(Note: Pictures available at this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chgocutie/sets/72157600317053963/)
I've returned from my big 30th birthday trip, and when I say I had a good time and partied, believe me when I say I have a goog time and partied!!!!!
It all started last Tuesday in Miami, when I arrived at the Hilton Miami Airport. I had spoken to the front office manager for weeks trying to get everything situated...the room, things to do, etc. When I arrived, the staff was absolutely wonderful! The hotel itself was truly beautiful. The hotel is situated in the middle of a private lagoon that is absolutely...awesome, to say the least. The room was a two-level townhouse suite, complete with in-room spiral staircase and a balcony that overlooked the private lagoon, pool and downtown Miami. My friend Amanda that lives in Florida joined me for day 1, and as soon as we put our bags down in the room, room service knocked on the door and delivered a birthday cake, soda and sparking water courtesy of the hotel! It was truly a surprise, and I almost cried when I saw it! I made sure to personally thank all of the management staff for "catching me off guard" if you will.
Amanda and I picked up the rental car and drove around Miami for a while. It is a beautiful city, and if you've never been, be sure to go! That evening, we drove down to South Beach (aka SoBe) and went out to some of the clubs down there. Yes, the boys were out, and yes some of them were fine as hell, but almost all were very superficial. If you didn't have a 44 inch chest, 19 inch biceps or basically look like you lived, breathed and ate the gym, they didn't even say hello or even look in your direction. In fact the one person that did eventually speak and carry on a brief conversation was this guy from ATL that was in the bar with us, and that convo was just to find out where we were from and what time it was! Besides that, the two of us had a wonderful time.
DAY 2: Amanda and I picked up my baby and my friend Bryant from the airport in Fort Lauderdale. We had lunch with Amanda's brother in Fort Lauderdale before starting our adventure. We drove down to SoBe again for lunch at Johnny Rockets on the beach and to take some pictures. (Oh by the way, speaking of SoBe, the MacArthur Causeway - the expressway to get there - was very close to the hotel, so we used it all the time, but the interesting thing is that it had a one-way toll of $1.25. You only paid the toll to get TO SoBe but you didn't pay it coming back! I thought that was kinda weird, coming from a city where there's no such thing as a one-way toll, but I digress.) We finally went back to the hotel and prepared for a night on the town. We went to Club Score in SoBe and to Club Twist on Washington St. Club Score was bumpin the beats and we stayed for a while! It was packed too! Unfortunately by this time all of the driving and running around had caught up with me and I started getting tired, so we left around 1am. Besides, we had to get ready for cruise day.
THE CRUISE - DAYS 3-6: I returned the rental car, came back to the hotel and we checked out, hopped into a taxi, and headed to the Port of Miami for three days in paradise. The trip there was uneventful...until we ran into significant traffic on the MacArthur Causeway. We were afraid that the taxi ride would cost more than the bus offered to us by the hotel, but it turned out not to be - it was actually cheaper. After we passed up the accident scene (Miami drivers are by far the WORST) we pushed full speed ahead to the Port. We arrived and our ship (The Majesty of the Seas) was there to greet us. We got our bags, gave them to the porter (and a $5 tip) and proceeded into the terminal. We wanted to get some pictures but was immediately told by a security guard to put our cameras and cell phones away or customs would confiscate them. So much for pictures of the actual port and terminal. The process to get on the ship was pretty straight forward - just think airport security: Metal detector, x-ray, giving up your first-born, stuff like that. Once we got past that, it was time to show citizenship, which meant filling out a bahamas form, going to the counter, showing our birth certificate and signing some forms, and getting our SeaPass, which was our room key, our ID card to get on and off the ship, and the card to pay for all of our onboard purchases. Once we got those, on to the ship we went!
