Monday, December 21, 2015 Emily Childers 0 Comments

This has been a great few months for tropical vacations. Last week Nick and I flew to Fort Lauderdale for a five night cruise on the Celebrity Constellation. This was our second Celebrity cruise (the first was a 12 night Mediterranean cruise on our honeymoon) and we had a blast.

We flew direct from Vegas to Fort Lauderdale on the red eye, meaning we arrived at 6am and had six hours to kill before we could board the ship. We took a taxi to the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa for breakfast at Riva. We checked our bags with the bell desk and enjoyed a hearty (and expensive) breakfast with a view. With five hours of free time remaining, we decided to be pretend hotel guests. We lounged on the beach chairs and simmered in the hot tub. The hotel facilities were fabulous; clean, modern, and generous. I felt a little bad using the pool when we weren't guests, but all of the staff were wonderful and welcoming, which helped assuage my guilt.

While Nick napped by the pool I took a walk through Fort Lauderdale. It was muggy and warm, but the breeze was constant so I was never uncomfortable. The beaches weren't crowded and I found the world's most beautiful basketball court. I was charmed.

After my walk, Nick and I grabbed our bags and took a quick Uber ride to Port Everglades to board the Constellation. The lines were short and we were onboard in no time. We spent our first afternoon exploring the ship and lounging in our room. We grabbed drinks in the wine cellar before dinner and made some friends (they brought their parrot with them, how cool is that?!). With a solid buzz we went to an early dinner, but even though we were eating with the early-bird crew, we could barely keep our eyes open. The red eye caught up with us. 

Mmm hat
After a solid 12 hour sleep we awoke in beautiful Key West. We disembarked and headed straight to Bike Man rentals to pick up bicycles for the day. We were warned that the rentals right by the port were ridiculously expensive, so we walked 10 minutes for a much better deal. I'm a sucker for toodling around a new city, and Nick was happy to oblige.

We got rained on (a lot) but it was warm and the views couldn't be beat. I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. We stopped for lunch at Louie's Backyard based on a recommendation from the rental guys. The conch fritters were phenomenal, and luckily there were umbrellas and an overhang to protect us from the rain.

Obviously that's not us. Sorry random couple!
After returning the bikes we walked down Duval, the main tourist street. Nick had a hankering for ice cream (apparently hot rain does that) so we popped into Kilwins. So much yum.

Full, wet, and happy, we headed back to the boat. 

The next day was spent at sea, so we lounged by the pool, drank blended cocktails, and ate way too much food. After a couple cocktails at dinner, we wandered into a lounge that was setting up for bandeoke (karaoke with a live band). With minimal cajoling, Nick convinced me to sing Wonderful World... in Louis Armstrong's voice.

The band had an iPad with the lyrics, but somehow didn't realize they had only provided two verses and decided to play a third! I made up my own lyrics, which the audience seemed to enjoy. I got a huge standing ovation, which was totally worth the sore throat (you try singing a full song in Louis Armstrong's voice!). I was asked to sing two more songs since not enough people had signed up, which was a nice compliment. It was at this point that we were officially boat famous.

Throughout the rest of the cruise (and in a shop in Cozumel and at the airport on the way home) people would approach us and tell us how much they enjoyed my performances. Blush.

Day three was spent in Cozumel, which is one of my favorite snorkeling destinations. We took a cab to Chankanaab (an eco park), where I had reservations for a couples massage and snorkel gear.

The biggest crowd we saw all day

"Food? I love food!"
We were directed to chairs on the beach by a server. He handed us a menu and told us that they guaranteed the safety of our belongings while we snorkeled. Amazing. It was warm and sunny with barely a breeze, so the visibility while snorkeling was perfect. I was so happy.

Underwater snelfie (snorkel + selfie, get it?)

Pretty rainbow fish

Above water snelfie

School of fish taking a rest
The couples massage was exactly what we needed after a morning of swimming. The women at the Natural Spa were wonderful and we stumbled out of there relaxed and grinning. The rest of the eco-park was interesting. There's a sea lion show, dolphin experience, manatee experience (!), and a pool. We didn't partake in the rest of the park much; we don't really think that dolphin experiences are very moral. The upside to this facility is that it's a huge cove area that's boxed off, so at least the dolphins have lots of space... But it still makes us sad that they're captive.

Anyways, we took a cab back to the port and Nick headed to our room for a nap while I walked around to spend the rest of our pesos. The shops were insane. The salespeople were really intense; they hollered at you as you walked past and nearly grabbed you by the arm to drag you into their shop. The first place that didn't accost me was where I spent my money. Go figure. I am not into the hard sell.

Gorgeous chandelier on the Constellation
After another day at sea, we were back in Fort Lauderdale. We carried our own bags off of the ship, which cut down on our disembarking time. Since we didn't fly out until 7pm (and we were off the boat by 9am), we took the free hotel shuttle to the Rodeway Inn and paid $60 for a day room. We took showers, laid in bed, and watched tv for a few hours. Sometimes you just need a vacation from your vacation, amiright?

When it was finally lunch time we took Uber to Juana La Cubana. This place is perfection. It's a hole in the wall located in the recreation center of a mobile home park. Known for their authentic Cuban food and warm service, this spot has a full five stars on Yelp and they deserve every one.
Tostones rellenos; fried plantain filled with seasoned beef.

Ham croquetas and a happy husband
Full of Cuban deliciousness, we took a quick nap before heading to the airport to fly home. We had an amazing time and can't wait to sail with Celebrity again.