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Everything posted by AKR2011

  1. 1. I was just in Roatan at the beginning of September on The Gem. We did not tender. 2. The port has plenty of food and drink vendors right there. Beach is not far. 3. I loved the other side of the island personally, but definitely lots to do no matter what you choose. I booked with Victor Bodden from the advice here on CC. A private tour with a vaccinated guide was only $45/person. I wrote a review if you look at my previous posts. I need to post reviews on the port board itself. An awesome day!
  2. I really want to do Hawaii someday. Bucket list for sure! Thanks so much for your comments. We do have a very happy marriage, and cruises definitely help to focus on "us" instead of those that we serve in our field. Puerto Rico is a resource collecting Game that is very fun. It's typically for 3-5 players (there's a version called San Juan for 2 players I believe), but we adjust the pieces for the two of us and make it work. WE love geeky board games and often find good deals on used ones from boardgameco dot com. I will have to check on Watergate. I just read a review, and it looks like fun. Thanks for the recommendation! Thanks so much for reading. I am loving all of the reviews on here lately. So many great stories! It was mask free for passengers in the ship the entire time, but crew had to wear masks. The only Covid protocol that I noticed was the personal and very brief muster drill when we got on board and the lack of the crew parading on stage on the last night. There was also no Dinner With the Officers or Behind the Scenes Tour for Platinum, but I found that totally reasonable. It was a very normal cruise at half capacity with no kids. NCL did a great job!
  3. Thanks so much for reading. I really appreciate it! Cheers!! I hope we cross paths the next time I get to sail out of the city. That is still my favorite embarkation port ❤️ I appreciate your comments. I really dive into the ports to find unique things. It makes vacation seem longer when I build up to it for so long! I am sad too. Thank you following along and commenting. I really appreciate you being here. It was a blast!! Thanks for your comment and for reading! Thanks so much for following along!
  4. This seems to be a popular topic. I have often seen crafts in the daily. I liked the ones this time, because they took awhile and were not simple origami or paper flowers like you often see. As for other craft kits, I have definitely done other notebooks in the past, and I don't have themg anymore since I used them up. I have done a frame three times, and this is the one on my desk at work: I also made a really cool treasure box on a cruise that lives on my desk at work: I keep notepads and pens inside, but I took them out to take this photo for you: So yes, crafts at sea definitely have existed before, and hopefully they will continue. I definitely still love and use my stuff! ~ Ashley
  5. Our last day of vacation started way too early, but at least we didn't get forced out of our room (which has definitely happened before). We knew that we had a long day at the airport ahead, so we made sure to eat a nice big breakfast at the buffet: We were off the ship very quickly and were called about 20 minutes early. I filled up my water bottle with ice, because I read that although you cannot being large liquids into the airport, you can bring ice. I wanted to have enough for cold water throughout our stay. We said goodbye to the port at breakfast: We were at the airport by 9:45...for a 5pm flight. I had read that you couldn't check in until 4 hours prior, but this was not the case. Delta took our bags outside, and then we went through security quickly. I was hoping for a nice big terminal with a shopping mall vibe to stay occupied, but I was sorely disappointed. Delta at Fort Lauderdale is about 8 gates, and we couldn't pay out of pocket for lounge use. Instead, we just moved around to empty gates throughout the day for social distancing. I didn't want to wear an N95 until the plane (of course we had our normal masks on), so that was the best idea we thought. I did have some projects in my carry-on. One of the port days I picked up a journal to sew: I always love crafts at sea. They're free and usually really good quality. Definitely better than all of the trivia prizes we are always fighting to win! This project took over an hour, and I was happy with my result: On another port day, Tony grabbed me a cord organizer kit made with plastic leather that had to be sewn: This project took almost 3 hours, and I was not happy with how the decals ended up, but it was fun to make and occupied some time: We eventually ate food at the worst Shake Shack ever. It took 40 minutes to order and receive our food, they didn't have any shakes, and my diet soda was practically water (I returned that immediately). It was a sad end to our vacation. We read books, we walked in circles a lot, we played games on my tablet. Finally we were able to board for La Guardia. I had asked earlier if we could get an earlier flight, knowing that the airport would at least be more interesting, but no luck. It was a little stormy for take-off, but generally a nice flight: We settled in and were happy with the free movie selection. I caught Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish in "Here Today," a great movie about dementia that I highly recommend: We transferred and took our second flight to Syracuse. We knew this was the end: We made it home by 11:30pm, spent Labor Day with my parents telling stories and doing the rest of our laundry, and then headed back to work the next day. FINAL THOUGHTS: NCL has been advertising "The Great Cruise Comeback," and it was definitely that. The crew were some of the best that I have encountered on any ship and reminded me why we continue to sail with NCL. The ship was in tip-top shape, and crew were always cleaning and sanitizing. We felt safe the entire time and had a very relaxing week. Although we had been to most of these ports before, I had a lot of fun digging into other things to do. There is always something that I didn't know existed and that gives me a new experiences. I can't wait to ride an electric bike again! Every guide that we had was knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive, and we made sure to tip them all knowing how hard it has been without tourists and knowing