Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Monarch Butterfly (re-post from last fall)


 I realize I have not finished blogging about our vacation, but I am distracted by all the happenings of fall and again by the Monarch Butterfly.  It is hard to feel Caribbean with the smell of apples and the sight of changing leaves.  I will put on some Jimmy Buffet and get in the vacation mode again soon.  This is a re-post from last year about the Monarch Butterfly... they continue to amaze me.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons; I love to watch the dance of the cool, crisp, breeze with the newly fallen leaves. I love sweatshirts, caramel apples, pumpkins and apple pies. The list goes on and on but I think my most favorite is the migration of the Monarch Butterfly.

As I drive down the road or sit along the sideline of a soccer game, I can't help but notice the flutter of this beautiful butterfly in late September. When I see one of these little guys I get swept up in the magnificence of their life span, migration and global positioning.

These beautiful insects have a brain about the size of a grain of salt. These butterflies, after leaving their cocoon in late September, know they are the 4th generation of butterflies this year. They know they are the great grandchild of the Monarch Butterflies who flew to Mexico last fall and they know it is their job to make the same journey. How they know we are not sure.

Not only do they know they are the 4th generation, but they also know exactly where they are to go. They have never been to Mexico, but somehow they know how to get to the Biosphere Reserve without having to stop for directions. We had to purchase a GPS to assure we wouldn't get lost while driving on vacation to an area we have visited several times before.

It gets better. The Monarchs who hatch here in Ohio know they are to head to Mexico, however, the Monarchs who hatch in the western states head to California. The generations who hatched in May and June or July and August die after 2-6 weeks of becoming a butterfly. The 4th generation however live up to 8 months and they travel south to hibernate. They meet up with over tens of thousands of other butterflies where they blanket the trees and bushes to keep warm together.

After hibernation they make the journey back north to mate, lay eggs and start the process all over again.

To me this is yet another example of God's love and His attention to detail in our lives. He created the Monarch Butterfly to know it's path in life and I believe He created us to do the same. We mess our GPS up by getting detoured by society and by what we think is a better route, but He continues to say "recalculating" as He gently redirects us in the right direction.

He created this butterfly with such intricate detail that no one can understand their migration. I feel blessed to have the opportunity (short as it may be) to witness this spectacular event.

As you see these little fellows fluttering south this fall; wish them a safe journey so we may see them again in the spring.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Tuesday: The Grand Cayman Islands

 Tuesday morning we awoke to find our ship already at port in the Grand Cayman Islands.  We saw another Carnival Cruise Ship next to us at port.  It was kinda neat to see another ship from a distance since we had not see our own ship from a distance yet.  THIS is why we loved our balcony so much.

We could see the other ship tendering so we knew what to expect from ours.

We got ready for our day, ate breakfast at the Unicorn Cafe and then headed to the bottom of the ship to ride our tender over to the Island.


Our ship as we were pulling away....

The water was absolutely beautiful and we couldn't wait to get into it and snorkel... not to mention it felt as if it were 200 degrees outside and it was only 8:00 am.  No wonder they have a city called "Hell".  We had the opportunity to visit "Hell" and buy a postcard from "Hell" but we decided to stick with the snorkeling instead.

Once on the Island we had a few hours to walk and shop around before our excursion at 11:30.  We said had we known it was going to be so hot we probably wouldn't have rushed so much to get onto the Island.  In hind sight I am glad we did because its not like we will be visiting the Grand Cayman anytime soon so I am glad we sucked it up and dealt with the heat. 

You know you are somewhere hot when Restaurants are named this....

We all live in a .......

Here are the little shops we shopped at.... when we exited the ship they handed us flyers with a coupon for a free charm bracelet.  Once we had the charm bracelet we realized we could get free charms at each port and some ports had multiple charms. We were excited.  They were not the best quality of bracelets, but it was fun finding the shops with the free charms and now we have a  fun little bracelet with charms from each place we visited.  As long as we don't wear them our arm will not turn green and we will have them forever.

Our ship in the distance....

I thought this was funny because it was called Hog Sty...this was the name my parents used to call my room on any given day as a teen. :)

This was a pencil fish of some sort.. not sure of his name but we took this picture off of a bridge using the zoom on our camera.  Talk about crystal clear waters....

This was another excursion we could have taken.  You ride around on this cool pirate ship and hear about pirate stories of the Islands.  Considering the heat we were glad we didn't choose this excursion either.  But it was a really cool ship.

After shopping and finding all our free jewelery it was time to head back to the port to check in for our excursion.  We rode on a bus through town to get to the Emerald Eyes (our boat for snorkeling).  We noticed a remarkable difference in how the locals treated one another compared to America.  They were very generous and patient and would greet one another with little friendly beeps.  It was nice for a change to not feel road rage.

