New Orleans and Cruising the Caribbean

It’s been a bit of a long hiatus for me since my last blog post. This semester definitely challenged me in more ways than I could’ve imagined—from a difficult courseload and time-consuming jobs and extracurriculars to a laptop theft that resulted in losing the entirety of the NaNoWriMo novel I’d been working on throughout the month of November. But it ended on a high note, at least. I did well in my amazing classes, settled into Mather House, and made some amazing memories with my best friends.

The vast majority of my posts have been about travel, and this one isn’t any different. About two weeks ago I returned from a Western Caribbean cruise with my family, with a few days before spent exploring New Orleans. Stopping in Cozumel, Mexico; Belize City, Belize; Isla Roatan, Honduras; and Costa Maya, Mexico, it was definitely a packed New Years itinerary.

It was a really awesome trip, because I got to experience so many things I never have before. For starters, I’d never even been to the Caribbean, believe it or not; the extent of my tropical vacations have been the Mexican Baja Peninsula, California, and Florida. Yes, this cruise was through Central America rather than the quintessential Caribbean Islands, but it was the Caribbean all the same.

Other firsts that happened on this trip include swimming with dolphins, something I’ve wanted to do my entire life. It was so exciting and special to be up close and personal with those beautiful animals, holding onto their fins while they glide through the water and feeling the smoothness of their skin.

We also went cave tubing in Belize, which was pretty cool—basically, you sit in an inner tube wearing a life vest and float through an amazing network of underground caves. A beach day on the beautiful island of Roatan was my first time ever snorkeling, which was made even more entertaining by the existence of waterproof cameras (snorkeling selfies, anyone?). And I saw Mayan ruins for the first time in Costa Maya, which date back over 2000 years.

Finally, I got to count down to 2015 on a massive ship in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by thousands of other people and bottomless glasses of champagne. This was certainly an experience in itself. So far, my last three New Years Eves have been pretty exciting; a police escort to the front of Times Square in 2013 (I live in New York, but I’d never before ventured to Times Square for New Years), fireworks on the Millennium Bridge in London in 2014, and this for 2015. I’m absolutely looking to continue the trend.

New Orleans was an amazing place to experience as well, and it’s become one of my favorite cities in the US. The coolest thing about New Orleans is that it truly lives up to its jazz-playing, gumbo-eating, southern charm brand. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a city with as much identity as New Orleans, something that’s confirmed within minutes of stepping into the glorious French Quarter. I’d love to return one year for Mardi Gras and eat my way through the city once again—but of course, it remains to be seen whether my waistline can handle it.

I didn’t return with as many insights and lessons learned as I have on my other recent trips, but that’s because this vacation was just that: a vacation. The Caribbean is a touristy, commercial place, but that’s not a bad thing—and its crystal clear waters, lush green foliage, and breathtaking beauty more than make up for the masses of tourists that crowd the beaches. This trip was all about experiences, and with my wonderful family in so many beautiful places, I had a ton of those.

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