30 September 2012

LaLa Land

We arrived in LA after 7hours of flights and thankfully our bags were there to meet us this time, after they were lost there when we originally arrived we were a little worried they may not turn up!

You could say that our flight there wasn't the best one I have been on. You could probably accurately say that it was one of the worst flights I have had.
The poor child in the seat in front of me vomited the entire flight. He was maybe five years old and sick before he even hoped on the plane. I have a weak stomach when it comes to things like this and I was very close to a sympathy spew. The smell. The noise. Yuck I feel sick just writing this.
I was torn between sympathy for the poor thing and resentment. Resentment was coming in first place.
Between the turbulence, vomiting kid, lack of food, crying child and repetitive Mother ('relax, just relax your ears will pop. Relax your ears will pop. Are you listening to me? Relax, are you listening to me?' you get the point.) I was rather pleased when it was all over!

Our hotel was in Little Tokyo, super cute and very Japanese. I really wish we had more time in LA. The food in Little Tokyo - yum. Arigato!

When we arrived at the hotel late at night there was a crowd outside the restaurant across the road. A dowdy, run down, typically Japanese themed noodle bar, I presumed they were smokers. Fast forward check in etc and we were in search of something to fill our stomachs. Did I mention that there was no food served on our flight due to turbulence? We wandered across the road only to find that the crowd was actually a line waiting to get in!
Starving, we just went to the place next door. The tiny, ancient Japanese lady was hilarious and the food delicious.

We jumped on a hop on hop off bus.. Which I have bad memories of from the UK when I fell down the stairs in a retarded moment and bruised the crap out of my shins.. But it was awesome.

We checked out all the famous sights, the Hollywood sign, walk of fame, Viper Room, Santa Monica Pier etc etc. Everywhere has such a good vibe, really wish we had more time to explore the areas more and get to Venice Beach but there's always next time. And I intend on that being quite soon!

We spent ages in the Napoleon Perdis flagship Hollywood store, I wanted to just check the prices of everything, see if it was cheaper than Australia but we ended up with makeovers and mini makeup lessons and a crapload of makeup!
Desmina, the assistant was fantastic. Her sales must be through the roof she is so good at her job and her passion and enthusiasm for the products and brand is obvious. With Napoleon himself popping in and out of the store constantly I suppose it would be easy to be inspired. Anyway I ended up walking out of there with heaps of products and even Gemma's Christmas gift!

We found tickets to Cirque Du Soleil Iris online for cheap and it was sensational. Being the fifth show I have seen I always wonder if I won't be as amazed and awed. They did not disappoint.
Especially the twin boys from the UK doing the aerobatics.. Hello!!
Iris is a journey of film through time, following an actress around who is picked to become the new best thing.
At one stage one of the little Asian contortionist girls was doing the splits and literally just popped upright using just her thigh muscles.. I can't describe it but the entire crowd dropped their jaws.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, we were time poor and headed home after Cirque Du Soleil as Contiki started at 7am the next morning and we thought it would be appropriate to rest up before the tour started. Thank goodness we did....

25 September 2012

Post cruise blues & Butterbeer

I thought getting from Miami to Orlando would be easy. I thought there would be buses and trains aplenty connecting one major city with another only three hours away. I thought I would just wing it when the time came and all would be well. I thought wrong.

When we arrived in Miami on the ship at 8am it was black outside. There was a massive storm right over us. At breakfast we sat by the window and watched the city light up with each lightening strike. The rain was steady and the thunder loud.
We were estimated to be off the ship by 9am but due to the weather there was a wait and we weren't off until 10.30.
The night before I asked guest services how to get to Orlando. They were blasé, said hire a car or head to the bus station, it would be easy.
Being completely relaxed after the cruise (read lazy) I decided I wanted a shuttle to collect us from the port and take us to the hotel. So I started googling. I'm a pretty good googler. Soon enough I realized it wasn't going to be easy.
20 websites and 10 phone calls later (perhaps a slight over exaggeration) I found a 'luxury coach line' and decided to jump on that. We had to take a taxi to their depot and the bus was $50 but dayuum it was nice!
Huge leather, fully reclining chairs with electricity points and wifi. Was a comfy way to spend the 5hour bus ride. Red Coach Bus lines USA is the company if you're ever stuck.
Anyway we get to Miami and promised a taxi has been ordered. Wait 20mins, a town car driver pulls up and promises ours is on it's way to us now and won't be long. Fast forward an hour and still no taxi. Town car driver pulls up apologizing profusely and offering discount. Lucky is was a Chevvy Suburban and I was distracted with the pretty-ness of the car and forgot how mad I was at the wait. I hate waiting. Think I got that trait from my Dad!

