Saturday, June 11, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation aka Things I Learned

So to celebrate 10 years of marriage, Justin and I decided to go on a cruise.  This was a REALLY BIG DEAL for us because, first, I have never been on a vacation that was not also visiting family or also a missions trip, with the exception of my H.S. Toronto Trip...which was a band competition.  So you see what I mean?  My trips have always had an alternative purpose, never just a vacation.  The next reason this was a big deal...neither Justin nor I had never flown commercially.  Justin went up in a charter plane when he was younger - but that's it.  So neither of us have ever dealt with schedules, check points, airports in general.  So having this experience was actually among one of my "bucket lists" - which gives you an indication exactly how far down the line I thought having this opportunity actually was.  Third reason it was a big deal, well, we have to do something with the kids, right?  Thankfully, we have AWESOME parents who are willing to help out and do what they can, but it's still hard leaving the kids for a week long adventure...longest either of us have ever been away from any of our kids. 

So, here comes the fun part.  What I learned about traveling/vactions/cruises.  I've attempted to keep a mental list, and I'm sure I'll forget some, but here we go:

1.  People really do run in airports.  Actually, I thought WE were going to be some of these people on our way home.  We started out late in Miami, and was suppose to be 30-40 minutes late for our flight out of Charlotte.  Thankfully, and not so thankfully - The Charlotte flight was late about 2 hours.  Anyhow, it was still funny to see people literally racing through the airport.  There was a guy in Dayton who worked in the airport - and was constantly running back and forth, back and forth.  I'm convinced that he works so much that this is the only way he can squeeze some cardio into his day.  Too bad it's in a very nice suit, but you do what you have to, right?

2.  People do not care a thing about the instructions given.  This is worse than High School.  Heck, it's worse than first day of Kindergarten.  So, like I said, we were late arriving in Charlotte, and sure enough, we are not the only ones who are very late for our next flight - about 35 other passengers were late too.  Well, the pilot gave very clear and specific instructions to remain seated until we stopped moving and the seat belt light was off and, asking everyone who did not have a connection to get to right away to let those of us who are late exit first.  So as we get closer to the terminal, the pilot comes on to make another announcement, IMMEDIATELY the entire plan stands up, starts getting their bags ready - I'm sitting there thinking, "what in the world.  The seat belt light is on, he's just giving us some more instructions - am I missing something?"  Sure enough, the stewardess starts barreling down the aisle yelling at everyone to sit down and put their seat belt back on.  She was NOT happy - that cannot be an easy job!  Anyhow, so we get off the plane, and my guess is that of the 35 late passengers, they must have included every seat ahead of us, because only 2 or 3 people waited around to let others exit first.  Aren't we a nice lot of people?

That is not the only example of "not following instructions" I witnessed, there were MANY times announcements were made, and left unheard.  And yes, sometimes it's hard to hear, but typically they make more than one least try and pay attention.

3.  Taking a taxi away from an airport because you have a 7 hour wait for your flight - is EXTREMELY expenisve.

4.  My carsickness doesn't really extend to an airplane or a cruise ship for that matter.  Except when I have an empty stomach and low blood sugar thing going on, then I get really sick. (thank goodness for the "empty stomach" part.)

5.  There are some very friendly people out there, you just have to start the conversation, because they sure as heck won't - but once it get's going, there's no stopping it.

6. Flying at night, the lights below are like looking at the stars in reverse.  Too bad it was cloudy most of the time.

7.  Lightening from an airplane is not better or more interesting or more exciting than it is from the ground.  I thought it would be.

