Life, LIBERTY, and the Pursuit of a Sweet Vacation – Puerto Rico

“Woke-up.. fell out of bed.. dragged a comb across my head…”

The day came!

I set off early for Washington National Airport on Sunday morning. I had a pretty busy day ahead. To save time (and space) I had packed a carry-on and had my backpack only. No suitcase to wait for at a claim or haul around. I was a little concerned about being able to use an overhead bin for my stuff, so when I got to the airport, I upgraded to one of JetBlue’s Even More Space seats. That way I could board early, stow my crap, and then stretch out a little. When I boarded, I sat next to a pretty cool couple who also happened to be flying in for a cruise. They were bound for Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas which was also on a seven day Southern Caribbean cruise. Talking to them sporadically throughout the flight helped pass the time until we approached San Juan. Wifi was available on the flight, but unfortunately what they don’t tell you is once you’re over the ocean signal drops. No biggie, I’ll nap a little bit to pass time until we get closer to San Juan.

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Towards the end of the flight, as the clouds opened, I could see my home for the next 7 days. Touching down, the plane arrived at the gate a very short time later. The cabin door opened, I grabbed my stuff, and shot up the walkway like a cannonball. I had a busy afternoon ahead. We had arrived early at 1:30 San Juan time which worked in my favor. I ran out to grab a taxi and was rushed off to the ship.

Approach into SJU.. sorry for portrait mode.

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There she is, in all her glory. Lovely Liberty sitting pier-side waiting for me to board. At almost 2pm, I literally just walked into the terminal with little line. I has my embarkation photo taken then got in the short line. I was called and checked-in within minutes. Who needs Faster to the Fun?! I walked right onboard after security and was right away in my happy place. I remembered the first time I had stepped into the lobby of Carnival Liberty and how in awe I was of how extravagant the inside of a cruise ship was. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend taking it all in again though as I had 3 stops to make before even heading to my cabin.

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First, I needed to visit Guest Services to have a gift card applied to my balance. My awesome mom had given me $100 in the form of Carnival plastic. I knew right away how I wanted to spend it. Right after having it applied, I headed to the opposite side to Shore Excursions where I met staff member Michael. I figured that if I was going to do the same itinerary again I’d explore some areas a little more than I had last time. When we made St. Kitts, I wanted to take a catamaran excursion to Nevis. I could cross off another Island on my list. Michael (or Mike) was pretty cool and knowledgeable. I was the first one he had talked to about excursions, which was a little sad as the ship started boarding at around noon. Nobody had even inquired into the Behind the Fun Tour. I guess waking up by 9 on the one sea day isn’t that appealing. Getting back to why I was there, I requested the catamaran excursion to Nevis, thanked him and went off to my next stop.

Next I entered the upper level of the Golden Dining Room to look into my dining arrangements. I met the maitre ‘d and when i asked him about my reservation, he was surprised, thinking I had found it unfavorable. In all my haste to get onto the ship, I failed to notice my dining time and table on my Sail & Sign card. Carnival came through for me! They had assigned me to table 656 on the upper level of the dining room with the ideal 8:15 set time. It was perfect aside from being a table for two, but ultimately would wind up being just fine. When I confirmed with them, I pre-placed my order for the nights dinner. The rice-paper spring rolls, salmon, and sorbet. I was under the impression that it was going to be like this the rest of the cruise and I was slightly  bummed about it, but I still knew that it would be cool. I grabbed my stuff and went to find my cabin.

Cabin 8428 is an inside cabin in deck 8 aft. Two twins that can convert and two uppers that can be lowered, yet it was booked as a 3-guest cabin. I would use the upper bunk. No big frills, but cozy. Inside, I met Amberly and Stacy who were unpacking a little. We hugged and caught up a little. I set some of my stuff aside before realizing how hungry I was.

