Enough of kitty messes, and back to my trip recap! I have now posted my photos in my gallery, and you can keep reading below for more details. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, very very nice to get away from the cold & rain at home, I successfully paced my drinking & partying so I remember everything and was tired but not hungover, my small part of our group presentation went well on Thursday morning, with people actually laughing at my jokes, and my favorite quote was this:
"How old are you, Britta?"
"How old do you think I am?"
"You have no wrinkles at all - you could be twelve!"
Hahaha...even though I know he'd already had plenty to drink and had ulterior motives, it was still nice to hear. :)
Sunday - Miami South Beach
I wasn't feeling very well even before getting on the plane at the crack of dawn, so I slept the best I could while others were already starting their drinking with vodka cocktails. They were the newbies who had never been to a kickoff before, and we old-timers had warned them to pace themselves, but I guess sometimes these are things you have to learn on your own. ;) When we got to the airport Hilton, I took a nice shower and about an hour nap, so I was feeling much better by 7pm when we met for cocktails at the hotel before going out in search of dinner. We ended up in various smaller groups at several restaurants along the main drag at South Beach, then meeting after dinner at Mango's, a salsa club, where many rum runners and mojitos were had by all, some Jaeger shots (not me - yuck!), some Kamikaze shots (ok me too), and plenty of dancing. I even had the chance to salsa since this one stranger on the dance floor decided to teach me, then dance with me three separate times, so that was fun. :)
View of Miami from my hotel room
Monday - Bon Voyage
Thank goodness we didn't need to be up early on Monday since just about everyone was out until the wee hours! I came back with one of the last cabs that included my boss's boss who is usually the last partier of the evening, and we got back to our hotel around 3:45am. I got up at 11am still tired, got myself ready, checked out & down to meet the bus to the pier by noon, but the busses didn't actually leave until 12:30. It took all the way until 2:15 to get onto the ship with so many lines & extra paperwork, so by then there wasn't that much prime sun time, but I did try for an hour of sunshine in my bathing suit. Even though I didn't actually sleep, the rest did me good. I found the chance for a couple sunset photos as we left Miami, we had our Bon Voyage cocktails at the pool bar, then second seating dinner, then we investigated the late-night entertainment on board. So many people broke into different groups and the music wasn't very good for dancing that I ended up heading back to my cabin fairly early at around 12:30, attempting a couple moonlight photos over the water in the wind along the way, then reading my "Compass News" sheet as I nibbled on the crackers & cheese I never ate on the flight. Sleeping early was a good plan after the night before, otherwise I would have trouble making it through the week!
Miami at sunset from onboard the Majesty of the Seas
Tuesday - Nassau, Bahamas
Our first work session was 10am-1pm, thankfully not at the crack of dawn. I was able to grab breakfast at the buffet (smoked salmon & scrambled eggs - yum!) with plenty of time. Of course I was taking the stairs all the time, which was quite a hike all the way up to deck 11 for the buffet, deck 6 for my cabin, deck 8 for our main sessions and the dancing club, and deck 3 for dinner. I think I only took the elevator 3 times, with groups of people, then taking my suitcase off the ship when we left. I was hoping that would count for something to combat the copious food & alcohol!
We had lunch at the buffet after the session, then had to meet at 2pm for our afternoon on one of the outlying islands off Nassau. I thoroughly applied my sunscreen for my tankini, but since we didn't get to the island until about 3pm, the sun wasn't so glaring so I didn't get any tan at all. It was a beautiful day, just enough breeze to be very pleasant and comfortable in the sun. I kept drinking the rum punch at our open bar, but they weren't very strong so they didn't do much to me. I did dip in the water which was chilly, picked up a couple little shells, and the sand was nice and soft. As dusk started descending on our way back it got a little chilly, but I didn't mind, since one of the few women in sales remembered about my website so was telling the newer guys sitting near us, so I guess I impressed them with my cool grand of ad revenue my first year with AdSense. I think several will be checking out britta.com when they get home. ;)
Tuesday was Formal Night, and I shocked people by not wearing teal, however my black dress had gold embroidery that also had iridescent sparkles that went well with my opal jewelry, so that counts as teal enough. ;) I had read there was karaoke, so I told people I was going to try go get on the list, but since we didn't finish dinner until after it started and there was only one hour that night, I couldn't get on the list. Since the two songs I heard were pretty bad & I didn't see any of my group yet, I left to find others around the ship. I found out later that my boss, her boss & the president of our region plus a bunch of others all went to try to hear me and stayed the whole hour, so I felt really bad! They said there would be 2 hours of karaoke on the last night, so I promised them all I would find a way to get myself & some others on the list, even if it meant leaving dinner early. I didn't gamble but most of us hung out at the casino since it was thankfully no-smoking night so I could stay and chat. Since Wednesday was our early morning needing to be alert by 9am, I think I got to bed around 1:30am again, pretty normal for me even back home. (Oh, and this was the evening I received my no-wrinkles compliment after dinner. ;)
