Wednesday, February 29, 2012

'Allure of The Seas'

Once the Titans season wrapped up I asked Patrick what we were going to do with the off-season. He figured I was trying to hint at something and flat out asked what I wanted to do. When I suggested we take a trip he said "Yeah, we're going to visit Ryan and Erin in Atlanta at some point." Now, not that I don't love Ryan and Erin or even Atlanta for that matter, but his response wasn't quite what I had in mind for our vacation this year - haha! When I suggested a cruise I was quite surprised at how quickly he started looking and booked if only he was that proactive when I suggest going!

Patrick booked our week long vacation on Royal Caribbean's "Allure of the Seas"ship...AKA the largest ship in the world! When Patrick shared this bit of information I couldn't help but think of the Titanic outcome, which was also the largest ship in the world at that time. Then seeing the headlines on Carnival's sunken ship just weeks before our cruise set sail also didn't help...but I looked at it as I look at everything else in life...when God says its your time to go, then it's time to go, and no matter what I've had one exciting life thus far and there is a FAR better one waiting for me on the other side! Fortunately though, no problems on the cruise, actually quite the contrary.

We set sail on February 5th, Super Bowl Sunday. I should add that when we were leaving Nashville I spotted Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler in the airport! I had just read in US Weekly that they were living in Nashville, but I didn't expect to actually see them here. I always get really excited when I spot a celeb, mainly because I'm really bad at it. I must admit, Jay made it simple for me with his sunglasses on in the security line - haha! That was kind of a dead giveaway...

We boarded the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, and let me tell you, it is huge! There was so much to see and do!

After boarding we explored the boat and grabbed some food. Upon entering the restaurant a lady from the spa was handing out a raffle ticket. I decided we should fill it out just for fun. We had to drop it off at the spa and be present for the raffle in order to qualify. They were giving away $250 in free beauty products and $500 in free services. I'm almost positive Patrick wanted to kill me because we pretty much missed us leaving land for this and in addition had to dance around like weirdos before any of the names were pulled. Before the first name was pulled, the instructor said the winners had to do 10 push ups in order to take the prize. I immediately thought "Well I hope they call Patrick's name and not mine then!" lol...The first name was called and the man was there to claim his prize (he did "air push ups" by raising the roof lol!) Next they called off another name, he wasn't there. Then another, not there. And another, not there. Finally "Patrick Bailey" is called out and I literally yelped out loud! We had just won $500 in free spa services! Patrick represented on the push ups...try 10 one-handed push ups! I was so proud of my man! 

After all that excitement we decided to just order room service and enjoy the Super Bowl and the commercials in our room. We also got to enjoy a bottle of champagne courtesy of AAA! Love me some bubbly!
My favorite commercial was the Hyundai cheetah commercial "Yeah, it's that fast" - hilarious! Patrick's favorite was the M & M "Sexy and I know it" --- "So it's that kind of party!" - another great one!

It was absolutely crazy and mind boggling that we would wake up in Nassau, Bahamas, but oh did we! It was a little foggy at 7 am but beautiful none the less! That is Atlantis in the distance...

We were kinda ballsy on this trip and didn't book any excursions through the ship. We did one on our Honeymoon in Mexico and thought it was just okay for the money, so we decided to do our own thing and it worked out well for us at each port...thankfully! I fully realize it could have gone bad and I may not be here writing this blog today...!

Nassau was an early day and a short day, so we didn't have a whole lot of time there by the time we got off the ship. We did our shopping (I have to purchase a magnet and a Christmas ornament at each place we visit...tradition!) then met some other couples who were looking for another couple to join them on a tour of the island. For $15/person we got in a van with a Bahamian stranger named Roy and started to tour Nassau. Yes, we might be a little more than crazy because he could have easily kidnapped us! Fortunately, Roy was a legit good guy. He put me at ease each time he talked about Jesus, and thankfully he did that a lot! Below is Roy and Patrick after the tour.

Nassau is a neat little town. It's biggest income comes from the resort Atlantis, which has rooms that are $25,000 per night, crazy right?! I don't know how anyone can justify that. We got to go inside and see some of the architecture, but they made you pay once you got to a certain area, and we didn't care to do that. Below are some pics from Atlantis...

Another landmark in town is the Lighthouse. We stopped at the beach across from it to get some pictures and dipped our feet in the water. From the pictures you can tell a storm is coming and as soon as we got back in the van it poured!
So much fun in Nassau, Bahamas! 

