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Apr 2009 03

Cruise Photos

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Voyager of the Seas

So I have been asked repeatedly when am I going to get these photos posted.. I have to apologize that its taken this long.. My only real excuse is that I'm lazy.. I could lie and say it took a while to get them developed, but it's a digital camera.. In reality the thing that took the longest was having a clear way to display them. The lightbox made that happen, then it was just a matter of typing this stuff out. It's a long post.. but then it was 7 days of fun so.. lots to talk about..

Below I give a day by day break down of what the photos are as well as where / what we were doing at the time of the photo. Each heading will have all the photos for that section and some of them will be explained further within the body of the text giving the same link again.

Note: Clicking the photo link will open the photo in a lightbox internal to this page. Click again to close. If you want to see the full sized image then right click the link and open the photo in a new tab/window.

Day One -- Boarding of the ship

This was a long process.. There were a lot of folks crammed into a fairly large building all trying to get on the ship. What I didn't realize until we came back was that on the opposite side of the building there were a lot of people trying to get off the ship. This is a 24 hour, 7 day a week operation that goes non-stop. The ship is never empty. I guess in order to turn a profit it has to go go go! Looking back I kinda felt it could do with some streamlining.. Now I think they did an amazing job all things considered.

We drove to the dock, turned over our luggage, went and parked the car, rode the bus to the ship, entered the terminal, passed customs (or whatever it is) and boarded the ship. It all took probably 2 hours, but it went fairly quickly.

In port -- Houston Ship Channel :: 001 002 003 004 Upon getting in the cabin, I walked out on our balcony and started snapping off a couple pics of the scenery around us.. Not so pretty..

In port -- The Cabin :: 005 006 007 The cabin itself upon entering seemed incredibly small -- and in fact was extremely tiny.. But to be honest, there was actually plenty of room considering we only slept there.. The bathroom (007) was not a lot bigger than an airplane lavatory, but served its purposes nicely.. Though you pretty much had to go out side to change your mind.

I feel safer already...

In port -- The illusion of safety :: 008 009 Before we leave port they have all five thousand people (or however many there are.. it's near 5k) don life jackets and go to their assigned safety area in order to evacuate the ship in case of an emergency.. It was just a drill, and a complete sham.. Everyone was moving in this calm cool demeanor like nothing was going on -- this is just another fun excursion.. All of us lined up in our assigned area behind our given life boat.. Each boat was expected to hold about 100 people.. It was about then I realize that there was NO WAY IN HELL those boats would hold as many people as were standing next to them.. That's when I considered that in real life there would be mass panic and half those folks wouldn't get to the boat due to trample damage.. thus making room in the life boat..

Under way -- Houston Ship Channel :: 010 011 012 013 016 018 It didn't get much prettier as we got under way but atleast the sky was starting to clear up. As the ship started it's azipod impellers it churned up a lot of the muck and crap in the water (012 016).. anyone up for a swim? (013) I'm sure the birds wouldn't mind. Or the sharks!! (017 018) (Okay those are actually dolphin or porpoise..)

Under way -- Ships in the Channel :: 020 021 022 023 024 As we headed out of the shipping channel heading into the gulf, we got to see a LOT of ships.. The funny thing is, my days playing submarine games made me think of how I would go about sinking these ships.. heh Still it was neat to see these massive ships go about their business..

Under way -- Leaving the Channel :: 025 026 027 028 029 030 031 032 Looking back at Houston the shoreline actually looks kind of pretty.. It's nasty as ever but looks nice from this distance.. Nothing to do at this point but enjoy the cruise and look to the open ocean (032).

Under way -- Harbor master departs :: 033 034 035 So there was a little ship following us the whole way out of port which I assumed was the harbor guide.. What I didn't know was that we actually had a person on board that would have to get off and go back to Houston. Once we got into the gulf, and I mean a good way out, the little ship ran itself right up against our hull and the guy got off.. it was interesting to watch but I wasn't able to get any good shots of it.. It was dark so I had to fiddle with the camera settings to get what I got.. Sorry for the poor quality of these.

Day Two -- On the way to Cozumel, Mexico

We didn't do a lot on day one but wander around the ship getting to know our surroundings. We met our dinner companions and generally had a fun time. It was a quiet and relaxing day.

