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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

THE BIG CRUISE

So, yeah, we got back a few days ago, er...okay a week, and here's the recap:

An unremarkable (the best you can say) flight to Miami was followed by checking in and relaxing at the Biscayne Marriott, the same hotel we stayed at three years ago for the first cruise.

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The Legal Diva and her super duper cousin Shantel, who lives in Hialeah, caught up over a fantastic dinner at David's, while Jackson was let down by Hamlet 2 on the in-room movie, though pleased by the Checkers cheeseburgers.

The following day we had a free day in Miami which we spent doing last minute errands (shopping, mani-pedi) and a wonderful meal at Shantel's whipped up by her Bahamian cousin Wanda. A sublime fish boil of red snapper, potatoes, onions, and habeneros, what the islanders call Scotch Bonnets. Perfect with a Heineken.

The girls dragged us to Red Lobster, for the biscuits.

The next morning, Sunday, we slept in, re-packed, and got on the boat, the Carnival Triumph. It was game day, the Jets were beating the Titans. I was wearing the green, but I had to settle for watching the Cowboys game on the jumbo-tron that looms above the Lido Deck. At least I got to see the Jets highlights.

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After the game it was time to get decked out for dinner (every night 8:15, table 351, Paris Dinning Room) with the Legal Diva's noble and fascinating extended family, over fifty strong.

Day two was the first of three 'fun days at sea'. That means no port of call. Heavy winds spelled no mini golf, and I settled into wrapping up Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'Tarzan #10: Tarzan and the Ant Men', a mind number indeed. I had been unable to find my discman type CD player before we left Brooklyn, and I was in the market for a cheap replacement. I was amazed by my inability to do so. The ship only sold iPods. I brought CDs. Bummer.


After dinner that night, The Legal Diva's cousin SailorSay, sister Laa Shana, family friend Lynn, and yours truly gathered to drink a lot of vodka (w/ Red Bull for Jackson & SailorSay), and exercise our posteriors. Room service sandwiches and candid conversation capped a very late and wonderful evening.


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We didn't arrive at our first port of call, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, until five o'clock in the evening, but it was worth the wait. Pulling into the harbor at sunset provided a few nice snapshots, and as the evening dawned, we found ourselves strolling the quaint little backstreets of old San Juan.

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The Legal Diva's estimable uncles Ernie and Frankie, and their lovely wives Linda and Karen (respectively) joined us for a bite and a drink at Mojito's (scroll down), where we were treated to some outstanding mofongo (conch and chicken), braised chorizo, and truly amazing fried calamari.

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Some trinket acquisition followed, then we split off from the group, wandered a bit, and stumbled upon Botin. The nice young lady out front informed us that Botin is the oldest operating restaurant in the WORLD.



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We took the bait, and are so glad we did. Old world elegance surrounded us as were impeccably served - more like catered to - by an outstanding staff. The meal, created by Chef Jean-Louis, who came by for a table visit, was stupefying in it's simplicity, awesome in it's satisfaction. Appetizers of shrimp scampi and a cold plate of Serrano ham, braised chorizos, and cheese were followed by a roast suckling pig for two.

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That pig put me out for the night, but it was so worth it.

The next morning we woke already docked in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

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We kidnapped SailorSay for the day, and struck out seeking adventure on a bright and beautiful Caribbean day.


Immediately accosted by tour guides eager to cram us in with dozens of of our shipmates onto open air tour buses, we deftly made our way through the gauntlet, but not without enraging an over-zealous and clearly stressed tour guide/bus driver. Instead, we opted to walk into town, a leisurely stroll of about a mile along the waterfront.


After a fruitless search for a place to eat in a couple of different harborside neighborhoods, we finally made our way to Frenchtown, clear on the other side of the crescent shaped harbor, to the Hook, Line, and Sinker, a local eatery, where food and beverage was in the offing. We split some conch fritters, then the ladies had fried shrimp, and Jackson got his burger on.

















An 'off-ship' meal having been obtained, the three of us walked back along the waterfront, opted out of a 'shopping tour' via motorboat, and ended up at the Paradise Point Skyride ("call something paradise, kiss it goodbye...."). The Legal Diva had expressed a good amount of trepidation at the thought of taking a ride on a tram to the top of the mountain, but both the gals apparently wore their adventure duds that day, and in the end I didn't have to marshal them onto the Skyride.



