People do go on cruises to unplug and I get that, I just can't really do it. My Etsy shop always stays open, and despite the fact that I put up messages and notifications and things in big red letters everywhere saying that I will be out of the country and shipping and communications will be delayed, it never fails that I get a person or three that sends me a passive aggressive email that says something along the lines of, "Would you mind telling me why my order hasn't shipped yet?" Unfortunately sometimes these messages are not seen until days after they are sent, further aggravating the situation. This year we did Carnival's "Social Media" package, so I was able to have access to Facebook and Facebook messenger (Instagram too) and keep in touch with people back at home. I also could see when I received a notification from Etsy, whether it be an order or a message, I just couldn't open it. No access to email unless you score some free wifi in a port (you can purchase internet packages with email, but they are more expensive).
It's one of the things I've learned about running my own little internet-based business. You never really disconnect with it, even when you are sitting on a beach in Aruba. It's always on my mind. In the beginning, I was honestly paranoid about mistakes, making people angry, bad reviews, mean emails. While they still do get to me, it is much easier now to let them roll off my back. I am human and do my best.
It is good to be back in my studio, as I have a laundry list of things to do and ideas to create, of quotes to use and magical things to bring to life. But, my heart is still in the Caribbean. It's on a giant ship full of happy people. It's eating breakfast tacos in the sun while drinking my third cup of coffee. It's floating in warm, turquoise salt water.
Anyway, I digress. Next stop was Willemstad, Curaçao. I love approaching this island in the Netherlands Antilles, because the views are just amazing and you have plenty of time to take them in while you sail around the island to get to its capital city.
The trade winds blow strong in this part of the world and standing up on deck 10 of a ship and looking over the side makes for an exhilarating experience - I just stand there and giggle while my hair goes absolutely wild and I try not to drop my camera in the water.
Last year when we visited Willemstad, we took an excursion to the beach which lasted all day, ate on the ship, and by the time we went to explore the city, it was late and everything was closed. This year, we decided to go exploring on our own as soon as the ship was cleared.
The city is bright, colorful, and you can see the Dutch influence in much of the architecture. The port itself is also very active, which I loved, because I am fascinated by ships. We got to see a couple of huge container ships nudged out by tugs, and it was awesome.
It was a very hot day, but the breeze made it bearable. At one point I had the best watermelon milkshake of my life from a little food truck thing by the floating bridge. We took our time wandering the streets, shopped, found an open-air market, and just enjoyed the experience of being in a foreign country.
We ended up wandering around for a few hours, got lots of sun, my hair somehow got even bigger and more out of control, I bought some ceramic kitties from the Delft store (because when you are a cat lady you always have to buy ceramic kitties - especially Dutch ceramic kitties), chased the pigeons, utilized Willemstad's free wifi to access my email and appease angry customers... it was a great day.
Another reason I love this port is because we don't leave until 11pm, so this year we opted for drinks and a pizza dinner in the Rife Fort area. I love seeing the crew members out at this time having fun and being able to get off the ship for a while. While I regret nothing in life (aside from a shady phone company my college roommate and I decided to try when we were 19), I secretly wish I had taken a couple of years after graduating from OSU to work on a ship rather than bartend in Ohio.
Because the only place I would ever drink a Blue Curaçao martini is in Curaçao. Followed by wine. Then a couple more vodka martinis. I treasure the moment that my mom (who is not a big drinker at all) picked up my vodka martini to give it a taste. Not too sure what she expected, but her face clearly said "DEAR GOD."
The views of the ship and of the city at night are spectacular. Please excuse my sub-par nighttime photography. It's something I am still trying for the life of me to figure out.
So that was Curaçao. The view of the city at night as you are pulling away is beautiful and peaceful. After a day of walking and baking in the sun, then a night of imbibing in various adult beverages, I slept hardcore. Sleeping on a cruise ship, when it is rocking gently but noticeably, is one of the most amazing things. There is no sleep like the sleep you get on a cruise. Your inner infant probably dances for joy then promptly passes out as your body remembers the comfort of that rocking motion.
Our last port was Oranjestad, Aruba, which I fell in love with last year. In Aruba it rains rarely. The water is a color that even Crayola would have a hard time naming. All beaches are public, meaning you can even walk up to the Hyatt and access their beach for free. They are out of the hurricane belt. The people are joyful, friendly, and charismatic. Many speak a multitude of languages and transition between them with ease. It was a place that I just felt connected to the moment we set foot there. I joke about moving there often, but it's only halfway a joke. (Don't worry, mom. I am way too broke for that right now.)
Oranjestad is just as colorful as Willemstad, if not more.
We had an excursion booked for Aruba, to take a catamaran to a shallow reef to snorkel, then go to the 400 foot long wreck of the Antilla, a German ship that sank in 1940 when Germany invaded Holland (and the Netherlands Antilles) during WWII. Then we would get back on the catamaran, where an open bar would be ready to provide us with all of the rum punch we wanted. Then a BBQ lunch at Pelican Pier, a restaurant that sits over the water, then an hour of relaxing on the beach. If I could do this day over and over again, I would in a heartbeat.
