#171 - The Greatest Week of My Life

13 minute read

Motto: Whoa.

Just to set the scene properly for your read through this post, this is a picture from this exact moment:
Today is Thursday, May 8th, 2014. I’m on a ship somewhere between Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico. There’s some sort of vaguely mariachi and tropical band playing somewhere behind me. I am sitting on a deck chair overlooking the Atlantic (or the sea of whatever). Next to me is my wife of 5 days, reading the book “Wicked”. On my other side is an old lady in a sun hat reading something on a Kindle and her overachiever husband reading “The Art of War”. I haven’t been on the internet for 4 days. That’s a record, so far as I know, since the first time I've had internet access (or, at the very least, since the first time I've had a smartphone). I am writing a post on the only laptop I've seen this whole trip - my Chromebook (who ever said you can’t do anything on a Chromebook without internet access was mistaken). I am happy, worn out, a little more sweaty than I’d prefer, maybe, and just a bit sunburnt… but I’m not complaining. I wouldn't change a single thing about the past 6 days if you gave me the chance.

------ everything below this line was written after the honeymoon -----
Here's a brief rundown of the honeymoon:

Sunday May 4th

After a full two hours of sleep, Melissa and I take a shuttle to the airport. As per usual, we are in the terminal way way early. Neither of us are terribly tired despite the lack of sleep and the exhausting day the day before. I think our bodies were operating in emergency mode. We boarded our first flight at 7am, then hopped from KC to ATL, then from ATL to Ft. Lauderdale before boarding the ship at 6pm. Traveling sucks. After 11 hours spent being herded like cattle, jammed into one-size-fits-all airplane seats, and being held up for a couple of hours in the seaport while trying to board the ship, we were pooped. Your body can only run on adrenaline for so long. 

The ship was immediately overwhelming to the senses. It was like an upscale shopping mall in its interior cavity. Lights everywhere. Stores. People everywhere. Everything was super nice. I was really impressed in particular with the lighting. The ship just seemed to glow. Beyond that though, all the little details were astounding. Nothing was done out of pure utilitarianism. Everything had a little panache. 

We went up to our room, it was great. The ceiling was just tall enough that I didn't feel claustrophobic. The room had a porthole to the interior of the boat. We overlooked central park. The room was big enough to spend a decent amount of time in without going crazy, but not big enough to really let you hole up without cabin fever.

After we saw the interior of the boat and our room, we went for an aimless walk about the upper decks, just to see what we could find. The upper decks did not disappoint. They were just as lavish as the interior halls of the ship. The first few days of the ship were all in part spent exploring the ship. It was awesome.

The last thing we did was check out the main dining hall. I've been to some fairly fancy places in my day; this was right up there on the list of the fanciest places I've ever eaten. The best part was this: everything on the menu was already paid for - you could have anything you wanted. You could have seconds of anything else you wanted. We had a full 3-course meal almost every day we were on board. Oh, and the food was awesome.

Monday May 5th

We start off the second day at the less fancy, buffet style dining hall. Our second day was spent at sea on our way to our first excursion. We had only two plans for the day.

Plan #1: Make plans. We sat down on the Solarium deck bar (one of 42 bars on the ship) with a list of excursions and picked out things we were interested in. I think Melissa had me drink some extra bar beverages, because I signed up for a couple of things the next day that were very uncharacteristic of me. We'll address this again shortly.

After we made plans, we relaxed on the boat to really unwind some of the stresses from the heavy travel day the day before. We laid on the top deck. Hopped in one of the jacuzzis overlooking the ocean.

The last thing we did on the second day (that I can remember, at least - it's been a few weeks) was catch the on board showing of "Chicago". I'd never seen Chicago. I'd never seen a musical put on by professionals. I'd never seen a show on a boat. I can now say I've done all of the above; and I approve. The show was great. The singing and dancing were amazing. There was a live band and about a dozen cast members (all of which looked like they spent a large amount of time in the ships fitness center).

Tuesday May 6th: Labadee, Haiti

Our third day was spent in port at Labadee, Haiti. The panorama above can get seriously huge if you click on it - you should click on it. I took it from the boat before we left to start our day full of excursions. We went on 3 different excursions in Labadee. Compare this to the one excursion each we made over the other two stops and you realize how full this day was with excitement... but first we had to spend some time on the beach.

The beach, for me, barely registers in my memory because of what happened next. You see those 5 ziplines over Melissa's head?

The longest zipline over water in the world. You reach speeds of ~40mph as you descend 500 feet over the course of the 2600 foot zipline. I told Melissa there was a solid chance I'd pee the whole way down. I'm proud to say that didn't happen. Melissa and I both wore GoPros on our heads. Mine was taking timelapse photos, hers was taking video. That video (along with all the other videos from the trip) I will release to the world when it's ready.

So, after the zipline is done there's surely nothing else Aaron would do that seems out of the ordinary, right? Wrong. Let's hop on the rollercoaster that goes down the same mountain you just ziplined off of. Yes, let's just do that. Sounds like a blast.

(it actually was)

Melissa's huge thank you to me for living outside of my comfort zone was to finish off our time in Haiti with the excursion aimed most at little kids - the inflatable aquatic park. I don't care that it was aimed at children, it was a blast. We jumped and climbed and swam and just had a great time for an hour. After we got out, we headed back to the boat for our first post-excursion nap. That wasn't the last thing we did that day, though.