that since these tours were mostly private, ours were the only tips that they would get. I know tipping is a controversial topic, but I've worked in the service industry. Trust me, it means a lot and you don't forget. We had a couple issues that I pointed out with the safe and the room temperature, and those were disappointing, but we didn't let them ruin our trip. I will always be thankful just to be on vacation, and I smiled ear to ear most of the week no matter what happened. Food is always subjective, but besides runny scrambled eggs and Buffalo sauce that tasted like BBQ, I had no problem with any meals. Whether we ate at a free venue or specialty, the food was hot and plentiful, and service was great. We never had a single meal that was more than an hour, and most were around 40 minutes. The bartenders were all fantastic and willing to experiment or offer new things. I became a big fan of Grasshoppers and AMFs, and I'm glad that I got to try that crazy shot. I wish I tried more things, but I definitely took full advantage and had probably 15-20 drinks every day. Thanks to my excessive water intake, I never felt sick but always felt happy. I have nothing but love for the beverage package! This cruise was REALLY short to us after our last two being 14 days and the ones before that being 10 and 9. Because of that and because my parents want to come next time, we are booked in 2023 for a Back-to Back on The Pearl. We are doing the last Bermuda cruise and the first Canada/New England cruise out of Boston, so my parents have a choice of which leg to join us on. When you book on the ship, you get a free category upgrade, and I found the same great sideways interior on both sailings with the help of Cruise Next. This week I transferred it over to my TA for a bigger discount. Very easily done, and it was all switched within just a couple hours. I'll catch you all back for another review eventually: Thank you to everyone who has read along, linked my review to other threads, left comments and love, etc. I just want to help others have the best vacation possible, so hopefully I did that. In the meantime, I will live vicariously through everyone else's reviews and start planning our next adventure. Thanks again, everyone!! ~ Ashley
  6. I love that we've started a debate about snack mix. Definitely beats trying to discuss chair hogs or gratuities! 😄 You have a great point. I hadn't thought about that but have read the same review lately. Hmm...🤔 Thank you! It was a nice make-up photo. We don't have any with that pose, so I'm pretty happy with it.
  7. Both times we were tested in the morning an had results by the evening. Before the cruise it was about midnight (that was a Friday) after it was around 9pm (on Labor Day). No charge at all, but we were directed to a Well Now specifically for anti-symptomatic people. I've never been to a Well Now, but the staff were great and the waiting room had a free Icee Machine. That was kind of fun! You are too funny! I will save them all for you if I ever catch you on board.
  8. After lunch I went to Spinnaker and met up with Alex for some Deal or No Deal. This time we were not chosen and only won a measly pull tab card, but as always it was fun to follow along: Besides the closing of shows in the theater, we only ever saw our Cruise Director Marzena at Deal or No Deal and evening game shows. That was a bit of a bummer, but her staff were awesome! Gabrielle was my personal favorite, but every one was a bundle of energy and made our cruise so much fun. After playing I did something new...I took a small nap! I wanted to be able to stay out tonight, and a little shut eye wouldn't hurt. I turned on the TV for a rare moment and fell asleep to a movie for a bit. I did set my alarm, though. I know people always ask about the TV. We do not really watch it. I would put it on in the morning while waiting for Alex to get ready and watch the news, but that was about it. Channels include some ship specific stations, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, a sports channel with a lot of soccer (always on at O'Sheehan's whenever I went for my water bottles), two stations with some TV shows (one with modern sitcoms and one with old shows), and I believe two movie stations. We don't vacation to watch TV, so it's fine for us, but there is not a lot to offer. After my nap I grabbed a drink and went to watch Bingo at the theater. I never play, but I had a few red tickets to put in the bin for the cruise drawing. I am used to seeing the bin chock full of tickets, but there were not a ton in there on this cruise, probably due to the small capacity. I did not win, but I saw that someone in our FB group for the cruise did. Congrats!! Evening Trivia was in the atrium, so we went there next. Did I have another Daydreamer's Daiquiri? I didn't think so, but it looks like it. Alex had the drink of the day, which was a Sparkling Garden: The bartender and Alex had a conversation about Brazil, where Alex grew up, and he brought him a shot of special Brazilian Rum to try. I thought that was really sweet. The staff on this ship I tell you...Amazing!! We stayed to drink and hang out for awhile with our trivia buddies, but eventually we had to pack, so we grabbed drinks and headed up to our cabin. Our laundry was not back at first, but we called our steward's phone line and he immediately delivered. It was pressed and folded in the basket again, and I was finally able to meet our ninja steward. I handed him a $20 bill and thanked him for everything. Our room was always cleaned perfectly while we were out, and of course I appreciated the towel animals. We had two issues that were not resolved, but not his fault. First was the safe. We had trouble getting it opened and closed, and by the end we couldn't seem to keep it locked. I did meet with someone earlier in the week, but it was never quite fixed. Then there was the temperature. We had it set on the lowest temp all week, but it just did not seem cool. We slept with just the sheet all week. Eventually we were almost all packed up and headed to dinner at La Cucina for our last Platinum meal. I was happy to see the return of Fruits de Mer, although the old one has puff pastry and an amazing cream sauce. This one was still good, though. I did not get photos, and I apologize for that. Alex didn't want dessert, but I insisted that we share. I looked up the menu so I can tell you that it was called