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Parrottrek Journal 2014

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Our limo arrives and the mimosas are ready

We stopped by and picked up Sean in LA

Indoor skydiving = super fun!!

Drinks overlooking the Pacific

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September 10th - A Day of Surprises -
Frank's 40th birthday will be a day not quickly forgotten. It was absolutely amazing. It started with a surprise limo showing up to pick us up at 9:30 with the makings of mimosas on ice. Frank, thinking we might be heading north for the day was delightfully surprised when the driver headed south, and kept going and going. After a couple hours enjoying the views out the windows and the roof with Frank trying to figure out where we were headed, we stopped off in Studio City to pick up Sean, his cousin who is also one of his best friends. Next stop was Universal City Walk where we had a fabulous lunch and a fun, thrilling afternoon of indoor skydiving. Photos should be up soon.

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The sunroof in the limo showed off the perfect California weather

Lunch and birthday dessert at Samba's in Universal Walk

After that the driver took Sean back home and took us to Duke's in Malibu where we enjoyed some great ocean views and a refreshing cocktail. Frank, thinking the day was coming to a close guessed that the next stop would be home. Trying to be mysterious, and not wanting to let him know we did in fact have another stop I didn't deny anything, and I may have actually let him believe the next stop was home. The funny thing of it all was I hadn't quite planned how to just happen on our last stop. I was originally just going to mention we should stop for a quick bite somewhere in Santa Barbara, but I figured I would wait until we got closer. The drive from Malibu to Santa Barbara is a nice scenic drive, especially since we took Highway 1 for most of the way, which winds along the Pacific Ocean. About an hour and a half into our drive home, Frank asks if we can have the driver make a potty stop, so I pulled out my phone and pretended to text the driver... and pretended to get a response back from him stating that he knew just the place to stop. As we entered the city of Santa Barbara he wound the limo thru a few side streets and stopped at the edge of De La Guerra Plaza, a historic landmark in the city. As we got out of the limo, I handed the driver an envelope and he said "I'll see you in an hour" (this was all pre-scripted since the driver had our itinerary ahead of time) Frank, looking completely bewildered, said "Oh, are we going to dinner?" "Something like that" was my reply with a smile, and we walked up the street a bit. Frank's face was even more bewildered when I unlocked a gate just off Stater Street and lead him up a staircase to our prize of a final destination with a pre packed overnight bag already inside. A very dear friend of mine is related to one of the families that founded the city of Santa Barbara and happen to own a beautiful original adobe upstairs from State Street. The views from the balcony are to die for and look over the Santa Barbara court house, the majestic mountains and is walking distance to countless restaurants, shops, cafes, and parks.

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Our private courtyard that lead upstairs to our lodging for the night

We stayed in a historic adobe in Del La Guerra Plaza, owed by a dear friend

Sitting on our patio we could see downtown Santa Barbara and its pretty hills

Dinner at El Paseo, just steps from the adobe. Our evening was beyond perfect.

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Friends from all over came to celebrate with us

Dinner at The Hitching Post - Frank's favorite steak house in the country, literally!

Make a wish!

I love you, my sweet Frank. I can't believe how much fun we've had all these years

