This is long, so I apologize in advance!
I was invited by my parents to go on their yearly cruise, which was very nice of them to do, since I know they don't go on vacations very often.
I arrived in Tampa, FL on January 14, the day before we were to leave on the ship (just in case of any weather related issues).
My parents rented a car, and we did some final shopping for the cruise. It had been so long since I had been in the Tampa, St. Pete's, Clearwater area. My grandparents used to live down there in the winters until my grandfather passed away in 1998. It's funny how you can remember little things, like stores or restaurants or just driving up and down Hwy 19!
Sunday morning we embarked on the Norwegian Star. My parents had an Owner's Suite and those who are in a suite get extra perks. We got priority boarding, which meant we didn't have to wait in an extremely long line to get checked in. No, we got a closed off area with seats, food and drinks and were called when they were ready for us.
We met our concierge, Leah. Another suite perk.
We had an escort bring us on board as soon as we were checked in and were brought to one of the 'pay' restaurants that only suite people can eat breakfast or lunch at for free. Nice.
We then went to see if the room was ready.
Our suite was called the Picasso Suite. There are 4 of these types of rooms on the ship, each having an Artist as the inspiration.
If you are familiar with cruising, cabins on the ship for the majority are small. Just enough room for a bathroom, bed, and clothing storage.
Our room......NOT THE CASE! It was 750sq ft. It was bigger than the first apartment that J and I lived in when we go married!
The Living Room - The sofa pulled out where I slept, and was quite comfortable with the 'egg crate' foam they put on for you. It was turned down by our Steward, Guillarmo every night, and was King Size! I haven't slept that well in ages. I was rocked to sleep every night by the ship :)
My parents room. There were pocket doors and curtains for privacy. The door at the end of the room went to the front balcony below the bridge. It was awesome! The full bath was through their room, and included a WC, separate shower, jetted tub, and 2 sinks.
This was the walk in closest, vanity room. There were separate his and her sides, and tons of room for my parents and my clothing.
Our first port of call was Tuesday morning in Roatan, Honduras. It rained off and on all day. We had booked an excursion to Maya Key, a private island where you can sit on the beach, relax, or go to an animal preserve where injured animals and birds are kept for rehab.
Unfortunately, because of the weather they gave us the option to cancel, which we did. Instead we spent a couple of hours in port just browsing and shopping.
Our next port of call was Belize City, Belize. Because of the shallow waters that has the second largest reef in the world, we had to tender in on smaller boats. Belize is very poor. I believe they said that well over 50% of the country's income is generated by tourism. If the ships stop coming, they don't make any money. We did the 'Calypso Train Tour' which wasn't a train at all, but an open trolly driven through the city. Our guide was really good, and HONEST. You can tell the majority of the people are not well off, and cannot stand the politicians and upper class.
On the tender looking back the Star
The 'original port' for Belize City
We were halfway through the cruise by now, and our next two ports were in Mexico. The first one was Costa Maya, which was pretty much created for the cruise industry. More shopping there, no excursions booked.
Our final port was Cozumel. My mom and I did an excursion on a 'semi-sub'. You go into the bottom of a boat, which is lower in the water and sit around the windows to watch fish, and look at the reef. Unfortunately, because of the Hurricane Wilma a few years ago, she destroyed a lot of the reef. If used to be a mile long, and now it is only 300ft. It will recover, but it will take a long time.
We saw some really cool fish, including Sgt Fish, a barracuda, and a small moray eel.
While I really enjoyed the excursion, I did not enjoy Cozumel all that much. TOO MANY pedlers. I'm sorry, I don't want to go into your shop and look at the same
Most days on the ship, we spent on either the side or front balcony, eating, or playing in the casino.
On Norwegian Cruise Line, they are all about 'Freestyle Cruising' which means, no set times for eating, and you don't have to dress up for dinner if don't wish to (although you cannot wear shorts or sandles).
You have the option of eating at one of the main dining rooms, or buffet for free, or you can choose to go to one of the specialty restaurants and pay a cover charge (anywhere from $10-$25 a person). They have sushi, teppanyaki, steakhouse, italian, french, etc.
The casino....I did well and not so well haha. I wasn't doing well on the slots at all. I had budgeted $400 for the week, and by the second night I was worried. My dad, however, taught me how to play 'Let It Ride' a table game where you can bet big and win, or you can pull back your bets so you don't lose as much.
I hit a couple of big hands while playing with my dad, which brought me back up. All in all, I did pretty good at the table, and it kept me going the entire week. I ended up coming home up $50, so I still have all of the money I brought, including some of the traveler's cheques. I will hold on to that for our next cruise :)
Every night Guillarmo made the towel animals....
And every morning, Lucky our Butler brought breakfast. When I first got on the ship, I didn't know what to expect. By the end of the cruise, my dad said I was a 'cruise snob' LOL What? I liked being pampered lol
We also got a Bridge Tour, which was really cool!
We disembarked on Sunday January 22 back in Tampa, and I flew home the same day. I didn't want to get off the ship lol. I absolutely LOVED it. And now, because I did a 'no-no' for a first time cruiser, in staying in a suite (a Large suite at that!) I was spoiled and now don't think I can do anything less than a suite. In fact, I will be booking the 'same' cabin for J and I next January on the Star's sister ship the Dawn. It's called the Park Avenue Suite.
So that, in a nutshell, was my January vacation :) I've already been approved for vacation next January. I am just waiting on when the house closing will be, and I will book the next one! :P