Honeymoon Part 4: Grand Turk and Orlando
Whelp, we’ve reached the end of the honeymoon updates. Number four is the final one… Then it’ll be back to your unregularly scheduled updates!
Unfortunately for us, we had to get back on the ship at 2pm in San Juan. We decided to spend the rest of that day ordering room service, reading, drinking, and chilling out. I took a long nap after lunch and woke up in time to get ready and go to a late dinner. Thus began the three day adventure of eat, drink, and be lazy.
We didn’t have an excursion for Grand Turk either. Mainly because they seemed rather boring from what we saw and were extremely expensive at the same time. I’m super glad we didn’t though. Everyone on the ship kept saying how Grand Turk was a beach day. When we were in St. Martin, one of the women who works in the spa told us there was nothing in Grand Turk except a very long stretch of beach and that theme was pretty well played out every day after that.
Since it was a beach day and we had the entire day there, we decided not to really rush to get off the ship, so by the time we got up and out of bed, we’d been docked at port for awhile. When I looked out, I saw a lot of people on a perfect white sand beach in chairs and these little clam shell looking cover tents.
“We should get one of those.” I said.
We got a late breakfast and managed to get off the ship around 10:30. The first thing I noticed when we were off the ship? The water was the clearest and bluest I’d ever seen. You could easily see 20 feet straight down through it. And there were lots of tropical fish swimming around. It was going to be a good day.
We get down to the beach only to find out that they don’t take credit cards at the rental booth and the closest ATM or store that does cash back is well into town. However, the ship had an ATM, so Erin ran back to the ship and I found us a couple of chairs.
When she got back, we rented one of the tent things, which was actually called a clam shell, and set up shop. We pulled what I am now calling the H**** Myrtle Beach Maneuver where I filled a water bottle partially with rum and partially with coke, buried it in my bag and walked out.
We had some really good luck in that our stewardess messed up our cabin with another cabin and delivered two large water bottles to our room. We left them there for a couple of days to see if she’d take them back, but she didn’t… So we drank them and then started using them for alcohol instead. Save money, drink happy.
We then took our goggles out into the water and started “snorkeling” without the snorkel… I really wish I had an underwater camera and could have gotten pictures of what we saw because it was absolutely amazing: schools of fish swimming past you, patches of coral all around you, clear water as far as you can see.
We decided we wanted to explore a little bit more of the beach so we went to the other side of the pier, which was less crowded. One of the guys walking back from that side told us the snorkeling was a lot better on the other side because it was less crowded and the coral was a lot more abundant. We snorkeled around for a long time, seeing all kinds of fish and crabs…
…And that’s when I saw it…
The single biggest conch shell I have EVER SEEN. It was literally THE SIZE OF MY FACE and in PERFECT condition aside from being covered in plants. I dove down and picked it up off the bottom of the ocean floor to better examine it.
“What is that?” Erin asked me as I swam up to the beach with it in tow.
“The single biggest conch shell I’ve ever seen. I thought the ones like this were all fake. I didn’t know they actually got this big.”
Better yet? It wasn’t alive. Something had eaten it and it was just an empty shell. Erin took it back to our tent and stuck it back under our chair. We were going to attempt to smuggle it back onto the boat.
On the way back, Erin found a whole sand dollar. I examined it for a long time to make sure it was dead, and when I finally convinced myself that it was, I stuck it in my bathing suit pocket. We then swam, snorkeled, and walked down the coast line until we got all the way to the end of the island (which isn’t as impressive as it sounds). It was conch city. We found four or five that we really liked and lugged them all back to the tent.
The entire time, we made plans to come back here some day and spend a week… or just move entirely. It was, by far, our favorite place out of the four ports we went to.
We shoved the shells into the bottom of our bag, wrapped towels gently around them, put stuff in my purse, and headed back to the ship. They scanned our bag and sent us on our way. We got quite a few shells off that island and no one said anything to us. Later, we we told my mom about it, she was surprised that they let us do that.
That night, we put all the shells out on our balcony because they stank like crazy. I couldn’t wait to get them home and get them in some bleach!
Something else happened during that day… Erin and I both lost our sea sickness patches.
