Here’s the rest of the Florida/Bahamas fun. Please excuse the words as they’re just there to justify the giant picture dump.
Friday: The Day Before the Day Before
Last year, I forgot to eat and found myself eating my first meal at 6:30pm and it involved a giant burger, fries, potato skins, and a beer. This year, I planned ahead and we had a breakfast of leftover turkey corn tacos and we headed to the airport full, not starving.
Traveling with Zliten on crutches was both wonderful and terrible at points. I had to lug all the suitcases, which was not great, but the minute we got to the gate, Southwest folks got us a wheelchair, we got priority check in and through the priority security line, and then we got to board first and got to sit in the first row with all the leg room. Hopefully we never have to do it again, but it has it’s perks.
When we got to Orlando, we took a shuttle to pick up our steed at Sixt, and while I’ve never gone with this company before since they’re not at the airport, I regret that and will never rent with anyone else again if I can help it. The service was great, we got no pressure to upgrade, do extra insurance (my amex + regular insurance covers everything needed), and we ended up with a small SUV for a really reasonable rate. Score!
We made it to Melbourne before the packet pickup closed, and it was a breeze. I was really hoping to skip the expo since it would have been a nightmare for Zliten. Also, the shirt was pretty awesome this year, so I decided to skip any extra merchandise.
The night before the night before is about two things for me: eating and sleeping a lot. I took care of the first with some Ruby Tuesday’s – I got the seafood trio and ate an INSANE amount of salad bar.
Then, I had a nice hot bath and climbed into bed and I crashed. For 12 hours.
Saturday: The Day Before
I woke up feeling very refreshed and calm. I headed to the free breakfast but kept it in check – I had a bunch of bacon and an apple with PB and some nuts from my snack stash. I read for a bit, but then the pool outside was calling so I enjoyed that for a bit. I weighed the merits of a shakeout run vs more swimming and swimming won.
Generally, we do a movie the day before races and this was no exception, we had a 2pm appointment with the Mockingjay. I realized on the way there that I was getting hungry, so I needed some sort of snack before the movie. I hit up the mall food court for something and the only safe-ish food I saw was a subway veggie salad. This marathon was full of salad power. It hit the spot and I didn’t eat any moviegoers or chairs in the theatre. The movie was pretty good too!
For dinner, we went to Florida’s version of a Texas steakhouse, Backwoods, and it was pretty spot on. I very reluctantly skipped the fried pickles, and had a small filet with mashed potatoes and baked potato soup. I decided I had enough “salad power” mojo and needed some carby carbs.
Again with the bath and settled into bed and was almost asleep and then my brain realized “OMG WE HAVEN’T THOUGHT ABOUT THE RACE ALL DAY SO LETS THINK ALL THE THINGS”. Lesson learned. Even if Zliten isn’t racing, I still have to annoy him a LITTLE BIT with race talk or I’ll suffer later. I got maybe 3 hours of toss-y turn-y sleep.
Sunday: Publix Sandwich Day (I mean, Marathon Day)
I discussed the race in length here, so I’ll skip that for now.
On the way back from the race, I headed into Publix and got two footlong sandwiches clad in full race gear, medal, number, sweat, and all. I got some stares, and cheers, and probably some jeers due to my funk, but it was worth it. Those sandwiches are magical.
I downed that, some beer, and some chips and sat out on the balcony reading… and then I started to fade. In a weird way. Like, the amount of caffeine I had should NOT have had me fading at 3pm. Once I got inside, I felt great. The heat really did a number on me that day.
We waited until the sun wasn’t right on it, and went down to the pool. Let me tell you, if you get a chance, get in a pool as quickly as you can after a long hard race. I really think how quickly my legs bounced back was a product of how much water time I had the week after.
After the pool, there was a lot of laying in bed and reading, and then I slept pretty solidly for 9 hours. I like this post race trend. I used to sleep really fitfully but the last two long races? Like a log.
Monday: In Transit
After being good with my food choices, I was excited to take advantage of the breakfast offerings and had some fresh made waffles with syrup, bacon, and cereal. We got repacked fairly quickly and got on the road a little late, but well within the acceptable time to make it to Miami before the boat left.