After ironing out the dining room and meeting my roommates, I needed to have lunch. I headed up to deck 9 to see about some late lunch. Carnival told me in an email that they offered gluten-free burger buns. With that in mind what else was there to do but have a delicious Guy’s burger. When I explained to the staff that I needed a gluten-free bun, he headed inside supposedly to check and then came back asking if I could come back in 15 mins. I walked around the open decks a little retracing some of my footsteps from when I was first on Liberty. I loved the ship then and hoped I would have just as good a time. I then returned to Guy’s to get my burger. While it wasn’t great, the gluten-free bun wasn’t as bad as I was assuming it would be. It seemed to me mostly made from cornmeal, though I could be wrong. Almost more of a biscuit than a bun. I didn’t really care though as I bit into my burger. I was starving!

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After having my burger, I needed to see about what I would drink the days ahead. I needed to get some wine, preferably cheap. I stepped off the ship and met some friends on the street before running into CVS. The bottle selection at CVS was more than others because they’re not stupid. They know that people buy wine before embarking on the ship, so they like to keep the shelves nicely stocked. I first purchased a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Noir and a few other things I didn’t pack because I was carry-on only (like sunscreen). Trying to get back on the ship was a breeze.

I checked-in with the spa about getting a good pedicure. I work on my feet all day to pay for these cruises. When I have the opportunity, I like to treat my feet. This time was no different and when I inquired with the spa staff, they said they could take me in right away. Sweet! I was taken back were I met Trudy from Jamaica who would do the staple Fire & Ice Pedicure. It was great just like all the other times I had one. During the pedicure, there were spa tours happening and occasionally people looking at me getting my feet rubbed. Occasionally, some guys with their girlfriend or wife would seem surprised to see there. Hey, no shame in my game! Trudy continued with the washing, massaging, filing, sanding, and machining of my worn soles until they were baby soft. She tried to sell me the Elemis oils and lotions, but I found that if I told her that I used to stuff already, the less she tried to sell me. Perfect, haha.

Once the pedicure was done, I figured I’d head back of the ship once more to grab another bottle of something. Once again in CVS, I decided that I’d just decided to grab a bottle of Pinot Grigio. I walked around Old San Juan for a little while. I was mostly looking for the guy with the parrots that would take novelty photos of you with them. No such luck though as there had been a little bit of rain and he had probably needed to shelter the birds for the rest of the evening. Starting to feel tired, I headed back aboard for the last time before we set sail.

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O’nap thirty came around and having a late lunch made me feel like having a late supper as well. When I headed to the cabin for a nap, I ran into a bunch of friends in the hallway. We greeted each other, joked, talked crap, and caught up. Some eventually made their way to other things. I really wanted some Z’s before heading to the dining room, so I laid down for a while after my long day of travel and running around.

Dinner this evening was open seating due to embarkation. Because of this the hostess didn’t know what to do with me and sat me at a table on the lower level. My food that I had ordered before found me though, so it was all good. I had a glass of my wine with dinner and life was good. I was starting to slow down a little and begin enjoying my vacation.

After dinner came the dreaded muster drill. On the Conquest Class ships, they line you up and down deck 4 next to the lifeboats. Why they can’t seat us in lounges, like the other ships, I don’t know. This was the most uncomfortable part of my trip though as we had to stand for a good amount of time in very humid and very warm air, in close area of others. Joy and her sister Brenda were next to me and visibly sweating. The drill began and progressed fairly quickly until we got to the count of passengers. It took what seemed like eons for us to get an update on when we might be released. In that time, Jewel of the Seas had set sail and passed by.

No, I didn’t skip muster… I just took my time.
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Relief came though when Felipe, our cruise director, came over the intercom and excused us. I headed forward to the “secret deck” on deck 7 for sail away. I enjoy the peaceful quiet of sail away up there and this time was no different. Friends were partying on Lido Deck and meeting in the aft decks of the ship. I wanted to enjoy sail away from the front though, and I did.

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After sail away, I did head aft and met with some few people who had stuck around before heading back inside to get some much needed sleep for the night. I’d need to be on my game the next morning for the plans in St. Thomas. I had planned to cram in a lot that day and wanted to be on-point. What a day it would be!

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