I’m thrilled that tomorrow is THURSDAY and the next day is FRIDAY because I’m heading back to Sarasota for another weekend! What’s the occasion? A very special one: Evan’s grandmother turned 95 on Saturday, so the whole family is celebrating Hawaiian Luau style this weekend! Exciting, right?!

Actually, I’ll be in Sarasota the next two weekends because my first 10K on is Sunday, March 29th back home! I pounded out a glorious 6 mile run yesterday evening around campus, so I’m feeling really prepared now. I must have some serious endurance built up because I had not worked out in a week (thank you, cruise) and was still able to run, without walking, for 6 miles. Awesome!

I’m still getting back on board with taking pictures of my food…it’s a easy habit to break for me, especially when I’m feeling more lazy than usual (story of the last couple of days). Regardless of my picture taking, it wasn’t at all difficult to get back into my healthy eating habits on Monday. Without even going home first on Sunday night, I stopped at the grocery store to stock up on my fruits and veggies. I think that helped a lot because I literally had no other food to eat than what I bought then. My body welcomed the simpler food with open arms! And after my run yesterday, I’m feeling a lot less sluggish.

On another note, when I got home from teaching swimming tonight I had a lovely package waiting for me!

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I was pretty sure I knew what it was but was confused when I opened one box, only to find another? I briefly thought someone was tricking me šŸ˜›

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When I opened the second box, I saw them. 4 white jar tops.

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My winnings from Bobbi @ N Her Shoes‘ contest had come at last! To my surprise I received 4 Naturally Nutty jars instead of the anticipated 2! I am definitely not complaining…these puppies are at least $6 a jar! I can’t wait to try all of the wonderful flavors. The Vanilla Almond Butter has already made its way into a huge breakfast cookie I whipped up for tomorrow morning.

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Let’s see, what else before I do my Cruise Pros and Cons? Oh! Well, like I said before, I’ve been slacking on the food pictures so I don’t have my eats from the rest of the day, but I did want to share dinner with you. This idea was taken from Meghann who loves to add black beans to sweet potatoes. I’ve tried this before and it was a little too bland for my tastes. Meghann suggested then that I add banana peppers and since her wraps are so amazing with this combo, I went with it tonight for a remake. My banana peppers were of the hot, spicy variety. I also seasoned my black beans with white pepper and a smidge of garlic salt. Then I melted some thin Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar (on sale at Publix 2 for $4 right now!) strips over the top. Verdict? PERFECT and I can’t wait to have it again. A little extra flavoring went a long way!

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Another random tidbit: I’m currently upgrading my Blackberry’s software and it’s taking forever! Has anyone else had to do this before? I’m excited because the new software will let me do a lot of extra things (like take videos), but man, this is taking an eternity (like 2 hours so far!). I feel like I’m upgrading operating systems on my laptop. Moving on…

Pros and Cons of My Carnival Imagination Cruise Experience

Let’s start with the cons, shall we?

  • Way too many freshman spring breakers. I have nothing against college freshmen…I was one 3 years ago and I understand the excitement of being on your own, yadda yadda. But I honestly don’t wish to relive some of those experiences and some of these people were so drunk it was getting on my nerves. I will say, it wasn’t only freshman though. It’s funny and entertaining to a point but overall, people being obnoxious, rude and stupid while drunk is just not my cup of tea. Feel free to disagree.
  • Not enough time in Key West. By the time we got off the ship and took the trolley into the main part of Key West, we had a whole 4 hours to explore. I could have spent a good 2-3 full days there and it was over before I knew it.
  • Not enough time in Cozumel. We had about 7 hours to experience Cozumel by the time we got off the ship and had to be back on early. This was plenty of time to do one main thing (we went snorkeling) and walk around the touristy area (it had a Starbucks if that gives you any idea of how touristy it was), but I didn’t feel like I was able to get a real feel for the area we were visiting. In a few words, I definitely didn’t feel like I was in another country.
  • It’s pretty impossible to eat healthy. I was on vacation and had realistic expectations for how I would eat. I definitely indulged and felt like I’d gained a bit of weight by the end, but realized that I enjoyed myself and you only live once, right? Not much harm done that can’t be undone šŸ™‚
  • Hidden costs. It was $80 to park my car for 4 days ($20 a day). $40 was charged to my card for tips ($10 a day). Drinks were at least $5 a piece. You spend extra money at the ports in order to do anything. Those were the major ones, but I’m sure there were more. Make sure if you’re planning a cruise that you take the extra costs into account when you see that “cheap” booking price.
  • The decor. It was a weird hybrid of 80’s and modern. That’s probably because the ship was recently refurbished. The rooms, pool deck, gym, spa, and Xanadu Lounge were fairly up-to-date, but the dining rooms, buffet rooms, main stage, and really the rest of the ship was SO 80’s (i.e., neon lights everywhere!)
  • Very scheduled. There were some times to relax but I constantly felt like I had to be somewhere or I was missing out on something. For example, shows were at specific times, dinner was at 8:15 PM, and the arrival and departure at ports was at a specific time each day. I guess I was looking for this leisurely vacation where I didn’t have to drive or worry about anything. You can ask Evan, I was more uptight on the cruise than I was on any of our other vacations where I did have to worry about driving, hotels, where to eat, etc…