September 13th - And Yet Another Surprise! - The Hitching Post - Buellton, California -
Let me tell you just how near impossible it is to plan a surprise party for someone that you are practically with 24-7 between home and work and traveling, let alone plan TWO surprise events! Not only that, but up until a couple weeks ago, I had no idea what side of the country we would be on for Frank's big day, so that added a bit more trickiness. Pulling off this evening was not an easy task, there were times I would hide in the bedroom while we were driving across the country making phone calls on the sly and telling Frank I was taking a nap. The messenger app of Facebook pretty much saved my sanity since, due to work, both of our e-mail accounts are linked, our phones are synced to the same cloud account so we both know what's going on in our schedules and our phone passwords aren't a secret from each other. Normally I have no objections when Frank picks up my phone to read an e-mail or a text, and since all of a sudden claiming my phone was off limits would have thrown a red flag up, my Facebook account was the go-to place. That and taking full advantage of "nap time" and Frank going out on a long bike ride, or me taking a long jog. These were perfect times to book the restaurant, send out invitations, drive to Santa Barbara before the crack of dawn, and double check RSVPs. I had everything covered, or so I thought until I woke up with a start at 3:00 this morning realizing that in all my careful detailed planning I had not ordered a birthday cake. Crap!! Enter... my BFF Sharon, hero of the day. I quickly shot off a text and just as quickly deleted it thinking to myself just how grateful I was that the days of sneaking around with secrets were just about over, Wheeew!
The evening went off without a hitch, and without an inkling of catching on from Frank. Since it's Sunday we decided to spend a lazy day at the pool, enjoy some down time, and relax. I had my friend Sharon just casually call in the late afternoon saying that her kids were with friends and wanting to know if we wanted to meet for dinner somewhere. I casually asked Frank if he wanted to meet Tim and Sharon and of course got a "Definitely" response from him, so we decided we would meet at The Hitching Post in about half an hour. They were obviously already at the restaurant and that was code for us to now head over there since all our friends were in place, so I suggested to Frank that we leave now and put our name in for a table. As we walked into the restaurant Sharon and Tim were seated at the bar, with a closed door behind them that lead to a room that was filled with almost 30 of our friends and family members. The look on Frank's face when he walked in the room was priceless, and unfortunately the pictures turned out a bit too dark, but not an expression I will ever forget. Thank you all for sharing in such a fun night with excellent food, phenomenal friends and a perfectly pulled off surprise. I'm still in shock that no one slipped and the secret was kept. I couldn't have done it without lots of help. Have I mentioned lately just how rockin' our friends are?

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A train ride around the zoo

Bath time for Suzy the elephant

Feeding giraffes

Midas and Frank check out the world's smallest fox with the world's largest ears.

September 15 - The Santa Barbara Zoo -
Today just screamed to be spent outside, and since we hadn't been to the Santa Barbara Zoo in years, we figured it would be the perfect place to spend such a nice day. Sean and Midas took the train from LA and the four of us spent a very fun day together. It was amazing to see what perked Midas' interest, and what animals he walked right by without a second glance. He's two and a half and sharp as a tack. One of his favorite animals was a little fox, a Fennec Fox to be exact from the Sahara in Africa. He has the smallest body for a fox and the biggest ears. He was quite cute and Midas was quite intrigued. Next, we took a lap around the whole zoo in the train, watched an elephant named Suzy, who just happened to be born the same year as me as well as having the same name get a long bath, and we fed a 14 foot giraffe about 20 pieces of lettuce. Our zoo here overlooks the ocean, so we hit the wharf for lunch and a walk by the waves.

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One of our last nights in SB with family

Hanging out in Palm Springs

The birds relaxing in the trees

Frank and I relaxing at the pool

September 20th - A Little R&R in Palm Springs -
We are off on our next cross country trek. This one will take us from Santa Barbara, California to Cocoa Beach, Florida. We don't really have a time frame of how long this will take, but we do know that we will make a few stops on our way to visit friends, family and a few new fun locations as well as a few stops we have hit before and can't wait to visit again. Last night we spent a fun evening with Frank's sister and brother-in-law at The Bacara, where we enjoyed all their amenities, including dinner overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a two bedroom suite. It was the perfect way to wrap up our month in California. We have had so much fun here and were able to spend lots of time with all our friends and family.
This morning we packed up our little house on wheels and hit the road. The first stop on our trek is Palm Springs, California where good friends of our hooked us up with a very nice place to stay. Our goal is to just lay low, hang by the pool, and try out a few restaurants that come highly recommended. We have been here one night already and haven't even left the RV Park. Cody is in love with the tree right outside our door and I am in love with the fact that we have the pool to ourselves and a brand new mini Bose speaker that fits perfectly in my pool bag and thanks to Pandora, plays any music we desire.