First snorkeling stop was a reef filled with fish. I won't even attempt to recall their names, but my favorite ones had black and yellow stripes. I made friends with one of the guides who found a starfish and another little fish for me to touch and hold, and at one point I realized he and I were swimming through a school of hundreds of fish!!
My underwater camera (a GoPro knockoff) is not the best, but it was only $42.00 on Amazon. If you are looking for a cheap alternative, this is the one I got.
This was my mom's first time snorkeling and she jumped right off the side of the boat and everything. After a few minutes of looking down into the water, floating effortlessly hearing nothing but your own breathing... it's like being transported into another world.
Next up was the Antilla ship wreck. There really aren't words to describe what it felt like to see this. The ship is massive. It's laying on its port side, and when you get up to the bow which sits higher up in the water, you can come within just a few feet of touching it. It's absolutely eerie and covered with coral.
After that mind-blowing experience, we all got back on the catamaran and the boys cranked up the music and started pouring drinks like there was no tomorrow. We laughed, partied, enjoyed the spectacular views, basked in the sunshine and the wind, and, well, drank. At one point, "Turn Down For What" came on and all I could do was smile and ask myself, "Is this real life?"
Yes yes, I was a big fan of the boys and their accents and their constant smiles and their multi-lingual abilities. The sun was hot, and we hit the water right after lunch.
Aruba's beaches are gorgeous mix of sugary sand and crystal-clear warm water. My mom and I met an older couple (mom - how long were they married?? 50+ years??) from Boston when we were in the water who we chatted and laughed with for quite a while. They were staying at a friend's timeshare right on the beach and offered to smuggle us in because we didn't want to leave.
Water sports are huge there and you are constantly seeing people windsurfing, kitesurfing, parasailing, tubing, boating, snorkeling, you name it. The entire atmosphere and vibe is just different. Yes, the beaches are always teeming with tourists who of course are content, but you mix that with the joyful vibe of the locals who call this paradise home and you really see why they call Aruba "One Happy Island."
The last port day is always kinda depressing, but we love this itinerary because there are two sea days at the end, so it's not so bad. After saying good bye to Aruba, we still had lots of time to relax, enjoy the ship, overeat, watch men in their 20's choreograph an amateur synchronized swimming routine in the Lido pool, try every drink on the menu, try not to faint when the captain made announcements in his dreamy Italian accent, and get MEGATAN. There's nothing like sea days.
Then came the dreaded debarkation day. Stepping out the door, hearing your ship card "ping" for the last time, then walking back through the gangway into the even-more-dreaded customs building is not a good feeling. Waiting for your shuttle and having to see shuttles of lucky, excited people who are just arriving for their cruise and about to have the magical just-walked-onto-the-ship feeling is just mean. Taking one last look at the ship as you ride to the airport... very sad times.
We had a super long time at the airport before our flight. Good thing, because getting through security at FLL was a nightmare due to a TSA agent literally taking ten minutes to thoroughly search a woman of about 70 who was in front of me in line, much to the astonishment of dozens of gaping-mouthed people. This included lifting up the woman's shirt multiple times and the agent putting her hands inside of the woman's waistband. She kept looking at me with this helpless look, and I who had also been asked to step aside and wait for my own search (imagine my delight) could only mutter how ridiculous it was getting. The same agent then loudly announced to me, "I need to pat down your breast area - would you like a private room?" Cool. Bring it, girlfriend. Airports nowadays are a joy.
An actual good thing about the super long wait - there was an airshow going on over Fort Lauderdale Beach that we could see. Although I am afraid of flying, I am fascinated by planes. Everything about them. The planes flying were the Thunderbirds. They were loud and fast and amazing. And they gave me one more reason to be jealous of the people on the ship, because they had an up-close view of everything while they waited to sail away.
And then that was that. We were on a plane headed back home. I'm always very grumpy in the couple of weeks following a cruise. At night I have dreams about being back on the ship then wake up with a "dammit." But the truth of it is this feeling makes me want to work harder, so maybe this time it won't be as long between the just-stepped-onto-the-ship moments.
People who do not have a desire to travel are a conundrum to me. I've always wanted to see places, but I remember it was one evening when I was studying abroad in China (my first time in a foreign country - go big or go home right?) that the intense feeling of needing to see the world overcame me. Our class was at the top of China's then-tallest building (I think - this was in 2005), watching the sun set over Shanghai.
This feeling is tricky to put into words. But looking out over this city of millions of people, the world felt both huge and small at the same time. There are places and things that exist in the world, but sometimes it's like they only exist in story books. There are people living in different countries speaking different languages and carrying on such deeply different cultures. And today, we have the ability to see them, visit them, experience them. We have ships and planes that can safely take us to these places in a matter of hours. In that moment I felt oddly connected to every person in the world, and was set ablaze with a burning desire to see as many places as I can while I am on this earth.
Hence a large amount of my artwork is inspired by travel. There's a whole big world out there that is small enough for us to explore. So many people think it's impossible. It's too expensive. But I promise you, if I can make it work as a ramen-noodle-devouring broke artist, you can too. Save change in a jar. Do the thing where you put every $5 bill you get aside. Where there's a will, there's a way. Go on an adventure :)
|"By Land, Sea, or Air"|