I did something I haven’t done in forever – we had lunch at a fast food chain. And, I actually didn’t regret it. Hardees actually makes a pretty solid burger. Zliten said it was WAY better than the burger he got at Ruby Tuesday’s and they’re, like, an upscale burger restaurant.
The drive was fairly uneventful, we made it to the Sixt drop off around two and they already had a cab waiting for us to get to the ship by the time we had paid. Love them.
Once we got to the cruise terminal, Zliten was whisked into a wheelchair, through priority lines, through the back of the terminal, and onto the boat in a jiffy. Again, hope we never have to do this again, but it was pretty nice.
Because I had marathon metabolism going strong, I needed some second lunch. We hit the buffet and as would be the norm for the next few days, I’d grab a few plates of stuff and Zliten and I would nibble on it. Crutches + buffet line = nothing happening, so I was on food duty. I had some delicious shrimp chowder and curry and salad, and I would meet my best friend for the trip (and the reason my pants shrunk) – pretzel bread. So, so good.
We brought our kindles and read until the boat drill happened, then I stowed our clothes once we got our suitcases. I told myself I’d wait and ended up missing the first bit of sailing away, but I was just compelled to have to do it then.
After chores were done, we had a sailaway drink or two on deck. I had a margarita (I had been craving one for months), Zliten got a mai tai, we tried a rebellious fish, and then got sold on the bottle service when we priced out the options. It took us three days to finish it, so I’m going to say it was worth it.
After having our fill of rum, we headed down to dinner after I changed. I brought nice things to wear to dinner I was wearing them, damnit! We had the most fantastic waitstaff for dinner (Irish and Cloria) and we requested them every night. They were so fun and Irish kept bringing us little snacks from the Philipines from her personal stash.
This particular meal was loaded corn on the cobb, cheese tortellini soup, salad with blue cheese (their blue dressing was to die for, so I had that pretty much every day), Moroccan veggie cous cous, and half the bread basket. And, I had to have dessert, because it was chocolate melting cake with cookie ice cream and strawberry sauce.
All you can do after a meal like that is read and sleep, so we did just that.
Tuesday: Freeport Snorkel
7:20am is usually an ungodly hour on a cruise but since we slept so early it was fine. We hit the buffet for breakfast, and I tried to avoid crappy crashy carbs since we had a full day of activity planned, so I had plenty of corn beef hash (they made it totally the WRONG way, it wasn’t good), home fries, bacon, fruit, and cheese.
I wasn’t a huge fan of their breakfast, to be honest. On other ships, there is more variety for people like me who really don’t love breakfast food, but I ate that same plate of food pretty much every morning because there wasn’t much for people who didn’t do eggs and didn’t want carb overload.
After we digested a bit, we got off the ship and headed into Freeport to meet up with our tour. We wandered around a bit and then got told to sit in a spot, and we waited, and waited, and then finally they told us we were at the wrong place. Grrr. No harm, no foul, as the other group had not left yet, and we got into the van and headed out for adventure!
Our guides Shammie and Michael were fantastic and Shammie spent all the driving time giving us ecology info about the island. He was very smart and well educated.
Our first stop was a blue hole, which is essentially an ocean sink hole. I’ve seen pictures of some epic blue holes in Belize, so I was excited. This one was CONSIDERABLY smaller, but still neat.
Our second stop was Paradise Cove. This included two of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had snorkeling.
One – they feed the fish regularly here so they swam with us like we were in their school. This was so fun!
Two, we got to get up close and personal with a golden spotted eel. He was chilling in 2 feet of water and we didn’t get a lot of spectacular pictures but it was definitely a highlight.
So instead, here’s one of my FAVORITE fish.
Our guide did a lot of diving down and picking up cool stuff for us to look at and while at first I was pretty “meh” on the idea of having a guide, it was totally worth it. We got to shore and realized that it had been 90 minutes out in the water. Holy crap! Time passes so fast for me in the water.
The time past was not lost on my stomach, and I was thankful they had us put in our order before we set out – fish sticks and fries were waiting for me and they were DELICIOUS (in the sense that I was soooo hungry). Our tour group probably thought I inhaled my food wayyy too fast but I told them I did a marathon 2 days ago so WHATEVS.