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They guys took a 50+ mile bike ride to the top of Gibraltar

While we girls took a long hike up to top of Orcutt Hill. The views at the top were amazing

September 21st - Goodbye Summer, Hello Springtime -Enjoying the Hills of California -
The great thing about living in a state by the beach? Whether the season changes from summer to spring, or fall to winter, there isn't much change in the outdoor activities one can experience. This is the reason we split our off time between Florida and California, and especially in the seasons where a lot of the country is under ice, or freezing temperatures. Granted, September is rather warm in most of the country, but where else can you take a 50 mile ride and not let the ocean out of sight? As the guys mounted up on their road bikes this morning for an uphill ride that covered more than 3000 feet of incline, we ladies donned our rugged hiking shoes and went from the base of Orcutt Hill to the peak... which was a little less than 3000 feet, but will still get your heart rate up. We all enjoyed some great views and thanks to modern technology, and things like smart phones, not only were the views captured in a pocket sized device, but the stats of our walks, jogs, and rides were as well.

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YIKES! The red line goes straight up Hwy 10, and looks as it might follow us

The visibility starts to lessen, and the traffic starts to get worse

Accident number one - the car rear-ended the oil tanker so hard, it left parts of its engine in the bumper

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September 22nd - A Rough Day of Driving -
Driving across Texas isn't always the most scenic or speedy drive but today's leg of it was even slower than usual. The day started out nice and sunny, but as we drove near San Antonio the dark clouds began to gather and the rain began... and only got worse... and worse... and worse. Our steady speed of 75 quickly dropped to 40... then to 25... then to a very very slow crawl. Knowing we would come across an accident at some point, we had no idea we would see as many as we did. The first accident was a pick up truck that had hit an oil truck so hard that the front of the little truck left the front of the grill and part of his engine in the back end of the oil truck... ouch!

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Accident number 2

A rolled semi = accident number 3

Hooray! After this group of looky-loos past the accident the speed began to creep up, and then quickly crept back to our previous crawl. The next accident we saw was another car who decided they would try and attach themselves to a much larger vehicle. This time the rain was so heavy that since we couldn't see more than 10 feet in front of us, we figured that the Saturn didn't see the ramp on the motorhome in front of him and tried to become one with the medal trailer. It was not a pretty sight. Once again we started to do a happy dance when the rain lightened and the speed hit 40 mph... until we noticed an excessive number of brake lights in front of us and had to come to a complete stop. The hold up this time was an 18 wheeler that had flipped over an apparently rolled a few times and caught on fire. After saying a quick little prayer for all involved, and being thankful we were finally on our way at the legal speed limit with no more rain and, thankfully, no more accidents.

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Walking around historic New Orleans, taking in all the sights

Beignets for brunch and some delicious shrimp creole

Live music and a bit of refreshment half way through our day

Reading a fun summer book by the pool once the day got too warm

October 6th - 8th - Fun in New Orleans -
Every couple of years we stop off here in the fun, yet a bit crazy, town of New Orleans, or as the locals call it... N'awlins. Lucky for us, there is an RV Park literally steps from the French Quarter, and as long as you don't try and camp here while the Saints go marching down their football field, you can actually get a space. Granted it is directly under Highway 10, so it may not be the most peaceful place, but when you're old travelin' pros like us, sometimes the hum of the highway actually helps you sleep better. Besides, they have the best pool/jacuzzi lay out of any park we've ever been to, and reading by this pool is something we can do for hours. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We started the day out a bit lazy and actually slept in. We have been so busy lately driving and visiting with people, not to mention we've lost a couple hours due to traveling through time zones, that we didn't realize just how tired we were from it all until this morning, when neither of us stirred until around 9am.

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A photo of the blood moon, courtesy of a friend

Once awake, we washed away a couple layers of rain and grime from our faithful tow vehicle before the sun baked the waterspots too badly, showered and headed into the French Quarter for brunch and a nice walk. The weather was a bit warmer today, but the nice thing about New Orleans is that most of the buildings are tall enough to cast a nice shadow over some of the streets which cooled the city down a bit. We stopped off at CafeDu Monde for beignets and some great live jazz, drinks at Cafe Beignet and a little more live music, and then headed back to the RV Park to lounge by the pool and cool off in the water. A good friend of mine is an author for Harlequin and I have been trying to finish her latest book all summer, but since we were so busy with work I had to keep putting it off until today, which I am happy to say I finally turned the last page and finished reading Moonlight in Paris, a great love story with a lot of humor, fun, Paris history, and a perfect ending. It even brought a couple tears to my eyes and made me literally laugh out loud.

