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Short version: it was awesome, met a lot of great people, didn't get sunburned or catch any tropical diseases and I'm looking forward to GC 7 next year. Definitely should have gotten a t shirt this year, and maybe planned the excursions so that there were more GCers on them.

Sunday: Our flight out of Madison went just fine, once we finally got underway. I don't think the Madison airport can handle the Delta/NWA merger. I've flown out of Madison several times and never had a problem -- the ticketing line overflowed their wee little waiting corral and stretched out across to the one dinky little shop they have outside security. It did move along fairly quickly, though, and we made it to Fort Lauderdale just fine. Had a quick lunch at Bimini Boatyard and napped since I had to be up around 4 to pick up Kate and catch our 7am flight. Once rested, we were off to the pre-cruise meet-up at The Pirate Republic. Much like the Delta/NWA agents at the Madison airport I'm not sure the two waitresses were ready for the influx of Goths that took over their second floor. After an evening at the pub, we braved the torrential downpour to cab it back to the hotel.

Monday: After a short shuttle trip to the port, and lots of waiting in line, we finally make it onto the Enchantment of the Seas. After checking out the ship and getting a feel for where everything was (though even by the end of the cruise I was still getting turned around), we headed up to the swanky bar at top of the ship for drinks and hanging out. Monday was also the first night in the dining room on the ship, which is when we met the best assistant waiter ever, Alex (from Bosnia -- as an aside, the crew was a lot more international than I was expecting. I wonder if all cruise lines do that, or just RCCL?).

Monday evening after dinner was Karaoke. Highlights included Smurf's rendition of "Build Me Up Buttercup", Paul's epic "Bohemian Rhapsody", and the non-Goth Cruise surprise of the night: the 70ish year old retired US army colonel named Baron who completely rocked. The man had moves like he was decades younger. I don't recall the name of the song, but he got the first standing ovation for karaoke I've ever seen.

Tuesday (Key West): We didn't have anything planned for Key West other than acquiring "authentic" Key Lime pie so we mostly just wandered. Kate was very enthused by the chickens that wander throughout the island (much better than squirrels), and they totally made up for not bothering to pay $12 to see the six-toed cats at the Hemingway House. :) It was quite hot and humid, and we managed to score some water so we didn't die of dehydration on the approximately 1 mile walk to the southernmost point of the US. When we got there, we realized a most wonderful thing -- without the buildings to block it, there was actually a quite pleasant breeze coming off the water. I think we hung out there and peoplewatched for about a half an hour. It wasn't quite as packed with tourists as I thought it might be, but then again it was about 10:30 am so maybe it was just too early for most of them. Our tentative plan was to have sushi at Ambrosia Restaurant for lunch, but 1) they weren't open yet, and 2) the hotel they were in seemed a little too classy for cargo shorts and sandals (I guess Yelp meant it when they said "dressy"). So we continued to wander around, meandering our way back to the ship. We walked through the cemetery (it was a Goth Cruise, after all), managed not to get trapped in it, and found a little organic sandwich shop that probably wouldn't be out of place in Madison (well, except for the "no dairy" -- I don't think that'd fly too well in Wisconsin. But you can't argue with their logic -- they're using local ingredients and there are no cows in the Keys)). We just got drinks there since Kate didn't want to ruin her appetite for pie. :) I had a lemonade sweetened with agave nectar (which I believe is the first time I've had agave in a non-tequila application :) ) and Kate had coconut water and some sort of gingerade drink. All quite tasty.

Then more wandering, and Kate decided on Pepe's Cafe for her Key Lime pie experience. They were still serving breakfast, but gave us pie anyway. Kate's Key Lime pie got a thumbs up, while I had a very tasty brownie pie.

Tuesday evening was the Film Noir dance. Everyone was dressed to the nines, and a lot of good music was played.

Tuesday dinner involved escargot as a starter. Now, I don't really have any particular love for the gastropods themselves, I'm fairly sure you can cook just about anything in garlic butter and it'll be delicious. It was a big hit at our table, and Alex the awesome assistant waiter suggested that if we wanted to, he'd see if we could get it the next night as well. We all agreed that was a splendid plan.

After dinner, karaoke again. Despite karaoke being quite popular on the ship, it was only scheduled for about an hour at a time. The cruise staff mentioned they were running out of time, and a chant of "Baron! Baron! Baron!" went up. They bumped him to the front of the line, and he belted out Willie Nelson's "Always on my Mind" to his adoring fans (including the band of goths at his feet). Also of note was Lori's awesome "What I Am". I've always liked that song, and she was spot-on.

