We have had some crazy last minute vacations but nothing like this. We were sitting in the living room on Saturday December 14. Dad sent Mom a linked said, “We need to take a cruise soon!” They talked back and forth for 20 min, made a few phone calls and then broke the news to B and I that we needed to pack immediately. We were leaving at 6am to drive to Port Everglades to board the ship at 11am. A lot of crazy scrambling happened to secure appropriate clothing (that fit), pack the bags and make last minute pet and house care plans. We made it. We hit bad traffic entering the port and thought we’d never make it. We finally unloaded the car and got through all the security, having to reshow our travel docks every step of the way since it was so last minute we weren’t showing on the logs for the ship yet.
Once on board we found our room, checked in to Club HAL, verified our Orange Club status and tried to get the lay of the ship. This was our first cruise on Holland America and it took a little getting used to. Always a highlight of any cruise is seeing the kitchens! Their kitchens are huge and sprawling. It was quite a neat, however, fast tour. We enjoyed our meals a lot and explored as a family. B broke off eventually to hit up the teen club. I refused to go to the clubs since felt they were too babyish but I wasn’t old enough for the teem club yet. Big difference from Disney, there were only a small handful of teens on board and a lot of little kids. So I stuck to Mom and Dad a lot. I enjoyed some time on the at sea day just relaxing on the balcony and watching for flying fish, a favorite past time. We played shuffleboard and checked out the food options around the ship. I also went to a super fun flower arranging class and watched the man do some amazing arrangements that we found later around the ship.
Grand Turk was lovely. We got off the ship and explored the port area. There was lots to see and do. We had a snorkeling trip planned but wanted to explore a little beforehand. We found all sorts of marine life. We had a mix up in time and were way early for our snorkel. We wish we figured it out sooner so we could have rented a golf cart and toured the island a little. Lines started forming and there was some confusion going on. We scurried over to find out that the winds were really strong and they were refunding the snorkel excursion. We finished exploring the port, bought a few souvenirs and headed back on to the ship for lunch. The elevators have a different rug each day that tells you what day it is, that was cool! I had some yummy pizza from the pool side pizza place and then we did some trivia and all went our separate ways. We stopped in for dessert at the buffet and I tried all the dessert options. I enjoyed more time in the teen club and enjoyed the shows at night with friends. I also loved checking out the shows on board. I went to the evening shows and loved the comedy and voice of the guy who did Toughnut from HTTYD. They also have America’s Test Kitchen Cooking Shows and those were pretty awesome.
Next was San Juan. As we arrived in port we could see the old fort. It was massive! We had an excursion to a place called Window Cave. If was a nice bus ride and then an enjoyable hike. There were these massive snails all over the place. I was obsessed with them. I had to point every single one out to the guide. The cave was cool considering its location on an island. As we walked I wondered whey they called it Window Cave and then we came to the room that answered that question. There is a huge opening in the cave. What a view! We saw bats, moths and even a python up in the walls of the cave. I absolutely loved this excursion. We had lobster for dinner and then went and played shuffle board before the evening show. Mom fell ill and broke out in a head to toe rash. She wasn’t well. We think it was a reaction to lobster but that doesnt make a lot of sense. Who knows. All I know is that she was miserable, bright red and puffy.
St Thomas, US Virgin Islands was our next port of call. We have been here before so opted to do some off the beat adventures. Dad and B went scuba diving. It was absolutely amazing. They saw all sorts of marine life and enjoyed their excursion a lot. There sadly were no photos, only memories of this part. Mom, feeling a little better but still crappy, and I went off on an adventure of hiking and kayaking. I tried to hug a manchineel tree but thankfully was stopped quickly. The tree has toxic sap that can burn your skin. They enjoyed a 2 mile hike around an island and then a 3 mile kayak paddle trip. They had a great time. I was exhausted and Mom was barely hanging on at the end of the day. Looking forward to our at sea day!
The at sea day was nice and relaxing. We did all sorts of events on the ship. We explored all of the ships art. We went on a invite only provisions tour. That was really neat. We got to see where all the food is stored and how it is all allocated out. We learned a lot about how much goes into stocking everything from a bar of soap to the fanciest Champagnes. The winds were strong and the waves were high but the ship was stable and enjoyable. Periodically if you were walking you had to take a few extra wobbly steps to avoid crashing into the wall, but it honestly wasn’t too bad!
Our final port was Half Moon Cay. We scheduled horseback riding and beach time. We were up early to a rocking boat. The waves and wind were more than yesterday. We waited in line to exit the ship to be told that for the safely of the guests and crew that we would not be enjoying time on the island. Since the waves were so high they were not able to safely tender people to shore. We took that as a sign to relax and enjoy the day. B and I went swimming for a while. We enjoyed some hot tub time. We played more shuffle board and Mom and I played bingo. It was a nice way to end the cruise we didn’t know we were going on until less than 24 hours in advance.
Back at port with great memories of our adventure. We are looking forward to Christmas in a few days and unwinding from our adventure.