From Ordinary to Extraordinary

If there is one thing that travel has taught us it is to always expect the unexpected. Sometimes that means less and sometimes that means more. So much more….

Recently Malcolm and I were in a ‘use it or lose it’ situation with a cruise credit, so we booked a sailing for May 21st. It has been years since we visited the Caribbean and although we like it there, we honestly chose this cruise destination out of convenience, with no expectations other than to relax. What I did not expect was to have a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’

Celebrity Equinox docked in Nassau, Bahamas

The Equinox was a familiar ship to us even though we had never set foot on her. I wrote a detailed post about cruising in general and mentioned her sister ship, the Solstice here. Stepping onto the Equinox felt like coming home.

When the Equinox is cruising, it is easy to be active or quiet, and finding your own rhythm is the key to having a good experience. Our pace is slow, leisurely, and mostly quiet. We like playing games in the card room, afternoon Trivia in the Sky Lounge, the putting green (Malcolm), and the gym (me) during the day. At night we enjoy a cocktail at the Martini Bar, dinner in the main dining room, catching a bit of the featured show, and maybe a quick visit to the Casino. When the ship is docked the Excursion staff makes it easy to discover each port of call with a variety of options.

A Big Oops!

After settling into our stateroom, I decided to take a look at the Celebrity App I had installed on my phone before leaving home. It is a great tool that keeps us on track with what’s happening onboard and it alerts us to our schedule for ports of call.

We had selected several excursions a few weeks prior to sailing, but much to my surprise, the excursions did not show up on the app calendar. Well, that stinks! After visiting the Excursion desk we were able to rebook two of the excursions, and best of all……the excursion that I wanted most, but had been filled at the time of our booking now had one opening!!! I was beyond excited. Maybe not an oops after all.

Equinox Itinerary

The itinerary for the Equinox included two ports of call that we have never visited, so we chose a ‘discovery’ tour in St. Maarten and we went our separate ways in St. Thomas. Sometimes Malcolm and I disagree on what ‘discovery’ means.

The Ultimate Island Tour

St. Maarten is a small island with two distinct sides and two governments – French and Dutch. Our discovery tour included a narrated bus ride through both sides, (about one hour) followed by a lagoon cruise. Some of the towns still look battered from past hurricanes and a lot of vacation rentals were vacant. Even still, the pride of our tour guide was evident as she pointed out the island’s medical school, her favorite shopping mart, and a few new government housing projects.

The island is hilly and the sea views were spectacular (for people on the right side of the bus), so I was very happy to pull into the marina and board the little boat that took us around a beautiful lagoon. Of course, we were served the customary rum punch that is famous in the Caribbean. There were hundreds of sailboats moored there and I imagined that this might have been one of the ports that my friend Liesbet wrote about in her book, Plunge. You can check out her current blog here and order her book if you’d like to know more about life on a sailboat.

Nassau

We have been to Nassau many times and had decided to stay on the ship while we were in port, but at the last minute, I booked a snorkel excursion for the two of us. Snorkeling a reef would never be Malcolm’s choice, but he does like the water, and where better to take a dip than in the Caribbean?

As snorkel cruises go, this one was a delight. I promise you, Malcolm did get into the water, I just don’t have a picture to prove it.

St. Thomas – Malcolm’s experience

Malcolm chose Mountain Views and Villa Botanica as his tour in St. Thomas. He was underwhelmed with the experience, to say the least, and had lots to say that I won’t repeat here because we like to keep things upbeat! I will share a couple of his beautiful photos though. You will notice that there aren’t any photos of the botanical gardens. Hmmm….

St. Thomas – My ‘once in a lifetime’ experience

“Say Yes to things that challenge you or

even scare you a little bit”

For many years I noted ‘become a certified scuba diver’ on my proverbial bucket list. Eventually, that notion faded and I dropped it from the list. I realized that it was more of a wish for the ‘experience’ of diving, and not actually becoming a diver that I wanted. It takes many hours of training and overcoming obstacles, (like fear) to actually be a certified diver. It did not occur to me that having the ‘experience’ without the certificate is possible. Apparently, it is in the Caribbean.

