Fort Lauderdale Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
So, here's the short version: Paige, Matt, and four friends get on a big boat, go to beautiful beaches, enjoy warm sunny weather, and eat their own weight in cruise ship food daily.
If that piqued your interest, here's the much longer version:
Matt and I went on a cruise last week with our friends Laura and Chris, Jess, and Laura's brother Joe. We didn't know Joe too well before the trip, but he fit right in. He and Matt have the same sense of humor, so they backed each up other the whole trip--as if Matt needs any encouragement for his bad jokes.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and stayed overnight there, to make sure we wouldn't miss the boat in the morning. We figured that was good enough "cruise insurance" (plus cheaper and more fun than actual cruise insurance). We somehow packed the six of us and our luggage into the one hotel room. I have to mention here that my luggage took up much less space than everybody else's. I was feeling guilty for bringing two bags (a carry-on and a small duffle bag) until I saw how much everybody else brought. When Chris saw my bags, he said, "Teach Laura to do that."
Around noon on Sunday, we boarded our ship, the Grand Princess. It was gigantic: taller than the Statue of Liberty and longer than three football fields, and capable of carrying 2600 passengers and 1100 crew members. It has a theater, several lounges and dance floors, four pools, a paddle tennis court, a gym, a spa, a casino, an arcade, shops, a nightclub, a couple of restaurants, and four large dining rooms.
One of the first things I wanted to do was play shuffleboard. I don't know why, it just seemed like the thing to do on a cruise ship. I thought I was a solid shuffleboard player, due to all those years of practice when Gram lived at the Meadows, but it turns out that shuffleboard on the Grand Princess is a whole different game. The board is small and the surface is very slippery. Four of us tried to play on the first day, but we quit after about an hour because nobody could score any points. We were like, "What's wrong with us?! This game is made for retirees and we can't even score!" The people watching us thought it was pretty funny. After that, we switched to ping pong.
We were afraid that the ship would be overrun by spring-breakers, but our cruise was no exception from Princess's average passenger age of 55. We would have liked a somewhat younger crowd, because maybe then there would have been more late night entertainment options, but we were still happy not to be swamped by the 18-21 crowd (most of us didn’t even like that crowd when we were part of it). The lack of cheap alcohol probably discouraged them.
Princess advertises its "Personal Choice Cruising," which basically means that you can eat almost anywhere on the ship at any time you want. In one of the dining rooms, they also offer the more traditional option of fixed seating for dinner. We decided since we were a group, it would be nice to have a set place to go every night at a set time. We had thought that once or twice we might leave the traditional dining room to try out one of the themed restaurants, but we liked it so much that we didn't want to miss a dinner there. The food was great--we had five courses every night--and I liked that we had to dress up. We had two formal nights, when the men had to wear suits or tuxes, and the rest of the nights were "smart casual." It gave me a good excuse to wear all the dresses I like but don't have a chance to wear.
One of the nice things about choosing the traditional dining option was that we had the same wait staff every night, and we got to know each other. Our head waiter was a man named Eduardo, from Mexico. He told us he has been working onboard Princess ships for 12 years, since he was 18 years old. He said he considers himself very lucky to have this opportunity and seems to really enjoy the travel. I think it would be very difficult to live on a boat for 9 straight months of the year, even if you do get to travel the world, but I guess it suits him.
There were plenty of entertainment options at night, some better than others. We enjoyed the comedian and the passenger participation shows, but weren't thrilled with the dancing and singing productions. One night, there was a hypnotist. Matt really wanted to go, so I agreed to go with him, even though I saw a hypnotist once at Georgetown and was not amused. The hypnotist, Steve Baynor, came out on stage wearing a black, rhinestone studded suit. He asked for volunteers from the audience, so Matt and I both went up on stage, along with a dozen or so other people. He tried to hypnotize us, and I gave it a try, but this guy was so over the top, and the croaking sound he adopted for a voice ("Relaaaaxxxx") was so ridiculous that I could hardly keep from laughing out loud. After the hypnotizing was over, he went through and dismissed a couple of people, including Matt, who he thought "weren't in the right stage to work with." He apparently thought he had me, until he came over and told me that when he touched my forehead, my eyes would be stuck closed. I opened them anyway, so I got kicked off. Matt thinks the rest of the people really were hypnotized, based on the things they did on stage, but I can't believe that anybody could really have taken this guy seriously.
Our first port of call was Princess Cays, a private island owned by Princess in the Bahamas. It was gorgeous--beautiful clear turquoise water, and white sandy beaches. I was happy sitting on the beach and swimming, and there wasn't much to do or see there. Grand Cayman was also beautiful, and we went to the beach there as well. We also walked a bit around Georgetown, the main town, but I wasn't that impressed. It was touristy and expensive, and given that I wasn't in the market for jewelry or alcohol, there wasn't much I wanted to shop for.
Costa Maya was our third stop. Costa Maya is in an undeveloped part of the Mexican coast--roads were just built to it a few years ago. The nearest town to the port has about 400 people. Aside from a large plaza of stores and restaurants by the pier, and a row of tourist establishments along the beach in the town, there was very little there, which I liked. Matt and I went on a snorkeling trip there, which was neat (though not as neat as Cozumel the next day).
In Cozumel, Matt, Chris, Joe, and I signed up for a snorkeling excursion through Princess. A couple of local guides (one of them nicknamed "Froggy") took us out on a boat about 45 minutes from the ship to the snorkeling site. We jumped off the boat directly into a school of fish that followed us for most of our excursion. They swam right up to us--I thought they might actually swim into us. The corals and the tropical fish were beautiful, and we even saw a sea turtle and a sting ray. When we jumped off the boat, the water was probably about 20 feet deep, and then we swam to some areas where it was about 40 feet. Finally, the guides took us out to the end of the continental shelf. One minute, we were looking straight down at sand and fish, and the next, we couldn't see anything underneath us but dark blue.
By the end of the excursion, I was pretty cold and ready to get back in the boat. Once back on board, Chris comes over and says, "Paige, we're in the middle of the Caribbean. How can you have blue lips!?!" (Being cold all the time is something the group likes to kid me about. I'm actually not always cold; it's just that they're all from New England. Other common topics of teasing include the amount and high SPF of the sunscreen I wear, and the fact that I never finish a meal or a drink).
After snorkeling, we took a cab to a beach club called Playa Sol. Playa Sol had everything I want from a beach vacation spot. Like the other beaches, it had the white sand and clear turquoise water, but it also had a bunch of fun stuff to do. There were hammocks, floating inner tubes and mats, sea kayaks, sunfish sailboats, paddle boats, and a rock climbing "iceberg" (you climb up and then slide down into the water). There were also a couple of water trampolines, which was a lot of fun for me, because Mom never let me and Jordan play on trampolines because of the danger of breaking our necks.