Liberation At Sea

There is something about the routine of daily life that is both reassuring and suffocating at the same time. Even more than most, I live my life at home traversing a very intentional and well-worn rut. I work out on the same three days of the week, on certain days of the week I carry out food from the same familiar places (Thursdays are soup night, don‘t you know?), etc. The upside of having a routine is that this mindless pattern saves a lot of wear and tear on the little gray cells. On the downside, however, life lived in this fashion can slowly and silently suck your bones dry of the marrow of inspiration and spontaneity.

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When people ahead of you in the grocery store line start to become irritating, double-wide barriers between you and the checkout counter and when smiling starts to require way more energy than you are willing to expend, perhaps the time has come to book your next cruise (from one of our expert agents, of course) on the Liberty of the Seas. As I write these words, I am sitting in Liberty’s Café Promenade sipping a cappuccino and reflecting on seven ways in seven days to become liberated on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Liberated To Eat Like A Gourmand

When it comes to food and vacation, rationalization is a beautiful thing.  You can devour everything that comes within an arm’s reach and tell yourself it doesn’t really count, you are on vacation after all.  The great thing about cruising with Royal Caribbean is that the quantity, although voluminous, is somehow surpassed by the quality.

Here is a very important tip for those contemplating sailing on the Liberty of the Seas.  Belly up to the bar . . . a rather apt figure of speech . . .  and buy the three dinner specialty restaurant package in advance.  It will save you a little money but, more importantly, getting to dine at Giovanni’s Table, Chops Grille and Sabor Modern Mexican will, I promise you, be the highlight of your cruise.

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The up charge is modest, the food is divine, the service impeccable and the ambience intimate and inviting.  I loved all three but I suppose if I had to choose a favorite it would be Sabor.  This comes from someone who is not a raving fan of Tex-Mex (heresy for a Texan, I know).  But Sabor offers is authentic modern Mexican cuisine.  They make the guacamole tableside as well as the margaritas!  Nadia Guevara, the manager, is a true delight (pictured above with my bride) and above, as well, you can see Cocoa making one mean margarita.

Liberated To Imbibe Like A Connoisseur

When it comes to adult beverages, the great thing is you don’t even need to  rationalize!  Here is another little tip.  When you first get on the ship, you can purchase a wine packageIMG_1294 with several bottles of wine.  If you don’t finish one, you can have the remainder brought to you the next evening, regardless of where you are dining.  If you don’t consume all the wine during the trip, as we didn’t, you can bring the rest home with you.

One evening at dinner, as we were about to order our wine (you get to choose from a list of about 15 wines), the head waiter, Lucian, told is it was not necessary.  He said someone had provided a bottle for us.  He then raved about the quality of the wine, a 2013 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon pictured here.  We can confirm his estimation as we consumed the entire bottle over a long and lingering dinner!  So here is a special shout out to the benefactress whose name I will not mention both for fear of offending her modesty and also being accused of brazen name dropping.  Thank you for your gracious contribution to a wonderful evening.

Liberated To Indulge In Shameless Pampering

We rewarded ourselves for our numerous visits to the fitness center with a visit to the spa.  Let’s just say it is not exactly every day I am the recipient of a Swedish back message, energizing foot and ankle massage, relaxing scalp massage and a Men‘s Skin IQ MiniFacial.  I was very disappointed, though not completely surprised, to discover that my skin has a higher IQ than my brain!

DSC03243The pampering extended to the way Kevin, our cabin steward, attended to our every whim.  (I am pretty sure we exceed our whim allotment the first couple of days.)  From tracking down a lost suitcase, to brightening our day with his towel art and much more, Kevin embodied the rock star treatment one unfailingly gets on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Liberated To Explore Like A Latter Day Columbus

Our cruise called at Cozumel, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Falmouth, Jamaica. Among the score of offerings at each port of call, Royal Caribbean singles out these three for special recommendation:

  • Cozumel – Explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm, majestically perched above the turquoise Caribbean.
  • Grand Cayman – Experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure: snorkeling with stingrays at Stingray City Sandbar. These relatively tame creatures will swim right into your arms as they glide around you.
  • Jamaica – One of Jamaica’s leading natural attractions, Dunn’s River Falls are terraced, giant limestone stairs, measuring about 180 feet tall and 600 feet long and plunging into the sea.

DSC03229I would tell you all about these wonderful excursions were it not for the fact that we never ventured out of the fantastic dockside shopping areas each port offered.  From the picture above, you might say the one in Falmouth, Jamaica was conveniently situated!

Liberated To Shop Like Paris Hilton

Speaking of shopping, I was particular impressed with the incredible village in Falmouth, Jamaica with the bamboo stores and rum shops.  OK, we may have whiled away a couple of hours in this cute little rum shack.

You can purchase all manner of items in these shops.  You would be completely off base if IMG_1298you are picturing a Bahamas “Straw Market”.   In these shops, you can find diamonds, colored gemstones, jewelry, watches, gold, sterling silver, and even Oriental rugs.

Among my favorite places  were the bamboo stores where everything sold was made of bamboo.  They sell sheets that are softer than Egyptian cotton.  You can find shops offering everything from handicrafts to designer stores such as “C2K, Caribbean Hook, Honora, House of Tanzanite, John Hardy, Kabana, La Nouvelle Bague, Starnight, White Diamonds, Cartier, Concord, Maurice Lacroix, Michele, Movado and more”.