Marquise au Chocolat. It came out looking like a chocolate sausage, and it was the best dessert I had all week. So rich and delicious. Then we stopped by the atrium for photos: We customized the border on this one since we never had our embarkation photo: We went back to the cabin again to change before heading to the show. We decided to put on our clothes for tomorrow so that we could put all of our luggage out and have it organized. That worked out well. The show was Get Down Tonight, and it was a cast production featuring songs from the 70s. We absolutely loved this show! Like Blazing Boots, there was no storyline, but the music and performers were top notch, and everyone was singing along and having a good time. We were sad that the crew didn't come out and sing the Norwegian song after. I know that's probably because of Covid, but it was sorely missed. We then got our drink on and went to Sugarcane for mojitos and some Ticket to Ride on my tablet: We left the bar and chatted with a crew member at the check-in station for Moderno and Cagney's. She spent half an hour talking to us about the two months that the crew were there without passengers. They had a lot of time to learn how to run the best ship possible, but they were really missing having the guests. She also spoke about how hard the pandemic was on all of the crew and their families when they were sent home for so long. It was such a wonderful conversation, and Alex left her a tip before we moved onto our next bar. Such a delight, and you could see her smile from under her mask. Again, I have nothing but love for this crew! We went to Bar City, and Tony was down there asking for the Jameson that I owed him. I went to get a double shot and ended up chatting with a couple at the bar for probably half an hour. They're on CC too, and we shared our love of NCL cruises. They told me about a shot that I just had to order, so I brought the whiskey over to Tony and returned to grab these shots for myself and Alex. Presenting Alien Brain Hemorrhage shots: It's a lot of Blue Curacao and Peach Schnapps, but the Bailey's in there curdles. Very similar to a car bomb I guess? Chunky to drink, but definitely fun to try. We stayed well past the time that they were serving, just drinking and chatting. Then they started to turn the lights off around us, so we decided that we should probably leave. I wanted a late night hot dog, so we went to Sheehan's for that and another drink. It was very lively up there with many people trying to enjoy every second left of the week. We made it back after 2am and found this cute guy hanging out: I am going to try and finish tomorrow. I have our ending of the cruise and final thoughts. Thank you all for reading and commenting!! ~ Ashley
  9. Aw, thank you! So many great reports right now too. I'm having trouble keeping up with them all and trying to finish mine at the same time. I agree!! I definitely prefer the old fashioned bar mix and was happy when I saw it a few times. The corn nuts are too spicy and yes, soo hard on the teeth too.
  10. Last sea day 😭😭😭 Was I up at the crack of dawn again? Why of course! I walked laps around the promenade until the Atrium Bar opened at 6:30. I enjoyed some Daydreamer's Daiquiris while I started book #3, one that I have read every single summer since its publication in 1998 (Summer Sisters - Judy Blume): Eventually I saw that it was close to sunrise, so I grabbed a whiskey and ginger to go and went on deck: Man, that one is so blurry! I apologize to my Jameson for that one. I took a ton of sunrise photos as I was trying to soak in that last morning as much as possible. Here are a few of them: As soon a I finished I grabbed breakfast. I had all intentions of eating lunch in the main room finally, and I wanted to be hungry for that. A note on scrambled eggs: I tried them every day I ate in the buffet and they always were runny. So sad since I love them, but plenty of other good things to eat: I feel like I always overeat in the buffet. The plates are huge, and I never even filled mine up too much. I went back to the room after breakfast, and Alex was up and starting to move. I accompanied him to his breakfast at the buffet and read my book while he ate. Then we headed to Trivia, and I had a Moscow Mule: I stayed after Trivia to watch a presentation on Prima, and Alex went to find a quiet place to read. The presentation was brief and not very informative. The thread on here has so much more information. I'm hoping for District Brew House and Howl at the Moon, but the Cruise Next team knew nothing about venues. I also asked if a racetrack is planned on all of the trips, but they had no knowledge of ANY racetracks. Interesting since the thread on here has pictures of one I believe. So lesson learned, just follow Cruise Critic instead. There was a lot going on around the ship today: I grabbed a drink and wandered after the presentation, eventually ready for lunch. I met up with Tony who also planned to eat in the main room, so we went together. Before we arrived I mentioned to him that I saw the Encore menus the week before and noticed that my beloved Red Pepper Hummus was still there but my favorite dessert ever - Peanut Butter Cheesecake - had been taken off the menu. I don't know if it's a big vs small ship thing, but Tony explained that the lunch menu now changes. The hummus was the other day, but today was the day for my cheesecake!! I was so happily surprised. We had a long lunch and chat, but I did not get pictures. The staff were kind enough to make me pesto pasta (not technically on the menu), because that is another favorite of mine and I hadn't really gotten the chance to eat it all week. Then there was dessert of course. If you ever find yourself in the main dining room for lunch, look for Peanut Butter Cheesecake. It is one of the best desserts on NCL and my second favorite of the week...My top dessert came at dinner. ~ Ashley
  11. Thank you so much! I am more of a martini girl myself, but I do love the bubby too. They were trying to sell me on the spa nonstop on The Gem. In the hallways I was always stopped with deals and offers. It's not my thing, but they were definitely looking for business. The salad bar at Moderna is amazing and vegetarian friendly, and there is at least one veggie dish on Cagney's menu too I believe. Plus the sides are really good. Thanks for following! I lost my next post and have to retype...Back in a bit!