Under way -- Holy crap the water is blue?! :: 036 037 038 039 So.. you wouldn't know it to stare at the water in Houston, but the water out in the ocean is actually blue!! (037) I mean blue like they poured food coloring in it.. heh I woke up to a very blue ocean outside (038) and an absolutely beautiful day (039). We were very lucky in that our entire trip consisted of days like this. It didn't get overcast until the very last day back.

Under way -- Wandering around the ship :: 040 Holy crap this boat was huge.. To give you some idea, it's a 15 story building at sea. It had 15 stories ABOVE the water line, and 3 or 4 below. It had a HUGE theatre in the center, an ice rink, and most importantly a strip mall (040) that runs down the center of the boat..

Under way -- The occasional passer-by :: 043 I thought it was interesting that as vast as the ocean and the gulf is, we still occasionally saw other ships.. That tells me that either everyone travels along the same routes, or the ocean is full!

Magestic Sunsets

Under way -- Sunsets :: 041 042 044 045 Something I had looked forward to was being able to stand on the top of the ship and look around and see no land. I wanted to see the ocean in all it's glory.. Holy crap.. It was absolutely beautiful out there.. The sunsets were amazing..

I don't think I'm good enough of a photographer to truly bring the beauty of these sunsets to film.. I also didn't really have the camera to pull it off.. but it was nice let me tell ya..

Over all this was a very good day. Melissa and I got to enjoy one another's company on a ship that while full, didn't seem overly crowded. When we wanted to be alone we would retire to the cabin.. other wise we were just wandering around.

There was ample to do in that each day they booked all manner of on board activities.. We didn't do too many of those mostly because we wanted to do our own thing..

Mexico!

Day Three -- Cozumel, Mexico

So on day three, we pulled into Cozumel.

In port -- These ships are massive :: 040 046 047 It's hard to describe how large these ships are.. And in fact when you're on them you tend to compare them to the vastness of the ocean which makes them seem some what smallish.. but let me tell ya, they are anything but small.. As I pointed out above while wandering around, this ship is so big it has a street running down the center of it (040).. but what I think really shows it's size is when you see people standing next to it (046).. There was a Carnival Cruise ship docked near by and its not anywhere near as big (047). You can't tell really by the photo but it's smaller in every way.

She's so cute..

Excursion -- "Scooty puff jr. sucks!!" :: * Most of these photos are poor quality due to the crappy underwater camera I got. Sorry about that.* E01 E02 E03 E04 E05 E06 E07 E08 E09 E10 E11 E12 E13 E14 E15 E16 E17 E18 E19 E20 E21 E22 E23 E24 E25 E26 E27 We signed up for, and went on an under water excursion in Cozumel during which each participant is given an underwater scooter to tool around on.. The crew of the excursion would scuba up and lead us around a small unimpressive reef while giving us critters to hold and taking our pictures.. It was pretty cool to be honest.. Not to mention down right cold.. The water was probably 68°F at best.. Which for me isn't too bad, but poor Melissa was shivering like a chihuahua.. She was basically one big goose bump.. The scooters were painfully slow.. They had ZERO power, and at one point we had divers behind us pushing hehe.. Thus, the reference to Futurama.. We called those things "Scooty Puff Juniors" for the rest of the trip.. The crew (E27) were really very nice and we didn't get very far from the ships (E26).. All in all it was a lot of fun, I very much enjoyed it even though the photos don't really tell much of a story.

In port -- Wandering around Cozumel :: 048 049 050 051 052 053 So after our underwater fun, Melissa and I with my friends Calvin and Karen ended up wandering around Cozumel for the rest of the day. We had a pretty good time, I mean we weren't mugged or anything.. but all in all I was fairly underwhelmed by Cozumel. We ended up doing a LOT of walking and were quite tired by the end of it all (053).. It was a long day..

In port -- Pictures of the coast :: 054 055 056 057 058 063 064 After our day of swimming, and walking we were pretty tired.. Melissa took a nap and I wandered around the top of the ship taking pictures as the ship pushed off from the pier. This picture better shows how much smaller the Carnival ships are compared to the Royal Carribbean ships. (058) I'm not even at the highest point on the ship and you can see I'm above the top of the other ship.

Under way -- Please don't feed the humans :: 059 060 One thing the I thought was very neat was that you could go and watch the captain and crew pilot the ship. There was a viewing area above and behind them where you could watch.. and that was awesome.. I took a picture of it and was shocked that it sorta came out. (059) You can't see all the cool stuff on the screens but.. so be it.. Oh and I found it funny as hell that they had signs posted all over to "Please do not knock on glass." (060)

Some God Rays

Under way -- Everyone!! Off the island! :: 061 062 I found it interesting that each port we visited had all the ships coming and going at the same time.. This seemed odd to me as one would think it would put a strain on everyone involved.. but.. shrug that's how they did it..