I have decided I have Post Cruise Blues. A disorder one contracts when leaving a ship that had immaculate customer service and being thrown into the world of poor, crappy customer service.
It's not that bad really. Customer service as a whole in the US is fantastic as the service industry employees are always trying to get tipped. Maybe it's just Orlando.

The reason we came to Orlando was to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Islands of Adventure theme park next to Universal Studios.

I must admit that I have been pretty excited about heading to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
So much so that I even dreamt about Harry the other night on the cruise. I often have vivid and crazy dreams but this one was hilarious so I will share it.
Okay sooo in my dream I made out with Harry hahaha! I don't find him attractive in my waking life but evidently sleep me does.
The dream gets better, Heath Ledger was his brother and I made out with him secretly behind Harrys back! Haha then I was so scared Harry would find out that I bewitched my bright pink sneakers (which I don't own) to run me as far away as fast as possible. Seems I had powers in the dream too.

I was pretty excited yesterday. May have something to do with my sugar diet though. I don't usually have a lot of sugar, I eat reasonably healthily but before lunch this is all I had:
- a red bull
- a double choc chip frappacino from Starbucks with extra choc sauce and no cream
- a Butterbeer, as in the what they drink at Hogsmeade in Harry Potter. They are quite possibly the most scrummiest drink I have ever had in my life. And I've had a lot of drinks! They are butterscotch/ caramel based and oh so yummy!!
- a cinnabon roll. Try these - they're so delicious
-some cookie dough fudge
-a turkey leg. Of which I only ate a little as it was too salty
-another Butterbeer

So I was bouncing off the walls on a sugar high and when the sugar coma started to set in I would just top up with more sugar. Win win.

We arrived at Universal Studios and finally got into the Islands of Adventure. The park is split into themes, Harry Potter, Jurasic Park, Hero Land, Dr Seuss etc.

We headed straight to the Harry Potter part as weren't disappointed. It's awesome. I may have squealed a little like a child. You walk straight in and see the castle, followed by Hogsmeade Village and the train station.
You can buy Pumpkin juice and Butterbeer, which as I previously mentioned is utterly delicious.
In Honeydukes you can get all the HP favorites. From choc frogs to fudge flies, everything is there.
The rides are amazing. The first one we did was a roller coaster ride, something to do with running away from dragons. Holy crapballs it was fast! But it messed with my blood pressure (there may have been warning signs which I may have ignored) and I was really dizzy and light headed/footed afterwards.
The HP simulation ride is just amazing. I didn't even know the technology to do that stuff is around. You're riding around with Harry, then being chased and it's pretty scary. Unfortunately for us the ride mis-functioned and we were left hanging mid air for a few minutes until it resumed. Luckily we were sitting with some nice boys to keep us calm! In the ride photo Gemma actually has her hands over her eyes haha she didn't like the spiders.

The other rides were just as good, spiderman ride is awesome. I kept getting motion sickness and dizzy but still managed to do lost of the rides. Gemma even talked me into getting completely drenched in one. Good news for the boys as I was wearing a white singlet!

23 September 2012

Shark infested waters

The waiters know us so well when we arrive at our table for dinner there is already two butter dishes and two pieces of french bread each. In 'real' life I hardly even eat bread but here I can't stop. Thank goodness I have 1 month unlimited hot yoga booked when I get back to work it all off.

Our waiter is lovely, Raj from Nepal. He actually knows where New Zealand is which is more than I can say for a few people here! He has been working on ships for 12 years. I suppose it's almost like being institutionalized. He won't ever want to leave.

We just arrived at our last stop, Grand Turk. This place is postcard gorgeous. Just beautiful. Tropical paradise. Snorkeling time!

A day later...

We did a three hour snorkeling tour first off. Was amazing. The first reef we visited however, they failed to mention that there would be about five sharks floating around. And of course, me, ever the over enthused snorkeller was first in and first to get the surprise of sharks right under my flippers circling me!

The sharks were reef sharks, with a mouth under them, similar to a sting ray. The crew went to the bottom, picked them up, cradling them upside down like babies for us to pat on the surface of the water. They were beautiful and gentle, soft on the bottom and sandy on the top. Hopefully some of the pics from our underwater camera turn out.

There were lots of other cool fish their too like these ling skinny flute like kingfish type fish that swam only on the surface of the water. There were also jelly fish everywhere, I was pretty worried but they were harmless.

The second reef was at the 'drop off' just like on Finding Nemo. The ocean went from 15 feet to 60 feet over the ledge. Was awesome. Huge schools of fish everywhere, from little blue and orange ones to big silver and yellow ones.

