Christmas Cruise 2012

Elly, her sister, her mother, her other mother, and I went on a Caribbean cruise over the Christmas holiday. We sailed on the Norwegian Epic, a monstrously huge floating hotel.

Friday, December 23rd 2011 - Sunday, January 1st, 2012

1: Mary and Danny take in the sun on the upper "quiet" deck as we set out from Miami

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2: Watching Miami roll by off the port bow

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3: Here's the group! It was overcast, but still bright enough to worry about sunburn.

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4: The ship we were on positively dwarfed the other ships we saw. We were able to look down on all of them.

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5: Miami's skyline seen as we depart

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6: A bridge out to a private island in Miami

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7: Upscale waterfront park in Miami. Note how high we are!

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8: More upscale waterfront

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9: Miami beach!

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10: Miami receded into the distance, and we were suddenly at sea

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11: A view back across the upper party deck of the boat. Look at all the people!

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12: A string of lights provided overhead illumnation when it got dark

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13: Elly and her mom share a breakfast giggle on Christmas morning

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14: Danny makes a sudden grab for Elly's coffee!

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15: The view from Mary and Danny's stateroom, looking ahead

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16: The view from Mary and Danny's stateroom, looking astern

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17: We all met up in their stateroom (as it was the larger of the two) for the Christmas morning gift exchange

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18: Chatting comfortably

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19: Mandy (the youngest) gets to go first

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20: Mary and Danny pose on their balcony

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21: Mary and Elly watch Mandy unwrap her gifts

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22: Elly tries out her new sound-effects generator

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23: 'Oh, was that ME? I DO beg your pardon!'

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24: No, she's not disappointed with a gift :)

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25: Mary opens her first gift

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26: Danny receives a delicious package of Moose Munch!

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27: Another gift for Danny

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28: The harbour at Sint Maarten, our first port-of-call. We went snorkelling earlier that day and saw an eel

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29: Another cruise ship sets forth from the harbour. We left shortly afterwards.

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30: I took a few shots of this ship silhouetted against the sunset

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31: Note the detail in the clouds

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32: An evening rain fell over the sea, but not on us

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33: A few more shots of the ship

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34: Note the reflection in the bottom-right corner. This shot was taken with a 'skylight' filtre on my lens, which produced the reflection.

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35: Another example of the reflection

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36: And here's what it looks like when I remove the filtre

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37: A sailboat races against the setting sun

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38: Nightfall! You can see the crescent moon, and a bit of the starboard 'running track' inside the ship.

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39: Ashore at our second port-of-call: St. Thomas! Sunny and warm and tropical…this Christmas tree felt very out-of-place.

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40: We'd just done our first set of dives, where we saw a wreck. Elly and I enjoyed a blueberry lemon bar at a coffee shop we found just off the dock.

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41: Elly at the coffee shop

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42: I enjoy a cup of coffee too

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43: We retired to the ship, and I went down to the starboard running track to get a few photos. (And where I also found cellular data access!) This is a stitched panorama of the harbour at St. Thomas.

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44: A rope against the water, just over the starboard side of the ship

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45: Desktop background I: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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46: Desktop background II: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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47: The harbour at St. Thomas, from the port-side running track on the ship.

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48: Desktop background III: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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49: Desktop background IV: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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50: Desktop background V: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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51: After setting out, I saw this ship pacing us

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52: It pulled alongside…

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53: And after a few attempts, nestled up (while we were underway and at speed!) and offloaded the harbour pilot.

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54: The pilot waved to us as he pulled away. We waved back. :)

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55: Desktop background VI: Blue water, intentionally out-of-focus

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56: In port at Nassau, Danny poses on her balcony before our last dinner aboard the ship.

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57: Elly and her mum pose on the balcony, with Nassau in the background.

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58: Mary enjoys both the view, and a good book.

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59: Another cruise ship docked at Nassau, viewed from Mary and Danny's balcony

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60: Nassau in the evening. Elly and I went diving at Stuard Cove earlier today. We saw a sea turtle and some rather large lionfish, and a wreck. And a DC-3 sunk as a movie set for 'Into The Blue'.

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61: Elly pauses for a moment in the corridor before heading down to dinner.

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62: Our last dinner onboard the Norwegian Epic!

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63: The central chandelier onboard the Norwegian Epic.

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64: We arrived back in Miami, and then took a tour to see the Everglades. This is an alligator's snout being orbited by a number of supremely unconcerned tadpoles.

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65: The colours here are terrible, but this is a shot of that alligator's claw, through the murky water. Terrifying.

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66: Don't mind me, I'm just a floating log. Nothing to see here…

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67: We got on an airboat and took a tour. This guy watched us go.

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68: This is what the Everglades looks like.

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69: Closeup of the plants

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70: Can you see her?

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71: She's guarding a nest. Note the yellow colour of the inside of her mouth.

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72: Yeah, not something I'd want to meet in a dark alley. Or a light alley, for that matter.

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73: Palm fronds

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74: A banana palm

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75: Banana tree

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76: They had lots of little critters running around.

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77: And a bunch of butterflies

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78: Wow, very Jurassic.

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79: This is the concession we were at.

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80: Next stop: Coral Castle!

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81: An overall shot of the castle's layout

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82: Yeah, I played with the colours here a bit.

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83: A red-headed agama was hanging out on the castle grounds.

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84: It took a fair bit of patience, but I eventually got in for the close-up.

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85: Danny sits in one of the many chairs at the castle

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86: Elly found a desk, and commenced working.

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87: Definitely a tree to avoid

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88: Mandy declared this chair to be quite comfortable.

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89: Elly relaxes in a recliner

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90: Berries on a shrub

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91: Believe it or not, this is a juvenile red-headed agama.

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92: Chains suspending a cooking grille

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93: A pink bougainvillea

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94: I have no idea if this is actually a juvenile pineapple or not—but note the wider-angle shots…there's lots of red dirt around.

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95: A prominent sign debunks the woo-woo ideas surrounding the construction of the castle.

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96: Here is where we were!

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97: We took a duck tour of South Beach, and then it was time to head back to the hotel for our early flight home!

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