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So, a few months ago my friend Erika invited me to go on a cruise with some other friends. I had always wanted to go, and it seemed like the perfect time for me so I said YES. Here are some highlights of my trip. Enjoy!

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LOS ANGELES
I flew into LA a day before the cruise due to scheduling. As our plane entered LA airspace I enthusiastically looked out the window to see the great La La land and saw a nice thick tobacco haze. Smog. Nice. Then I thought, is this it? Everything is so brown and flat. Where are the majestic skyscrapers like the ones that crowd the island of Manhattan? None were to be found. Oh well. I did get to visit Venice beach and walked out onto a pier and saw some interesting beach houses and street performers.

EMBARKATION – FIRST DAY AT SEA
I returned to LAX to drop off my rental car, and then went to the terminal where I met Erika, Nick and Teri. It was so good to see familiar faces! We laughed alot. Belly splitting laughter that makes me miss my friends from Omaha. We took a 40 min taxi to Long Beach where our ship was docked. Since we had time to kill, we checked out The Queen Mary, which is docket right alongside our ship. The Queen Mary is a gorgeous ship and is actually 30 percent bigger than the Titanic. It was been turned into a hotel and restaurant. We did a self guided tour of the ship and had a nice brunch on board. It was a great way for us to acclimate ourselves to a ship environment.

BOARDING THE SHIP
We boarded the ship, which felt like standing in line at Disney World. Ironically the boarding terminal looked like Epcot Center or as I called it, a big boob. 🙂

As we snaked through the lines we finally got into the terminal, and there were more lines! The staff was able to keep things moving along and we got checked in pretty quick. After that we were put into a holding area with a bunch of other groups. We were in the “Brown” group. I felt like I was an immigrant at Ellis Island.

We finally got on board and checked in to our staterooms. Our stateroom is pretty nice but not too big, which is ok since we don’t really spend that much time in there. There’s a nice window in our room and you can see the ocean waves.

At 4pm we reported for a safety drill where we had to wear our life preservers and listen to the safety instructions on muster deck A. Listen to me, our first day on board, and I’m already talking like a sailor. Better than swearing like one, I guess.

Teri and I were eager beavers as we made our way to muster deck A and found were were the first ones there. We stood around in our life vests looking like dorks. One of the crew members, a blonde Englishwoman noticed us and remarked “You’re rather eager” Hmmm….I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to take that as a compliment or an insult.

After that we had lunch and drinks. I had a cheeseburger and fries at the Burger and Fries station. Yummy. Than we walked around the ship to familiarize ourselves with it.

There are ten decks on the ship. We all went up to the Lido Deck and Sun Deck (levels 9 and 10) to watch the ship sail off. It was so weird to see it move. This monstrosity inching it’s way towards the horizon. The movement is very subtle and you don’t really feel it unless you think about it. On occasion you will feel a sway and some inertia in your stomach. Nothing bad however. I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t get sea sick on this trip.

Dinner was at 8:15pm for us. The restaurant was nice and all our food was delicious. It was a four course meal, and I had a New York sirloin steak and it was a very good portion and tasted good. Although nothing really beats Nebraska beef!

We learned at dinner that the ship was splitting into two teams, Red and Blue and throughout the week, you could play for points by engaging in various ship board activities. We found out we were on the Red team.

After that we were all pretty tired. Nick, Erika and Teri especially since they had to get up so much earlier than me this morning. So we all turned in.

DAY AT SEA 2
This morning we all went to work out. The gym is tiny and crowded. I did a couple of exercises and than decided to run around the ship. I did 5 laps which equals almost 2 miles.

Today we watched the hairiest man contest. It was a lot of fun. There were five contestants and one of them had a red belly, which the fearless host quickly pointed out to the crowd!

Tonight was a formal dinner and we all got dressed up and headed to our table. It’s funny how dressed up people get for these formal dinners. There were guys in tuxedos. In the lobby area, families and couples were getting their pictures taken in front of backdrops of a moonlit ocean, or in front of a grand piano. Oh brother.

We were able to get our own table which was nice, as we didn’t have to make nice with complete strangers, which wouldn’t have been bad either, unless they were not talkative. Than it would just be painful for everyone involved. I had a nice lobster tail and it was delicious. Although nothing beats fresh Maine Lobster from the Lobster Pound.

