My husband and I just returned from a week’s vacation on the high seas. It was truly a wonderful holiday; celebrating the New Year on a cruise ship is, I would say, a highlight in my life. Getting there, though, was somewhat of a challenge.
A challenge because, well, we are not avid travelers and it seems we spend a lot of time constantly checking and making sure everything is in order: Do you have your passport, the insurance? So many things to remember and keep track of. It seems that getting to your destination is a lot of work, so once there you can only hope that all that work and sweat – and often tears – pay off and your vacation really is one of rest and rejuvenation!
Our adventure started off at Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport at 5:30 on a fairly cold morning in December. We had taken a cab to the airport and were feeling pretty confident that we would have plenty of time to catch our flight. We had our boarding passes but had to check our luggage and while doing so discovered we had to pay $63.00 dollars for said luggage to get on the plane. Well, that was a shock but what was even more shocking was when my husband went to pay with his Visa: he discovered he didn’t have it. The look on his face was priceless – no, that’s the MasterCard slogan; we were missing the Visa. The look was one of fear, frustration and stress, so I remained calm as he rushed out the airport door and grabbed another cab back home while I waited with the bags in the airport. In less than an hour we were fine; with Visa in hand we checked our bags and our dream vacation was about to begin.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and spent the day in the lovely Radisson Hotel. Going out to the beautiful pool and discovering that the pool was not heated sent a chill up our spine, literally! We sat ourselves down in the deck chairs and stared at the pool praying the sun would come out. It never did. Well, at least it wasn’t snowing!
Sunday. The day to board our ship had finally arrived and it was time for us to pack up once again. We would be on our way in just a few short hours to the Mecca of the sea, to our “ginourmous” cruise ship. The packing ritual was repeated: Do you have the passports, the tickets – the credit card?
Getting to the port was another adventure. We called a cab and of course the driver took us on a roundabout trip that cost us $17.00 dollars when it should have cost us $5.00. We were on time, though, and we were getting more and more excited as we came closer to our final destination, our home away from home on the high seas.
The ship was everything and more: It was rich and opulent and shiny, it sparkled inside and out. The winds were brisk but gosh darn it, these two old West Islanders were going to enjoy this trip come hell or high water!
When I unpacked my things in our lovely stateroom the next calamity was discovered. “Brian, you are not going to believe what I forgot at the hotel in Fort Lauderdale!” Brian looked at me, his face once again turning pale. “What, oh man, what?” he responded. “I must have left my Foo Fighter shirt in the room. I don’t have it!” I said. “Oh, you’re kidding me, right? I thought you forgot something else like your passport. It’s just a shirt, so don’t worry about it.” Now I know it may have sounded like an adult talking to a child, and, well, in this case it may have been as I felt like a kid who’d lost his favorite toy. “Hey, that was my FOO FIGHTER T SHIRT! You know, the one I bought when I met the FOO FIGHTERS! That shirt was a part of my music history,” I said to my husband with a touch of sadness and anger in my voice. “It’s okay. We’ll get you another one,” he blurted back, busying himself with his own unpacking.
So it was official: I was the child who’d lost her favorite toy and ,well, the answer was to just get another one. But the loss of that shirt kind of stuck with me for a few days. I am sentimental that way!
Shirt loss aside, I did manage to have fun on the Ruby Princess, a wonderful ship indeed. Once we set sail we really got a load of what those sailors endure for weeks and months on end. Our first couple of nights were rough; a lot of large sea swells, wind and, well, just not very nice weather made our voyage somewhat rocky. Does the movie Poseidon Adventure come to mind? You know, the whole New Year’s Eve party happening, the drinks, the music and dancing, and then – Boom! – the wave crashes through. Yes, the film did come to mind on a few occasions. And I did find myself wide awake a couple of times at night listening to this massive ship creak and strain against the elements on the sea. But as we sailed toward the tamer waters in the Caribbean I seemed to forget about that too.
Our ports of call were beautiful and the views from our balcony on the cruise ship were awesome. Looking at each of the tiny islands from the ship, so picturesque with the lights in the small villages and towns twinkling in the early dawn, was magical.
Princess Cay, St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Grand Turk were our ports of call. Each island was so very different. The tranquil aqua water, the quaint, brightly colored towns different and unique in their own Caribbean way. The beaches were stunning, especially Magen’s Bay in St. Thomas, a spectacular beach with not a rock or stone, just warm wonderful sand and soothing crystal clear turquoise water.
St. Maarten, a beautiful island, had (in our opinion, after being on a tour bus) some of the most dangerous roads on earth. If the seas were rocky the bus tour was knuckle-bitingly frightening as we came close to the edge of many a precipice on our hour-long ride through the island.
St. Thomas was by far our most spectacular tour. The tour took us to the above-mentioned Magen’s Bay, which was voted by National Geographic as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Brian and I most definitely concurred. If we were to travel again to this region, St. Thomas is a destination we would find alluring.
Grand Turk was a walk-off excursion as our ship docked right by the beach. Again, a place like none of the other stops we made. We parked ourselves on the beach and soaked up the sun and swam in the cool, refreshing waters.
Travelling can be very stressful but once home safely and back into your routine you want to start planning your next adventure. Because once you get done with catching those planes and buses and cabs and boats, travelling is truly magical and romantic and rejuvenating.
Photos by Martha Farley. All rights reserved