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Monday, May 19, 2014

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas cruise

In January when I made my new 101 Things list, I put down "Go on a cruise" without any idea how I would manage to cross it off. I have a 10 day trip to Europe planned for later this year, and another trip planned next year that will eat up all of my husband's vacation time as well as most of the money we could spend for travel. Being the firm believer I am in having goals that seem impossible, I wrote it down anyways and hoped for the best. I was quite shocked when I got my golden opportunity early last week. I belong to a Houston bloggers group on Facebook, and saw a post come up saying Royal Caribbean was looking for local bloggers who would be interested in participating in a free one day/night cruise from Galveston on their newly remodeled Navigator of the Seas ship. There were only 10 spots available, so I wasted no time submitting my name and details to the lady who posted. Amazingly I was one of the ones chosen to go. I was allowed to bring 3 guests with me, but they all needed to have proper ID, so that left my younger children out. I decided to bring along my husband, my 19 year old son and his best friend. I emailed the person who was handling our group all of our details, including the information for my son's friend, and was given the all clear.

On the morning of the cruise we got up early and set out to the Port of Galveston. We were able to park in a free overnight parking area and take the shuttle bus to the ship. I believe parking for longer cruises was $40. Once we arrived in the terminal, which was a lot like being inside an airport, I was told to have our "set sail" passes ready to show. Our what now? No one had given me anything of the sort. I frantically rechecked all the emails I'd gotten, and nope, no one had given me or told me to print out any set sail pass. I told one of the staff people, and they told me it was no worry, I'd just need to fill out some extra forms. We made our way through security and up to the front where our ID's were checked and extra paperwork was presented. They handed me a sheet of paper and immediately I noticed my son's friends' last name was written as Roberts, the same as our, instead of his actual last name, Edwards. Again I checked the email correspondence I'd had with the person in charge of our group, and I had given them his real last name, Edwards. The lady helping us looked perplexed. I'm sorry, she said, he won't be able to join you since the information isn't correct. His ID had to match what was in their system. I explained that I had given the correct information and showed her the email proof. She told me to wait a moment and she would do what she could. Since we'd arrived extra early perhaps there was still time to change it. She called over some other people, and in a few minutes they were able to change the name and let us all on board. Crisis averted. We went up the ramp, scanned our handy new cards we'd gotten from our angel at the desk, which acted as a room key, credit card and ID while on the ship, and headed inside.
The ship was incredible on the inside. I felt like I was walking into the first class area of the Titanic, only hoping it wouldn't end the same way. I haven't ever been on a cruise ship before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I was stunned at how nice it was.The elevators were glass, so you could get a great view of the ship as you sped up or down to your destination. We found our balcony room on the 7th floor and put our bags down. We were all starving at this point, so we used the touch screen signs to locate the Windjammer Cafe which was open for lunch. The Windjammer had a very large seating area, most of which had excellent window views. At this point we hadn't left the port though, so our view was the fairly
unspectacular Galveston Port. I tried to make note of all the food that was offered at the lunch buffet. I saw stations for pizzas, tacos, baked potatoes and hamburgers. At the buffet tables were chicken, paella, various soup, salmon, mashed potatoes, fries, green beans, root vegetable medleys, mac and cheese, and a dessert table with jellos, cakes, and such. There was an ice cream machine as well. I'm sure there is much more food offered that I just don't remember. On the sides were tables with ice cold tea, lemonade and a fruit drink that tasted a bit like strawberry kool-aid. You could order other drinks such as cokes, beer, bloody marys, mai tais and such from the wait staff. All the food in the Windjammer was free. I had some salmon, veggies, a bit of paella and a bloody mary that was a bit too strong for me. I'm not a big alcohol drinker though, so it's probably just fine for others. The food was good, about on par with other buffets.

After we'd had our fill at lunch, the boys were ready to go try out the FlowRider surfing simulator. We got changed into our swimsuits and used the touch screen system to find the sports area outside. When we walked out into the sports area there were several ping pong tables, a large basketball court, a mini golf area, and a place to sign waivers and get wristbands to use the FlowRider. We got our wristbands and made our way behind that station to the surfing area. I got in line and watched to see how the other people in front of me fared. They were doing body boarding first, which was great as I have never surfed in my life. If you see the video of me attempting to skateboard, you'll know I pretty much suck at that too. The first guy who went on wiped out and his shorts were blown off by the force of the waves. Note to others : do not wear loose

fitting clothes! An older gentleman was next, and he wiped out as well. He came back around, got in front of me in line and said "I'm going to do it again". The instructor lady let him go before me, knowing he'd just come off. Oh well, I thought, I'm next anyways. No big deal. He wipes out yet again,  and as he passes me, he stops to let me know how much falling off hurts and that I'm probably going to break my arm or get the wind knocked out of me. Thanks, guy! Finally it's my turn and I go to grab a body board. "Sorry", the instructor says, "body boarding is now over. You have to either stand up surf or get out of line." Wait, what? You just let a guy cut in front of me for a second go, and you won't let me go now? She doesn't seem sympathetic to my plight a bit and ushers me down to the stand up surfing area. I pass by the cutter, who tells me again it's going to hurt when I fall. Now I'm scared. She makes me remove all my jewelry, including a necklace I haven't taken off in 8 years, but I'm already there so I remove it. She holds my hands and tries to steady me on the board, and tells me where to place my feet. I am not exactly sure what she wants but I try to put my feet where she wants them. No good. She uses her foot to kick mine into place. She asks me to place my weight towards the back side and bounce up and down as she pushes me toward the waves. I've never done anything like this before, I confess. I'm nervous. She holds on to my hands as I try to loosen up and find my center. Apparently my center went out for free drinks because I never did find it. She pushes me out into the waves and I crash. Not only did I not break my arms or get the wind knocked out of me, it didn't even hurt.

I laugh it off and go sit down to watch the boys try. 

Take that, Rude Old Guy!!

(more to come soon) ...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Marking off the #1 thing on my list!

I don't think there is anything like the feeling of marking off a bucket list item that you've been trying to accomplish with all your heart, but I was able to do that very thing Friday night when I met Mr. JJ Watt. I have been on TV about my bucket listing, making sure to mention how much I wanted to meet him, and when I signed the Before I Die wall at Distinctive Life in front of a news crew, I wrote "Meet JJ Watt" as my #1 thing I wanted to do. I even carved a foam pumpkin in his likeness hoping it would buy me an "in".
I was too late to the punch to get tickets to the JJ Watt Charity Classic softball game, and I really thought I had lost a golden opportunity. I would have, indeed, had it not been for the wonderful people at Charitabulls who had a contest to win 2 tickets. I won, and my husband and I were able to attend the game. I brought the pumpkin I'd carved, thinking maybe it would get his attention. I asked all the staff "If one was hoping to give JJ Watt a pumpkin carved in his likeness, how might one best do so?" and they pointed me to the JJ Watt Foundation table. I told them I wanted to donate it to them to auction off at their next event. They told me "Let me go get JJ's Mom and show her." I about had a heart attack when they said that! They couldn't find her at the time, but I promised to come back after the event and give it to them then. We found our seats, and I waited down at the bottom in hopes some players, one especially, would come by and sign things. The ladies who came up to stand next to me started chatting about the pumpkin and said they had just seen Mrs. Watt at the tables. I wasn't sure whether to go back up or wait where I was. They assured me they would save my spot, so off I went, pumpkin in hand, back to the Foundation set up. Sure enough, there she was, posing for pictures with other fans of her son. I showed her the pumpkin, as well as a picture of it lit up, and told her I wanted to give it to her to keep, or auction off, or whatever she wanted to do with it (promising to carve another for the Foundation if she chose to keep it.). She told me she loved it and would be sure to make sure he got it. I told her I was sort of hoping to meet him, but she said no, you won't be able to meet him tonight. You can give to me, or take it with you, but you can't meet him. I struggled internally for a moment, knowing if I gave it up I wouldn't have anything to grab his attention on the field, but I decided I really wanted her to have it, so I gave it up. She was kind enough to pose for a picture with me, but I really wish I'd gotten a picture of her holding the pumpkin, too.

I went back down to the spot where the ladies had kept their word and saved my place. My husband, who was to be my photographer in case the big moment did happen, left to go to the restroom. Not 5 seconds after he walked off, who should run up and give me a big ole high 5? JJ Watt! As thrilled as I was to have that brief encounter, I was also a bit disappointed I didn't have any pictures or witnesses that it happened. I wasn't even sure that counted as meeting him. Soon the game started and I sat and enjoyed the show.
The game only went to 7 innings, so toward the end of the 6th my husband prodded me to go back down to my spot from earlier so I could be there if the players came up to sign autographs after the game. I had to do some security guard dodging and lay a bit low, but I managed to not be chased away. The game ended, the fireworks went off, and I stood waiting. My heart sank as I watched JJ Watt go all the way to the very opposite end of the field to sign things, but I was cheered up when I saw Mr. Case Keenum heading my way. He not only signed my bucket list, he also posed for a picture with me and stole my phone and took a selfie with it, with us in the background. What a great sense of humor he had. It was getting late and my husband was tired, and seeing as how JJ Watt was as far as he could possibly be away from me, I thought it was probably time to throw in the towel and just be happy that I was able to meet Keenum.

Right as I was about to walk away I saw what looked to be a mountain running straight toward me. It was dark, but wasn't that mountain running from the area JJ was just signing stuff? Soon he came into view and was standing right in front of me. The crowd pushed from behind me, people were shoving footballs and photos into his hands, women were screaming "JJ I LOVE YOU!!!" at ear splitting levels. I leaned in and said "You have to sign my bucket list! You're in it!". He looked straight at me, smiled his MegaWatt smile and said "Oh that's so cool!". He signed it, upside down, but that's just fine with me. I turned to make sure my husband had captured the moment this time and he said he had. And what a picture it is. This, friends, is what it looks like to cross off your most desired bucket list item. Pure joy.