  12. LOL, I just knew someone would understand my need to mention it. It's just one of those special things that I always look forward to on vacation. Hahaha, come to the small ships and you will find what you are looking for. I loved following your Encore review by the way 😊 And way to save a life - that was wild!! 26 days is so close!! I am 702 until The Pearl unless I have some kind of major career bump or I win the lotto. Thanks for following and enjoy your cruise. Thank you for reading. I love her too!
  13. When we arrived back to the ship, it was about 4:00. They had the cold towels and water again, but no big dock party with dancing and music like we're used to. That was a little sad, but the staff were still out there greeting everyone and ensuring that we had a great time. This crew was incredibly friendly and grateful for all of the passengers. We headed to our room to shower and change and saw another sad site: Debarkation instructions are always so sad. After changing we packed up our second bag of Platinum laundry. This is the best perk I tell you! We wanted some drinks and met an awesome lady while walking to Spinnaker. It was her first cruise, and she was having a great time. We chatted with her and gave some advice on planning to make awesome experiences. Then we went to play the game show Family Insanity. The crew put us into family groups, and we had to do crazy things together. I had to pretend to birth a baby at one point, we had to run around screaming that we won the lottery, we had to get the audience to dance with us, and we had to quickly take a group selfie: Our family group did very well and won over the crowd. Yet another crazy hour of insanity that I would never participate in on land. I had a few AMFs (Alcohol is My Friend as I called them) as we played. We stayed for trivia and then headed down to Bar City for a game of Farkle and some drinks: We eventually made it to the whiskey bar for some Pass the Pigs. There we bumped into Tony and challenged him to a bar trick where you exchange a shot of water with a shot of whiskey: Tony did well and ended up with about half a shot of whiskey in the end. I told him it was his if he could rescue it. He said that I owed him Jameson without working for it since he always helped us win trivia, and I kept that promise on the next day. You'll also notice the bar nuts above. I love NCL snack mix. They had these spicy corn things most of the time, but the traditional bar mix could still be found in a few places too. I mention this, because I know there are lots of fans of the bar mix. I've seen the posts. I've seen people inquire about buying it on land. Yes, it still exists. We took our Pass the Pigs game up to O'Sheehan's: We had wanted chicken wings all week, and tonight was the night. We always order them extra crispy with sauce on the side. Alex also ordered nachos and said they were good. I ordered pretzels, but I don't know what they did to the cheese sauce. It was watered down and not cheesy. Luckily the waiter brought me the nacho cheese and it was much better. Wings themselves were good, but the sauce tasted more BBQ than Buffalo. I'm an Upstate NY girl. I have high standards. Oh well: After dinner we admired the chandelier for a few minutes: Angel was playing in the atrium but didn't seem to have much of an audience: I went to the 9pm show while Alex hung out at Bar City. It was Jesse Hamilton's second show. The first was better in my opinion, and I was sad that we had a second show of his instead of the main production Swing, which they had the week before. Once again, Jesse is entertaining and the band was amazing, but I don't think it's a headlining show. I then went back to meet Alex and watch Nathaniel at the piano. He was actually taking a little break and had a guest entertaining everyone: I drank another martini of course: Although the next day was a sea day, we had a lot sun and action today, so it was time to head back to our cabin. Once again, our steward left us a towel animal on the bed: I know towel animals are no longer the norm unless you ask for them, but I miss the eyes. I may need to pack stickers on our next cruise. Still, this one here was a favorite of mine. Our last day of sea is coming up, and I will try to post tomorrow. Today was a 10-hour day, and I'm hoping to get home at a decent hour tomorrow. ~ Ashley
  14. Now lots of tours come through Punta Sur Eco Park, but it is a pretty big place. Maybe that's why we lucked out and saw this when we arrived: Not one person at this beach at all. We had our choice of loungers: I was actually really happy finishing book #2 and sitting at a table: Snorkeling is included in this tour, but to be honest, I was not interested in swimming today, and Alex wanted to find more birds. He went exploring, and I hung out with my book. The view was beautiful: Soon they brought us a snack. They had Ceviche and Guacamole with chips. I just stuck to the guac, but Alex said that the ceviche was great: We had over an hour of beach time, and we probably could have convinced our guide to stay longer, but Alex saw the sky and thought we may have a rainstorm. We got caught in the rain the last time we were in Cozumel, and he didn't want to do that again. Our guide said that we could go whenever we were ready, so we packed up and headed out. By the time we left there were two small groups that came to the beach as well. It was still very intimate, though. We went full speed (20 mph) on the way back, and we beat the rain. Our guide was able to get us photos by the sign: Our tour was supposed to be 3 hours, but it ended up being about 5. It did rain briefly while we were in the cab back to Beach Bum, but we never got wet today. In fact, this was the only rain that we saw all cruise. We tipped our guide and grabbed another cab back, asking the driver to take us to Mega. That is the grocery store right outside of