We went to the ship's casino. Melissa had never been to a casino before. I'd only been to one with my parents. We came in, quickly lost $40. Then left. Melissa had one last thing she wanted to squeeze out of the day.

We went to the salsa dance club on the ship. After Melissa realized just how inept I was at dancing salsa (which relies heavily on complex rhythms), we walked across the boat, by the Starbucks, to the trivia/karaoke bar.

Billy Joel, as sung by Melissa Gillespie.

Wednesday May 7th: Falmouth, Jamaica

After the intense day in Haiti, we woke up already docked in Falmouth, Jamaica. We were groggy and exhausted, but a quick breakfast and some seriously large coffees helped straighten that out. Our excursion in Jamaica started early, so we had to go fast. I took that GoPro toss shot just before we got on the bus to start our trip to Montego Bay.

The bus ride ended up being a little over an hour of Melissa and I learning to appreciate just how well off we have it in America. There's a shot of Usain Bolt's high school in the album that I linked to at the beginning of this post. I'd show that but I'm trying not to repeat many shots.

We rode a catamaran out into Montego Bay to a snorkeling site. We met a really nice couple and bonded over GoPro stuff. You can see his GoPro attached to the railing in the Autoawesomed GIF above.

The snorkeling was awesome. It was almost as good as the snorkeling trip Melissa and I took in Thailand (that trip was what convinced me a GoPro camera was worth the money, I still regret not having one on that day). I had a very surreal moment in the water. It was perfect. One of the few moments in life that you can really call "perfect". The picture from above was not that moment.

This picture is part of a large set of pictures that I very much liked that immediately followed the snorkeling. I wanted to include it to represent all of its sister pictures.

We took a quick tour of the Jamaican marine life before going back to the boat. There's a picture in the album I linked to above of me touching a jellyfish. So, check that out, too.

We finished the day off on the ice. I didn't fall! Neither did she! That means we win!

Thursday May 8th

Thursday was spent at sea. Honestly I don't remember much about Thursday. We were exhausted from the adventures of our previous two days. We lounged on the decks a lot on this day.

We also took part in a battle of the sexes competition (which the guys totally won (and cheated at)). It was fun!

This picture was taken from a huge set of photos we took to make a timelapse of the sunset. We sat on this deck for an hour and a half to two hours. I got angry when tons of people showed up to take pictures of the sunset, but the video still turned out pretty cool. You can watch that video right here.

Oh and there was a disco party afterwards.

Friday May 9th: Cozumel, Mexico

Friday we docked at Cozumel, Mexico for our excursion and some authentic Mexican food. We went on a tour of the Mayan ruins as lead by our awesome and very charismatic tour guide Cesar.

The ruins were cool. Slightly smaller than I expected, but the tour guide more than made up for it with his passion and humor. The Melissa version of this photo is better. It's in that album I've mentioned a few times (I want you to see the album is what I'm getting at).

After our tour of the ruins we stopped off at this awesome photo spot. Everyone on the bus piled out to take photos. Our photos were probably the best ones though.

Upon our return to the seaport, we had authentic Mexican food and beverages. The food was alright... but I'd still take Chuy's any day of the week. The beverages were good, though! El Sol! Jose Cuervo! Some swimming and relaxing on the fake beach. When we got back to the boat we were pretty much down for the count.

Saturday May 10th

Our last full day on the ship was spent at sea. It started off with room service breakfast in bed (at no extra charge - seriously, cruises rock). This is a terrible picture, but it's the best we have.

For our last day, we decided to take advantage of some of the ship's amenities that we hadn't yet done. We watched a show at the aqua theater where we got to hear some Q&A with the Captain.

Melissa did the ship's zipline...

...and the ship's rock wall.

Then we both got the chance to wipe out while surfing on the Flow Rider. There's some pretty hilarious videos from this experience. You'll see those in some later post.

After one huge massive nap, we finished off the trip with another walk around the boat. Taking it all in for one last time.

Sunday May 11th

All good things must come to an end.

This was a very good thing.

Top 5: Most Recent Perfect Moments from My Life
10. Senior year at KU, with Melissa, I take all my residents to go watch “The Avengers”. Nerding out with a crowd as it lived up to 4+ years of anticipation. 9. Amy’s wedding, Sally and Jon dancing. 8. In Thailand, Melissa’s professor’s husband, Lindsey, immediately understanding what I was doing when I told him I “needed Melissa alone for 10 minutes after lunch.” 7. In Thailand, the next 10 minutes. 6. My 25th Birthday party. The first time all my friends from every walk of life gathered in one place. 5. The bachelor party, Ben explaining how you can mix a lime with a Corona without spraying it everywhere, immediate followed by him spraying Laura in the face. 4. The wedding ceremony, Melissa reciting her vows. 3. The party bus, Melissa by my side, all my friends from different walks of life singing the same dumb pop song and dancing. Directly across from us - Jon dancing. 2. The wedding reception - the final song, Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out” (which I will contend is everybody’s favorite song). Everyone dancing, while I bounced around with a GoPro on my chest. Part of the circle - Jon Dancing 1. Snorkeling off the coast of Montego Bay, Jamaica - on our way back to the boat to wrap it up was a school of 50+ fish all swimming within arm’s reach, their movement filled my plane of vision. There’s probably a few other moments from the honeymoon that could/should be on this list - but this one was particularly cool.

“I hate you two”
- the comedian on the cruise that was looking to make fun of people in the crowd. After asking where we met, where we were from, what we did, she just said we were too cute to make fun of and she hated us. -