Taking the Plunge – literally

The ‘Discover Scuba’ tour offered by Equinox was just the ticket for me. I had read the description of the tour but did not fully comprehend everything that was about to happen. After about a twenty-five-minute boat ride out to a cove that contained both a ship-wreck and a reef, we were outfitted with heavy scuba gear, (fins, masks, tanks) and the instruction began.

There was a lot of information to comprehend, especially as my mind was racing with a mix of fear and excitement, but by the end of the instruction, I felt confident enough to enter the water.

I took the photos above after my dive was complete and I was back on the boat. These are of the second group going through their skills test.

My Experience: After stepping off the boat, I began with the first priority – breathing. It takes a few minutes to get used to inhaling and exhaling through your mouth. Next, holding onto a line, I pushed a button to let the air out of my life vest and slowly drifted down the line with the instructor; all the while controlling my breathing and clearing my ears, as I had been taught. At some point, I had to lift my mask and let water in to demonstrate that I could clear the water with a simple technique that the instructor demonstrated. Whew, that was easy.

I had a moment of anxiety with the skill that required me to take a deep breath, discard my mouthpiece, recapture it and return it to my mouth. I signed ‘I’m nervous’ to the instructor and she gave me a second try. I still couldn’t do it so she signed ‘going up’ to me and we ascended together. After a very firm but kind confidence-building talk, she assured me that I could do this. And I did…

After passing my five skills test I stood on the ocean floor (about 15 feet down) practicing controlled breathing, keeping myself calm, and checking out the fish that swam by while the other three people in my group completed their individual assessments.

Finally, it was time to check out the shipwreck! The actual ‘dive’ part lasted about twenty minutes. Wow, what a sight! The Cartanza Sonora. Except in photographs, I had never seen anything like this. At some point, it hit me that I had descended over forty feet below the surface of the water. How cool! How scary! I did this! Now, it’s time to go back up!

Note: I knew there would be a lot of things to focus on, so I did not take an underwater camera. That is a regret, but I won’t make the same mistake if there is a next time. If you’d like to see photos of an experience similar to mine, visit the photo gallery at the Adventure Scuba School here. And, if you find yourself in St. Thomas, please check them out.

“Travel as your more confident,

more adventurous alter-ego”

Malcolm and I had a relaxing eight days in an alternate reality and now we are back in the real world dealing with real-world issues. I am glad I said Yes to an adventure that took me outside my comfort zone and even though I have referred to my dive as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I would definitely do it again. Travel teaches us not only about the world but also about ourselves. Once in a while, we find confidence we didn’t know we had. Couldn’t we all use a little MORE of that?

This post is linked to Marsha’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday . Her subject today is Travel. The quotes I have used here can be found in this article by Rachael Grow, 9 Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone While Traveling.

52 thoughts on “From Ordinary to Extraordinary

    1. Judy, it was almost a complete success. We got home on Sunday afternoon and I had cold symptoms on Monday night – yep. After all this time of being careful, it got me. So far it has been mostly just a bad cold. That was a hard lesson learned. Wear the damn mask!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Suzanne – the whole trip looks gorgeous and very warm and inviting. I’m so glad you conquered your fear and got to tick something off your bucket list that has been such a long held wish. It’s been fun watching people venture back out into the world again after being at home for the last couple of years – travellers like yourselves must be doing a happy dance indeed.

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  2. I’m happy to read this and learn about your cruise. Your photos are gorgeous and your summation of what happened, amusing, truthful even! What a great way to have fun and share it with the rest of us.

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    1. Sarah, the timing could not have been worse, especially with our move date being postponed three times, but we managed to pull it off. We packed one small bag each, got an antigen test, and drove an hour to the port in Ft. Lauderdale. Not a bad deal.

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  3. Cruises are the perfect vacation in my opinion. You can jump in with both feet, or do nothing but relax (and eat and drink of course). It appears you and Malcolm had a nice blend of both and I’m so envious. So glad you had diving experience and would do it again, which says a lot. Great pictures–Malcolm looks like a natural in the lounge bubble!

