Monday, May 15, 2006

Come Sail Away

Well, I’m back from my first vacation in 7 years.

Overall, I had a blast! This was my first cruise, and I would go back again in a heartbeat. We went on the cruise with our best friends, which made the trip even better. Lots of fun, and more importantly, relaxation.

So, here is a day-by-day rundown of my last week and a half at sea:

Day 1

Much excitement is all around as our Limo arrives to pick us up. That’s how it ALWAYS is with me and vacations (and also why I don’t think I will ever go someplace too far away for a vacation): I am SUPER excited heading OUT to my destination, but always am in a pissy mood and just want to get the Hell home on my return trip. I think a trip home from Australia would just about force me to kill someone.

We arrived at the pier at about 1pm. Became very pissed off because we had to wait 2 HOURS IN LINE waiting to get on the boat, but once I was on, all was good. Our ship, the Carnival Legend, was moored next to the USS Intrepid, which looked pretty damn impressive.

The boat had an odd mix of people aboard. I was concerned ahead of time that there would be an overabundance of seniors on the cruise (that seems to be the stereotype, anyway), but at least on our ship, there were just as many senior citizens as there were young people out to have a good time. Good news for us! When the ship left New York harbor, I had a chance to take some truly incredible pictures (I had probably the best shot of my picture-taking-life of the sun setting on the Statue of Liberty, but my piece of shit digital camera couldn’t handle the brightness and all I was left with was a white light).
It took me the better part of the remainder of day 1 to adventure around the ship like a Hardy Boy and see what’s what.

Day 2-3

Anyone who knows me knows that I have one desire when I go on vacation…. To relax by the pool/beach, “medicating” myself, and waking up sometime after dinner to play roulette till I pass out. That’s a good vacation for me. It’s what I consider fun. I will NEVER be one of those people who join a tour group and walk all over Creation snapping pictures of crap we don’t have at home. It just isn’t me.

Beach. Alcohol. Gambling. That’s all I want out of a vacation, and for the next 2 days while we sailed south down the Eastern Seaboard, this is all I did. Heaven.

p.s. When I was single, the above list used to be “Beach. Alcohol. Gambling. Loose Women”, but unfortunately marriage has forced me to chop off that last item. I asked (begged, even), but she wouldn’t have any of it. Pity.

Day 4

We reached San Juan. As I said, I’m not much into sightseeing, but for a few hours once or twice, I can deal. Especially if the whole group of friends we were with was into it. Overall, San Juan was a pretty nice place. Of course, once you stop at some establishments for some “refreshments”, pretty much ANYWHERE looks like a pretty nice place.

I don’t really remember having the picture below taken, but apparently I went all “Rasta” for a while. Since I didn’t find this hat in my luggage, I can only assume that I just tried it on while in a shop, or stole it and it fell off during the foot pursuit with the locals.

Likewise, I’m not sure what this is either, but I think I may be the first Gringo photographer to manage to capture the wily and elusive Puerto Rican “penis-cat” in his natural habitat.
Day 5

We hit St. Thomas. Now this was the one place that really surprised me. I had heard that this was THE place if you were looking to buy liquor, jewelry, or anything high-end. Man, what an understatement! In short, St. Thomas is like Rodeo Drive on Steroids! Rolex, Armani, Gucci, Lladro, Cartier, etc.… The stores just go on an on., and everything duty-free, tax-free and discounted. The amount of money changing hands on this tiny island is staggering. At one point I had actually decided to purchase one of the nicest watches I had ever seen in a my life… a Rolex. As one part of my subconscious kept telling me “Do it! Buy It! You can hand it down to your son as an heirloom” literally at the last minute before money changed hands, my common sense took over and realized that I could buy a used car with the money I was putting down on that watch. I thankfully came to my senses and high-tailed it back to the boat.

Day 6

Ah, Tortola. My kind of stopover. We rented a taxi-bus and were whisked away up and down some roller-coaster-sized mountains, to our own private Caribbean beach for the afternoon. I walked the length of the beach, and only saw a half-dozen other people. Then I found a local beach bar, where I was able to buy some more “medicine” before floating into a dead-man’s stupor out in the tide. At least, until I remembered “Jaws” and scrambled back to the beach like a Sissy-Mary. Damn Me and my DVD rentals!

One of the highlights of the trip. Our friends loved it too.

Day 7 – 9

Back to what I REALLY want out of a vacation. Sitting poolside, drinking girly-drinks out of coconuts with umbrellas sticking out of them, and gambling all night. This was basically my M.O. for the last 3 days as we made our way back north to NYC, and I wouldn’t want to have had it any other way.

Most Surreal Incident

After gambling some nights, I would creep out to the top deck, and sit in the hot tub and watch the stars for a while. Quite calming, and a nice end to the night. I guess because of the hour, I was usually alone, but one night a guy strolls up and enters the hot tub with me. After chatting with him for a while, I realize that I KNOW the guy from somewhere, but just can’t put my finger on it. Finally, it hits me. Sharing the hot tub with me is non-other than recently retired NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. I had heard early in the trip that there was a football player on board, but hadn’t known who it was. Anyway, the conversation goes easily, and he turns out to be a very nice guy. The next night, when I was on a real winning streak at the Roulette table, who decides to sit next to me and play but my new friend Mr. Flutie! We chatted most of the night while we played. The next night, I find myself again playing Roulette (losing miserably this time), and again Doug strolls up and sits next to me. That night we played till about 2 A.M. Turns out he is a very nice and down-to-earth guy (even though he kept throwing down $25 and $50 chips like peanuts while I kept throwing my pathetic $1 chips….. hey, when I play in the Superbowl, I’ll up my ante too!).

Most Embarrassing Incident

For my son, the highlight of the trip was the towel animals.

Every evening, the maids would clean the room and do the mints-on-the-bed thing. They also would give us new towels for the next day, but they would put them on the bed folded into little animal shapes: towel dinosaurs, towel turtles, etc. We had a different animal waiting for us each night. My son loved it.

One night as we left dinner and headed back to the room, my son was running ahead of me, anxious to get back to our room. As we passed any rooms that happened to have the door open, he would poke his head in to see what towel animal they had. I kept telling him to stop, but he was too excited.

At this point, I happened to notice 2 Middle-Eastern gentlemen, wearing turbans, walking down the corridor towards us, just as my son looks into one room and sees two towel chimpanzees hanging from the ceiling.

Have you ever KNOWN a really embarrassing train-wreck of a situation was about to happen, and you know you didn’t have time to stop it?

Just as these men are passing us, my son screams out, “Hey Daddy, Look! Towel Monkeys!”

To their credit, the men just kept walking with little more than a glare. For a second, I debated running after them and explaining that my 3 year old son is NOT a poster-boy for the Kiddy-KKK, and that he was merely talking about the monkey towels and not about them, but in the end it just seemed easier to run into our room and hide.

Then I got drunk again.

Anyway, if you have never taken a cruise, I can now handily recommend it. It was a great way to relax and unwind for 2 weeks, and I have nothing bad to say about the experience.

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