At almost three decades old I have had a lot of vacations in my life, and all have been special in their own way. How could a time period when you have no work or actual responsibility to worry about not stick well in your mind?
For some reason, vacations I take with Boy stick VERY well. There are times I still get pangs for Ybor City and Tampa, as during those days we did some of the coolest thing I’ve experienced to date. Our cruise was no different; we went to San Juan, St. Thomas, and Grand Turk, and I will never forget any of it. I’m actually coming off of this vacation DEPRESSED! I just want to be back on the ship and on those islands. We had such a great time exploring and spending quality time together. Can we book our next one yet?
Some trip description to follow, with loads of photos. Cut!
Let’s hear it for New York
We left out of NYC on a rainy day, weather that would stick the next day as well and be accompanied by rough seas. Despite that, it was a nice send off as we watched the Manhattan skyline go by and explored the ship.
I Juan-a go back. (See what I did there?)
San Juan – or more specifically, Old San Juan – was our first sighting of land after nearly three days at sea. Being greeted by historic military lookouts and dots of green, pink, and blue buildings was a great welcome back to land.
We walked the narrow streets, marveling at how tiny they were; most of the cars were banged up on one side. We saw a garbage truck drive down a street with two wheels on the actual street and two wheels on the sidewalk. As we walked up the hills, balconies above us adorned with wooden windows were wrought with plants and hanging laundry, and people threw their shutters open for fresh air.
Coming upon the hill for the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, my breath was taken away. Among the rolling green, hundreds of kites were being flown. To our left was what appeared to be a grave site, with all the tombs above ground.
We walked back into town and passed a building that reminded me of Ybor City, as well as a cool statue and El Totem Telúrico, a giant pillar made of granite with pieces of jagged ceramic sticking out. It’s meant to represent the earthen origins of the people of the Americas, built in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. And that’s something I found out only through Google, as every plaque by the Totem is in Spanish.
We had a Medalla (what Boy and friends referred to as “liquid gold” the last time they were all in Puerto Rico) at a corner bar where the doors/windows ran from floor to ceiling, all open as a warm breeze circulated through.
We then went on a hunt for mofungo, and after Google lead us to the “best place” for it and a 40 minute wait, we traipsed back down the main street and found a quiet, small place where only two tables were occupied and had an absolutely incredible meal.
Mofongo is a fried plantain-based dish, formed into a little circular cake that’s hollow and can be filled with a variety of things. It’s also served with what I take to be some sort of red sauce, and a variety of fillings: chicken, crab, vegetables, shrimp, or beef. I chose to go crab with mine and holy hell, it was delicious! Not at all what I expected, and I loved it.
Our waiter also talked us into (um, ok so not really a hard thing to do) a slice of three milk cake, or tres leches cake. They literally pulled this cake out of an aluminum pan in the fridge; like, I get the feeling someone’s mom made it and just brought it in to be served.
Before getting on the boat we checked out Senor Frogs. Before Boy and I were even dating I remember him telling me stories about this place from when he went on his cruise. All I wanted was a yard glass and a balloon hat – and I walked out with neither. In fact, what I DID walk out with was a headache and the realization that we are so very out of that scene. And I’m not even mad about it.
The next day we arrived at St. Thomas and that was my favorite day of the trip, without any doubt. Boy had already been there and knew that we were going to go to Magens Bay as soon as we debarked, and just stay there all day – and we very much did that.
We woke up already pulled in to St. Thomas, so we quickly grabbed some breakfast and sat in the open air on a top deck to eat. The view was stunning. It was so reminiscent of Greece to me, with the homes set into the surrounding hills. The water was a beautiful hue and the whole island had such a calm feeling to it.
The drive to Magens Bay was up steep hills, and on the opposite side of the road! We shared a cab with a family and made it to the Bay in no time, greeted by only a handful of people enjoying it. It was quiet for the majority of the time we were there, until the Carnival excursion showed up, but by then I was drunk at the beach bar, so I didn’t much give a shit.
Surrounded by more homes in the hills, we floated in crystal clear water, laughing at the little silver fish that nipped at our feet, marveling at vast ocean that lay just beyond our line of sight at the opening of the bay. We rented snorkel gear and for the first time I snorkeled, totally freaked out for the first five minutes before sinking in to the calming rhythm of hearing my own breath and seeing gorgeous, graceful creatures underwater. For about two hours as a pair we explored the rocks at both sides of the bay. I never thought of it as such, but snorkeling like that is a bonding experience. We were dead silent, but counting on each other to spot things, alerting one another with finger snaps and light touches, both entranced by everything we saw. Every time we came up for air we talked about it excitedly before diving back in. Next to our ghost tour at Ybor city, snorkeling in Magens Bay will go down as a top experience in our relationship to me.
When we were done we sat at the beach bar where they were veryyyyy heavy-handed with the drinks! Let’s just say I don’t remember the cab ride home. And I think I may have eaten pizza when I got back on the boat but…I can’t be sure.
Grand Turk was ok. It was a line of blue beach chairs in the most gorgeous water I’d seen yet, though that water had a heavy line of seaweed running through it that was a little gross to wade through. We laid out, went to the world’s largest Margaritavile, and walked around a little before discovering what I’m about to consider a pro-tip for you: when everyone goes left getting off the boat, go right.
The right side of the beach had virtually no one on it because it was full of rocks, so though it isn’t a good place to lay about it is a good place to explore. We came away with three big, gorgeous shells to take home, and Boy even ventured onto an outcrop of rock to get a better look at the ocean.
The boat itself, the Carnival Splendor, was really nice, though there were way too many kids on it for our taste. We ran on the outdoor track a couple times, played basketball and mini golf, watched The Avengers: Age of Ultron in the “dive-in” theater on the main Lido deck while eating popcorn and sipping frozen drinks, and were so appreciative of both the staff and cruise director, Malcolm, who made the trip very pleasant. We also watched the end-of-trip Carnival Legends show, where guests take on the role of famed musicians to perform. We hit up two karaoke shows and a couple comedy shows, discovered way too late that the Indian buffet at the back of the boat was the best place to eat, and fell in love with the piano bar. I heard Boy sing for the first time in not only our near 4-year relationship, but 10-year friendship.
We made friends with our dinnermates, a newly married couple from Texas, and also a couple from Ohio we met at brunch one morning and then went to tea time with (mainly for the macarons on my part, which I have to say were pretty bad). We ate ox tongue, escargot, Fruit Loop-encrusted French toast, the best tomato soup I’ve ever come across, and the best steak Boy has ever had. We drank frozen drinks out of plastic cups shaped like fish and relaxed in a hot tub.
We had a vacation. We had a fantastic, week-long vacation that we were both so sad to leave, but one that left us hyped for future ventures together.
Every night after dinner we knew they had been in our room – and left behind a towel animal. Every night we guessed what it would be, and every night we were wrong – until that glorious monkey showed up. In truth, we waited all week for it.