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  4. What a great adventure! It is not something I would do, but I can see the appeal of seeing a shipwreck. We do love cruising, but my husband wants to wait before we go again. The photos from Malcom’s experience are amazing. There are so many wonderful aspects to travel as you say, and this is a good reminder to get out of our comfort zone once in a while. It revitalizes us!

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    1. Betty, I wasn’t sure that diving would be for me either, but I am glad I did it. I have snorkeled all my life but none of those experiences came close to this. Malcolm enjoyed the tour, and the scenery was beautiful, but the driver didn’t provide any information. A ‘guided’ tour should have a guide, not just a bus driver.

      We were impressed with many of the ‘safety’ changes that the ship had implemented, but that being said, I still got sick. At least I got through the cruise before it hit me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A girl after my own heart! I love snorkeling and have often thought (and been told 😁) that I need to learn to scuba dive. Your adventure sounds like the perfect introduction or “try-on” to scuba. I’ll have to look for something similar near me.
    Thank you for sharing, Suzanne!

    Deb

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    1. Deb, ‘try on’ is a great way to describe my little adventure. I know there are beginner lessons in my area, but they happen in a swimming pool, not the ocean and you definitely don’t go 40 feet on the first lesson. I guess it’s an ‘island thing.’ The snorkel tour we did in Nassau was a blast. One of the guides sprinkled fish food on the surface and literally hundreds of colorful fish surrounded us. Google Parrotfish and you will see what I saw swimming around me – dozens of them, big teeth and all….they look like they are wearing dentures! Very cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Suzanne, wow, wow, wow! I’m so impressed that you tried scuba diving. I snorkeled and tried parasailing when I was in Hawaii, but not scuba diving. Good for you. You describe it in such detail that it ALMOST makes me want to try it. Your pictures are so fun, too. I am going to link this to my post this week about vacations. It fits perfectly! So in reality you are right on time. FYI here is the link to my page with all the topics for 2022. That way you don’t have to feel bad if you are late, just link your post to the next similar topic. LOL or a past one is fine, too! Thanks again for connecting. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Marsha, I never seem to be able to keep up with the ‘challenges’, but yours is one I really enjoy, so thanks for redirecting me and for the link to your schedule. I’ll check it out. I have never tried parasailing, (and probably never will) but I have jumped (tandem) out of a plane. Funny, the things that make us feel out of control and those that don’t.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! You have done much scarier things in my opinion. We were on the boat with two little girls about 10 and 12. They went first. I figured if they could do it, I had to be brave. Getting up there wasn’t super comfortable – I have big hips, and it was way too quiet for way too long. But I checked it off my list and it was beautiful. I think this is the only picture I ever published or paragraph I ever wrote about it. https://alwayswrite.blog/2013/02/19/sunday-post-unforgettable/

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  7. Christie Hawkes

    Oh Suzanne, I am so glad you had this experience and overcame your fears to do it. Those are usually the most satisfying experiences, the ones that require you to step out of your comfort zone. The Caribbean is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing your photos and reminding me that I must go there again.

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  8. Hi Suzanne, A really great point how expecting the unexpected can be a good thing. It is wonderful how this cruise line gives you many options to enjoy your vacation depending on your preferences.

    An amazing “oops!” And nice segue to “Plunge.” (I also enjoyed reading) Awesome about ‘your plunge.’ Yay…passing the tests and ‘just doing it!’🌟

    I have bookmarked the article by Rachael Grow. Thank you for sharing a wonderful, inspiring and fun post! You and Malcolm look healthy and gorgeous!❤️

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  9. Pingback: WQW #20: Vacations That Rock Your World – Marsha Ingrao – Always Write

  10. I love to swim in the ocean but not that far below the surface! I get claustrophobic! I have been to St. Maartens – I remember it as having a darling port but it has been a while.

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    1. Jan, I enjoyed all of the ports of call even though some still looked battered from past hurricanes. Each one has its own character. The water though was pure perfection. Floating on top of it diving under it or just gazing at it from the shore – it all works for me!

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  11. Suzanne, this cruise looks a lot of fun. I am glad you had the chance to have a diving experience, it is another world underwater isn’t it?
    You and Malcolm looked very elegant in your pre-dinner martini photo.

