Friday, February 3, 2017

Anniversary Trip: Cruise Day 7-8 (At Sea and in Florida!)

 The last day of our cruise was a "fun day at sea" (per Carnival). The day would have been a little more fun if it weren't for the roughest ocean we'd seen so far. The captain said there were 10-12 foot swells, which I could definitely feel. I didn't want to spend the day doing nothing, though, so we made the best of it. One of the really fun things we did was play volleyball! We were joined partway through our pepper by the couple we'd met at the first brunch. We played boys vs. girls and had a hilarious time, especially with the crazy waves moving the boat everywhere! We also made our way back to the library for more rounds of Jenga and Battleship, and managed to watch two movies--one in our amazing room and one on the Lido deck on the big screen. We did more swimming, went down the water slide, enjoyed the "wave pool" again, read on the Serenity deck, learned how to fold a towel animal, and ate lots and lots of food. That night, we were a little bummed that the performers couldn't put on their show--the ocean was too rough for them to dance safely. Instead, they sat on stools and sang all the songs. Even without the dancing the show was a lot of fun and I'm glad we went. Ryan enjoyed his last soft serve of the trip, and we went to bed!

On Saturday, we had breakfast and it was time to get off the ship! Debarkation went pretty smoothly, and we got to the rental car place easily, and then we had to wait. For literally an hour and half. Because the rental car place had NO CARS! There were so many people waiting and we were lucky to be near the front of the "line." We were about ready to cancel the rental and figure something else out when mercifully we got a car. We found a mall where we could kill some time, but the mall wasn't really our jam (it was high end and we aren't really high end) so we found a movie theater instead. We saw the movie Deepwater Horizon, which had us both bawling. It was soooooo good. After the movie, we ate, then found a Target (of course). This Target was having some crazy clearance action going on and we somehow managed to stuff a pair of shoes for Reed, a pair of shoes for Lila, a dress and shirt for me, and 3-4 shirts for the boys into our full suitcases. And then it was time to go home! We were met at the airport by Ryan's dad. We stayed up talking and having a great time hearing about their week and telling about our week until I was so deliriously tired that my head was feeling too heavy for my body. And finally we collapsed into bed. The next morning we got to see our sweethearts and hear all about their fun with Grandma and Grandpa. 

We had such a great time on our trip. Having a solid 10 days with just the two of us was amazing. I'm so glad we turned our dream into a reality!

I made an elephant!

Last soft serve of the trip!

Anniversary Trip: Cruise Day 6 (Cozumel)

Just like that we were in our last port! Cozumel was our least planned city. We had a rough sketch of the day that involved renting a car and driving out to a lighthouse we'd found out about online--renting our own car would be the same price as taking a taxi (per the rates online), so it seemed like the way to go. But when we actually got to Cozumel, the car rental rates were higher than we'd seen online. We went over to the taxis and found ourselves making a deal with the taxi broker and two other couples. One of the couples bowed out, but we ended up getting a good deal on a taxi tour that we shared with a couple from Switzerland!

The Swiss couple were great taxi mates. They were friendly and fun to talk to. They were also super cool and live very close to the Matterhorn (!!)--they showed us a few pictures where you can see the Matterhorn from their balcony! I was glad to have great taxi friends.

Our first stop was at a beach resort where we were staying for only half an hour. Ryan and I had brought our snorkel gear (of course) so we quickly changed and got in the water. On this side of the island--the western developed side--there were no waves and the water was very clear. And we finally got to snorkel off a beach. Where I could walk in to ease myself into the snorkel process. Huzzah! There weren't as many fish here, but Ryan did see a large statue head farther out (we're pretty sure the resort put that there). And before too long, it was time to hop back into the taxi. 

We were soon on the eastern side of the island, which is protected land so is not developed at all. The waves on this side were pretty intense--our driver said they were bigger and more forceful than usual--and at one point we talked him into pulling over so we could hop out and explore a blow hole! The blow hole was super cool--I've never seen one in real life--and we spent a good 20 mintues or so taking photos and enjoying the gorgeous views. 

Then we were back into the taxi again, and this is when disaster struck. Next to the roads that goes around the eastern side of Cozumel is a smaller road, separated from the main road by a strip of grass. This small road is for bicycles and scooters. Well, we saw two scooters coming up from the side road to turn on to the main road and watched in horror as the first rider lost control of her scooter and shot onto the road in front of us. Our taxi driver slammed on the brakes and stopped in time, but a food truck coming from the other direction had less time to react and hit the scooter. The passengers (a woman and her son) were thrown off the scooter. It was horrifying. The son was sobbing that he was going to die. His mom was unconscious and bleeding. The other scooter rider was in shock, having just watched the accident. We pulled over to wait for the ambulance and help as we could. The little boy was fine, just scraped up a little and shaken up a lot. His mom was not. The ambulance took an insanely long time to get there (about 20-30 minutes) and we were so grateful when it finally arrived. We found the second driver the next day on our ship and he told us that the lady (just someone he'd met on the cruise) was still in Cozumel in critical condition. We don't know what happened to her but I'm hopeful that she was okay. It was so awful.

We got back into the taxi in a somber mood. The next part of the drive was very quiet. When we got to the next stop, it was good to get out of the car and be able to think about something else. This stop was San Gervaiso, another Mayan ruin site. San Gervaiso wasn't composed of huge buildings like Altun Ha was, but rather had a greater amount of sprawling land between small buildings. We got to walk through the jungle between the sites and admire the buildings and the "highway" (built of rocks) between them. One of my favorite moments was when we saw a wild boar (!!) run across the path in front of us. There weren't many people at the buildings that were apart from the main village, so we were surrounding by jungle and almost silence as we looked at these thousands-of-years-old structures. Wow.