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The ride up the mountain offered some swell views that only hinted at what we'd see from the summit, as well as a great photo of my super trooper reacting to fear and wonder simultaneously.

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At the top we got Bushwacked while taking in the view. We purchased some trinkets, and then took the tram back down to the harbor and our waiting state-rooms, where we napped prior to dinner, and an early night.



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Day five, Thanksgiving, brought us to Saint Maarten, Dutch and French Virgin Island. Again, we had arrived in port during the wee hours, but unlike Saint Thomas where we had until 7:30 pm to return to the ship, in Saint Maarten our day was cut short at 4:30 pm.

The Legal Diva and I took the day to ourselves, and hired a van/cab/private tour guide named Matt to give us the two and a half hour tour of the island.























The island of Saint Maarten is shared by two civic entities, the Dutch Side and the French side. Our ship docked on the Dutch side at Philipsburg, where we caught a water taxi across the harbor to the town center, which is where we found Matt, whose use of a map in his pitch coupled with an ease of manner sold us on his services, which was basically a circumnavigational drive around the island passing points of interest (defunct salt flats, a new airport, a nude beach), a half hour stop for lunch at the market in Marigot, the main French town (more later on that), and endless commentary about the electrical separatism unique to the island. The Dutch use 220, and the French go with the more American friendly 110.







Our meal at the Marigot Market took place in one of about ten or so stalls with outside seating jammed in together on one corner of the market. We wisely settled on Rosemary's. It was fabulous, and featured more conch fritters - the best yet, a whole red snapper for the lovely Legal Diva, and an outstanding curry goat for yours truly.


After the pleasant and competent Matt dropped us back in Philipsburg, we did some more trinket shopping, I picked up the sorely needed discman type CD player, and we sauntered along the beach before stopping for some frozen cocktails at a beachside watering-hole.







I took the opportunity to go for a dip in the Caribbean, this being my second cruise, and I had yet been able to go for a swim. It was rainy in Jamaica, night time in San Juan, rough surf in Grand Cayman, and we failed to come across a decent beach in Saint Thomas, having not ventured far enough to find one. At last I had my opportunity, fortunately wearing a swimsuit, and I enjoyed a wonderfully refreshing swim in the warm, clear, blue-green, salty surf of the Caribbean.





Back on the boat we took a rest before joining the family on the Lido deck for the Cowboys game, again with the f'ing cowboys! I retired to our state room for a brief nap before Thanksgiving dinner. The menu that night offered a typical Thanksgiving plate featuring roast turkey, mash, stuffing, and cranberry. The Legal Diva's father went there. I did not. He enjoyed it. I forget what I had.

A few vodkas and some light gambling filled the gap between dinner and bed.

Days six and seven we 'fun days at sea'. I finished the Tarzan while rocking out to the Chilis and Joe Walsh in our state-room, revelling with the Legal Diva and SailorSay over vodkas and whiskey of evenings.
















Sunday dawned to find us docked back in Miami, indeed we had been but a few miles out since the night before, floating just past the international line for gambling reasons.

Drowsily we made it back to the Marriott where we spent the day sleeping and watching the Jets lose.

A mid morning flight to LaGuardia was slightly delayed, but that's not why I was in a pissy mood. It wasn't the loss by the Jets either. I was in a pissy mood because I hate people in general, and people in airports and on airplanes are on the south side of that demographic.


"Paid my fare, don't wanna complain
You get to me, you're always outta champagne
Treat me like a bum, I don't wear no tie
You ain't nothin' but a waitress in the sky"

Comments:
Thank you for the update you guys had a ball...missed you... whats up next for the Lovely Legal Diva and Jackson :o)
 
Christmas in Deutchesland.
 
Where is the quote from?
 
i love posts like this. i got to be on your vacation for a few minutes. i had a good time too!
 
I got my sunshine/beach fix through you. Looks fantastic.
 
'Waitess In The Sky' The Replacements, the 'Tim' record.

Great tune you'd like.
 
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