Operation Lose America’s Gain

August 30, 2010

Location: Melbourne, Australia

It came as no surprise that after living in the USA for 14 months, I came back to Australia weighing more than when I left. It wasn’t a hard gain; late breaks at work led to late dinners; we’d eat out a couple of times per week; we’d drink at our local on Wednesday and Saturday nights  after work as well as pre-gaming and drinking when we’d hit the clubs on either Sunday or Tuesday nights.

It’s not exactly the best feeling in the world when your favourite old pair of jeans can’t zip or button up anymore. And no, it’s not exactly something I’m proud of, but hey, it’s life and I lived those 14 months to the best of my ability and enjoyed every second of it; no regrets.

I’ve never been that skinny girl nor will I ever be that skinny girl. I can however, do myself a favour and attempt to lose the weight I gained while in the USA, plus some. This will begin tomorrow.

Today I signed up at my local gym. I’ve worked out there before, many a time, and once I get myself into routine, I actually enjoy going there quite a bit. They had a deal going on; purchase three months membership for $349 and receive three months free. Six months should be ample time to reach my goals, or at least I hope.


A Final Hurrah in Sin City

August 14, 2010

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Location:
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
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Vegas in summary:

Airport Hotel Booze Vegas Strip Booze Booze Girls Girls Girls Vegas Strip Pool Booze Hotel Cirque du Soleil Booze Buffet Girls Girls Girls Buffet Vegas Strip Booze Vegas Strip Pool Booze Buffet Thunder from Downunder Vegas Strip Booze Cirque du Soleil Booze Clubbing Vegas Strip Booze Pool Booze Cirque du Soleil Booze Clubbing Booze Airport Tears.

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Phew. What a mouthful. After an amazing 14 month run, my last five days in the USA were to be spent in no place other than Las Vegas. I am by no means a Sin City virgin but on this particular trip, we were going to be popping Ali’s Vegas virginity.

It was tough saying farewell to Bryan at the airport on Tuesday morning; probably the toughest of them all. This was the one good bye I was least looking forward to. We had pretty much spent every single day of the entire last year together; grocery shopping, working, drinking, cooking, cleaning, hanging out, going to the Disney parks, vacationing together; literally everything. He pulled up curb side at the Southwest Terminal and helped remove our luggage from the car. After it was all out there was a hesitant pause. Ali and Kellen would be seeing Bryan again so it was all up to me. I took a step towards him and leaned in for a hug. I failed at trying not to cry. I didn’t wear any make up for this particular reason; it was inevitable. We said our good byes while I cried all over his shoulder. I didn’t want to let go of him. Bryan handed me a letter and told me to read it a little later on. He hopped back into the car and like that, he was gone. I’m going to miss him so much.

I check all 130lbs of my luggage in. It’s hard to believe how much crap I’ve accumulated over the last 14 months. Thank God for Southwest Airlines two free checked pieces of luggage policy. While sitting at our gate waiting to board, I decide to read the letter Bryan left me with. I’m not even two lines in before I start to cry again. I’m an emotional mess. His words are so sweet and it pains me to imagine my days without him. My sleeve becomes my tissue; good thing I didn’t wear any eye liner. I get a grip of myself right before it is time to board the plane.

We touch down in Vegas at 10am with hopes The Mirage will let us check in this early and sure enough, it does. Score. Our room is gorgeous and we’ve conveniently been given a room with a strip view at no extra cost! Double score.

Twenty minutes is by far too much time to spend in a hotel room in Vegas so off we go to introduce Ali to the strip. We are only walking for

maybe five minutes before Ali realises you can legally roam the streets with booze in hand. This is way to exciting for Ali to handle so we make our way into the nearest hotel to purchase ourselves our first drink. Never mind that it is only 11am, it is 5pm somewhere, right? I’m glad you agree. Our first drink is down the hatch within minutes. There’s nothing like an ice cold Bud Light in 108°F heat while walking down the Las Vegas strip. As we make out way towards the Paris Hotel our taste buds are tingling for another alcoholic beverage. Ali suggest a beverage of the frothy kind and Kellen and I agree. We come across a little place called Evening Call and purchase a cup each that has refills available for only $5; insane. The cup is white, but when a freezing cold substance is poured into it, it turns red! Pretty cool. I order a coffee slushy with baileys in it. As I bring the straw up to my mouth for my first sip, I start to wonder if I should have ordered this; My stomach doesn’t usually have a great reaction to milk-based products. This is quickly forgotten upon having my first sip. The drink is heavenly; absolutely bloody delicious.

More drinks are consumed as we walk the Vegas strip. Kellen and Ali decide it is fun to collect the cards of nakey girls that the GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS guys are handing out on the side of the road (if you’ve ever been to Vegas you know exactly what I’m talking about). It is not even 2pm and we are already best friend with intoxication. We head back to the hotel to sober up and get ready for tonight.

We have tickets to the 7:30pm session of Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere at Treasure Island. After having seen La Nouba 1047982 times while working there on the Disney College Program, I decided it was time to venture out into the world of Cirque du Soleil and see as many resident shows as possible while in Vegas. I lost my Cirque virginity to La Nouba, so in a sense, I felt like I was cheating on it tonight with Mystere. I tried to convince myself this was probably for the best; after all, I was on a mission to find bigger and better… than La Nouba, of course. Get your mind out of the gutter! Mystere had many similarities to La Nouba in that it was the imaginable being brought to life on stage to provide the ultimate discovery that life itself is a mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed the show probably a little bit more than La Nouba, although the first time I ever saw La Nouba, I was blown away by it all too. After Mystere we eat dinner at the Paris buffet which is absolutely delicious.

Day two is just another day of drinking down the strip only today we are rather excited because we find a place by the name of Bill’s that serves 99c margaritas and beer. Needless to say we make out way on it and indulge in a few. I must take advantage of as much cheap booze as possible now because God knows, once I get back to Australia, I’ll be paying insane prices for it. We lay out by the pool while drinking more beer and frothy beverages before it is time to go in and gussy up for tonight’s adventure.

