drum roll please!
and now.. for the part you’ve all been waiting for. the part that tells about the people, the parties and about the pool… the part that details the events, the activities and the food. i present to you… the cruuuuuise.
did ya like that? i tried to present it to you as a gift. this experience that i am about to share with you was a gift to me. uh huh. it’s true. my aunt has been traveling with Blue World Travel and their Festival at Sea for the past five years. she has tried to get me to go with her, for at least four of those five years. each time i denied. sometimes due to finances, sometimes due to childcare, but mostly because i was nervous to cruise. flat out scared.
“… just floating out there in the ocean? i dunno.”
“it’s not like that, you’re so busy doing other things that you won’t even notice.”
“i dunno. it sounds scary.”
“you would have so much fun. i know that once we got on the boat, i wouldn’t see you anymore… except maybe to change your clothes.”
“i doubt that.”
this was the conversation between she and i for years. years. last year i made the decision to join her. knowing that my last vacation was a farce and that i needed to get away for a while, i welcomed the excitement of knowing there was a “vay-kay-shun” on the horizon. during the year that we had to prepare and ponder, a lots of things happened in a lot of different areas. at one point, i was uncertain if i still wanted to go. we went back and forth a bit over whether to take my four-year-old. for a little while, he was included in our plans. then we decided that perhaps he should stay at home. he stayed home.
during that year, my aunt continued to tell me to buy clothing and other vacation stuffs over time so that i wouldn’t be bogged down at the end. somewhere along the way, i lost my job and buying things became the least of my worries. my very generous aunt extended this gift to me, as well. as she shopped for shoes and dresses, i did the same. i was very reluctant. i didn’t want to spend her hard-earned money more than i had to and i felt that she was dramatizing the desire to have so much on hand. i was wrong. for a little while i felt that i had taken too much clothes, shoes and makeup. but now i can see that without having taken what i took, i wouldn’t have felt as comfortable as i felt. i like having options.
there was also a whole discussion on the number of swimsuits needed for a seven-day cruise. she told me i would want five or six or seven. say whaaat? ummm, no. i don’t think that’s necessary. i resisted that idea to the hilt!
“what? seven swimsuits? that’s ridiculous.”
“i’m serious. you’re going to wish you had them when you get there.”
“i haven’t had seven swimsuits in seven years, why would i want seven swimsuits for a week-long vacation?”
“you should trust me on this.”
“i dunno. that just sounds crazy.”
*sigh* again, i was wrong. i think i took five, but i actually used three the most (because they were of the same shape and design and i could stick to the same set of tan lines). however, i wish that i had two for everyday. they were so much fun. i enjoyed the ultimate amount of time in the sun. more than my skin could handle. when i left California, i was a nice even paper sack tan. upon return i was a smooth burnt buttermilk biscuit brown. no lie. my nose peeled twice on the boat and i had to stop wearing foundation because it didn’t match my skin. still doesn’t– at all.
ok. so let’s get on with it. the cruise, the flights, the hotel, the clothes, the haircut and the pedicure were all courtesy of my aunt. she treated me to everything. including pre and post-cruise meals and drinks as well as treats, snacks and keepsakes. she is unlike any other person in my life. she gave me the best gift i could have ever asked for. a cruise vacation after a ten-year vacation hiatus. to that i say:
“thank you, Danise, for your love, your friendship and your gift. you were right about not seeing me other than to change clothes and the number of swimsuits i should have taken. i needed this vacation so much and i don’t know how to thank you enough for asking me to go with you one more time, or for handling all of the arrangements and for keeping me and SuperBoy safe during this time (and all other times). your love knows no limits. i thank God, in the Heavens above, for you and wish you nothing but the best in everything that you do. i am forever indebted and will never forget your care, concern and kindness. I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.”
ok. mushy stuff aside, let’s get on with this cruise! we left on a red-eye flight with two layovers getting us to Miami (push-off point) the next morning. after a couple of slight delays, we made it in about lunch time. there were two days of pre-cruise party fun to be had. we got in, got settled and stared out our window for at least an hour (even the rusted roof was a welcome sight):
looking at Miami from our hotel room. cruise countdown: 48 hours.