Punta Langosta where NCL docks. I had candy from Honduras, so now I needed Mexican treats for my co-workers. I quickly grabbed a bunch and inquired about liquor. I believe Jameson was about $13/liter here, and that was the lowest I found it, so I bought two bottles. Then we headed back to the ship, noticing that the pier was quite wet. I'm happy we missed the rain. The vendors were eager to sell us things at a discount, but we didn't need anything else. If you do want to save, just shop at the end of the day and/or after a rainstorm. Definitely lots of bargains! Final Thoughts: This was an awesome day, and I'm so happy that we booked the electric bikes. It's something that I will consider for future ports now. They were a lot of fun and a great way to see the park. Beach Bum was a great company to book with, and it was a very affordable tour as well. I definitely recommend this one. ~ Ashley
  15. Did I mention that this was another private tour because no one else booked? Yup, unbelievable how lucky we were this cruise. When we arrived, our guide gave us time to get used to riding the bikes. I am only 5'2", and my feet could barely touch the ground. It has also been a LONG time since I rode a bike, and I was a little nervous at first, but Alex was loving it: We only had to wear masks at entrances, so our masks quickly came off. You could decide how much you wanted to pedal on the left handle bar with an electric gauge labeled 0-5. The right handle bar had a throttle if you preferred. Soon we were both getting the hang of it and having a great time: We stopped at a dock with an observation tower on the way to the beach: There was a rectangular dock down below to watch wildlife: I stayed on the dock and went crocodile hunting. I found one almost instantly: Alex went up to the observation tower with our guide and his binoculars. This stop was probably only supposed to be about 10 minutes long, but I've learned over the years that my birding husband does not stay for just 10 minutes when birds are around. We were there for almost an hour, and he counted 26 species up there and entertained our guide with his knowledge: Normally when Alex birds, I use his phone and the E-Bird app to put in what he saw, but I decided that I was on vacation and didn't want to do that. Instead, I chatted with the groups that came and went from the tower and met some nice travelers. We seemed to be the only cruisers, and although three other groups came and went during the hour, every group was small like ours. Eventually I convinced Alex that there would be more birding opportunities, but he was really sad to leave. I think if we go back to Cozumel, I will just drop him off here and he can stay all day. Anyway, we biked more and stopped at a lighthouse next: It was 133 steps to the top, and then you had to crawl out a little doorway to the porch. I forgot to ask if it was still operational, but it was very cool to see: We were the only ones up there, so lots of time to pose for photos: The view was awesome: Notice how empty this area is? Our stop at the beach club is coming up next... ~ Ashley
  16. Last port day ☹️☹️☹️ I did not get pictures in the morning, but we hit the buffet and enjoyed the songs of our amazing greeter Doreen and the coffee ladies. If you stayed on ship, lots to do as usual: This is our third cruise in a row visiting Cozumel, and each time has been amazing! The first time we went to Discover Mexico Park where we toured a museum, drank mudslides, made our own chocolate bars, ate homemade mole and chips, hung out with an alpaca, saw a Mexican high pole dance, tasted tequilas, and ate a Mexican lunch with a margarita. That place was so amazing that I almost rebooked it...except it was a Covid fatality 😭 The amount that these islands have suffered is unreal and worse than any natural disaster of the past. Every guide told us the same sad stories, so again, I highly recommend going local and tipping the staff. The last time we were in Cozumel we booked a Trikes tour, and I highly recommend that experience too. More on that in my Escape review. We weren't sure what to do this time, and I kept looking for local companies. Then I was on Shore Excursions Group (I had a 10% off promo code), and I saw a tour that looked great: Electric bikes through Punta Sur Eco Park with time at a beach club to snorkel. We have never done anything like that, so we decided to book. I have booked on that site before and always had great experiences. Most of the money goes directly to the tour operators, they guarantee to get you back to port on time, and prices are much cheaper than the cruise line. We often find that hardly anyone else books our same tours, so we get a special experience. This time would be no different. If you want to book privately, I later googled the company and found them: https://beachbumcozumel.com/ When we arrived at port, we had to take a $10 taxi to International Pier where Royal docks, and we arrived earlier than they planned us to be. We walked around their port for about an hour, and man, it was HUMID!! It was about 85% humidity, and the port days prior we had temps over 100-degrees. By the time we made it back to Beach Bum to meet our guide, I was second guessing the idea of a bike, but you only live once, and he already had our bikes loaded and ready to go. We drove for about 20 minutes and reached our destination: I will share our experience coming up... ~ Ashley
  17. We love breakfast at O'Sheehan's! Alex had a full English breakfast with baked beans, and for sandwiches you can customize. There' not as much variety as the MDR, but it's quick service and casual. A great place when you have to get out to a port. Thanks for following and enjoy your cruise! Thank you for being here! Always happy to help our a Tribe Member. I have fallen behind over there and need to play catch up! Thanks so much! I appreciate you joining me.