After our brief bus ride we arrived at the Emerald Eyes.

Our Captain

Our gear.... 

I was struggling to put the snorkel in my mouth after thinking about all the hundreds of people who have used them prior to me using them. They were soaking in a tub of sanitizer, but I still struggled... I waited until I was in the ocean and rinsed it out first. I figured it would take me at least ten minutes to acclimate to breathing underwater anyway so I should take some time to rinse out all the germs too. I could never Scuba.

Our ride out to the reef...

Wild Iguanas....

Our next house after Greg retires....

Checking to make sure the ship wasn't leaving without us...

Nick getting his gear....

 ahhhh beautiful water....

The Reef awaits...

Snorkeling was breathtakingly beautiful.

After our snorkeling it was time to drive out a bit further and swim with the Sting Rays.  Our captain gave us a tutorial on how to handle a sting ray.  He used a stuffed sting ray named "fluffy" to illustrate how to pet and touch the sting rays.  Their "stinger" is only used as a defense mechanism and only used if they feel threatened.  They have grown to know and love each of the rays we were driving out to meet.  They are used to the Emerald Eyes arriving each day with food and they wait for the boat to eat their snack for the day.  We were not allowed to feed them because they were afraid with so many tourists each day the sting rays would get over fed and get sick. 

It was then time to suit up and get back into the water....I was really excited.  After our experience of swimming with manatees years ago,  I wouldn't want to interact with another creature any other way than in their own habitat.  These creatures CHOSE to interact with us.  They were not trapped in a lagoon with whistles and trainers.  It was amazing.  They are such gentle, graceful creatures and it was neat to watch them "fly" through the water.

The tour guides swam down and picked up the sting rays and brought them to the surface for us to touch.

Nick touching one...

Les touching one....

Sting Ray...

In case you couldn't see it I am pointing to it....why am I such an idiot?

Once we were back we gathered up our belongings and began to unload off the boat.  The four of us were separated while unloading and Nick and I were in the back of the crowd.  I heard the crowd gasp and everyone became very quiet.  I walked up to the front of the crowd to see what the gasping was all about and I saw Leslie lying on the gravel ground crying.  I felt sick immediately.  Greg and I jumped off the dock and ran to her side asking her what had happened.  She was crying and couldn't talk to us much.  I asked her if she hurt her back or her neck and she shook her head no.  I thought it was probably  her leg or something by the way she was sitting, but wanted to make sure before moving her.  I told her to lean back onto my legs so she could stretch out so we could see where she was injured.  She lifted up her leg and her ankle was already twice its normal size.

The tour guides immediately ran to get ice and a form for me to sign to protect themselves from us suing them.  They asked Greg and I what we wanted them to do... call an ambulance?  load her up in the van to get her back on ship?  My head was spinning because I didn't know what to do.  I looked at Greg and we were not sure of the severity of her injuries and could the ship care for her properly if it were broken?

God is so good, we were blessed to have a paramedic who was on our excursion.  He approached Leslie and asked if we would like him to look at her injury.  Of course we said yes and were very thankful for him.  He too at first thought her ankle was broken, but after asking her to move it around a bit and wiggle her toes (which was so very painful for her to do) he felt she had a very nasty sprain.  We were so relieved.

Apparently as she was getting ready to step off the dock the bottom of her flip flop (the little nubby thing that sticks out of the bottom) got caught on the dock.  Leslie is pretty tough and when I saw her crying I knew it was bad.  They helped us onto the bus, elevated her leg and Greg held ice on it the entire ride back to the ship.

Carnival was already notified and their staff was there with a wheel chair waiting for our bus when we returned.  They quickly loaded her into the wheel chair and practically ran us up to the tender.  We by passed the huge line waiting to board the tender.  The carnival staff continued to stay with Leslie the entire time and moved us quickly through the check in point with our passports and directly into the infirmary.

The nurse there was very friendly.  She told us pretty much what the paramedic had told us and said if we would like to see a doctor or have xrays we could but she didn't feel it was necessary.  We decided to allow Les to rest a while and see if the swelling would start to go down.  The nurse wrapped Leslie's ankle, gave us prescription strength Motrin, crutches and a wheel chair and sent us on to our room.

Once back at the room we elevated her ankle with life vests and continued to apply ice for the remainder of the evening.  Thank goodness for room service.  After a while she wasn't in any more pain unless she applied pressure to her ankle.  She was very good on her crutches and the ship was large enough that the wheel chair maneuvered very well through the hall ways.  Later that night she and Nick went out with friends (Nick pushed her around) while Greg and I attended a comedy show.

