Monday, May 30, 2016

That Cruise Thing

It's cool that I took this post-vacation week off to just recuperate, right? I'm excused cuz my baby got HFM (Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease) and I had probably the worst ever an ear infection? We cool, right?
It's still May. I got time.

Mark and I went on a cruiiiise! Neither of us had ever been on one and we were equal parts nervous and excited and just anxious to get gone and have some alone time with each other. For starters, we were discussing our trip with some cruise-aficionado friends of ours and I am happy to say that we aren't just wimps, we had a fairly rocky ride. The winds were over 20 miles per hour for most of the trip, the waters pretty choppy, so both of us spent a lot of time feeling green. At one point we were wallowing in the jacuzzi and watching the small pool next to us slosh back and forth over the generous side rails.
Better to notch a tough sailing under our belts and be more prepared for next time, right? Right. Sure.

Nevertheless! We did indeed have a great time and, as per usual, I took infinitely more pictures of scenery and plants than I did either of us. In fact, there's not a single photo of us on the boat together. Or really on the boat at all. I dunno, I'm kinda sad about it, but also it meant that I wasn't thinking about when to stop having fun to take a shot, or "where's my camera? Where can I put my camera? Am I getting food on my camera?" constantly, so meh. Ya win some, ya lose some.

Our adventure started plenty before getting ON the cruise ship, we drove out from Mesa starting around 7 in the morning (having dropped Ander off at my parent's the night before), and got into LA just after noon. First hurdle on our journey; we needed to find parking. Mark's about as frugal as they come, so we hunkered down on our phones and following a flurry of researching, we settled on driving to one particular parking garage right on the harbor and crossing our fingers that their rates included overnight parking.
It did indeed allow for overnight parking. Thankfully.
We then unloaded our two backpacks and two large luggage cases, one full of our clothes and such, the other containing our two precious American Furniture Warehouse pillows that we simply couldn't imagine sleeping without. And we proceeded to walk the two miles over to our boat. It doesn't sound like much, but they were a treacherous two miles involving trekking over a massive freeway bridge and disobeying all kinds of wonky, misleading California street signs.
Despite having no idea where check-in was, or how it was supposed to go, we managed to walk onto the ship without having to hand over our bags and got straight to our room without having to tip anyone! We're not just misers, we were both extremely nervous about how to handle tipping and whether we would do it wrong and be blacklisted cuz we're such noobs. But we worried for nothing. What else is new.
Our first day we WAY overdid it with the all-you-can-eat lifestyle. We boarded right after three and went straight to eating. And then we ate again at six. And then we went to dinner at eight. Our servers thought we hated everything cuz we couldn't finish our plates. They kept pleading with us, "please, if you don't like it, say something and we'll get you something else."
We tried all the weird things; frog legs, caviar, strange fishes I can't remember the names of, and a really awful cake of some sort. Basically a cocoa powder sculpture. Then I DID ask for something different.
The next day we reached our first port; Catalina Island.
We didn't pay the cruiseline for any sort of excursions so once we were let off onto the island, we were on our own. Mark and I noted to each other early on that it was actually really intimidating how "in charge of your own destiny" you are on these things. We almost wished for someone to lead us around by the nose and give us options of what we were allowed to do or see.
We walked around a bit and then decided to rent a couple of bikes so we could get to Descanso Beach. We had an easy time getting there, once we figured out how the map worked, but the water was quite frigid and there was much more to see on the island.
We stopped at the "Casino" museum on our way back and slipped inside for a quick tour. There was a sign for a "free gift!" if you finished the tour quiz sheet so I asked about it. The lady gave me a look of surprise and sputtered, "well, it's for kids but...I guess...if you want..." and I said, "Psh! yeah! I'll do it!" I did the thing and at the end they gave me a coloring book for it--WITH crayons.

Basically it was a walk-in photo album of all the times celebrities did something or another on the island. Lots of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, etc.

We particularly enjoyed the exhibit displaying concept artwork for the design and construction of the old "casino" that was never a casino so I don't know why they called it that.
Right next to it was another exhibit detailing the works and findings of infamous fraud and general douchefart, "Professor" Glidden. He was pretty much the worst, faking all kinds of historical sites and weaving grossly inaccurate and even false tales about the artifacts to incur interest in his collections.
Quite the "sad, strange little man", so to speak.

After the museum we rode down, back into the middle of town, and settled on going to the Botanical Gardens. Mostly because the path to the bell tower was colored red, signifying "for experienced bikers only". And the path to the gardens was only yellow, or "intermediate", so how bad could it be?
Our tailbones were bruised for days afterwards. And once we got up to the gardens themselves, I nearly collapsed in the middle of the road in defeat once I finally noticed the sign that read, "$7 General Admission". Mark laughed at me cuz he figured I knew the whole time. Like he did. Cuz he reads the signs.
It's probably better I didn't know, else NO WAY I would've persevered and kept going. We did however take advantage of the park benches outside the front gates and I meandered around photographing the plants and flowers I could find. (It basically looked like home and felt less like an open oven.)

Mark was jealous of the bike I picked out cuz my tires were ginormous. Lol. As horrific and death-defying as our strenuous trip up the road was, it was an entirely different and more glorious story going back down. I stood on my pedals, giving my sore glutes a rest, and enjoyed a quiet, albeit misled, superiority to the slow walkers and put-putting of the golf carts.

Having had our fill of fun, and finding ourselves quite famished, we hopped back on the boat for some free buffet and took the rest of the day to chill.

Each night we were stone cold zonked out before it even hit 11:00, sometimes 10:30. Regardless of how sick we felt during the day, and oddly, especially at dinner, we always slept like rocks. Which was an immense blessing. Our second port-of-call, Ensenada, was much more Boring Tourist, and I have absolutely ZERO pictures from the day. We took the bus downtown, walked around the shops WAY too early in the morning, thus subjecting ourselves to being the prime targets for every loudmouth sales pitch. By ten o'clock in the morning, our social anxiety reserves had endured as much battering as they could take and we retreated to a quiet little park across the way.
Politely declining the desperate and, often, aggressive pleas of the street marketeers weighs heavy on me, and I am none too skilled at bargaining, so it's really just a recipe for disaster on my emotions.
Having been unable to find a taco cart that looked even remotely authentic and not made entirely for tourists with flashy signs bragging on how cheap their alcohol is, we hopped back on the bus to take us back to the cruise ship, ate more food and took a long nap.

We listened to our audiobook (more of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn spinoffs), we went to the Library and played a few board games, we glanced at the professional photos we had done by the baby grand on Captain's Night and laughed at how absurd we looked, gently replacing the TWENTY DOLLAR A SHOT photos where we had found them.
Our last day we spent doing our best impression of beached whales, moving our bodies as little as possible and wearing as few clothes as possible.
It was a surprising learning curve, we weren't expecting to be BAD at cruising. And obviously having to use our dramamine, patches, and wrist bands and still feeling sick wasn't what we'd been hoping for, but for a week to ourselves, without our loveable hunk of joy or our dogs to worry about, it was exactly what we needed.
Now I'm just holding out for the Disney Cruise when our youngest is old enough to appreciate it (so in a million years) and my life will be perfect.

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