Ft. Lauderdale, FL
It has been a long-time goal of my mom and Aunt Michelle to get our families together for a cruise. Living on opposite coasts, we don't get to see our Wiegand cousins very much save for Christmas on alternating years. With the looming deadline of more of us in college and graduating, the moms knew that our chance to do this was now or never and so--after much discussion--a Caribbean cruise appeared on the calendar. Planning began a year ago and so anticipation levels were high by the time we reached the Port Everglades dock and saw the ship for the first time. After a strange new experience going through cruise security, we received our ship ID cards and posed for the required cruise entry photo. As usual, we decided to be the zany Wiegands we are and pulled out funny faces on the count of "3!"--to the dismay of the professional photographer. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring our cabin, meeting up with our cousins, watching the ship disembark, trying the fro-yo buffet, dutifully attending the safety drill, and meeting our hall steward, Jose, from Honduras. Us girls spent some time up deck in the sun and then both Wiegand families changed for the apparent norm-- formal dinners. We had fun choosing from the four course menu and meeting our fun international waiters for the week. Of course, game night followed and then some hot tubbing by some.
Key West, FL
Tuesday morning we woke up to see the bustling Key West port outside our cabin window. After brunch on deck 10, we dressed to get wet and set off to find the jet boat excursion amid the crowded brick streets of the port. Though skies were cloudy, our young tour guide was fun and gave us lots of freedom to play around with the jet skiis even though none of us had ever ridden or driven before. The West coast Wiegands ended up playing a round of musical chairs as almost every stop resulted in riders switching boats (or falling off). It was a blast to get up to forty+ mph and drive in circles around the calm Key West waters. The tour took us around the island and through some open areas with some good sized waves that kept us in air and holding on for dear life. The conclusion was definitely a good one though.. and that this might even beat white water rafting.
Back on the ship by 4, we took our books and towels to an upper deck to soak up sun and watch the ship pull away from port. After a mix of sauna-ing, reading, and hot tubbing later, we again dressed for a fancy dinner and had great family time around the table. Back at our room later that night, we found that our steward, Jose, had not only made the beds and left chocolate, but had made swans and (what looked like) nuns out of our hand towels! Of course we thought this was hilarious and clever (yes, I'm sure they were really supposed to be penguins, not nuns) and we were well on our way to becoming fast friends with Jose so we found him later to thank him.
Open Ocean, Caribbean
Wednesday was a day at sea so we saw nothing but wide open waters the whole day-- absolutely gorgeous. It was a little hard for me because while it was still wonderful, my time in South Caicos was away from the crowds of people and the consumer culture and felt so authentically Caribbean--where this was a full-on tourist package if there ever was one. It was also Christmas Day, so after a beautiful and artfully arranged brunch--with ice statues and everything--we relaxed with books and gabbing on upper decks and the sauna. Mid-afternoon we had a Wiegand family church service to read the Christmas story and talk about its meaning for us with contributions from almost all members of the family... toddlers, high school, college kids, and adults. It was really meaningful to realize that God sent Jesus for everyone-- even for the people on this boat from so many different countries, for the people on South Caicos--and that His plan was so carefully orchestrated (and for us!). It was humbling & clarifying to talk to workers on the ship who had signed on for months of this life--hard work for 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week--without ever seeing their families. For people from Honduras or the Philippines or the tens of other countries represented, that was normal. Our immediate family had game night outside that night and appreciated the quiet(ish) time together and the wide open sky and the wholeness of our family. How blessed am I?!!
The rocking of the ship had lessened on Thursday morning when we awoke to palm trees in Cozumel. Pros at the ship disembarking procedure, we trailed through the port in search of a cab that would take us to our snorkel excursion. The port was filled with "tourist Mexico"-- sombreros, handmade bags, sundresses, and all sorts of Cozumel-printed tshirts--but outside the market confines was a mix of brown dirt paths and shaky-looking vans. The limited English of our cab driver resulted in a bit of confusion as to which dock we needed to be at and we ended up just walking the last few hundred meters to our boat. Where we found the surprise. The snorkel tour was advertised as a catamaran that would take us and our cousins to various snorkel sites while the non-snorkeling adults could sit on the boat with drinks and snacks. So we were quite surprised when our "catamaran" turned out to be a rickety old sailboat that hardly looked seaworthy, let alone big enough for all of us. The captain was an older Mexican man who spoke extremely limited English and the tour guide an Alabama-transplant who now runs the excursion. She quickly fitted us with snorkels and fins and we set out for the clear blue waters. The first site was in 15 ft of water, over coral heads and surrounded by tropical fish--some who were even tourist-trained enough to nip at you; it was pretty but a hard comparison to the untouched South. Though we lost a few of our cousins to seasickness, we headed to a deeper site in hopes of seeing larger megafauna like sharks, turtles, and rays. Along with the nurse sharks we saw skimming the bottom, we were greeted by an unfortunate amount of sinking litter and.... transparent jellyfish! At the first stings we were all convinced we had just dreamed it, but the stings continued and at times you could see the orbiting green balls that occupied the water column. Though we tried to avoid them, the rest of our trip was full of leg, arm, and face stings that weren't too bad but still a bit uncomfortable. Our guide dropped us off at a dock to change and catch rides back to town where some parties did some shopping and others of us were a little disillusioned with the cheap tourist culture and net loss to native islanders and the natural environment. It is sad to see dolphins God made wild penned up in tiny arenas and surrounded by hundreds of overweight tourists with their Nikons and spoiled children. Ok, that was a bit cynical but there is some truth to that. Why can't we just enjoy the beauty of the world as HE made it? And stop trying to coerce or finagle each environment to serve our entertainment purposes? Even the idea of a cruise is so consumer-istic and largely wasteful that I admit to having critical opinions of it. As a result of my marine biology introduction in South Caicos, I was introduced to Blackfish, a shocking but thoroughly interesting documentary about killer whales in captivity at places like SeaWorld. I would HIGHLY recommend it to those interested in this issues!
Ok, enough with the rant.
At Sea Again
Friday we made the trek back to Ft. Lauderdale and had another lazy day at sea. With of course, more evening game playing by the East and West coast Wiegands. Tradition. Soaking up the sun and our days of book-reading relaxation!
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Mid-morning we had to depart the ship so they could turn it around for another cruise leaving that afternoon. After saying goodbye to our cousins, we each headed for the airport where they would catch their flight back to Philly and we would hopefully get on an earlier flight back to Portland. Just before entering security, I realized that we still had peanut butter and jelly in my bag from our cooler supply; but instead of dumping it like most people, mom, Kendra and I hastily made a pb&j assembling station on an airport bench and whipped out 5 pb&js like nobody's business. Laughing, we stuffed them in my back and then discarded the "liquid" containers so we could meet the rest of our curious family on the other side of security. One at the gate, we realized our high hopes were not to be and we would get to spend 8 HOURS in the airport waiting for our evening flight home. Books, laptops, and naps filled some of the time, as did a s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out dinner at Chile's and some game playing. We finally made to to PDX after one and in bed
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.