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    1. Awww, thank you Gilda. We have long given up ‘formal attire’ and now dress more relaxed for evening meals. Black elevates everything. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Ariel would want to leave her underwater home to walk on land. Oh, there was a guy involved. 🙂

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  12. Suzanne, congratulations on taking the plunge and getting out of your comfort zone to try scuba diving! I hope you will have an opportunity to do it again. We viewed that beautiful lagoon in St. Martin from the hills above. Of course your boat trip included rum punch!

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  13. I’m having anxiety just READING about your scuba experience. I’m glad it was a wonderful time for you, and I used to think I wanted to do it too, but over the years I have freaked myself out about trying to breath under water, and snorkeling is about all I can handle these days, though I love that!

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  14. Hi Suzanne, I’m glad you had a wonderful trip and a once in a lifetime experience. You and Malcolm look relaxed and healthy. The Caribbean water colours are amazing. Now that you enjoyed scuba diving, it expands your list of destinations to consider for your next adventure.

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  15. Suzanne, I had to catch my breath reading about your dive. Not sure I could have done it. Congratulations for doing it. I bet the shipwreck was something to see. Tracey

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  16. Looks like you guys had a wonderful trip. As for your “oops” that seemed to turn out well. I love “expect the unexpected” – a great thought to have when traveling.

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      1. Wow, thank you so much for saying that. Of all the characters in the book, John is the one most based on a real person – my father. Of course the circumstances are fiction, but I like to think that my father would agree with the way John Amstead handled the situation.

        I am so glad your trip worked out. It sounds like a great time.

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  17. What a terrific adventure! I’ve never been to that part of the world but you make me want to go… and try out scuba diving (I think the scariest part would be getting in a bathing suit). I’m sorry you ended up with Covid. We’ve been lucky so far but are also anxious to spread our wings a bit more.

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    1. Janis, you make me laugh. It’s easy, left foot, right foot. The Covid thing came as a huge surprise. I wasn’t overly cautious on the ship, but I wasn’t reckless either. About four days into the cruise the Captain announced that a passenger had tested positive, so we started wearing masks full time and avoiding crowds. Still, I am glad we tested the waters. I was considering a longer cruise to Australia, but now I’ll think twice about that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh no, Suzanne. I guess you are struggling with health issues. I do hope the symptoms are on the lighter side of things. It’s a losing battle for all of us. Covid will get us all at some point. Especially if we want to resume a “normal” way of living.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. What a fun post to read, Suzanne! I’m so glad that you and Malcolm had a little break away from “real life”. I can imagine that it somewhat felt like a dream, being on the ship and exploring the Caribbean. And, you go girl with the scuba dive experience. Adrenaline, fear, overcoming nervousness, satisfaction. Please tell your husband that St. Thomas is one of my least favorite islands in the world. 🙂

    And, I am beyond excited that you visited St. Martin/St. Maarten. Yes, we were anchored in that lagoon you took a boat tour on and your surroundings were our home for many months three years in a row; a familiar place. Thank you for mentioning me (especially the “friend” part) and my memoir, Plunge!

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  19. Liesbet, I cannot tell you how many times I thought of you while we were in the Caribbean. If only thoughts could translate to good fortune. It was heartbreaking to read of your recent troubles and of Marc’s brother’s accident. Indeed, when it rains it pours. We are dealing with our own ‘bucket of s*it’ right now, but at least we were able to get away from it for a while. Maybe one day I’ll tell that story.

    Malcolm will be glad to hear that his assessment of St. Thomas is completely validated by an ‘island expert.’ As always, just put one foot in front of the other…xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your sweet reply, Suzanne. I feel honored and humbled (and it makes me happy) to be thought of, especially in beautiful places.

      I’m sorry to read about your troubles right now. While never ideal, I do hope it has to do with housing stuff as opposed to health stuff. And, as we all know so well, taking care of elderly parents brings its own challenges. Sending good vibes and positive outcomes your way across the country.

      Liked by 1 person

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  21. Hi Teresa, thank you for appreciating that it was a ‘brave’ vs. foolish thing to do. Just because we are retired doesn’t mean we should stop living, right? Also, I would like to follow your blog in order to know when you post, but I don’t see that option. I assume you have comments turned off as well. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

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