Sunday, July 11, 2010

Florida and Bahamas Vacation!

Ibis and I were able to get away on a wonderful vacation, just the two of us. In January 2009, I got an email about a free cruise. All I had to do was call them up and pay about $250. That included a 3 day 2 night cruise to the Bahamas from West Palm Beach, Florida. Well, that was too cool, so I did it. Then, they said that if I pay an additional $150, I'd get:
-2 nights in Ft. Lauderdale, FL
-2 nights in Orlando, FL
-a rental car for all 7 days of the vacation
-all food at the hotel (breakfast, lunch, dinner) covered
So, yeah, I decided that for $400, that was a pretty decent deal! It was a headache trying to figure out when we could go. I wanted to do this for Ibis's 30th birthday in April, but life was so busy that we couldn't get away until the end of June into the beginning of July. Well, I needed to book the vacation within 1.5 years of booking, so we barely made it!!!

Here's what we did:
We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale on June 27th in the evening. We checked in and then pretty much just relaxed at the hotel. The following morning, we had to go sit through a timeshare presentation (yes, that's why it was such a cheap trip!). We kept saying "no" to the timeshare people and finally got back our $40 deposit and future vacations out of it (4 days, 3 nights in Puerto Vallarta and 3 days 2 nights in Las Vegas). Then, we decided to go to the beach for the rest of the day. We ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. right on the beach and then just laid out and relaxed by dipping in the super warm, clear water.

The following day, we slept in and ate at the hotel. Then, we drove to West Palm Beach, where we boarded our cruise ship, the Bahamas Celebration. We had fun eating and lounging around. I sang karaoke (of course!) that evening and we saw a great show on the ship.
When our ship pulled into the port on Grand Bahama Island, it was soooo hot! The weather is so different out there than in San Diego. It's truly tropical. San Diego is a tropical wannabe desert! We chose to go snorkeling for our excursion. I'd never been and we had to take a boat out about 2 miles or so to the reef. We got in and there were tons of beautiful tropical fish. Black and yellow, black and white and even a baracuda creeping around down on the bottom! I wish I could have gotten pictures of it....maybe next time!
After the snorkeling adventure, we pulled back in and had some lunch at a little dive. I had a club sandwich and Ibis had fish and chips. We had to get some ice cream because it was so darn hot! We walked over to a public beach (at least I think it was a public beach....we didn't get stopped, so it must have been!) and dipped in the water. I, of course, got fried being out in the sun for so long that day in such intense heat. I couldn't even lay out on my towel, so we just swam in the ocean for a couple of hours.

We then went souvenir shopping; got a couple of cute dresses for Marli and myself, a necklace for Mia, an outfit for Ian, and a couple of other things for family members. Then, back to the ship!
We had a wonderful meal that night after we napped on the ship. We saw another show and Dario Gaucho (the performer who used real gaucho stones) called Ibis up on the stage with him. Pretty hilarious! I'll have to figure out how to post the video.

The next day, we disembarked and drove to Orlando, FL. All along Florida's Turnpike, there were billboards exclaiming "Stop Here!" "Get Discounted Theme Park Tickets!". Well, we had to stop! We go into the place after about an hour of seeing these signs all along the road and the lady says that we can get $3 off each of our theme park tickets just for stopping in. This was on Thursday and we had all day Friday to go to a park. We decided to go to Islands of Adventure, the Universal Studios secondary park. Since we live in Southern California, we have Universal Studios, Disneyland, San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld, and so forth. So, we chose to either do Busch Gardens in Tampa, or Islands of Adventure in Orlando because we don't have anything like them really. She then said that we could get $30 off each ticket if we go sit through ANOTHER timeshare presentation on Friday morning at 7:30. We said, no thanks. Then, she said, "you know, I can get them for you for free if you go." So, we said YES! That means that we saved $85 per person just for sitting through another presentation.
On Friday, we girded up our loins and went to the presentation full-on ready to say "no" to this resort ownership opportunity. They lowered the price SOOOO much that we were seriously tempted. We held out, though and in the end did NOT walk away owning a vacation resort. Whew! We did, however, agree that when the time does come to buy at a resort for a timeshare, Orlando would be the place to do it. It is the #1 family vacation destination in the world, due to all the theme parks and beaches close by. That would be good for when we wanted to trade out to go to other resorts. This particular resort was beautiful! This was the 4th one of these things we've done and it was, by far the best one! It was called Mystic Dunes Resort and it had a championship golf course as its main attraction.

That evening, we went to Downtown Disney (which is 10 times bigger than ours here at DLand). We ate at Portobello's Restaurant and had a wonderful meal. We walked around with our ponchos on getting soaking wet and had a great date. They had a million little Disney shops and a very cool art gallery with all kinds of Disney art. That had to be the coolest shop of all. There were a couple of paintings of little children with their Disney stuffed animals and Ibis really, really liked those. I'll have to remember that for a future gift. :)

Moving on to the theme park on Friday. Total blast! We rode on every ride twice practically since it had been pouring the night before and there were very few people in the park. The absolute coolest thing about this trip, in my opinion, was the Harry Potter section of that park. We were there just 2 weeks after it opened! I was so stoked to be there and go on the coolest rides ever. I had a butterbeer (cream soda with a butterscotch topping) in a souvenir mug and walked through Hogwarts Castle and Hogsmeade Village. Super cool.
After we left the park, we went to a Steak n' Shake (Ibis had never been to one) and had burgers, fries and shakes. Yummy! After our tummies were full, we got back to the hotel and flat out CRASHED!

Our flight left on Saturday at 3:45 and we had a layover in Dallas, TX (on purpose!) so that we could go to dinner with Erin, Curtis, Reagan and Ian. This was the first time meeting little Ian and he was such a doll!!!! Reagan is such a big girl now! It was fun being with them and eating yummy bbq.
Of course, all vacations have to end. :( So, we headed back to our busy lives in San Diego on Saturday evening and can't wait to go on another vacation really soon!!!

Here's to Cancun in December!! :)