Tuesday, December 7, 2010

HypnoBirthing Cruise in the Caribbean

I've been meaning to write about our HypnoBirthing Cruise, but have just been so busy getting ready for the holidays, that I have been putting it off. I also started writing a novel about it, and decided to not go into a daily log of our trip. I've decided to break it down into highlights, good to knows, and what we learned.

Highlight #1: The weather! The weather, minus the morning at Grand Turk and a windy Thurs night at sea, was excellent. 70-80 degrees, sunny, gorgeous. It was strange seeing Christmas trees at the islands when it didn't feel at all like Christmas weather-wise.

Highlight #2: The islands! We visited Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk. Half Moon Cay had the best beach. St. Thomas had great snorkeling, Grand Turk had awesome kayaking in the canal, and Puerto Rico had...well, we shopped in Puerto Rico, but it felt very familiar to Chris and I because it is like a mix of Europe and the Bronx.

Highlight #3: Harry's Steakhouse! Harry's Steakhouse was a restaurant on the ship that was not included in the price of the cruise, but worth every penny! It was $30 a person, for a 5 course meal. I had fillet mignon and lobster tail, which was perfect. The rocking of the ship was less noticeable here, which was a nice change from the first night on the ship.

What We Learned: YES! You do feel rocking on a cruise ship! I had thought that on a ship that size, it would be like a floating island and you wouldn't feel the movement. But I was wrong. Luckily, I had done a hypnosis session with a friend of mine right before the trip to ward off motion sickness. If I hadn't done that, it would have been a VERY rough week. I still was affected by the motion off and on, but it wasn't as bad as boat rides I have been on in the past.

Highlight #4: Conclave! The two days we were at sea, I attended the HypnoBirthing Conclave. Since this was my first Conclave, it was nice finally putting faces to names and email addresses. I finally met Marie "Mickey" Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing. I also made some new friends too, which was great. The seminars were interesting and I learned a couple of new hypnosis techniques which was fun.

Highlight #5: Towel Animals! Ok, seems silly, but we really did enjoy the towel animals that were in our rooms each night after we had turn down service. The guy who did Carolyn & David's room was better than ours by far. One night, we had a mystery animal, and even now, after buying the Towel Animal Folding Book, I still don't know what animal that was! :)

Good to Know: On Carnival, there is always something to do. In some ways that is good, and in other ways, not so good. We played Bingo one night, dropped into the casino for a few rounds on the slots, went to a few shows, and to a few game shows. There were other things going too, but not all of it interested us.

Chris said it right when he said that the Cruise was a like a combination of summer camp and a frat party. Lots of people took advantage of the 24 hour bar service, which was not included in the cost of the cruise. The ship also offered things like a Mardi Gras party, X rated scavenger hunt, and games that were divided up by floor like who could decorate their room door the best. We skipped out on those things.

What We Learned: Bring earplugs when cruising. It can be very noisy at night and especially early morning. It didn't help that they played music in the hallway ALL NIGHT LONG.

Highlight #6: Our dinner companions! Every night, we went to the Silver dining hall for dinner at 6pm. We sat with a family from Colorado who was also with the HypnoBirthing group. The couple had two kids that were so much fun to talk with! The kids had us smiling and laughing every night. We also had great service at our table. The waiters were funny, and our head waiter, Welly, learned our names after the first night, and always made sure we were happy.

What We Learned: Something we didn't like as much was the dinner show. After the main course, the waiters would all have to stop what they were doing and dance or sing to amuse those dining. I felt like it was really just too much. They had been working so hard, running back and forth from the kitchen, and then they would make them stop and dance/sing like monkeys. I guess they enjoyed it, but really, they didn't need to do that.

What We Learned: We also learned that the food on the ship was, well, not the 5 star quality food we had heard and read about. There was a 24 hour buffet, that, after eating there twice, we decided to stay away from the rest of the trip. The pizza on the ship was decent. The dining hall served breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, so we ended up going there every day, but the choices got old fast. We could get free room service, which was nice, especially on the days when I had to get up early for the Conclave. By the end of the week, we were SO ready to get some real food though!

Highlight #7: BBQ on Half Moon Cay! The day we were at Half Moon Cay, Carnival had a free BBQ lunch for us, which was very nice. The food was good and they had the best pineapple (that we believed came from the next island over)! Too bad the food quality wasn't as good back on the ship.

Highlight #8: Excursions! On Half Moon Cay, we did a nature walk on the island, which was a lot of fun. We learned about the small island and a bit about the plants and wildlife. In the afternoon, we took a glass bottom boat tour out into the lagoon and learned about the water life around the island. We even saw remains of a ship wreck.

At St. Thomas, Carolyn & David went off on a separate tour from us. We signed up for the Champagne Catamaran to the island of St. John. On the way to the island, we learned a bit about the area, and even went past Michael Jordan's house, Carol Burnett's house, and the owner of White Castle's house. We arrived at a beach (all beaches in the Virgin Islands are public beaches) and anchored the catamaran about a football field or less away from shore. We were told we could either get in and swim to shore, or take the dingy. GOOD TO KNOW: TAKE THE DINGY when offered! We put on our snorkel gear and got in the water, thinking we would just swim to shore (we had life jackets on by the way). I'm not the best swimmer by any means. So at first, I thought I could do it, and then realized, I had made a mistake in not taking the boat.

