November 1, 2022

5 Year Anniversary Cruise

To celebrate our 5th year married we embark on our first cruise in almost 3 years. One word to describe it? Delightful :)

5 Year Anniversary Cruise

A couple months ago I saw that Virgin Voyages was the first cruise line to remove all Covid restrictions. When authoritarians shut down the economy in March 2020 we had a three week cruise already reserved with Viking for Oct 2020. It was cancelled.

I thought it was possible the world had changed so much and that tyrannical powers had so much unchecked power and the ability and will to use it, that cruising may not be something we'd ever be able to do again.

So a few months ago when I saw Virgin rejecting the madness of the last couple years I was relieved and hopeful.

We are not Covid vaccinated. It never made sense to us that a new biotechnology drug with very limited testing was a good idea to inject into our bodies en masse. There is a long history of drug research going awry and it takes time and careful testing to figure it out.

Thalidomide is a well known case. It was released in 1957. In 1960 it was confirmed that a pregnant mother who took it was at high risk of birth defects in her child. It wasn't fully removed from the market until 1963. It took six years and thousands of children born with severe birth defects before it was acknowledged and stopped.

The mRNA vaccine wasn't tested with pregnant women. They were excluded from the trials. Yet we were told it was safe for pregnant women. Red flag. Data is coming out that there is a likely correlation between mRNA and increased miscarriages and infertility. Time will tell.

Data is also now indicating there may be risk of blod clots in the lungs and heart muscle damage with the mRNA drug. More time will tell.

We didn't know any of this evidence in early 2021 because the drug trials weren't testing for it. I was cautious and concerned waiting for proper testing and enough time to indicate it worked and was safe.

In February 2020 we looked at the Covid stats on the Diamond Princess cruise ship where Covid ran rampant. It was the perfect circumstance to get a pretty solid idea of the infection rate, the mortality rate, and who was at the most risk.

From those numbers I saw that the mortality of Covid was slightly worse than the flu. The mortality rate of people exposed to the virus was quite low and the most at risk people were the very elderly and those in compromised health.

I was open to new data that would indicate that it was more dangerous than what the numbers on that ship showed. It's been almost three years and I've been watching the numbers. Infection rate, mortality rate, and who is most at risk. It hasn't changed and is still consistent with what happened on that cruise ship.

However there was so much fear mongering going on that many people thought they were at very high risk of death. They were very scared and understandably acted according to that fear.

When the Covid vaccines were released in early 2021 we were told by politicians and news and doctors and religious leaders and other influential people that the Covid vaccine would stop transmission. They said we should get the vaccine to protect the people we loved.

I knew this was a lie from the beginning because the pharmaceutical companies from the beginning stated in the fine print that their testing did not include testing for transmission. The tests weren't designed to answer the question, "Does the vaccine stop transmission?" This was a huge omission in the testing methodology and looked very suspicious to me.

A major selling point to get people to take the vaccine was based on the promise that it would protect other people.

It didn't make sense. You shouldn't claim a drug does something when there isn't evidence for that claim. That is pretty twisted and dangerous. For people who did that knowingly it's probably criminal.

So I refused to have the vaccine injected into my body until there was adequate testing and research and time that showed it was safe and didn't cause injury. I wanted to know that the risk/reward ratio was favorable to my health and not detrimental.

The down side I experienced not being Covid vaccinated was the discrimination against non Covid vaccinated people. There was a segregation in our society based on Covid vaccine status. I didn't want to be discriminated against and treated like a less-than citizen because of my personal health choice. And on cruise ships that was certainly the case when they started operating again in 2021.

I still can't believe that they did this when it became clear the Covid mRNA drug didn't stop transmission. It's so illogical.

So when I saw that Virgin welcomed people regardless of Covid vaccine status, and that they treated everyone the same, I was hopeful.

I booked a 5 night cruise for our 5 year anniversary. Hoping it would be enjoyable, hoping cruising fun was still possible. "Let's dip our toe in the water and try a cruise and see how it goes" I reasoned. If it's unpleasant and we are not treated well then we'll know.

I'm happy to report that it was perfect. Kudos to Virgin for being a leader in sanity. There was no tyrannical and authoritarian rules and restrictions. No nonsensical and confusing mandates of behavior. No segregating passengers. No discrimination. No excuses of poor service in the name of "safety".

We stay in Hilton hotels a lot. Mitzi has Diamond Member status. And it's been so disappointing to see the cleanliness of the rooms decline since 2020. The service has also declined. They only clean the room on request now. And when they do all they do is swap out the towels and make the bed.

They say it's in the name of safety. What it looks like to me is an excuse to reduce their costs by offering less service and using "safety" as the justification.

The service on Virgin was top notch. They didn't cut corners. They didn't try to reduce their costs and lie about their reasons for doing it. I didn't see any evidence they were blaming "Covid" in any way.

Our room was fully cleaned 3 times a day! Our Rockstar Agent was our one point of contact for everything we needed. She scheduled the entertainment, food, decorated our room the day of our anniversary, got us into a special "secret" entertainment venue. It was truly amazing. We haven't experienced this level of service and welcoming anywhere else in the last 3 years.