Our Nassau beach excursion
Formal Night Dinner
Wednesday - Coco Cay, Bahamas
Bright and early we met for our branding session from 9am to noon, since they've decided for the 10th anniversary of our company plus actually being global now with Europe too, we're "grown up" enough to need to be serious about it. It was a fun session with the teams having to choose a person and develop their brand, logo & tagline, and my boss's boss ordered Bloody Maries and Mimosas for everyone who wanted one. That was my first Bloody Mary and I'm not sure I'd order another but it was good to take tiny sips over 3 hours. Since the session ran long, we had to rush back to our rooms since lunch on the island ended at 1:30 and we needed to start the Marketing event to be done by 3:15 to leave the island. Coco Cay is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean, and there is no pier large enough for cruise ships, so the ship is anchored farther out, then you take a "tender" boat over to the island. Private island makes it sound so nice, but since there were 2000 of us all on the island, crammed into a shorter lunchtime than the buffet on the ship, it was a crowd of chaos of people who probably should not have been showing quite that much skin, especially in line for BBQ and hot dogs! It was nicer over at Coconut Willie's with mostly just us on that beach with a tiny bar, but we felt badly for the people who were there who weren't in our group. I was only a "consultant" for this year's event - nice to limit the stress I had from planning last year's Mission for Agent 2-007! - but I was enlisted as a judge and master scorekeeper. First was do a kamikaze shot and do the limbo, then meet with your teams to build an IBX datacenter out of sand, with points for creativity, business model, and revenue per cabinet. Boy did they have a ball with that! Very clever use of plastic spoons & seashells as satellite dishes, clear plastic cups as solar collectors for power generation, even one team used their little pirate figurines they received in their "booty" packages the first day as technical crew, even one pulling fiber using seaweed. Haha! That was fun judging that event. :) The last task for the day was that the 7 losing team captains had to drink a "Battery Fluid" concoction of rum punch, baked beans, corn, sour cream, muddled, mashed & strained, and served with a banana-pineapple-hot-dog garnish. Even funnier was that the drinks were prepped on the bar and someone took one thinking they were free drinks! ;)
As soon as we got back on the ship, we got changed for dinner, and met in the Viking Lounge at the top of the ship so the teams could perform their songs. They had been told Monday night they had to write new lyrics to Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me with certain criteria about our company, and including Quality of Performance (that's from me). I was a judge for this one too, and I got video of everyone's song on my camera for safekeeping. They were all excellent and hilarious, making it difficult to judge, but the final team won the performance aspect hands down! After that was done we were almost late to dinner, and as it cleared out, my boss's boss noticed a potted plant in the back had been filled with cocktail cups & beer bottles...sheesh! I guess we left our mark? Dinner was tasty enough again as I sat at yet another table since we were supposed to mingle and chat with people we don't see the rest of the year, then it was another "what do we do now?" evening where several went to the casino while others went to various clubs. I have to say I didn't dance nearly as much as my last cruise only because the music wasn't always going, plus left much to be desired unfortunately. It was another reasonable night for me since I had to present in the morning anyway.
The beach at Coco Cay, Bahamas
Thursday - Key West, Florida
10am was our breakout presentations, including my team as one of the three, so we didn't get to see the other two. The ship had conference rooms with projectors but they wouldn't work even after the ship IT guys came to try, so luckily a couple people had brought portable projectors we used instead. I didn't get to award all my prizes in all the sessions since they didn't know the answers, but at least they got my jokes, which are too "inside" for you to get without way too much explanation involved. Once that was done we met together in the main room and the teams were given their last task, which was to decipher the clues and find the object hidden somewhere in Key West. I went to lunch with my boss, her boss, her admin and another longtime co-worker, finding decent fresh crab sandwiches, key lime pie of course and 2 drinks each. They had heard about another bar so we wandered looking for it, happening to pass the Hard Rock Cafe so I quickly bought a shot glass since I was there. I had no idea there was a Hard Rock in Key West. Honestly it's to the point where it's no challenge at all but since I have the collection, it seems a shame not to keep collecting. They finally found the Hog's Breath Saloon so we found a spot at the bar where I got a mojito, but since it was already after 3pm, and I wanted some sun time to combat the lame tan lines I acquired at Coco Cay, I headed back to the ship by way of conch fritters...yes the meat from the fancy big shells used as horns in Lord of the Flies. Tasty but since they're fried why wouldn't they be? ;) I still had one left with the remains of my mojito as I was going through security to get back on the ship and the guy said "Mojito and conch fritters - can't get much more Key West than that!" Good, since that's what I was going for! ;) I did get a little sun but since it was so late it didn't help my tan lines much, then I packed, showered & got ready for our final cocktail party before dinner. When I got there, I heard that my lunch crew had stayed at the bar until they had to get back on the ship, then continued drinking in a cabin, so they were pretty soused already before the cocktail party! For pacing myself purposes I'm glad I left them when I did! The ship was rocking enough by our cocktail party that even the people who weren't drunk were having problems walking straight! ;)