Liberated To Learn Like A Rhodes Scholar

You literally would not believe how many learning opportunities there are on board if you want to expand your horizons to match your growing waistline.  We both attended a cooking . . . and tasting . . . demonstration put on by Sabor where they demonstrated how to make some of their signature appetizers.   I did not join in on the cupcake decorating class, however, knowing my limitations full well.  Sampling is one thing, squeezing icing something else all together.

I was never able to work in the “Puffy eyes and dark circles” seminar.  Honestly, the whole subject sounded a little depressing anyway.   I wasn’t sure I wanted to surround myself with a room full of folks who felt a pressing need for that information!

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Liberated To Transform Former Strangers Into Fast Friends

When we are at home, we seldom approach strangers and when we do, they usually assume we want to sell them something. OK, by way of full disclosure, in my case that is usually true. I tend to place people into two important categories: potential cruisers or possible land tourists. Non-travelers are, truth to say, passing blips on the radar screen.

When you are on a cruise, total strangers have a way of becoming Facebook friends on the elevator somewhere between deck five and eleven. You find yourself asking the couple at the next table at dinner where they are from and, no matter what answer they give, it triggers some long suppressed genius for free association. You will immediately discover what seems (for the moment at least) like a providential connection fated by a mysterious higher power.

DSC03171Isn’t the time long overdue for you to discover you own seven ways in seven days to liberation?  In spite of the length of this post (my apologies), I have only scratched the surface.  To experience all this for yourself, trade in your frustration at home for liberation at sea.

Picture It, Sicily 2013

First things first.  Apologies are no doubt due to the late Estelle Getty who famously portrayed the fictional character Sophia Petrillo-Weinstock on the hit TV series The Golden Girls for the shameless rip-off in my title of one of her most popular comic devices.  She would start a sentence “Picture it, Sicily 1922”, or some other year, with a hilarious story inevitably ensuing.  Thanks Estelle, for all the laughs.

Marina in Massina, ItalyYou needn’t expect this blog post to meet, much less exceed, the high comedic standard set by that show.  Fortunately, regular devotees of Travel By Terry probably figured out mid-way through my initial post to keep their expectations lower than a world champion Jamaican limbo dancer.

The next few posts will recount my recent voyage through the Mediterranean on Royal Caribbean’s incomparable Navigator of the Seas.  In each post, I will relate one of my favorite aspects of the ship, i.e. A Favorite Feature and describe one of the enjoyable ports of call, i.e. A Port To Ponder.  In that fashion, keeping to two simple points, even my readers on Ritalin can stay engaged.

A FAVORITE FEATURE

Did I mention that I celebrated my birthday on my Golden Circle cruise?  Possibly not.  Did I mention which birthday?  No chance in #@%$*!  In any case, some of my dear friends invited me to share a birthday dinner with them in the Chops Grille which immodestly but accurately touts “the best steak on the high seas.”   If you are not familiar with specialty dining on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, it is the opportunity to upgrade your dining experience from merely great to gourmet.  Take a moment and watch this video!

Chops Grille on Navigator of the SeasThere is a modest up charge of $30 per person for the experience but because I am blessed with magnanimous friends (thanks Tim and Margo!), I did not have to bother my pretty little head with that pesky detail.  The food was sumptuous, the wine delectable (thanks Roger!) and the convivial atmosphere delightful (thanks to the entire table!).  Even if it is not your birthday and you are not accompanied by friends from whom you can con . . . ahem charm an invite, you still owe it to yourself to visit one of the two specialty restaurants during your cruise.

A PORT TO PONDER

Our first port of call was Messina, Sicily.  After perusing my handy Royal Caribbean Shore Excursion guide, a settled on “Taormina On Your Own“.  (There were eleven choices by the way!)  I did this for two reasons.  The price was easy on my pocketbook which, by this point in my travels, was getting lighter by the day.  Also, I figured staggering around through a small village like a vagrant looking for a cigarette butt was well within my limited capabilities.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice.

I amused myself no end by taking pictures of things that for some odd reason you were not supposed to photograph, like this shop window.  I suspect that this was actually a little Sicilian reverseTaormina, Italy shop window psychology to get you to stare at their window.  If that was the case, all the little signs with X-ed out cameras had the desired effect as I found myself unable to withstand the temptation to take a picture.  The same is true, apparently, of the guy on the right.

Speaking of signs, this little jewel caught my attention.  Who would Street sign in Taormina, Italyhave thought that flashing, Mardi Gras style, was a huge law enforcement issue in Taormina? The tiny print under the top image says, “Circolare a torso nudo – Do not go bare-chested.”  Considering it was about 40 degrees that day, a violation of that edict might have proved very interesting, if you catch my drift.

Taormina is an absolutely charming village.  It is an excellent place to get your cannoli fix, as I must confess, I did!  On the edge of this quaint village is a magnificent Greek theater built in the 3rd century B.C.  This tour offers a relaxing three hours to tour the shops, stop off for lunch at a sidewalk cafe and, on a clear day, view the snow-capped peak of Mt. Elba.

Taormina's Greek TheaterI may have missed the mafia tour called, “In The Godfathers’ Footsteps” but I live with no regrets.  I walked in my own footsteps and had a wonderful time doing so.  And just for the record, I kept my shirt on the entire day . . . sparing me a fine and the entire populace a grotesque visual!