With all the contextual background to help me remember these details in 25 years, when my memory of what we've experienced has faded ... let's get on to the anniversary trip!

The morning of the cruise we flew from Panama City to Atlanta to Miami. We got up early and boarded and were all excited and fresh and looking forward to arriving in Miami.

Our hopes were crushed quickly. Unhappily Atlanta had one of their runways shutdown and they wouldn't let our plane leave Panama City for 30 minutes past our planned departure time.

Our connection to the flight for Miami was very short and we missed it. All the other flights to Miami from Atlanta on Delta were full until that evening.

We had to get to Miami by 3:30p or we would miss the ship as it stopped boarding at 4:45p to leave port at 5p. If we didn't make it we'd have to fly to Costa Maya in Mexico and get on the ship in two days and miss 40% of the cruise, or they offered to give us a credit to a future cruise.

This was so disappointing and stressful. We were put on standby for an 11a flight but there were 30 people on the standby list and only 5 seats available. There was no way we were going to get on. And we didn't.

The gate agent was talking through a mask and we couldn't hear anything he said in the microphone. His voice was very quiet and garbled and all I could make out was the word "standby" every once in a while.

At one point I leaned into Mitzi's ear and said, "[garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] standby [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] standby [garble] [garble] [garble] [garble] standby". She found that hysterical and I was able able to capture a picture of her laughing so hard. It was a nice stress relief. Humor can be healing.

Being a brilliant logical thinker she got an idea of seeing if Southwest had a flight that got us close enough to Miami on time. There was literally only one option available to us that would work, and she found it. There was a flight to West Palm Beach, about 1 hour and 10 minutes drive from the Miami cruise terminal. And it would land at 3p giving us enough time (if nothing went wrong) to make it to the ship in time.

We paid $500 for the Southwest tickets (found out later there were only 3 available seats left on that flight at the time we purchased the tickets so we were pretty lucky!). We loaded up in the back of the plane and made it to West Palm Beach without any delays! Mitzi is a genius!

We caught a 1 hour and 10 minute ride from the airport to the cruise terminal and arrived at about 4:15p. Phew! We made it!

The check-in process was simple and fast.

We walked onto the Scarlet Lady and quickly forgot about the stressful travel experience.

Also, there was literally zero Covid crap to deal with. What a relief. It felt like 2019 and gave me a lot of hope.

Our suite was perfectly clean and beautiful. So exciting to walk into this space and finally be on a cruise ship again.

We explored the ship. There are so many fun places.

We watched as a large Red Cross ship was towed through the harbour. And we got some pictures up on the 17th deck.

We found the Ice Cream shop and got our first food experience.

Our dinner was reserved for 6p in the Razzle Dazzle restaurant. They sat us by the window and it was a wonderful meal as the sun entered golden hour and started to set in Miami.

Mitzi's cauliflower was so colorful and very tasty.

Cookies and Milk for dessert :)

We rode the elevator back to our room and Mitzi enjoyed the hammock on the veranda.

We watched Miami shrink in the distance as we left port and headed toward Mexico.

In the morning we had room service breakfast. We ate on the veranda as the sun came up.

It was a sea day and we relaxed in the Rooftop under an umbrella. The staff brought us food and drink. Very relaxing and peaceful there.

We saw this couple passed out in the Rooftop area. I discreetly caught a picture, it was so funny how the guy had his legs over his gal and they were both spread out resting like everything was good in their world.

Mitzi is so cute and fun to hang out with.

In the afternoon we wanted to try some food so we wandered around the Galley.

Having fun with some small bites from the Galley.

I asked our Rockstar Agent if she could get me scheduled for a hair cut. I got an afternoon slot.

The ship has a little barber shop and Shiv did a great job cutting my hair. I asked Mitzi to take some pictures. She enjoyed watching so much she ended up staying for the whole time.

The floor was interesting with old fiat coins embedded in the design.

Our dinner the second night was in the Mexican restaurant Pink Agave.

I must say the dining on this ship is delightful!

It was a wonderful day at sea. Just perfect.

The next morning we woke up as the sun streamed into our room. The curtains are remote controlled with a tablet computer by the bed so we didn't even have to get out of bed to open the curtains.

While Mitzi rested I headed to The Galley to find some breakfast.

Eggs Florentine, Orange Juice, Bagels and Lox. Delightful. Sat in a stool by the window looking out at the calm sea.

The ship docked in Costa Maya, Mexico. The ship was pretty empty since most passengers went on shore. We decided to stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities with few people around.

We headed up to deck 17 and did our core stretch routine. So beautiful up there.

We enjoyed walking on the net 16 decks above the water.

The swings. A hot tub.

Lounging on a deck while our bathing suits dried.

They have a little hot dog restaurant. Then we headed to The Galley to enjoy a hamburger and fries.

Mmmm! Got some excess ketchup and mustard going there :)

And a few little desserts for dessert.