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Headed to Pensacola Beach

Camped right on the Sound

Long morning ride bike rides

Beautiful sunsets to the right

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October 8th - 12th - Chilin' at the Beach -
People often ask us... why would you ever leave California for anywhere else in the country? Well, let us show you. If you look at the photos all around today's post you can see just a few of the views that just aren't on the other side of the country. While California will always hold a special place in our hearts and a destination we will hit every year, our hearts... and souls are pulled back to beautiful, lush, scenic Florida. Where it rains and things stay green, where there is water all year long in all of its bodies of waters and where you can sit in places where the land is situated in such a way that you can watch the sun rise and sun set from pretty much the same location, and in all directions.

Beautiful sunsets to the left

Abbey and I enjoy a sunrise

Sitting outside our little beach house this week we could literally watch the colors of the sky change on both sides of us while the sun set, and see this same phenomenon happen in the morning. We took long bike rides along the whitest, softest, prettiest sand we've ever set our eyes on, and had lunch with some dear friends. However none of us actually took pictures of this event, which is so unlike me and actually upsets me, but I guess we'll just have to use that as an excuse to come back and visit the Treicks and Pensacola Beach another time.

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Parked at another beach front RV Park, this one in Destin

Morning tea looking out over the ocean from my kitchen table

Long morning walks on the white sandy beaches and clear water

Lunch overlooking the beach at Surf Hut, just steps from Camp Gulf

October 13th - Keeping With Tradition - Columbus Day Weekend -
Back in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, this weekend we are splashing and playing in the beautiful blues and greens of these same waters. We figure being on solid land this weekend is a much better place to be than on a boat 522 years ago with a bunch of other people stinkin' up the place for months on end.
WOW! What a picture perfect place to spend a sunny weekend, and who could ask for better camping than beach front property... on white fluffy sand... with the amazing sounds of crashing waves that not only lulled us to sleep each night, but were a mere 50 steps from our door. How was the weather? The weather was dreamy! The days were in the 80's, the evenings were warm enough to sit outside and watch the sunset over the empty beach since all the day tourists left around 5pm, and the mornings were ideal for tea and coffee on the patio and long walks along the waves all while watching the sun rise. There are restaurants within walking distance from us along with tiki bars and shopping in town. If we ever want to stay indoors and still gaze at the water, we can! With the front blinds open we have a perfect view of the outdoors. We may never leave.

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Our faithful chariot gets its 300,000 mile check-up

The mechanics let Frank under the coach to look at everything

The view the road has seen during all these miles

Frank checks out the engine from a new view

October 14th - The Motorhome Has a Spa Day - Jacksonville, Florida -
After all the miles and travels our motorhome has carried us over, and all the memories it has transported us to, we spoil her rotten and take care great of her since she has done the same for us over the last nine years. She gets all her liquids replaced and all her lines flushed a couple times a year. We put new shocks on every so often which makes for a nice smooth ride, at least on most roads, and trust us, there are some roads in this great country that would even feel bumpy aboard a hovercraft. She gets her engine serviced as often as recommended and the wonderful staff at Prevost lets Frank get up close and personal with her a couple times a year. Yes, they put our 40,000 lb behemoth 6 feet in the air and let my husband walk all over underneath it, inspecting every last inch with a fine tooth comb and see if it looks any different than it did 4-6 months prior, all while I am inside, 6 feet above solid ground catching up with all of you great folks on our past week of stops. We plan on being here a few more days and exploring Jacksonville.

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Hmmm, not too friendly of tiki guy

But things looked up once we saw the views

A perfect day to have lunch on the beach

After lunch we walked out to the sand

October 20th -
We are back in sunny Florida and taking full advantage of said sunshine that we possibly can! Today's calendar had nothing on it for either of us, so we decided to hit the beach. We had lunch at Coconuts on the Beach, a spot dozens of friends had recommended, but for some reason we had never been here. From the tiki bar you could hear the waves crashing, and from the deck we could smell the glorious salt air under the shade of an umbrella. We nibbled on seared ahi and spinach salad and sipped on rum punch. People often ask us why we like to spend the winters in Florida, and our answer is... ... days just like this when over half the country is under 40 degrees and snow and sleet is around the corner.

