Monday, April 20, 2015

Swimming with Dolphins

Short version: We swam with dolphins! It was awesome! Now scroll down and look at the pictures and video.

Long version: When I was a teenager, I loved dolphins, and at some point, I added "swim with dolphins" to my bucket list. I'd kind of forgotten about it, but as I was exploring the excursion options for this cruise, I realized I might be able to do just that. There were several opportunities to interact with dolphins in both Roatán, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico. I did a bit of research and decided the only real option was the "Dolphin Swim and Snorkel" in Roatán - otherwise I'd wait until another time to swim with dolphins. Not only could you interact with a dolphin but you then got 30 minutes to snorkel with a pod of dolphins. Of course, it was also the very first excursion to become fully booked, so in between first seeing it and actually deciding to do it, it filled up, and I thought I'd lost my chance.

But then Paul's sister mentioned that a travel agent told her cruises often save a few spots for folks to reserve on the ship. We set our sights on that, thinking that we might as well try, but not holding out much hope.

The day of the cruise arrived, and after several grueling hours of waiting in lines to drop off luggage, go through security, and get our ship IDs (during which small children may or may not have been bribed with large lollipops), Paul and I dropped our stuff off in our cabin and made a beeline to the excursion desk to wait in another line. It was totally worth it. We got the tickets, and it's possible I jumped around and clapped my hands with more enthusiasm than a 5 year old.

Jump forward to day 3: Roatán. I had the norovirus on day 2, so I was still not feeling the best. In the end that may have worked to my advantage - I was too drained to be scared about swimming with dolphins.

We spent 30 minutes in waist-deep water interacting with a trainer (whose name I have forgotten) and Bailey, a teenage dolphin who liked to make a lot of noise. The excursion, of course, had the usual "you have to buy our photos if you want photos of this" portion where we posed with Bailey and received a "kiss":



However, after that they let us take our own photos, like this one:


Paul even got a video of Bailey doing some tricks: 

video
After that it was time for 30 minutes of snorkeling in that open space you see Bailey swimming in in the video above. The water was maybe 10-20 feet deep, and it was sectioned off from the rest of the ocean, so no other large creatures could get in (they do take the dolphins for a "walk" out into the ocean each day, so they aren't only stuck in that pen). I'm not quite sure how many dolphins we were swimming with - maybe 10? They would swim around us and sometimes get fairly close. I had one swim slowly straight at me early on, but I just moved out of the way. When there were no dolphins around, I checked out the pretty fish.

Then, about 2/3 of the way through, I had a dolphin come up behind me with its mouth open, and one lady was like, "did that dolphin just try to bite you?" That freaked me out a bit, but I hadn't felt any teeth or anything - I think it just nudged me. "They're still wild animals" kept repeating in my head. I swam near a trainer for the rest of the time, who after a bit explained that that's just the dolphin's attempt to play, and that if you respond to that, then it might escalate to other types of play (presumably that humans would find not very enjoyable).

Paul followed the dolphins around a bit when they came close, and I think he petted a few. He also comments that "they're pretty sneaky." He said he would dive down and be looking around for them, and then all of a sudden one would zoom past him.

If you ever find yourself in Roatán, the place is Anthony's Key Resort and the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences. It was a truly awesome experience, and I definitely recommend it.

Lastly, upon our return to the ship, we hung out in the shopping area for a while (mainly to delay getting back on the ship) and snapped a selfie with a large chunk of our ship in the background:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Out at Sea

Ah, cruise ships. Such a mixed bag. On one hand, a wonderful way to see a variety of different locations while having one luxurious home base that provides all your meals. On the other, a festering Petri dish of illness. While it was a nice trip, I think it will be quite a while before I go on a cruise again. Between the norovirus, a head cold (which kicked in a few days after the cruise ended, thankfully), and still feeling like I'm rocking on a boat a week after getting off the boat (more than likely prolonged by the head cold, to be fair), I think I prefer other methods of travel. Paul did not get sick, lucky guy.

But enough whining - we went on a cruise! To Central America and Mexico! With Paul's parents, and his sister, brother-in-law, and their three kids!

We spent the first two days at sea. We explored as much as the ship as we could. Here's us hanging out on the helicopter landing pad:
The ship had a rock climbing wall, which Paul and his sister immediately had to try. I won't say who climbed faster (they didn't start at the same time), but both made it to the very top. Paul is on the far right, his sister on the far left:
We also enjoyed the opportunity to dress up for a formal dinner:
Coming up on day 3: I get to cross an item off my bucket list!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Walking Off Donuts

Tuesday, March 24 was our last day together in Portland. On Wednesday, Paul returned to Pittsburgh while I went on to attend the ACRL Conference. We wanted to get some more hiking in, so we took the advice of Nico again and explored the area of 21st and 23rd street in Portland's northwest quadrant before heading to the nearby park. We managed to snag our first (and only) Blue Star Donut: blueberry filling with a peanut butter powder coating. Mmm:
To work off that donut, we walked for a few hours in Forest Park and enjoyed the lush greenery while it alternated between rain and sun:
 


Forest Park is impressively large. We wandered along the Wildwood Trail which "meanders for 30.2 breathtaking miles" according to the Forest Park Conservancy website. It was lovely and wonderfully relaxing - just the way a vacation should be.