Friday, December 30, 2016

October 2016: Part IV - St Thomas

Our first port of call was St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. We had breakfast then took a skyride up to Paradise Pier. The views were gorgeous, and it was cool to get some perspective from there of just how big our cruise ship was. I'm surprised we didn't see more cruise passengers up there. It's reasonably priced and just a short walk from where the boat docks. 
Back when we were childless, we took big trips regularly. This was our first big vacation without children in nearly 4 years. Deja vu! 


We're still cute together. We just have a few more wrinkles and a bit more gray hair.

We saw a huge digger coming down this tiny, narrow hill where all the rich people live. We were impressed with how easily he turned the machine by planting the digger piece down. We recorded it for Tyler because we knew how much he would have loved watching it in action.

We also found an Iguana at the top of those trees. That whole vacation could have been called "Find the Iguanas!"
After we got our fill of panoramic beauty, we walked to a pharmacy to get an underwater camera for our underwater excursion later that day. We then walked towards downtown, but didn't quite make it there. Many cab drivers tried selling us a ride, but we weren't in a hurry and didn't need to go anywhere in particular, so we opted to just walk.

Pretty panoramas of the bay

We found a little street market and bought some cheap T-shirts and a bandana for Oscar to cover his neck after that nasty sunburn. I also had a hair wrap done for $24 ($2 per inch). I kept it on until we got back to Washington. It was fun to play with.

We took a local bus about 2/3rds of the way back since we had time and didn't want to pay more for a cab. It was kind of neat to mingle with the locals for a bit. This made us think of our kids again since we saw a playground and a mom with a baby on the bus.

We made it back to the ship for lunch then left again to take a boat out to our underwater excursion - BOSS (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter). We sailed out to Buck Island national preserve, an island where astronauts used to train for harsh conditions in zero gravity.

The BOSS staff told us the lighthouse had been closed for water damage after a massive wave hit the island several years ago. We weren’t allowed to even touch the land because it’s a protected historical area.

Going under the water in our scooters was amazing! I really don't have words to describe it. I've always been a bit of a water baby, so it was right in my element. We started off by swimming our heads down into our helmets, which was then open with air flowing into it. Water was coming into the bubble from the bottom but not filling it up. It was a bit unnerving until you got in but then you could breathe comfortably. There were three non swimmers in our group, so it was a bit rough for them to get into it, but they all figured it out eventually. Two swimmers couldn’t manage it and had to miss out. I watched one struggling and felt pretty bad for her. She looked like an 8 year old from down where I was. We had to focus on popping our ears due to the change in air pressure.

I'd never done anything with extended time underwater, but I’m thinking now I would really like scuba diving. A tiny sunken rowboat we saw looked amazing, so I bet bigger shipwrecks are really cool.
From where I was, it didn’t seem like we were moving anywhere. We were, but it was so slow it was hard to tell it was happening. I found Oscar, who had the camera, and did my best to signal to him how much I was enjoying myself. We hung around for a bit while the scuba staff took our pictures with fish swimming up around us. I'm glad they took pictures since the ones we took were terrible. We really didn't know how to wind that camera properly. I had no trouble smiling because I was having the time of my life.
However, I was sad to see Oscar giving me a frowny face and trying to signal the diver that he needed to stop. They usually don’t have people struggle in the middle of it, just the anxiety at the beginning, so it took the diver a bit to notice his distress. He was incredibly sea sick, and unfortunately it only got worse on the boat. There was nowhere for him to get stable. He's not a water baby like me, and it was just too much all at once. 

I stayed in the water and snorkeled while the other two groups took their turns on the scooter. The water was super buoyant and super salty. I found lots of sea urchins and a few colorful fish here and there, but it all paled in comparison to the BOSS. Still, it was nice to float around in the Caribbean. Our life preservers were cool. You blew the air into them yourself.

I accidentally scraped my arm on an anchoring ball, and it hurt like crazy. The boat captain said “don’t touch my ball. It’s got crabs.” No kidding! It didn’t even leave a mark, but it hurt so bad for several hours, probably because of all the salt getting into the wound. After getting back on the boat I tried these awesome Bindi cookies they had on board. I saved a few for Oscar to eat when he wasn't feeling so sick, telling him “they’re like Oreos but softer with a delicious donut aftertaste.” Later on when he did try them he said “nasty! They’re like stale, wannabe Oreos with this weird donut flavor.” To each his own!
We got back on the ship and Oscar napped while I checked out the pools and waterslides on the upper deck. They had a neat kid’s area within it, which made me miss my little ones. This cruise clearly catered to a much younger crowd than our Hawaii cruise. I then went back for a shower and we took sunset pictures just before dinner.
It took Oscar a good long time to get this time lapse video.

At dinner we met new friends - Ritchelle and Chris, an engaged couple from Puerto Rico. There was also Brigham, Brigham's sister and her coworkers from Indianapolis. They worked in hospital billing and knew where my friend Kara's husband works, though they didn't know him personally. The food on this cruise was amazing, of course. My only complaint is that nearly everything had onions in it (clearly they had Oscar in mind when they were preparing it).
The wait staff danced for us nightly. We liked watching our waiter bust a move.

After dinner we did cha cha class, which was a lot like Zumba. Ritchelle and Chris cheered us on and recorded us. Then we played a Battle of the Sexes game. The ladies won with my knowing Rose Red is Snow White’s sister. We then did this hilarious little bears running around game where he read a story and you had to run a lap every time your name was called (I was Papa Bear and Oscar was The House). They said it got too busy to name a winner, but really, it was the men. Oscar even tripped and fell over from running so hard. Then I shook my booty and twerked to get ping pong balls out of a fanny pack and and won it for the ladies. I earned my first ship on a stick with more to come later. Oscar earned a bottle of champagne since he'd been the men's team captain, so he gave it away to another guy who'd done the little bears game with us. 
We had a neat Yak towel animal that evening.

The next day was our only day entirely at sea, so we took advantage of it and slept from 10pm – 9am. It was awesome! We ate breakfast and then watched "Towel Animal Theater." It was something Tyler would have loved, especially when the bubbles started up. Though if he'd been there he probably would have also had a few meltdowns trying to get on stage. We later did the genius test but only got 14 to someone’s 31 out of 32. We played some minigolf, which is a wee bit challenging on a moving ship, and worked out in the gym. Oscar went back to the room while I did a scavenger hunt with a couple who really knew what they were doing, and we won. I helped by providing a baby picture (something the other teams couldn't get and I had tons of Allison's on my phone), making a bar napkin flower with the design from our napkins when I worked at JSMB, and I took pictures of the golf course and the postcard mailbox. I helped, but I never would have found everything that they did. They were experts. They said they do scavenger hunts regularly. Afterwards we ate a quick lunch then went back to the main theater for Harry Potter trivia. I tied for the win getting every question correct (though I said gray instead of silver on the Slytherin Colors). By then I was up to three ships on a stick. After that we went back for a nap, which is easy to come by with all the rocking and gluttony.
That night was formal night in the dining room, though neither of us was dressed appropriately. I only had flip flops and tennis shoes, neither of which were allowed, and Oscar was wearing shorts since his only pair of full length pants were sweat soaked from our walk around Old San Juan. Fortunately no one could tell once we were sitting down. I'd promised Liz I would eat a chocolate melty cake for her, so that night I did.

Oscar had been hoping to eat his favorite dessert, a bean tostada, but it was never on the menu. :( It was an appetizer from our last Carnival cruise that he enjoyed so much, he ordered it again for dessert.