And to end on a good note…the pros:

  • The food. It was phenomenal! I loved all of the buffets, the sit-down dinners, breakfast meals, ice cream, frozen yogurt, midnight pizza… I ate all of it! The best part was the desserts. I think we probably sampled nearly every dessert at the buffets and more at our dinners. Like I said above, not a place to eat healthy, but it was worth it!
  • Incredibly well organized. There was not a hair out of place on that ship. Everything started perfectly on time, we arrived and departed our ports on time, and nothing was overlooked. Check-in and check-out was great, it was easy to get on and off the ship at ports, there was a daily newsletter that told you what was happening for the day, etc… Our room was even cleaned twice a day (at night they turn your bed down!).
  • Very friendly staff. Everyone was very helpful, nice, and courteous. The service was definitely great! One night I lost a prepaid drink card I’d purchased and had only used 2 of the 5 drinks on it. To my relief there were no problems replacing the card, even though I had no proof that I’d only used 2 drinks on it. It was really nice!
  • The on-board gym and spa. While I didn’t make use of the spa, I did get to walk around there and through their locker rooms to get to the gym. The bathrooms were beautiful and the gym had a very decent amount of treadmills, ellipticals and weight machines to choose from. There were also a variety of classes you could take (I didn’t get a chance). Yoga and pilates classes were an extra $12 each.
  • Always something to do. You really can’t get bored on a cruise ship…there’s always something going on. For me, that was kind of stressful because I wanted to do a lot of things but was overwhelmed by not having enough time or being late for things. But, I supposed I’d rather always have the option to do something rather than not.
  • Your room is always close by. I loved this. If I wanted to change or grab something from the room I didn’t have to walk far to get to it. It wasn’t like staying at a hotel and having to drive back and forth.

Overall, this was an enjoyable experience and I’m glad I went. I learned that I will be more choosy about the destinations next time because, for me, that’s what I really wanted to get out of the cruise…the traveling aspect. I will also pay a lot of attention to the amount of time alloted to each port. I wasn’t as much about the partying as I was for the experience I hoped to have while traveling to new (and old) places. The destinations were good, but I live in Florida already, so Key West and Mexico weren’t much different looking than what I’m used to. Evan and I both grew up by the beach so the “sun ‘n fun” aspect of the cruise wasn’t as appealing to us as it probably was to people who’ve been snowed-in up north for the last few months. I’d totally love to do a Mediterranean or Alaskan cruise…something where I can go to new places and see completely new sceneries. I also probably won’t cruise during popular spring break times again. It just wasn’t my scene…I was there for the traveling and experience, not the partying.

So what are your thoughts? If you’ve cruised before, do you agree/disagree with my pros & cons or do you have anything to add to them? I’d love to know what you think!

I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about booking a cruise! I’m off to bed and hoping the rest of this week flies by! I leave you with an entertaining photo from Cozumel. For some reason this face was hilarious the entire week and it had to be caught on camera!

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Goodnight šŸ™‚

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