Four years ago one of my best friends, Rachel, and I decided we were going to take a cruise together. I had never taken a cruise and, to be honest, I was a little nervous. It sounded pretty cool but the thought of being out in the middle of the ocean with no land for miles and miles was slightly overwhelming.
I immediately started doing research on the cruise lines and the destinations that they would sail to. I learned that you could take short cruises and longer cruises. I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I would like it or if I would go into a panic mode. I had read horror stories that people had motion sickness from where the boat rocks. I had read horror stories about ships getting stranded. So, I couldn’t help but let these thoughts be in the back of my mind.
I wanted to try it but after reading all of these horror stories and not knowing what to expect, I decided to take a 3 day cruise instead of a 7 day cruise so I could test it out. I decided if I hated it, then being stuck out in the middle of an ocean and stranded on an island for 3 days would be better than 7 days.
Rachel had sailed with Norwegian before. That was the only company I had never read any horror stories about. They also seem to offer better deals than some of the other cruise lines.
Since she had sailed with Norwegian before and I had yet to discover any Norwegian horror stories, that is who we decided to go with.
I already had my passport from where I had went to Belgium, which was, not to mention an amazing experience. You can read about that adventure here.
At the time, Rachel lived in North Carolina (now she lives 45 minutes away from one of the cruise ports in Florida <3) so we both flew into Miami and met up with each other there. (The cruise was porting out from Miami.)
I remember heading to the cruise port and going through security to get all checked in. You have to fill out some paperwork so it was a little different than just security at an airport. Just a few other things involved, not to mention you have to stand in line forever.
One thing I will never forget though is the feeling I felt when I first seen the ship and got to walk onto the ship. It was such an exciting moment and it was truly love at first sight. I was immediately hooked before I had even gotten on the ship. It was just so beautiful.I had absolutely fallen in love and it just kept getting better and better.
We got a room with a balcony. I wanted a balcony because I was afraid I would feel claustrophobic in an interior room since it is basically the size of a closet and has no windows.
After being on a cruise ship, I think I would feel more comfortable with an interior room now. However, waking up in the morning to see the sunrise right on the middle of the ocean is by far one of the most amazing views I have ever witnessed. One of my favorite parts of being on a cruise ship is waking up early and being able to walk out onto my balcony and see such an amazing view. Is a balcony more expensive? Of course. Is it worth it? Very much so! I mean, sure if you are on a budget and can only afford an interior room, then please, by all means, do it! Any cruise is better than no cruise, but if you can get the balcony, you won’t regret it.
This was before we set sail. When you first get on the ship there are workers to greet you. Everyone is so happy and excited. There is an all you can eat buffet that is always open. There are also other restaurants that you can choose from. Some are free and some you have to pay for. Regardless if you eat from the buffet or the restaurants, the food is amazing.
Every day they come in and clean your room and you come back to find a new towel animal each day.
Of course at the time I knew nothing about cruises at the time so Rachel had to explain everything to me. But I was a fast learner and 3 cruises later, I feel like a cruise expert because I have heavily researched them. Is it bad that I have cruise agent’s personal phone number and we text? Or maybe that just shows how much of a cruise obsession I actually have.
There is always so much to do and so much to see on the ship. There is seriously something for everyone. There are art auctions, comedy shows, a mall, jewelry stores, tons of different restaurants, karaoke, night clubs, dancing, casinos, different bars and restaurants and so much more!
The first cruise ship that I ever went on was the Norwegian Sky. It is a smaller ship and holds less people. The smaller ships only take shorter cruises, usually 2-4 days. This ship still had a lot to do on it. There was a basketball court, 2 pools, 2 hot tubs, and a batting cage. They hosted different events each day that people could also attend, but the bigger ships offer much, much more. I am definitely a social butterfly and I have never met a stranger so I met some really cool people on the ship.
The workers on the cruise ship are absolutely phenomenal. They are so nice and friendly. They always joke around and want to chat with you. The customer service is exceptional.
There are so many things to do on the islands, also. On this particular tripped, we sailed to Nassau, The Bahamas and one of Norwegians private islands. There are lots of places to shop. You find lots of really neat handcrafted things and so many things you wouldn’t find back home. That is one of my favorite parts about traveling is finding so many cool and unique things.
Atlantis is the private island in Nassau and it is gorgeous.
There we got to swim with the dolphins which was an amazing experience but it was very time consuming. We didn’t get to explore the island as much as we wanted to.
We still got to go to the water park and go down the slides that are basically a 90 degree angle and go through a tank of sharks.
We also go to go snorkeling which is amazing. The water is so clear. We went parasailing which was my favorite part on the island because I love anything with an adrenaline rush.
Overall it was an amazing experience, so amazing that we had to go back again on another cruise! This was the first cruise adventure of many that we have and will encounter. Stay tuned to hear about that adventure.
One thing that I had I had gotten prior to my trip that I now have is a passport holder. It is so convenient and you can wear it around your neck and not have to worry about a purse. It will hold you credit or debit card, cash, or driver's license. You can purchase one by clicking here.
