What an incredible week! I'll start from the beginning. Sometimes beginnings have to be rocky before you can get to the good stuff. Our cruise experience started in the lovely Port of Los Angeles. When I say lovely, I mean ugly and scary. When we finally figured out where to park our truck, we were frustrated and hungry, and I left our vehicle praying that it would still be there and in one piece when we returned. Check-in was surprisingly fast (we got to zip through the special "Balcony Rooms" line), and we didn't have to wait too long to get through security (I had to get wanded because of my belt or something, and somehow Chad managed to slip through with a pocket-knife). Finally we were on the ship, and I can't even describe how excited I was to get to the Versailles restaurant and spot Rob and Jaime waiting for us! We had a delicious lunch, and then we were off to explore the ship. The first pictures are of us waiting to set sail. I don't know what the hold-up was, but we watched both of the other cruise ships in the harbor leave before us.
Luckily we had an exciting dinner experience reserved at the Teppanyaki Room. We watched the Chef prepare our food Beni-Hana-style. It was amazingly delicious. The chicken, steak, and shrimp were tender and bursting with flavor. We enjoyed grilled veggies, soup, and fried rice. It was a great start to our week-long dining extravaganza. And, um, speaking of extravaganza, the photo of our dessert-laden table is proof positive that 90% of the treats at the buffet look way more delicious than they actually taste. We'd take a bite, suffer the disappointment, and then head back to the buffet to scout out a dessert with more promise. The only cake that wasn't an utter disappointment was the flour-less chocolate cake, which was rich and delicious. The dining experiences were widely varied. We enjoyed room-service breakfasts, which were simple meals of cereal, fruit, and breads. The rare times that we visited the buffet were as expected: good, but not amazing. The free dining rooms were very good, depending on what we ordered (we'd always try each other's entrees and vote for who made the best menu choice). We were a little miffed that they reserved the best food for the fee-based restaurants (Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle Dining" drawback). We paid the fee a few times, and loved the food from Teppanyaki, Le Bistro (French), Cagney's Steakhouse, and Ginza (Asian). The Mexican restaurant did not impress me, but I do live in the Mexican food capital of the world. Favorite foods included fresh-tossed Caesar salad, chocolate mousse, beef tenderloin, assorted cheeses, General Tso's chicken and more. We seriously ate all-we-could-eat. There was a 24-hour place with excellent chicken tenders and buffalo wings. I was disappointed that the buffet closed before 10pm. Isn't nonstop grazing what cruising is all about?
Here we are posing on formal night. I'm not sure what's going on with Chad's expression, but this was his best picture, honest. I wore the beautiful dress my mom sewed for me, along with the shoes that I borrowed from my friend Amy and spray-painted gold to match (with her permission of course).
We LOVED our balcony rooms. Honestly, the main reason we cruised Norwegian was because we got a great deal on the balcony room, which we've never had before. We've only had interior cabins in the past because we're so cheap, and we didn't spend a lot of time in the rooms anyway. But this cruise Chad and I spent a lot of time reading on the balcony, or just laying on the bed with the sliding door open, listening to the sound of the water. It was wonderful. You can see in this picture what the rooms were like. They actually had a nice sitting area there, perfect for eating room-service breakfast or planning out our itinerary.
The second night of the cruise was the White Hot Dance Party, and Jaime and I had come prepared with plenty of white cruise-wear. I had a blast. I set up my camera with the timer, and we got a lot of strange looks as we posed for an unmanned flashing camera. Chad and I never get to dance, and he tries to say he doesn't have any skills. But when he got pulled into the center of the dancing circle, he pulled out some moves that I have never seen before. I felt like I didn't know him anymore! (Hot picture of me: courtesy of months of dieting and hours of sewing custom-tailored slacks!)
Here we are in the Spinnaker Lounge, which is where we often hung out. During the week, we'd be in here at all hours, with 4 cocktail tables pushed together, playing Canasta, and listening to the mostly enjoyable but sometimes awful band. The adorable pub next-door always had fresh popcorn, which we often snagged on our way into or out of the lounge. And although these photos make us look like Bingo fiends, we only played one game, splitting up our single pack of bingo cards. We didn't stand a chance against everyone else with their fancy bingo machines, each of which can play like 50 different cards at a time. But we had to try it once.
Our one excursion was amazing. We took a boat to Las Caletas, which is a private beach across the bay from Puerto Vallarta. Rob signed up for snorkeling, while Jaime, Chad, and I snagged some lounge chairs on the beach. Jaime and I both enjoyed half-hour massages at a cute spa hut up the path from the beach. That was the best massage I've ever had, hands down (and, okay, I've only ever had three, two of which were during this cruise, but still). Jaime and I floated in the ocean until the motion got the better of my tummy, and then Chad and I worked on our tans while we read our books in the sun. Jaime and I watched a chef make authentic seafood paella, and then we all enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch and yummy dessert.
This is us in Cabo San Lucas. That place is gorgeous. Chad and I had already been snorkeling here on our last cruise, so this time we walked into town to barter for some deals. Take a look at the picture of Chad and Rob in sombreros. Now, part of the photo got cut out when I collaged the photos, but in the original you can see the lady who runs the stand with a grouchy look on her face, saying, "Picture, three dollars." Seriously? What a killjoy. Obviously Jaime snapped a photo anyway. And below that you can see Chad and I bartering for some clay animal whistles for the kids. She wanted $3 a piece. We wanted two for $3. She wouldn't budge. So we found someone else who did. And I found some vanilla for my mom, and a new pair of earrings for me. Oh, and there was that cool magnetic-bead bracelet I got (it's a long strand of beads that you wind around your wrist, neck, ankle, wherever, and they magnetize and stay put). Chad carried all the loot in his pockets. Apparently he put my new bracelet in the same pocket as our ship ID cards, because when the security guard swiped mine to get back on the ship, it was blank. What? Oh yeah, magnets tend to erase magnetically coded cards. Nice going Chad. After another minute of futile re-swiping of both of our cards, she looked us up and matched our faces to the photos in the database. Phew. I'm glad we weren't stuck in Mexico over a cheap bracelet.
Jaime and I spent a lot of quality time in the ship's spa. Chad and Rob actually went with us the first time, and we all took advantage of that day's spa special. I had a body scrub and a facial, and the woman who did my treatments was very good. Chad had a facial and a neck/scalp massage. He was a little underwhelmed. I think I'm going to book him with my esthetician here in Globe; she is a wizard at extracting pores (visible results might lend some credibility to the whole facial thing). On the day we were at Cabo, there was another spa special that Jaime and I took advantage of. I got a foot massage/reflexology, a back massage, and a facial. It was very relaxing, and I was impressed with the reflexology (maybe it's not a pseudoscience after all...). After our treatments we got to enjoy the spa's exclusive heat therapy room, watching Cabo disappear into the distance as we relaxed on our lounges, reading our books.
We loved the new experience of cruising with best friends. Coming home was sad. It's difficult not knowing when we'll be able to get together again. But when you have friends this good, you know it won't be too long.