My dad is a doctor, and he hooked us up with some sea sickness patches that you put behind your ear. I wasn’t really worried about it for myself, but Erin gets motion sickness easily, so we wanted to make sure that she had them for herself. I wore them too because it is better to be safe rather than sorry. I figured we’d be okay since we only had a day left…
…But I was wrong. Erin spent most of the last day on the ship sleeping off the nausea medicine we had in case we ran out of patches, which we did. I did a lot of reading and then wandered about the ship some, checked out a couple of places, got a drink, relaxed and read some more, went back to the room, took a nap.
It was our last night in the dining room, and even though neither one of us were very hungry, we went and had dinner anyway. We wrote our head waitress a thank you note, gave her an extra tip, and got a picture with her. We’d been requesting to sit in her section all week, and by the end of the week, she knew our dining habits pretty well. We always enjoyed going to dinner knowing that we’d have her to entertain us and make the extra long experience that much more enjoyable.
They gave us two options to get off the ship: early or late. If you chose early, you had to take all your stuff with you when you left. If you chose late, you left your bags outside your room the night before and they would come and pick them up. We chose early because even though the cruise was over, we still had three days left of our honeymoon, and the debarkation day was very packed.
We got up early, ate early, finished packing our last bits of stuff and then lugged all of our stuff out of room to the fifth floor to wait for our floor (the tenth floor) to be called.
At breakfast, we saw a water spout… the second one we’d seen in the last 48 hours.
It didn’t take very long, and we were completely off the ship by 10am. I left Erin on the sidewalk with our stuff to go and grab the car. The parking fee for those eight days? $120! It was FIFTEEN DOLLARS A DAY FOR PARKING. We spent almost as much on the parking as we did in spending money for the whole cruise.
We got the car loaded up and started heading towards Melborne, Florida. As everyone is pretty aware at this point, Erin has been doing an online graduate school program through the Florida Institute of Technology. It’s a pretty rigorous program, but she’s enjoying it and learning everything she can about her chosen field.
In planning out our travelling, I noticed that we would be driving through where her school was.
“You should contact the Dean. He always said he enjoyed meeting students that are in the online program since he rarely ever gets to.”
She e-mailed him and he sent her back a confirmation and an address. We got to his house, which is one of the single largest houses that I’ve seen that doesn’t have some sort of tour attached to it. I’m pretty sure that my parents house could have fit inside it twice, and if you know my family, that’s saying something.
He had three garages… Not a three-car garage… three different garages that would each house at least three cars. He was in the process of building on an addition, and his house was on a preserve, so 70% of the land he owned had to be undeveloped… and boy oh boy… if his house was the 30%, this man owned more land than I can imagine.
He showed us around in his addition. We walked into a large room that looked like your average biology lab, but without any of the equipment.
“This must be where he keeps all his research,” I whispered to Erin.
“Is this your lab?” Erin asked him.
“My lab?” He looked out into the room. “It does look like one, doesn’t it? Oh no… This is my music room. Each of these drawers is filled with CDs and over here… in these cabinets… are my vinyls.”
If they could, my eyes would have popped out of my head. I’ve seen music stores with less music. I wanted to take pictures, but I didn’t want to seem nosy or awkward, so I didn’t. His collection, though, is easily worth MILLIONS of dollars. Easy. The music room has closed circuit monitoring and every door is key coded and armed. Attached the the music room is a home theater that when completed, will seat 20. It is completely sound proofed with a 162 inch screen and four speakers that are between 8 and 9 feet tall. The seats are all going to be leather and they’ll all recline.
He took us and his three student assistants who were helping him move out to lunch at a seafood place on the river. The students drove separately, but since we didn’t really know the area very well, he drove us… in his lexus… He paid for everyone’s meals as well.
We chatted and enjoyed our time, thanked him for meeting with us when we got back, and he invited us to come and stay with him if we were ever in the area again. When we got back into the car, I sighed heavily, took one last look at the house and said, jokingly, to Erin,
“You’ve got some catching up to do.”
She laughed, “Right? I mean, if this is ABA, then we need to move to Florida and start hanging out around here more.”
“Or you could just because BFFs and start what he does up in South Carolina or some other state and make a fortune up there…”
We drove the rest of the way to Orlando and listened to Harry Potter on CD. As we got closer, I decided to figure out the plan for the day.
