What a great weekend!
We took a drive up North to see friends who invited us up for the weekend; Well, we left after my husband’s job Saturday night and returned home last night around 7PM. This friend is my husband’s bestie from HS, and his family house is up in Weld, Maine, about 3.5 hours away, which isn’t such a bad ride. This was our third time together up there, once when our kids were 3yr and 1yr, and then last year. We had such a great time last year, our kids especially. So much so, that we had to make this trip this Summer for the kids.
This trip was great. I never relaxed so much in such a short amount of time ever. Never. My only goal this weekend was to enjoy some downtime with friends, eat and drink like I was 26, and maybe, maybe, get a tan. We spent one full day there flanked by the two nights, and that one full day was literally the best Summer day! It started off cool but then progressively got warmer and sunnier, till it felt like 85 by 11 AM(though it was only 76~). Their house is right on Webb Lake, literally. You walk out the back porch to a ten foot patch of grass then boom there is the sandy beach overlooking this massively beautiful lake and mountains-scape. There were times Sunday that I was alone on the beach, just getting lost looking at the view; watching an eagle fly by or listening to a family of loons squawking in the distance. I’d then realize where I was and just get lost again looking at the sun glimmering off the water. JUST PERFECT
Here is a slide show of the weekend. You can click through or let it stream, that is up to you! 🙂
Next time you hear from me here I will be back to the Cape for one last Summer week away, ending the week with my husband’s big 40th bday party! Wooo! Then it is our last Summer weekend with Labor Day and then IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL! The girls go back September 7 this year. We haven’t had an after Labor Day start since my oldest started Kindergarten. Which is great! Except it’s my baby’s big tenth birthday on the first day, which she keeps groaning about. So I am going to try my best to make it the greatest first day of school ever for her. On the flip side, my oldest is going into her first year at the middle school, and she can’t contain her excitement. We literally haven’t had a day go by where she hasn’t talked about starting school- I had to take her supply shopping already!! (She is an academically inclined kid, very smart, so she keeps telling me in a sweet way how much she likes Summer, but can’t wait for school to start cause she LOOOOOOOVES school. Yes, she is my child!! tyvm).
I can’t believe I just talked about back to school, it’s still Summer here!! No more jumping ahead.
And.. Yup, I married a young one. :)~
Ok, tty all real soon! xxoxoxoxo
Well, everyone, this post is short because we spent the whole day at sea, without a place to be. How awesome!? We enjoyed every 79F sunny moment poolside with cocktails, friends, and music right after breakfast. Just trying to get that last full feel of vacation in. Between drinks and the pool, we toured the lido deck one last time to soak up the moment.
What a beautiful ship.
Since we had to be out of the room by 8AM the next morning, and no matter how much I packed up it never felt like I had enough in the bags. I am just clearing up why you keep reading me say I was packing up since yesterday. lol I am not a morning person. So, once we saw the kids needed a little break, around 4PM, we went to the room to pack up as much as we could while they relaxed watching some movies. They had a great movie selection on board. We did a nightly watch of something at bedtime; which bedtime was always midnight, and I am not sure who had more fun.. the kids or me!
This night we decided to end our trip with our last dinner at Symphony. It was a wonderful last night dinner with our good friends and all the kids. Marvin stopped by for a chat, and the kids were so happy to see him before we left. He found us every day on the ship just to say hello. What a wonderful person.
Well, this is it. See why I am so sad that it’s over? We really enjoyed so much time with our kids and friends all in new places, both things I love so much to do. Yup…Our last night on the ship and my last day blogging about it. 😦
Tomorrow I will tell you about our trip to Orlando. The Orlando half of the trip was three days, but I am just putting it on one post to make it easy on me since we spent it all at Universal. What an amazing time that was too!
We are onto day 7! This was our last day off the cruise ship, and it was so much fun. I know, I keep saying everything was so much fun..but it was! This day we spent it at a pre booked private resort for the day, Nachi Cocom.
March 25- This day the ship arrived at Cozumel, Mexico, at 7AM. We disembarked after breakfast somewhere around 10AM, it was a gorgeous 82F! Ahh yeah!! The port was set up with the duty-free shop as our point of entry. It was a liquor store at the front that turned into a souvenir shop. They had people placed all around giving liquor tastings..which of course I partook. There was one liquor that I tried, that I kick myself for not buying on the way back, cream tequila. I will buy some though around here, it was THAT good.