Moral of the story, everything you want is on the other side of fear. The best things in life require risk and chance. Take a cruise. You won't regret it. Cruising is my happy place. It is my escape and my paradise. There is nothing more serene than being out in the middle of the ocean.
I am from a very small town. There are barely even any red lights. I am being generous by guessing there may be 5 total. Everyone knows everyone. You can't go out without seeing someone you know. And everybody is in everybody's business. That is pretty much how it goes.
My high school had around 300 students. We were lucky to have a Wal-Mart and a few fast food restaurants. This was basically all I had ever known. I had traveled a few times to different states, but not often. I always came back to my small town and just went back to living in my box. And that is exactly what it was is a box.
I was approaching my first college graduation for my Associate's degree and I decided that I wanted to take the study abroad program. I had never been outside of the country. I had never been on an airplane. But I had always dreamed of these things. I was hungry to see what else the world had to offer outside of my box. I just knew there had to be more to life than that. I was nervous, but I was also ready to jump outside of my comfort zone and explore. I knew that would be the only way that I would ever know. And it was truly one of the best things that I have ever done. I was immediately HOOKED!
So, given the town that I had lived in, you generally seen the same types of people. Most people dressed the same and there were the same fashion trends. You rarely saw anything outside of the norm.
The first time I was ever on a plane, I went to Europe. I got the opportunity to see Belgium. We stayed in Brussels and also traveled to Antwerp and Ghent. It was such an amazing and unique experience. It was truly life changing.
Traveling to a different was somewhat of a culture shock, but it was also very mind opening. I was introduced to so many different cultures and trends. It enlightened me to see how much of the world was really out there and I had basically just been living in this box.
There were tons of people dressed all sorts of ways. At first, I was just like "Whoa!" What are these people wearing? But once the culture shock wore off, I realized that I had just never really been exposed to that much of the world other than this little town I lived in. I lived in my box. And not many people there seem to escape it.
I quickly learned that it was a good thing to be different. It was a good thing to be able to comfortably express yourself and your individualism. Back home, everyone tried to be the same and not express themselves in that type of way. This experience was the beginning of a very important journey within myself. It was the beginning of a journey of learning to love myself and embrace my own individuality.
We were not meant to be the same. We were all created to be different. Society has created these standards of what we are supposed to be; how we are supposed to dress. I wish people would stop trying to wear a mask. Society has forced people to wear a mask and they are too afraid to show their true self so they hide it and instead try to be like what they think society wants them to be.
One of the most amazing things that I got to experience about Belgium was all of the wonderful architecture. When I did the study abroad program, it was actually with an Art Appreciation class so we study much about it.
There are just so many beautiful buildings. The detail is absolutely extraordinary. It is nothing like anything you would see in the U.S. It is so beautiful.
All of the architecture was very beautiful. But there was one very special building that turned out to be my ultimate favorite.
This castle turned out to be absolutely phenomenal. I had always wanted to go in a castle so when I saw this, I got so excited. I immediately ran towards it and this is what happened inside.....
I found this cool guy inside and we played his instruments together. So, not only did I get to see a cool castle, but I was had the opportunity to run into this cool cat.
Belgium is also known for their chocolates.
Another aspect of Belgium that was really neat were these cool statues.
There were all of these random statues all over the places. You walk up to them, and BOOM! They come to life. They were actually people dressed up as statues but it was amazing because the detail was so extraordinary. If they hadn't of moved, then you would have never been able to tell that it was a statue.
There were lots of things that you would never see in the U.S. For example, strippers would dance in the windows. A lot of the men wore stilettos. You would even see condom machines on the street.
Not to mention, we ended up at a gay parade and they were throwing out condoms instead of candy.
And even condom smart cars....
I got the opportunity to see some really neat museums. We visited a comic book museum...
I was blessed with the opportunity to see the Horta Museum. which was absolutely phenomenal. It was definitely one of my favorite attractions.
The foods were also amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't really take pictures of my food or the restaurants. I went to Belgium before the era of the smartphones and before people took pictures of everything they ate. However, I am a huge water snob. That may sound crazy but all water tastes different to people. If I go out, I always ask for extra lemon to drown out the taste of tap water. I hate the tap water taste. In Belgium, you could get something called "still water." And oh em gee was it fabulous. I know that probably sounds crazy but it was truly amazing. It was by far the best water that I have ever drank. I wish we had it in the U.S.
I would have brought some back, but I had purchased too many souvenirs already and I was going to be pushing it as it was. Plus, I had to make sure I could get the beer to fit in my luggage because the cherry beer was crazy good. Belgium is known as the beer capitol of the world, and let me tell you, the beer there was fabulous. They had it in every flavor you could imagine, but I was pretty keen on the cherry.
They even have beer machines...
There was so much to see and so much to do. It was truly a life changing experience. This is only a very small portion of my trip,
I have since then traveled to other places. But what I have learned is that with each trip, there is a growing experience. You see new and do new things. You interact with different types of people. You come back as a new and refreshed person. This is one of the many reasons I value traveling. It is also like my batteries to recharge. If I am struggling with the stresses of life, traveling recharges me.