I texted Kelly, our friend with whom we were staying.
“Hey, we have an ETA of 4 or so… When will your flight be in?”
“Shit, my flight has been delayed… I won’t land until 10:30pm. You can stay with me, but it’ll be late and my house is a wreck.”
“We don’t really care about the house, we just want to see you and get mexican food and hang out. We can find something to do until you get in.”
I frowned at my phone before looking at Erin. “She’s delayed.”
“By how much?”
“She won’t land until 10:30. What should we do?”
So we went to Downtown Disney, got ice cream, walked through the lego store, took way too many selfies, ducked out of a storm, got a turkey leg, and made plans to go see a movie while we waited. Then my phone goes off.
“My flight was delayed again.”
“I won’t be landing until 12:30am, and it’s going to take me an hour’s drive to get home from the airport.”
“It’s okay, we’ll find a place to hang out or something.”
“I have a spare key with my girlfriend. I’m going to call her at work and let her know you’re going to come and get it from her. Is that okay?”
“That’s better than okay.”
So we finished our turkey leg, got the key, and went to Kelly’s. We decided to “take a nap” before going out to our late movie… but when it came time to get up to go to our movie, we were so tired that we both just went to bed instead. We had an early morning the next day anyway.
Discovery Cove and our dolphin experience was the next day. We got up early because check in started at 7:15am. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it there at exactly 7:15am and ended up in the back of this really long line. A woman came down and asked how many people were in our party.
Not having children pays off again. We got bumped to the front of the line because our party size was small. We got checked in, got our vests and other equipment, got our locker, and got our breakfast. They served you breakfast and lunch there, and it was soooo yummy. Breakfast sandwiches, fruit, french toast, pancakes, you name it… they had it for breakfast just about. After we ate, we found a spot with an umbrella next to the reef and talked talked about our plans for the day.
Once 8am hit, we were able to get in the water… and holy cow… The water was FREEZING. I had a time trying to get mine to not leak, but once I did, we snorkeled for a long time before heading over to our dolphin experience, which was one of the first ones of the day.
Apparently, at Discovery Cove, if the dolphins don’t want to work that day, they don’t have to, and a whole group decided to take Monday off, so the others were working double time to make up for it. Our group was delayed by an hour, so the manager comped us a DVD of the dolphin experience for free. Definitely worth the extra wait time.
We got a dolphin named Dexter who had just moved up the ranks enough to start breeding, so he was super flirty with the girl dolphins around and kept trying to show off for the girl dolphin next to us. We got to feed him, pet him and then swim with him. The whole experience lasted about 30 minutes, but it felt like it went by so much faster than that.
Afterwards, we went to the lazy river and got out at the aviary to feed the birds. It was a lot larger than I remember it being, but the whole place had been expanded since we first visited, so I wasn’t really surprised. We wanted to go before lunch because we didn’t want the birds to be full by the time we got to them later if we waited. I’m glad we didn’t wait because they were everywhere. At one point, I had one land on my head.
We got lunch, went and saw the otters and monkeys, and then Erin took a nap while I went back to the reef. After about 30 minutes, two of the educators that worked there took a shark out of the small “wading pool” and gathered a bunch of people around for an impromptu lesson about baby sharks. They needed to film them playing with this shark in a small group, so we all got to benefit from it. Erin woke up and walked over just in time for everyone to touch the shark, so that was an awesome experience.
After they put the shark back, they started to feed the rays. I have no idea how they tell them apart.
“This is my dream job.” I said.
“Working here… directly with the animals… in a teaching capacity… Where I could do tours or small groups and then go home a night and be done. And get to spend all my time working with exotics… It’s just amazing. I wonder what it takes to get a job in a place like this.”
“Only one way to find out,” Erin said plainly.
We spent the rest of the day just enjoying the reef, drinking the included alcohol, and sneaking snacks back to our locker for our drive home the next day.
We got dinner (Mexican food) with Kelly and a couple of her friends that night, woke up when we woke up the next morning, and made the trek back home. It was such an amazing experience. We’re already making plans for our next vacation to take place in the Keys in Florida or some other place, but school might be a problem… because…
WE’RE BOTH IN GRADUATE SCHOOL!
I got my acceptance letter while I was in the middle of writing this blog! I start this month! So excited!