Wednesday, 31 August 2016

An Adventure Is Coming...

Things are crazy again. I mean, when aren't things in my life a bit mental? It always nicely calms itself down before something else comes along and screws everything up again.

So, the big news...

Rich has been posted, so we're moving house, cities and counties to start a new life near(ish) to Oxford!

We'd been ready for a move for a while, the longer commute (even with going part time) was getting worse and worse, and with a change in working hours meaning that for 2 out of my 4 days I pretty much do nothing other than wake up, drive, work, drive, eat, sleep; I didn't know how much longer I could hack it for. We also really miss a lot of our friends, especially those on the south coast, and luckily from Oxford weekend visits are going to be a lot more doable again.

I told my manager as soon as I knew we were leaving, and handed in my notice a few weeks ago, and I only have 6 more working days left now. It feels really bizzare leaving a job without having another one lined up, but hopefully I won't be out of work for too long.

Moving with the RAF for the first time is going to be interesting. We know where we'll be living, but haven't seen a floor plan or any pictures of our new house, so please keep everything crossed for me that all our furniture will fit! We don't have a garage down there so we might be doing furniture obstacle courses for while if we've got too much.

Even though I am a bit nervous, and not looking forward to doing all the address changing admin rubbish that comes with moving (for the second time in a year) I'm mostly excited. I love exploring new areas of the country, and I can't wait to be able to see more of my southern friends.

I'll try to keep you updated with everything that goes on, and you'll find me over on Twitter and Instagram (@inelegantwench for both) in the meantime.

Rachel x

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Honeymoon | Celebrity Equinox Caribbean Excursions

Celebrity Equinox Caribbean Excursions

If you've missed my other honeymoon posts, you can catch up here (a tour of the ship, and our stay in Miami before we embarked).

Today I'm going to be talking about the excursions we went on whilst on the cruise. Being able to go and actually do things was one of the reasons why we chose a cruise for our honeymoon - as much as we enjoy lounging around, we'd be bored after a week of nothing but that!

Cozumel, Mexico

Okay, so there are no photos from the first port we stopped in - we had originally opted to go on a food experience; going to a Mexican market with the ships chef, then cook up a meal with him in the ships kitchen. Sounds awesome, right? 

Unfortunately though the excursion got cancelled the night before as there wasn't enough people booked onto it. Major sad-face. So a (rather tipsy) Rich and I started trying to choose another excursion, as luckily there were about 10 things which sounded awesome on the excursion list for Mexico (in every port there must have been easily over 30 options of things to do - so there's always at least one activity which would be your cup of tea!). 

We chose to go to the Amazing Secret Underground River - but we were told that we weren't to take any phones, money or valuables with us, so that's why there are no photos at all from it. 

It was incredible, we got suited up in wet suits, water shoes and hard-hats with life jackets and headed into the caves. They were only recently discovered, and the water was deliciously cool. We walked and waded through the cave system, and at parts we couldn't touch the floor so had to float through. When the guide turned off his torch it was pitch black, and there were native fish we could see in the water with us. 

Once we'd had our adventure through the caves we got showered and dried off and then were treated to a delicious Mexican feast before heading back to the ship. I loved it, and definitely want to return to Mexico one day!

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

The excursion we chose for Costa Rica was a nature walk through the rainforest and learning how sugar is made. One of my favourite parts of most of the excursions was the coach travel through the country to get to the sites - it was a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the country and how people live there. 

It was interesting seeing all of the plantain plantations, and the animals, and helping to make sugar from sugar cane was fascinating. I never knew that they got sugar from the liquid of sugar cane! 

This day was quite chilled and definitely educational, and finished up with a costa rican feast for lunch. We ate a lot of rice and beans and plantain - which were yummy!

Colon, Panama

Panama was one of the scariest places that we visited, once we left the cruise port you drove alongside an area of high rise flats, where everyone seemed to be packed into living really close together, with strings of washing hanging between buildings. It was like something out of a film. But after only about 5 minutes or so of this we were out in the regular town area heading to the zoo!

We got split off into smaller groups and each got a tour guide to show us around the zoo and tell us about all the animals. The zoo itself was pretty small, but with the tour guide it made it very interesting still. The toucans were proper characters, when we were in their enclosure, if we tried to take a picture of anything that wasn't them, they'd literally slide in front of you along the hand rail and start posing.

After the zoo it was back on the coach for some water and the muffin from breakfast we'd snuck out with us whilst we traveled to Gatun Locks. If you don't know, the Panama Canal is one of the most famous canals in the world, as it is a through route between the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean. They charge an absolute fortune to pass through it, and it's where Panama gets nearly all of it's money from.