We head to Planet Hollywood for dinner which is insanely crowded due to The Expendables movie premier going on there. It was a nice surprise to see Sylvester Stallone standing around just before we went into eat. The buffets was amazing and had food from many different countries. One of the better buffets I’ve been to in Vegas for sure. We only have a small time frame which to consume as much food as possible because tonight we are heading to… drum roll please…

Thunder from Downunder

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at The Excalibur hotel. We have been waiting patiently for this day for a few weeks now and are beyond excited to see my home boys represent. The show was absolutely insanely amazing! The boys were hotter than I can even explain. At one point, the MC asked if anyone had ever touched anything Australian before. Of course, Ali and Kellen start screaming at the top of their lungs and pointing to me. I  may have slightly blushed. The show they put on really is phenomenal and I highly recommend it to any one who’s in Vegas for a bachelorette party or just to have a good time like we were.

Best. Photo. Ever.

Ali and I wake up early on day three to head to the Cirque du Soleil ‘LOVE box office which is located inside The Mirage. This particular Cirque show was coming off a seven day dark week which meant it was more than likely going to be sold out but thought we’d try our luck. The lady selling tickets at the box office tells us the same thing we tell all the guests “We are coming back from a short break, we are sold out, only single seats left, we’re not releasing any more, yada yada yada”. I knew she was lying because this is what we use to tell everyone too even when we had seats on hold. Conveniently, as we are standing there, two seats magically appear. The only catch, they are $172.40 each. Ouch. I wasn’t planning on spending this much on a ticket but tonight is the only night we can see this show. I tell Ali I’m fine with paying it as long as she is too. We both hand over our credit cards and slightly cringe as they get swiped. This better be a good show!

So after watching LOVE I don’t feel bad about dropping the $172.40 on my ticket. It was, hands down, the best show I’ve ever seen. LOVE celebrates the musical legacy of The Beatles. Drawn from the poetry of  their lyrics, LOVE explores the content of the songs in a series of scenes inhabited by real and imaginary people. There was always so much happening I didn’t know where to look which is why I think I’ll have to see this show for a second time on my next visit back to Vegas. Incredible! While still high on energy from LOVE, we head to Jet Nightclub at The Mirage. Being Mirage guests, we get free entry; excellent, more to spend on alcohol. We drink and dance the night away.

Day four is our last full day in Vegas and also my last night in the USA before heading home. Sadness bestows me which means it is time for a drink. We make our way back to the Evening Call in Paris and refill our cups. Kellen doesn’t feel the best so I decide to take advantage of this situation and double fist. I get the Bacardi flavoured rum mixed with tropical flavoured slushy. Delicious. The best part is, I can’t even taste any alcohol so I’m just slurping these babies down as if they’re a regular 7/11 slushy. We head back to the pool for our last day of sunshine and tanning. For me, this will probably be the last time I see sun for the next few months. I have a horrible, cold winter to look forward to after tomorrow.

Tonight we have tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity at New York New York. Zumanity has claimed to be the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil. It is a seductive twist on reality, making the provocative playful and the forbidden electrifying. You are asked to leave all inhibitions at the door and let loose as this Cirque production takes you on a sexy thrill ride full of sensational acrobatics and naughty fun. The show is part burlesque and part cabaret and only viewable to those 18 years and over. Again, another amazing show.

We head to Studio 54 at the MGM. There is a huge line up at the door. Tonight Lady Gaga performed at the MGM and Studio 54 is home to her official after party so the crowds are insane. It doesn’t help that she is due to walk out any minute to do a press conference and pose for the paparazzi right by the front of the club and admissions line. The security guard calls Kellen and I in right before she comes out. Bummer.

Kellen has never been to Studio 54 before but I had told him several times how it is my favourite club in Vegas because the music they play is amazing. After a few drinks, he was quick to agree. We buy each other round after round after round and after a while, I lose count as to how much we’ve consumed. We’re having such an amazing time just dancing the night away. It reaches 3am and we agree that if the next song is crappy, we will leave. Lucky for us, it isn’t, so we continue dancing like it’s nobodies business. Everywhere we look, there are girls dressed up as Lady Gaga. Once Kellen reaches his height of intoxication, he starts asking them all for photos and they kindly pose with him. Too funny. We stumble out of Studio 54 sometime after 4am and make it back to the room exactly at 5am. What a night.

The next morning is like a depressive blur. Ali and Kellen help me carry my bags out to catch a cab. I have an earlier flight out than they do so of course, I have to say my good byes to them. The cab driver finishes loading my bags into his trunk. I turn to Ali, before I even reach out to hug her I’m already crying. She starts crying too. I look over to Kellen to give him a hug and I start crying even more. I know I will be seeing them again so this makes it a little easier. I say good bye one last time then hop into the cab and cry all the way to the airport.

Good bye Las Vegas, until next time…


Bahama-Rama IV

August 9, 2010

Location: Somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean
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~ DAY FOUR ~

Today is our final day aboard Monarch of the Seas and we are scheduled to be at sea for the entire day. Knowing this the night prior, we  plan to sleep in and attend brunch. There are many activities planned on board the ship today to keep the guests amused, but for the most part, we plan to just relax and soak up the sun while laying out on a deck chair.

It is so peaceful laying out in the sun with nothing but ocean surrounding you. I find my own piece of serenity just by gazing out at the crisp, calm waters. The ocean sparkles as the sun reflects off of it. If only I could do this every day of the week. The trance I am in is soon disturbed as the pool deck entertainment kicks off. First up is a male belly-flop competition which a handful of men have signed themselves up for. I adjust my deck chair up one notch so I am able to peer over the edge to watch the battle. There really are some pathetic excuses for bellies that have entered to score their ten seconds of ship fame. One guy in particular, I feel sorry for. I have the greatest urge to walk up to him and feed him a cookie, or a burger,  better yet, both, but I resist. His competition are several other guys who seem to have enjoyed the ships 24/7 buffet. Poor dude doesn’t stand a chance.


