Sunday, April 1st – Cruise Time

On Sunday, April 1, 2018, I embarked on my first-ever cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines. My brother Tony, sister-in-law Brittany, and three of Brittany’s friends Kait, Tonia, and Becky had no idea the adventures that awaited us.

A massive stunning cruise ship began to emerge into view as we drove to the drop off point in Miami, FL. Our floating home for the next eight days. Tony, Brittany, Kait and I drove 12 hours through the night from Charlotte, NC. The ship was a welcome sight and we were excited to not be in a car for a week. I felt like I was 9 again and about to arrive at Disneyland in Anaheim. I felt the excitement stir inside me and couldn’t wait to step foot on that ship…

Fifty years ago, Knut Utstein Kloster, third-generation Norwegian shipping executive, decided to take his family’s business to a whole new level when he established the Caribbean Lines, later renamed Norwegian Cruise Lines. Knut was one of the founders of the cruise industry who saw the potential for the industry to go well beyond creating carefree holidays. His dream of creating a floating village of 5,000 passengers on the water continues to be a popular form of vacation for millions each year.

As we got closer to the ship and all its engineering glory, the endless lines that wrapped around as we walked closer had Kait and I half-joking to each other saying things like, “This is happening. Ok are we on the ship yet? Ok we are on the ship. Omg. Are we on yet?”

Inside the ship, the swirling patterned carpets and bright pink steps reminded me of Vegas casinos. Our room was toward the front on the fifth level. Once inside our windowless cruise hobbit hole, we lovingly called it; I recognized the same electricity wall fixture that my hotel in Sharjah had last year. I immediately stuck my card in the slot to turn the lights on. What we didn’t learn till later was how to keep it activated to charge our phones when the lights are off. Details. We changed into our bikinis on and headed to the pool.

On the fifteenth-level was the pool, hot tubs, waterslides, miniature golf, rope course, and climbing wall. The second we stepped into the pool area any stress or worries from my life on land dissipated into thin air. We were departing out of Miami and were not departing for a few hours. Kait and I went straight to the pool bar called Waves to order our first drink then wandered upstairs to check out the views of Miami. Palm trees. Everywhere. Happy place. We coincidentally found my brother and sister-in-law upstairs.

The four of us lounged on the pool chairs to get our first dose of vitamin D until hunger called us back inside the ship. We tried our first restaurant called O’Sheehan’s Irish pub and I ordered the Caesar Salad with the blackened salmon. Back to the pool for a few more hours to soak up the Florida sun. Once the ship set sail the sensation of seeing the calm waves alongside us was nothing less than magical.

“When the sun is shining, I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” – Wilma Rudolph

Once the sun set we went back to our rooms to get dressed up and met up at Tropicana for dinner. The huge restaurant still managed to make you feel like you were in a high-end restaurant in any city. Tropicana had a diverse menu and we enjoyed sharing our dishes. Tonia and Becky met up with us for dinner. The rest of the night we explored the ship.

Monday, April 2nd – Full Day at Sea

My body clock woke me up at what I thought was 6:48 a.m. only to learn it was two hours earlier. When I am on vacation I don’t sit still. What am I saying? I never sit still! My phone bat was almost dead since we hadn’t learned yet how to keep the wall fixture active when the lights were off. I took my dying phone to O’Sheehan’s to charge. I loved walking around the empty ship while so many were still sleeping. Scanned the multitude of cruise activities and marked everything I wanted to do. Kait met up with me an hour later to have a cup of coffee. I could get used to starting my days looking out a window at the waves.

Our day was spent poolside. For lunch, we sat at our now favorite spot at O’Sheehans upstairs overlooking the main stage below where all the cruise shows and live music took place. I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie that was surprisingly delicious. Then Tony and Brittany took me to their room so I could see their balcony. I was mesmerized watching the waves. Why did it take me this long to go on a cruise!? Later that afternoon I took advantage of the Bourbon and Beer tasting at the Sunset Bar. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers a variety of both free events and some that charge a minimal fee. The tasting cost $19.

The pool called us back and we found lounge chairs upstairs that overlooked the pool stage again. The Mr. Sexy Legs competition started and being upstairs made it difficult to choose our favorite pair of sexy legs. Entertaining show nonetheless. Our lounge chairs faced this friendly group from Minnesota who watched our chairs when we left and we did the same for them.

Once we cleaned up and met back up at the Atrium bar we attended our first comedy show. The constant activity and options offered by the cruise line was incredible.

Tuesday, April 3rd – Roatán, Honduras

My body clock woke me up early again and I was eager to explore Roatán. Roatán is one of Honduras’ Caribbean Bay Islands and part of the huge Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. The island is well-known for scuba diving and beautiful beaches.

Tony, Brittany, and Kait and I bought the zip lining adventure package. Not going to lie. Bit scared at the thought of soaring through the air over a rainforest on a metal chord yet the adventurous side of me knew I would regret it if I didn’t go. Brittany and Kait were nervous too.