I got to use my Spanish skills to get a taxi for the nine of us for $40 (each direction) to the resort. We showed up to the resort happily in twenty minutes. It was private, and clean. We were greeted by their photographer, who took a cute group shot of us. At registration, we were greeted with spumante and directed to the beach. Wow, what views. Their beach was amazingly clear and blue. The resort’s stretch along the mile beach was about a quarter mile. The use of the beach with the lounge chairs and thatched umbrellas, pool, hot tub, playground, food and drinks were part of the package that we booked ahead of time, which was $50 adult, $25 child, and if you wanted any water sports equipment it was $35.
Beyond the registration stand, they had a large step down bar in the dining room, a big pool with hot tub on the other side outside of the thatched covering. Once we sat in the dining room, I noticed a sandy playground for the kids, the gift shop, bathrooms, and a large shower to rinse off in.
Lots of good things here.
We started out beach side with frozen margaritas, the kids with virgin pina coladas and lemonades, swimming and using some of the free wifi (score!). The kids ran right to the sands and water, they had a blast. Before we knew it, it was lunch! Before heading back to the ship, we browsed the gift shop and ordered lunch. Wow, now, I really love Mexican food and I REALLY love a freshly shaken lime margarita, but wow. The food was authentic and delicious with the richest flavors. I wish I could’ve eaten it all, but it was just too much. We did ask before if they used only bottled water, which they cooked, washed and used only filtered bottled water. Thank God!
Ready! Salt, Lime and Down the Hatch!
The tequila. I love tequila, guys. Not like I am having it all the time, but if I am in the partying mood, and you offer..I am taking it. haha It doesn’t go to my head right away, and since we were just being beach bums, I jumped in with both feet with my crew. Amazing. I did have to half ass the last shot because holy crap the time flew so we had to leave for the taxi!
We headed back to the ship, but all I can remember was giggling with my gf and her oldest daughter the whole way back being nerds. So maybe the tequila was starting to kick in? haha
We stopped at a shop, but then quickly ran up to the lido deck for the pool area once we got off the taxi. We hung out at the pool, I may have had another margarita.. and then stayed till 7PM in the hot tub watching a movie as a whole group. All nine of us. We got that close. haha We were all a little out of it, and I think I was the only one really watching the movie. It was the De Niro movie he filmed down the street from our house in North Reading called Joy. We all parted midway through the movie, for those who needed some rest, then we were going to meet back up on the lido deck for movie under the stars and an outdoor dinner from the grill. I didn’t get to finish the movie till the next day when it was on our DVR, and I watched the rest while I was packing. A depressingly good movie.
This night was a tad disconnected because my crew got dressed in sweats and as I said, we planned to eat burgers by the pool just to unwind; my outfit of the night was literally yoga pants, a tank top and my Red Sox sweatshirt.. classy. But the other crew didn’t get the memo, and my gf wasn’t feeling all that well. We ended up having fun anyway, we broke off into our families and did our own thing. We looked around the cruise again, where they had this wonderful show set up in the piazza that we caught. These truly impressive acrobats grabbed our attention with their strength, contortion, and humor. They were pretty funny. (and they were easy on the eyes) Then we called it a night. Which means we headed back to our room to start packing it up a little while the kids rested with some TV and writing in their journals.
Wow, day seven already? Well this is flying as fast as it did for us on board. Tomorrow is day 8, our last full day on the ship. 😦
Wait, it’s Tuesday already? Wow, this snow is confusing me this week because it is flying.
Ok so, I am continuing on my diary with our next stop in Mexico; one of two stops in this country. This was my first time visiting Mexico, but my husband’s second time..so much fun!! We had booked a tour previously, with a tour company affiliated with our cruise, to see the Mayan ruins of the area. What an experience.