  18. Back on The Gem, we headed back to our cabin to shower and saw the saddest thing so far: We still had a couple days, and our luggage tags were here already??? I read the letter and learned that red was for the airport transfer. A couple days before I signed us up for a land tour to the Everglades. Two weeks before our trip, our flights were changed to 5pm out of Fort Lauderdale. Not wanting to spend the day at the airport, I signed us up for a tour to delay us. After my shower I stopped by the desk and learned that they did not have enough participation for ANY land tour to run. I was so disappointed. Now we would have a very long day at the airport. So what do you do when you receive sad news on a cruise? You grab a drink of course! I grabbed a few cocktails from the atrium bar while I played the unscramble trivia, and we did well on that. Then I changed our dinner reservation for tonight to a later time and headed to Spinnaker for the Know it All Game Show. We did so well at this that we finally won a deck of cards: We then went to Bar City for some more cocktails. I had been teasing Alex all week about making him try Grass Clippings. On The Escape, I could not drink it. It really was a glass of what looked like cut grass. Alex never tried it, so when I saw it on the menu at the whiskey bar, I knew he needed to do it this time. Unfortunately, it looked nothing like mine did before: Grass Clippings on the left, my Old Fashioned is on the right. Even without the clippings, Alex was not thrilled with this drink and asked for a mojito instead, so we went up to Sugarcane for more drinks and a game of Catan on my tablet: We went to the early show of magician Kid Ace. I wanted to sit towards the front, since I always have trouble seeing magic from the back, but Alex wanted the middle. There were times when a close-up camera showed the tricks on a big screen, but we definitely should have sat closer. However, it would not have helped the magic. We have seen some good magicians (like the last one the Escape), and a GREAT magician (The Thrillusionist David Davinci and his wife on The Dawn). I also remember having a great magician back on The Jewel in 2011. Unfortunately, Kid Ace was not very good in our opinion. His tricks were weak, and his stage presence was lacking too. Only our opinion of course, but we really hope that the shows this week were just NCL's way of easing back into shows. We then headed back to Bar City for more drinks and music with Nathaniel Reed. I needed more whiskey, so a Manhattan was in order: Then I wanted another Limoncello Martini, and Alex asked for a glass of wine: We had Cagney's rescheduled for 9:30. However, we were not very hungry. We went back to the room so Alex could change before going, and we left our phones behind. I don't have any food pics, but I do remember that Alex had prime rib and I had seafood. It was delicious, but we were too full for dessert. I wanted to have them send it to our room, but they said that it was too late. However, I could call when we got back and then they could send someone up? I'm not sure why they do it that way. Unfortunately I forgot to do that, but it's fine. We did get a photo tonight and decided to buy it: We also had our next daily and towel animal in our room: Cozumel is coming up next, but I need to work on dinner, and we have a virtual game night later as well. I will try to get the next day up tomorrow. Thanks for reading. ~ Ashley
  19. Next up...Lunch!! We tipped our bartender at the resort and drove maybe 15 minutes. We were excited to learn that we would be going back to the same house as before. I have never forgotten this experience, so it was awesome to do it again. First we washed our hands and made tortillas: They were cooked on a griddle and served to us warm with the most amazing salsa. I have never forgotten this salsa, and honestly it's probably the best thing I ate. It's tomato, ground pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. I need to save my seeds when we do Jack-O-Lanterns this year so that I can make it. A blurry picture unfortunately due to my excitement: Next, our guide took us over so that we could see our lunch spread: These are the dried herbs and spices used: Everything was served in this beautiful pots: We had tamales: Rice: Beans: Chicken: And root vegetables: I know what I like, so here is my plate of tamales and chicken: Alex loves everything and ate it all: We had our very own table for two set up with warm tortillas and hibiscus water: After the main course they offered flan for dessert, and our guide brought out some of the pineapple for us to try. It was very sweet and juicy, and he had a spice mix to sprinkle on as well: We then had a tour of the garden and saw how the family grew all of the food right in their backyard. We left a tip in their basket before heading back. Native Choice is not associated with the port, so they are not allowed to pick up there, but they can drop off. We left our guide and driver a tip and then grabbed a photo with them before heading back into the maze of Costa Maya: It was SO hot, and I remembered seeing Mexican popsicles during our last trip here, but I never bought one. I didn't want to miss out this time, but unfortunately, I could not find a vendor anywhere. Instead, I saw a Gelato stand