Our cruise friend, Mike, enters himself into a Dodge-ball competition. His team has made the finals so we go to cheer him on. Mike is so caught up in winning the game that he doesn’t realise that his sandal has somehow slid over his foot and is now firmly wrapped around his ankle; almost like a shin guard. It is not until after they are declared the winners that he notices his sandal is not under his foot. He tries to

pull the sandal down but fails miserably. He sits on the pool ledge while his dad tries with all his strength to remove the sandal. Strike two. Mike puts his leg into the pool with hopes that the water will help the sandal slide off. Strike three. At this point, Mike has gathered quite the crowd. A man walks up with his SLR camera and begins taking photos of Mike’s ankle while his daughter watches on in a fit of laughter. I try not to laugh but I can’t help it. We are left with only one more option. Off to the ship doctor we go! Now, I know this isn’t something common, but even the doctor had a hard time taking the situation seriously. The doctor looks down at Mike’s foot and bursts out laughing. He shakes his head and tells us this is the most ridiculous thing he’s ever seen. He disappears for a few seconds then comes back with a packet of KY jelly which he smothers all over Mike’s ankle. The doctor takes a turn trying to pull the sandal off, only when he tries, the chair Mike is sitting on just starts dragging across the floor. Fail.

Mike is faced with no choice; it’s either the leg or the sandal. The doctor knows this is a tough decision so he gives Mike a few seconds to think it through. His time is up. After some serious thought, Mike decides to sacrifice the sandal. The doctor grabs a pair of scissors and begins the pain-free process. Just like that, Mike is free. Hooray!

Tonight for dinner I am super excited to see that they have New York Strip Steak on the menu. This has become one of my favourite cuts of steak while in the USA so there was no hesitation when ordering it as my main meal. In fact, it was so amazingly delicious that I had a second. Dessert was an incredible double chocolate mousse brownie with a dollop of cream and a strawberry. My taste buds may have just had a mouth-gasm. In fact, I think they did.

Sadly tonight was our last dinner on board Monarch of the Seas. This also meant it was our last night with our amazing waitress, Ning, and our phenomenal assistant waiter, Jonathan. They had both been incredible over the last few nights when dealing with our dislike towards veggies, Jessica’s love of cups of hot water and our mad obsession with the sour doll bread rolls they served us before dinner. We made sure to give them both an extra tip on top of the recommended tip because their service really was tremendous. After dinner, we said our thanks and good byes and then had our photo taken with them both.

We head to The Sound of Music Theater for our final night of on board entertainment. Tonight’s show is called Signed, Sealed, Delivered and is a dance and musical number performed to us by the Royal Caribbean Entertainers. The lights dim, the curtain draws and the show begins. The female lead vocalist gives an amazing rendition of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You which brings down the house. It was absolutely incredible and she sang it perfectly, absolutely killing the big notes with what seemed to be such ease. As she sang she brought chills to my spine. What an amazing voice.

Everything ends early tonight on board the Monarch of the Seas. I feel absolutely buggered. The late nights, alcohol, sun and swimming has all caught up to me. I call it a night and head to bed at around midnight. When I wake up, we will be docked back at Port Canaveral, Florida and our cruise will have come to an end.

What an amazing four days this has been.

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The End


Bahama-Rama III

August 7, 2010

Location: Nassau, The Bahamas
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~ DAY THREE ~

Day three sneaks up on us quicker than we would have liked. After only a few hours of sleep we wake to Mike’s cell phone alarm and take turns getting ready; I’m first. Every one after me seems to take their time so I head up to Deck 11 alone and tell the others to meet me there. Throughout the night, the Monarch of the Seas had cruised its way toward Nassau and docked there a few hours before we awoke. The view from our breakfast table this morning in phenomenal; a Norwegian cruise liner is docked beside us in some of the most amazing ocean water I’ve ever experienced before in all my travels, and in the distance, Atlantis can be seen. Views like this aren’t to be taken for granted.

After consuming a hearty breakfast of sausage, piles and piles of bacon, cured ham, scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns and fruit we make our way down to Deck 1 to exit the Monarch of the Seas. It is ridiculously hot outside. I mean, it is so hot that it reminds me of that one time I fell asleep with my laptop sitting on my lap and it burned an attractive red patch onto my upper thigh multiplied by about eight hundred. Taking a shower this morning was absolutely pointless as I’m already swimming in a pool of my own sweat. Right now I am about as attractive as a baboon running around in distress from a torrential down pour; hello boys!

We make our way through this one building that gives us access to Downtown Nassau. We are greeted by a big, colourful Welcome to Nassau and The Bahamas sign before we start getting pestered by the locals to buy from them or to use their services. One lady offers us a ferry ride from Downtown Nassau to Paradise Island for $6 each round trip. We take her up on her offer and board the ferry. As the ferry pulls away from the dock, a guide starts narrating the history of Nassau to us which I find extremely educating and enjoyable to listen to. The 360° views that we have from the ferry are breathtaking; especially once we’ve cleared the port and look back to see the four cruise liners docked there. Amazing.

The ferry docks at Paradise Island and we are told to return no later than 6pm for the final trip back to the mainland. Awesome, this gives us plenty of time to explore Atlantis. Without further ado, we make our way over to the resort. It’s a good thing Mike has been here on previous cruise trips because he knows exactly which way to lead us.

As we approach Atlantis, I am overcome with jealousy as to the size of some of the yachts docked there. There is one yacht that has it’s own speed boat and jet ski’s on deck as well as a 60″ flat screen LCD TV swiveled over a marble outdoor bar. Not to mention the yacht parked next to it which I’m pretty sure is bigger than the size of my house. It must be so tough being rich. Buggers. Maybe a high roller will see me in the casino and be turned on by my pool of sweat and whisk me away on his yacht where we will make yacht babies while sailing away into the Bahamian sunset.