March 24– This morning flew by eating a quick, as healthy as possible, bite at the buffet, grabbing our gear and heading to the kids’ events they had going on in the piazza. This was the first day they dedicated the public space to a specific event for the kids. They had tattoos, button making and cookie decorating. Then right before it was over they had the mascot visit with the children. Our tour was for 12:30, and at noon we were able to disembark from the Regal Princess in Mahahual/ Costa Maya, Mexico. It was a hot 85F, which meant I was a smiling, happy girl. This girl can get used to that weather!
Once we got off the boat, we made our way to the port entrance lines where our tour was awaiting on the other side. We shuffled aboard the bus, on what was later coined as “Reggie’s Tour”. Our tour guide’s name was Reggiano, and he was a funny little character. We took an hours drive through the small town and into the jungle of Mahahual to see Chacchoben (Mayan Ruins) all while Reggie talked about the Mayan and Mexican people, and the landscape.
Chacchoben is one of the most different places I have been, historically, in North America..and I have been to a lot of places. But this area reminded me of the Valley of the Temples in my parents’ hometown in Sicily. This hidden niche of major history scattered around a large area of land. This place was just amazing and so rich with sights, and history. Some of the earliest history can be recorded from 3000 years ago! And the kicker is, that it was all constructed in alignment with the stars, Orion’s Belt, to be exact.
There were two parts of the tour that struck me a lot, made me think.
One was a weird fact bit of info that the tour guide passed to us about the Mayan ritual during the Day of the Dead…which some of the people still perform today. Most of you know that I love All Saints Day/Day of the Dead, everything about the idea of celebrating the dead intrigues me. So, their burials grounds are not like the America’s, they are not underground, but in individual cases alone or in grouped in drawers within a larger, what I call, apartment of shelves in a building type burial, or in mausoleums. Actually, when you leave America, you will see most cemeteries are not with burials underground. So, the Mayans on the Day of the Dead, take the bones of their ancestors out of their cases and wash them.
Then drink the water.
Yup. I puked too.
Then the second thing that struck me was that at the sight of the ruins they were set up in three..there was one ruin that was below, which had a mural that was now covered to preserve it. Then as you walked away from it to go up to the next level, there were these stairs that had an odd oval-shaped rock placed upon one step. Not in the middle, not at the top, not at the bottom, but about 3/4 of the way up. The rock on the step had a hole cut out. But when you looked within the hole it was not straight but curved. The main ruin above, on the next level, was the main place of worship and where the reigning queen and king would speak and perform rituals with the high priests. This large temple had an interesting shape at the top, where it aligned with the sun every morning. When the sun shone through the central part, it reflected to that rock on the stairs. The sun’s rays would shine through the curved hole to light up hundreds of yards away to the first ruin to shine on a mural!!
Amazing! What engineering from before Christ!!!!
After our tour, we headed back to the boat to get ready for the night’s events. The guys took the kids out for a quick bite to eat then dropped them off to kids’ club, since we would be spending an adults night out.. FINALLY!
Tonight we made reservations for the four of us to dine at the Chef’s Table Lumiere at 6:30PM. This was not part of the cruise package, and cost $115 pp. This included food and drinks. This truly is a once in a lifetime experience. This was a back of the house tour along the galley with a special dining experience lead by the executive chef, Naveen Quadros, and maitre d’hotel, Francisco Patricio.
We kicked off the night putting on the kitchen’s white coats with 7 other guests for the evening. We looked so much like doctors, it was hilarious. So much so, that when we went through one of the main dining rooms towards the kitchen I overheard someone say, “oh there must be a doctor’s convention”…uhm yeah, sure. haha We were led into the kitchen. Wow, that is all I can say. The executive chef and maitre d’hotel walked us through each station, explaining how they are able to put together so much food a day. The kitchen was meticulous, and run with military precision. Truly spectacular. Once we turned the corner at the end of the galley, we found a large corner decorated just for us with carved fruits and veg with white linen dressed tables.
We were greeted with a champagne toast and then a walk through of about 5 hors d’oeuvres followed. Some spectacular things like:
- blue crab and shrimp margarita with avocado and mango
- sushi grade ahi tuna tartare with wasabi and pickled ginger
- roasted new potatoes with sour cream and osetra caviar
- fontina cheese and black truffle tartlet
- breaded brie lollipop with port wine and plum reduction
*drool* I was all set at this point, but it wasn’t over!
