Friday, October 7, 2011

Wow!!! What A Cruise!!!


Well, I have finally finished uploading all my pictures from the best boat ride ever! I have done the last three cruises with Tim Holtz and crew, and even though I can't tell you which cruise was better due to ports of call...I have loved them all...I can tell you that this ship, Royal Caribbean's the Freedom of the Seas, was the best one yet.  It had it's own little water park and surf it up place, which I never had the time to do, because the spa kept beckoning me. When I wasn't spa'n, I was feeding my face or getting dolled up to feed it, (which explains the 2.2 extra pounds at weight watchers this morning) and going to the most inspiring and creative classes held by Tim. I wish my husband and kids could have joined in on all the fun though. I will be posting pictures of all of my creations tomorrow, so check back.  Here goes...it is quite lengthy so you might want to bring your laptop with you when it's time to sit on your throne!


Florida:
Leaving good ol' West Texas, I flew into Orlando with my cruise roomie. Lori. We headed to Cocoa Beach via a very irritating, talkative, thinks he knows it all, hired driver, who wanted to change all of our political views on the whole wide world, because he is from Turkey, and that's how they roll. Phew!!! After slipping him a very small tip, we unpacked and called a taxi driver, who by the way had to be related to the boys from ZZ Top, to take us to Gregory's Steakhouse. Wow...best steak I have had in years, and it wasn't from Texas!?! So good in fact, we went there the next night after our other two besties, Paula and Pam, finally made it to town. Again, the best steak since the night before was partaken of. From my mentioning of feeding my face stated above, you probably know by now that I really love food, good food that is. Anyway...Lori and I hit the beach early, which was conveniently right behind our hotel. What a fantastic place to visit. We watched surfers and people in general, and walked about a mile and a half to Cocoa Beach Pier through the very seashell clad sand. The weather was great despite the raging humidity. It was SO NICE, SO NICE...more on that later...to lay out and take in some rays.


Cruise:
At last we boarded the Freedom and found our quaint little room with a balcony view that brought tears of joy to my eyes. There is something so spiritual about starring out over the ocean. I really have no words to describe the feeling I have amid an immense expanse like the sea. I found myself praying every time while out on the balcony. Definitely a SO NICE!, SO NICE!! Anyway...we four Texas gals met up with our crafty Cajun friend named Karen, from Louisiana. She is a real hoot and fits in perfectly with our already hooty group. After dinner, we finally greeted the Man and his Entourage at Scrap-Mapping Jim West's, Welcome Reception. Again, joy overwhelms me, all of us. Tim has revolutionized the scrap-booking industry with  his "vintage" feel and it has soared through almost every line of product out there. As a scrap-booker, there is a gratifying feeling when your hands are all inked up, painted on, stained, and glued together, because not so long ago, it was only paper and stickers. Now we get to get messy, and really give creatively of ourselves in our projects and pages, to show those of whom we scrap about, how much time, effort, and love goes into every unique thing we make. All of that is thanks due in part by Mr. Holtz. I swell up with pride every time my family and friends oh and ah over what I make and ask how is was done. That is what makes this artistic journey of all of us crafty people worth it. 


Bahamas:
Moving on, because I think I'm rambling on, we visit the teeny, tiny island of Coco Cay. It is situated within the Bahamas and owned by Royal Caribbean, to give there guests the ultimate day of water fun! I must admit though, it would have been thoroughly enjoyed by my children more so than is was for myself.  I plopped down in a lounger and soaked up sun and sights. Man o man was there some sights! I only got up once to chase away and photograph a couple of hermit crabs and take a few of the surrounding scenery. Anyway...there was this tall, dark, and handsome man selling drinks...Bahama Mama's...for cruise ship profits. He would meander through the rows and rows of sun bathers and stare most intently at the women and sing out, "SO NICE, SO NICE!!!" This would go on about every 15 minutes, the time it took to make a complete circle around. This became our new favorite phrase to belt out during the rest of the cruise. Everything was SO NICE, SO NICE!!!


