My thoughts on cruising in general
This was my first cruise. I was very interested to see how I liked it, because Eric and I always say we're more "go to a place and stay there and really explore it" type people, but I really had no basis for comparison. After cruising, I do think we were right. I definitely enjoyed seeing so many places in such a short amount of time, BUT I feel like I didn't really see any of them, does that make sense? Many times I only saw the port area, or wherever we went for our arranged excursions. I do realize I could have taken it upon myself to research the places we were going beforehand so I knew more about them when I got there, but I didn't. When you're only in a place from 8a.m. till 5p.m., you just can't possibly get a full experience of that place. I wanted to explore more, have dinner on the islands, and see more of each of them. For example, in Curacao they were having a big parade for Carnival the day we were there - but at night, after we were gone. Bummer! I so wished we could stay to experience that.
So, although I had a fabulous time, and it's highly likely that if Heather does more cruise ships in the future I will want to visit her again, I still think as far as Eric and I are concerned, we're not really cruise people. Plus that whole seasickness thing is really for the birds.
This was a long vacation!
Two weeks is a really long time to be on vacation. It was wonderful, of course - after the first week, I was so glad it wasn't over yet. But, that second week flew by and I spent much of it feeling bummed that the trip was winding down. I always get that way on trips, but when the trip is a week long I only spend a day or two being bummed. With this long of a trip, I spent the whole second week thinking "oh no, it's almost over!" But, at the end of the day, I would say it's always better to be on vacation than not, so I suppose I can deal with it!
Some of my favorites
I've done quite a bit of thinking back to all my "favorites" from the trip: favorite port, favorite beach, favorite excursion, etc. I think I've got them all figured out!
I had two favorite ports, which I did mention in my recaps. My favorite for scenery was St. Vincent - I just loved all the cliffs and the beautiful turquoise water. My favorite for atmosphere was San Juan, and the food didn't hurt either!
As far as which island I would be most likely to go back to visit, I would say Curacao. Eric really liked the pictures from there, and I enjoyed our time walking around the port. I would love more opportunity to explore the beaches and other parts of the island. Others I can really see us visiting would probably be St. Thomas, and maybe Aruba.
My favorite beach was the little beach our boat pulled up to in Barbados. It wasn't much of anything, but I just had such a good feeling while we were there. I know that can be attributed to the whole situation - the snorkel, the rum punch, the beautiful day - rather than the beach itself, but I'm sticking to my answer!
My favorite excursion is a tough one. I have to say my #1 favorite was the horseback riding, but the sea lion swim and scuba diving are very close runner-ups. I do think we did a great job choosing excursions and I had a great time on all of them!
My favorite meal is obvious - I gushed all over the place about our lunch in Puerto Rico. AMAZING. My runner-ups in this category are our steakhouse dinner, and our first dinner in the dining room.
My favorite show of Heather's was Motor City. I loved the energy, the dancing, the music and the costumes. My second favorite was probably Cinematastic. I just loved Heather's "Titanic" number.
My favorite day overall was probably Grand Turk day, with the horseback riding, Margaritaville, beach time, and a fun night out. A very close second is Barbados day, with the snorkeling, beach, the Boatyard, and Island Night.
My favorite part of the trip as a whole was getting to see Heather's life. I got to see where she lives, the shows she performs everyday, meet the people she spends her time with, and visit the places she goes to every two weeks. When I got back home I went back and looked through all her pictures again, now with a new understanding of the context of so many of them. I feel like I got to know her better as an adult with a career and an exciting life, not just "my little sister." I love that now every day I know where she is and what she's doing and I can picture it all. It's very cool.
As I mentioned in all my posts, Eric and I collect a magnet and a postcard from every place we visit. We figured these are good, easy-to-display souvenirs (we plan to put all the postcards in a photo album) that don't cost very much. Well, that theory breaks down on a cruise with nine ports - because, say you just spend $10 in each port on those souvenirs. Well, after nine ports, HELLO you just spent nearly $100 on magnets. So...hmmm. But, I am glad to have a little something from every place I visited!
The current state of our refrigerator - all the magnets I got on the cruise have joined our others, including ones from Budapest, Scotland, the Cayman Islands, and various states.
As I mentioned, my favorite magnet from this trip is the one from San Juan. It is so different from all the others and really reminds me of the atmosphere of San Juan.
Also, in case you're wondering, here's a little postcard update - as of today, Eric has received seven of the nine postcards I sent him. The only ones that haven't arrived are the ones from Aruba and St. Vincent. The ones from St. Thomas and San Juan (the U.S. ports) arrived first, while I was still on the cruise, but the rest have been trickling in ever since. I'm pretty much giving up hope for the Aruba postcard, considering that was our first port almost a month ago, but I'm still holding out hope for St. Vincent!
The best lesson I learned
I actually feel like I learned a life lesson on my trip, and that was from scuba diving. I went through such a mental struggle before actually diving, and I nearly let my mind and my emotions get the best of me. They almost kept me from doing something I've wanted to do for years. But, thankfully that instructor was patient. She pulled me back to the surface and told me to relax my breathing and focus. And THAT'S the lesson. I left that day feeling like I can do anything I want to do. I may be scared, or anxious, or uneasy, or whatever adjective you want to use, but that doesn't mean I can't do it. I just have to relax my breathing and think about what needs to be done. Then DO IT. I will be fine - it can be done! And I will feel so good about myself afterwards. Relax your breathing and focus. This mantra has already helped me in my daily life since being home.
I miss Heather.
Although my scuba lesson is very useful in everyday life, my biggest takeaway thought from this cruise is that I miss my sister. And I'm not just talking about missing her now that she's on the ship and I can't just call her whenever I want and she's not in Florida when I go home to visit, although all that does stink. I'm talking about missing her in every day life. It has been 10 years since I lived at home with her permanently, although I did live at home during summers in college. But it's even been six years since the last time I did that.
What that means is that it's been a long time since Heather and I were able to spend this much time together, especially just the two of us. This was such a great, healthy dose of sister time that I haven't had in so many years, and it made me realize how much I do miss having Heather as a part of my daily life. We're great friends and I miss being able to hang out with her, go to dinner with her, have a drink with her, go to the beach with her, go shopping with her, or just hang out at home watching TV with her. I miss her, and it's been hard being back home because of it. Of course I am delighted to be back with Eric, but I still miss my sister.
Okay, I'm feeling more "finished" now and am ready to put an end to my talk of the cruise. It was a fabulous trip, one that I will always remember. Heather and I did so many amazing things, saw so many beautiful places, and had such a great time together. Thanks to all of you for listening to me reminisce about it all, and for putting up with these seemingly endless recaps. Now, back to regular life!
And most importantly, thank you to Heather for giving me such an awesome experience to write about for the past two weeks. I am so grateful for everything. Thank you, Heather! Love you and miss you!