I'm finally back in Pittsburgh after a rather epic family vacation. I can happily say that it was probably the best trip we've ever taken, from the quality of the excursion to the lack of fratricidal, patricide, or any other tragedy.
We may have been a little delusional in thinking that the 26 hour car ride from Hinesburg, Vermont to Miami, Florida would be a breeze, but we made it manageable by stopping in a few places (DC, Cape Canaveral) and crashing in hotel rooms 3 times.
Arriving in Miami was probably the most satisfying experience I've had in a long time. While it was in the 50s (and the weather remained unseasonably cold throughout the entire trip), the sun was shining like I hadn't seen it do in months. We boarded with ease and settled into our adjoining cabin rooms on the bottom deck of the ship (that's what we get for booking our trip last-minute).
The ship itself was wonderful. From delicious 4 course, vegetarian friendly dinners served by a studly Serbian waiter every night to the hilariously dreadful singers and dancers, there was never a dull moment on board. There was enough variety for everyone from my 14 year old brother to my 49 year old dad to find entertainment, and my sister and I gazed woefully at the free champagne and mixed drinks that were occasionally doled out to get people to start drinking early and often. Mental note: cruises are the most fun for those over the age of 20. I've got 4 months to go and I can't wait.
Our first stop was Key West, where we toured an aquarium where they help rehabilitate injured turtles and other fish. I got to touch an alligator but passed on petting the nurse shark - I'd like for them to keep their distance and I'll stay in my own personal space, thank you very much.
After a full day at sea, we made it to Grand Cayman where the water was a full 10 degrees warmer than the air. Despite the chilly wind, we enjoyed some time at the beach where I made my sister take pictures of me with things that I found. I'm holding a piece of grass that she had tried to pass off as a lobster whisker - no such thing, I'm pretty sure. We snorkelled with sting rays - also very unnerving - and my sister and I enjoyed some very legal cocktails. I love British Isles and mango mojitos.
Sadly, as all things do, the trip came to an end and we were forced back on to shore at 7:30 am. The sky was dark, palm trees were bent by the strong winds and rain, and all I wanted to do was stowaway on that ship and never go north ever again.
With a lot of help from Dunkin' Donuts and free wi-fi, I sat around the Ft Lauderdale airport for hours (and apparently just missed meeting Snookie of Jersey Shore fame) and I made it back to Pittsburgh in one, slightly sun-burned piece. I have not unpacked yet and am kind of unprepared for classes tomorrow, but I still feel like I'm swaying on a ship and desperately need more sleep. And since it's still technically vacation, that's exactly what I'll do.