Dinner was okay, and I was not fond of my pasta entree anyway, so I left at 9:45 to see if they'd allow signups before karaoke started at 10pm. By 9:55 the girl was there and when I explained that we were all still at dinner so we'd be late but I'd like to get us on the list, she was very nice about it and said I'd just have to be sly to tell her when we arrived. I signed up myself for 99 Red Balloons, and several other names for other singalong classics in hopes they'd go up as groups, since I knew from the other evening they weren't letting the same people go multiple times. I went back up to dinner and let everyone know what songs they were signed up for, then we all went down as a group and listened to a couple before I was up first. I did fine, belting just like Nena, but boy are there some LONG instrumentals in that song...and then my final verse, the slow one where I could have showed off more tone quality, she cut me off! Ah well...I still got rousing cheers from my group and the rest of the audience that was pretty full. See, back in 2004 I sang at the kickoff, both our silly song and the national anthem since we were at PacBell Park that year, so some knew I could sing well which is why they told me they wanted to hear me, but the rest were quite surprised and I was congratulated by many. Between other songs from the rest of the crowd, our group continued with American Pie, Hotel California, New York New York, Cracklin' Rosie, and finally Margaritaville, with me often getting up to help out whenever anyone wanted my assistance. I was even a backup singer/ Rockette for the Sinatra-style New York New York. ;) Everyone had a lot of fun, even though they were sloshed, so I'm glad I could be the ringleader for that since it was one of the evenings we were mostly all together as a group.
After karaoke the same club started some music so some danced a bit, but the music soon migrated into icky again like the other nights, so most of us moved to the salsa bar for more dancing and drinks. Finally it was up to the Viking Lounge where some had been enjoying cigars & Scotch (yuck!), then back to the casino, which thankfully wasn't very smoky considering. I chatted with a bunch of different groups for awhile, enjoying being only tipsy watching the really drunk ones, then I think it was around 3:30am when a bunch of us left the casino. I knew morning would be early since we were supposed to be disembarking by 9am...ugh!
Conch fritters roadside stand in Key West
Friday - Home Again
I carried my own suitcase off the ship, lucking out with a quick elevator and getting even through customs in something like 5 minutes. Our bus to the airport wasn't supposed to arrive until 10am, so we were just out there, inhaling the exhaust from all the cabs & busses, not making me feel very well. Glad I had Pria bars in my bags since I think that did help so I had some food in my stomach. We arrived at the airport, and I will say I'm much less than impressed at Miami International. Granted they're under construction but stupid stupid walking flow, and it was so busy we were in line for the automated checkin for American forever. Security was long too, and all those lines in the stuffy airport on top of the exhaust from earlier was making me feel worse. I'm sure it didn't help that Thursday night was a lot rockier ocean so we all still had sea legs making us feel like we were still on water. By 11:30 we were through security & looking for lunch since our flight wasn't until 2:55. I thought pizza sounded good, and it was tasty and helped my queasiness for awhile, then we camped out at our gate en mass. Inspired by my co-worker who curled up in the floor in a spot of sun like a cat, I found another corner with no chair and crashed out using my jackets as a pillow. I only got a little sleep since more people arrived and were talking loudly, but I stayed there taking advantage of the time I could be in a position other than sitting or standing. By 2pm, we were really antsy, and as I was packing up my stuff to get ready to board, they announced our plane was here & ready but we had no flight crew yet since they had been delayed in Chicago. Argh! Not only were they delayed, but they came in completely across the airport, so when they finally came jogging through our gate, we all cheered for them. We finally boarded about 4pm or so, but then our flight plan had been lost by the tower, so we didn't actually take off until 4:55. I had an aisle instead of my preferred window, and I swear this flight felt even longer than any SFO to Heathrow trip I've ever taken! We had enough turbulence I got queasy yet again, and I unfortunately stayed that way all the way through Saturday afternoon after I got back. We all just wanted off the plane and to get home. We finally landed about 8pm, thankfully no luggage problems, then we shared a cab back to the office, arriving just as our CEO & another executive had gotten back from Frankfurt...funny! I discovered I hadn't even locked my car (doh!), so I'm very glad there was nothing tempting in it! I was very glad it wasn't raining for my drive back, and I was very glad to be home after a very very long travel day.
Ships docked at sunset at Nassau
I hope everyone had a nice weekend!