The Atlantis casino is rather large and to my surprise, it is the first casino I’ve ever seen that has natural light shining in through windows. To my knowledge, casino’s are known to not have any windows so that the people in there playing have no track of whether it is still daylight or not. Strange. We sit down for a while and play some slots. I decide to play $5. I’m such a bad ass high roller. The beauty of playing even the cheapest of machines is that, as long as you’re donating, all the drinks you order, alcoholic or non, are free. I order myself a Malibu with pineapple juice. I’ve been drinking beer lately so I am eagerly excited to sip on my drink of choice while pressing the buttons on this slot machine. I take my first sip. Gahhhh. It is three quarters Malibu and one quarter juice. It’s excruciatingly strong. I’d never have imagined in a million years that my drink of choice could taste so hideously gross. I try so hard to drink it, and believe me, I do, but I just can’t handle it. What a sad, sad moment in my life.

We leave the casino and make our way outside to discover the grounds of Atlantis. The resort is huge and there is no way we will be able to cover a vast majority of it in the time we have here but we do our best. We find a path that takes us around the outskirts of the main building and decide that it’s our best option. The grounds are gorgeous and so well maintained and the detail given to everything is incredible. I love that they have so many different breeds of fish swimming around in the ponds as well as sting rays and sharks. We walk out to an open area that gives a breathtaking view of the man-made beach with a view of the real beach in the distance. Spectacular. This place is like heaven on earth and I’m more than sure that a vacation here is in my future.

We make our way back inside to escape the heat for a few minutes. Oh air conditioning, how I love you. While inside, we purchase tickets that will give us access to. the Atlantis aquariums.. This turns out to be

a rather fun experience. We see all kinds of sea creatures; star fish, electric jelly fish, sharks and guess what, we even found Nemo! Well, not just Nemo, but Nemo’s entire family and then some. It’s not even pushing 6pm but we’re hot, bothered & hungry. We leave Atlantis and get the ferry back to the ship to get our grub on.

The ship doesn’t leave port until 11:30pm tonight. Our schedule is quite hectic; dinner at 8:30pm, pool-deck party and late night pool-side buffet at 11:30pm, drinking and partying until ??

Dinner tonight is a succulent cutlet of roast beef with seasonal veggies and of course, a baked potato. The beef is cooked to perfection and if I didn’t know there was a late night pool-side buffet in three hours, I may very well have asked for seconds. Dessert was a mouth watering double chocolate cake with black cherry sauce. It was delicious but extremely rich, too rich to finish eating. What a shame. After dinner we decide to take a nice stroll around the ship. We are still docked at Nassau. The view of the city and the other ships all lit up at night is pretty. Mike and Jessica decide to take some cute boyfriend girlfriend photos. Lauren and I decide to give them a run for their money. I kneel down and place my arms around Lauren’s back and legs while swiftly whisking her off her feet into a cute honeymoon pose. So romantic… for a whole 10 seconds before I drop her back down to the ground. Good times.

After dinner we head to The Sound of Music Theater to attend one of the ship activities for the night. Everyone must gather in groups of eight and sit with their group. The MC explains the rules; he will call out an item, and what ever item he calls out, we must present to him with our group number to keep track of points. It starts off simple enough; shoelaces, a boy wearing girls shoes etc… but then it gets messy. He asks for four bras so of course, Lauren, Jessica, myself and another female member of our group start undoing our bra straps and trying to wiggle them off under our shirts. I get mine half out until Lauren decides to tug extremely hard on the right cup that is hanging out from under my shirt. A loud rip can be heard. Much to everyone’s amusement, she is holding the right cup of my bra while the left cup is still snuggled securely around my left boob. Oh dear. I pull it out and Lauren runs all four bras up to the MC. Success, only now I have to hold my boobs for the remainder of the game! Half way through, our friend, Mike, stumbles in completely drunk, ‘I’m so glad I found you guys!’ Unfortunately for Mike, just as he approaches us, the MC calls for a male wearing nothing more than their underwear. ‘Mike, get your pants off’, I scream while Lauren is trying desperately to unbuckle his belt and pull his pants down. Mike has no clue what is happening but thinks he has walked into the best night of his life. Once his pants are off, we hand him our team number and tell him to run up to the MC. Double success. It only gets better when he has to put on a bra and do a sexy, seductive walk to gain us an extra point. Utter hilarity. The MC calls for a thong. Needless to say women are running up to him and pulling up their dresses to reveal the thong they are wearing. Most of these females are American so they have no idea that in Australia, our flip flops are called thongs. I send Lauren up with my right flip flop and we score a point while still maintaining our dignity. We don’t win the game but regardless, we have too much fun taking part in it.

People have already started making their way to the pool deck for tonight’s pool-side buffet and deck party. We’d only just gone done with dinner a few hours prior, but alas, food was calling our names.

We take a plate and line up. There is so much food to be eaten but my semi-full belly can only fit so much. I only grab a few things. If I over do it I know I will regret it later when I’m suffering from indigestion at 5am. There are cute little fruit carvings at each table. These things are absolutely bloody phenomenal. Kudos to who ever carved these designs; they’d have to have the patience of champions. We find a spot to sit and eat. The DJ starts laying some tunes on the main pool deck. He’s picked a great array of dance songs and it’s making me just want to get up and let loose. Lauren appears with two Bud Lights; one for me and one for her. Beer; one of life’s simple pleasures. We get our butts onto the dance floor and start burning it up. Mike, the friend we made on day one joins us. Lauren is an amazing dancer and goes off to Soulja Boy’s Crank That while others take photos of her dancing. I hear one lady yell, ‘Daaayyumm, white girl can dance!’.