Wednesday (Cozumel): After breakfast in the main dining room, which had pretty much the same menu as the self-serve buffet, we headed out to meet our guide for our shore excursion to Punta Sur for snorkeling and kayaking. After wandering around for quite a while, not seeing a sign for our group and watching everyone else leave, we finally found someone with an answer for us: our excursion was canceled. We apparently should have been notified the previous evening but they claimed there must have been a communications glitch. Fortunately, we were able to find a replacement group that hadn't left yet that offered much of the same experiences (although no kayaking). We picked up some European tourists at their hotel to round out our 5 people from the cruise ship, and headed southerly. Our tour guide Nico was very entertaining as he pointed out things like the "Mexican air conditioning" on our open bus. I'm sure he makes the same jokes every day (and the other guides probably make the same ones), but it made me laugh. Once we got to Punta Sur, we were shown a (fairly small) Mayan lighthouse. I guess Cozumel doesn't have very big ruins on it due to its location. I am quite amused that Wikipedia has the debunked theory that the wind-holes in the top were for hurricane warnings. Nico mentioned that, but also pointed out the fact that if there was a hurricane by the time you'd heard the whistling of the lighthouse, it'd probably be way to late to do anything. Back into the bus and we headed for a brackish lagoon where crocodiles hang out. One of the British girls was quite amusing when she learned that crocs could jump -- she freaked out quite a bit despite the fact that the croc was even ignoring the fish swimming right next to its head.

From there we went to the modern lighthouse on Punta Sur. After the 133 steps up in ungodly heat, we had a wonderful view of the rest of the surroundings. We ignored the tourist shops and headed to the beach for some snorkeling. I was a bit hesitant about it since I'm not really a swimmer (despite swim lessons in the county park for two summers as a kid), but figured I'd give it a try anyway. However, after having issues with two different snorkel vests staying inflated, I decided to head back. Having my face submerged triggered my "omg I'm going to drown" reflex despite the fact that I could breathe through the snorkel just fine. And once that set in, any forward momentum was lost, and I ended up flailing underwater. After getting salt water down the snorkel and in my mouth one too many times, I gave up once I could no longer reach the bottom. So I hung out on the beach while Kate snorkeled, which was fine with me. I'm not sure I could have kept up for an hour anyway. It was perfectly pleasant sitting in the shelter with the ocean breeze keeping me cool. Then, lunch on the beach and back to the ship for the unexpected excitement.

As Kate & I were double-checking on Thursday's excursion at the desk (our info said that we'd be getting back to the ship a half hour after it left port) we were rammed by a rival cruise ship, boarded, and had to drive off the other cruisers with whatever we had at hand. Well, not really. As the last passengers were preparing to board our ship, a sudden squall with high-winds blew in. The Carnival ship that had just left the dock was blown into the aft end of our ship (shot from a balcony on the Carnival ship -- I'm right through the large rectangular window in the midsection of the Royal Caribbean ship). I must say I was very impressed with the response of the crew aboard
our ship. While the Carnival passengers were on deck with their drinks, we were being quickly ushered off decks and balconies and the staff were off to their lifeboat stations to help with emergency disembarkation if needed. Luckily, the damage to both boats was very minimal, and no lifeboats were needed. After a damage assessment, we were able to let the passengers who were stuck on the pier during the storm back onto the ship so they could dry off.

The rest of Wednesday was pretty relaxing. There weren't any GC events, so we went to the ship theater for the cheesy magician. And he was certainly cheesy, but also quite funny. But then again, I'm a sucker for bad puns, and he had them in spades (and hearts and clubs and diamonds), so there ya go. At dinner, our headwaiter proved his worth by delivering us a couple orders of garlicky buttery escargot for our table to share and promising more the following evening. We turned in early because we had a 7:45 departure time in Belize the next day.