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Main Street decorated for Christmas

Inside The Magic Kingdom

Fun and festive

Next stop the Animal Kingdom

November 3rd - 7th - A Week at Disney World -
There is no better way to break in your return to Florida like a week in Disney World, especially when you spend that week with great friends. The eight of us started planning this week about half way through the summer, due to the fact that camping in Fort Wilderness can be a bit tricky when trying to get four sites all together, in the pet friendly section of the resort. After securing all four spots, getting all eight Magic Bands linked together for all five days of Fast Passes we felt quite accomplished and unstoppable. Well, most of us were unstoppable. The night before we all headed to our magical destination poor Rick ended up in the hospital needing to get his gallbladder removed... Yuck!

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DInner at The Animal Kingdom Lodge

Fireworks from the Contemporary

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Abbey wanted to hide in my backpack

Frank's debut on stage

Kilimanjaro safari

The Lion King musical show

So six of us headed out that morning and had enough fun for the eight of us. We woke up early each morning, hit a different park, hit all sorts of shows including The Lion King, and Belle's Adventures where Frank was cast as a main character. We got on all the rides we had Fast Passes for and then some. We dined at some great places like the top floor of The Contemporary where we watched the fire works, and the enormous buffet at The Animal Kingdom Lodge. We enjoyed all the decorations of Christmas and a beach front viewing of the fireworks where the six of us lounged in chairs telling stories of our first visits to the various Disney parks sprinkled around the world. It was all in all a wonderful week where good friendships became stronger and fun memories were made. It's times like these that I wonder what we ever did to deserve so many blessings and such wonderful lives. Hats off to the powers that be for letting us enjoy so much, and heaven help us when they find out that they just may have made a mistake and switched our file with someone else's. Shhh, don't tell them, hopefully we can fool them for a few more years.

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The sun begins to peek out of the trees

Frank and Tuco ready for launch

Everyone else sat on the deck

... ... And we have lift off! Quite a scene

December 5th -
History was made today, and we had some pretty darn good seats to view it. Orion was launched atop a Delta IV rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The test flight was to check that there won't be any issues with exit and re-entry into the earth's atmosphere when they actually put people into it, and its heat-shield stands up to all that space can throw at it. Not to mention to keep those lives inside it somewhat safe. Just as NASA had expected, the flight went without a hiccup. It took off, circled the earth, went into space, and landed in the Pacific Ocean. They will have to run a million tests on it now that it is back on earth and collected all the data they supposedly need. These tests will take them until 2016 at which point they will launch it again, people free. The likelihood of a human being carried in it, to Mars or some other deep space mission, won't be until 2021, or so they say.
The launch took place at 7:09 this morning, so a group of us woke up before dawn and headed to New York, New York, one of our favorite restaurants that sits right on the Indian River and gives its patrons a panoramic view of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Between these two places we have been fortunate enough to see all sorts of launches, including the actual Space Shuttle years ago.

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Holiday Christmas party with friends

Their view of the sunset

Their view of the moon rising. Awesome!

Listening to some live Christmas music

December 6th -
While we hang out here in The Great Outdoors, Frank dabbles a bit in real estate. This evening our good friends Judy and Bob threw a very fun Christmas party for all the Real Estate agents that work in TGO and their spouses. Their home just happens to be on the top floor of a gorgeous building in Cocoa Village with 360 degree views. Whether you like to watch the sun set, the sun rise, or the moon begin to peek out over the horizon, this is the place to get your fill of scenery, not to mention some an amazing meal since Bob is quite the gourmet chef and whipped up an incredible dinner for all 20 of us.