and went for that instead. They gave me the wifi password for buying it, so Alex was able to use his birding app for a bit and put in yesterday's count while I enjoyed my treat: We had nothing else that we needed to do in port, so we headed back to the ship an hour before all aboard. Once again, NCL had cold washcloths, flavored water, and a towel exchange right at the pier. Way to go!! Final Thoughts: I will always recommend Native Choice. The guides are great, and the tours have plenty of culture mixed in with whatever else you are looking for. I am so happy that we chose the lagoon this time. It was very relaxing, and although it was private for us, I don't think it would ever get to be too crowded. They were also very flexible about doing a later lunch for us, which was really appreciated. We could not have asked for a better day!! ~ Ashley
  20. Our resort was absolutely beautiful, and you can stay there as a regular guest, but no one was at the beach house at all: We had the ENTIRE place to ourselves!! We dropped our things off at beach chairs and went off to explore a little: Here is the entranceway coming in: There was a bar and a tender that made us a many margaritas and pina coladas as would like: Next to the bar were kayaks and life jackets that you could take out: This was the front of the water: The Lagoon had the most beautiful shade of blue to it: We went on top of the deck to get a better look and take photos of us enjoying the day: Of course we had to pose in the big chair too: Soon Alex decided to take out a kayak: There was no one else around us, no one else on the water...So secluded and beautiful! Meanwhile, I read Book #2 (The Boy From the Woods - Harlan Coben), and I enjoyed a couple drinks from our personal bartender: The water was soon calling my name, so I went out to swing: I just loved relaxing in the warm water: Eventually Alex started to head back: And I swam up to him so we could enjoy the water together: Afterwards we enjoyed a few more drinks while we dried off and hung out on our loungers. What an amazing few hours and we still had lunch! ~ Ashley
  21. Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico!! This was our favorite port day, and I have lots of pictures to share. To start, we had breakfast at Sheehan's. I was so happy to see breakfast sandwiches on the menu - my favorite: We saw Tony as we were finishing up, and he planned to stay on the ship. We were missing some trivia with him and apologized, but we didn't want to be late for our tour, and he totally understood. Fr those staying on board today, there was plenty to do: When we were in Costa Maya in 2018, we booked a trip to see the Chacchoben Ruins and have lunch with a native family. It was a small tour with about 10 of us, and overall it was an awesome day. I highly recommend that one if you want to see ruins and meet a family. Because of that experience I looked at Native Choice again, and I found a tour that included the same lunch with a family and a visit to Seven Colors Lagoon, which looked beautiful from the photos. It was $80/pp and definitely looked like a relaxing day. Normally we are not beach people, but this pandemic has taken a toll on me, and a relaxing lagoon sounded wonderful. Like all guides that we had, every one with Native Choice was vaccinated. I think I forgot to mention earlier that I always inquired about that when booking. Our tour was scheduled for 10am local time, and I think we arrived around 9:30. It's a maze to get out of port and then walk to Native Choice, but they do email a helpful map. RCCL had a ship in port with us too, and we saw some of their guests at Native Choice as well. However, they were all on other tours. No one else was on ours, so we had a completely private tour!! Our guide explained that usually lunch is first, but since we were the only ones, we were able to have lunch later and go to the lagoon first instead. Breakfast wasn't too long ago, so we were not hungry at all. It was a bit of a drive to get to the lagoon, but he pointed out things along the way. He also stopped to pick up a pineapple for us to try later: Soon we arrived at Seven Colors Lagoon. It was a resort that they were using, and pics are coming in the next post. Here is where we went: ~ Ashley
  22. Final thoughts on Harvest Caye: It is a VERY commercialized port. I think we chose a better excursion this time, but it is still not our favorite place. The Monkey River guides were great and very knowledgeable. The island itself was clean and had lots of loungers available if you wanted a beach day. Unlike Great Stirrup Cay, no food or beverages are included on land, so it could get expensive quickly. We are hoping to get back to Great Stirrup Cay instead when we cruise the Caribbean again, but it was still a nice day. If you chose to stay on the ship today, there was plenty to do as always: I remember on The Escape they had a painting class. Maybe this is just for bigger ships? I would have enjoyed that. It was still early when we came back, so we hung out and played a board game at The Great Outdoors. We only packed one big game, and this was what we decided to try today. The wonderful game of Puerto Rico: Next to the game you can see that we were getting our drink on of course! The drink of the day was Bahama Mamas, and they