Sisters, Pam & Paula with Freedom
Freedom, Lori, & I




St. Thomas:
A few Timmy (shhh...don't tell him I call him that) projects later and next thing we knew, we made port in the most lush and picturesque place I have seen to date. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, is a bee-uu-ti-ful place! Every picture there was like a scene from a postcard. It was so gorgeous! All of roofs on the buildings and houses were a coral red. You almost thought you were in the Mediterranean. The water was a brilliant turquoise color...like no other I have ever seen. It was as if it were dyed. It was so clear, you could see yards below the depth. SO NICE!, SO NICE!! The only draw back here was that after 3 or 4 jewelry stores and great bargains on fabulous jewelry, the stores never seemed to end. Shop after shop was jewelry, and in front of almost every one was someone inviting you in. After 3 blocks of that on Main Street, it was time to turn down an alley, where we finally found a couple of artsy places. Jackpot! We needed stuff to fill a project, so says Tim. As if we didn't know it would be a configurations box, right? Well, we shopped and shopped and found all sorts of trinkets, and we each bought one for all of us so that when we got back on board and gifted out, it was like finding a treasure chest full of goodies! I love my besties!!! SO NICE, SO NICE!!! A lunch of jerked chicken (my mouth was on fire) at Gladyss's Cafe was delightful. Afterwards, we were lucky enough to meet a nice cabby named Leon who gave us a quick tour of the island in his open top van and took great pictures for us as well.  He took us up to a place to take more great shots, where rain met us, followed by Leon's, Mario Andretti like scary driving up the winding road to the Banana Daiquiri Gift Shop and look out. Joy had a hold on me all day. I love eye candy, and the views here were particularly sweet! The gift shop had absolutely everything you could want to buy trinket wise, and had great photo ops and props surrounding it. We ended the port day by shopping at the very panache Yacht Haven Mall, for a few high end goodies, duty free of course (that is what I keep telling my guilty feeling self). A mini Rodeo Drive...SO NICE, SO NICE!!! We originally had an excursion booked to go to St. John and lay around the beach, but after talking to a few knowledgeable people we decided to stick around town and shop and sight see. I am so glad we did. St. John will have to wait for next time...hopefully with hubby and our children!!!
 



