Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cruise Round Up: January 3- Sea Day/ San Juan

Half Sea Day, and San Juan

(Yeah, the towel animal should come at the end of the post, but I had another picture for the end, so you get to see him now...)
Today we woke up to a telephone call that our travelmates would be seeking a clamshell chair in the serenity area, so they were going up there and not doing breakfast with us. Having been woken up we decided to stick with the original plan and go up to the Posh restaurant for breakfast. We were seated at a table for 2 and had a lovely, relatively quick breakfast. I had the waffles which were fine but too sweet for my liking and some excellent pineapple juice. Then we headed up to the serenity area. We were told that the clamshells all were taken quite early, and that by the time they got up there about half the chairs had a flip flop or a towel on them. Being new cruisers and not message board stalkers, this was their first encounter with early morning chair hogs. At least the clamshells had actual people in them.

Anyhow, the two lounge chairs next to them had 2 towels on them, but they said they had been empty since they got up there- and it had been over an hour. I took the two towels (which I can say with a clear conscience were not actually on the chair- having been thrown off by the wind and were wrapped around the wheels) and gave them to the towel booth. We took the chairs. (I feel a bit bad since they were the $22 room towels- but don’t leave them lying around!) Anyway we laid battered by the wind for about 45 minutes (it was warmer today) before I decided to go downstairs and try to take a nap- having not slept much the night before.

Unlike yesterday, today seemed to have a lot more planned, but we missed Decades trivia to go up on the serenity area (so nice and quiet this morning, no beverage waiters coming around, couldn’t hear the big screen, most people sleeping). We missed the Rock and Roll quiz, but came up to the lobby during the answers, so we still go to answer all the questions Apparently there were quite a few trouble makers during this trivia, including one girl who was shouting answers from the upper level and had to be chased down… The man hosting the trivia was obviously having fun admonishing the guests for playing wrong.

Right after rock and roll trivia (which included a garth brooks song- weird) we did musicals trivia, to song clips. Being a group of theatre/musical fans we did surprisingly poorly, but it was fun.

Afterwards, we decided to go to the Lido deck for lunch and our travelmates decided they had a better way to get there then we did and took off in another direction- we haven’t seen them since then… we got up to the Lido at 12:00, right as lunch started. I gave the Tandoor another chance, and while one thing was too salty the other was okay… I’m basically just eating sauces as I don’t love to eat meat, and the vegetarian thing is what is too salty. Today the naan was delicious. Afterwards I had an ice cream and we headed first to the guest services desk to get change for 2 20s then quickly to the casino. We were disappointed by the casino as you now have to use a sign and sail card. Our last cruise we played $2 a day, and the minimum to put in now is $10. When I saw that I backed off and didn’t do it, but Kevin played, saying you can just cash it out. The machine quickly ate $5 (even with him winning a few- this was 2 cent slot, it’s amazing how fast the money goes) and we decided that at $10 minimum it was just too easy to lose money, and we cashed out and left.

Then we realized that the sound bite trivia would be in the casino bar, and since the casino wasn’t that full (weird, it’s a sea-ish day) there wasn’t too much smoke so we stopped and stayed. Kevin wasn’t sure what the theme of this trivia was, so I told him it was “things you know the answers to”- he got all of them right! 2 other men did as well and there was a “shout off” for the answer. The final question was a spongebob squarepants character that Kevin would have never gotten, and then man with children won. The guy doing this trivia (after cruise edit: Nate) was a bit crazy and kept playing the “I see dead people” clip over and over while having us all point at people walking past the stage- it was quite funny, mostly that this guy still thought it was funny after 20 or so times! (You know how some entertainers are clearly enjoying their jobs, but still, it’s their job? This guy seemed like he was having more fun than ever, like it was his first time ever touching a microphone and sound system. He is clearly perfect for the job.) So
the other guy got the ship on the stick and Kevin was sad….

Up next was USA trivia, which we did alright at. It was also a fun round of trivia.

Then, was “Super Duper Trivia” which apparently is cumulative –and we missed the first day. We teamed up with the people next to us, who had won USA trivia, and formed “Team Awesome”. It started off as U.S. trivia, until 2 questions in he realized he had the same questions as the trivia before-seeing as how the guy we were teamed with won an autographed copy of those answers (LOL) we were pretty happy with this! (The two that were asked again we had both got right anyhow)- then he changed to food trivia- some of it was quite obscure, but we did really well (I got Bernaise sauce only due to Kevin prompting me with the Friends episode where Monica and Joey go to cooking class) and then the second half was song lyrics- spoken not sung- we did really well here too. In the end, we got 15 right and won a ship on a stick for the round of trivia!!! Since the other couple just got one, they let us keep this one (and points to the purple team- as we were red team and they were blue team… I think it was surprising to the director that we were a team who didn’t know each other) I don’t think we have a chance at the super duper prize, but ship on a stick!! Go Team Awesome! And we’ll meet up with them for the final round and give it a try. Wish we had known the first day, of course we wouldn’t have known them at that point, so it would have all turned out differently and perhaps we would not have a ship on a stick.

From there, we went to the Love and Marriage show where we learned that the eldest couple likes to do it in the ocean and the middle couple once did it in a monkey cage (cave?) at the Miami zoo. It was an amusing show, but not too many questions that yielded really fun answers.

After that, we returned to our room to get room service and ready for San Juan. Room service, Kevin got the Beef and Brie and I got the chicken Fajita wrap- both were amazing. The side of potato salad was just eh, so I won’t get it again. Then we also got cheesecake (just okay, a little spongey- but the raspberry sauce and the cream on the side were amazing) and a fruit plate, which was very good.

