it apparently is now. It took us a long time to reach the temple and then we were behind schedule to arrive at the ship. I think we flew back to the port. I can remember sitting in the back of the van just praying that we would make it back to the ship. I was checking my watch constantly and willing the hands to move more slowly. Ken was sitting next to me saying "We're not going to make it" while I screamed at him "Yes, we are. Be quiet and don't say that! It makes me nervous." Sorry Ken if I was a little on edge. Somewhere between Ben's driving and a little divine intervention we managed to pull up to the gate of the port about 10 minutes to 4. We needed to be on the ship 5 minutes ago. The little guards from the guard shack pull out, Ben speaks some Spanish, we almost run over one of them as we speed over to a place where we can park the van. We can't even return it and some nice people at the port offer to call the car rental place for us. Me, Mom, Dad, Stan, Donna and Margaret get out of the van while Ken and Ben arrange to get the van picked up. As I am walking away I don't even know if Ben and Ken are going to make it on the ship. We RUN down to the gangway and are told we are the last 8 people off the ship. As soon as Ken stepped on the boat, they were pulling in the gangway and we were heading up to our rooms. As soon as we were up on our floor the ship was pulling away from the dock. It was truly a heart stopping day but I had so much fun going into the country and see what it was really like. But I never want to experience a ride or heart attack like that again!
Friday January 25th
Today we pulled into Labadee, Haiti and somehow we all failed to realize that this port was privately owned by the cruise line and we would be the only boat there. We had to tender into this port which basically means, we leave the big boat and get in a little boat so that we can be ferried to the island. Mom, Dad, Stan and Donna opted to stay on the ship but Ken, Ben, Margaret and I had an appointment with the waverunners. For some reason, in December, I let these three talk me into driving a wave runner. Margaret and Ben go a little earlier than Ken and I so when we arrive on the beach we pull up some beach chairs and hang out until our appointment with death..hem..the waverunner.
First, the waverunner people take us into this little room to show us a "safety video" This "video" should have been called the "scare me to death" video. There were people doing things on wave runners in this video that scared me silly. I was pretty close to being a chicken and not going but then I reminded myself that they had $89 of my hard earned money and I guess I had better just suck it up and get on the thing. When Waverunner Dude #1, we'll cal him WD#1 for short, comes back in after the video he proceeds to give us further instruction should we flip over in the water. I am still, at this point, thinking of being a chicken. Then WD#1 says we will be following each other in single file on a tour of sorts so that we do not run into the reefs that line the shores of Haiti. He asks, "Who thinks they will be the slowest in our group or who would prefer to be behind everyone else." My hand shot up so fast I think I pulled something in my back. He then asks who would like to be in the front and the middle. We were then assigned numbers. (I am sure you can all see where this is heading.) Ken is #1, Ben is #2, Margaret is #4 (until the last run) and I am #10 behind everyone else. But this is precisely where I wanted to be without the worry that I was slowing someone else down.
We exit the room and head to the life jackets to get buckled in. We then sit on our waverunner and have our picture taken by someone from the cruise ship. I never did see that picture and I am probably glad because I know I wasn't looking too hot. I was thinking that they would back out the wave runners for us but no such luck. I managed to back mine out and wait for my number to be called. At first when I pulled back on the throttle I couldn't get into a good rythm or get the right speed but I managed to smooth things out but I was still so nervous. We made our first stop close to our ship and he told us some about Haiti. During the second ride I really started to enjoy it but I didn't pull the throttle all the way back yet because I wasn't that brave. We stopped 3 more times and near the end, as we were nearing our starting point, I pulled the throttle all the way back but it was too bumpy so I slowed down a little. I was also hoping that someone would park my wave runner but no such luck there either. I managed to park it with some instruction from my great family that was with me. Thanks Ken, Ben and Mar for convincing me to go on the wave runner! I would have really regretted not going if I would have chickened out. (Is that even a word?) After our wave runner experience Ken and I headed back to the ship and hung out.
Saturday January 26th
Our final day at sea but I didn't feel so hot so I didn't do much but read. I did manage to finish all three books that I had brought along. I am sure that some of you are asking yourselves, "Why did she bring books on vacation." The answer is because I love to read. That is all. We had a great last dinner that night and enjoyed the great service that we had from our wait staff. We had to pack that night and set our suitcases outside but we managed to get it done before the deadline at 11pm.
Sunday January 27th
It was back to the real world as we waited to disembark. We enjoyed just being together. After going through customs and collecting our luggage, Mom, Dad and I said good-bye to Ken, Ben and Mar and Aunt Donna and Uncle Stan. We hailed a taxi to our hotel where we collapsed. Dad went out and got pizza but we all just laid in bed, had a nap, ate dinner and watched TV.
I really loved going on the cruise with all of my family and I know they loved it as well. To see some pictures go to my sister's blog where she has posted a few. I am not at home with the pictures and I want to get his posted before everyone freaks out. It was a great vacation and I hope we get to do it again some day. I love all of you!