Saturday, March 17, 2012

My First Trip--Dance Cruise on Royal Caribbean January 22-30, 2012

What luck!  I'm going on my first cruise and I get to dance too! My long-time friend (and adopted sister) Kitt Schara agreed to go with me. Our 7-day cruise departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and went to St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Aruba and Curacao.

We started the cruise with our own little dance:
After seeing "Where the Hell is Matt? on YouTube, we decided to perform our version of Matt's "silly dance." We called it, "Where the Heck are Kitt and Karen?"

Towel Monkey
This being my first cruise, I wasn't sure what to expect. To my relief, our room was bigger than expected and very well organized. 

I was a little worried about seasickness but had no problems. In fact, I found the movement of the ship soothing and slept very well.

The other thing I learned is that it is a LONG way down to the sea from the 14th deck to the ocean! Whoa!

Also, there's a lot to do and see on the ship. There were classes like towel folding and fruit sculpture. And, there were contests -- our favorite was the Men's World Belly Flop Competition. 

And, of course, there's food - lots of food - and it's available almost 24 hours a day.

There were nightly shows on ship. Hard to believe, but we had a "Dancing on Ice" show! The ice rink was small and we were seated close to the rink, so we got a close-up view of the skaters as they did their spins and dances. 

My favorite show by far was ballroom dance. Professional dancers performed ballroom dances just like those you'd see on Dancing with the Stars. 

Our first island stop was St. Thomas and we chose to go shopping.  I've never seen so much jewelry in all my life. Since items are duty-free, I guess you could save up to a 25%. Kitt and I saw a $64,000 Rolex watch!  

Back to the ship. There were 200 of us who booked our cruise through Stardust Dance Productions and I would highly recommend Stardust. In the morning there were three or four dance workshops with levels from beginning to advanced. Private lessons could also be arranged with the instructors but cost extra. One of the instructors from New York, Joseph (Joey) Smith, trained for several years with Louis Van Amstel, (Dancing with the Stars). Here he is . . .

Kitt in her zipline gear
Our next stop was St. Kitts. Of course, Kitt had to buy souvenirs with her name; however, I had to remind her she ain't no saint. 

I think it's neat that St. Kitts people refer to themselves as Kittians or Kittitians and that there is a 98% literacy rate. 

Another thing got checked off the bucket list--ziplining 250 above the rainforest. 

Our guides, Mel Gibson (the good one) and Jack Sparrow were quite entertaining. Jack bought a green coconut from a vendor on site, cut it open and drank the "coconut water." We thought it looked like clear slime--Ewwwww! Jack explained that drinking coconut water was good for men and that it made his girlfriend very happy. 

It was difficult to understand Mel and Jack when they talked among themselves. Their speech was rapid and it didn't sound like English. We learned that it was Jamaican Patois.
Patois for "Don't pick the limes!"
Choco and Chip

Two vervet monkeys dressed in their St. Kitts colors. I could have held them all day! It feels so good to hold their cool little hands and I love their funny black ears. They were precious. It's their job to get their photo taken with us tourists, and every day they ride to work sitting on the handlebars of a bike. They wear Pampers for preemies and are bathed twice a day. When one gets tired, he hops onto his owner's shoulders, tucks his head under the T-shirt and goes to sleep. 

Our first formal night. I'm wearing the $12 dress from Second Debut Consignment Store in St. Louis Park,  MN
That night I danced for two hours. Every afternoon and every night there were two to three hours of social dancing. There are always more women than men, which can be frustrating. But there were extra "hosts" (spare men) to dance with us extra ladies. And, they were good dancers! One later told me he didn't get paid, but instead got 75% off the regular price of the cruise.

I felt like this cruise was a bargain, because if I had to pay for each of these dance classes at home, (not to mention the social dance hours) it could cost more than the price of the cruise! I was very impressed with the variety of dance workshops--rumba, salsa, Argentine and American tango, bolero, cha cha, samba, merengue, Viennese waltz, foxtrot, East and West Coast Swing, hustle and quickstep.  Right now, my favorite dance is salsa.

A lesson with Dipendra at Cinema Ballroom in St. Paul, MN

Midpoint in the cruise I got sick with a GI illness. I was so uncomfortable that I went to the infirmary which got me a shot, quarantined to my room for a day and a half, and the nickname "GI Karen." 

I never got to see Aruba, but Kitt told me it was desert-like with great beaches.
A cactus fence in Aruba
Our next stop was Curacao which has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean. The first thing I noticed was the oil refinery, which wasn't very pretty. But the buildings were. The styles are like those you'd find in the Netherlands except they're painted pretty pastel colors.  

I'd love to live here!

After Curacao, we returned to San Juan on Sunday. Kitt's husband Rick discovered we could save $300 airfare if we stayed another night in San Juan. We saw a flamenco show at a tapas bar, and the dancer was wonderful, as good as some I'd seen in Spain. Later in the show, some of the women in the bar danced sevillanas, the dance I learned in Spain. I hope to return to Spain to do it again.  

It was a great night and a great ending to a memorable first dance trip. Thank you Kitt for being such a fabulous travel companion!

This YouTube is a little long at 3+ minutes, but it is a beautiful example of sevillanas and flamenco music/singing.

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