we soon met up with Melinda and Makeni, completing our quartet. with sunglasses on and little purses in hand, we were on our way to dinner.
me, Danise (my aunt), Melinda and Makeni ... ready to start our vacation with a meal together.
we caught a taxi to Bayshore Village and ate at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. them’s some good eats! they were served to us by Lenin (he was so nice, but the air conditioning in the kitchen and in our part of the restaurant was busted. so the poor guy sweat just bringing us drinks and napkins. i hated to ask him for anything additional knowing that he had to go into the scorching kitchen to get it):
Melinda, Lenin and Makeni
Danise, Lenin and I
we followed up dinner with a walking tour of the village area. it was crowded. there were lots of people, lots of shopping, eating and entertaining. there was a “concert in the park” type event going on and we stopped for a moment and enjoyed the music:
it's not the best picture but you get the idea. we were seated on concrete amphitheater type seats. people were dancing about and clapping along to the music.
i found a store selling Monster energy. aaaaah. sweet glowing amped-up goodness in a can. melinda and makeni found ten-minute chair massages. when we left, we actually got into a verbal argument with a crappy cab driver who wanted to blatantly over-charge us. he was rude and bordering disrespectful. but we didn’t let him steal our shine. we battled him back with our words and he eventually surrendered to our undeniable logic and walked away. hmph. chump.
upon returning to the hotel, we found a lobby full of fellow cruisin’ party people. it was apparent that my vacation was well under way. two of our four retired for the evening. Makeni and i stayed afloat in the lobby making friends, playing cards and getting to know some of our fellow cruisers. we were kicked out of the lobby at around 4 o’clock in the morning so they could clean and tidy up.
me. sportin' Wild Bill's pterodactyl feet slippers (he actually challenged me on the spelling of pterodactyl and was shocked when i busted out my phone and looked up the spelling right then and there. hmph).
i was up before i ever laid down. up dressed and ready to go. we decided to spend some time out and about and we started with lunch:
lunch on South Beach...where i had my first and my best Mojito. cruise countdown: 24 hours
our lunch was followed by some actual factual time on South Beach, in Miami. what a hot spot. (pssst. i saw some topless sunbathers there. say whaaat? yes. fa real.) the humidity in Florida has got to be somewhere near the same as the Amazon rainforest. i have never been in such a humid environment. ever. i honestly don’t know how people can live in this area. seriously. it was that bad.
after swimming in the beautiful water, in my dress-- i melted.
we left the beach, walked around the area and did a little shopping. i think we spent the most time in the Walgreens because of the outright air-conditioned environment. eventually i stopped going into the stores because it was so nice and there and so miserable outside.. i couldn’t stand the bi-polar-ness of it and just stayed outside awaiting three women shoppers. whew.
we returned to the hotel and naturally we went swimming:
me, Makeni, Danise (my aunt) and Melinda: pre-cruise party poolside fun. this lovely photo is courtesy of Jeffrey Walker.
we agreed to retire to our rooms respectively and get ready for “the Party”. the pre-cruise party. cash bar, finger foods and at least half of the anticipated cruisers. a nice way to meet more people before setting off to sea. this is where the division came in our group. some people get ready and some people just saaay they are getting ready. i was part of the former group. i was done and out the door and didn’t see the other girls for at least thirty minutes.
ready! and touring the scene with Wild Bill. (see there? hardly a noticeable tan.)
and that does it on pre-cruise party photos. hahahah. i made many acquaintances. shared many laughs and several drinks. i danced. i posed. i spent the majority of the wee-morning hours outside by the pool.
the beautiful pool, first thing in the morning, ready and waiting for the day's antics to begin.
that’s where i met my girl Nikki. it was her birthday and she treated herself to this lovely vacation. she was dancing to her own beat and i just jumped right in. we met r’here but we hung TIGHT throughout the trip. here we are days later, closer in friendship, sharing drinks and livin’ it up at the fantastic swim-up bar at the phenomenal Margaritaville on Grand Turk Island:
aka: SugarPie and BabyCakes (and a whole buncha other folk), kickin' it hard at the 'Ville
we’ll talk more about Margaritaville later. after the pre-cruise party, there was no time to sleep. i had stayed out until dawn. Nikki retired for the evening to get a little rest and get her luggage cruise ready. my luggage was ready, my “get on the boat” clothes were ready and i was anxious. i used my nervous energy to take a run. huh? yes, i’m serious. an “i’ve been out all night, but still can’t go to sleep, might not ever be back in Miami at dawn” cleansing morning run. here is the picture i stopped and took:
Miami at dawn... my cruise awaits, i better turn around...