The waves were a bit higher than I had expected, and I got tired pretty fast. I basically freaked out and thought I wasn't going to make it. Chris was further ahead yelling, "I can see a sea turtle under me! Come over here Kat!" I didn't get to see the turtle, because I just had to get to shore and stop my panic attack. We made it to the shore, and I had to just walk around a little while to relax before getting back in the water. Eventually, I was fine, and we started snorkeling around the shore which was a blast! We saw lots of fish, coral, a sting ray, sea fans, and more. We took the dingy back to the Catamaran (didn't feel like we really had much time to snorkel). WHAT WE LEARNED: If you like snorkeling, don't do an excursion. Just rent a snorkel at one of the beaches and go on your own so you have all the time you want. We were suppose to have fresh bread, assortment of cheeses and fruits, and champagne on the way back to St. Thomas. We hadn't had lunch, so were starving. We were VERY disappointed to see them pull out Rum Punch and Bud Lights, a block of cream cheese that they poured jam over, stale bread, and some melon that wasn't even ripe. Everyone on the boat got drunk, which was a bit annoying. On the drive back to the port, up and down windy hills, we were really afraid that someone would get sick, but they all made it. Everyone was upset about the not as advertised catamaran.

At Grand Turk, Chris and I again went out on our own and did the clear bottom kayaking excursion. There was only 6 of us on the excursion, which was nice. The others with us were very friendly. We took a taxi to the canal where we would kayak. On the way, we saw flamingos, salt marshes, houses and buildings that had been destroyed by Hurricane Ike. WHAT WE LEARNED: Hurricane Ike really did a number on this small island. They are still rebuilding and really need more money to help get back to where they were before. It was very sad! We also saw wild donkeys, which roam the island.

The kayaking was fantastic! We hunted for conch, the island's main source of protein, Chris found a sea star, and we learned so much about the island and it's wildlife. Our guide had us taste fresh conch from the one's we had found in the water. It was good! Tasted a lot like a scallop. I felt a little guilty eating something that our guide had just killed, so when asked who wanted to keep the shell, I said no. We also went on a nature hike to see the light house and along the beach that was filled with conch shells, coral, and sea fans. The guide told us to take home anything we wanted, so I found a conch shell that had washed up to take home with us. WHAT WE LEARNED: There are over 1,000 ship wrecks around the island!

GOOD TO KNOW: One thing we didn't like so much about the Cruise was the commercialism. There was a lot of pressure to BUY BUY BUY at the ports ("the best duty/tax free shopping" they would exclaim every day), and lots of pictures taken of you every where you went and they would sell them to you for over $20 a picture. If you didn't like the picture, you were to throw it away. What a waste of paper! Chris and I avoided the photos when getting off at the ports and as much as we could on the ship.

Carnival claimed to be one of the leaders in eco-friendly cruising, but I didn't see that being the case while there, which was a disappointment. They had notes in our bathroom telling us to only put towels on the floor if we wanted them washed in order to save water, and yet, they would take our towels no matter what. Each day, we got more and more paper showing us what was going on all day on ship and in port. So much of the stuff on the ship was not recycled, especially the alcohol containers. The pictures they took (probably more than 20 times throughout the trip) were thrown out....and all they really needed to do was put them on monitors like they do at the Zoo or theme parks and then you decide if you want them printed or not. I would have liked to see Carnival be a bit more green, especially if they are going to claim being eco-friendly.

GOOD TO KNOW: We also did not like the smoking on the ship. We had balcony rooms (which, if you take a cruise, splurge for a balcony because all in all, it IS worth it!), and sometimes we couldn't sit out there because others were smoking on theirs. One of the floors that held a lot of bars and the casino was always smoked filled. Unfortunately for us, that was the only way to get from the front to the back of the ship, so we had to walk through the smoke all the time. Up top, there was designated smoking spots, but people didn't follow that rule very well. We would have loved to be on a non-smoking ship.

WHAT WE LEARNED: If you go on a Carnival cruise, there are only a few times when you need to tip. Carnival now charges each room $10 per person, per day, for tips to pay everyone that works for you while you are there. The last night, they give you an envelope to tip your Maitre'd at the dining hall (which we didn't understand why considering we never met him), and if you want to leave a little bit extra for someone who made your stay better. You do need tips for the excursion guides and taxi drivers on island.

The trip to and from Miami was long. Both ways we stopped overnight to break up the trip a bit. We stopped in Palm City, FL both on the way there and the way back to eat. We ate at the New England Fish Market which was EXCELLENT! If you are ever in that area, go there. The first time we ate there was for my birthday dinner on Nov 26th. I had the sesame encrusted tuna steak cooked med rare. It was THREE INCHES THICK!! So delicious! The veggies with it were great and I had a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. The second time we ate there, on our way home, we had lunch, and again, it did not disappoint.

I could write more, but I think that is good for now. :)

All in all, it was a good experience. I'm glad we had the experience of going on a cruise, but Chris and I don't see ourselves doing another one for a very long time. Just not our thing.

You can view our pictures below...

GROUP 3 We took some underwater photos while snorkeling, but haven't developed them yet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Long overdue post

I can't believe my last post was October of last year! Obviously being back in IN has caused me to come down with a case of blog-blah.

It's almost August now. I've been working on getting my business up and running. As of July 1st, I am now able to do hypnosis legally here in Indiana! I already have 2 HypnoBirthing couples, and another starting next week. Plus a hypnosis client this week. I'm working in people's homes right now until I find an office space. That, in and of itself, has been harder than I had imagined. Finding a space in NYC was very easy compared to here. I'm sure something will pop up soon though.

We've been living in Bloomington almost a year, and we will be here around one more year. Still not sure what next year will hold for us. Our life of being nomads is not over yet.

Chris has been working on his dissertation. The translating of French and Latin was very slow going, but now he's writing away and working on being finished by December. He will be giving a talk at a history conference in September in NY, and so we are looking forward to a road trip.

Not much to report otherwise. The hot, humid summer has kept us indoors mostly and we are desperately looking forward to cooler Fall weather. It will be so nice to hike again without sweating like crazy and becoming mosquito food.