I never sleep well the night before we fly out early for vacation. The combination of the excitement for the trip, along with a worry that I will sleep through my alarm and miss the flight, often conspire to give me a short night with lots of waking moments wondering what time it is.

A couple days before Christmas this year, we needed to be up by 3:30 a.m. so we could pick up Ann’s mom and be on the road to catch our plane by 4:30 a.m. Thankfully, we were able to book our flight from Lincoln’s airport, meaning that we only had a 30-minute trip to the airport instead of the 75 minutes to Omaha. I surprised myself by sleeping all the way until 3:27 a.m. before waking up to check the time. Relieved I had several hours before I had to be at work, I settled back to sleep before jolting awake realizing that I really had only three more minutes. Today was the day we were leaving for our Christmas cruise in the Caribbean!

We’d been planning this cruise for several months, and had pledged multiple times that for this trip we’d be organized and have everything packed a week in advance. After all, we were experienced travelers headed for the tropics for Christmas and all of our warm-weather clothing was hanging unused in the closet. This meant, of course, that we were stressed out and packing like crazy people until about 10:00 p.m. the night before we left. For the second time in our five-year marriage, Ann assured me we would NEVER travel at Christmastime again. Challenge accepted.

Nonetheless, we arrived at the airport on time, checked our bags, and headed for the gate. There, I looked out the window and watched snow lightly falling. Not enough to delay our flight much, but enough to make me happy we were headed south and leaving the cold weather behind. We boarded on time and our flights worked exactly as planned, meaning that we touched down in sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico, about eight hours after we took off into snow flurries. Such a wonderful and welcomed change!

We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for our Christmas in the Caribbean cruise.

We flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with Ann’s mom, Carol, and our daughter, Meghan, for our Christmas in the Caribbean cruise.

Once through San Juan’s airport, (which is a crazy beehive of activity that has to be seen to be believed), we hopped in a cab and headed for our hotel. It turns out our Hampton Inn was right next to a large cockfighting ring.

cock fighting

Clearly, we weren’t in Nebraska, anymore. Puerto Rico is a territory of the U.S., but not a state. So while we were technically in the United States, we learned there were a few key differences.

  • Puerto Ricans pay taxes differently (tax exemptions on first homes)
  • Cock fighting is legal (and quite popular) in Puerto Rico
  • Spanish is the official language of Puerto Rico
  • Puerto Ricans vote in presidential primary elections, but not in the general

After settling in to our hotel, we went downstairs to sit by the pool and enjoy the manager’s happy hour where Bacardi rum was featured.

Rum was definitely the spirit of choice in the Caribbean.

Rum was definitely the spirit of choice in the Caribbean.

We basked in the late afternoon sun and warm temperatures and allowed ourselves to relax after a long day’s travels. After a couple cocktails, we meandered past the cockfighting ring next door to a local restaurant, Metropol, which specialized in Puerto Rican and Cuban food. Everything looked wonderful and it was difficult to decide what to eat, so we just began ordering.

We started with a couple of appetizers, including fried cheese and bacalaitos (fried cod fritters).

(Clockwise from left: 1/2 smoked chicken with beans and rice, seafood mofango, fried cheese, Mi Madre Pique, and bacalaitos.

Clockwise from left: 1/2 smoked chicken with beans and rice, seafood mofango, fried cheese, Mi Madre Pique, and bacalaitos.

Then came time to order our entrees and we decided to each pick something and share the dishes. We ordered chicken paella, Mofongo (a seafood stuffed plantain), cornish hen stuffed with congri, and the smoked chicken with rice and beans. The waiter wrote down or order and then suggested that move two tables together to accommodate all of the food we requested. Never had that happen before. We considered omitting a couple dishes but quickly agreed that we were all hungry, it was Christmas, we were in Puerto Rico for the first time. What the heck!

We really enjoyed the Purerto Rican and Cuban food at Metropol in San Juan.

We really enjoyed the Purerto Rican and Cuban food at Metropol in San Juan.

The food was amazing. Although we had more than we could finish, we were glad to have been able to try so many different dishes, including the surprisingly wonderful “Mi Madre Pique” hot sauce. Stuffed, we waddled back to the hotel and quickly fell asleep.

