So as of Saturday afternoon, I am back home after an amazing week on the JoCo Cruise crazy er...cruise. For those of you not in the know, and really, if I know who Jonathan Coulton is, then you guys definitely should, he is the geeky singer/songwriter who penned the song Still Alive for Portal (probably his biggest claim to fame) as well as such classics as Re: Your Brains, Code Monkey, and Future Soon. Being the sun around which other fellow geek celebs orbit, he brought with him: John Hodgman, Molly Lewis, Paul and Storm, Mike Phirman, John Roderick, Wil Wheaton, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, Stephen "Stepto" Toulouse, David Rees, and Peter Sagal.
We arrived on the boat on the morning of January 2nd (after being shipped to Fort Lauderdale following a radiation treatment and thorough patdown much like an Indian mango) and settled into our stateroom. I think next time if/when we go on a cruise we'll get a stateroom with a verandah we can walk out on, but the porthole looking directly out over the ocean was much bigger than expected and very welcome. After dropping off our bags, we explored the ship. We mingled with other cruisers, most of whom weren't JoCo Sea Monkeys, and even got to see manatees in the wild while we waited for the ship to set sail.
Every evening of the cruise we had a concert/show from the entertainers. The first night was Paul and Storm and Wil Wheaton who read some of his short stories to musical accompaniment. The shows started at either 4:30 or 5:00 depending on whether that day was an at-sea day or whether we were in port (Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Georgetown, Cayman Islands). The shows were universally entertaining, but incyr
and I agree that Mike Phirman was probably the most pleasant surprise. He was hilarious!
After each show we got into fancier dress and lined up for dinner. Dinner was the classiest part of the cruise, hands down and it was all free! One night I had escargot, another duck, and another, lobster. I gained almost two pounds on the cruise because, in addition to a three course meal followed by dessert, there was also an all-you-can-eat buffet for breakfast and lunch and the buffet was open all day too. It's a wonder I didn't gain more weight! The first night was assigned seating, but afterward we were free to sit where we liked and we made it a point to sit with different people every time. After dinner there was boardgaming, or Rock Band, or karaoke. It felt very much like a small, gently rocking convention.
On the 3rd, we put into Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Apparently Half Moon Cay has been leased to Holland America for 99 years. It's a beautiful little island, and incyr
and I had a great time, but it did feel a little touristy. We went on a guided tour of the island and learned about a lot of plants and their medicinal purposes, which I promptly, and sadly, forgot. Then we ate barbecue and headed off to our next adventure: snorkeling.
I have never been snorkeling before and because I don't swim too well, it was with a mixture of terror and excitement that I donned the mask and fins and entered the water. I probably drank half the Atlantic, but the view of the fish and the reefs was incredible and obviously I didn't drown. Buoyed by my success, and my lifejacket, I can say I will definitely go snorkeling again.
I've forgotten to mention the weather. The weather was gorgeous: 70's and 80's during the day, sunny, no rain. Although we didn't spend a huge amount of time just soaking in the rays on the deck, we did get some time to lounge, read, and drink expensive, tropical drinks with names like Miami Vice and Tropical Tom. We even got some time in the hot tub on deck and I took a dip in the pool.
On the 4th was an at-sea day so after breakfast we spent the day lounging and playing games. At this point I started to look forward to seeing what towel animal our cabin stewards would make for us that would be waiting when we got ready for bed. I think I liked the elephant the best. By far the creepiest, but in a good way, was the monkey they pinned to a clothes hanger and hung above the bed with the reading lights by the bed spotlighted on it. It reminded me of JoCo's song My Monkey.
The only dark spot of the trip was on the 5th in Jamaica. I knew there was something ominous about the cooler, cloudier weather, and the flocks of turkey vultures circling. When we arrived we took a shuttle to Dunn's River falls, which is a famous waterfall that you can climb. We rented a locker for our stuff, stripped down to our bathing suits, and followed our guides to the beach where we proceeded to climb directly into the flow of the water. We got completely soaked. Despite the cooler temperatures, this wasn't the bad part, it was getting ready to leave the park where we were hassled by half a dozen vendors all trying to push their cheap trinkets on us. We ended up bankrupt because the last money we took with us (thankfully we left money on the ship) one vendor tricked us into giving him by pretending to give us free trinkets then, after carving our names into them, demanding we pay him. Not even the dolphin cove, our second excursion there, where we saw dolphins, parrots, stingrays, and sharks could clean the sour taste from our mouths after that. I have no desire to visit Jamaica again.
Much better was our experience in the Cayman Islands the following day. While there we took a trip through Hell where I mailed a postcard, visited a turtle farm where they breed turtles (also where I tasted turtle soup), went to the Tortuga Rum Cake Factory and sampled various flavored rums, and took a ride on the Nautilus, a half-submerged ship where we got an up-close and personal view of the reefs, shipwrecks, and fish around the island. Afterward we went shopping and bought rum cakes and rum for family. I would definitely go back to the Cayman Islands.
Friday was our final day aboard ship and another day at-sea. There was a raffle for free spa treatments and I found out I'd won $30 toward one of these, so I spent the morning at the spa getting a facial. This was a trip for firsts since I'd never had a facial before. Afterward was more gaming and relaxing and then the final show, which was sad, but awesome. If it were up to me, I'd be on the ship still. The good thing though is that there were plenty of folks from the DC area onboard and that we're planning on getting together at some point or at least keeping in touch.