Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Jamaica Trip!

If case you missed the other posts recapping my cruise adventures, here are the links:

The last port stop on our cruise was Jamaica. 

My folks, sister, and I decided to go on an excursion that gave us a tour of the island and also stopped along the way for some shopping (I think my mom was most excited about that. Lol). Most of our sight-seeing was done from the bus but they did stop so we could take pictures. And we were able to get off the bus at some locations. At first I thought I was going to be disappointed since we were going to be in a bus for most of the day, but we got to see SO MUCH MORE of the island this way. We didn't just see the "tourist" section of Jamaica- we got to see the heart and soul. I'm trying to word this in a PC way- but not all of Jamaica is as "glamorous" as the beach resorts you see in all of the advertising. Don't get me wrong- all of that is beautiful, but there is so much more to Jamaica than that. So many of the residents aren't living that glamorous life. They do whatever they can to make ends meet. Some pick up trash on the side of the road for what would be only a few dollars a day to Americans. They sell homemade items, produce- whatever they can to feed their family. They are proud people and don't just want a handout- they want to earn it. 

Okay, enough of that, back to my adventure. Our tour guide was this great kid named Zachary. He was awesome. You could tell that he was proud of his country- he knew so much information and told us amazing stories and interesting facts. He made us all say "Yeh mon" instead of "yes". You could tell he loved what he was doing. We found out that he was in college trying to earn a business degree and this job was helping him pay for it.

I've never seen the movie, but this house was used in How Stella Got Her Groove Back
My grandfather was in the US Coast Guard, that was the main reason I took this pic
We could see some mountains off in the distance. I don't know why I was so surprised there were mountain on the island
Some residents selling produce

After about an hour drive, we made our first stop (and we were able to actually get off of the bus). It was at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. It is a cute little church. We were only there about fifteen minutes, and there wasn't any information on location about the history (I later found this website when I got home that told me more about it). It was a nice place to see, I wouldn't recommend that someone go out of their way to see it though (but swing by if you are in the neighborhood). We went on a Thursday so there was no service going on, but we were able to go inside it.

I could probably bore you with a lot of stories that Zachary told about Jamaica, but I will just bore you with pictures instead. :)

Zachary kept talking about how they were going to get a Walmart in Jamaica. He said we would pass by the location where it was going to be built. We all laughed when he pointed this out. :)
Some Jamaican coins (which I sadly was not able to keep)

Part of Fern Gully in Ocho Rios 

I thought this was a colorful home

Zachary told us that in Jamaica they move into a home before it's completed- they just keep adding on while they are living there. They only build what they can pay at that time- they won't take out a loan to build a house. There were a lot of unfinished houses along our tour
Outside this library there is a statue of Marcus Garvey, a famous Jamaican political leader, journalist, entrepreneur, and publisher
Found me a Baptist church!

I almost fainted at the sight of $146 for a gallon of gasoline, but then remembered that was in Jamaican currency (I think it came to about $6 a gallon in American money- so it's still not cheap). Jamaicans walk a lot of places.
We were able to stop at this one place called Oceans On The Ridge in Ocho Rios that had a beautiful view

This lady was selling homemade bracelets. My mom, sister, and I all bought one
We went to a place called Reggae Hill for lunch. I'll be honest, I didn't eat because it was buffet style and all the food included seafood (there were only three meals to choose from). YES I WENT ON A CRUISE AND DIDN'T EAT ANY SEAFOOD- DEAL WITH IT. Lol. It also wasn't a cheap buffet, even my sister and folks passed on lunch. We didn't realize we wouldn't have more options for lunch or we would have packed snacks. But it was a beautiful and peaceful place to relax for about an hour. I even found free WiFi and did a FaceTime with my BFF in Austin while I was there.