Then we were led to the Lumiere dining room where they had a truly special chef’s table. The table was in set in the middle back of the restaurant, inside a giant circular pagoda. Then as we were seated, a giant sparkling Swarovski privacy curtain swirled encompassing us and then another one that was more static dropped from the ceiling around us. It was beautiful in person. The table was inlaid with pearl, and the centerpiece was a large mass of a sculpture made of Murano glass from Venice. So sparkly.
We were given a wonderful glass of wine from France and our first course… yes, more food! We were presented with an asparagus risotto topped with a giant Maine lobster tail all inside a Parmigiano Reggiano basket. So delicious. This was then followed by a palate cleansing by a roasted orange and crystallized ginger sorbet topped with a cookie and drowned in Grey Goose Vodka. It was too pretty to eat! Then they opened a part of the curtain where they showcased the chef cooking table side for us. He was cooking and flambeing a lamb rack and beef tenderloin, all carved in front of us, then presented with the cutest mushroom-shaped potatoes and root vegetables. This was paired with an Amarone from Italy… gah it was the perfect pairing. Then they brought us a cheese plate that I wasn’t gaga for, but it was a baked Camembert de Meaux with pine nuts, a port wine reduction with walnut and fig breads. Then they brought out a type of ice wine, a late harvest Sauv Blanc from Chile…yes, it was amazing. Then we topped off the night by being served a chocolate mousse with caramel cream and milk choc crunch.
It was as delightful and filling as you would think! We were given photos that were taken when we were seated, a culinary journeys cookbook, a flower and a copy of the menu. Thus my details! hah
The whole evening was wonderful, but we had to jet off before 10PM to grab the kids.
The kids had a wonderful time in kids club making crafts and playing games. I gave their caretaker my rose, because, well, what the hell was I supposed to do with that! hah (yup I am Elaine Benis) We went up to the lido deck for a walk around, but to our surprise there was a big dance party happening. We didn’t go dance on the deck, but it was a fun time being up there with the kids and the music and the warm breezes. Then we went off to bed!
Day seven up next…Cozumel!
We are really steaming ahead now with all these diary entries, on day 5!
March 23– This was our big day on Grand Cayman. We booked this tour ahead of time back so long ago, and had been looking forward to it since. This tour was a water and land one. We were to visit Stingray City, Starfish Point, scuba dive a bit then off to see the turtle reserve. Lots to see. Plus, we wanted to know if we could stop in a special little city called Hell, just to get a few photos.
Disembarking for this trip was different from the first one. We were tendered off the ship at 9:20AM after a quick buffet breakfast. Tendering means we had to board little boats that took you from the cruise to the port, instead of the cruise being tethered to the port. This was an interesting experience, a lot of people packed on these little things, and I am thankful it was with my friends!
We got on port to meet our tour guide, Captain Charlie, of Captain Charlie Charters. We had to separate because of our size, so my family went with Carlo, his companion, and the five went with Capt Charlie in his car. We were then brought to Capt Charlie’s dock. The dock was beautiful on its own..a sandy man-made island greeted you with these twisty trees and hammocks.
Ugh, I am so sad I am not there now!
We all met there, then boarded his boat. It was a real nice boat with dual engines for INSANE power, and there were amenities as needed..a bathroom, water and soda, snorkels with flippers and life jackets. We brought towels with us, dressed in bathing suits with covers, sunglasses and lots of sunscreen. YOU WILL NEED IT!
The waters were choppy due to all the storms around the Caribbean. We were almost going to miss this stop if the direction of the storm hadn’t changed. We were so glad it did! The ride out to the first stop was an interesting one. At first, while in the marina, the ride was smooth as water. A real joy. Then they warned us that the ride was about to get BUMPY and WET. <– that was an understatement haha The boat was put into a faster gear and we took off to scuba dive first. HOLY BUMPY. It was like the boat was getting slapped by the water, and slapping it back twice as hard. The kids enjoyed it. I snuck to the back to sit and not get so wet. It worked!
We arrived to scuba, and everyone (not me) went out for about fifteen minutes or so. My kids had never done that before, so they got fatigued quite fast. Captain Charlie and Carlo were great. They talked about everything around us, and instructed on how to properly scuba.
