Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vacation Destinations

At our annual Christmas party in December 2005, my boss gave Irene and myself an all expenses paid vacation. As a Christmas bonus she awarded us with a seven (7) day Caribbean cruise to San Juan, Puerto, Rico; St Martins Island, and St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands. Needless to say I was flabbergasted and unbelievably excited. A Caribbean cruise was something I had never considered possible up until then and have never been in a position to repeat sense. My boss was very generous and very thoughtful to those who worked very hard and who were very loyal to her.

We flew out of Portland, OR and landed in Miami, FL. We spent the night in Miami at the Miami Hilton Hotel. The accommodations were first class! After checking in we sat poolside simply relaxing and basking in the warm Florida sunshine. As Washingtonians we sat there soaking up the sun like Florida oranges. We sat up late talking, relaxing, and trying to take in the fact that here we were at a Hilton Hotel a night away from boarding a Carnival Cruise Ship that would sail for seven days to and fro to three (3) Caribbean ports. ( Poolside- Miami Hilton. Irene is in the red blouse - I am taking the picture)

The next morning we boarded buses and we were transported to the customs building. After transversing long lines and seemingly never ending time, we made it through the check in stations and boarded our ship. We were led to our cabin. My ever thoughtful boss didn't just book any cabin for us, she booked a cabin that not only was on the side of the ship but had a deck. Irene and I could open our sliding door and walk out on a little deck and watch the ocean while imbibing that wonderful sea air.

Well, we did it all. We hit the free and fabulous buffets, walked the decks of the ship, laid out on the top deck in the sun and sea-breeze. We took in the shows at night. Irene even tried her hand at the one-armed bandits. We were able to meet the Captain, the Cruise Director, and several other shipmates.

The dining was beyond description. Only those of you who have taken cruises understand. The evening meals were something out of a Camelot-like fairy tale. We were shown to our table which happened to be at the stern of the ship. This area had large glass windows. So we had a beautiful view as the sun went down. After sunset it was even more spectacular. Usually there was even moonlight to see the water in the darkness. We could also see the wake of the ship as it made its way through the water. But wait there is more, as Sully would say, the ship disturbed the plankton or phosphorus something or other and the water would glow in the dark. What can I say about the food? Scrumptious? What does that mean? How does it describe the food in a way that does it justice? Needless to say, it was "heavenly."

Well, we made it to San Juan, Puerto, Rico at about 8:00 PM. We were only in San Juan until midnight when we set sail again. It was a little disappointing, but we did all that we could in the time we had. St Martin and St Thomas were also beautiful ports. We took tours, saw the islands, and acted like typical tourists. We took as many pictures as we could and had as much fun as we could. We always made it back to the ship amazed, tired, and hungry. (Right - downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico after it got dark)

There is nothing like being in your cabin after a full day. The faint hum and vibration of the ships movement is like a symphony deep in the recesses of your hearing. Moon light shining through the open drapes gives a glorious glow off the deep dark water. Soft music piped through the cabins set a very romantic mood. The evenings were as rewarding as the days.

But, someone once said, "All things must come to an end." So sad but so true. After docking at our destination ports the ship turned around and headed back to Miami, Florida. After an incident where someone didn't believe the authorities about smuggling drugs aboard ship we were finally let off of the ship. We were bussed to Ft. Lauderdale airport where we caught our flight back to Portland, OR.

After a day of rest it was back to the salt mines. Now this dream cruise is only a distant memory. It is a memory so pleasant that I like to take it out of the library of my mind and relive it. I can still feel the Florida sun, the soft sheets of the Hilton, the gentle gliding of the ship through the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. I can taste the exotic foods, listen to the passengers joyous white noise of conversation, and recall the interaction with the island natives. Sometimes it is sad and so hard to put this memory back into the mental library. I do not foresee a repeat cruise in my future therefore I am afraid that this memory will be lost in that vast library of my mind, or will fade in time. But until then, "All aboard!"

View from the top of St Martin Island

Our ship docked at St Martin Island

Side-walk musicians

From above on a tour of St Thomas Island

Irene shopping in a shop in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Irene and myself on St Thomas Island

A view of San Juan as we sailed into port in order to dock

On board our ship

San Juan, Puerto Rico

500 year old Fort San Cristobal protecting harbor of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our ship the Carnival Triumph!

Have you ever taken a cruise?

What was your favorite vacation?

If money, time, health, and kids were no problem, 
what would you consider to be the ultimate vacation?


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Thanks Gregg for a wonderful post, A cruise is something I have never done probably because I don't like being surrounded by water.
I loved the pictures they were awesome, Pleased you had a good time and have happy memories.
My favourtite vacations is coming over to the US the few times to see Daniel, and the sights were sights I've only seen on TV.

Have a great week-end.


Trisha said...

What a trip, Gregg. You got great pictures, and now you have a lasting memory in your words, too. I went to San Juan when I was 15 with my Spanish class. :)

I've never been on a cruise, though. I've always wanted to travel to Ireland, and if money wasn't an issue, I'd pack up my entire family (total of 10), and we'd take a month long trip. :)

Pat Donovan said...

If I could take a cruze it would be the holy lands cruze. for a once in a life time type deal.

Persis said...

As an introvert, I don't know if a cruise would suit my personality. However, I would love to go to Alaska and see the Canadian Rockies, Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon again.

Ron said...

I have been on two cruises. One to Jamaica and another to Mexico. God willing we are going to cruise the Hawaiian Islands next year for our 40th wedding anniversary :-)

JD Curtis said...

Colombia? Went there 6X.

Venezuela, also 6X.

Peru 3X.

Trinidad, 1X, at carnival. (Highly recommended if you are a steel drum fan).

Nassau the Bahamas, 1X.

Haiti, 1X.
Out of all of them I like Venezuela the most. I'd alrady be looking to buy something there if I werent sure that Chavez plans to seize properties owned by foreigners. A check out this area. It's hard to believe that you arent in bavaria, nevermind Venezuela. Link:

Penned Pebbles said...

Thank you for taking us along. What a treat, even just reading it! Blessings!

Kansas Bob said...

Enjoyed the photos Gregg. Thanks for sharing your vacation story.

One of my favorite vacations was our trip to the Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and Port Angeles. We made the trip via a red Mustang that we rented at Sea-Tac.

Here is a clip from a previous post about my worst vacation:

I am reminded of that time almost six years ago, when I was faced with the trauma of dealing with a crisis on the high seas, when my wife became paralyzed from the waist down after we boarded a cruise ship. I vividly remember the crisis and how God spoke to me about letting go.. He whispered these words to me:
"You cannot project manage your way out of this. You need to flow with Me in this and give up control". Interesting how the Holy spirit spoke to me of flowing.. it was like He was speaking of my need to stop leaning on my own understanding and trust Him to flow from deep within me.