After snorkeling we relaxed on the picture-perfect beach and swam in the clear turquoise waters.

I'm really sad that this was our last stop on the cruise as we've had such an awesome time but happy to finish off with such a beautiful location. Would definitely recommend a Carnival Cruise to anybody heading these ways!

I went ring shopping again, ever in search of the perfect diamonds, but there wasn't a large selection of stores and I wasn't particularly fussed on any.

One more day on the ship and then back to normal civilization... Nooooo!

Ps. Kim if you're reading this, and I know you are, you must learn how to make amaretto cake.. Melt in your mouth goodness!

San Juan

San Juan is probably my favorite stop on the cruise. Surprisingly considering that it isn't my typical choice of location. No sweeping beaches, palm trees or snorkeling.

We began the day with a 5 hour Puerto Rico favorites tour which included three 'cities' and a rainforest trip.

I spent the entire rainforest trip scouring the greenery for animals and the most I found was a dead bug. Typically, being a tropical rainforest it rained but due to all the lush vegetation you could nearly tell.

Gemma was busting to go to the bathroom and of course there wasn't a rest room at the stop. Hilariously (even more funnier as she was wearing a full length jumpsuit) she ran up the road and popped a squat in the bushes. Being the great friend that I am, I didn't help with privacy or location choice as I was too occupied laughing at her. Moral of the story, if you're on a tour and there's a restroom, use it. You never know when there will be another one. Also don't wear a jump suit when you may potentially have to pop a squat.

We visited old San Juan and then the new, checking out a Fort that was built to protect the city in the event of sea invasion. We had 45minutes at the Fort so Gemma and I entertained ourselves with some amusing photography. How many times did I have to jump for Gemma to take a good pic of me mid air? Eight it would seem. And how many times did Gemma have to jump in the air for me to get a good jumping pic? One.

We were dropped in the main shopping area and had a look around the shops. They're so cute. Pebbled roads, multi colored pastel and bright shop fronts with wrought iron balconies and doors. I could have stayed there for days.

I found a Guess outlet store and nearly bought two pairs of jeans for $75. I didn't and it is with regret. If you see something you like on a cruise stop, buy it! You can't go back and get it. Second time in two days that has happened to me so I was a little cut . Ahwelll bring on shopping in Los Angeles!

When we were nearly back at the boat we came across a stand with dozens of beautiful, huge multi-colored parrots sitting on it promising a photo shoot for $10. Gemma and I gave it a go, was so funny. The birds are extremely well trained.
At one stage I had about 14 of them on me and the trainer yelled 'boobies' at two of them and they flew over and landed on my boobs! We ended up buying a few more pics and I had a Macaw Parrot kiss me! Literally. I closed my eyes and it opened it's beak around my lips and stuck it's tongue out. I didn't buy that pic but Gems did.

Back on the ship our rooms are serviced twice a day, (perfect as we nap every arvo and come back to a perfectly made and turned down bed) but most importantly each time we come back there is a cute towel animal waiting for us. We have had a koala, bunny, elephant and something that I'm not sure what it was meant to be but it was cute!

Each night we head to the top deck for entertainment. The Americans all know these dances to songs like 'the wobble' so everyone gets on the open deck of the boat and learns the dances, it's heaps of fun especially after a few drinks!

22 September 2012

Bushwhackers at height

St Thomas was our second stop on the trip and the first time the weather wasn't fantastic. Not that it was bad, just a few showers and a little overcast.

Lisa, a friend who has worked on a cruise ship in these waters suggested we didn't do a planned tour on this island and instead caught a sky ride up to the top of the island to check out the view and have one of the famous drinks they serve at the top.

When we arrived we decided to do sine shopping first as I wanted good pics from the top and it was pretty overcast.

In town a guy rounded us up to go visit a jewellery store. He may well have been Bob Marley's cousin with his dreads, rasta outfit and smooth talking. Anyway he was we decided to check out the store. I was looking for a rose gold ring anyway so it made sense. Have I mentioned that jewellery is super cheap in Caribbean and Bahamas due to being tax and duty free?
Anyway I was looking at the bands and the owner comes over to me and says 'I have the perfect ring for you', as they do. Except he did. Rose gold with a chocolate solitaire surrounded by 4 white diamonds either side and a hefty discount, I was I love. I said I'd think about it however as I wanted to look around make sure I didn't see anything I preferred more.
After looking around a bit I decided I wanted it, only to realize I hadn't bought my credit card with me! I would have to go back to the boat and get my card then make my way back to downtown. This sounded like way too much trouble so I concluded to leave the ring as there would be many more like it, right? Wrong. I should have bought it then and there.