Everyone got back on board and about 50 – 100 feet from us was Stingray City. It was swarming with other tours, which was sorta gross to see. It’s in the middle of the ocean, but this part of the ocean is only like 3 feet high. And everyone is trying to get to this area..even tour boats with thirty people on board! As I said, it’s not deep in this area..but this day, the ocean had swells of up to 6 feet all around. I thought I could go out to the stingrays to share in fun, but nope. I got off the boat, walked over fifteen feet, got slapped with a wave, jumped on my husband’s back and said NO THANKS. I should tell you I have a slight fear of water. I love the ocean, pools, and stuff, it’s just I don’t swim much, and water that is over my head freaks me the eff out. This is why I always made it a priority that my children learn how to swim from age 2. I should take a class I know! But anyways… the groups were fighting swells and hanging with the fish. My tour stayed fairly close, and they had a blast getting massages from the stingrays, kissing them and learning about them. It was amazing. Then after a half hour, they hopped back on board and we went to Starfish Point. This place was 10 minutes closer to the shore, opposite of where we left from.
What a beautiful place. Seriously, breathtaking and dreamy. It seemed fake. The water was so clear, only a few feet high, and there were starfish peppered all along the sand of all types. Some were red and large, some were orange, even a few were green camo colors! We spent about twenty minutes there exploring and taking photos. We then boarded back onto the boat to take the bumpiest ride back to the dock. When we arrived at the marina, we were told about the iguanas that hang out along the trees..and these iguanas were so colorful and enormous!! It was so cool!
Then we got back to the dock to get back in the cars to go to the turtle farm. It was a real special place. They were farming a species of turtle so old its ancestors saw dinos! lol When you walk in there is a giant enclosure, of three spaces put together, that housed Loggerhead turtles. It was their home with breeding grounds in an artificial beach. Then beyond them there were many tanks set up where their offspring that were like teenagers, got to swim and hang out. Then beyond them were some spots of alligators and some other wildlife. Then it flowed into a touch tank and wading pools where we could touch and get in with them.
It was an amazing experience, and we could’ve hung out there longer, but we had to make it back to the boat. BUT first, we had to make one special stop.
TO HELL… mwuahahah
This is literally the dumbest stop, but who else can say they’ve been to hell and back?!
Hell is a grouping of stubby black limestone rocks all together. It may be the size of maybe an olympic sized pool? Maybe smaller? The formations had a silly devil made out of limestone sitting there, which was hard to see. But it was a perfect 10 minute stop for pictures. They had some fun post office decorated with a giant sign and fun photo ops, but the formations were behind the building out of sight. But my husband and I found them!
Since we didn’t eat on this trip we quickly ran up to Alfredo’s for lunch..where our buddy ordered some food ahead, and the amount of food on the table was HILARIOUS. There’s a small shot of it below in the food collages. We ended up talking to Vlad again this afternoon, and it was a great time as usual. Too funny…and so needed and delicious! After lunch we separated a bit to relax and do whatever we wanted to wind down.
For dinner this night we went to the Crown Grill, which is not part of the cruise package. This was another place that was $25 per adult, and $15 per child. It was fabulous. We were seated in the chef’s table area which was inside their displayed wine cases. Just the perfect space for all nine of us. There was live music near us at the bar, which was a perfect backdrop. The service was wonderful, and the food was absolutely delicious. Steaks, chops and anything you wanted! We ordered an array of apps from lobster tails, salads, and crab cakes, then we all got steak entrees..so good! This night we talked and dined a long while, too. We closed out our night here.
Actually, the four hour dinners, eating and talking, were my favorite parts of my days. I enjoyed the rhythm and the laughter so much. I need more friends like them in my life everyday..but they won’t move up here! haha
Well, that was day 5 in the Grand Cayman! Next up our first of two stops in Mexico!
We are on day four.. Port of call: Ocho Rios!
As I mentioned yesterday, the cruise had to change its course from Princess Cays to Jamaica, to avoid terrible storms that were too risky to travel into. The cruise ship arrived at port at 7AM, and by 8AM passengers were allowed to disembark. My husband and I had been to Jamaica before, not Ocho Rios, but the other side of the island for our honeymoon in 2001.