While eating room service we noticed we were pulling into San Juan quite early and he ran up to get pictures- I think he may have missed the rocks just at the entrance though. Since we were early for San Juan, we took pictures and killed time a bit to wait for our excursion.

At 4:45 we went to the terminal to join the queue for the Bioluminscent Bay Kayak Excursion. There were more people then we expected- at least 25 ahead of us, and I think in total there were either 2 (50) or 3 (75) buses. Our bus had a nice driver who gave a bit of narration - All of San Juan is very clean and very safe "oh, yes"- as we passed by graffiti covered buildings with bars on the window… (I’m sure it’s just as safe as any other city though…) We stopped for a quick bathroom break at a KFC, there was no toilet paper in the women’s restroom, so I sent Kevin out to the bus to grab my pack of tissues (lesson learned in Mexico, when I thankfully had them then too). Another woman asked a restaurant employee for toilet paper, but she didn’t speak English, so she asked another employee to come help us. He said they didn’t have any, so most of the women were left thinking Puerto Ricans don’t use toilet paper. The line for the women’s was very long, so I used the men's- which had plenty of toilet paper. Very odd…

(This picture is at the port... it was dark when we stopped for a bathroom break... besides, it looked like a KFC.)

We loaded the bus back up and noticed that across the street was “Kinky’s Condom Shop”- possibly the best name for one of the most oddly specific stores I’ve ever seen. And now I’ll probably get weird hits on the blog for having typed that…

Then after a bit longer we made it to Farjado, where the Lagoona Grande is located, and met up with our kayak outfitters. We probably waited at least 45 minutes to get into life jackets (real nice ones, not crazy blow up ones like Mexico) and get kayaks, because there were quite a few other groups, but it was fine as we all chatted, and it was a moonless night so the stars were just gorgeous. The guide gave quick instructions on how to paddle, and told us should we fall out of the kayak, not to panic, just stand up- it’s only 2 to 3 feet deep. Getting into the kayaks the water was smelly and cold, but the kayaks were relatively nice and had backrests (by the end of the trip, my butt would be in a lot of pain, and my knees from being cold and locked). The guide then had us all go out and link together and then we played follow the leader to the channel through the mangroves.

Kevin and I quickly realized we had a bit of a problem- if both of us paddled together we generated way too much power (normally I paddle a bit, and then let him do the hard work- there was no hard work here!) So I’d paddle a bit, he’d paddle a bit, we’d coast, he’d paddle, I’d put on the brakes, it was an exercise in trying to keep up with the person in front of us, and also not run him down. Still we kept a pretty good pace going to the lagoon. As we hit the channel through the mangroves, the water started to look like the moon was reflecting on it, but there was no moon, and even if there was- we were under complete cover, the stars were no longer visible. This was the first hint of bioluminescence . As we paddled further, it became brighter and brighter- and the kayak strokes became glowing. The best way to describe it is the glow of a glow stick (convinently tied to the front and back of the kayaks to help us follow each other) The trip was mostly good, we kept in a single file line on the right of the channel until a returning group came at us, not in a single file line. Our boats got messed up with theirs, and a few people ran into the trees and got turned around and didn’t know which group to follow. The rear guides
kept most everyone in line, but from the sounds of the shouting in Spanish that included “Brendon” at least one person must have gotten lost in the other group- but was eventually retrieved.

Anyhow- after we got through the channel we came out into a large lake (lagoon). Once again, we could see the gorgeous stars, and there was only one set of lights in the distance to pollute the darkness. We could dip our hands in the water and see the bioluminesnce running down our arms, shimmering the whole way. The further down you could dip your hands the brighter it got. Our guide grouped us all together and gave a small talk about the biology of the organisms, and about how Puerto Rico has 3 of the brightest year round biolumninces, and this one is the 2nd brightest at 1 million organisms per liter. (They gain there light from the sun during the day, and the even temperature allows them to stay all year round). He also talked about what used to be the brightest spot is now not even close- less than 1/5 (maybe more) than what it had been, due to pollution of recreational vehicles as well as people swimming (due to sunscreen, deodorant, bug spray etc). This particular bay doesn’t allow swimming. We were then left to paddle a bit more, and then we heading back.

At first Kevin and I got right behind the guide and were able to paddle at a good clip across the lagoon, but as we entered the channel we stopped to wait for everyone and then slowed down to the slowest possible paddle. We’d take like 1 stroke and then just float, still bumping the people in front of us. This was the most difficult part of the tour, because the kayaking was painfully slow, and the people behind us were shouting and having a water fight. I just wanted to shout back for them to shut up “You’re ruining the nature!” But I suppose everyone enjoys things differently, and already this was one of the coolest things I had ever seen- easily a natural wonder of the world.

There are no pictures from the kayaking because it is not possible to catch it on camera without a really really awesome one (and even then, I bet it's tough). Kevin does have a pretty good camera, and maybe he could have tried, but we brought our not so good camera, in a waterproof case with us. Actually it served us quite well this trip.

We got back on the bus and the driver recommended we complain about the wait to kayak- but really, someone had to wait as it would have been a madhouse if we were all in the water at the same time. We took the 1.5 hr drive back to the ship and were still back with time before the ship left port. Since the excursion lasted so late at night, when we got home we showered all that bay water off of us, had some pizza, and went to bed.

(Story behind the picture- I tend to close my eyes in like 80% of pictures, or stick my tongue out when I smile. So here, I did both!)

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