Our Rockstar Agent got us into a "secret" magic show in the evening. We couldn't take pictures. They literally locked up our phones during the event. And the location was secret too – although I noticed it was in the bow of the ship on one of the staff decks :)

We got a compass sticker at the show so we put it on our door. We felt like members of a secret society. With special symbols. That only people in the secret society knew about. So we could knowingly smile at each other.

Our dinner that night was at The Wake steakhouse restaurant.

I got the bone marrow. Mitzi wouldn't touch it haha. But we both enjoyed the rolls.

The lamb, which she also didn't touch, was rather raw but it wasn't a problem for me. Seeing the picture now I can see it was quite red. Mitzi asked if it was too red. The waiter asked if it was too red. Don and Kathy, lamb experts, when they saw the picture later mentioned how red they were. I can see that now :)

We enjoyed some east coast oysters. Perfection!

The steak was underwhelming. It was the only disappointing part of our culinary experience. It was a New York Strip cut, my favorite, but unhappily it was so tough I could eat only a few bites and gave up.

The desserts were amazing.

We got back to our room in time to watch a beautiful sunset from the veranda. Then it was time to watch our first show. The only picture I have of the show is this one of Mitzi. It was an interesting production. Very well done by very talented people.

The shows on this boat are different from others cruises. High energy and high caliber and very modern.

We decided after the show to get a late night pizza. We waited for it on the deck and got some cool night photos.

The next morning I went back to The Galley for breakfast. Got an omelet. And Eggs Florentine again except I asked if they could put ham on there instead of spinach. The water was able to get some cubed ham at another restaurant and bring it to the omelet one and they made it special for me. Delicious!

We went to deck 17 again for our stretches. Then to the Rooftop for hours of relaxing together in the shade.

Mitzi is such a fun travel buddy.

We got some fun food and got some resting in. Maybe even a nap.

All the verandas have these hammocks made special for Virgin by Yellow Leaf.

We both enjoyed getting cradled in the hammock and reading and resting.

Sexy legs Mitzi ;)

Our dinner was at the Test Kitchen. A culinary experience. Curious, entertaining, delightful. The staff was wonderful and the food excellently prepared, presented, and tasty.

My favorite was the peas with egg yolk. It came in a smoky glass container which they dramatically removed at the table so the smoke floated out. So enjoyable. The scallops – mmmmm.

Beef and venison. Mitzi didn't try the venison. I loved it. The beef was excellent.

One of Mitzi's favorite spots on the ship was the dessert area in The Galley. So so good.

On our next to last day we stopped at the island of Bimini. About 50 miles from Miami.

Virgin has a resort there. We spent most of the day at the resort. Had a nice lunch. And enjoyed the beautiful beach and water.

There were a lot of jellyfish in the water. At first I wouldn't go in. Bad experiences getting stung at Pajaro Dunes in California when I was a child.

However some people came out of the water and said the jellyfish didn't sting. And lots of people were in the water. And nobody was running to shore in pain.

So we decided to go in.

Interesting couple all tattooed up.

I had a little swim in beautiful water.

When we got back to the ship we found our room decorated for our anniversary. It rocks to have a Rockstar Agent take care of things!

As the sun started to set it was time to go enjoy our anniversary dinner at the Extra Virgin Italian restaurant.

I got a spatchcocked young chicken. It was so tiny and tasteful! Loaded with flavor and like I said, so tiny. Thank you little chicken for giving your life so I could have a little delight. Dark morbid thought!

Dessert was prepared table side. The wait staff was so kind to us.

On our way back to the room we stopped at a store to get one of those hammocks. And they had these sailor hats. Had to try it on. I've captained little sailing yachts so that's why it fit, I think :)

I've never gambled before. I wanted to try a slot machine so we went to the casino. I put $10 on the account. Honestly it was not fun at all.

There's nothing to do but push the Play button. It would bet $0.60. The display would update and 4 times out of 5 I would lose the money. On 3 occasions I won a little like $0.75 average. The $10 was gone in a couple minutes.

Interesting experience though. Glad I tried it out :)

We had a late night snack at the Galley. Then headed out to find a hot tub.

We had a wonderful anniversary. Mitzi posted this:

And I posted this:

The next morning was our last on board. We went to Razzle Dazzle for a wonderful breakfast.

Cookies and Milk for breakfast dessert :)

We got off the boat and while in the Customs saw this character we'd seen at the magic show. Quite a character!

We had about 4 hours before we needed to be at the airport. Mitzi remembered this quiet spot in Miami from our trip earlier this year.

It was the perfect place to relax and read while we waited for lunch time.

We walked through Brickell to Pura Vida and had a really nice lunch.

Virgin Voyages may have spoiled us for cruising. Time will tell. We want to get on another cruise as quickly as possible and can't stop thinking about it.

Thank you Mitzi for a wonderful time. Thank you for marrying me. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for enhancing my life. Thanks for your kindness and enthusiasm and generosity. Thanks for all the things you do that make my life simple and easy and enjoyable. HAPPY FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!