Both I and my wife reached a certain life milestone this last year that involved the number 4 and determined that it was time we started acting our age. Of the options available we chose a cruise and so it would seem we are at "that" age.
I have been known at times to require Dramamine and a vomit bag when riding in the rear seat of a car. To mimimize the threat of spending a week unable to stand up and wanting to die I pushed for us to sail on the largest ship in the world - The Oasis of the Seas. As it turns out even the largest of man-made objects are subject to the whims of enourmous bodies of water, but the worst side effect we experienced was the inability to walk a straight line a few times. Most people on board exhibited the same symptom most of the vacation whether the sea was upset or smooth. 21 bars in a contained location has that effect.
##Day 1 at sea. On any normal voyage a day at sea might involve reading a book or, staring at the water, or picking your nose. Not on this ship. Day one on Oasis of the Seas involves exporing a small city - one with a zip line, flow riders, rock climbing walls and an endless supply of calories.
##Labadee, Haiti Labadee is a private Peninsula leased by Royal Carribean. A couple of times a week it glows red as the skin of 6000 brilliantly white bodies are slowly imbued with skin cancer by the Carribean sun. The rest of the time it's an isolated village on the northern coast of Haiti. Other than the cruise ship the people here don't have many opportunities.
There's a section of the peninsula for the locals to sell hand made goods. Sadly, few visitors risk entering the area. Walking down the path can be a terrifying experience. The merchants are desperate to sell their goods that so they swarm anyone who dares venture into the area.
We took a jet ski shore excursion that involved watching a ridiculous 20 year old safety video. You then follow a guide on an ill-maintained jet ski. You aren't allowed to move freely about the ocean for fear of damaging the reef. The guide at the rear of the line didn't seem to concerned and took liberties with the path he selected. The main guide provided unique insight into life along the northern coast of Haiti. Just to the west of Labadee is another small village without power, running water or land based access. The people there fish to catch dinner and still live a very primitive life.
We ate lunch provided from the ship. Think BBQ with 6400 of your closest friends. Providing food for a small impromtu city is a daunting logistics nightmare. We watched a tractor drag a train of food from ship multiple times.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the beach. The beach is the highlight of Labadee. If you go don't bother paying for excursions. Just hang out on the sand, swim and people watch. Listen to see how many different languages you can identify. Bring your snorkel gear. It's not awesome, but we found a few fish and had a good time.
##Falmouth, Jamaica. We had a terrible time selecting a shore excursion for Jamaica. There's not much other than shops in the immediate vicinity of Falmouth. You can risk your life on the roads of Jamaica, but it's not recommended unless you have the skills of an Indy car racer, the fortitude of a bull rider, and the luck of a lottery winner. We opted for a plantation tour, the beach and a climb of Dunns River Falls. Our guide, Tracy was awesome and funny. The drive out was an education in life in Jamaica. Half finished homes cover the area. People make enough to build a few rooms. When they run out of money construction stops. They live in the part that is finished and as they save money they keep building. It can take a lifetime to finish a home. The plantation was educational. Having grow up in a farmining community learning the farming techniques in a tropical jungle fascinated me. Lunch included Jamaican Jerk chicken but overall was mediocre. We ended up with a 10 minutes at the beach before we had to leave to make our way to Dunn River Falls.
##Cozumel, Mexico Get of the boat and walk through the shops an you'll experience the distinct smell of Mexico. Leather, humidity and the smell of Tequila permiate the air. Our first adventure was Snorkeling the second largest barrier reef in the world. Our guide Carlos, a funny, friendly guy took us out into the ocean just off the coast and guided us over colorful fish, a sea turtle, sea fans and a thousand bits of sea life I can't name. Having spent our lives in the Rocky Mountains neither I nor my wife are hard core swimmers. Finding ourselves in 50 feet of ocean could have been unnerving but the guides were great and made sure no one was lost at sea.
##Cold At Sea Our last day at sea was cold and bumpy. We don't visit the pool, but there's no shortage of things to do.
##An Extra Day Desperation and I just don't care anymore were the theme of the last day or our trip. An enourmous storm choked the east coast on the Saturday we were to return. If you think you'd be safe flying through North Carolina you'd be wrong. We ended up spending an extra night in Ft Lauderdale. Luckily we discovered the flight change while at sea (thank goodness for internet that works while on the boat). I used points to book a room at a Marriot 15 minutes from the airport. I congratulated myself on my genius and luck. Have good Internet at sea was a lifesaver. We spent the extra day in Ft Lauderdale trying out local cuisine, visiting the Bonnet House, and walking the beach. Late that night we headed to our carefully booked hotel only to find that the Marriot website totally failed us and inspite of reaching the final booking screen they had no record of my room reservation. The desk staff informed us they had no rooms. I called Marriot, spent an hour on the phone, and finally they relent and give up a room. It smells like the previous guest was a pack of wet dogs who spent the week smoking stogies. We have to leave at 4 am to catch the return flight home and just need a place to crash for a few hours. Not much choice we deal with it, but I'm done with Marriot and their over priced crappy hotels.
##Coming home Unless you enjoy paying $10 for rubber and gum sandwiched between two sponges, never order a turkey and swiss sandwhich at Peets Coffee in the airport.
This was our first cruise. We had a great time. Friendliness of the staff was exceptional. Our room attendant was a friendly all around awesome guy. Give him a raise. Great waiters in the dining room. Helpful, friendly crew on the flowrider. Ship was amazing. Loved the entertainment. Cats isn't our favorite musical, but the performers were incredible. Loved the acrobatics on Come Fly With Me and we had to go to the ice skating twice. We were blown away by the skills of the skaters.