At the end of dinner the wait staff sang “It’s now or never” in Italian, which is funny because the maitre D said there are 50 nationalities between the wait staff and none of them are Italian.

DAY AT SEA 3
Today Nick and I took a dip in the pool and then went down the water slides. Yes, there are water slides on the ship. Just imagine us standing in line with a bunch of kids. Nick got stuck in the middle of the slide until I yelled at him to “lay down, you’ll go faster!” And then he did. Ah, physics.

Today during lunch we finally saw some land and it was Cabo San Lucas which we’ll be stopping by at the end of our cruise.

Pretty much everything is inclusive except for alcohol and fancy dinners, although our dinners are fancy enough. Our waiter (Roger) is from the Philippines and he is great. Very quick and accommodating. I like that he says “Bon Appetite” before we start our main course. Now, if every waiter in NY could do that!

There are two pools although they are not big at all. You can pretty much just stand around, you can’t swim laps in them. There are a few jacuzzis although they are always packed with people.

I think there are 1400 – 1800 people on board? Apparently there is 1 crew per 3 guests, so the service has been excellent!

We’ve been playing a lot of UNO and we’ve also been winning trivia games! We won three trivia trophies today, so now we each have one! Each trophy is a golden cruise ship (ship on a stick). Now that we have four, I call it our fleet. We also each got medals! Afterwards we walked to the aft of the ship to have a victory drink and play cards. As we walked through the ship, I held up our trophy and announced out loud that we had won and I said “Go Red Team!” and we got lots of cheers 🙂

Tonight for dessert I had creme brulee and it was delicious!

PUERTO VALLARTA
Today we docked at Puerto Vallarta! Across the bay I can see a Walmart. Hmmm….
Puerto Vallarta sits on a narrow coastal plane at the foot of the Sierras Cuale and San Seba
stián (Thanks Wikipedia).

We are doing a Pirate ship excursion – which consists of going on a replica of the Santa Maria and drinking and looking at “authentic Mexican pirates” I had to laugh when I heard that description,
Wow, what a whirlwind of activity.

We all went out to do some shopping before our Pirate excursion but the heat was oppressive. After about ten minutes of shopping we all wimped out and went back to the ship. At the gangway we were greeted by a blast of arctic cool air and all of us were happy to be back. We played some more Uno. Teri and Erika are very competitive with each other when it comes to UNO. Nick and I just sit back and laugh at them.

The Pirate excursion was great! I was not expecting much, but all the Pirates (which doubled as servers and performers) had charisma and charm. They had funny little interactive skits that warmed the crowd up and Erika and Teri were brought up along with all the women on the ship to do a group dance. It was all silly but very fun. Definitely worth it.

Here is my morbid thought of the week: Tonight as we were walking on the Promenade Deck AFT, I saw another Cruise Ship off in the distant. What really got me was just how dark things get out at sea. I looked up and barely saw any stars and I couldn’t even find the moon. Even our own ship, as bright as it is with it’s tens of thousands of bulbs, struggled to break out of the tightest of perimeters around the ship. You could see a definite line of demarcation between the ships lights and the darkness of the ocean just ten feet off of the side of the ship. If one were to go overboard with no witnesses around, one would be doomed instantly. The ocean would simply swallow one up and the oppressive darkness just might give one a heart attack right there and then. Ok, time for bed.

MAZATLAN
Today we went docked in Mazatlan. I was running laps around the boat while it was docking, and the scenery was beautiful. Being on such a massive moving vessel while pulling in to port, the best way I can describe it is being on top of a moving mountain surrounded by other mountains.

According to our tour guide, Mazatlan means “Place of the Deer.” We took a 45 minute catamaran to Deer Island, and they had light snacks and beverages for us. Nick and I swam in the ocean while the girls went on a hiking tour. Then, Nick and I went Kayaking with a group of people. I must say, my dragon boat skills definitely helped. It was really fun and the water temperature was perfect.

Back on the cruise ship, I realized after being so careful and conscientious about not forgetting anything, to my chagrin I left my new tennis shoes on the catamaran! Doh! So, I went to the pursers desk and asked them if they could retrieve it for me. I hope they do because tomorrow Nick and I are going on a Canyon Canopy excursion and I need walking/hiking shoes to do it.

