Monday, July 17, 2006

The Caribbean in a Nutshell

You'd think, having recently come back from a vacation that involved 4 airplanes, 1 cruise ship, 4 cities, 3 islands, and more spent dollars than I'm willing to think about right now, that I'd have enough blog material to keep me going for a while... And you'd be right. So why, then, has it been a full week since I sent foot once again on Canadian soil and I haven't written a single word? Good question.

I was chatting about this very topic just this morning with my good buddy Napfisk, trying to figure out the cause for my lack of blogging. In the end, what I came up with was this: I've got enough stories to thoroughly bore each and every one of you six times over. I know if I were to write about everything that's spinning around in my head right now, it would be like forcing you all sit through 17 carousels of vacation slides... So, who's in?

Yeah, that's what I thought...

All right, so what I've decided to do (for now, at least) is just give you little glimpses of the trip. I figure you'll get a good enough idea of how incredibly awesome it was and, as Napfisk mentioned, I'll still have plenty of unshared material for future anecdotes.

The Flight to Miami

  • Turbulence makes Chana think the plane is going to fall out of the sky, but lulls me to sleep like a baby in a cradle.
  • Chicago's O'Hare airport (our one stop-over) doesn't seem very big, until you go looking for a quick bite other than McDonald's.
  • No matter how hot and humid it feels inside Miami International at 10:30 at night, it's nothing compared to the blast of wet heat that hits you the second you step outside.

Chilling with the Family

  • Nicaraguan food is unpronounceable, but delicious.
  • Chana doesn't like to share things that are unpronounceable but delicious.
  • Never trust Chana to teach you Spanish... She tried to get me to comment on her Grandma's butt as a way of saying "thank you". (I'll stick with "gracias")
  • As embarrassing as this is to admit, a lot of Miami looked familiar from my many hours of playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. (I guess those guys at Rockstar Games deserve a few kudos)

The Cruise Ship

  • Cruise lines should not serve alcohol prior to the Coast Guard-regulated, ship-wide safety drill.
  • Even on a 952-foot, 110,000 tonne vessel, you will feel the effects of 8-foot swells.
  • First-time cruisers are easy to spot... we were the ones spending the first 2 days aboard sticking our heads out of the elevator, looking back and forth, then saying, "Damn."
  • People will look at you funny if the pianist in the main lounge begins playing the Titanic theme song at your request. (Chana bought him a drink for his trouble)
  • Reading two blogs and checking one bank account costs a little over $30US via satellite high speed internet.
  • When treating yourselves to a fancy 5-course meal (formal wear required), 2 glasses in is a bad time to ask the price of a bottle 1996 Dom Perignon. ($169US, in case you're similarly curious)

Nassau, Bahamas

  • Women, you will be solicited to have your hair braided "island-style" at least every forty feet as you walk through town.
  • The ferry that takes passengers to the Dolphin Encounter at Blue Lagoon is located a brisk 15-minute walk from the Cruise Ship. Said ferry passes within 100 feet of said Cruise Ship on its way to Blue Lagoon...
  • Feeding, kissing, hugging, and dancing with a dolphin is cool.
  • A poorly-made VHS tape of you feeding, kissing, hugging, and dancing with a dolphin is expensive.
  • My shirtless body can be used to set the white-balance on a Handicam.

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

  • A 32 square mile island is not big enough for 50,000 people plus tourists.
  • Americans should never, ever drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • You've entered a whole new world when you visit a place with the need for public signs stating, "Please Don't Feed the Iguanas".
  • Disposable cameras rated as "Water-proof to 30 feet" may not become water-logged during a helmet dive 20 feet below the waves, but they may not actually operate at the pressures of that depth either.
  • A sea turtle swimming by has the ability to make Chana fill the inside of her helmet with tears of joy.
  • Paying $90+ each to visit Coral World Ocean Park, being taken there an hour and a half before the staff leave for the day, and needing an hour of that time for the orientation and helmet dive is just plain bad planning on the part of the Shore Excursion Team.

St. Maarten, Dutch West Indies

  • Women, you will be solicited to have your hair braided "island style" here, too... and they'll practically chase you down if you try to avoid them!
  • The shops here are a haggler's paradise.
  • Some of the best stores can be found down little alleys, away from the main streets.
  • The water is clear, green, and absolutely awesome to swim in.
  • The creator of Yoda is not much bigger than the Jedi Master himself.
  • There are more kinds of rum available in St. Maarten than I ever would have dreamed existed.

Coming Home

  • Parting truly is such sweet sorrow (just ask Chana).
  • The initials for Miami International Airport are a little disconcerting, especially when they're emblazoned with a black jetliner everywhere you turn.
  • The Boeing 777 is fast and relatively comfortable, even in coach.
  • The airport at Dallas / Ft. Worth (our one stop-over) is big, by any definition.
  • Boarding a plane for Dallas consists of a lot of pushing and shoving. Boarding a plane for Calgary consists of a lot of, "No, no... You first. I insist." (You can draw your own conclusions)
  • If you pack all the gifts in a red suitcase, and plan to open that suitcase in front of 5 kids as soon as you get home, make sure you grab your red suitcase from the Baggage Claim. It will save you much disappointment and a trip back to the airport.

As you can see, there are a few stories in there, to be sure. And who knows? I might even get around to writing a couple of them for you... Some day. For now, though, suffice it to say we had an incredible vacation and can't wait to do it all over again next year!

P.S. I took a little over 300 photos. I'll post a few for you soon.
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