Under way -- A dog in our room?! :: 065 After dinner on the third day we arrived back in our cabin (they called it a suite!) to find a dog on the bed!!! This is one of those cute things they do for everyone each night. I'm pretty sure they would have done it on the previous nights but we had the "do not disturb" sign on the door.

Day Four -- Grand Cayman

So I'm going to be a bit biased here.. Grand Cayman was by far my favorite stop.. But it's TINY! Grand Cayman was basically a dot on the map.. The whole of Grand Cayman is an island that spans a colossal 76 square miles (Austin, Texas occupies 272 square miles) and it had more to do and more things to see than any of the other stops. There were so many excursions it was hard to choose just one. And it was such a beautiful place I could see myself living there.. (That's saying something for me.. )

Under way -- On our way to tender :: 066 067 068 069 070 Grand Cayman is so small they don't have piers or docks for ships as large as the one we were on. (or smaller ones) Instead you have to get on board a smaller boat called a tender (068) that brings you into shore. (069) And man do they ever crowd folks on these boats.. (070) This aint the US where those pesky safety regulations get in the way. hehe I didn't feel unsafe though.

Tendered -- Shopping! .. er.. okay maybe not :: [No pictures of my shame] Instead, what I felt like was a complete ass.. When you get on board the ship they issue everyone a card they call the "Sea Pass" with which you do everything. It becomes your passport proxy as well as your credit card. This one card allows you to do everything.. But of course it only works aboard ship. I had gotten so used to just whipping out my sea pass that I completely forgot to bring my wallet to shore.. This meant we couldn't purchase anything while in Grand Cayman..

I felt very very bad. I was generally pissy for a couple hours because I know there were things Melissa wanted and that I couldn't provide for her because my dumb ass had forgotten the money.. I'm not sure how to convey to you the frustration I felt at myself over this.. I was very apologetic to Melissa and she said she understood, but I could tell she was disappointed.

I promised to bring her back to Grand Cayman one day so she could do the shopping she wanted to do =) Hell there was things I wanted too!

Excursion -- Dolphins ... and Birds?! :: 071 072 073 084 085 As I had stated above, there were a lot of excursions to choose from and due to time and the nature of these cruises we really could only do one per stop. Melissa and I decided to do a "Swim with the dolphins" adventure type thing without Calvin and Karen. They went on their own fun (and proceeded to get horribly sunburned..) We got on a bus and were taken across the island to the dolphin facility. The parking area was on the opposite side of a foresty area that we had to walk through and it was chalk full of exotic birds.. They were very friendly birds and would happily let us take pictures..

A very nice day..

Excursion -- The facility :: 074 075 076 077 078 079 080 081 082 083 The facility itself was a very nice and new building with it's own little cove that housed 4 or 5 dolphins over looking the ocean. The weather was nice, it was 75 or so.. which meant Melissa was cold (076).. (And hates it when I take pictures of her..) But I mean seriously, this place was gorgeous (077) who wouldn't want to live someplace that looks like this?! (078) The scenery is just fantastic =) (081)

Excursion -- The dolphins :: [No pictures available] I don't have any pictures of us in the water or with the dolphins. They refused to let me take those photos, or to take the under water camera in the water with the dolphins. Their excuse was they didn't want us to hurt the animals, but I know the real reason was they wanted to sell us their pictures of us instead.. And of course since I was still suffering my shame from above, we couldn't purchase any.. So.. you'll have to trust me here.. there were lots of dolphins and it was fun. I only wished there weren't as many people.. I kind of felt a tad rushed due to the size of the group.. but what can you do.. it was a good experience.

Friendly critter..

Excursion -- Oh dear god, please don't hurt me :: 086 087 088 089 On the way back to the bus after the excursion I wandered through the exotic bird area and and made a new friend! (086) This bird was extremely friendly.. (087) Maybe too friendly.. (088) That bird tongued me! (089) And sat on my shoulder nibbling my ear.. I say nibbling, I mean licking.. if that bird had "nibbled" she would have ripped my ear right off.. that beak was sharp as hell..