After getting back from the pursers desk, I laid down for a nap and slowly started to feel awful. I started shivering and my stomach felt queasy and I started to ache all over. My skin felt like it was on fire. I was basically out for the night.

CABO SAN LUCAS
This morning we are in Cabo San Lucas. It is also called Land’s End because it is the tip of the tail of the Baja California Peninsula. The Sea Of Cortes is the body of water that Cabo is on. It all looks very beautiful. Erika, Nick, and Teri are exploring Cabo right now. I opted not to go because even though I feel better than last night, I still feel pretty weak and I don’t want to chance it. I did manage to get myself out of bed and do some reading. Had a pounding headache and with my sunburn, I looked like a lobster.

When the gang got back from Cabo, they said it was horrible. Very very hot, and lots of third party tour guides on the streets hassling them to sign up for a boat ride or something else.

Nick and I were supposed to go on a Canyon Canopy excursion today where we would soar over Canyons 100 ft in the air spanning 900 ft on zip lines. Unfortunately my sickness prevented us from doing that. The good news is that I was able to get a refund on the tickets ($200).

I’m really bummed I lost my tennis shoes, because now I can’t go running on the ship anymore. I did work out this morning – just doing weights.

After dinner we checked out a show called Vroom. It was a musical revue of songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Lots of high energy from the singers and dancers, but kind of cheesy as well.

Then we played another game of UNO until 2am and retired.

FINAL DAY AT SEA
This morning we went to the 10am TV Theme Song Trivia and we won our sixth trophy! Our competing trivia team (that we beat by 1 point) officially laid down a challenge to attend the sports trivia this afternoon. Yikes! None of us know that much sports trivia. I predict they will lay a smack down on us this afternoon. But at least we won 6 trophies!

I dragged the gang to an art auction today and it was so much fun. We got free champagne, got to look at (and bid) on some authentic Picassos’ and Dalis’. It was also a nice little lesson into the art world as I got to know some artists works. I wanted to bid on a beautiful painting called Paris Interlude. It was only $500. The gallery price was something like $1000, so it was definitely a bargain. They also offered a collection of authentic paintings from a little known collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney on a short animated film called Destino. The film garnered a lot of accolades at film destivals and also got an Oscar Nomination but it has never been released to the public, but we got to see the film at the auction!!!! It was great!
The set was selling for $9400 and it was already appraised at $20K. They had 6 sets to sell on the ship, and in a matter of minutes they were down to 2. Crazy. Once can definitely get hooked on bidding on art.

Our sports trivia did not go so well. We lost, but the team that challenged us lost as well. Of course, one of the questions we would have gotten right if our Teri, Nick, and Erika hadn’t of doubted me. It was about the Yankees! Doh! It was all in good fun. I took a picture of the challenging trivia team. I think they are one big family. They are nice and have a good heart.

DEBARKATION
Today I coined a new term called the Bronson Conundrum. It is when you hate someone but respect them at the same time. The origin comes from our cruise director Jeff Bronson. He is one of the most cheesiest people I know, making lame jokes left and right, but every once in a while he’ll actually be really funny. He is also very eloquent when giving his 40 minute Debarkation speech in under 25 minutes. So, a new word for everyone. The Bronson Conundrum.

It was sad to say goodbye to the gang, but I know I will see them soon again. I will definitely miss playing UNO.

LOS ANGELES
Since I wouldn’t be flying out until the next day, I decided to drive around LA proper. I drove through downtown LA (after taking the wrong turn on the freeway). It was nice to see a decent skyline. I was about ready to give up hope on that. After making it back on the freeway, I headed north to Hollywood where I saw the Hollywood sign from my car! I stopped and had a burger at Tommy’s, which apparently has one of the best burgers in the city. It was pretty good, but I’ve had better. Than I decided to go to Universal Studios which turned out to be pretty fun. The entire time I was there I felt kind of ridiculous, because I had just gotten back from vacation, why was I still having fun? I took the Universal Studios tour which I had always wanted to do. It was pretty fun. Our tour guided told us to go on the Back To The Future

ride since it was closing down for good after labor day. So I went to that and it was pretty fun. It was basically a motion simulation ride. I ended the day taking pretty pictures of the sun setting over Burbank California.

Click here for photos

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