Things learned while cruising/shopping/on excursions:
1.  You are suppose to tip EVERYONE. Okay, slight exaggeration, but truly, if the person did you a service (tour guide, touched your baggage in any way, opened your door, drove you from point A to point B), it does not matter if you already paid for the excursion and the transportation was "included," it is only polite and proper to tip.  Sucks, but it's true.  I was actually confused by this at first, but then when I thought about it, I knew it was true.  Many people did not/would not tip.  I suppose this is up to you, but despite the $100+ you dished out for the excursion, I'm willing to bet that tips are factored into that tour guide's salary.  Even the taxi ride we took - they took the cost of the ride and then added an additional 2.00 on top, which was the drivers tip.  (This kind of tipping is strange since tipping is suppose to be a reflection of service IMO, but because of confusion mentioned above - I do understand why it's done).  And you can tell the people who frequently do not receive their tips, because they TELL YOU to tip them.  I.E., the guy who took our bags to put them on the ship for us - Justin said he was afraid NOT to tip him once he asked, for fear of what might happen to our luggage.

2.  The bike tour in KeyWest was a LOT of fun - but only once.  I would never pay to do it again, I would just rent a bike and ride around next time.  (or pick a different excursion).  Our tour guide was from the Bronx, NY - had an accent I have only heard on audiobooks.  And he was a trip - awesome guide, who knew a lot of stuff beyond typical touristy stuff.  (This Tip was not so hard for me/us to dish out, he truly earned it).

3.  People are EXTREMELY selfish.  No, I did not first discover this on the cruise; but it was magnified to a great degree.  People throwing trash on the decks, or getting plate after plate after plate of food and not eating it (seriously people?  you could have fed a small village in Africa - just get what you're going to's one thing if you don't like it, it's a completely other thing to get it just so that you've got it - and someone else didn't - which is what it feels like.)  But my favorite are the people who walk everywhere as if if they don't make it to the buffet, they are going to run out of food.  Or, cut you off while walking from point A to point B only to stop and talk and take up the entire hallway so you can't pass.  Conversations ON the stairs - really?

4.  The diversity of both the passengers and the crew on the ship amazed me.  I don't know why, but I just wasn't expecting it.

5.  The fact that I have black hair, and my name is "Anita," automatically means I'm suppose to speak Spanish.  It's just assumed - obviously.  I am pretty sure Justin got tired of telling people that his wife does not speak Spanish.  ( Justin can speak conversational Spanish).  At the Dolphin Mall in Miami FL, it is pretty much required to speak Spanish in order to work there - apparently it is NOT, however, required to speak English, as when I was ordering food - me and the lady behind the counter were not communicating well at all.  In the end I held my finger up and said, "the number one."  She said, "Uno?" I said, "Yes - Uno!"

6.  The Rock Climbing/Zip Line/Snorkling Adventure Excursion in Cozumel is not in a Jungle, or in the woods.  It's a rock climbing wall, with rope bridges and zip lines between towers.  That was a little bit disappointing, however, we did have a lot of fun regardless.  Unlike some people, who never allow themselves to get over the deception so that they can enjoy their day regardless.

7.  Snorkling is a LOT of fun - we saw nothing exotic, but it didn't matter.  OH, and apparently they train the fish to swim with you, because they basically did - all around us.  They weren't the least bit scared.

8.  The sand in Cozumel was disappointing to me.

9.  The crew members on the ship - are AWESOME!  I did not meet anyone who wasn't friendly or just doing their job.  I know some of the have to get sick of the false cheer, but it was obvious the ones who were genuinely just happy with their jobs and really did want us to have a good time.  I say whoever does the hiring for Carnival is doing great!

10.  I cannot remember the number of countries represented on board, but it was A LOT!

11.  I don't think I've slept in a more comfortable bed in my entire life!

12.  I am 100% sure weight gain is a requirement on a cruise.  I think I gained 3lbs for each day. ( I REALLY REALLY hope this is an exaggeration - but I honestly don't know, I haven't checked yet.)

In the end, this cruising business is awesome.  I think both Justin and I spent a good portion of the time saying or thinking, "Elijah would love that." or "Wow, I bet Azalyah would really get into this."  So we are already talking about doing another cruise, with our kids.  I know we won't be able to do as much with our kids along, but we just had our chance - and we loved it!  I would love to be able to pass the experience to them as well.

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