Click Retreat Caribbean: Part Two
Thank you for all of your kind words on yesterdays’ post! This past week has been a whirlwind with catching up on work, mailing our wedding invitations (!), and Connor traveling all over the place for his last medical residency interviews.
I can’t believe I was traveling overseas just a week ago! Nothing like a bout of snow and freezing rain to bring you back to harsh reality, am I right? Anywho, I wanted to share more details on my trip: what we did, where we went, and let’s face it…what it was like to live on a cruise for a week!
Remember when I was worried I would be forgotten and not make it onto the boat? Well, that didn’t happen. I did, however, get lost on the boat many, many times. The boat was humongous. Like, it’s-own-planet-humongous.
Click Retreat was sponsored, in part, by Royal Caribbean, and our cruise was on the Oasis of the Seas, which is the second largest cruise ship in the world. It’s actually the largest cruise ship that travels to the Caribbean. I later found out that the largest cruise ship in the world is, wait for it, two inches longer.
To put it in perspective, the ship held over 5,400 passengers, and more than 2,300 crew members. It had 27 different dining options, 7 ‘neighborhoods’, a casino, a zip-line, 17 decks, five swimming pools, a mini-golf course, and pretty much everything you could possibly imagine.
It is literally four times the size of my college town.
The Promenade (below) complete with tons of restaurants, clubs, and bars, including shops! This part of the boat literally felt like a mini shopping mall, so I didn’t spend a lot of time in there.
I had to literally remind myself, on several occasions, that I was actually on a moving boat.
But really, one of my favorite parts of the cruise boat was our room! And by our room, I really mean our balcony.
One of the perks of being part of the blogger retreat group was that we each had our own stateroom with a seaside balcony to share with our roommate. The balcony was actually very spacious, and since the boat was so large, it was wonderful to be able to step outside in the morning, work at the table, or just eat (complimentary) room service breakfast out there.
OK, if I’m being completely honest, the room service food left much to be desired…but the view made up for it!
We ended up departing from our port in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon–and our first destination was Nassau (Bahamas) on Sunday morning! It was actually a very short stop–we had only 5 to 6 hours (starting at 7 am!) before we had to get back onto the ship to depart again for our next destination, St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands)–and we went exclusively to the Atlantis Resort.
Click Retreat had organized excursions for our group at each of our destinations, and most of our days on the boat (we had three full days at sea) were filled with conference sessions and free time. Although we had the option to forgo the excursions, most of us chose to stick with the group. Nassau’s excursion included entry to Atlantis’s Aquaventure park, pool, and beaches. As you might expect, Atlantis was a little over the top (and very commercial), but their Aquaventure water park was incredible.
The water slides were amazing! They also had a mile-long lazy river complete with tons of rapids. A big group of us went on nearly all of them, and we even managed to convince ourselves to stand in line and go on the ‘Leap of Faith‘, which involves a near-vertical 60-foot drop that ends with going through a clear tunnel within a shark-filled lagoon. Pretty nuts!
On Monday, we started the morning with a group yoga session in the fitness center. Let me tell you, yoga on a cruise is really entertaining, particularly when the boat is experiencing pretty significant ocean waves, and there are 25 people trying to hold still in a warrior pose.
Apparently, the water was rougher than usual traveling into the Caribbean, and although I never felt nauseous, I definitely felt the boat moving a lot.
The rest of the day was spent in various photograph sessions, including the ‘8 Camera Essentials’ with professional photographers, Me Ra Koh and Brian Tausend, followed by an impromptu photo shoot in the main dining room.
Later that evening, we had a cocktail hour, sponsored by Patron (I swear, we didn’t spend the entire week drinking) complete with a mini drink styling and photography session by Joy and Tracy. You must try these Vanilla Sugar Daiquiris, they were amazing!
The next morning, we arrived at St. Thomas, where we had another excursion planned to visit a few various spots on the island, as well as spend the afternoon at Magen’s Bay.
We also made a quick stop to St. Thomas’s Mountain Top, where we were given complimentary daiquiris over looking an incredible view of Megan’s Bay.
Imagine fifty photographers with tons of camera equipment overlooking one of the best islands’ views, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it was like.
How appropriate that I took a photo of my roomie, Meagan, enjoying her strawberry daiquiri! (Also, we were mistaken for sisters at least thirty times during the entire trip).
Next stop? Megan’s Bay beach! Although it was very busy, it definitely lived up to its hype as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The water was incredibly still, and so clear.
We had some lunch, and then proceeded to lay out for a few hours–and due to an unfortunate time error and unplanned cat nap, Meagan and I nearly missed our groups’ departure back to the cruise ship.
Worst fear almost realized.
We were back on the boat by the end of the afternoon, and quickly departed for our next (and my favorite) destination: St. Maarten (we visited both the French and Dutch side).
We had a tour of the island, and stopped several times for photo opportunities, and then went onto Orient Beach! The water was much warmer than St. Thomas, and a bunch of us played in the waves.
Our next stop was Le Sand Beach, where we were treated to a delicious lunch right on the beach. It was probably the best meal that I had during the entire trip!
Seared mahi-mahi with mango salsa, roasted peppers, and asparagus. The fish was excellent! This was my favorite stop of all, because the beach was very isolated and quiet. I could have spent all day there, but sadly, we only had a few hours before we had to leave again to get back on the boat.
My biggest grip with cruise life was the short amount of time allotted to visit every island. Since you only have about 6 or 7 hours (max) to leave the boat, you aren’t left with a lot of options or time for exploring. I definitely want to go back (sans cruise) at some point!
The next two days were spent entirely on the boat! We had many more photograph sessions, a few special dinners at various premium restaurants on board the ship, and one of my highlights: a private tour of the ships’ galley by several of the boats’ chefs.
Ok, so let’s talk about the food, because I know that most of you are probably the most interested in hearing about that part. Let’s face it, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the food on the boat.
We did have a few good dinners at some of the premium restaurants (and a surprisingly impressive sushi lunch), but for the most part, the food was just OK. Then again, OK is pretty damn impressive when you are serving more than 5,000 passengers every single day! We spent the first few nights in the main dining room (which offered a three-course menu every night), and ended up opting for other more casual options throughout the rest of the week.
The galley tour gave us a peek into the food operations of the ship, and I have to say, I have a profound amount of respect for the difficulty and sheer volume of work involved in serving and cooking for that many people seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The night of the tour was ‘lobster night’ in the main dining room, where they were preparing to serve more than 2,500 lobster tails! I’m exhausted just thinking about it all.
The crew on board work nearly seven days a week for five straight months (new passengers board the ship the same day it docks back in Florida each week). The amount of skill needed to organize and manage a kitchen staff of that size (most of whom come from all different countries and speak all different languages) is staggering.
I was also incredibly surprised to find out that they make all of their breads and pastries on board from scratch! You should have seen the number of baking sheets in that pastry kitchen. Woh.
Since the crew changes regularly, they have very detailed instructions and photographs available for practically every dish they serve.
It really is so hard to sum up the week in one post, but I hope this just gives a taste of the trip!
Overall, it was such a wonderful experience and it was so great to connect with other bloggers and photographers from around the country! I had a great time, made lots of new friends, miraculously did not get sunburned once (!), and came away with lots of new knowledge and inspiration.
So far 2015 is looking pretty good!