After San Gervaiso, it was back to the main shopping district of Cozumel. We bid our taxi driver and our Swiss friends farewell and went to find some food. We luckily stumbled upon an open air taco restaurant and had ridiculously good al pastor street tacos. We walked around some of the resorts as we are wont to do in foreign countries and discovered a penned off area with peacocks, a cool day of the dead setup, and a banana tree just growing wild behind a hotel (all in different areas :) We did a little bit of shopping--it was our last stop after all--then went back to the boat. The port in Cozumel doesn't use tender boats, so you can walk right on and off the ship. And in this port, our side of the boat was the side that was next to the dock--so we enjoyed a little people-watching from our window. That window--it really was amazing. 

That night, the sea was really rough--so rough that I was not feeling fantastic. We decided to try getting into the pool, which actually really helped. The water in the pool was moving just like the waves were moving, so the motion made sense to my body and I felt way less sick. We were maybe weirdos as we were the only adults in the pool, but we had a really great time playing in the water!


That day we walked to the buffet for breakfast to find towel animals all over the main deck!






Cool rocks by the blow hole

The rocks had holes in them, and the holes had plants growing in them!


The eastern side of Cozumel

The blowhole

Ryan checking out the blow hole








Eastern side of Cozumel

San Gervaiso









The amazing tacos

I want a servilletas holder that looks like this.

Some of our walking discoveries (above and below)


Our cruise ship is the same size as that small one in front--and it is huge. The gigantic one is truly humongous. We looked it up later and found out it has a zip line in the middle and a shopping center. It's SO BIG.

Banana tree!



Blowhole Videos:





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Anniversary Trip: Cruise Day 5 (Belize)

Picking a favorite day from the trip is kind of difficult, but it also kind of isn't. I think we'd both agree that Belize was the best day because we got to go to a bucket list kind of place: Altun Ha.

Before I get ahead of myself, though, let me start with a tidbit from our last cruise. We didn't book any shore excursions through the cruise line because they seemed crazy expensive and we thought we could just figure out what we wanted to do. We did some research beforehand, but not enough--and ended up feeling like we wasted a lot of time feeling confused/trying to figure out what we wanted to do. So on this trip I over-reasearched. Ask Ryan and I'm sure he'll tell you all about my "trip binder" that I literally spent hours/days/maybe weeks putting together. We wanted to have a PLAN. And part of that was booking a few shore excursions. In Belize, we booked the city tour + Altun Ha trip. And we were pumped. (Also, a plug for already having something booked: it takes the stress out of the day completely.)

We started with the city tour. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable about Belize City and did a great job. It was interesting to drive all over and see different neighborhoods and schools and stores and how different it all is from the US. One especially interesting thing was a building technique we saw. When building multiple stories, instead of using 2x4s or other equipment to brace the roof, they use long, thick tree branches (or maybe thin trunks) as supports. So the buildings under construction kind of look like they're growing a forest inside.

After driving outside the city and through various tiny villages, we made it to Altun Ha. The excursion we'd been waiting for. And after a brief walk, we saw them: Mayan ruins. They were amazing. Another tour guide taught us some of the history of the discovery. Apparently, grasses and dirt had essentially taken over the ruins and they just looked like hills. No one knew about them until a nearby village started growing and the villagers decided to construct a road. They mined "rocks" from the nearby hills. They also found jade in the hills and, when a villager took the jade to Belize City a professor realized that the jade might lead to something else--which led to the excavation of the hills. As it turned out, the hills were actually a Mayan city! Some of the buildings crumbled to pieces as they started to excavate, so were left alone. But a few were fully excavated and they are absolutely breathtaking. We got to climb two different temples. We learned that they're shaped like stair steps because when one ruler would die, they'd bury him (and kill his wife so they could bury her!) in the main floor, then seal the level and build on top of it. Each level is a tomb. Inside one of the tombs, they found a piece of jade carved to look like a head. The jade is as big as a head, too. Another interesting thing was that this site housed a man-made water reservoir--our guide described it as an "ancient swimming pool." 

Climbing up the Mayan temples was so cool--something I've always wanted to do and wasn't sure I would ever get to do. Ryan and I were both in awe as we stood at the top and looked out over the site. Being there was extra cool with a Book of Mormon perspective in mind. Altun Ha was literally the most amazing place we've ever been.

When it was time to go, we stopped at the "restaurant" (a tiny shack outside the gates) and had the best chicken of our lives. Then a crazy rainstorm started and we sprinted back to the bus! I'm so glad it didn't start raining sooner, because if it had we wouldn't have been able to climb the temples.

After the drive back to Belize city, we shopped a bit, then headed to the tender boats. I was squished in between a Irish man who swore like a sailor and a guy in his mid-twenties with a full grill. I drew the short straw. Anyway, I did get to see a DOLPHIN jump out of the water on the way back, so that more than made up for my seat!

That night was filled with food and shows, per usual. The shows this time around (compared to our last cruise) were super fun and I don't think we fell asleep once :) 

From my awkward spot on the tender boat I had a great view of the ocean!



Altun Ha!!

There's a Mayan ruin under there.







Rain pouring off the roof in the crazy rain storm.



Tender boat

See the thing open at the bottom? That's where the tender boats pulled up. That's a doorway! The ship is huge. Our room was on the second deck--the first row of bigger windows.

Belize!

This car's license plate was written on, which Ryan and I found amusing.

This is a famous sports stadium.

The trees!











Altar at the top.




See the faces?

Altun Ha:



Rain Storm:


Tender Boat: