[Feb 2012] This trip was not much more than a break. A break from the monotony of work days and morning frost on the windshield. A break from a cold winter in Chicago and a bevy of responsibility. A cheap flight (can you say, Spirit airlines!?) and a free stay in Colleen’s parents condo minutes from the beach… and we were sold. Four friends (Meghan, Brooke, Colleen and myself) would venture to the Southeast tip of our country and thaw out in Fort Lauderdale for a good few days.
I waited at the airport upon arrival (I flew solo as no one else needed to deal with dreaded Spirit air) and was met with a threesome of drunks. The goal was to catch up on the balcony overlooking a hotel pool in the warm night air, and play cards in the lovely condo we would call home. The night hours whisked by and the beers went down smoothly. We may have been a little too excited for the trip ahead considering our 2am night swim shenanigans invited a premature scolding from the retired neighbors not fond of our drunken stupor.
We woke up to our first gorgeous day of sunlight and 80 degree weather. We headed straight for the beach where we walked off our hangovers, toes in the sand, and explored the town. The day's agenda: the pool. Sun, music, and friends were all we needed as the hours passed by. A sudden rainstorm was met with an intense water volleyball match between me and Colleen. We freshened up for a lovely seafood dinner in town and happy hour with two-for-one glasses of wine. The fresh Chilean Sea Bass and gorgeous beach views from our outdoor table were perfection… and followed by a slightly less quiet evening of Taylor Swift karaoke and dueling pianos. The walk back proved interesting with a stop at a random outdoor hotel pool with an easy-to-climb gate…
The next day we laughed at the night’s events over a seaside brunch and mimosas. We let our melanin kick in at the pool for the day before showering up for a great evening. Newly tanned and ready to go, we enjoyed calamari and drinks along the harbor downtown before boarding a booze cruise around the inlet. We gawked at the mansions lined with palm trees and made a few notable bar stops along the water’s edge. Martinis capped the night of bar crawling, along with a Frank Sinatra dance party back at our digs. Encore!
Our third day was a beach day with crashing waves as our soundtrack. We chatted and napped, read and enjoyed. We may have tried a self-timer photo shoot and ended up with a few too many photos, but we got one keeper out of it.
After a long day we dressed our best for a picture perfect sunset at a lovely hotel overlooking the shore. The sun dropped and sky lit up in color as we sipped overpriced white wine spritzers and swayed in old fashioned rocking chairs painted a milky white. It was hard to leave that porch of paradise, but we had sushi reservations awaiting us downtown. Our scenic table set on the corner of the restaurant above a creek cutting through town was ideal – and we celebrated by ordering a bevy of sushi rolls. And by that I mean: way too much. I have never eaten so much sushi in my life – it somehow turned into a personal challenge to see if we could finish our ridiculous over-ordering… a hot dog eating contest of sorts with cold fish instead of ballparks. What a mistake. Our foursome was visibly hurting as we tried waddling our way through the cute shops of town, before giving up and heading back to the condo to rest our aching bellies. Tums, anyone?
We woke up significantly rested and overly burned. It turns out our all-day beach extravaganza was a little heavy on the sun and low on the SPF. My calves were so burned I felt tingles up my legs with every step! Luckily the weather was faulty this day so we didn’t feel guilty hidden inside watching scary movies and eating pizza. We did venture out for a casual dinner at Hooters – and freshened up for a much-needed night of dive bar-hopping.
Torrey and “Tommy Bahama” - Bahaman Cruise: South Beach (Miami, Florida), Key West (Florida); Nassau (Bahamas); Coco Cay (Bahamas)
For Christmas of 2010 I decided to surprise my boyfriend Tom with a vacation to the Bahamas! I found a great deal and booked without hesitation –
this was going to be epic… our first “real” vacation (no raccoons here!) and Tom’s first time out of the country. So we got him a passport before celebrating Christmas, brought in the New Year (2011) – and off we were!
The quick flight brought us to Miami, Florida for the night–
where we paid a ridiculous $50 on a taxi to our budget/dump hotel in the ghetto. (South Beach is for celebrities… not us.) We dressed up and got the hell out of our dumpy room for the night, crossing into the star-studded South Beach for an evening to remember. The strip was fantastic – Gucci-wearing jetsetters browsing
boutiques lining the cobblestone walkways – Italian lights on palm trees swaying above countless outdoor eateries… we weren’t in the ghetto anymore. After
exploring a bit we decided on a mid-priced restaurant where we imbibed on cocktails and enjoyed homemade shrimp pasta over candlelight. After dinner I convinced Tom to sit at one of the ritzy hookah lounges calling our names where we enjoyed some apple hookah straight from the pipe.
