My sister in law recently told me that if she didn't know what I looked like, and she overheard me talking about food, she would think I weighed close to 300 pounds. We both laughed, because she is right. I have a deep appreciation for good food. My love for it runs deep.
Which is why I recently discovered, while floating on a ship in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, that a cruise is a perfect vacation for me. Seriously. I crave chocolate like 24 hours a day. What's not to love about a vacation that perfectly caters to cravings like that?
I had heard tales of cruise food. It was everything I had been told and more. My favorite food was definitely served up here:
Where we ate EVERY night. We didn't miss a single evening in Leonardo's Dining Room. Not even the night following our snorkeling trip. We may not have had time to shower, but we made it back for dinner, dang it! I know it makes me seem like even more of a pig, but I think dinner was my favorite time of every day. It shows, because the majority of photographs taken on our vacation are of things we ate. Probably because we were eating appetizers, main courses, and desserts that looked like this:
We surprised Joycious and Brucious with flowers for their anniversary. It was the least we could do, really, considering they took us to the Virgin Islands.
Here's the whole crew on one of the formal nights. I think we clean up pretty nicely:
Chad and me, looking fancy. I bought this red dress for $12. I just can't help but tell you that.
With Lauren, whom I love and adore, and wish still lived less than five minutes away from me:
Meredith and Adam (and while we're on the subject, let's talk about how Meredith is one of the most photogenic people I've ever met. Oh my goodness! Every picture of her from this vacation? Fabulous. Every photo of me? Not so much. You'll see. There are more beautiful photos of her to come . . . and less flattering ones of myself. Oh, you look nice, too, Adam.):
Oh. Wow. It seems really unfair that we have no individual photo of Cameron on formal night. Just because you didn't have a date, Booba, doesn't mean you didn't matter to us! Sad day.
It turns out a cruise also opened my eyes to other deep layers of my persona:
When Chad and I were first married we went to Savannah for our anniversary. I think it was our 2nd anniversary, but I can't remember for sure. Anyway, one day we went to our hotel room for lunch (we had packed a cooler with sandwich supplies, because we were poor and cool like that) and the maid was in the room. I felt incredibly awkward watching this woman straighten our sheets, fluff our pillows, and tidy our bathroom, while we sat there, watching TV and eating turkey on wheat. I kept feeling like I should apologize for not fluffing my own darn pillow, or that I should offer to help her or something. When she left I expressed how awkward that was, and Chad was completely oblivious. It hadn't bothered him at all.
Time does things to people, my friends. Fast forward five years, and it turns out I am completely OK with people waiting on me hand and foot for an entire week. Would I like you to slide that linen napkin into my lap? Why yes, yes, I would. Please, feel free to de-crumb the table cloth, so I can enjoy my chocolate souffle. Let me drop all of these towels and washcloths onto the floor of my stateroom, so that you know I want you to replace them with clean ones, preferably contorted into the shape of some adorable jungle animal. (Bryan, our stateroom attendant never failed to surprise us with some pretty awesome ones when he freshened up our room each night.)
Wow. Feeling lazy feels . . . for lack of a better word . . . good.
Our waiter, Peter, was from India. He was extremely dignified, and I'm still not sure what he thought of us crazy Southerners. We were probably not the ideal table, considering we each frequently ordered multiple items from the menu . . . sometimes . . .wait for it . . . we may have ordered more than one entree. By the end of the week, he just started bringing us extras of everything. He'd hear one of us offhandedly mention how good the frozen strawberry souffle was, and the next thing we knew there were three more on the table to share. I think he had some kind of bet going with the other waiters in the back. I can hear the conversation.
Peter -- "Dude. It doesn't matter what I bring this table. They will eat it."
Random Waiter -- "50 bucks says differently. They've already devoured more than all five of my tables combined."
Peter -- "Make it $100 and you've got a bet."
Luckily for Peter, we never let him down.
Peter's Peruvian assistant, Ranal, never failed to replenish our bread plates with dozens of perfectly crusty sourdough rolls. And there was a lot of replenishing going on. I am on a quest to find a recipe that will allow me to duplicate those rolls at home.
While the dining room was by far my favorite place to eat, I definitely sampled cuisine from various other locales on the ship. Some of my personal favorites were the soft-serve ice cream machine on the pool deck and the pizza joint that was open 24 hours (where you could also score delectable mouse cups in different flavors each day).