Wow, I forgot how absolutely beautiful Jamaica is.
March 22– It was another balmy 81F day, and I was really in heaven by this day. I love Summer weather.
Before getting off ship, we all decided to grab some food up in the buffet and a few bottles of water. Then we decided to take the leap of faith at port to find a local taxi to take us to a local beach. Man, we were surprised at how easy and awesome this leg of our unplanned trip was to be!!
We disembarked at around 9/9:30AM, I was nervous because this was the first port stop in my life. I wasn’t sure how hectic it would be or how easily things would go, like would it be a huge ordeal. Well, Regal Princess is seriously amazing at this process. It was seamless and we were off the boat in no time.
Right outside the port there were tons of taxis lined up along the shopping zone, and they are there at every port, so we chose a van/bus taxi that looked reputable. The two people running the service were two of the nicest people ever. Everything was marked with numbers and their company information. We ended up agreeing on a trip that was $90USD for the nine of us to ride two ways; the bus would take us over to a private beach resort, Bamboo Blu, then pick us up to get back to the ship. The resort was free to use, except food (which we packed our own from the buffet), drinks and lounge chairs ($10ea). Because the bus was also driving other tourists to their destinations along the way, we got to see a little bit of the area, too. Their first stop was to Dunn’s River Falls, then to our beach. The total trip to the beach took about 15 minutes. The bus also had free wifi..bonus!
We arrived to find a beautiful resort beach. As we walked into the place, the bus company tagged us with their bus number on a wrist band and made sure we would be waiting ready to go back to the ship at our time choice, 2PM. The resort had everything you needed…sand, sun, ocean, bathrooms, loungers, a gift shop, bar and grill. We took our towels off the boat, so we were clutch no matter what. We got there to find a beautiful Jamaican woman dressed in traditional garb dancing at the entrance, teaching a group of kids how to dance. We scouted the place, and it was too nice to be true.
We walked to the end of the beach where there were palm trees and a little more quiet. My husband and I got two loungers, then immediately laid out. Our friends went for a swim. The kids had a blast in the clear blue waters chasing fish and digging in the sand. It was perfection. We grabbed a few beers and cocktails, and really enjoyed the time together talking and exploring the beach. The area we chose to camp out was on the end of the beach where they had a cut off line with a guard; who was the coolest guy. He was guarding the other side; the private beach beyond him belonged to the houses on the beach. Very swank.
We got back to the bus drop off area for 2PM.. the bus was right on time! Phew! We trekked back to the port, and our friends went shopping for some souvenirs. My family jumped back on the boat to secure some beach chairs and relax a little while longer by the pool. Our friends soon followed.
Then after a great long hang out, where the music of that time was the resident Barbadian singer giving a tribute to Bob Marley, since we were in Jamaica. He was so fun, and the band was ‘jammin’. As the sun started to go down and our skin was now a delicious color red apple haha, we decided it was the perfect time to get to our rooms for a little unwinding and get ready for our next dinner.
This night we decided to meet up at Alfredo’s. This was a restaurant on the cruise’s dining plan. Alfredo’s is an Italian pizzeria with pastas and salads. It was amazing pizza, seriously. The capricciosa pizza without ham was tdf, If you love mushrooms, that pizza is for you … and I ate two! (yes, though personal sizes, I pigged out on two. we all did!) To say that we loved this place is an understatement. The waiter of the night was this hilarious Serbian guy, Vlad, who really made the night memorable. He was a great waiter, but with this hilarious ‘don’t give a f*ck’ type attitude, that I am not so sure he knew he was giving off. hah OMG, we had a great time with him and his stories and all the drinks he kept running to get us. Great service, and a great time. We hung out here all night long eating and drinking. It was a very special night with our Australian friends.
After dinner, we decided to take the kids down to the gelato place for some ice cream. Surprisingly, the gentleman working the place was also Serbian..and you guessed it, one of Vlad’s friends. We learned that Vlad has Serbian friends all over the boat that we should ask for .. After hanging out on the piazza with gelato, we took a quick glance around the boat. My pal grabbed me a coffee, and we talked till I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.
It was a wonderful day! Surprises around every corner, and it was just perfect.
Moving onto Grand Cayman/day 5 next!