Tonight is yet another night of one too many beers. Our favourite bar tender is mixing drinks on the pool deck tonight. He sees us dancing under the stars and calls us over. Hooray, free shots for us. We continue burning up the dance floor. It’s become quite intense with about five boys having a dance off competition which is rather impressive. After seven Bud Lights and one shot, the dance party comes to an end at around 3am. We make our way to Sorreno’s Pizza Cafe to wind down and some how get to our cabin at maybe 5am? Another amazing night on board Monarch of the Seas.

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~ To be continued ~


Bahama-Rama II

August 4, 2010

Location: CocoCay, The Bahamas
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~ DAY TWO ~

I was feeling quite energized considering I’d only scored myself five hours of sleep. I can’t figure out if the incredible sleep was due to the fact that we have no windows in our Stateroom and therefore no light came creeping in or because my bed was just so damn comfortable. Waking up hang-over free was just an added bonus; kinda like the cherry on top of a sundae. Either way, I wasn’t going to complain.

We pack a day bag and make out way over to the Windjammer Café for breakfast. As I step foot into the café and take a peak out the window, I notice the ship has docked in the middle of the ocean. In the distance lays a small island which, without my glasses on, doesn’t look like anything too impressive. I wonder if this is Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island that we are due to visit today. I am hastily side-tracked by the grumbling of my tummy. Well, excuse me! The smell of breakfast aromas fill the air and my taste buds are quickly tickled. I grab a plate and am overcome by the wide offerings. Where do I begin? I head to the hot section and grab me some scrambled eggs, bacon galore, toast, sausage links, cured ham and a selection of fresh fruits and pastries; delicious. I think I have died and gone to food heaven.

After breakfast we decide to make our way down to Deck 1 which is the departure point for Coco Cay. Unfortunately, because the Monarch of the Seas is too big to dock at the island, we must take a ferry from the ship there. We are bummed when we realise the line is backed all the way up to Deck 3 but our disappointment is quickly overturned when one of the crew tell us we’ll be on the next ferry. Turns out they can seat a couple of hundred people at a time and turns out, he’s correct. As we board, I can feel the ferry wobble about while staying afloat in the ocean. I feel a sense of uneasiness and queasiness and my breakfast jiggles around in my belly. We sit there for a good fifteen minutes before the ferry pulls away from the ship and we are off to Coco Cay. We head towards the same island I was eying off over breakfast; I quietly pray it looks prettier up close than it does from afar.

The ferry docks at Coco Cay Island. Within minutes my earlier concerns are put to rest and my heart is at ease. Coco Cay is absolutely stunning. The waters are a gorgeous sparkling teal colour and the sand is so white and pure; the island is like a tiny slice of heaven on earth. The Market Place is an array of bright colours which compliment the dazzling green palm trees, adding to the tropical island feel.

Mike and Jessica head out to do their jet-skiing activity while Lauren and I walk around and explore the market stalls.  The sun is beating down on us; we haven’t even been on the island for twenty minutes and already I am dripping with sweat. It has to be 95, maybe 100 degrees Fahrenheit out and it can’t be much after midday. Phew; what a scorcher! After walking around for a while we decide to find two sun chairs, dump our stuff and without any hesitation, I throw myself into the semi-cold ocean.

Pure bliss. Life really doesn’t get any better than this. The water is lukewarm but still a welcoming cool off from the wicked heat. I doggy-paddle around for a while in the shallow waters. There is a fair bit of seaweed floating about. While paddling I can see it getting nearer so I try to blow it away. Stay away, sea weed, or you shall die a terrible, terrible death! I can’t stand the feeling of seaweed clinging to my bare skin while I’m at the beach; it freaks me out! I clear a path in the water for myself and swim down it to reach deeper waters but alas, seaweed touches my mouth. I panic. This is horrible. Terrible. I throw my arms around in a desperate plea for help. Get it away. Gross! I break free from the seaweed (a single strand, no more than 10cm in length) and I swim back to shore and lay face-down on my beach chair and close my eyes. I can feel the heat of the sun evaporate the water droplets on my back as island music is playing in the background. I open my eyes and sit up. The sky is such a crisp shade of blue; the sand so white,  the water, a sparkling light shade of teal and the palm trees gently whistle in the almost non-existent breeze. I am so relaxed. It’s a tough job, but hey, somebody has to do it. May as well be me.

After a short while, we meet back up with Mike and Jessica and grab a bite to eat. There is a massive BBQ buffet lunch on the island and, despite having our bellies showing, we do not hesitate when piling up our plates with food. I’m rather self-conscious, but after seeing a rather voluptuous lady in her late 70’s in a leopard-print string bikini, I feel a little more comfortable with myself. Lunch is great; we have BBQ ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, cakes… I’ve quickly come to realise that cruising really is the way of life.

We spend some more time swimming, sunbathing and shopping at the Market Place before we succumb to the heat and make out way back to the ship, not before a super touristy Coco Cay group photo though.

Tonight is formal dining night aboard Monarch of the Seas; yes, that’s right, it means we must get gussied up and not look like washed up trash. We spend a good few hours in our cabin showering, shaving, straightening hair, curling hair, dressing, doing make up, you know, all the pre-requisites for making ourselves look all pretty and cute. The end result is nothing short of amazing if I may say so myself.

Before dinner we are all invited to the Captain’s Formal Welcoming aboard Monarch of the Seas in The Sound of Music Theater. This takes a while to kick off but we are showered with champagne which is alright by me.  The Captain introduces himself, tells us some interesting facts about the ship and then introduces us to the Managers on board who then each introduce themselves. It turns out to be a rather enjoyable event and we are glad we took the time to attend. After this we head straight to dinner. My choice for tonight’s formal dinner is the beef which is delicious and tender. I’m not a fan of mashed potato so Jonathan, our Assistant Waiter brought me a baked potato which I sliced in half and enjoyed with a dollop of butter. Dinner was followed by an incredible dessert for the sweet tooth. I’m not entirely sure of the name of this one, but it was similar to that of chocolate pudding, only our Waitress, Ning, grabbed my spoon, put a hole in the pudding and then poured a Kahlua-like custard into the middle. Regardless of what it’s name is, it was an absolute treat on the taste buds; yum!