After we had lunch, we got back in our chariot and headed to a mangrove marsh and brought out the kayaks. By this point I had been wet and cold all day and was a little upset about having to be in front but I found out that both of us got just as wet and I ended up having a lot of fun anyway, so there’s that. We found out about the cycles of mangroves, and how if you are in a young area, you sink in the mud, but if it’s more mature, you can get out and stand. Crazy! We kayaked almost 2 miles before we packed up and headed back.
After we got back to the port, we got ourselves a Sands beer. It’s their local Bahamian one, and we actually passed the brewery on the way back, and just like most beers of the Carribean, it was light and refreshing. Finally, I got my wet, cold, and shivery butt back on board and took a very long hot shower.
We brought our rum bucket up to the pool deck and watched the boat sail away and the sun start to set. We wanted to do the art auction (kind of), and we collect the prints they give out (mostly why we wanted to go), but Zliten was very settled and didn’t want to have to crutch down, so I checked in on it about an hour in. And then it kept going. And going. Finally after another hour, I asked if I could get my print because I had to go to dinner. I may have spent a karma point or two there but dang. Looooong auction was long.
Once I got back I required a drink and Zliten required sustinence, so he poured me on while I trolled the buffet for a snack. I grabbed us some random munchies, including my beloved pretzel bread, some malai kofta which I love, and some really yummy cold salads.
Zliten makes me laugh.
Finally around 8:30 we decided to hit the real dinner. We split a fried brie (which is as wonderful as you would imagine), too much bread, shrimp minestrone, salad w/blue cheese, a potato and cauliflower curry, and a chocolate raspberry cake.
Apparently I slipped Zliten roofies (he later remembered he took a benedryl), because he was falling asleep during dinner, and I think we both conked out before 10.
Wednesday: Diving at Nassau
Unlike most diving adventures, we didn’t have to be up at the crack of dawn. The excursion wasn’t until 11:30. However, Zliten was so excited he was up by 6:30, and I even couldn’t sleep past 8:45. So, breakfast it was. Same as the day before.
I read and Zliten got our dive bags together, and we got off the boat VERY early. He went sans crutch (we feared the dive company wouldn’t be happy about taking someone with a fractured leg on board even though the doctor cleared him to do so) so we took it very slow. Even so, we had a wait, but hanging out in the beautiful Bahamian sunshine was only so much of a burden. 🙂
The company picked us up and we spent 45 mins bussing to the other side of the island. We saw lots of cool buildings, a new Chinese gambling resort going up, and Sean Connery’s house. I wouldn’t be in any hurry to go back to Freeport, but I’d come visit Nassau itself for a vacation. We ended up at a big marina on a big dive boat with just a few people. Nice!
My ears were feeling a little off since Sunday, so I warned them I might take a while getting down to depth. I also tweaked a quad muscle getting my gear and weights on. Annoying. The worst part of diving is the gear, it’s quite heavy and cumbersome.
I did have trouble with ear squeezes (when the pressure doesn’t equalize properly, it feels like someone is pinching your ear drums) both times, but I made it eventually. With that stuff, you just have to be patient or you can rupture your ear drums. No dive is worth that.
The first dive was an 80-100 foot wall dive called Sand Chute, and it’s the first time since my certification I’ve been down that deep. It was really cool to see the wall go from the 60 feet it started at just off into nothingness of 6k feet of ocean floor. A little terrifying, but a lot awesome. We saw a baracuda, but there wasn’t a lot of notable ocean life out, and that was fine, because I had a bunch of noob moments with my buoyancy and trying to wrangle the camera. Oh well.
When we got back to the boat, I headed straight for the bathroom (turning over a new leaf of not peeing in my wetsuit, I guess). When I got out, there were a bunch of people I didn’t recognize and I was scared I got on the wrong boat, but they had ferried out the Discover Scuba (aka – we want to dive but we have no official license) crew. Makes sense why we had such an empty boat for the first one!
The second dive was better. Zliten and I got to go explore the James Bond wreck (a boat wrecked for a 70s Bond movie, I forget which one) on our own.
We got to play with some Angel fishies. It looked like a mama, daddy, and fairly big baby fish. Even if not, it was more fun to think of it that way.
