Looking Back: Our Cruise Vacation

It’s over a month since Casey and I got back from our week long Caribbean cruise, and I am happy to say that we had an awesome time! Things have been very busy since we’ve been back however, with work, class assignments, the church website, and more travel to Medora Valley City, and Seattle, so I it’s been difficult finding a chunk of time to write about our trip. Also, I wanted to wait until I had some pictures uploaded to my Flickr account, since they can tell a story much better than I ever could. I’m happy to say that I’ve finally had a chance to do this, so I’m ready to share the story of our vacation. Keep reading for the whole thing!

Friday, June 10th

On Friday, we managed to wake up early and had plenty of time for our trip down to Fargo, which was unusual for us. We got my parent’s house about 1:30 pm, and my mom drove us to the airport about 3:00. While checking in, Casey was lucky enough to have her entire suitcase emptied and inspected, which we figure was due to it being a few pounds over the limit.

Our flights were uneventful. The one to Minneapolis took less than an hour, giving us a layover of a bit more than an hour. We spent a few minutes looking for a good place for supper, and ended up at Sbarro. My Hawaiian pizza was disgusting (thankfully, we had much better on our cruise). I started The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on the short flight and managed to finish before we landed in Orlando. It was a much quicker read than what I’m used to, but was really good!

We finally landed in Orlando around 11:30 pm. We were both tired already, but still had to pick up our rental car and drive 45 miles to Cocoa. Getting our car was a nightmare! The line for Budget was long, but the worst part is that there was only two people working at the time. That, and customers were taking 15-25 minutes each to get their car, either because they hadn’t reserved one previously or they couldn’t get minivan they wanted. Then, about 30 minutes into our wait, the woman behind the counter just took her stuff and left after one customer. It was apparently the end of her shift, leaving one man to help a growing line of tired, frustrated people. By this time all of the other rental companies had easily got their customers through, making it that much more maddening.

Finally, after waiting in line well over an hour, we got our Chevy Classic (a Malibu rebranded for fleet use) and headed east toward the coast. The drive was nice – it was raining from tropical storm Arlene, but there wasn’t much traffic. Finally, just before 2:00 am, we made it to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express in Cocoa. We slept well that night!

Saturday, June 11th

We woke up Saturday morning just in time to get a couple of the really good cinnamon rolls our hotel is known for. It was pouring rain outside too – the remnants of Arlene. Thankfully, by the time we checked out, the weather had pretty much cleared up.

After making a short trip from Cocoa to Cape Canaveral, we found a Waffle House restaurant for lunch. Neither of us had ever eaten at one before, and I was surprised at how good the food was!

Casey enjoying breakfast

Waffle House Coffee

Coffee Creamer Sculpture

We still had plenty of time to kill after lunch, so we headed down the street to the really cool Ron Jon Surf Shop. I had spent some time in the store the last time I was in Cape Canaveral and wanted to show Casey around. After that, we dropped our car off at the local Budget office, where they were much friendlier than the workers in Orlando. They offered a free shuttle ride to the cruise terminal, which worked out great. The fact that we didn’t try getting to the ship as early as possible worked out very well for us. As it turned out, there was either a bomb scare or a fire alarm that went off at the terminal earlier in the day that forced police to close off the entire area. By the time we arrived, the situation had been cleared up, so we didn’t have to wait that long at all.

Carnival Glory as we were arriving at port

Waiting in line at the terminal

So, moving on, we got on the ship without incident and had a great first night. We shared a dinner table with a couple from Jacksonville Florida who we had a wonderful time with. Later that night as we explored the ship, we met another couple in the Bar Blue, the kareoke room (there was a color theme on the Glory, so each location had a different color related name). They were also from Jacksonville and were actually getting married on the ship a couple of days later. The thing that we both thought was really funny was that the bride was actually a wedding consultant but was having a very small wedding (just her and the groom) on a cruise ship. Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it to their wedding, but we did get to see them running through one of the restaurants all dressed up afterwards.

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Sunday, June 12th

Our first visit to a port of call was on Sunday. We stopped at Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas for several hours. The visit was too short to do much of anything, so we just ended up taking a walk down the shopping distict on Bay Street. Because it was a Sunday morning, most of the stores were closed and it was pretty quite. At our last stop, the Straw Market, Casey found what we’re convinced is a knock-off Kate Spade purse.

Carnival Glory Docked at Nassau

Bay Street, Nassau

Government Building, Nassau

Nassau from our ship

Paradise Island

I have to be honest and say that after my second trip to the Bahamas, it isn’t nearly as nice as I remembered it. Nassau was dirty and smelly and the people selling things were really pushy. After having been to the Virgin Islands, I would recommend that you skip the Bahamas if you can.

Sunday night we had our first formal dinner, which we got dressed up for:

Jason & Casey at formal dining night

Monday, June 13th

Monday was our first full day at sea. We got to sleep in late and then spent a nice afternoon reading in the sun on the top deck. It was great!

Tuesday, June 14th

Our next stop was at the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas. We were scheduled to be docked up and on shore by 10:00 am, but we unfortunately hit a roadblock. We were waiting and waiting, and every half hour or so the cruise director would get on the PA system to let us know there was a problem and that they were waiting to hear from government officials. This went on for almost four hours when we were finally told about the issue.

Because we were returning to United States territory after docking at a foreign country, immigration required that we be processed before going to shore. This is all pretty standard, and cruise lines have systems in place to transmit the passenger list electronically to the authorities a day or so before stopping. Unforunately, our list, along with several cruise ship lists, never actually made it to the government’s servers. The worst part however, was that the staff on the Glory wasn’t aware of the problem until we were sitting a mile or so offshore. As you can imagine, this created a fairly big problem. Because we weren’t processed through immigration, officials could prevent us docking and could have even told us to turn around and leave.

After almost four hours of being so close to land, a deal was apparently worked out. Immigration officials boarded our ship and all passengers lined up and had our documentation checked. Also, because of the time we lost, the captain of our ship allowed us to stay out until 10:00 pm rather than the normal 8:00. Given the situation, I think they handled it pretty well.

Finally, we were ready for our shore excursion. A week before we left for our cruise we had signed up for one called Captain Nautica’s Ultimate Snorkel Expedition. It looked like a good time, but on the ship we found out that the rubber speed boats could case problems with pregnant women. We went down to the shore excursion desk to explain the situation, and they were surprisingly helpful. They refunded the money for that tour and allowed us to pick a new one: Five Star St. John & Trunk Bay.

One of my professors back home had told me about the great time they had on their visit to Trunk Bay several years ago, so we were both excited. We took an hour long boat ride from the pier over to the neighboring island of St. John. Our destination was Trunk Bay, an absolutely beautiful beach on land donated to the government by Laurence S. Rockefeller about 50 years ago. The area is now a national park, so it’s about as pristine as it could be (and will hopefully stay that way because of its protection).

As we got closer to the beach, each passenger picked out some snorkeling equipment and got ready for our swim. We were given two options for getting to shore: take a small rubber raft, or jump off the back of the boat and swim there. Being up for an adventure, we went for the second choice, and jumped off into about 15 feet of perfectly clear water. We were able to snorkel and sit on the beach for almost two hours before swimming back to our boat for the ride back. It was an amazing time!

I haven’t had a chance to scan in the pictures from the waterproof disposable camera was used while on St. John, but you can find a few St. Thomas photos in the St. Thomas photoset.

Wednesday, June 15th

We made it to our stop at St. Maarten on schedule, even after staying late at St. Thomas. The island was beautiful, and we had a really nice and hot stay there. We spent most of our time shopping on the Dutch side of the island, where our cruise ship was docked. There was a wide variety of stores like most other ports, ranging from little stands selling trinkets to very expensive jewelry stores. We managed to find gifts for our parents and our friends, but not before a little detour…

While walking down the sidewalk between shops, we were approached by a young man handing out scratch-off game tickets. He watched as we each scratched our tickets and explained what the symbols meant. I apparently won a t-shirt, but lucky Casey got three 7’s, which, he claimed, only happened three times per week and entitled her to either a shopping spree, camcorder, or a stay at a resort. The catch though, was that we had to go to a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise office to claim our prize. Not a problem though, because the office was just around the corner. You can probably see where this is going…

