First we flew from Newark to Atlanta, where we had to walk practically halfway back to Newark to get to our connecting flight to Miami. I'm sure Atlanta is a lovely city, and someday I'd like to see more of it than the airport. We stayed overnight at the Hyatt in Miami, visiting Bayside, one of Miami's premier shopping and dining areas. We ate dinner at Lombardi's, a somewhat pricey restaurant which serves some really first-rate Italian food.
The following day we took a cab to the dock at Port Miami and saw the Voyager for the first time. The ship is huge. At 141,000 tons, it's not so much a ship as it is the Sears Tower turned on its side and mounted on a gigantic barge.
We settled ourselves in our cabin. RCI may stand for Royal Caribbean International, but to anyone who's ever stayed in one of their average staterooms, it really means Really Cramped Inside. It was a little larger than the room we had last year on the Nordic Empress, but to us three poster children for Jenny Craig, maneuvering around it was like the stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers comedy A Night at the Opera. Our cabin attendant's name was Sandra, from the Philippines. She was a very talented woman. Every night when we returned to the room, she would have on the bed an animal folded from towels. After the obligatory lifeboat drill, we got ready for dinner.
Now this dining room was something else. It was three levels, and if you remember the tear-jerky end of Titanic, where Rose rushes up the stairs and Jack is waiting for her, that's how it was designed. Our waiter was Rupert from Jamaica, and our assistant waiter was Mary Jane from the Philippines. It was spooky. By the second night, they knew what we wanted before we did.
Monday was our day at sea, with plenty of time to hang out at one of the ship's two pools. The main pool was where all the action was -- a reggae band, games, and the weekly ritual of tossing the cruise director into the pool on the last day of the cruise. The smaller pool was known as the Solarium. It had a Greek-Roman design, and we took to calling it the "dick pool" because of its reproductions of nude (and some well endowed) Greek and Roman statues. Behind the Solarium was a well equipped health club and spa. There was also plenty of time to visit the ship's shops, explore the Sports Deck (complete with basketball, in-line skating, miniature golf, and a rock-climbing wall), and lose money at the casino. Monday night was Captain's Night, and we dressed formal. It's fun to hang out in the public areas and see everyone all dressed up.
Tuesday was our first port of call, Labadee, an island which Royal Caribbean owns off the northern coast of Haiti, and one of the most spectacular beaches I've ever seen. We staked out an area by Nellie's Place, the remains of an 18th century trading post and bordello. Back then, whenever a ship pulled into the harbor, someone would run up the hill and ring the bell so that the locals could all come to Nellie's and trade whatever they had to trade with the sailors. Today there's a craft market where Haitian craftspeople sell wood carvings and other craft items to the visitors. I bought a carved wooden box with a handle. We opted out of the barbecue luncheon on the island (too crowded) to eat on board the ship. Tuesday night was the ice show. The ship has its own ice skating rink on the 3rd deck. I'm not kidding.
On Wednesday we arrived at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Two years ago I went on a mountain bike tour, and when I found out it was available again, I immediately signed up. The tour started at the top of Murphy Hill, nearly half a mile above sea level. From there it was down 14 miles of steep, rough, bumpy limestone trails through the woods until we arrived at the parking lot of Dunn's River Falls. At the park the tour guides broke out a cooler and we celebrated with ice cold bottles of soda and the local Jamaican Red Stripe beer. Yahmon, no problem. Then we walked down to the beach and made our watery pilgrimage climbing up 950 feet to the top of the falls. It wasn't that difficult. Of course, maybe I couldn't have done it without the Jamaican beer. Everything's irie.
Thursday was at sea again, More time to shop on board, hang out at the pool, and lose more money at the casino. I had my "Titanic" moment when I was able to go all the way out to the bow of the ship by the helipad and stand there like Rose with my arms outstretched. She was right -- it was like flying. Never mind that the wind was blowing about 80 gazillion miles an hour. Dinner was formal-- there's more to clothes than just scrubs.
On Friday we arrived at Cozumel, Mexico, and took a cab to Chankanaab Park. It seems every cab driver in Cozumel is an Indy 500 wannabe. Chankanaab is a beautiful park with beaches, sea lion and dolphin exhibits, snorkeling, and botanical and archaeological gardens. We then did some shopping at some of the turista shops at the dock.
Saturday was back at sea again. Last chance to lose big at the casino, shove all our dirty clothes wherever they would fit in the suitcases, and make sure we didn't leave any souvenirs in the room.
Finally Sunday morning, perhaps 10 minutes after we left, we were back in Miami and back on our way to New Jersey. But already Anthony is planning for next year's vacation...