Thursday, December 07, 2017

Caribbean Cruise Adventure - Day 7 and 8 (The End)

[Composed 11/27/2017]

While there may have been 3,969 passengers aboard the ship, it's not unusual to run into the same folks and strike up a rapport. And so it was with two 'kids' from Iowa that we affectionately called the plank brothers. Technically, they weren't brothers, just friends. And technically they weren't kids, one was 18 and the other was 21, but when you've been married longer than someone is alive, you can safely use the term 'kid.' In fact, they asked us "if we'd been together long." The plank part comes from the way we met them: on the first day of the cruise we were in the weight room working out and they setup next to us. While I was blasting my quads with kettlebells, they pulled up to us to crank out 5 minutes of 'plank.' We continued to see and chat with them around the ship until our last day, when we found ourselves again in the gym.

By now we knew each other and Shira asked if we could join them for their 5 minute ab busting session. And so the timer was set and 'go' was announced. After about a minute and a half I collapsed. After nearly 3 minutes, one of the brothers went down. At 5 minutes, Shira and a young man half her age, were still going strong. Score one for the old people!

Along with our gym time, we caught a talk by the captain and chief engineer, ate the cupcake that Shira decorated during the cupcake decorating "class" (which was mostly a free for all) and generally kicked around the ship remarking just how fast our vacay had flown by. We also tried our hardest to be a contestant on the Perfect Couple game show, but thankfully that didn't work out.

And before we knew it, it was time to catch one last gorgeous sunset, one more soft serve ice cream cone and call it a night. When we awoke the next morning we were docked in Miami. We opted to walk off the ship with our luggage, and spent almost no time waiting in any lines. It was our easiest ship exit to date.

While I was bummed that our cruise was over, we weren't flying out till the next day, so we had the chance to squeeze in one more adventure. While I had visions of hiking through the massive green space on the map that is the Everglades, we settled on a slightly more refined destination: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. The gardens did not disappoint, with remarkable plants, trees and wildlife to keep things interesting. While in the rare plant house we struck up a conversation with a volunteer. He turned out to be a retired biology professor from DC and took us on mini-tour of the greenhouse, showing us his favorite specimens. What a treat!

After the gardens, we met good friends at the Yard House Restaurant, where I drank way too beer thanks to the local sampler they offer. The menu was packed full of tasty vegetarian options. Though given how much alcohol I consumed, I'm not sure how much you should trust me on this.

The next morning, we made our way to the airport where we had an uneventful trip home.

Perhaps I'm showing my age, or maybe it's from staring into the sea, but I've been more aware this trip then ever about the impact of choice while traveling. Take a cruise, for example. Go on a cruise, and you get to see a number of destinations and do so in luxury. But you don't spend enough time in any one place to take it all in. Want to squeeze in as much Cozumel as possible? Then you better skip the party the night before so you can wake up bright and early. I found myself even pondering this on our days at sea: should I step out of my comfort zone by hitting the rock climbing wall or grab a drink and chat it up by the pool? Or, is this perfect time to savor my comfort zone, and sit quietly with my wife while I draw and work on a programming idea. Of course, this balancing act isn't limited to travel, it's at the very core of life itself. For every door you open, there are doors you necessarily close.

Heavy stuff, right?

I don't know what the right answer is. Other than to appreciate the doors you've opened, and respect that you can't open them all.

And I can tell you, we found plenty of great doors to open this trip!

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