After dinner another visit was paid to Casino Royale and alas, another few dollars were kindly donated to Royal Caribbean. Damn slots, get me every time! It’s a good thing we have plans tonight because I can see all four of us easily losing more money than we have to that place.

Before heading out for the night, we make a quick detour back to our cabin. Much to our delight, our room has been made up and there is a towel creature sitting on my bed wearing Mike’s glasses. It’s so cute. Pretty shoes come off, flip flops go on and off we go to the Sound of Music Theater for a night of entertainment. Tonight’s show is called You Can’t Stop The Beat and is a dance and musical number performed to us by the Royal Caribbean Entertainers. We get there early and secure ourselves front row seats so that I don’t have to wear my glasses. The lights dim, the curtain draws and the show begins. Lauren and I are quick to spot our favourite dancer from 70’s night the night prior. His moves are amazing and his body just seems to stay in sync with the beat; he’s incredible… that is until we are introduced to the three main singers. Their voices are phenomenal and the female singer has a voice that could raise the nine decks above us off the ship. Wow; what a gift to be blessed with.

The show let’s out and Lauren and I make our way to Circuit Nightclub. Upon walking in, we are rather surprised that our favourite bar tender already has our two drinks waiting for us on the bar. After only one night he knows us so well; shucks. Tonight is another night of one too many beers, singing, dancing, a late night pizza rendezvous at Sorreno’s and drunken conversations with the friends we made last night. Who knows what time or how we got back to our beds? Good times.
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~ To be continued ~


Bahama-Rama I

August 1, 2010

Location: Somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean
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~ DAY ONE ~

The day started out different to the one before. Today there was a particular sense of excitement buzzing around through out the air. The countdown had finally reached its end and the next exhilarating saga was about to begin. Yes, today was the day we board Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and embark on our journey to The Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean’s terminal at Port Canaveral is swarming with people; all as eager and bright-eyed as I to board the ship. The check in line is long and some of the younger guests begin to get irritated by this. As I patiently wait I wonder how many of these guests are first-time cruise-goers like myself.

Check in goes as smoothly as one could hope. The ship is money-less so we are given SeaPass cards which act as our room key as well as a debit/credit card. Once swiped the crew on board can detect our age and verify that the card is ours via a hideous photo that is taken upon entry. Now, let me tell you, this is no ordinary photo. This photo is taken from roughly stomach height looking up toward your face. This is not only the worst angle ever imaginable, but now in my photo, I look like a repulsive, three-chined, sweaty dragon lady; an eager one none the less. Can’t wait to flash that one to my bar-tenders later on tonight when I’m all gussied up. Dragon lady who?

Upon stepping foot onto the ship, we are welcomed by many of the ships crew and an array of alcoholic beverages, all chargeable to our SeaPass card, of course. We decide it would be best to find our cabin, throw our luggage in there and then make our way to the pool deck for a swim before dinner. We are in stateroom 5009 which is down an extremely long hall, away from all the noise and commotion. The room is, well, tiny, to say the least; tiny yet extremely cute. We have two single beds and another set of two beds which fold down from the walls to make bunk beds. There is a small closet, a TV, a full length mirror and another half body mirror on the dresser as well as a small bedside table between the two bottom beds. The bathroom is, well, again, tiny. If you were slightly on the larger side I’m not exactly sure you’d have the most pleasing of times trying to fit not only into the shower, but into the bathroom itself. Despite the size of the room, it really is pretty much all we need. After all, who goes on a cruise to The Bahamas and does nothing more than stay in their cabin? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Before we can go and enjoy the pool, everyone is to meet on deck for a compulsory safety briefing. I hate this part, just like I hate it when I’m on a plane flying over the ocean. What to do if the ship sinks in the middle of no where and you’re stranded with no land or human life (except those on the ship) for thousands of miles out; ugh, it gives me the heeby geebyz. A life jacket, a whistle and a flash light is not going to protect me from a hungry great white shark that sees me helplessly kicking around in the water and thinks I’m a stranded seal, or worse, the dessert that accompanies the seal. It is at this safety briefing that we meet Mike. Mike is conveniently standing by us with his family when he hears is talking about Disney. He turns around and starts talking to us. Coincidentally he is also a Disney Cast Member on the College Program and lives right across from my old apartment at Chatham Square. Coincidence? I think not! The never ending safety briefing finally ends. Imagine that.

By now, the ship has departed Port Canaveral, en route to the island of Coco Cay in The Bahamas. We get our bathing suits on and head to Deck 11 which is where the pool is situated. It is crazy hot out and the pool water looks so wonderfully inviting minus the horde of children floating around in it. My feet are burning on the hot floor. I can’t wait any longer. Without even thinking, I jump right in. AHHHHHHH! It burns! Upon surfacing I scurry around like a crazy dragon lady to find the pool ledge. My eye balls are burning in their sockets and my throat is stinging as if I’d just downed ten shots of straight up Limoncello. This is not chlorinated water; it’s the saltiest water ever to roam the earth. If I dumped 50 kilograms of salt into my bathtub and then some, this pool water would still be saltier! Gross!

After adjusting to the unhealthy levels of salt in the pool, I later find subtle enjoyment from this. While resting on the ledge, I see completely dry pool-goers, eager to find peace from the fierce heat jumping on it. Little do they know the water is salt city until it is too late. I find happiness while watching them scurry on over to the ledge while screaming out in a salty panic. Call me evil, but I’m sure someone did the same thing to me when I jumped in only minutes before. The next victim is our new friend, Mike. He walks up to the ledge and jumps on in. Poor Mike.