The night wasn’t over as we had to explore the famed clubs! The strip of bars lining the beach was impressive… the over-served patrons were not.
We settled at “Clevelanders”, a bar complete with a dance floor over a pool which winds through the entire outdoor establishment. Pretty cool to say the least. After deciding we had spent enough money for one night, we took the pricey taxi back to our side of town.
The next morning we hauled our luggage back to the strip where we grabbed cheap bagels and spent the morning at Miami Beach. The water was blue, the sun was shining, and our whole Cruise was ahead of us! After a while it was time to get on the ship: “Majesty of the Seas”. We checked in, reluctantly participated in the mandatory safety run, and sipped some mojitos to celebrate our departure. The ship was stacked with two large pools, hot tubs, a club,
piano bar, casino, theatre, dining rooms, and Johnny Rockets. The food was endless and the drinks kept coming. We entered heaven for the next 4 days.
Bob Marley rang through the speakers as we waved goodbye to the Miami skyline setting in the sun. A fancy dinner was to follow where we ordered the cheapest bottle of red and couldn’t decide between entrees so ordered two each. (This repeated every evening… fat.)
That night we gambled in the casino,
watched the live pianist, and danced in the club. Not too shabby.
The next morning we awoke to all-you-can-eat breakfast and the Florida Keys! We ferried over to Key West and explored the tiny town for the day. I loved the vibe here – pastel summer homes lined the streets where fresh
flowers were blooming and adorable shops sold trinkets and takeaways. There were an odd number of Key Lime Pie shops, and plenty of beer gardens where it is
perfectly legal to walk the town with cold brews. We of course did. We made it to Ernest Hemingway’s house, the beach, and the Southernmost Point of the
continental US… just 90 miles to Cuba. Back on the ship hours later we relaxed in the hot tub before Tom decided to join the main event… the Belly Flop contest. My man placed second with the whole ship watching…
We just had to indulge in Johnny Rockets burgers and milkshakes with a view of pure ocean… only to dress up for another extravagant dinner just
a few hours later. Fat.
We later caught a show in the theatre with live singing and dancing, followed by some time in the piano bar where I spontaneously joined the pianist with some singing of my own.
Ah… there is nothing like a morning at sea. To sunbathe on the ship deck and see nothing but cobalt blue waves in the distance is pure serenity. To add a bucket cheap Fosters beers is ideal. We could have done this all day, but as we saw the Atlantis resort freshly painted corral and beaming in the distance, we were immediately anxious to explore Nassau...
Now I must admit – my obsession with the Mary-Kate and Ashley flick “Holiday In The Sun” took large part in my excitement to see the famed Atlantis resort in my pre-teen years… I had been dreaming of coming here since I was a skinny fourteen year old twin wannabe. So as Tom and I ferried over to the strip of white sand claimed by the massive resort, I cared less about the celebrity homes our driver was pointing out and more about the destination.
Once we arrived, the place was as magical as I’d imagined. Perfectly groomed beaches and lush gardens were met with unbelievable aquariums housing dancing fish of every color. Every once and a while a massive manta ray would swim by, or a dolphin, or shark. WOW.
Tom and I refused to fork over $60 each to simply swim there for the day, so after getting frustrated with what the over-priced packages had to offer, we forfeited and found the only free public beach to rest our towels.
Cabbage beach was no eyesore with its pure blue waters, crashing waves, and silky soft sand. As the sun set we decided to walk towards the Atlantis just to
see how close we could get to the beach without being thrown out. Turns out we could walk right in from the back without being spotted by security! It was surreal. We were walking the entirety of the grounds at sunset, without a sole in site. We went to every lagoon, beach, and fountain. We even went inside and enjoyed the free aquarium exhibit where we held starfish and saw alien-like
underwater creatures that blew our minds. We enjoyed cocktails (we snuck them
from our room on the cruise ship) on the beach alone at dawn.
After getting our fill of Atlantis, we just had to stop at the Senor Frog’s – Nassau edition. We shared a couple of Coronas in the raging bar held on stilts above the ocean before making our way back to the ship.
We somehow drunkenly dressed up for another fancy dinner/theatre combo that evening, followed by a dance party on the top deck where I had dance-offs with the ship’s professional dancers courtesy of some liquid courage.