The next morning, we awoke to sunny skies. But soon, clouds formed and it began to rain, and we began to worry that our first day on the ship would be a wet one. But soon, the sun came out again. Then it rained. sunrainThen the sun came out again. In fact, that morning, it rained and turned sunny three times before noon! I mentioned something about the changing weather to the clerk at the front desk of the hotel. She simply said, “Welcome to the Caribbean!” This simple statement reminded me that we were in a new place, about to see and experience new things. I couldn’t wait.

[well]Stay tuned for our next blog post about Christmas Day at sea in the Caribbean.  Have you ever traveled during the holidays? Let us know. We’d love to hear from you.[/well]

  • We've been having the best time in the Florida Keys visiting Steve's mom and dad this week. Today, it was cold for Floridians, but we loved the sunshine (and were thankful for awesome neighbors who were likely shoveling the snow from our driveway back home).⁣
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We are so thankful for a flexible schedule and opportunities like this one to share time with family. Life seems to pass us by so quickly the older we get and we're fortunate to be able to travel and share experiences with the people we love most. ⁣
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Feeling especially blessed tonight, in the beautiful Florida Keys.
  • We enjoyed a delicious dinner tonight at Hideaway Cafe on Grassy Key with Steve's mom and dad. We went early at 5 p.m. for the sunset dinner menu which has smaller portions and the most beautiful views of the sunset. ⁣
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The food was fresh and made-to-order and served by gracious and professional staff who made us feel right at home. ⁣
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Hideaway is a great restaurant choice for dinner if you're in the Florida Keys. Get a reservation ahead of time, as it fills up quickly, even at 5 p.m.
  • Need some inspiration for staying healthy while traveling? Good news! We are taking over the @noom Instagram stories this afternoon and hope you’ll all follow along as we share tips on how to make healthy living choices while on a cruise ship. We’ll take you inside the beautiful @celebritycruises Edge and show you how we stayed on track with our Noom goals while still enjoying a fantastic cruise vacation. Be sure to follow @noom! Our takeover has just begun. 😁
  • The Rooftop Garden is a unique space on the top deck of the @celebrityedge. There’s no water slide on this ship, no go-carts, and the’s no rock wall for climbing. Instead the Rooftop Garden provides a “living urban playscape inspired by childhood playgrounds and designed to waken the inner child in all of us,” according to the Celebrity Cruises website. There are live plants, comfortable outdoor seating, and unique art installations that set the space apart from anything else at sea. @cruisecelebrity
  • Blu is a restaurant on the Celebrity Edge that is dedicated to guests in Aqua Class.  It serves “clean, crisp flavors and inventive cuisine” in a gorgeous blue venue. To give you an example of the types of entrees served, for dinner tonight Blu is offering seared duck breast with wilted chard, farro risotto, and black cherry jus; a cracked pepper corn-crusted tuna salad, watercress, and dijon vinaigrette; and pumpkin gnocchi with sautéed arugula, sundries tomatoes, marinated artichokes, goat cheese and basil pesto. What would you order?
  • Yes, cruise ships are huge, but if you do a little exploring, you’ll find that the designers have included many small spots perfect for intimate conversation and watching the world go by. We found this nook in Eden, on deck 5 of the Celebrity Edge, near the stern.
  • Last Sunday we began the second half of our very first back-to-back cruise on the Celebrity Edge. We’ve had the best cruise vacation and have enjoyed every single minute of our vacation. The Edge  been an ideal place to relax, recharge, and prepare for a new year. We’ve also used this time to try new things and focus on a healthy lifestyle. Thank you all for coming along on our journey and sharing your sweet comments with us along the way. We are grateful for each of you.
  • We just love these guys!! These two characters were the bartenders on the Retreat Sundeck for our cruise aboard the Celebrity Edge. Johannes and Vince created a light, fun atmosphere and made you want to go to the pool every day. Their personalities helped make the Retreat a welcoming place with professional service. We shouldn’t be surprised, though. We found similar cheerfulness in crew around every corner of the Edge, under the command of @captainkatemccue.

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