After many deliberations, budgeting and most importantly, leave approvals, My husband and I decided to set on a cruise. As cliche as it sounds, we were against Bahamas, Alaska and Mexico. We both wanted to explore some place that's different. Thanks to my Co sister in law, when she mentioned Jamaica, we immediately gave a high five and started shopping for the journey. I was informed that, the group has decided to wear a Red dress for the formal dinner. So, I pretty much tried every possible Red dress in every store. Of course, I bought it from the very first store that I visited in the very first week of purchasing the tickets! But, I have been trying till the last day of shopping.
I made sure, I packed 10 dresses for all days and nights on cruise along with matching shoes and clutches and jewelry. My husband did the same (sans jewelry and clutches) and we ended up with 2 full bags.
Finally, we made it to the airport and officially, our vacation began.
Our flight to Miami was fun and we checked into the hotel. We slept as if there's no next day. We were joined by our family and friends the very next day and we all visited downtown Miami. The weather was warm and we enjoyed our quiet stroll along the beach side. Since, it was Christmas, the roads were well lit and there was holiday mood.
The full moon added beauty to our trip and we slept in bliss.
The D Day- We checked into the port and the immigration was smooth. My husband, as usual, carried every possible document on earth. But, we were asked to show just our passports and were whisked into the cruise.
As we stepped in, there was a party mood inside the cruise. With music and drinks and on-board passengers, I couldn't believe a world like that ever existed.
We were ushered into the dining hall as our staterooms were not ready yet. The dining hall was full of food. Something that we all dream of. From Chinese, to Deli to Mexican to Mediterranean, you name it- they got it. Passengers were filling their cups with unlimited iced tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Kids were glued to the ice cream dispenser. I wondered if I would fit into my clothes after I disembark. But, I thought of taking one meal at a time!
After we entered our staterooms, we were greeted with beautiful towel arts. For all the five days, our janitor, Jana, decorated our rooms with beautiful towel arts.
The room was clean and crisp and we made our way into the balcony. Oh yes, we paid few extra bucks for the balcony!!!
|View of Miami harbor and other cruises from our balcony|
On day 1, we pretty much toured the entire 11 floors on the cruise and discovered various activities. We were so tired by the end of the day that, I slept like a log. I woke up the next day around 10ish and made my way to have breakfast. The plethora of dishes welcomed my appetite. I attended some shows with my friends and dressed up for the formal dinner night. Oh by the way, we have assigned dining table in our room and our timing for dinner is fixed for all the five days. The very first day, our servers Sugiartha and Roman understood our taste and brought us Indian food. From day two, as soon as we sit on the table, we would have our food within 10 minutes. A variety of Indian delicacies including saag paneer, Dal, Sambar (you heard me right), Kootu (you bet) and punjabi kadi. It was a royal feast. Along with the Indian dishes, we would order what was on Menu and satisfy our tongues.
Sugiartha, Roman and Antara spent good 2 hours with us all the five days and helped us in several ways. Managing a group of 18 passengers and their tastes and needs is not small. They remembered our names and were there for us on all nights. The dining room will groove to nice music at exactly 9.30 pm and we would all dance. A little calorie burning after hogging down tons of food.
|From Left- Sugiartha, Antara, Roman|
During nights, we would attend comedy shows. The first two days, it was Roman, who entertained us with his witty notes. The last two nights, Derrick Eason entertained us with his punch lines.
|Comedian- Derrick Eason|
We thoroughly enjoyed the shows. The lounge would be full with people standing at the door and aisles. So, we stood in the long queues 30 minutes before the show and made our way into the lounge. It was adult comedy after certain time and we totally enjoyed those 30 minutes.
Apart from Comedy shows, there are deck parties, live music, photography, ladies pamper parties and casino for great gamblers.
We can pick and choose our activity or just stare at the roaring-yet-peaceful sea. Our cruise Director, Brian Austin, gave timely announcements about the shows and let me tell you, I became a huge fan of his voice.
|Cruise director- Brian Austin|
The first stop was in Cayman Islands on Day 3. We were greeted by fleet of tour guides who were ready to show us the islands. We went to the 7 mile beach which is a good 20 minute ride from the port.
After basking in sun and relishing fresh coconuts, we came back to the port to have some lunch. Then, we split into two groups. The other group went to do activities such as sea-trek where they descend 30 ft into the sea to see the corals. My friends said, it was one of a kind experience. I couldn't venture due to some health problems. So, I enticed myself with shopping on the island. Cayman islands is huge in Tanzanite sales and diamonds. I shopped for myself and my friends and families and enjoyed my tour in around the shopping centers. Thanks to the city planning, the shops are next to the port- a good 2 minute walk. So, I enjoyed till the last minute and made my way into the cruise again.
The second stop was in Ocho rios, Jamaica, on Day 4. We were received by Mark from Marks tours, who was pretty much our guardian for the next 5 hours. He is a very well read man with good IQ. His English is commendable and he is a driving encyclopedia (if something like that exists).
The first stop in Ocho Rios was at Dunn's Falls. If one can hike a bit, then it is a paradise. Again, because of my health, I couldn't get into the water. But, I totally enjoyed walking on the steps and taking pics of my family and friends. The walk starts from the beach and one would go against the falls. Like climbs the falls!
Dunn's falls also have a small shopping area.
|Our Picasso from Jamaica|
So, we bought a painting, some souvenirs and of course I was offered the famous coffee beads chain (lol).
The coffee is a must try and it costs somewhere around $4. It is better to carry cash. After our purchases, we rushed to the car and proceeded to our next stop, Blue Hole.
Blue Hole is another paradise on earth. It is an epitome of beauty and nature. The falls, the depth of water, the rush..everything can only be experienced.
|Tour Guide- Robert|
Our tour guide, Robert, made sure, we were safe and
helped us in ascending and descending the falls.
One can do a dive from the rocks, But depth of water is nearly 28-30ft and there are multiple holes (deep waters) at most of the places. So, it is better to follow the guide and wear proper gear.
After the Blue Hole trip, we rushed to the cruise. Of course, we made a quick stop to relish the Mango Ice cream. But it was like a blink and miss pause. The terrains to Blue Hole are quite rough. The small roads are scary and bumpy with two cars almost rubbing their doors in opposite directions. Also, there are multiple "brownie" sellers en route to Blue Hole. Jamaica is a beautiful place which reminds us of the fresh and nascent life. It brings us closer to the environment on a different level. Jamaicans still have the innocence and you can't ignore their "Yaman" greetings. Peace and Respect are their food and water.
We boarded the cruise and spent two more nights and finally disembarked on 31st december. My 2015 is filled with lot of memories and lessons from Caribbeans. If time and money permit me, I shall revisit them :)