Our last day full day on the ship was sad. We forced away our hangovers to be the first to meet Coco Cay Island… we were also the last to leave. This place was euphoric. Sure it was fake and all man-made, but who
cares? What Coco Cay lacked in authenticity it made up for in beauty. Tom napped on our slice of paradise while I swam and held my own self-timer photo shoot. We
walked the perimeter of the island and decided to rent a paddle boat and float out to sea. We could see the corral right through the clear water, and even ran into a large-scale stingray. This day was my favorite – it was painful to leave. I knew we had full-time desk jobs and a nasty winter ahead of us back home. Couldn’t we just hide in a palm tree and leave on the next ship over? Tom and I both agreed we could live here at least for a few months.
Our last night was one of decadence with a fancy seafood dinner, a comedy show, and the final onstage performance by the Cruise line entertainers.
We stayed up on the ship deck looking at the stars until our eyes wouldn’t stay open. It was back to reality tomorrow. Snowy Chicago was calling our names…
While some travelers frown upon package vacations or Cruises in general, I for one am I fan. Is it true adventure? No. But that makes it no less enjoyable for me. After Tom’s first cruise he confidently decided he was sold, and dubbed himself a “cruise guy”… so I am sure this will not be our last.
It was my last semester of college and thereby my final year of competitive cheerleading at the University of Illinois. This upcoming trip would be my third Spring in a row at the familiar hotspot Daytona Beach, Florida –
site of the NCA Cheerleading Nationals Competition each year. Not only is this a great week off from school with fun teammates and a change in scenery, (escaping the unbearably cold U of I campus), it is also a chance to showcase what we worked all year for as a team – spending countless hours in the gym training our
It is always a mix of emotions when I arrive: excitement, nervousness, anxiety, exhaustion and soreness from the intense week of practice, and euphoria all at the same time! The routine is the same each Nationals trip – and this year was no exception. We bus it from the airport to the hotel (after flying in the wee hours of the a.m.) only to quickly change into workout gear and hit the beachfront for a sunset practice amongst the palm trees. Tumbling, stunting, and dancing in the light of the colorfully-painted sky is always a favorite of mine. We effortlessly get back into the swing of things and enjoy showing off our hard-earned skills. This year we even had time
to hit the pool first due to our early arrival. We laid out in the sun and, despite the chilling temperature of the water, braved the ocean waves.
That night we dressed up for a night on the strip enjoying an Italian team dinner to gain back some much-needed calories. Sleep was a struggle as the next morning is Prelims of the competition…
I woke at 5am to begin curling my long tresses and help apply makeup to the team’s sun-kissed and nervous faces. Warming up at the Ocean Center Arena is a surreal experience – surrounded by hundreds of teams showing their best skills ready to compete. After a whirlwind practice on the practice mat backstage, we are stuffed behind a threatening black curtain which will open to smoke machines and overbearing lights upon our announcement to the competition floor. This is the worst part of Nationals. What is probably five minutes feels like an
eternity… my palms sweating, legs shaking, and heart beating out of my chest. When they call our name and we run out onto the mat – my fears subside and I have the time of my life. The booming music and cheering crowd gets us going – and our performance was solid and one of the best we have done! Though we were not one of the top teams in the country in our talent-packed division, we entered day two confident.
The afternoon was spent at none other than IHOP, then practicing some more, showering up, and enjoying a team dinner in the hotel. The next day of competition was Finals where we placed tenth – suitable enough for us,
meaning we could spend the rest of the sunny day in bathing suits watching the other teams compete while sipping Margaritas. That we did – and enjoyed every
After doing a beachside photo shoot in uniform, we basked in the sun sitting on towels with thousands of other athletes, watching the final competitions of the best teams in the country. (This is cool if you like the sport – though I realize most do not).
I got tipsy enough to shower up and keep the party going with the team. Me and the other seniors gave parting speeches and took celebratory champagne toasts before heading out to the infamous club
“Razzle’s”for a night of ridiculous dancing. This night of course ended in the hotel pool at about 4am.
Our last day in Florida was spent sunbathing, shopping, and throwing each other around at Stuntfest, a crazy compilation of athletes from all the teams throwing crazy and often illegal stunts. We spent a team bonding night at our pool and bid adieu to the sandy shore the next morning.
This was my last cheerleading performance after almost a decade in a sport I have loved since I was little. I was sad to close this chapter in my life for good…though you still may sometimes find me flipping around the beach.
For pictures from this trip, visit the Photos Page or click here!