These looked like something out of an anime to me, but they are actually places where sick coral is nursed back to health. I didn’t get too close because I didn’t want to hurt it.
Zliten found this guy and grabbed him to show to me. Once we put him back on the ocean floor, he came out of his shell and flicked his antenae angrily at me, standing his ground.
And of course, there was much gorgeous flora and fauna. Any day when you can blow bubbles is a good day.
Once Zliten was out of air (he uses about twice what I do – he was actually below 10% of the tank and I was at 50%), we did our safety stop and surfaced and were actually the last ones on the boat. We rode back to the marina, found a sweet t-shirt to buy, and got on the bus back to the boat and snacked on a kind bar and some gatorade.
Once again, I enjoyed a nice long hot shower and then we got “lunch snacks” (aka dinner buffet) around 6 – including split pea soup, lentil salad, my homie pretzel bread, and some salad. We got the rum bucket and finished it up while we watched the diving videos and shuffled through the pictures on the tablet.
I was onto my two nicer dresses so it took a little motivation but I dressed for dinner. I finally got Zliten to do so as well. I had a goat cheese puff (didn’t eat half of it, it wasn’t that great), but I did have some of Zliten’s lamb kofta, another salad, coconut shrimp curry, a few bites of carbonara pasta, and this nutella in a mug pudding desert that ruled my world.
Apparently, I drugged Zliten again, because it was reading and sleepy time after dinner. We stayed up almost until midnight, we are party animals.
Thurs: Sea Day Out of Nowhere
I slept sort of fitfully because my ears hadn’t drained from the diving, and I was hoping I’d be fine to snorkel. We woke up to the announcement that the port was cancelled because of high winds. The tender wouldn’t be very safe, and even if we got there, conditions would be crappy. I was about half bummed because, well, you don’t get to snorkel on a private island every day, and half happy because I could use a relaxing day on land.
We went to the dining room for breakfast since we were up already and were in no hurry. It wasn’t much different than upstairs. I did indulge in some pancakes, and they did actually have hashbrown cakes instead of home fries, but I had the same bacon and fruit as upstairs.
We spent most of the day on deck reading. I think by that point I had made it through 3 or 4 books. Love vacations and getting lost in a book. I spent the day in jeans – it was nice and sunny but a little windy and in the 70s. While some folks from the north were playing in the pool and sunbathing, that’s fall weather for us here in Austin.
We hit the dining room for lunch as well. I went incredibly unhealthy with a popcorn shrimp appetizer with jalapeno tartar sauce which was spectacular, and a shrimp burger (burger made of shrimps) on a pretzel bun. I couldn’t help myself.
Did some meandering about the ship. We checked out the shops and the photos and didn’t find anything. I checked out the wine tasting but decided to open the bottles we brought on board instead. We listened to some live bands by the pool and watch the Mrs. Bicep competition (I decided against trying to compete, lol).
We hit up the art auction and had some champagne and actually bought some art! When the auction for three Krasnyanskys went up, Zliten and I both could picture where to put them in the house so we bid and won! I also guessed closest to the actual price of the Picasso and ended up getting two more free prints. They’re being shipped to the house now. I’m so excited for new art! Wheee!
I couldn’t even bring myself to change for dinner so we went casual. We had our last dinner with Irish and Cloria. As normal, all the bread and butter, a pork spring roll, tomato soup, salad with blue cheese, and a crab and fish cake. For desert, I got a Mexican brownie with dulce de leche topping and vanilla ice cream. I had some great food on this cruise but I think this may have been the top.
After dinner we sat by the pool and drank our last bottle of wine. I think both of us were kind of ready to sleep after that dinner but we had paid the corkage fee, so we were going to drink it, darn it! We got our luggage packed and put outside the room right at the midnight deadline, and then, you guessed it, read and slept.
Friday: My Own Couch!
Since this is already epic in length, I’ll keep this short.
Got up and ate the same breakfast. We spent 4 hours at the airport and had some pretty epic mahi tacos for lunch. Read a lot of my book. Had drink tickets for the flight that had to be used this year and it’s kinda crazy how quickly you get tipsy on a plane. It was a little bumpy but beautiful.
We got home and spent the weekend relaxing.