On our walk to pick up our prize, the guy asked Casey how old she was. When she said 25, we suddenly discovered that you had to be 30 years old to go there (we never found out why). Oh, but we were in luck, because there was another place where we could go: the Oyster Bay Beach Resort. We just had to “spend about an hour” at the resort and we could collect our prize. Casey started protesting and asking questions after this, but I somehow failed to pick up on her hints. The man got us a cab and we were off on a free (and somewhat scary) ride to the resort on the eastern side of the island. When we arrived, we found at least ten other couples who were “lucky” winners too – so much for three times per week. We were given a clipboard with a form to fill out and had to show that we had a credit card on us. Then, our visit to the resort began, which consisted of a timeshare sales pitch from a french woman and a walking tour of the very unimpressive grounds. We just wanted to get it over as quickly as possible, so we didn’t ask any questions.

After the tour, the woman stepped aside and one of the managers took over to “close the sale”. He made a valiant attempt to persuade us of the very logical and emotional reasons to become timeshare owners, but ultimately failed. I told him about our current life situation, with the baby coming soon and Casey staying at home, and said that we simply couldn’t afford the thousands of dollars per year they were wanting. When he finally finished his pitch, he acted offended – like we were the ones wasting his time. Never mind that we were blatantly lied to and now had two hours of our stay gone forever. I mean, what the hell do they expect? Even if we did like the resort, we still wouldn’t do business with them because of the way they treated us and the other tourists, who included a nice couple from New Zealand that was equally unimpressed. Oh, by the way, we did get our “big prize” at the end – a two night stay at a hotel in Las Vegas or some other tourist trap. I’m sure there’s a pretty strong relationship between people who signup for timeshares and those who win either the camcorder or the shopping spree…

After that waste of time, we finished our shopping and went back to the ship to drop off our purchases. We had lunch and then took the ferry boat back to a little beach close to the shops and not very fair from where we were docked. While it wasn’t secluded and picture perfect like the beach at Trunk Bay, it was still very nice. The water was warm and the weather was perfect, so we couldn’t complain. We spent a little more than an hour relaxing before getting onboard the Glory again. We left port about 6:00 that night and headed back out to sea.

Pictures from the St. Maarten photoset.

Thursday, June 16th & Friday, June 17th

Now that it’s been over a month since the cruise, the days are all starting to blur together, especially Thursday and Friday. We spent both of these days out at sea as we made our way back to Cape Canaveral. We did a lot of sleeping, a lot of reading, and a lot of relaxing in the sun on the top of the ship. In the evenings, we spent several hours back in the karaoke bar, where we had a great time listening to some talented and not-so-talented passengers. Friday night, we took in a Broadway style show in the theater that was a compilation of songs from different musicals. It was a really good time!

Saturday, June 18th

When we woke up early Saturday morning, we were just getting into port, and by the time we had breakfast, we were docked. The debarkment process took longer than we had expected, but we eventually got off the ship and went through customs. Our flight didn’t leave until 5:30 that afternoon, which left us plenty of time to take a tour of the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral. I went there on my trip last year, but thought Casey would enjoy it as well. It was, overall, a good experience this time, except for our tour guide. She was pretty annoying, rushed us through the visitors center (we didn’t even get to stop and see the Astronaut Memorial), and said some things that weren’t even close to being correct. Thankfully, Casey still had a good time, and even said she would like to go back again in a few years to see it at our own pace.

Pictures from our Kennedy Space Center photoset.

Our flights were uneventful, but we were worn out by the end of the day. It was past 11:00 PM when we finally arrived in Fargo, and thankfully my parents were there to pick us up. It probably goes without saying, but we slept very well that night.

Sunday, June 19th

Casey and I slept in Sunday morning, but got ready in time to make it to my sister Tera’s house for lunch. They were just getting the finishing touches done on a deck that was started the day before with the help of some of Bob’s family and my dad and brother. There, we spent some time with the family before taking our one hour trip back up to Grand Forks.

I’m sure some of the details are missing, but that pretty much covers up our trip. We had a great time, and would definitely recommend crusing with Carnival and visiting the Virgin Islands!

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