We went to bed that night feeling very blessed.  Blessed to have had such an amazing experience at Grand Cayman, blessed God held us in his hands with Leslie's injury by placing people in our path along the way and blessed her injury was a sprain and not a break.  Thank You Lord. 

 Tomorrow is a new day.... bring on Cozy Mel.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Monday: Fun Day at Sea

Monday morning we awoke to enjoy our fun day at sea.  The kids and I allowed Greg to sleep in while we went to the Unicorn Cafe for breakfast.  The Unicorn Cafe is where we ate breakfast and lunch each day while on the ship.  There was every kind of food imaginable to eat buffet style.   Breakfast was a variety of breakfast food from omelets and scrambled eggs to pancakes, hash browns, fruit, cereal, oatmeal.  For lunch they had a deli, rotisserie with roast beef, chicken, ham and even lamb one day.  They had a pizza bar (open 24 hours), Chinese, American (burgers, hot dogs, fries), Italian (lasagna, spaghetti), fruit bar, Mexican and then dessert bar (24 hour ice cream).  You could come and go as you please and eat as much as you like.

After breakfast I decided to grab chairs around the pool before they were all taken.  Shortly later Greg joined me.  The kids had made some friends the night before at the teen club so they headed off to meet up with them.

Here are some pictures taken of inside the ship.  Some were taken our first day on the ship and some were taken during our day at sea.
The Teen Club O2

It was empty because it had not opened for the day yet...

The gym

Hot tub in the gym.


There were semi naked pictures in all the elevators... almost every time we got on one we would say "don't look Leslie" or "don't look Nick" depending on if it were man or woman.  The kids didn't think we were funny.

The enchanted forest.  This was a hall way that looked like trees were growing on either side of it.  You could sit at cute little tables and look out onto the ocean.  This was one of my favorite places on the ship.

This is what the elevator lobby area on each floor looked like.

Another semi naked picture in an elevator.

The Unicorn Cafe

View from our table during lunch.

This was the center of the Unicorn Cafe where you could get your beverages.


Teen game room...

Hallway outside of the teen club O2 with the gym at the end of the hallway.

The theater...

Stairway outside of the theater..

Our cruise director  and one of the entertainment staff.

This is Amy, she was part of the entertainment staff as well and she was 6'4.

A Piano Bar called Bar Louie's

the chapel.. we didn't go in to take pictures because we thought if someone were in there it would be very proper to have photos of them in the chapel.

The Library

Rodeo Drive where all the shops were located.

A photographer walked around the ship during dinner and took pictures of everyone all dressed up as well as took pictures at each port.  They would print the pictures in a nice 5x7 format and display them each night before dinner.  We walked around and looked at all the pictures each night.  If they were not 10.00 a piece we may have bought a few more.  We only bought 2, but they were good pictures.

This was center ship where the glass elevators were located.

Satchmo's, a Karaoke bar.. this was a fun place to sit and watch people sing.  Many were very good.  Leslie's friend talked her into singing with him on our last night and just when she had enough courage to go up to put their names in they were told they had enough singers for the evening.  She was super relieved.  We were not allowed to watch even if she did get to sing.

Truffles is the name of the restaurant where we ate every night.

Another lounging area on the ship.  Often we would see people sitting here reading or playing cards.

The Firebird Lounge... we never made it to this lounge when things were happening so we stopped in when it was closed to take some pictures.

Medusa's Lair...
This was a really cool dance club with really cool decorations. 

Snake table..

I believe this is my favorite staircase...

Greg and I headed back to the room after sitting around the pool and taking pictures.  The ship had a way of rocking us to sleep so we enjoyed a small nap before dinner each night.  We would watch TV for a bit and fall asleep for 30 minutes or so before getting ready for dinner.  We were in the room watching TV when the kids came back and said "How many fun days at sea do we have?"  Greg and I laughed because although the ship did a great job planning many activities a person could only do so much while on the ship.  The kids were looking forward to our excursions and getting off the ship.

That night dinner was one of our formal dress nights.  We attended the Captain's Celebration before dinner where the captain and his crew were available for a meet and greet. 

Dinner was amazing

and so was dessert...

We had the BEST time with our waiters.  They would dance every night for us and it was so much fun to watch.  They pulled Nick up to dance with them too.

After dinner the kids left to meet up with friends while Greg and I attended the evening show.  I LOVE shows and I LOVE the theater so I was in heaven watching the shows every night.  I think Greg went with me to be nice but it wasn't his favorite thing to do.  After the show we attended the adult comedy hour which was pretty funny. 

Everyone was back together in the room by 1:00am to get a good nights sleep for our first excursion in the morning.  We were excited to snorkel and swim with Sting Rays in the Grand Cayman Islands.