Once we got on the boat we decided to use our spa voucher because we had to redeem it on a ported day. We decided to do a couples seaweed wrap massage, which was quite interesting...let me explain! The massage therapists told us to first put on a pair of disposable underwear (hilarious and mortifying at the same time!) then lay down on the table face up. Laughing all the way we did as we were told. When our masseuses came back in the room they started to lather our bodies with seaweed (which actually smelt really good!) then proceeded to wrap us in tin foil. We of course didn't have our camera with us, but I googled a visual for! 
We both felt so silly that it was hard to relax, but we did have a good time. After laying there for awhile, we showered the seaweed off. We were kinda surprised when they gave us another pair of disposable undies to put on, but it made sense when they wrapped us in tin foil once again - lol. After another shower we finally were rid of the disposable undies and it was time for the real massage, which was actually very relaxing and one of the best ones I've ever had. 

Fully refreshed, we got ready for the Captains Dinner, which was crazy formal! I sported the cocktail dress I wore for our rehearsal dinner and felt very under dressed...I felt like I should have dug out my old prom gown (not that it would fit!) We had a good night though :-) 

After dinner we went to a show. The shows on the ship were out of this world amazing! The first show was called "Blue Planet" and very Cirque Du Soleil like. All of the songs were current songs about the world (I hadn't realized there were so many) all the while doing unrealistic things with their bodies. Below are pictures from one of my favorite scenes where the actors/dancers came out of a tree!

I also liked the scene where they brought down a screen to make it look like you were watching an underwater show!

The next day we were at sea so we really got to take advantage of some of the stuff to do on the ship. We played mini golf (it was the worst game of mini golf though...they had foam golf the ship is going and the wind is blowing...this all makes for a disastrous golf game!) and Patrick did the Flow Rider, which is a surf machine. I was not brave enough to partake, but gladly took videos of Patrick wiping out. They are mysteriously missing from my camera though...hmm!

The ship has an ice skating rink, which is where we saw that nights show. How talented are these skaters to to jumps, lifts and tricks on a moving boat! 

The next day we woke up in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, which was hands down my favorite port! St. Thomas is GORGEOUS!!! The water is so blue and all the rolling hillsides are so lush...breathtaking! See for yourself!

Again, we did our own thing and boarded an open van and headed to Magen's Bay. If you are ever in St. Thomas, go to Magen's Bay!!! National Geographic named it as one of the top ten beaches in the world and I can totally see why! The water is so clear and the sand is so white, plus it's surrounded by these green mountainsides, stunningly gorgeous! What was really interesting to me was that there were trees on the beach, so people could lay in the shade, and also cactus' on the hillside. Below are some visuals...

On our Honeymoon, the excursion we did came with our own snorkel gear, so we brought it with us to do some snorkeling on our own. We spotted a lot of little fish, but they were as clear as the water and didn't take on our camera. We did spot one big fish though, that you can kinda make out here.

 We saw a lot more fish when we snorkeled at the coral reefs, which you get to through an excursion, so our make-shift snorkeling was kind of a bust, but it was still beautiful! Loved, loved, loved St. Thomas!

That night I actually talked Patrick into going to the Casino on board...this is big! Patrick HATES casinos and gambling! We did find one game he liked though, where you put the quarters in the machine and money sometimes falls down, we did pretty well and won $40 total on it!

Later that night we took part in a game show which was called "The Quest"...eager me raised my hand to volunteer and got picked. Word from the wise...never do this unless you know what you are volunteering for!!! I totally wasn't prepared to run back and forth in stilettos as the "Female Team Captain" for a scavenger hunt! I had fun though, and came in 3rd place!

The next morning we were ported in Philipsburg, St. Maarten - which marked the last island we would be visiting on the cruise. We began this crazy day by taking a water taxi over to the shopping area. We splurged on some bamboo sheets that we heard about from a store called Cariloha ( We were told bamboo is supposed to keep you 3 degrees cooler and is lots softer then cotton. We just got them in the mail last week and we are very happy with them! They are super soft, and I guess they are a little cooler than regular sheets? I don't really know, I like to be warm so I have loads of covers over them. They are soft though, I do give them that!

We were kind of at a loss on what to do next, but then Patrick suggested we rent out a scooter. I don't know what I was thinking when I agreed to get on the back of a scooter with him! One, he has never driven one before, and two, we're on an island we've never been to before! All I could think was "My mother would kill us if she knew what we were doing!" and I told him this a few times to get him to slow down! Ultimately, I'm glad we did it because it was an awesome way to explore the island! My favorite memory of this adventure was when Patrick hesitated on which road to take and I said "Why don't you pull over so we can look at the map" and he responded "Nah, I think I know where we're at" we frequent St. Maarten all the time! LOL!

We saw some very cool stuff on our journey! Such as goats in the middle of the road! LOL! (My favorite part of the day!!!)
A Sea Urchin
 A Star Fish that may or may not be alive...we couldn't tell.
And of course, beautiful views!

