The day before the cruise, Mike, one of the people at the conference asked if I wanted to share a ride to the cruise.  Big Al was picking me up in his big rental car, so there was plenty of room for the three of us.  I booked out of my room and spent some time in the lobby waiting for my ride.  At this point the rain was pretty bad.  Big Al parked up and we went for lunch before meeting with Mike at the entrance to the hotel.  The car was returned, we found a shuttle bus taking us to the cruise ship and before too long we were booked in and checking out our room.  We’d opted for one with a balcony, and it was definitely the right choice.  The room was smaller due to it, but still plenty big enough, plus we could sit outside and enjoy the view.  Safety briefing over, we sat on the balcony and watched the ship set off.

I’d never been on a cruise before, so this was an entirely new experience for me.  It turned out to be pretty enjoyable.  The ship is big enough that you never feel closed in and barely rocked so it almost felt like you were on land.  The young lady who looked after our room knew our names right away, as did the one who served us food.  The food was good too it has to be said.  We bought our drinks by the bucket as they were cheaper that way, we could take them back to our room and drink them there, plus they filled the bucket with ice.  The first evening a group of us got together for dinner and spent the entire time chatting.  Our next day was to be at Key West, which was the one place I really wanted to visit.

Key West was amazing.  The people were so laid back there.  First thing first, I needed to buy a hat to protect me from the sun.  The first hat I tried fitted me perfectly, so that’s what I went for.  The one place I wanted to visit was Peppers of Key West so I could stock up on hot pepper sauces.  And oh boy, did I!!  I left that place an hour later with 7 bottles, a burning tongue, numb lips and a big goofy smile on my face.  Also a free bottle opener for trying their really hot sauce.  After that, the 5 of us met up and went to the southernmost point of the USA.  A few more presents bought on the way back and we went back to the boat to rest up before dinner.  I had a call from catering asking if I could do them a favor.  There was a wedding party who wanted to sit together.  Would we be willing to move if they offered us an upgrade to a private table.  Umm, yes?  Free upgrade, like we’re going to turn that down!  Before eating, we got to see the sun set.  Pretty, isn’t it?

sunset

The next day we were at Cozumel.  First thing first, Big Al and I found a bar and crashed out there.  After that, more present shopping and time for Big Al to go swimming.  We did meet a new friend there who was more than happy to pose for photos for us:

iguana

There was another hot pepper sauce shop there too, but I skipped this one.  Seven bottles was more than enough, plus I’d had to buy a bag just to fit the presents into.  Luckily I was allowed a laptop bag and carry on for free on the flight back, so I didn’t have to pay any extra. Back in the ship, they had a sale on watches and I absolutely fell in love with this gorgeous pocket watch.  I ummed and aahed and eventually decided not to get it, but regretted it afterward.  Dinner, checked out a show and then back to the room to sleep.

Day 3 was completely at sea, and we spent it just chilling.  Walking around the ship, I saw the watch again and this time went for it.  Now I’m really happy.  More beers, more food and more chilling was pretty much the order of the day here.  It was all pretty pleasant.

Waking up on the last day, I looked out the window and saw this:

land

What a view to end the holiday.  Breakfast, check out, then to the airport and home.  So would I do it again?  Definitely.  Would I do iDate again?  Of course.  In fact I’m already working on attending the one in London later this year.  No 9 hour flight and 4.5 hour bus journey to get there this time.  Plus it’ll be cooler.  If you do attend London, look out for me there.  I’m not hard to spot.