upon returning, i walked a mile in the hotel gym (yup, i did that too), swam some laps in that lovely pool (i know, right? where am i getting the energy?) and eventually got ready to go. i laid down for maybe an hour and for some strange reason my eyes closed up tight. hmmm.. go figure. before we actually left the hotel, i called home to talk to my son and the sitter. they were both doing well. my little man told me “love you mommy”. *sniff*
the next two hours went something like this: out of hotel, on the shuttle, off the shuttle, through customs, through cruise check-in, through cruise doors, photoed and then photoed, onto the boat, into the room, to Makeni’s room, to Melinda’s room, up and out to the lido deck for food, and then a break to have an emergency meeting at our “unlikely” but potential emergency meeting stations. then back out for some much required, highly anticipated fooooooooood.
lido deck, push off, time to get this party started... and the countdown is OVER! cruise INITIATED.
the horn blew, the boat pushed off and we were well on our way. that’s the electric slide contest above. the first of many dance contests, line dances and group dances. it was fun. there was a “Freeze” factor added in and that made it all the better. the three girls below (from left to right: striped dress, yellow strapless and denim shorts) were like mannequins! mannequins i tell you!:
the freeze champions! if you ask me.
and that my friend, set the tone for the next six days on this wonderful boat. i met so many great people, made new friends, added at least a dozen or so folks to my facebook and got tagged in tooooo many pictures. but most of all, i had a great time. honestly– one of the best times ever. there was music, dancing, eating, laughing, drinking, swimming, and lots of smiling. and not necessarily in that order.
now, i’ve set the scene for you because i wanted you to feel the excitement and know that fun was around every single corner. i can’t walk you through every hour of every day, so i will hit you with the big stuff.
me. poolside. if you're looking for me, you haven't been in, near or around the pool.
i spent the first three days, right here. everything else i did, excluding the formal dinner, the scheduled entertainment or hanging out at the “club” was done very near here.
the Festival at Sea is planned. there are activities planned for the majority of everyday. and that’s just on the boat. there are plenty of things to do when you go ashore, if you go ashore. they had exercise classes, prayer meetings, speed dating, dance contests, line dancing, dance classes, bingo, crafts and more. each night had a theme and the appropriate dress was requested for dinner. it was a lot of fun. the first night was relaxed and then! the next night! Sunday night was the Cool White Night Party as well as Mardi Gras.
Harold, Danise, Makeni, Melinda and Ron... i'm not in it, 'cause i took it.
Harold and I on Cool White Night
the Girls: Makeni, my aunt Danise and Melinda
and here’s everyone else (please forgive the blurry photos. i had not taken many “night” shots prior to the cruise. as well, up on deck and in the area above the deck it can be windy. just as one hits the “snap” button a gust of wind will help you “snap” a different shot completely):
Cool White Night Deck Party
... and the line dancing begins...
probably fifteen hundred people, dressed in white from head-to-toe
the next day i was poolside (see the poolside photo above) and that night, Monday night, we were entertained by the one and only Patti La Belle:
Hank Sr. screamed out from the crowd: "Patti! I love youuu!"
Patti was so gracious. she wasn’t feeling well and apologized throughout the show. she said that seasickness gave her indigestion.
“makes me feel like i have to burp, but i don’t.”
when she first came out on stage she was wearing some grey patent leather Christian Louboutins. nice. she talked to us like we were her friends. she sang a song and then she kicked those shoes off in Patti LaBelle style! (and naturally, she asked for her RedBottoms back).
out of nowhere (i didn’t know him then) Hank Sr. yells out that he loves her.
Hank: I love you Patti.
Patti: huh? say what, babe? what’d you say?
Hank: I love you!
Patti: oh, you love me? i love you too boo. are you married?
Patti: no? uh oh. c’mere, lemme see you.
