Caribbean Paradise

Caribbean Paradise

Spring break 2018 || March 2-11 || Adventure of the Seas
||Puerto Rico, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, St. Maarten||


Day 1: Travel

To avoid a lengthly layover somewhere in the Northeast overnight, we hopped a flight to Chicago where we (Mara) slept on the airport floor for 7 hours! Right near Southwest Airline’s baggage drop. We made a nook on the floor with our 3,738 bags we brought (4). I experienced sour gummy worms that tasted like something you’d find under your bathroom sink at 2:30am. I also used the bathroom at 3:00am and directed a very peppy family of 6 toward the closed baggage drop where they quickly learned that you don’t have to show up 2 hours before boarding like you used to in the 1900’s. Let’s be real – almost missing a flight is way more fun… we will get to that part.


Day 2: At sea

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL OUR TIME? All day on a ship and we had no idea what to do or where to go. It wouldn’t be until Day 3 or 4 that we found the SELF-SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINE by the pool. Guess how many we ate. Guess. Although the ship was laced with jewelry stores, we enjoyed free pizza from the snack restaurant, buying candy/snacks and mouthwash from the liquor store, and laying pool side to get a base tan. Music all day long, Zumba, trivia, reading a good book, and thinking about nothing we’re a few of our favorites.


Day 3: Curacao

 Curaçao has a bridge that is straight out of a Dr. Seuss movie. Run with your imagination. In Curaçao we jumped in a taxi and went to a beach where we had to pay to rent a beach chair for the day. Lazy. Day. We learned the (sort of) equivalent of the USD$ and ANG quickly. We also found a mini mart and stocked up on snacks like a bag of Cheetos puffs and an 85¢ eFruitti Pizza Gummi Candy. Please tell me you remember. I flipped, hadn’t seen them in years!


Day 3: Bonaire

18-square-mile-Bonaire was so fun! We rented a moped for the day for $32. We didn’t know it was the crappiest one they had, we just knew it was the last one. We snagged it and rode all day around the entire island! Wild flamingos, beach stops, lunch, icees – whatever we wanted because you can do whatever you want when you have a moped. Our 2nd favorite island.


Day 4: Aruba

Anticipated to be our favorite island, we were excited to see it called “One Happy Island.” Plot twist. We walked a mile inland to a place we thought was our Jetpack Excursion starting point. It turned out to be a nutrition store with a nice lady who called a taxi for us. Two taxi rides, a public transit ride, and a walk in the rain later, we arrived at the world’s smallest, hidden Excursion counter IN a Hyatt Hotel. Our Excursion has been cancelled and I was praying to get my $200 back. We did, and went impromptu Jet Skiing instead! Cheers to Aruba!


Day 5: At Sea

I would say around day 5 I learned I had a fine art obsession. I found these INSANE 3D paintings of trees that were so colorful and vibrant and I had to have them. At $2,000 a piece, they offered me two pieces of art for one low payment of $1,450 with free shipping! Hold your pants, I didn’t buy them. We also got to be great friends with your waiter, Artan, and waitress, Dinah. We sat at the same window seat every night. Dinah remembered lemons for my water, real butter bricks, and the buns we preferred. Artan memorized our orders (mine): Caesar Salad, New York Strip, and Strawberry Cheesecake for desert. He also got confused when we switched sides of the table one night. He asked us nicely to stay where we were. :) by day 5 we were BRONZE.


Day 6: St. Maarten

Our favorite island! St. Maarten is STUNNING. The only island we didn’t explore to it’s depths, it was the one we could live on! After finding beach chairs to sit on, letting the waves sweep our bags away, getting my childhood dream islander braids, and losing the jet ski key in the middle of the cove, we had THE best meal of our entire trip. The nice gentleman working is the island’s best shot maker. Obviously we had a shot. Or 3. We could have stayed in St. Maarten for days!


Day 8: Puerto Rico

Docked at 7am with a flight at 8pm calls for a rental car exploring San Juan! We spent the morning zip-lining and ventured the coast – the damage from the hurricanes lingers reminding us that returning home is soon to follow. We enjoyed a nice ocean bath, took a snooze in the fanciest mall parking lot I’ve ever been to, and accidentally got 4 4-piece chicken nugget orders before heading to the airport for one last pit stop.

 


Expenses:
$1,500 per person. (Not including flights because I’m awesome and have a
Southwest card that gave me 50,000 points! Wig.)

Tips:

  • Pay whatever it takes to get a room with a port hole. Or if you’re made of gold, a patio. Accidentally sleeping in until noon is fine, unless your missing daylight on the most beautiful islands ever! Also, I wished I could fix my eyes on the horizon to compensate for the swaying of the ship. Get a window, man!
  • Bring lots of cash. You never know how many taxi rides & public transit rides you’ll take to get to a beach you thought was on the other side of the island.
  • Don’t pre-buy excursions. Our 2 fell through and we ended up doing 2 impromptu ones and saved $275! When you get off the ship, locals are waiting to take you anywhere you want to go & give you the means to do so (& will negotiate).
  • Buy a drink package prior to the trip. Even if you don’t need the alcohol, get a soda/juice package so you can have lemonade, & such. It’s SO much cheaper buying it ahead of time.
  • Prepay gratuity. We got charged $14.50 per day, per person, for gratuity. Kind of a slap in the face after thinking it was all included with the cruise price. Make sure you pay it before you go!
  • Do karaoke. Seriously a blast & you make friends instantly. Ignition Remix if you want a couple extra bonus points.

