Race Report: Tour de Caribbean
2 weeks is the longest I’ve ever been away from the blog, but I wanted to make sure everything had sunk in before I started posting about the cruise. Instead of the Tour de Caribbean, maybe I should have called it the Caribbean Time Trial, because in essence that’s what it was, a race against time. There were so many wondrous things to do and see in just 9 days, that I knew it would be over long before I wanted it to be.
We started our trip (after an 11 hour drive and picking up our travelling companions at the Orlando airport) at Downtown Disney for dinner and exploration. Sadly the “Build your own Lightsaber” station did not measure up to my level of scrutiny, so I passed. But the Earl of Sandwich was a place we couldn’t pass on, and I had maybe the best sandwich roll I’ve ever had that night. (excellent food was a trend for this trip).
The next morning we started our day at the Canaveral National Seashore focusing on a visit to the wildlife preserve there. Dan and I make it a point on every trip not centered in Las Vegas that we visit a national park that has a stamp to collect. Rachelle has a “passport” half-full of them by now. Although our usual stops do not involve angry reptile predators that would gladly eat us given the opportunity that we get out of the car to get CLOSER to for pictures.
After the National Seashore it was time to go board our boat. When I say boat. it sounds funny to me because it is a MASSIVE OCEANLINER. It holds, when full, around 7 thousand people between crew and guests. We were only a few hundred shy of full, but other than during a few times when everyone wanted to do the same things (comedy shows, the evacuation drill) you never felt like it was that many. I likened it to an office building turned on its side and set afloat, but with 4,000 people wanting to party instead of work, and the other 2,000 folks were there to host. It reminded me very much of summer camp, but instead of cabins or tents, you had this thing to return to each day:
During our sailing days which amounted to about 3 days out of the 7 in total time, we enjoyed the casino (when I say enjoyed, I mean donated. Worst losing streak I’ve had in a long time) and the events the crew put on to keep us entertained when we were in the midst of the ocean. These activities are what really reminded me of summer camp, especially as I felt like BMOC for part of the week because Dan and I kept winning at the trivia contests. Let me tell you that 2 of these trophies now sit aside Rachelle’s NCAA national runner up trophy, as they’re at least THAT important.
The food both a sail and ashore was incredible (I gained about 5 pounds last week, and for one time in my life do not regret it at all); I tried the following: frog legs, shark firecracker rolls, conch rolls, escargot, caviar, and local bean and rice dishes along with chicken in some amazing sauce. This is very adventurous eating for me, but when it comes down to it, the dishes that I loved the most look like this:
It’s the time off the boat that will stick with me the longest though; there’s simply so much to tell that I don’t think I can do it all justice. Our band of adventurers took 2nd in an “Amazing Race” style exploration of Cozumel Mexico, and we would have won if we would have all been able to run faster at the end. We were in last til the halfway point, then jumped to first because I figured out a clue faster than the rest of the teams, but wound up getting passed by smaller teams whose members could all still run by that point in a very hot day.
From Cozumel, it was time to head on to Belize and Caye Caulker which is where we had our big snorkel day. Dan and I had been having a discussion the night before wondering how many people on average don’t make it through the whole cruise. We soon saw firsthand that it does happen, as a 74 year old woman has some sort of panic/exertion/claustrophobic attack at the finish of our snorkel on the reef and had to be hauled on to the boat by the crew, after which we made a mad dash unplanned stop back at Caye Caulker (where we later had an amazing lunch) to get the woman organized medical attention. Rachelle helped a bit on the boat, but the crew of our small snorkel boat was prepared for this type of experience and I think did a fantastic job. She and her daughter flew to the mainland and were not on the cruise ship when we left port that night. Once the lady was taken care of, we went to the highlight of the day, a visit to shark/ray alley where I TOUCHED LIVE SHARKS AND DID NOT DIE. Even better, I wasn’t afraid (ok, they were nurse sharks, but still sharks) and it was an amazing experience, and I’m confident I’ve beaten my phobia.
I’ve had a long standing rule not to display any pictures of myself shirtless on the blog but this one time, I’m breaking that rule. He’s what I look like completely free of stress having faced and fear and come through the other side stronger and happier.
When we went back for lunch, I stopped to get our fearless foursome some Gatorade at the local store after seeing a couple of folks on the boat beginning to succumb to the heat. When I stopped at the shop, I saw they were renting cruiser bikes and could not resist the chance to ride a bike in another country. Especially at the $3/hour rental rate.
After Belize it was time for Rachelle’s favorite part of the cruise; a visit to Isla Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras that had an animal preserve that features Capuchin monkeys, which we got to hold and pet. I am positive Rachelle didn’t even look that happy on our wedding day. (Rach hasn’t finished up loading the pictures yet, so I’ll post them later). Our last excursion was a visit to Mayan ruins. I successfully left without triggering the end of the world (at least as far as I can tell).
The last day on the boat, we did all sorts of fun stuff including a couple of trips through the waterslides. Let me just say, climbing to the top of a boat to ride on waterslides hundreds of feet above the water in 60 MPH winds was quite the rush.
The fun didn’t end when we disembarked on Saturday. After a quick car hiccup (a drained battery due to a bad door sensor), we took a tour of the Kennedy Space Center including the Vehicle Assembly Building. We just missed a rocket launch the day before, and 2 shuttles were in for service in buildings we couldn’t visit. We celebrated Cinqo de Mayo with a pizza dinner and the next morning saw a Spanish fort in St. Augustine for one last national park stamp before parting company with Dan and Susan. I also got to see the St. Augustine lighthouse, so I can add another of the great lighthouses to my list.
I’m already back in training with just a week and a half until the Washington Sprint. I’m slowly feeling better, and can’t wait to pick up my new bike on Friday.