This was the first time we left Kaden overnight with someone else. My parents were amazing and kept him at their house in Utah, while I flew off to Orlando to meet Chad and his family and embark on a grand adventure. I cried for the first two days anytime I saw anything that reminded me of him. Then, I kept a tiny corner of my heart reserved for missing him, and let the rest of my heart enjoy the pure freedom of being child-less. No nap time or bedtime schedule to work around. No early morning wake-up calls. Sunbathing and reading by the pool. Falling asleep in a hammock in Cocoa Cay, Bahamas. It was heavenly.
Here's us on the way to Cocoa Cay, and me in one of those aforementioned hammocks:
While eating and being beyond lazy were definitely pretty time consuming, we did make time for other adventures.
In St. Thomas we went snorkeling, something I'd never done before. I was definitely a fan. We took a sailboat ride out to an old shipwreck, then jumped in the turquoise water to watch brightly-colored tropical fish dart in and out of coral wreaths.
This is us, waiting for the OK to leave the ship for the day:
Joy and I, showing off our pretty toes on the sailboat ride:
There was tons of live entertainment to enjoy on the ship every night. From comedians, to a magician, to musicals, to an ICE SHOW, there was no time to be bored unless you wanted to be.
Here's some of us before a musical performance:
Me, Lauren, and Joy before the ice show:
Of course, having watched the ice show, we had to try out the ice for ourselves. So we went ice skating one day. On a cruise ship!
Lauren and Meredith were ready to audition for the actual show:
We took a class to learn the refined skill of napkin artistry:
We frequented the jewelry stores and entered every drawing possible. Sometimes more than once. Watching Chad shop for watches made me realize how he feels when he's with me in a shoe store. To me, they were all watches. To him, each one was special and unique. Here's some fancy number on his wrist:
And here's the back, which apparently makes it more fancy-shmancy:
It turns out all of that frequenting the jewelry counter paid off, because I WON the guess-the-carat-weight-of-the-blue-diamond-ring contest. Seriously. I won! I didn't, however, win the blue diamond. Which is kind of a rip. I won a 5 carat midnight sapphire, though, which is practically the same thing . . . just worth a lot less money!
This is me with Arthur, the Sophia Fiori rep. from South Africa. He has a pet hippo, which is pretty cool. Also, he gave me a free midnight sapphire, so we are friends. I couldn't believe I won! Joy actually had to claim the prize for me initially, because I opted to visit the ladies' room on the way to the drawing after dinner. I figured there wasn't a chance I'd actually win it.
Cameron and Bruce, modeling in front of the St. Maarten sign:
Look at that water. I could live next to water like that, I tell ya:
Each of us (well, the girls that is) ended up leaving St. Maarten with a special treasure. Mine is a pearl necklace and bracelet set. Unfortunately, it is hidden somewhere in Chad's dresser, because I don't get to wear it again until I open it on Christmas morning. I had no intention of buying anything, but then I saw something that was screaming my name . . . and I made the mistake of trying it on, "just for fun" . . . and it was fate.
Some of the courageous braved the rock climbing wall. I was not one of them, because 1. I am scared of heights, and 2. I had a book to read while sunbathing.
The boys developed a deep obsession with flow-rider. I cannot believe this, but we don't have a single photo of the thing. We have videos, but I'm too lazy to upload them right now. It's this machine that generates a giant wave on which you can surf/boogie board. They would even get up early in the morning to beat the lines. I was brave enough to try it . . . and promptly fell on my toosh. All of the Reese boys, in true Reese athleticism fashion, jumped right on and did awesome. Tyler, though, became a pro. Which is why, he entered the Flo-Rider competition, where the best of the best compete. There were three competitors, and Tyler was the only one who hadn't spent excessive amounts of summer vacation time perfecting his Flo-Rider skill. Seriously. I think the other two had been going on cruises every summer since they were five, and doing Flo-Rider every summer since its creation. You think I'm exaggerating, because I have a tendency to do that, but in this case I'm not. In all honesty (and I love you Tyler, but I'm being honest) the gold medal probably should have gone to this other kid (also named Tyler, oddly enough).
Enter our obnoxious family.
So it turns out that the way they determined the winner was by measuring the applause/enthusiasm of the crowd for each competitor.
Note taken, by all eight of us watching, thank you.
Tyler won first place.
We still had time for some typical Reese-style fun.
Being goofy in private and public places:
I think it's safe to say that we had an amazing time aboard The Freedom of the Seas.
Despite the post-traumatic seasickness I experienced upon returning home (yes, I really did feel like I was being tossed to-and-fro for a good five days afterwards), I think I'm ready to book our second cruise vacation. The destination? Who cares.