I'm not going to lie, I got more than a little sunburned on this adventure. We were speeding quick on that scooter, but not fast enough to escape the sun! Just the outside of my legs got color (super cool!) and I got a nice circle on my back, as my dress had a tie in the back. Thank goodness I packed Aloe!

The last couple days we were at sea so we got to dive into the activities on the boat more. Gosh, there is so much to see and do! It's kinda crazy, but I guess it's the only way they can accommodate some 6,000 people at the same time. The ship offered a couple viewings of the play Chicago, which I have always wanted to see live, so we went to see it and it was awesome!

 We then channeled our inner child and hopped on the carousel and took this artsy photo...

That evening was the final formal night AKA lobster night. We had no shows to go to so instead took some photos around the boat and called it an early night. 
PB having too much fun at the arcade lol

The following day was our last day at sea, so we decided to put on our adventurous hat and finally take to the giant rock wall. This was my first time rock climbing and I totally got higher than it looks...Patrick took the photo showcasing how much more I had to go rather than how far I had gone...!
Keeping the adrenaline going, we then went zip lining across the boat. Although I was scared, I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it, and I'm so happy I conquered  my fear! Weee...!

That evening we went to the Ocean Aria show...hands down my favorite show on the boat! The pictures don't do it justice but I will share a few. Basically it is a water show. They had high divers and trapeze was out of this world amazing!

The pool they were diving into wasn't very large and was only 14 feet deep. You can kind of see the Royal Caribbean logo at the top of this next photo...the photo below it shows where the high diver came the top of the giant logo!

Overall, I loved the cruise and would most definitely do another one in the future. Next time though, I would would like to go with family or friends. It was nice to have our alone time, but there were moments I wished we were sharing this special time with others.

If you ever go on a cruise, I have a couple of tips for you...just some things I wish I had known prior...

1.) Schedule all the shows you want to see and the time you'd like to do dinner as soon as you can. Because we booked our trip so last minute we had really slim pickings at all of this.

2.) Purchase a drink package. The only beverages included with the cruise are water (not bottled) and juice. It's like $2 per can of pop, and $6 per day for the unlimited package. They give you a refillable cup and Patrick and I just shared. We didn't do an alcohol package, but I imagine you would save more by doing so if you planned on drinking a lot.

3.) If you want to do excursions, book them prior to the cruise. I don't believe you can book them once you are on the boat. Plus it's nice to have a plan for ported days...something we never had!

4.) Know that gratuity isn't included and they expect you to tip out your maid, waiter, assistant waiter and the restaurant manager at the end of the trip.

5.) Go into the cruise knowing your room is going to be tiny (and the bathroom even tinier!) even if you upgrade. I was shocked at first, but adjusted well. They give you shelves and hooks all over the room, you just have to be creative with where you put things and how you utilize the space.
I also suggest splurging for a room with a deck. I think it was like an extra $500 for the deck, and we almost didn't do it. I'm so glad we did though because it was so nice to have that extra area and get some fresh air into our small living quarters...catch my drift?! LOL!

6.) Know that you will not have an iron in your room! Iron's are supposedly a fire hazard on a boat (like curling irons and straight irons aren't as well?!) so they don't supply you with them. I wish I had known this prior because I ironed nothing beforehand! They do have an ironing service, where you can pay like $3 per garment to be ironed (Nice how it isn't a fire hazard for them to have an iron isn't it?!) but I chose to outsmart them and hung what needed to be ironed in the bathroom while the hot water ran. The steam got a lot of the big wrinkles out.

7.) The cruise will have photographers taking photos all the time and all over the ship. Sometimes the photos are mandatory to take, and other times they are completely optional. There will be backdrops set up in various places around the ship. Take advantage of these photo sessions. We did not and kind of regretted it after. At the end of the cruise there is a folder with all the photos taken of you and you can purchase all of them for a set amount of money (still expensive, but the more photos you let them take of you, the more you will get for that set amount) The quality of the photos they take are phenomenal! If you purchase a la carte, it's $20/photo. We got suckered into purchasing this one...

8.) Be prepared for formal nights. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, people take it pretty seriously! They have a tuxedo shop on the boat for guys to rent out a tux, and some women seriously wore ball gowns. Not everyone is that dressed up though...

9.) On cruise days make sure you wake up early and get a seat on the boat. We did not do this on the first cruise day and had to sit in the shade all day...not cool! There may be 6,000 beds on board, but there are not 6,000 chairs by the pools!

10.) Be prepared to spend money. A cruise is not all-inclusive. Everywhere you turn there is someone selling something and they can be quite enticing! Every menu on board has upgrades and a lot of locations are off limits unless you pay.

Those were just a few things I hadn't known previously and thought would be helpful for anyone considering a cruise in the future.

We made some amazing memories on board! Can't wait to do another sometime in the future! :-)