were yummy. We had several other drinks as well, and eventually we grabbed a quick lunch there. When we headed back to our room we had our first ever load of platinum laundry waiting for us: This was the first time that we have ever had the ship do our laundry, and it was so wonderful! I mean, look at that cute basket 😍 The laundry was pressed and folded, and we were so impressed. We sent a second load out on Day #6 and had it back just in time for packing on Day #7. We spent some time in Spinnaker next, since it was nice and quiet. I read my book, and Alex listened to his...or maybe he napped: There was a Music Mania Game Show at 5:00, and that was a lot of fun. At one point I had to sing karaoke, but the words never came on the screen. I winged it and had a lot of fun. Everyone had a blast at this game. Then we stayed for Trivia, of course. We went to the early show tonight and saw Blazing Boots. This was one of the best shows that we saw all week. Great cast, good dance moves, and awesome music. I wish there was more of a plot, but it was a super show overall. Then we stopped into Orchid Garden for a late dinner. I don't have pics, but Alex had beef lo main and really enjoyed it. I had steamed dumplings with spring rolls, and they were yummy too. Dessert did not look great to us, so we stopped by the MDR instead: Bring me a cannoli any day, and I am the happiest girl alive. We bar-hopped after and I had my fair share of whiskey. Soon we were back in the room with a new friend waiting for us: I will try to get back here later to post Day #5. Busy Saturday ahead. Thanks all for reading, and let me know if you have any questions. Or favorite port of all is coming up next!! ~ Ashley
  23. Day 4...Harvest Caye, Belize! We came here before in 2018 and took a ferry to the mainland, then a bus to ruins and a spice farm. I felt like we spent more time traveling get anywhere than we did actually doing anything, so I didn't want to go through that again. I would have been fine staying on the private island and going parasailing (it's on my bucket list), but Alex wanted a tour of some kind. But first, we had to get the day started. I was up before my 6:15 alarm, but I was ready only a few minutes before it went off, so I waited for Alex and he was able to enjoy a sunrise with me: We grabbed a quick breakfast at The Great Outdoors before heading out. We were instructed to meet at the marina at 8:15am for the Monkey River Eco Tour. This put us in a boat with about 15 other passengers, floating down the river and looking at wildlife. Masks were required the entire time at Harvest Caye and on the tour, although I know they were not needed when swimming. Here we are enjoying the ride: The tour made no promises of seeing wildlife, but we were definitely hopeful. We had really interactive guides pointing things out along the way, and they were excited whenever we saw anything: The boat was only partially covered, so those in the back were in the hot sun. They did have a large jug of water and cups, and I refilled my bottle quite a few times. And we were able to see some cool things on the river, such as an anhinga: And a great egret: The river was very calm and peaceful: Soon we docked on the mainland and we warned to put on bug spray. The mosquitos were pretty bad, so I'm glad that I had a small bottle with me, and someone else brought some as well. We offered some to others too. I don't remember the tour description mentioning a walk through the woods. I packed my trusty Crocs boat shoes for more active days, but I had my open-toed flat Crocs instead on this day. Luckily, the path was a boardwalk and very manageable: We did have to walk into the woods at one point, but it was not bad and totally worth it. Alex's view through his binoculars was much better than this next photo, but it was SO cool. We saw holler monkeys!! We also saw a couple of more creepy forest creatures. First was a snake wrapped around a tree: Then a huge tarantula: We were only in the woods for about half an hour. Then the boat made one more quick stop to a local shop where we could purchase things or just stay on the boat. Soon we were heading back to port: We were able to get a nice picture of The Gem docked: We walked around a little in port, but it was VERY hot, so we didn't stay too long. We did want a photo by the sign before leaving, though: Back on the ship, Alex captured this nice photo of the port and the walk to the island. They do have a golf cart if you can't walk: I'll be back in just a few minutes with the rest of Day #4. ~ Ashley
  24. Thank you so much for your sweet comments!! I love being able to relive vacation a little and hopefully help others out too. And yes, Grasshoppers are so refreshing and yummy. I miss them already. Thank you for following. Definitely my favorite venues. Funny story, though. One of the mornings when I woke up before the sun I decided to go to Spinnaker for a different sunrise. It was pitch black and I used the flashlight on my tablet trying to find a light switch. No such luck. Instead, I bumped into a maint. person asking me what I was doing. I explained, and he could not find a switch either, so I left. Kind of creepy in the moment. I continued to go outside and watch the sunrise instead.
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