St. Maarten/St. Martin: 
Our last port, which made me sort of sad, was also so beautiful. The water around Philipsburg, St. Maarten,  the capital, was still that gorgeous turquoise. It was lush with bushes instead of trees like St. Thomas.  This island had many pointed hills, as if volcanoes were taking over. The Dutch Netherland's own this side (south) of the island, and the French own the other side (north) which is called St. Martin, Marigot being it's capital.  This is the tiniest piece of land on all the Earth that is owned by two different countries. Both sides are very different in culture, but pretty much the same in looks. We learned many facts about the island from our taxi driver Rufus (no...he does not have red hair) who approached and solicited us the minute we left our water taxi from the pier to the island. We were cautious at first, but Rufus was a character and seemed genuinely concerned for us to have a time well spent so to speak. We drove first to Marigot  on the French side because the shops there open early and close around lunch...very European. We made one stop on a hilltop overlooking the ocean for a photo op. Here, there were painted signs professing the Lord's goodness, as well as an anti political one. Very interesting!  I found it strange since Rufus told us several times that on the island things may be illegal but everything is tolerated, which in his opinion keeps crime to almost non-existent (aside from rival gangs) because no one hardly cares or pays mind. Strange considering they only keep police on the force for five months there to keep corruption at a low. They ship them to another island after that time. That says a lot I think.
In Marigot, there was an open air market and tons of booths where the local people there sale their wares. Most spoke french which made me envious. Note to self...check into Rosetta Stone!!! Again, we picked up some great trinkets for our secret project...hehe!!! I spotted a french bakery called Sarafina's, and of course we had to go and sample some overly laden with buttery goodness confections...zero points I was told. On the way, it started to pour rain, but we made it just in time not to be soaked. Oh too bad! We had to stay in the bakery longer than we anticipated due to the rain. Chocolate and almond croissants, almond cookies, eclairs, napoleons, quiche, breads of all types, deli sandwiches, rolls of every color and size, crepes, coffee, oh the smell was divine!!! I had almond and chocolate cookies. Yum! SO NICE, SO NICE!!! We moved on and Rufus continued with his history lesson of the island as well as his family heritage. He is related to pretty much everyone. Next thing we knew, he pulled up to a beach, but not just any beach...the famous Orient Beach! Clothing is optional on the beach next to it, but not on Orient Beach, and there is not even a fence between them. Ooh-la-la...NOT...so disgusting!!! Barf!!! Gag me!!! I cannot even talk about it! NOT SO NICE!!!  Moving on...we continued all around the island while Rufus taught. He was so knowledgeable, and it was quite enjoyable to listen and learn from him. Next thing we knew, we are back at the main square and now it was time to shop in St. Maarten, as all the stores were now open. Again there were tons of jewelry shops...what's up with that??? We all had coupon books though and took advantage of tons of jewelry freebies along the way. There were a couple of trendy boutiques and a lot of name brand stores. After lunch at the Blue B*#@h Cafe...yes, you know what that stands for, and a couple of us had to get the shirt...we decided to take a dip in the ever so inviting water. The beach came right up to the shops in the square. I have never seen anything like that. On your 15 minute break, you can take a swim...crazy! We didn't have much time...an hour to be exact...so just a quick dip. Well, two beach massages, snorkeling, and swimming later (15 minutes left) we made the next to last water taxi towards Freedom. Once on the pier we decided to stop on in at another jewelry store for some more freebies. There was another one but it was a little busy or else we would have made that one too. We had no shame. After all, they were practically begging us to come in every jewelry store in town. However, panic stuck two of us, so we made post haste and it was just in time. Consequently, there were a few scragglers behind us with children in tow, screaming no doubt. What a great day though. We really made out well. We all had several trinkets and new bling to blind passersby. Our boxes where going to be great...if that is what we were making!?!

  


Wrap Up:
Rattle Snake
Elephant
Hello SONshine!!!
It wouldn't be right if I left out a few other pictures. After all, when you cruise you have to enjoy the boat life too. Every single morning at the crack of dawn, I hung out on the balcony and snapped pictures of every sunrise. Although every single one was cloud covered, it was still perfect. On our last night I got in a shot of the moon to add some closure to our trip. SO NICE, SO NICE!!! Thanks so much to the crew members who helped us get by...Sophia, Leon, Angus, and Pennel. The later being the one who makes great towel animals! She was our cabin cleaner upper so we secretly called her Purell. Made since I thought.  Talk  about a helpful group though. They work all the time, leave their loved ones, and serve others for very little pay. All the workers below management position, are from other countries other than the United States. A dollar made on the ship is worth a lot more where they come from, so they feel it is worth the hardships they endure. Their work ethic is very different from that of the "now generation" here in the States. Oops...am I allowed to say things like that? Well, I just did!
Goodnight Moon!!




Moving on...we thoroughly enjoyed dinner at table 108, and loved meeting and talking to our new friends (two sisters and their daughters). One of them was from Texas, Tracy, who Paula and I have seen at the Great American Scrapbook Convention.  It is such a small scrap-booking world! They were all pure entertainment for us with all their bantering and dogging back and forth. So glad it wasn't me...oops...sorry Mom...just joking!!! Formal nights were always fun as well. We enjoyed having our pictures made too.  You don't get many chances to dress up here in West Texas, so any chance I get I take. I love to get all dolled up! We actually call it funeral picture night. I know, I know...it's morbid and distasteful! Whatever!!! When it's time for me to meet the Lord Jesus, there will be a great photo at my service!!! I am still learning this blogging stuff and am having difficulty with picture placement, so please excuse the odd arrangement of photos. I need the book Blogging For Dummies. Does anyone have a copy I can borrow? I hope the next post showing all of the Timmy projects I have completed (some I haven't) looks a little neater, and hopefully it won't be so long. I  told you I have lots of things to say though!!!
My New Funeral Photo
Pam, Karen, Lori, Me, & Paula
Table 108


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