Hank came out into the light and after direct instruction from Patti to “let the man go”, security let him up on stage. he was beaming and i was almost blinded. she asked him whom he was on the cruise with and he explained that it was a graduation gift to his son, Hank Jr. sweet, right? she called Hank Jr. onto the stage. she hugged them both and posed for a photo opportunity. before they left the stage Hank Sr. kicked his shoes off. a little less gracefully, but with just as much drama. good times.
it was a great concert. she sang my favorite Patti songs. sadly, though, she really wasn’t feeling well and had to excuse herself from the stage more than once. if she wouldn’t have told me, i wouldn’t have known. she almost brought me to tears when she sang “Somebody Loves You”. such memories attached to that song.
i apologize for the month long hiatus between part two and part three. my world at home has taken a turn for the better and left me with less time to share my thoughts. i came home to a job offer, followed by pre-employment testing, physicals and examinations. then i woke up to a toothache! total bummer. shortly thereafter i actually started working without any particular mode of transportation (i carpooled, borrowed and prayed for a ride) and just recently signed my name on the dotted line to call a little car: my own. with that said, i have to pick up where i left off and that has all become a little fuzzy over time. it’s a good thing we kept every scrap of paper and took so many photos to help me replace my shoddy memories with real ones. SO! let’s move forward, shall we?
next on the list! “Charlie, last name: Wilson.” do you know who that is? i hope so, but if not, i’ll tell you: he was the lead singer of the Gap Band (and i know you know who the Gap Band is). we were up in the rafters for Patti, but we were ground level for Charlie. and boooooy was that a show!! he really really put it on. and! and! he wasn’t feeling well either. he confessed that he had food poisoning and that he wasn’t up to par, but if you ask me, even his not-up-to-par was phenomenal.
Charlie! sharing stories of his personal battles including: drug and alcohol abuse and prostate cancer. he was happier to share that he has been sober for seventeen years.
after the show, i wandered about looking for nikki. i perused the crowds this way and that and made my way up to the lido deck to check out what the midnight buffet had in store. nothing interesting… to me anyway. as i continued on my way, i was verbally accosted by a group of men (just kidding, they asked me if i was lost because i was wandering). i sat down and low and behold it was a fair share of the gentlemen that i had just seen on stage:
Aubrey on the left, Bruce on the right
Aubrey made me laugh out loud, really loud, with his editorial commenting. he bought me a mojito and told me i was hilarious.
Bruce seems extremely serious, but he’s actually very sweet. i wouldn’t wanna cross that line though, i’m sure his serious side is his well paid side. 😀
(pssst~ i can't remember his name) playin' the bass
mr. man on the bass was busy. maybe he wasn’t busy, but his eyes sure were. like a kid in a candy store.
me on the left, and the sweetest dancin' girl on the right
and that sweetheart of a backup dancer was just so pleasant. she complimented my famous foam flower, shared her workout routine, told me not to keep the boys up too late and then flashed her pearly whites for my mojito-driven photo session. 😀
thus far i haven’t mentioned Jon Saxx & Endless Possibilities. they were onboard entertainment also. Jon Saxx is a phenomenal saxophone player and his band is B-A-D! they were on deck, in the Atrium and they also entertained at the Gospel Breakfast. i enjoyed watching him make connections with his audience as he serenaded everyone in the crowd — personally. this is a photo of him on the last day we were on the ship, but he was there the whole time and i enjoyed his sound and the passion that he instilled in every note he played.
serenading the scene with his saxxophone..
there were also two comedians. aj jamal and jay lamont. both guys are truly hilarious. i met aj jamal poolside and jay lamont mingled with me and the CW boys (that’s, uhhh, Charlie Wilson band fellas). i would be a liar if i said that i hadn’t seen them both a million times on the television, but being side by side and actually having conversation was far more entertaining. i got a photo-op with aj jamal:
me and aj jamal
but my opportunity to showcase a photo with jay lamont was sabotaged by a dead cell battery. boooo. anyway! i had a great time mingling with the entertainment, and i think they had a good time hangin’ out with me. i hope they did anyway.
well, my faithful darlings, i’m going to end this extremely long post here. i will return much sooner than before and i promise to tell you more about the food and the people i met. until then… stay sweet!