Friday, November 8, 2013

Cruising with Danny!

We had an amazing opportunity to join our good friend Danny on a cruise, incredibly it fit perfectly in our schedule, and we are never one to pass up the chance for an experience like this one.  Danny was excited to introduce us to the Allure of the Seas - the biggest cruise ship in the world!  Um.... OK yes please!

We flew from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale with our oodles of luggage (packing for this multi-stage trip tested the limits of my organizational abilities but we made it work) and Danny met us at the airport.  That commenced a week-full of fun and catching up with Danny whom we haven't seen in WAY too long.

Excited to be boarding the ship:

The Promenade along deck 5:

Central Park in the middle of the ship, and the view from our room!

John is trying to catch up on some sun after many months in the northern climes:

Sailing out of Fort Lauderdale:

Of course the food is always a highlight of a cruise (at least for me).  Not sure how to explain John's breakfast choice of miso soup and grits, however:

View of our balcony (it's the one I'm standing on, I guess that's obvious):

Happy Buddhas!  There were many pieces of art all around the ship, including photographs down every corridor and all sorts of hidden gems.  I wanted to see them all but only succeeded in walking about half of the ship (did I mention it's a big ship?).  We need to spend another week on the Allure so I can check out the rest.

Nassau, our first port.  This is as close as we three got, as we decided to sleep in after spending a late evening with various activities, and we had already explored the town during the Super Dare 2010, so we didn't feel the need to go back again:

View from the top deck, looking down at the stage and pool for Ocean Aria, our favorite show.  Divers, trampolines, comedy, swings, acrobatics, it was amazing.

Banana art (one of the photos on the walls):

Jenga "World Championships" - John did great for his first time playing.  I somehow won overall - ?!  Not sure how that happened, but it was fun to win our first medal of the week.

My favorite track on a cruise ship to date - it's almost half a mile around, sheltered from the wind, with mile markers and a beautiful surface.  I spent time on it almost every day, enjoying the ocean view and the walking or running experience.

Requisite view off the back of the ship:

More "track appreciation":

An ice show!  How crazy is that?  I also got to ice skate on it during open skate time.  For not being much of an ice skater, I've been lucky to get on the ice in some really interesting places in my life.

Sailing into St Thomas - a beautiful island:

Danny and I did a snorkel shore excursion and we got to swim with sea turtles :) along with stingrays and beautiful fish.  Then I drank a bit too much rum punch on the way back, but that's enough about that.

Relaxing on another fine day:

We went for a walk to town to enjoy the evening on land:

I was just trying to capture the pretty license plate but apparently I also caught all three of our faces in the chrome reflection!

Fun with cruise ship back-lighting:

One of our towel animals - this was actually the night I stayed in the room, ordered room service, and watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series!  So lucky to be able to watch it on the ship, so happy that they won!

Docked at St Maarten, on the Dutch side of the island:

View of the back of the Allure:

We took a taxi around to the French side of St Martin, which turned out to be a great plan.  We loved listening to people speaking French (even had a couple short conversations ourselves), Marigot is a cute little town, and Danny got to do some fun shopping.

We did not, however, purchase these:

An excellent lunch at a brasserie, including cheese, galettes, and a bit of French wine.

More shopping for some good deals on shirts:

That evening was Halloween, and Danny had brought an elaborate costume.  We managed to cobble together a few things in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale to act as "support staff", fairly amazing for us since we're really not good at putting costumes together normally.

Starting to get dressed:

John putting finishing touches on our outfit:

Danny had some amazing accessories, including a set of red high heels that he somehow managed to walk around in:

Group photo before the big parade - and what a parade it was!  Tons of people brought creative costumes and we all gathered in a huge line to show it off.  There was a stage and judges, and the cruise director was the MC.  Danny had Cruella down pat, and we did our best dalmatian impressions, with John running ahead on his "leash" and me yapping at people.  What a blast!  We ended up as finalists in the group division and came home with 3rd place  :)

Phew, I needed some time to recover from that, our most exciting Halloween in many years.

On Saturday John and Danny tried out the Flow Rider on the top deck - looks like fun!

I took a couple videos of their first go-rounds:

John picked it up quickly and his second pass was solid:

Danny working on some tricks:

I just HAD to test out the zip line - how many times in your life do you get ride a zip line on a cruise ship?



Danny monkeying around waiting his turn:

Go Danny!

We tried out the "video scavenger hunt" event, with turned out to be a micro-urban race around the ship, so of course we were all into that (and made some new friends when we teamed up with another couple who was also excited to try it).  We went for speed and probably lost a couple style points for that (who knew our videos would be judged?!) but also gained a couple points back when John decided to sing "I Will Survive" to the camera while following us down the stairs between challenges... the replays were a bit embarrassing but all in good fun.

And no, we didn't get to keep the video camera so no YouTube links for that...  thank goodness

John got in a little dodgeball action:

Also a speed-climb competition:

The elevators had the day of the week displayed on the floor.  So we could mostly keep up with the date, but then the ship changed the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time several days early, so we were confused about the time especially when going ashore.  Well, if that's the worst thing that happened to us the whole week, I certainly have nothing to complain about!

John playing around on the elevator:

Our last evening - sailing back to Florida:

What a wonderful vacation, huge thanks to Danny for his company and for inviting us along!

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