After spending several hours in the pool and looking wrinkly beyond belief, we head back to our cabin to prepare for dinner. Our dinner seating is at 8:30pm in Vincent’s Dining Room on Deck 3. Tonight is just a casual seating so we dress neatly and appropriately. The dining room is rather large. Upon estimation, I’d think it could seat maybe 500 people. There is also another dining room above us called Claude’s Dining Room which too has an 8:30pm seating. Both rooms also have an earlier seating of 5:45pm. Since this is our first dinner, we are escorted to table 91; this will remain our dining table for the next four nights. We are at the back of the room right by the kitchen which means super fast service. We are greeted by our waiters who introduce themselves at Ning, our waitress, and Jonathan, our assistant waiter. Both are very lovely and go out of their way to attend to our needs which they soon become very accustom to: a glass of hot water for Jessica upon arrival, no veggies for myself and Mike, plenty of sour dough bread rolls for us all and never ending glasses of lemonade. They are extremely accommodating and apologetic for the tiniest of things. Tonight I order myself a caesar salad for the appetizer and a flat iron steak with garlic butter sauce and a baked potato for my main, which, by the way was super delicious. Dessert is something similar to a chocolate molten lava cake, just without the lava. The inside is deliciously rich and moist. I also enjoy a side of lemon gelato which goes down a treat. Before leaving, Ning tells us that there is breakfast served in the dining room every morning until 9:30am, but since we are youngens she doesn’t expect to see us there. Between you and me, I think ‘young’ is her nice was of saying ‘drunks’.

We have some time to kill before tonight’s planned activities so we head to what soon becomes one of Jessica’s favourite places on board the ship, yes, that’s right, the Casino Royale. To be honest, neither of us really have any clue what we are doing but we each decide to gamble a few harmless dollars. I sit at a slot machine, put in a dollar bill, press the 20 lines by 3 button, and just like that, the machine howls at me and I’ve won $4.27; I am excited beyond belief… that is, until, I play my winnings and lose it all. Ah, such is life. I can’t let this steep loss get to me though, because tonight is 70’s night and we are ready to boogie the night away!

70’s night kicks off at 10:30pm sharp on Deck 3 right out side Vincent’s Dining Room. The entertainment crew come out wearing crazy big afro’s and florescent, vibrant costumes and start dancing away to some Saturday Night Fever. Not before too long, they are pulling guests out onto the dance floor and we’re all getting down. I’m not one to dance while sober, but the music was too good to refuse. The dancing crew jumped into the transparent elevators in front of the dance floor and started riding them up and down while getting their disco dance on inside. Every time a new guest would step foot into the elevator, they’d make them dance around like crazy; it was hilarious. A massive conga line was formed and travelled around Deck 3 and the Village People even made a surprise visit.  If this was the outlook for the next three days then this cruise was going to be amazing!

After 70’s night we made our way over to one of the 18+ clubs on the ship, The Circuit. We head straight to the bar and order ourselves a Bud Light. Beer after beer after beer was consumed. We drank so much that the bar tenders even learned our names and knew what we wanted before we even ordered. Tonight we made many friends while drinking and dancing that, despite knowing yet, we’d bump into many a time throughout the duration of our cruise. We wound down at Sorreno’s Pizza Bar at 3am and somehow made it back to our cabins some time after that and passed out.

Despite only being 12 hours long, day one was nothing short of amazing!

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~ To be continued ~


Bienvenidos a Miami

July 20, 2010


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Location:
Miami, Florida, USA
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There was quite the last minute hustle and bustle early Friday morning.

I woke bright and early to the chiming of my cell phone alarm. My eyes were puffy from crying the night before and my eyeliner had smudged a good 1cm radius around my eyes. I looked like a sleep-deprived Panda. I took a quick shower, packed the remainder of my things, stripped my bed down and took out the last of my trash.

Bryan would be pulling up by my apartment any minute now. I grab my things and walk towards my front door. Before flicking off the light switch on my way out I turn around and take one last look at what is now a completely empty apartment; just like the day I moved into it. The walls are stripped bare; apartment 4102 now lacks any character I had added to it to make me feel at home. So many great memories, so many smiles, so much fun; gone. I feel my eyes begin to water. I take a deep breath, turn around, and shut the door behind me. There’s no turning back now.

I place my gear in Bryan’s trunk and hop into the front seat. We make a quick stop by Housing. I reluctantly hand in my Chatham Square Housing ID and my apartment key to the front desk. Just like that, after a full twelve months of working for Disney, I am no longer a Disney Cast Member, no longer on the Disney College Program and I no longer live at Chatham Square. Good bye, Disney, it’s been a blast.

Sadness is quickly over turned. Today a bunch of my Disney friend and I are road-tripping to South Beach, Miami for a few days to have one last big group outing together. Before departure though, we have one thing left to do. What could possibly be better than Maccas for a pre-roadtrip breakfast!?! Mmmm, hash browns and a bacon, egg and cheese bagel! I’m lovin’ it.

We get into Miami Beach at around 4pm. We are staying at the Viscay Hotel on Collins Ave. Everything seemed to be completely booked out for the dates we required, and it didn’t make it any easier since we were a party of ten. This hotel is by far no where as elegant and luxurious as where we stayed a few weeks ago at The Bentley Hotel on Ocean Drive, but they had vacancy, the price was decent and it was ranked highly on trip advisor. Despite this, we are still only a three minute walk from the beach and we are right in the heart of the exuberant nightlife that South Beach offers.  We have two suites booked. The plan is to fit five in each. Upon arrival and first inspection, the rooms seem sufficient; big, spacious area, bathroom is do-able and we have a nice small kitchen space. I think we are more excited about the fact that our kitchen table is big enough to play beer pong on. The king bed is huge and able to accommodate three people, the fold out couch can accommodate another two; perfect… Or was it?

We get our luggage into the hotel. By now it is pushing 6pm and we are bloody hungry but we have to wait for Mike and Jessica to get back before we can head out for dinner. While waiting around, I get a text from Mike saying that he thinks he is standing next to LeBron James at The Bentley Hotel. Bryan tells me to text back and tell Mike to take either a photo or video. Bryan is from LeBron’s hometown so if he sees a photo, he’d definitely know if it was him or not. Mike texts back saying he is too scared because he has four big body guard-looking guys standing around him. Booo, Mike, boooo!