Our guide, Jeff, hilarious! During our ride up the mountain along a dusty unmarked road in the shuttle, he told us about Roatán like how their coral reef is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. He faced us as we took quick glances outside the windows while he shared facts and the history of this lush island.  The scenery was spectacular with the mountainous terrain, greenery, and the ocean beyond. Homes scattered along the dusty road with some locals sitting in their chairs enjoying the lovely weather. When you go on these excursions be sure to bring cash with you to tip your guides.

We parked at what looked like small cabins. There was a gift shop and outdoor store to buy food and drinks. One local was selling her homemade empanadas. The guides suited us up on the patio and handed us worn gloves to start on the solo zip lining. We all exchanged glances of both terror and pure excitement. Hook, snap, pull. Next.

The moment you hold onto the cable, hoist yourself up with both gloved hands, the guide hooks you to the cable, you use one hand to gauge the speed and the other to brake then you raise your legs and settle in—let go—feel the air fly passed as you soar above the jungle below. A freedom like I had never felt before. I took brief moments to take in each tree, the ocean and gauging when to break so I didn’t slam into the guide waiting on the other end.

Superman Zip Lining was next. Exactly how you would imagine a Superman Zip to be zip lining on our tummy. Suited us up in these huge heavy orange suits, helmet, and then waited for our turn to be hooked up to the cable.

Once we were hooked up to the 1,000-foot long cable, we had to raise our legs and steady our hands on the concrete platform like you are in plank position except your feet are not touching the ground. The second my body left the platform I soared like a bird above the jungles of Roatán – I felt a new type of confidence I had never felt before.

For the past three years, I have been dealing with chronic headaches after a concussion misaligned three vertebrae in my neck. Met with more than ten doctors and sought a variety of treatments to no avail except to learn the medical term for my headaches are chronic cervical muscle spasms. The latest treatment helped align my neck yet I still deal with regular tight headaches and muscle spasms. I share this with you since I know so many deal with chronic pain and I understand the difficulty of finding ways to enjoy life through the pain. I am still confident the right treatment is out there yet by no means do I let it stop me from enjoying any vacation. Nor do I let it stop me from any great times on land. But, yea, it’s frustrating.

Our adventure package included a suspension bridge hike through the jungle. I love hiking and getting dirty as much as I love putting a dress and heels on. Our guide walked us over multiple bridges and pointing out iguanas on tree branches. She let us try the seeds of a melon that reminded me of pomegranate seeds except not as tart.

Jeff mentioned taking us to a local hangout. When I travel, I love discovering places that are off the beaten path so you can try the local flavors. He said they served Iguana and though I love lizards, I couldn’t wait to try it! I love kangaroos too and tried kangaroo when I was in Australia four years ago. I felt bad for liking it since they are so cute! He also told us about the Monkey La-La drink too that is a local favorite.

Ever seen pictures or videos of those lizards that can run on their hind legs? They have a few names including the Jesus Lizard because these lizards can briefly walk on water until gravity pulls them under. Its scientific name is basilisk and in Roatán these lizards are called Monkey La-La. This is where the drink got its name since these lizards are found running all over Roatán.

The restaurant was a short walking distance from our port and we could see our ship once we arrived. “This is the Place to Be” blue sign was hanging above our heads as we walked closer to the outdoor restaurant. My group sat at a picnic table at the back of the restaurant which restaurant backed up to a hill and running creek. Chilling on a huge rock right over the wooden railing of where we were sitting was what appeared to be one angry Iguana staring us down. He did not take his beady eyes off of us! Poor guy, we hoped we would not be eating one of his friends or family members! There was also a huge rooster and other chickens pecking at the grass around the place to be.

Kait and I shared the Iguana that came with well-seasoned rice and beans and sliced grilled plantains. I loved the flavor of the Iguana but could have done without the ridiculously small bones. The Monkey La-La was served in paper cups and I used my own straw. A delicious combination of what tasted like chocolate, coconut, and rum. Roatán’s version of the Mudslide.

After lunch, we walked along the dusty road back to our port to go shopping. If someone told me Roatán would have the best shops before I left, I would have bought so much more! They had a great variety of traditional touristy items like magnets, tees, and purses. I was the most impressed with their locally made gifts like mermaids made from recycled metal.

The rest of the day I was on a life high like none other. No caffeine required. Back on the ship, Kait and I put our swimsuits on and back to that awesome pool. First, a drink at the bar then met up with Tony and Brittany. This time we sat on the pool’s ledge and put our feet in the refreshing water and let the day’s adventure sink in. The pool was empty except for two handsome guys on the other side of the pool sipping red wine.

As the sun began to set we wandered back inside the ship to clean up for the evening. The Atrium bar became our meeting place. Dinner again at the Tropicana and then back to the Atrium bar to watch the night’s show, which was a take on of Dancing with the Stars. Cruise employees were paired up with a cruiser. One of our Minnesota friends, Noah, was one of the contestants so we cheered him on!

Our night ended at the dance club Bliss. One of my favorite sayings is, “Follow your bliss…” and this became an underlining theme for me the entire week. I love to dance and learned my brother could dance! We all had a blast dancing and requesting songs. Bliss would turn into our after-hours spot the rest of the trip.

Written by Lisa M. Comento