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All ready for a Christmas golf cart ride around the resort

Some homes were lightly decorated

Others were amazingly decorated

A stop off for another group photo

December 11th -
Every year TGO has an event called The Parade of Homes. It is an evening where a bunch of home owners within the resort decorate the heck out of their homes, make tasty treats and drinks, and invite about 250 people to stop by for a visit and look around the outside and the inside of their beautifully decorated homes. This is the second time we have been invited, and boy was it fun. There were about 25 in our group and I'm not sure if we had more fun walking through the homes, or driving around racing each other and seeing who could get their golf cart in the front before we stopped off at the next home. Let's just say that every once in awhile some of the speed demons came back to their carts finding their ignition empty and their keys hidden somewhere random inside their golf cart. It did cut down a bit on the competition, and made for some funny paybacks.

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All aboard Enchantment of the Sea

The awesome elevator

Our little room with a view

Our friendly bartender

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December 26th - Christmas in the Bahamas -
Twenty minutes away from us sits Port Canaveral. From this location one can go on a cruise to almost any destination in the Bahamas, Caribbean, Puerto Rico, or the Vigin Islands, and we by all means take advantage of this. Each year we try and take a cruise to a new location, and if we time it right can get some amazing deals on last minute cruises through the cruise line websites. In the past we have gone on a number of Carnival cruises, but this time we decided to try Royal Caribbean, and boy was it a good choice. As we were looking into things to do for Christmas we thought "how fun would it be to go somewhere exotic" and Royal Caribbean filled this desire.

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The towering Atlantis from sea

Pulling into Nassau

As we boarded the Enchantment of the Sea the day after Christmas, we were welcomed by friendly staff, perfect weather, and a great reggae band that played poolside all weekend long. The first night we went to see a comedy show in the theatre, followed by a Karaoke competition in the main lounge that felt like front row seats at American Idol. I'm used to drunk crazy people thinking they could sing but were so terrible you'd rather gouge your ears out than listen to a second refrain. Somehow this evening we were blessed with an entire family of teenagers that could sing like champs. Yes, there were two or three sprinkled in that were quite terrible, but the good ones more than outnumbered them.

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What a fun day in the sun

We spent the day at Atlantis

Dinner at Senor Frog's

Our boat docked in the Bahamas

December 27th - A Day at Atlantis -
Each time we have been to Nassau, the immense Atlantis seems to be lurking over us everywhere we would go. Since we usually just spend the day shopping, or at the beach, we've never explored it. It turns out the ship has an excursion that lets its cruisers spend a day basking in the sun, riding all the water slides and floating in its lazy river. Being the ever curious travelers we are, we decided to see for ourselves just what was inside the walls of the monstrous and supposedly mythical Atlantis, and it was worth it. We screamed like little kids down the water slides, floated in the lazy river which at times turned into rapids and a wild wave pool, had lunch by the water where crazy seagulls stole our sandwiches right out of our hands, and headed back to the marina where we enjoyed a light dinner and drinks at Señor Frog's before heading back to the boat just in time to catch a comedy show and a Michael Jackson tribute concert.

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Our boat from the shore

Swimming with stingrays

Lounging on the beach

Beach friends

A Tropical Paradise - Coco Cay -
Today's agenda consisted of waking up with the sun and taking a short bost ride from the big boat to the beaches of Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean's very own island in the Bahamas. Once ashore, we took a dip in the ocean with about 25 stingrays. No, not the kind of stingrays you're thinking of. Not the type that took the life of Crocodile Hunter. These stingrays were gentle, fairly tame, and a bit hungry. We held a couple, fed a few and had a dozen or so snuggle against our legs. The water here is so crystal clear, we could see the swimming stingray and our toes as though we were looking through glass. Once the stingrays had their fill of squid, we headed back to the beach where we

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Towel friends

We went to a show each night

lounged in beach chairs, sipped on umbrella drinks, relaxed, read, and observed a few colorful iguanas wandering by.
Once back aboard the ship we found some fun towel friends in our room, watched the sunset from the port side of the boat and enjoyed a delicious five course dinner. My favorite part of cruising is the fact that someone else cleans our room, someone else cooks our meals, someone else does the dishes, and someone else plans the itinerary. For example this evenings itinerary included a rendition of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and other various 80's musicals, something we wouldn't ever think to see if it were offered at our local theatre, but was quite enjoyable.

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