We went to the viewing platform - touristy place, and in my honest opinion it was a bit boring. It's all very industrial, as it is a working locks, with lots of machinery and stuff around, and waiting for the locks to fill and empty takes forever. At least we went though, and I've now seen it. They're building a new set of locks to allow larger ships to pass through the canal, and that bit was quite interesting to see from the coach.

Cartagena, Colombia

We had two days in Colombia, which meant we had the chance for two activities! If it was up to me I'd have preferred two days in Mexico, as that was where we struggled to choose an activity as there were so many, but hey, we found two things we wanted to do, so all was well.

On the first day we chose to head to a private island, where we would have the whole island to ourselves (the group of us from the ship) to relax and use the water sport activities provided. We took the speed boat to the island and spent a really pleasant day in the hammocks, eating an epic lunch, playing in the water, and having a massage. 

The massage was interesting... The ladies spoke barely a word of English, but we negotiated a price and Rich and I hopped on a bed each. Now, usually when you have a full body massage it just includes the head, neck, shoulders, arms, legs and feet. This lady also massaged my bum, stomach and boobs, including my nipples, under my bikini! I was very shocked, but she moved away so quickly that I didn't get chance to say anything, but her hands kept going under my top! Definitely an experience! 

It was a very windy day on the island, so the operators decided we should head back a little early to the ship, as the water was going to be choppy on the speed boat. 

Choppy was an understatement. Rich and I were sat near the back of the boat in the shade, and as the boat was hitting the waves, sheets of water were coming over the boat and over our heads. I'm quite scared of water, and never put my full head under water, so having what felt like buckets of water poured over my head constantly for around 30 minutes was terrifying. Rich was hugging me, and we had a towel to put over my head, but it made no difference as there was just so much water and it was so constant. Eventually we came to a halt, and I burst into tears as I was so scared and so relieved that it was over. Dramatic much! Luckily the other people were really lovely, they let me go to the front of the boat and gave me a dry towel to sort myself out with.

You'd think our ordeal was over, right? Nope. The boat had broken down in the mouth of the river we were going to take as a shortcut back to the ship. The three guys immediately set to work, as sunset was coming, and they were getting pretty scared, as Colombia isn't always the safest of places. To be honest though, I was perfectly happy as I wasn't getting soaked anymore! We watched the vultures (literally) circle overhead, I helped a 5 year old girl to have a wee off the side of the boat, and got to know the fellow passengers whilst we watched the sun set over the rice fields. 

Eventually they got the boat started again and we headed back to the ship, dripping wet. I was so thankful to be back on the ship again, and to get showered and dried off. 

The next day we had booked a boat tour of Cartagena, with a visit to a fort with great views. As we disembarked from the ship and headed to the boat, it was only the same boat as we'd been on the day before. I was so scared! It was interesting to see the coast though and to learn the history of Colombia. The fort was also pretty great, but it was so hot. One of the hottest days of the cruise so far!

Right next to the cruise port, there was a little grassed area with flamingos, so on our way back to the ship on the second day we went to go and have a look at them. As we were looking, we saw this iguana just stroll over, on the footpath and find some shade to chill out in. They're often found in the wild in Caribbean countries, a bit like squirrels in the UK. So weird! They even eat them sometimes.

George Town, Grand Cayman

George Town was our last stop on the cruise, and it was a gorgeous place. We booked onto a excursion to a town called Hell, and a Turtle Sanctuary. If we were to ever visit George Town again, we wouldn't bother pre-booking we don't think, as it was by far the nicest and safest place that we visited, with loads of people offering excursions in the cruise port, for a lot cheaper than we paid! 

Hell was a super quick stop, but my only chance to send a postcard during the holiday, so I had to speedily buy, write and post 6 postcards in the space of 10 minutes. I did it, but what I wrote wasn't particularly good or legible! The rock formations were brilliant though, it used to be underwater, so when it wasn't anymore this is what was left, and it really does look like Hell.

The turtle sanctuary was one of our highlights of the honeymoon. Unfortunately they eat turtles in Grand Cayman, so the sanctuary aims to breed the turtles in order to repopulate the wild, as well as being a tourist attraction. We got to see turtles at different ages, and the old girls were absolutely huge! I got to hold a turtle, as seen in the picture above, and best of all, we got to swim with them. There was like a lazy river area where some of the turtles lived, and we could wear snorkles and swim around with them. It was a once in a lifetime experience and utterly incredible! 

So that's a round up of all of the excursions we did whilst on our honeymoon! They did cost a fair bit of money, but they were (almost) all worth it, and we definitely got a good taste of each of the countries we visited. 

Next week I'll be uploading my post about all the food we ate on the cruise, and you'll finally get to see why I managed to put on so much weight!