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Grateful

Thanksgiving has always been a rather low-key Holiday for me; filled with catch phrase, green bean casserole, and walks with my Cousins, Aunts, and Great-Aunts down and around the neighborhood, rain or snow or shine. My Dad goes hunting to (hopefully) put some venison in the freezer and my Brother is usually in a field for fall harvest or hunting, so it’s Mom and I. We usually carpool with one or more of my Aunts and Grandparents to an extended family member’s home. Then, depending on the weather and our mood, mom and I either go to a movie later on, stop at a few stores, or hang out at home and put up the Christmas tree and eat fudge. It’s simple and quite underwhelming. This year, however, was a bit unorthodox for me as I headed east for the Grateful Holiday. And when I say east, I don’t mean, like, Eau Claire or eastern WI, I mean the east coast. Yes, Connecticut/New York. I had more than one item on my to-do list for the Holiday weekend, so among packing up Mara’s short term home in CT, doing a little paperwork for my side job, and attempting to kick a post-strep-throat chest and sinus cold in the shorts, we ambitiously made our way into NYC at 5:00am for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning! Join me as I describe in fair detail the chronological series of events that lead us through the fence-lined city blocks at the dawn of Thanksgiving with 3.5 million friends.

  • 3:30am – The obnoxious and inevitably dreadful alarm. Boil water to make hot apple cider and salted caramel hot cocoa, pack enough fruit snacks to feed a kindergarten classroom (twice), along with 3 blankets, into my 45L day-pack as if we are headed into the snowy trenches of the forest for 3 days.
  • 4:20am – Drive 1 1/2 hour to an NYC parking garage we got online for $20 – we park in NYC for $20. 20. for all day.
  • 5:45am – Walk to Columbus Circle where we plan to sit, until we learn you have to be a VIP, meaning you have to have NYPD in your blood or be a Macy’s employee to be even considered to pass through the disconnected, heavily guarded, temporary fences surrounding the garden of bleachers and beautiful, wide-open spaces of sidewalk.
  • 6:20am – Find ourselves a spot to sit on the corner of 59th Street and 6th Ave, behind a lovely family who got bananas and coffee from a pharmacy on the corner to (try to) stay alive and warm.
  • 6:45am – Attempt watching Chicago on Netflix while drinking hot apple cider and NOT having to pee.
  • 8:10am – I have to pee… preface: NYC has a very low restroom to store ratio, maybe like, 1:20. I eventually find a cafe, sneak past the busy counter, around a corner and down it’s narrow-stairway into the basement, use the facilities, and sneak out without purchasing anything or even making remote eye-contact with another human.
  • 8:36am – I am STUCK on the sidewalk touching what feels like 16 different people who are pushing and getting sassy because, for some reason, they need to get around the corner before the 24 people in front of them need to get around the corner. This was a traumatic 8 minutes for a 22-year old girl from a town with a population that could fit in one city block of NYC.
  • 8:44am – Return to my seat where I recover from my mild-anxiety attack as we became friends with some nice folks standing behind us from Rosemount, MN watching their kids play in their high school band.
  • 9:30am – THE PARADE BEGINS PASSING BY!!!
  • 9:30-11:30am – freak out at every passing float (Jimmy Fallon, Dustin Lynch, Lauren Alaina, Santa, 6+ high school bands, dancers, men in fairy costumes and 60 pairs of people in uniform holding down a giant pillsbury dough boy, brave souls dressed in bread, eggs, and a stick of butter, a human Christmas tree singing carols, and the Ice age squirrel chasing an acorn – just to name a few)
In blissful conclusion, go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade if you can in your lifetime. It’s mad chaos, it’s 100% New York, and you’ll have to fight to empty your bladder, but it’s magical when, on your right you can see down 10 city blocks at millions of people watching the Grinch and Elf on the Shelf float by, and on your left, you hear the screams of, what seems like the whole world, for Santa Claus as he rounds the corner atop his sleigh standing 15 feet above the crowd. It’s breathtaking and exhilarating all at once to see kids and their parents alike, be 10x more excited to see Santa and his reindeer pass by than Jimmy Fallon. So, go. By a plane ticket, charge your phone, pack a good book for the wait, and join 3.5 million people at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

A handful of thankfuls from my 2017: blankets, shared recipes, new car smell, Chip & Joanna’s new Target line Hearth & Hand, the truth, Powell’s book store & a really good paperback book, #TGIT (Olivia Pope, Meredith Grey, Annalise Keating), hugs, a good bra, solo traveling, wit, waking up from a nap slumber, thoughts that really make you think, puns, tiny humans, someone who gets my jokes, Amazon Prime, polaroid photos, a good playlist, pontoon rides, last minute walks, snail mail, a successful surprise, a side of dinner with good conversation, scent booster laundry beads, work friends.