Tendered -- Tired :: 090 Yet again after a long day ashore and playing with the animals, we were pretty zonked.. It's odd to me that you can get as tired as we got each time considering how long these excursions were.. I mean we probably spent 5 or 6 hours doing each one and usually that was enough to do us in.. Naps for everyone!

Wow...

Tendered -- Sunsets .. again :: 091 093 Did I mention how pretty it was there? Even the sun looked better.. Compare these sunsets to those in Cozumel.. Yeah these win..

Tendered -- Money! :: 096 094 There is a lot of money in the Cayman Islands. You can tell by the property and houses people have, the cars they drive, the boats they own and the fact that every 30 feet is a bank. And I mean a big bank. There were quite a few hovels too but most of the island had nice stuff on it. This one yacht was roughly half a mile away (096) and looked nice (94) (Though the picture is terrible.. digital zoom sucks.) It was just the right size to be someones personal home at sea.. Oh to dream..

Under way -- Leaving Cayman :: 095 097 101 As the sun went down everyone gathered back on board and we prepared to leave.. We returned to the room after a nice tiring day to find a stingray on the bed.. (101) We did the dinner thing with our friends, and then rounded out the night with a nice long sleep..

Jamaica

Day Five -- Jamaica

On day five we woke up to find ourselves already in port. They hadn't cast down the moring lines yet, but we were basically completely parked. I didn't care for Jamaica as much as I did Grand Cayman, though it was better than Cozumel.

In port -- Ya man! :: 102 103 104 105 It was a beautiful day in Jamaica and the view from our balcony was a very nice one.

In Port -- To the excursion! :: 106 107 108 Jamaica was really very nice.. The weather was beautiful and there were boats everywhere.. We made our way to the back of our ship (108) and boarded our excursion boat.

Excursion -- Cruise and Snorkel fun :: 109 111 112 134 Jamaica was nice and the people were friendly, but I was fairly unimpressed by the excursion selection. It seemed all the excursions were some form of "let us take you to this shopping area".. We chose a cruise and snorkel type excursion with intent to enjoy the cruise, and get wet in which we didn't feel pressured to buy anything. They did have a para-sailing thing that I thought would be fun as hell but Melissa vetoed that cause she has an issue with heights.. Drat..

Excursion -- Beach :: 113 115 116 117 E29 E30 E31 We cruised across the bay to a beach area and unloaded half the passengers. Some folks just wanted to go hang out at the beach, and I have to admit I'm sorry we didn't. I think at this point we were a bit "fun"'d out and a nice relax on the beach would have gone over well.. Live and learn. It was a very pretty beach with nice scenery (116) and ample to drink (117)..

Excursion -- Cruise and Sandals Resort & Overcast We cruised around for a bit and the water started to get quite choppy.. I think I turned a shade of green.. We went past the Sandals beach resort blaring our music.. The Sandals beach resort didn't look that nice to be honest.. I mean it sorta looked like the beach photos above but not as pretty.. I think much of that had to do with the fact that some clouds had moved in and everything had a grey over cast look to it.. We tooled around for almost an hour..

Wardrobe Malfunction

Excursion -- In the water! :: E32 E33 Again, crappy underwater camera.. Sorry. E34 E35 E36 E37 E38 E39 It took a while to find a spot for us to swim but eventually we stopped and they got equipment out for us to use in the water. Now prior to this I thought the equipment in Mexico was bad.. Wow.. the stuff they gave us to use was complete crap. Everything was on it's last leg. And we didn't get to swim for very long. I wasn't very happy with this excursion and was glad when it was over.

Excursion -- Margaritaville :: 123 124 125 Eventually they headed back towards the ship (123) and we stopped at Margaritaville (124), and yes there is a Burger King right next door (125).. This was nice actually we found a table and sat down to enjoy the music and atmosphere while drinking possibly one of the biggest and strongest margarita's I've ever had.. It was yummy.. (we got to keep the glasses too..)

Local Jamaican band

Excursion -- Local Singers :: 126 127 128 129 130 A small group of singers walked up passed out some home made maraca's so we could join in the fun! Melissa took too it like a pro.. (126 128) These guys were great.. And it was a lot of fun watching and hearing them play. And apparently Melissa likes me (130), there's no accounting for taste.. =p

Excursion -- View from the 'ville :: 131 132 133 The view from Margaritaville was nice, and you can see we aren't that far from our ship. You could watch others having fun on their excursions (134) too. From here you could see all the para-sailing people, and there were quite a fiew, as well as the jet ski's which I some how managed to not get a photo of..