Rachel x

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Honeymoon | Celebrity Equinox - The Ship

Celebrity Equinox Honeymoon Cruise

In my last two posts I talked about flying premium economy and our 3 days in Miami which already set our honeymoon off to a fantastic start. On our last day in Miami we headed to the cruise port up the coast at Port Everglades to meet our ship - the Celebrity Equinox.

Celebrity Equinox Lift Tree Lobby

Why a Honeymoon Cruise?

Rich and I really struggled to come up with ideas for where to go on our honeymoon, everywhere we fancied didn't feel "honeymooney" enough, or we couldn't agree on a place to go. Eventually we thought about cruises. My parents went on a cruise for their silver wedding anniversary a few years ago and have been hooked ever since - and every year when they come home I am always really envious when I see the photos. 

When I suggested it to Rich, and we thought about it, we realised it was the best option for us, as we could have the luxury we wanted, as it was our once in a lifetime honeymoon, but also see a lot of places and have activities to do when we wanted to. Although cruises tend to be the domain of the older generation we didn't mind that at all as it gave us a slower, calmer pace. It also meant there were very few children, a huge bonus!

Celebrity Equinox Concierge Class Cabin

The Cabin

When we booked the cruise, there was a special offer on, meaning that upgrading to concierge class, rather then just a balcony room only cos us a few extra pounds, so we went for it. The cabin was surprisingly roomy, having our utterly massive double bed in it (we could sleep without touching - bliss when it was over 30 degrees!), a sofa, wardrobe and shower room.

Celebrity Equinox Concierge Class Cabin

There was plenty of room under the bed to store our suitcases, and lots of shelving and storage for everything else, meaning that our room ended up tidier than ours at home!

Celebrity Equinox Bathroom

I was really surprised at the size of the shower, and it even had a ledge in it to rest your legs on when shaving them - very useful!

Celebrity Equinox Balcony
Our balcony was a really good size, when we saw other cruise ships in ports they never had as much room on their balconies as we did, having the foot rests was a comfortable bonus. 

Every day we had our room serviced by Elton, who we got to know over the 11 days quite well. In the evening he'd turn our bed down and leave us a chocolate on our pillows, along with the daily newsletter for the next day, which detailed what was on, what the cocktail of the day was, and other ship news. 

The Ship

Celebrity Equinox Lobby

The ship itself was gorgeous, and big without being ridiculous. We soon found our way around and quickly found our favourite out of the 7 (maybe?) bars to relax in. 

Celebrity Equinox Murano

Celebrity Equinox Specialty Restaurant

There is two main restaurants, the table service one and the all you can eat buffet one, along with three specialty restaurants which cost a little extra to eat in (which we did - of course!) and a cheesecake bar and coffee bar.

Celebrity Equinox Cheesecake

All of the food and drink were amazing, I put on 10lbs in two weeks, that's how good it was, but I'll do my food post soon, as it definitely deserves it's own post.

Celebrity Equinox Outdoor Pool

Celebrity Equinox Sun Deck

Celebrity Equinox Sunbeds

As well as stuffing yourself silly, there were the standard cruise ship facilities, such as sun beds and an outdoor and indoor swimming pools. As it was a Caribbean cruise the outdoor pool and sun beds were always very busy during the day, so Rich and I favoured the indoor pool, mostly because it was a bit cooler, and I didn't have to put suncream on!

At night though, the pools were open til 10, but were deserted after dinner, so a couple of times we headed to the hot tubs outside after dark and had them to ourselves, utter bliss!

Celebrity Equinox Library

Celebrity Equinox Library

One of my favourite parts of the ship was the library, our room was on this floor, and there was a decent enough selection of books to borrow during your cruise. It was also a nice place to sit and chill out for a while, I always find it very calming to be surrounded by books. 

Celebrity Equinox Lawn Club

Some of the other amazing things on the ship, which I didn't get to photograph were the spa; at which I had a blissful massage courtesy of Rich, the card room; where we spent a good amount of time playing Star Fluxx, the casino; where I won $90 on roulette, and the theatre; which put on a different show every night, some of which were fantastic, some of which were aimed at the older guests so not our cup of tea. There was also the hot glass show, run by three members of Cornell University's Museum of Glass, who would make pieces out of glass every day live. It was amazing to watch, and totally fascinating seeing them mould this liquid glass into stunning things. At the end of every show they raffle off some of the pieces they'd made, and I won a vase! It was scary transporting it home, but it made it and I now have a one of a kind piece of glassware in my house. 

Celebrity Equinox at Night

We loved our time on the ship, and I genuinely don't think anyone can get bored on it. There is always something to do, from lectures, to dance lessons, to just chilling out. I want to go back!

Rachel x
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