Monday, April 28, 2008


The Caribbean Cruise.

Warning: this blog may contain statements that may seem conceited and rich-bitch like, however, this must be included to ensure a correct portrayal of everything that is a ‘Caribbean Crui.

What an experience! Our ship, the Valor, is humungous! I mean, I’ve never been on a cruise before but I wasn’t expecting anything so huge! It’s basically a floating city, complete with cinema, theatre, gym, several pools and an abundance of restaurants and clubs!

We are welcomed on board to the main deck, complete with the ‘Entertainment Crew’ who give us a little demonstration of their dancing techniques, a performance remarkably similar to High School Musical! Americans (especially the type found on a ship such as this) are so overly happy, all of the time…and dance a lot…to any form of music.

We settled into our cabins, which are actually quite roomy, well roomy enough to spread our belongings throughout the room and completely unpack our bags, something we’ve not been able to do for about 10 weeks! It feels as though there is a poltegeist in here when drawers and doors open and close as the ship rocks from side to side!

Then lunch is served! We find a small self serve buffet with a selection of fried things and are slightly disappointed at the quality of the food. After finishing our meal, we then walk around the corner into a massive food hall type set up, where another, bigger, better buffet is held! Dammit! We filled up on the shite stuff! In this buffet you can get pretty much everything excluding lobster! At risk of sounding like a gourmet, I never expected such an amazing range of food! I had boullibase with fresh garlic bread, followed by almond cheesecake with a berry coulis, and Jem had ceviche and fish and chips. That night, we thought we’d be going back to the same buffet, however, we were directed to the Lincoln Room, where we were served with a silver service 3 course meal!!! Jem and I were flabbergasted at the service, food and general professinalism of the whole set up! That’s USA for you!! Plus we were seated next to a gorgeous gay couple from Miami who would ‘love to go to Australia, but its just so far you know?’

We then went to an on-board show, performed by terrible British jazz dancers. Jem and I practically wet our pants at the performance of numbers such as ‘Lets Cruise Tonight’ by CDB! We then retired to the cabin where, naturally, I dyed my hair black.

Next morning after a restful sleep, we went to breakfast, again, a delightful assortment of edibles, accompanied by coffee and juice. I’m sorry for the carrying on about the food, but as my good friend Emily will confirm, I live to eat, not eat to live. After this, we headed to the ‘Adults Only’ swimming pool area where I played on my laptop like the right yuppie I am while Jem got some UV absorbtion, all accompanied by a Bob Marley tribute band. Gotta love it!

I thought I’d experienced luxury before, but I’ve never had anything compared to this! (Except maybe staying at the Swisshotel with Mum in Sydney, thanks for that btw!) You can have anything you want, when you want it. Spa, gym, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels! All you have to pay for is alcohol, internet (set at 75c per minute, meaning I’ve abstained from being connected for an entire week – go me!) and shopping, everything else is included in the price. Needless to say Jem and I have also abstained from drinking alcohol (yes, it is true!) until the prices lower considerably and the discos actually have people in them! The nightlife of the ship really needs to improve, however its costing us much less as a result! Off to Grand Cayman island to play with dolphins and lay on white sand tomorrow. It’s a hard life. I’m officially in tacky, tropical heaven and I’m going to find it very hard to get off this ship!

DAY 2 & 3

Right now I’m sitting looking out on a grey sky and black ocean. It appears the sun isn’t included in the price of the cruise!

Grand Cayman island was really nice, but it was so commercial its not funny. As we left the ship we were given a map of the main town, Georgetown. You’d think this map would include everything from tourist offices, to police stations to helpful information about where to find good snorkeling spots. Noooo. This map includes only shopping destinations, ones supported by Carnival Cruises. We were soon to find out that not only does Carnival control everything you do onboard, but everything you do off it too. Carnival pretty much owns the islands!!! (Needless to say we walked to a nice beach and got some UV instead of buying duty free diamonds or opening bank accounts!)

Onshore excursions can be organized for your pleasure, but when looked at closely, you can see that this service is purely a money making scheme. Attractions such as swim with the dolphins will set you back $120 for 20minutes, snorkeling adventures for close to $100, hell, just to get to the beach costs $40 through Carnival! However, being the savvy tight arse travelers that we are, we managed to get a taxi to the reef in Roatan and back on our own, for half the ship’s price!