After lunch we finally got to the shopping portion of the excursion. Honestly most of the places we stopped were places I call "tourist traps" (with just your every day tourist souvenir), but my dad and I both got Jamaica caps and my mom bought a few things while we were there. I did find a "flea market" type place where people were selling homemade items. I bought a necklace and a cute wall decoration from there. As nice as relaxing on a beach would have been, I learned so much more and got to see WAY more of Jamaica on this excursion. I'm so glad we went on it. And I got to spend the day with my folks and sister this way. I evidently don't go on vacation to relax, I go on vacation to learn and see history. :)

Our bus driver was named Godfrey and he was great!

You can only use a debit or credit card at a payphone in Jamaica. I haven't seen a payphone in years!

My folks with Zachary
Me and my folks at the port after our adventurous day!
My Jamaican souvenir 
I hope you've enjoyed the recap of my cruise! As always, thanks for reading!


Monday, February 20, 2017

My Cayman Islands Trip!

If you missed the first two posts recapping my cruise, click here and here.

The second stop on our cruise was the Cayman Islands. Thankfully my sister was feeling better and was able to go with me on our excursion in Grand Cayman. Unlike in Cozumel where the ship was able to park by the dock (wait, do ships "park"?), we had to anchor a ways out and ride a smaller boat called a tender to the shore. Let's just say the ride on the tender wasn't as smooth as the main ship. Thankfully the ride wasn't that long.

Me and my sister getting ready for our day in the Cayman Islands
I was super excited about our Grand Cayman excursion because I was finally going to get to fulfill my lifelong dream of swimming with a dolphin! As a kid I would watch reruns of the old TV show Flipper so I guess that's how my dream started. 

We took about a thirty minute bus ride over to Dolphin Discovery. On the Cayman Islands they drive on the left side of the road, so it took me a little bit to get used to looking out and seeing cars on the "other" side of the road (I don't want to say "wrong" side of the road because it's not wrong to them. Lol). I thought it was funny that their "Yield" sign said "Give Way". Also, gas prices there were so high. EEK!

Once we got to Dolphin Discovery, we were provided lockers to store our belongings and handed life jackets (no exceptions, everyone wore one). There were no personal cameras allowed in the area with the dolphins but there were photographers on hand to take our pictures throughout our swim and we had the option to buy copies at the end of our adventure (because of course they want to find another way to get money out of you, and of course I paid for it because I WAS SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS AND WANTED PICTURES). Lol.

We were divided into smaller groups of about 10-12 people. My dolphin's name was Richie and his human counterparts were Marco and Carlos. They gave us some pointers and quick dolphin 101 training before we actually got in the water. At first Richie was a little shy and didn't swim too close to us. Carlos told us if a dolphin doesn't feel like participating, they don't force them, and we could just wait for another group to be done and swim with that dolphin. But after a minute, Richie came over and warmed up to all of us. He even showed off a little by doing flips in the air.

Richie came by and gave kisses to all of us (but he did want a kiss in return). We then got to dance with him and posed for a quick side by side picture.

One by one we each swam to the other side of the body of water and when Richie got to us, we held on to his flippers and he pulled to back to the group. We also got to ride a boogie board and Richie came up behind us and pushed our feet. The whole adventure lasted maybe just over 90 minutes, but again, it was so worth it. 

Like I said, you had to pay if you wanted any pictures. There was an option to purchase a CD which had every picture they took of me and my sister with Richie, (there were 40 pictures total), so I got that. They also printed out two of the pictures with that option.

When the bus dropped us off at the port, we had two hours before we had to be back on the ship, so we walked around for a bit. We decided we wanted a light snack (because we missed lunch and still had three hours until dinner on the ship). We found a Hard Rock Cafe a few blocks from the port. I got this lemonade type drink (yes it was JUST lemonade) and it was amazing. 

On our way back to the ship, we LITERALLY saw a chicken cross the road. I ran after him yelling "I have questions for you!" but he didn't answer me. Lol. 

Thankfully we didn't have to wait too long for a tender to get back to the ship. Cayman Islands was beautiful. It's another place I want to visit when I can spend more than just half a day. And next time I hope to check out one of the beaches!

I hope to get my Jamaica recap up tomorrow!! :)