Mike and Jessica finally get back to our hotel and we  all decide to walk down Ocean Drive and go to  TGIFriday’s for dinner. Worst decision ever. Ocean Drive was absolutely packed with a swarm of people; not the most friendliest looking crowd you’d want to come across either. We held hands and made a human chain to get through it all together; it was tough, but we survived and in the end, we were rewarded with the deliciousness that is TGIFriday’s. I ask the waitress if she knows why Ocean Drive is insanely busy and she tells us that LeBron James is in town and everyone is trying to find him. Turns out it was him that Mike had seen after all!

We headed back to the hotel for en epic night of pre-gaming and beer pong. I can’t really tell you what happened because not even I’m too sure, but judging by the photos, lots of booze was consumed, beer pong was played, and there was some sort of weird, drunken photo shoot on our bed… I can recall bits and pieces of Bryan somersaulting across the bed a few times, one time almost crashing into a wall only to have Ali come to his rescue… the words ‘spread eagle‘ being yelled across the room… Dawin getting his drink spilled all over his jeans and then somehow everyone piling up on top of each other for a very close, lovingly group photo shoot.

After our glamor shots we ended up sitting out on Miami Beach in the pitch blackness of the night. It was so pleasant and relaxing until security came by and told us we had to get off the beach because it was closed. Boooo, way to ruin our night; party poopers! Once again, we headed back to our hotel. Everything was all well and good until we discovered a cockroach in our kitchen. I almost vomit a little in my mouth; gross. Not sure who, but someone killed it. Phew. We all regained our composure until not before too long, we discovered another cockroach by the closet. Mike freaked out, grabbed my shoe and squished it before I even realized it was my shoe in his hand. When I finally realizing my shoe had touched that thing, I may have vomit a little again in my mouth. A creepy shiver ran down my spine as I thought about a cockroach flying into my ear and laying babies in it while I tried to sleep at night. Ahhhhh! As soon as morning came, Mike and Bryan went to the front desk to complain but there was nothing they could do.

Cockroaches weren’t enough to bring us down. The next morning we get up and head to Fresh on Fifth to get  freshly made baguettes to order; delicious. From here we walk across the road and find ourselves a spot on the sand. While some wait for their lunch to settle in their belly, Ali, myself and Mike already have our clothes off and are running towards the welcoming, emerald greeny blue waters. Without even thinking, I jump right in. The water is beautiful. We form a triangle and throw the ball out to each other. Ali is terrible at aiming so I am forced to swim after the ball several times. This proves to be quite complicated as the water is extremely choppy today and the waves keep pushing the ball further towards the shore. When I eventually get out of the water, my legs feel like jelly and I can’t seem to walk in a straight line on the sand. I collapse on my towel and soak up the suns rays. Not a worry in the world; this is the definition of perfection.

I head back to the hotel a half an hour before the others do. I want to get a shower and wash my hair so it has enough time to dry before I straighten it. As I hop out of the shower, I hear it start to bucket down rain outside. I worry about the rest of the gang getting caught up in the rain storm but they make it back just in time. Everyone starts taking turns showering. While Ali is in the shower, Bryan, myself, Susan and Leila are laying out on the bed watching T.V. We hear a disturbing crunching sound coming from the air conditioning unit; similar to that of a blender blade trying to chop up thick ice cubes. Out of no where, the AC unit starts spitting out balls of ice; how wonderful! Just what we needed, a broken AC unit when it’s stinking hot outside. Bryan makes his way to front desk to complain, only this time, they relocate us to a new room.

Our new hotel room is much nicer, it’s on the corner so we have windows right around letting in plenty of light and the kitchen and bathroom are newer and nicer than the previous room. This room also proves to be cockroach free! Hooray! We settle in and head out to a Burger King Lounge for a quick dinner. Tonight’s plan is to pre-game at the hotel, then for those of us who are 21+, the night will be spent at Mansion nightclub. We’ve heard only good things about this place so we are rather excited to go there.

Entry to club Mansion is $25 which is a little steep, but at the same time, the clubs back home in Melbourne usually charge $20-$30 club entry so I can’t complain. The wait to get in isn’t all too bad. The club is separated into three parts; there is a small bar and dance floor upon entry which leads into a larger room with more bars, a roped off VIP section and the most awesome music to party to ever and then this room leads into an even bigger room that plays house and dance music. We wait here forever to get a drink then head back to the awesome music room to get our groove on until the early morning.

Sunday is check out morning. We gather our things and head towards Fort Lauderdale to grab a late breakfast at Arby’s. After Arby’s we decide to spend some time at Fort Lauderdale beach like we did last time. Fort Lauderdale beach is extremely beautiful and much more peaceful than Miami Beach. I decide to not swim this time; I don’t feel like having sand in unwanted places for the three hour drive back to Orlando.

On the drive home Bryan and I notice that Mike’s right back tire is looking a little flat. I text him to let him know he needs some air in it and he texts back saying he’s going to pull into the next rest stop to inflate it. Unfortunately, the next rest stop seems to be quite the distance away, and only two miles out from it, Bryan and I smell burned rubber, and, sure enough, Mike’s tire blows out so we all pull over. It takes a call to AAA, the State Troopers and Dawin to fix this hot mess. The jack that Mike had in his car wasn’t all that great, so once the wheel was off, the jack gave way and the car tilted and rolled backwards. Once the State Trooper arrived and lent Dawin a better jack, it went smoothly from here. Finally, after what seems like forever, we are ready to continue our journey back to Orlando.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we get in a lot later than expected. Despite this small obstacle, the trip was great fun and I’m glad we could all do this once last time before we all go our separate ways.

Next up, our cruise to the Bahamas in t-minus six days and counting!