After talking to a very nice taxi driver from Roatan island, we find out that ALL fares are through Carnival. They’re not allowed to take ANY fares without paying a commission (I’ll bet above 50%) to the cruise liner! The local tourist economy depends soley on Carnival. I felt a little sick after hearing this. I mean sure, its great that Carnival bring 3000 people a day to these islands, but instead of taking a cut of the local tourism, let them have it all, stay out of the operation of the island and let them run it themselves. These are poor islands (ok, maybe excluding Grand Cayman!) and I would much rather pay this stupidly expensive price for getting to a beach to go snorkeling knowing that the entire fare was going to the tour operators, strengthening the economy of the island, rather than going to a multi million dollar cruise liner!

It really is obscene the amount of money these cruising people have, and I hate that the locals look at me like they look at ‘them’, like I’m from another planet, one of milk and honey! I almost wish I could go back to South America where the rich don’t flaunt their wealth in front of the poor, and the bums and beggars contain more happiness and satisfaction in their lives than those with huge bank accounts. Where you know that when you buy a bracelet from a girl on the side of the road that that money is going towards her dinner for the night. That when you go on the Inca Trail, an honest amount of the price and tips is going to the porters who have been dreaming of this job all their lives.

Ok, so we did perhaps book an excursion, it’s a catamaran ride through the second largest barrier reef in the world in Belize (as usual, Australia wins!) and there’s complimentary drinks, so we’re just going to get tanked on punch and take Carnival down by drinking them dry! Watch out, here come Clare and Jem! Saving the Caribbean one drink at a time!


Miami. It didn’t even feel like we’d left South America. Everyone still speaks Spanish. I ordered a Coke at the airport in English and received a blank look, then ordered in Spanish and got comprehension. Oh well, at least I can keep practicing!

I knew this would be the town of the rich and beautiful, but to this extreme! At first appearance, it seems like Surfers Paradise, only much much larger. Our first morning was spent at Southbeach, very similar to any Queensland beach, plus girls in gold larmae swim suits and an abundance of gym junkies. People in Miami don’t go to the beach to swim or surf. They go to show off their new leopard skin bikini or sip cocktails or flirt outrageously with the local solarium-tanned macho men. I have never felt self –conscious walking down a beach in my swimmers. Until yesterday! The amount of ridiculously good-looking women (and men for that matter) is amazing! But not the kind of natural beauty you find in a coastal town. You get the feeling that these girls don’t leave the house without a considerable amount of work, choice of completely over-dressed ensemble, careful make-up, previous sun tanning, manicures, peticures etc. I felt completely under dressed walking down the main road in my denim skirt and black singlet top and flip flops.

We spent the rest of this first day searching downtown Miami for an Apple store and a Verison (apparently Vodafone’s sister company) unsuccessfully and so went back to the hostel to some really annoying German girls that walk around topless and turn the air conditioning up to sweltering heat despite the fact that its boiling outside.

We went out that night with some people from the hostel. After pre drinks at the hotel, we headed out at midnight to explore the Miami club scene. We arrived at a club called Mansions, where we waited in front of the ‘red rope’ for a solid 20 minutes while the guy from our hostel worked his magic with the bouncers and managed to convince them that 2 guys with a 7 girl-strong harem was fit to enter the club without queuing. This is after being looked up and down by the door bitch, obviously checking to see if we were good looking enough to be worthy of her club. We were presented with a charge of $30 to enter the club, despite the fact that at midnight, it was close to empty. We decided (being the tight arse Aussie travelers that we are) that that was a bit to steep and made a 180 through the front door. Much to the door bitch’s dismay, the people in the queue saw us leaving and drew to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth lining up for, also leaving. Suck that stupid Miami biatch!!!

So we did what any Aussie in Miami would do…went to the nearest Irish pub! Although still overly expensive ($7 for a beer!!), the atmosphere was much more relaxed and the people here were much less stuck up!!

So yesterday I bought my whiz bang brand new Macbook Pro and its so shiny and new and pretty and metallic! We uploaded 5000 photos from our trip so far! I think we’ve been getting overly excited with our cameras for the past two months!

Jem came with me to buy my computer and ended up buying on herself (I mean, there’s impulse buying and then there’s insanity..) so we walked down a populated Miami beach road with brand new Macbooks in one hand, tickets to a cruise in the Caribbean in the other, 8 months of travel through 3 continents to come, looking like rich bitches and finally felt like we fit in! All we needed was a Chiaua under our arm and it would have been perfect! Little did everyone know that it was all going on credit..and not daddy’s credit card like the rest of the 23 year olds in Miami, but our own which we will have to pay back upon our return. Awesome.

But I’m happy now, I have my puter, I’m going on a cruise next week, and I’m feeling healthy. Apart from 20 sandfly bites on my legs, which have consequently become infected and itching like crazy! Might need something for that…