Excursion -- The return :: 135 136 137 138 139 Eventually it was time to head back to the ship as both of us were tired.. Several hours of sun, surf and drinking will take it out of you.. I turned and snapped one last shot of Margaritaville as we pulled away (136). The scenery was nice though and the water was very blue (138) the captain and crew of this little boat were a laugh riot and helped make the trip all that much more fun.. I tried to take pictures of them but none of them turned out.. =/

Excursion -- Sideways! :: 140 141 Turn monitor sidways --- or head if you're lazy! We had fun though.. Melissa was tired so I took a snap of her and then she figured out what I was doing.. Doh.. hehe She's so cute..

In port -- Back aboard :: 142 143 149 150 152 153 154 156 157 As the day wound down I wandered around the top of the ship taking pictures of whatever suited my fancy.. There were any number of nice sail boats all over the place.. I mean seriously, its like everyone had one.. (154)

Sunset, Jamaica style!

In port -- Sunset!! :: 146 148 I don't have a good sunset picture from Jamaica.. The mountains blocked the sun setting over the sea and really the clouds moved in to make it kind of dull.. These were the best I could do.. Still I think these are pretty darn nice. It really was a beautiful place, but I still think Grand Cayman was better.

Day Six/Seven -- On the way home

And so back under way we go.. On our way home back through the gulf heading North towards Houston. Joy.

Under way -- The open ocean :: 163 164 165 The weather up to this point was gorgeous and to be honest it never got bad. But it did get overcast and cloudy the last couple days on our way back to Houston. Almost like the Gulf was pouting that we were going home.. heh

Under way -- Monkey! :: 166 ...a Monkey (and some towel animal.. )

Under way -- Last formal dinner :: 167 Probably going to be in trouble for that last comment, so.. Whoa.. Hot chick.. (167) One would think I beat my wife... Some how on this trip she got all bruised up.. You can't really see it but on her leg was this nasty purple bruise that ran from her ankle half way up her calf.. She got it in Jamaica and it took almost a week to go away..

The best waitress ever -- Renata Tadic :: [Pictures coming] I'd like to take a moment to tell you about our dinners and specifically our waitress. Each night of the cruise we would gather in one of the 3 huge dining areas in order to sit down for supper.

We had 5 couples at our table the first night. One couple decided they didn't want to be friendly and left before Melissa and I arrived. Which left; Melissa and I, my friends Calvin and Karen, Sam Grien and his wife Rosemary, and their friend Dave {who's last name I'm not sure I ever got} and his girlfriend Susan. We were easily the loudest and most obnoxious table on the whole boat.. Good times!

Each night Renata Tadic, a 27ish year old woman from somewhere in Croatia, would greet us with a smile on her face that was completely genuine.. She would recommend food and was generally playful with us.. She was an absolute delightful woman and an excellent waitress.. The thing that I liked the most was that she was friendly and genuine.. Many of the employees on the boat were nice, and pleasant without being genuine.. You could tell that this was a job for them and they couldn't give a crap about you, where as with Renata you actually felt important. You could really tell that this person enjoyed what they did and took pride in doing a good job.. In my mind it was a sign of a good waitress and a good person. (By the end of the cruise Sam was trying to interest her in his son... hehe)

When we got loud and obnoxious, she joined right in! If you wanted something, she got it! Even if it was something that was difficult for one reason or another.. Most importantly, she did an excellent job rounding off each day and making sure we left the table happy.

The food was always very good, but the service was what made the experience fantastic and did more to endear me to the cruise lines as a whole. It's interesting how one person could have such a dramatic influence over an experience. Renata made the trip so much more enjoyable than it would have been had we had some waiter who didn't care.

Thank you, Renata.

The End

And that's really it for pictures.. There are a couple more on Melissas camera that I need to get to as well as getting some from Calvin and Karen but I'm out. At this point the cruise was really over as all we did from here was to cruise back to port in Houston over the course of the next couple days and go home..

Some have commented that there aren't very many pictures of me.. and that's true.. The primary reason being, I was the one with the camera. Now Melissa had a nice camera too (nicer than mine actually) but she didn't take too many photos with it.. shrug

I have to be honest, at this point in the cruise, I was kind of done. We had a great time, but 7 days onboard ship in this tiny cabin, no matter how much other stuff there is to do, is a bit excessive. I would very much do it again though, and certainly recommend others to do it.. It was totally worth it..

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