Thursday (Belize City): Despite an alarm clock fail, we were up on time and waiting in the theater with the rest of the goths bright and early. Turns out that the confusion about excursion times was due to the fact that the ship didn't change time zones when we went to Belize. So all was well on that front. Belize City doesn't have a port deep enough for a cruise liner, so we had to take tender boats into the city.
We were off to an hour bus ride to followed by an hour boat ride Lamanai. Kate decided to climb the High Temple but wisely stopped before getting up to the really steep part with the rope. As the guide said, the climb up is physical, but the climb down is purely mental. I sat in the shade and watched others climbing. Since it was so far away, we didn't get to spend nearly enough time at the site, and had to get back to the ship before it left port. As it was, we were on the last tender boat to make it to the ship before it left.

After a quick snack we were off to the Speakeasy/free drinks get-together. Can't really go wrong with free booze, even if the margaritas were a bit too sweet for my taste. One note about the alcohol in general: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that 1) the drinks weren't overpriced and 2) didn't skimp on the alcohol. And then, dinner, where we were treated to buttery garlicky escargot once again, and garlic tiger shrimp. Quite tasty. Kate was feeling bushed after navigating the ruins all day, so I went off on my own to game night. We played an enjoyable game of Apples to Apples and I was introduced to Mad Scientist University. The game play is much the same as A2A -- one player counts as the TA for the round and gives out an Insane Assignment. Everyone else has to come up with a way to complete the Assignment using their Unstable Element. I think I like it even better than A2A since there's a lot more improvisation, and it's almost like the ususal wheedling of the judge is built into the game. It also lends itself to quasi-roleplaying, since everyone loves playing a mad scientist grad student with a wacky accent, right? I did seem to get stuck on a mind-control theme, but it was still a great time.

Friday (At Sea): We were able to sleep in since there wasn't any ports to be at. Kate decided she needed to try the rock climbing wall, so we hit that right around 1pm when it started. After that, I was the GC representative at the "adult" Wii tennis tournament. They didn't stick to the "adult" requirement, though, as I was beaten in the second round by a snotty teenage boy. He was very upset that he wasn't getting the applause he thought he deserved. As the cruise staffer was trying to move the tournament along since it was running way too long, he basically stomped off the court muttering "So that's the way it's going to be!".

I didn't stick around for the rest of the tournament since I had to go change for the dance, but I hope he didn't win.

The Future Noir dance was a lot of fun -- it definitely reminded me that it's been far too long since I've gone out dancing. Maybe I should get back into the habit.

Dinner was lobster night, and I had to have it just to remind myself that I don't really care for lobster. :) I swung by the "80's Dance Party" after dinner since it was in the same place as the final karaoke of the cruise. It was ... different ... than I was expecting. They seemed to only play about half of a song before moving on to the next one, and they had passengers dressed up as Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Idol (the winner of the Mr. Enchantment of the Seas contest) and I think someone else but I forget who. The cruise staff were dressed up in their 80s best as well: white Miami Vice jackets, pink ripped t-shirts, etc. Friday's karaoke highlights include Rob's awesome version of "Hit Me One More Time", complete with cruise guy running around in a ponytail wig and balloons shoved down his shirt. I think the balloons are what saved his teeth -- he tripped and fell pretty hard, smashing one of the balloons. From my perspective it looked like he smacked his face into the ground, but he seemed OK. This one girl wanted to do a song from Phantom of the Opera, but I don't know if she didn't realize it was a duet or not, but she refused to sing the male parts. Fortunately there were Goths at the ready! Paul stepped up and completely stole the show from her.

Saturday (disembarking): Saturday turned out to the be the day of just missing transportation. Fortunately, our flight was the one thing we made on time. Our plans for the day were: breakfast at the The Floridian and ride a water taxi around Fort Lauderdale. Breakfast was pretty much all I could have hoped for -- a great diner-type experience. We tried to find an ATM to get cash for the water taxi, but that detour seemed to be just long enough to see the taxi leaving right as we got to the stop (it was more like a water bus than a taxi, with a pre-set schedule and stops). We decided to walk towards one of the other stops, to see if we could catch it on the way back. Once again, it was pulling away from the dock as we were about half a block away. Oops. At this point, our flight time was rapidly approaching, so we decided to skip the water taxi and catch the bus to the airport. Guess what we saw drive right past us? Yup, the bus we just missed. There was still time, so we grabbed some shade and waited for the next one. The flight from Fort Lauderdale to our layover in Detroit went just fine, and after finding lunch at DTW we needed to catch a tram to the other end of the terminal. Of course, it pulled away just as we got to the top of the escalator.

But we got back to Madison safe and sound and despite all the fun, it was good to be back home.

I can't wait for next December and GC7!
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