It's been way too long for me to remember even remotely enough to do a legit recap, so I'll hit the highlights (with LOTS of pics!)...
We left Sunday afternoon from Midway airport in Chicago (big thanks to my friend M for dropping us off at the airport AND for picking us back up when we got back!). We got into Tampa, FL Sunday late afternoon where the Hubs Aunt (big thanks to her and her boyfriend too!!) picked us up from the airport and we stayed with her overnight then she dropped us at the port the next morning. Travel down there went smoothly... no issues or delays, which we were worried about with the storm hitting the east coast basically the same day we traveled.
Anyway, we boarded our board, the Carnival Paradise, with ease. The lines weren't long, we were one of the first people on board, and everyone was super friendly!
Our ship again!
Our room wasn't quite ready when we got on board, so we ate lunch, went on a "Get to Know Your Ship" kinda tour and then went to our room where our luggage was all waiting for us.
We even had a towel animal when we got there! And, sadly-- no, we did not attend the "Learn to Make Your Own Towel Animal" program. Nor did we buy the book. Yes, there was a book.
Our room (left) and bathroom (right). We got the cheapest room option (shocker)-- one of the internal rooms with no windows (those curtains in the pic are just for show, hiding a wall. CLASSY, Carnival.) and we were on the lowest deck. Honestly-- the room was 100% totally fine. I wouldn't ever spend more for a "nicer" room or a room on a higher deck. The bed was big and comfy, though it was 2 smaller beds pushed together. There was a TV which really only got like 4 channels. The bathroom was SMALL and only had a shower (duh), but was totally fine for us. If I was sharing a room with like 4 girlfriends or a big family, it might have been a problem, but for just the Hubs and I it was totally fine.
We opted for the "late" seating for dinner, so we ate at 8:15pm each night. I'd totally suggest doing that if you ever cruise. The weather's so nice before then and it just really helps break up the evening better. Definitely suggest it. Plus, then you have time to eat a "snack" after lunch and before dinner. LOTS of pizza and frozen yogurt cones were consumed then. Definite win.
Anyway, day 2 was a "Day at Sea". We started the day at the gym with a quick strength session, hit the breakfast buffet, then really just lazed around the rest of the day.
I'd say the worst part of the cruise or of a cruise in general is just the crowdedness. I felt like we were constantly waiting in lines and there were ALWAYS people. Everywhere. Lots and lots of people. Constantly. I'm an outgoing person who doesn't mind crowds, but hot damn! I mean... I could have used a few more moments of quietness.
Blah, blah. The rest of day 2 we just kept lazing around, reading, napping, etc. We had dinner and watched one of the cruise shows or bands or something. Whatev.
Day 3 was a port day! YAY! We ported into the Grand Caymen in the Caymen Islands. Again, because the waters were so rough (boo!) we didn't get to pull into the main dock where they usually port. Instead, we had to go to the other side of the island and then take smaller boats from the cruise ship to the island. MORE lines. Boo. Because we were re-routed or planned snorkeling excursion was canceled. Boo. Bigger bummer was that they didn't tell us til we were already on the island. The next snorkeling didn't start for another 2 hours... not enough time to go back to the cruise ship and there was nothing to do right where we docked. Awesome. So, we literally just sat for 2 hours and waited. Stupid. Oh well.
When we finally did go snorkeling (which was about $40/person for anyone's who interested in the money side) it was pretty sweet. Gorgeous water. Lots of fish and coral. Beautiful!
I spy our ship in the background!
Day 4 was another at port day! YAY! We ported into Cozumel, Mexico.
Right where the boat docked in Cozumel was a big shopping area with tons of little stores-- all duty free!
The Hubs was PUMPED for this port because our excursion was to see the Mayan Ruins of Tulum (~$100/each). Getting to the ruins was quite a trek... we ported right onto a dock in Cozumel. From there, we got onto a small boat which took us across the Yucatan Straight where we ported into Playa del Carmen, Mexico. From there we took a 50-minute-ish bus ride (in a super nice, air conditioned charter bus so it wasn't too bad) to the actual ruins. Phew! Wait-- we weren't done yet! The parking lot where the bus parked was a "mile walk" from the ruins. A LOT of the people in our bus opted to pay $5/ea for a smaller trolley ride over. Our tour guide and a handful of other people on the bus (and us!) walked it instead. It was like MAYBE a half mile. Sure, it was hot-- but, there was lots of shade and the Hubs and I both really enjoyed the walk. Plus, we saved $10!
Anyway, our tour guide was amazing and walked us through the ruins, telling us about them and what each building was and why things were built the way they were built.
The Hubs had to duck to get through all the doorways and stuff because they were built for a population that simply didn't grow much taller than 5'5". Even I felt cramped.
Pictures do not do this place justice. It was breathtaking and just so freaking cool. When you think about just how old they are and how people BUILT them with their hands and ancient tools and they're still standing... maybe the Hubs and I are nerds, but it was by far the coolest part of our vacation.
I mean... I told you the Hubs was a dork, right? We legit MADE me take this picture.
I'm telling you... pics don't do it justice. And, the Hubs is now officially obsessed and wants to see a shit ton of other really old ruins and artifacts and stuff. We was googling about the 7 natural wonders of the world before we even got off the plane back in Chicago 2 days later.
The trip to the ruins was amazing. It was so cool to hear about everything and walk through things. So glad we did it!
Oh. And, random-- turns out, Mexico has TONS of lizzards. ALL over.
Told you-- EVERYWHERE. I stopped by a (gross) bathroom to pee before we got back on the bus to leave the ruins and THIS is what I saw when I went to flush the toilet. I legit screamed. It was HUGE and I freaked the F out. Bleah. I admit it, I RAN outta there as fast as I could... after I took the time to snap this pic.
We got back to the Cozumel port in enough time to do a little shopping and then make our way back to our ship.
Hello, Cozumel! (This was right before we took the smaller boat to Playa del Carmen)
Goodbye, Cozumel! (This was right before we got back on the ship to leave Mexico)
The rest of that night and the next day where all just at sea. Lots more exploring the ship, being lazy (the Hubs finished 3 books and I finished 2!), and EATING!
So, that's our 5-day cruise in a nutshell. Oh, and for the record-- we did go to the gym every morning (except the morning we ported back into Tampa) for about a 40-minute strength session. We got up early and were done with the workout by 8:30am. We both agreed that it was a great way to start the day and that it was one of the best parts of our vacation because it was QUIET and STILL and just PEACEFUL. The mobs of people weren't up yet and we got to breakfast before there was a line, plus it just started the day of lazy nothingness out on a little bit of a positive note... I'll definitely try to do this each vacation we take, if possible.
Anyway-- this was my second cruise and I'm still just kinda meh about cruises. I don't LOVE them, but definitely don't hate them. There was more motion sickness with this one. Boo. I felt more crowded this time too. By the end I was definitely growing impatient with the constant lines and masses of people. But, the staff was super friendly, our room was great, the excursions were a blast, the food was SO good (and there was SO much! ALL. THE. TIME.), and I happened to luck out with the best travel partner ever. So, I'd say it was an amazing vacation and I'd do it again in a second. Though, I'll admit-- I think I'd try a different cruise line if I did it again AND I think I'd vote for an all-inclusive resort over cruise. The Hubs loved the cruise and had a great time and he said he'd take a cruise over a resort, so there you go. What's that old phrase... opposites attract? Let's hope so! ;)
So, that's that. Sorry it took me a full week to get this done! :)