The Majesty is a HUGE ship - not was big as some of the mega-ships nowadays, but huge nonetheless. It took me two of the three days to find everything on the ship, and even then I still got lost on occasion. We got on board and found our stateroom and met our stateroom attendant Jimmy, who was truly nice. We saw him every once in a while in the hallways, and he kept our room in excellent shape, even if we didn't! A half-hour before the ship departed, we had to participate in the abandon ship drill, which meant the alarms sounded and we put on our lifejackets and proceeded to the lifeboat deck (think Titanic). They lined us up in rows of three and told us how to put on our lifejackets. Then the Captain dismissed us over the PA system. Then the ship departed Miami, and we spent the evening in the bars having this drink called a Mango Cooler which I absolutely fell in love with! I fell in love with it so much I had that almost nonstop while I was there (when I got my statement I was shocked as to how many times I had it!) I also fell in love with the Casino on board - so much in fact that I spent $150 in three days time - and just about broke even.
Unfortunately Mother Nature didn't want to cooperate with us much. It rained off and on during the first day and a half of the cruise, so much in fact, that we had to cancel our stop at CocoCay. We saw it going past and ended up having another day at sea, which was all good. Jerome and I went to the captain's Q&A, the formal night (my baby looked KILLA in his tuxedo!) and a host of the shows - one of the shows on the very last night of the cruise was called The Quest - and unfortunately I can't say too much about it (what happens at the Quest stays at The Quest) but I never knew how interesting grown men looked in a certain article of women's clothing.....
Finally, the weather improved and we arrived at Nassau on the evening of Day 2. The Captain truly earned my respect - he took the ship, turned it 180 degrees and parallel-parked the ship into the port. I wish I had caught that on video because a cruise ship is not like a car, but he treated it like one - a luxury car that is. Once we docked, we stepped off the ship for a little while that night, but everything was closed. Turns out downtown Nassau closes up shop around 7:00pm nightly, and when we stepped off it was already after 10:00. So we decided to try it again the next day, which we did. Again, Mother Nature tried to fool us so as soon as we stepped off the ship the next day, we got right back on to get our umbrellas because it started pouring again. By the time we got our umbrellas it has stopped raining and the sun was shining. Go figure.
We walked off the pier to downtown Nassau, and the taxi drivers were lined up towards the end of the pier trying to get us to hop in a cab for either a tour of Nassau or a trip to Paradise Island (Atlantis). We opted to walk around downtown. While we were there we saw the oldest trick in the book: Some of the locals laid a $100 US bill on the ground, folded, and stood about 5 feet away from it, waiting for someone to pick it up. Yeah right, we pick it up and then you and your boys start a fight, take all of our money and get us locked up. No thank you. We bought some T-shirts and some other souveniers to take back home. Once we finished shopping and picture taking, we went back to the ship. We had to; it was extremely humid out there, so humid in fact that my digital camera stopped working. Good thing we went back because by the time we got back to our stateroom, everything we had worn had been sweated through! So after we changed clothes, we chilled out by the pool pretty much for the rest of the day.
Speaking of, there was one person that really made me feel welcomed on the ship; her name was Carlene, and she was one of the servers at the buffet. Each and every time that Jerome and I went to the buffet (which was just about every 3 or 4 hours - the food was THAT GOOD) she knew exactly what we wanted to drink and brought it over to us. She even remembered us by name (and for one person to remember that on a ship of over 3,000 people, that is TRULY an accomplishment!) I tipped her well both at the beginning and the end of the cruise.
Oh one last thing: The Alcohol. Jerome and I bought a LOT of alcohol to bring back, because it was all cheap and tax-free. For instance, I bought two liters of Absolut and two liters of Bacardi, and only paid $37 for all four bottles. The only problem was getting it home; we thought we could use the carry-boxes they provided for us at the airport, and was immediately told by the airport officials that we could NOT. This was after Royal Caribbean told us that we could! If we couldn't fit them into our carry-on luggage, we'd been screwed. Needless to say I pushed it all into my two bags and it all made it home safely.
We're already planning two cruises in 2008...one in February and one in May. It was that much fun!!! Again, I put pictures on my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chgocutie/sets/72157600317053963/
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