By that time the cloud had cleared a bit so we made our way to the sky ride and to the peak of the Island. There were fantastic views and Gemma had the famous Bushwacker drink which comprised of various liqueurs  mainly baileys and kahlua. It was too creamy for my lactose intolerant stomach so I settled for a few sips of hers and an amaretto sour.

We took a taxi to Maghan's Bay, one of the top ten beaches in the world of which St Thomas is home to two. The road is narrow and windy and our driver took it at a slow pace which was nice as you had to beep before corners to ensure no oncoming traffic!

You have to pay $4pp to enter Maghan's Bay but it is worth it. The water itself is turquoise and clear with a lake like quality in that there were no waves and seemingly no current. There are beautiful palm trees and white sand along a crescent bay. We sunbathed and swam until it was time to get back to the boat.

That's when we met John. John was on the other boat on port. John was on holiday with 10 or so friends and relatives from North Carolina. Archerfield or some where that sounds like Archerfield. Anyway we ended up in a safari bus with him and his entourage.
There were 16 of us packed in with open sides. This driver didn't care so much for the roads and drove at a fast rate. John and co didn't mind, they thought it was great fun as they were all on their 10th rum for the day. St Thomas is also the home of Bacardi. I was a little nervous we were going to roll but we made it safely, not without a little drama though!
One of John & co had become engaged and one had renewed their vows this day so they were all in great spirits and reasonably trashed. The father invited us to stay with them for as long as we liked and the daughter told us she loved us. Then she fell asleep. Then she spewed. Haha I haven't moved that fast in ages, she was sitting right behind me! The spew was orange and just kept coming. Needless to say when we eventually stopped at the port we all but ran away. Guess we won't be staying in North Carolina after all!

Back on ship we had our first elegant evening. Everyone gets dressed to the nines, apart from us as we had nothing elegant to wear. It was beautiful to watch and the lobster dinner was delicious!

19 September 2012

We're in Miami bitch

Ever had to catch a flight in the morning when you've had no sleep and likely still intoxicated?
It's not particularly pleasant.

The car arrived at 6am to take us to JFK. It was so difficult to stay awake in the car!

I slept the whole flight, don't even remember take off.

Eventually we got to our hotel in South Beach Miami and went straight out for a walk around the shops. It's all art deco with a cool, funky vibe.

We were shopping in a tiny boutique store when some chick and her entourage came in followed by 3 cameras. The friends gushed over the girl and all the clothes she was trying on, they kept doing retakes. 'Shaniqua say that line again like you mean it!' "ohmigod you look aaamazing in that guurrlll! That red lippy, those red shoes, the boys will be allllll overrr youuu!"

When we left the store we had to sign release forms and have our pictures taken so they could air the parts we had been filmed in. Was for some American reality TV show.

We wondered around a bit more and stumbled upon Victorias Secret... I was sooo excited!!
There's four different lingerie rooms plus a room full of beauty products. I think I spent 3 hours in there and half a pay check haha. The customer service is fantastic, always someone to assist without being too pushy and no waiting. Can't wait to find another one! Hopefully one with the shoe range..

We were going to nap but after shopping it was nearly time for dinner. My good friend Lisa had recommended a restaurant/ bar/ club from when she used to spend a bit of time there and it did not disappoint!

Mangos Tropical Cafe is one of the coolest dining/bar experiences I've had. And I've had a few!
The entire place is jungle themed, with ridiculously good looking and ripped half naked men as the waiters. The food was yummy, the drinks reasonable and the entertainment was frigging awesome! Think bands, Latin singers and dancers, men stripping on bars, break dancers, all sorts of performances.

Later on Mangos turns into a club. We met some cool guys and hung out with them most of the night, drinking mojitos, petrone shots (which I wish I didn't do, tequila is bad) and dancing. One of them, whose name I still can't be sure, even though he added himself on my Facebook, had taken a liking to me... When I came out of the bathroom, our gorgeous waiter from dinner was Latin dancing with a colleague. He let her go, pulled me into his arms and started dancing, at which point the other guy came out and saw and left! I think he may have deleted me off Facebook by now haha.

We headed back to the d-floor and a guy summoned me over to his group. We kept walking as we wanted another mojito. Next minute a security guard comes over to us and asks us to accompany him to the VIP area. Turns out the guy who had summoned us over was some big shot. There were whisky bottles everywhere and him and his crew were drinking it with water. Was disgusting. We didn't last long after that, with three hours sleep we were exhausted.