August 30, 2008

Our 1st Anniversary

Filed under: Latif Mercado — Latif Mercado @ 03:16 pm

Latif and Angel Mercado 

We’ve been together for about a million years, yet on August 6th 2008, Angel and I made our first year “Married”.  To my fellas, a great gift to give to the wife is a cruise.  Doesn’t necessarily have to be a long cruise, just a cruise to a beautiful place, somewhere in the carribean.  Yes, that’s what I did. Our schedule didn’t permit us to go for too long, but a 3 night 4 day cruise was a perfect first time.  Yes it was the first time that either Angel or I have ever taken a cruise and after this first one, we are hooked and will become regular cruisers.  I think it’s a great vacation and honestly, dollar for dollar, the best value.

But what was interesting about our trip, was what I had to go through in order to keep it a secret for as long as possible.  You see Angel and I have expressed our desire to eachother about one day going on a cruise.  Actually, we made plans one time, told a bunch of friends (including Lil’ Suzy) and had to pull out at the last minute because we were closing on our house in NY. Everyone went besides us.

I pretty much knew from the get that we would be taking a cruise for our first anniversary, but like all the gifts I’ve given Angel, I love surprising her, and I’m good at it.

One of the stressful parts that I had to handle was the fact that I couldn’t find Angel’s Birth Certificate. Our Passports were expired and since we haven’t been out of the country in years we never bothered to get new ones.

I had an idea.  I told Angel that one of my promoters from Canada wanted to book her, but that she needed her birth certificate. She looked everywhere but to no avail. So we decided to order them On-Line.  I told her order a new one for me too and get copies of both, just incase! We had them rushed and thank God we got them right on time. Sorry baby, no Canada show.

So about three months before we made a year, Angel began to ask what we should do for our anniversary.  We had been really busy, so I told her we’ll think of something. Time went on and the date got closer. I contacted my good friend Joe Hanna who does travel from Florida and told him that I wanted to book a cruise for our anniversary.

Right away Joe got to work and I booked us a 4 day 3 night Cruise on the great Royal Carribean Cruise Ship “Majesty Of The Seas” By the way, I give it 5 stars. I wanted to book the cruise on a weekend which worked out great because our anniversary was on the Wed before we shipped out. Our anniversary was the 6th of August and I booked the cruise for the 8th (that Friday).  This was perfect because I would be able to surprise with the trip and still give her a little time to do a little shopping.

Weeks prior, Angel was pressuring me about what we were going to do for our anniversary.  I would give it a little thought, then either change the subject or tell her “Let me think about it”.  You see Angel loves to eat at Chilli’s (Fajita Trio is her favorite). So I told her that I wanted to take her to Chilli’s and a movie on our anniversary. The hardest thing I had to do was keep a dumb face as she looked at me in disbelief of my choice of celebration.

She didn’t say anything at first, but then I asked her if we should take the kids, and her already distorted face, distorted some more. The days were getting closer and we changed the Chilli’s idea to going down to the beach for the weekend and yes, bringing the kids.

We came back from a show and went out to eat, about a week prior to our anniversary.  Finally, she couldn’t hold it in any longer.  Angel expressed to me how disappointed she was that I hadn’t put any thought into our 1st anniversary.  She said any other anniversary could have been compromised, but the 1st was supposed to be special.

I threw on my acting face. I played the dumb husband that didn’t know any better because hey, I’ve never been married and had no experience, was my dumb excuse. You can see she wanted to rip my had off.

The night before our anniversary, Angel and I were in Wal-Mart late at night picking up a few things.  I told her I had to go do something and I’d be right back.  I had an idea of how to present the cruise to her. I found this great photo album with a little window on the cover. I grabbed it just as Angel turned the corner. I quickly swung the album behind my back. “What are you doing”? she asked as she tried to peek behind me. “Get away, I yelled! I’m trying to buy your anniversary present. She gave me that “Look” and went outside the store to wait for me. Later she revealed that she had called her sister Maria to tell her “Do you believe he’s buying my 1st Anniversary present from Wal-Mart”? Little did she know, Maria already knew about the Cruise.

So I grabed the perfect Anniversary card and the Photo Album and headed for the cashier along with some of the other things she left in the shopping cart.  I came out of the store with that “Dumb Husband” look, still trying to hide the gift that was in the Wal-Mart shopping bag. Angel didn’t have much to say to me except “So what did you get me”  I said “Something you always wanted” Without saying a word, I could hear her mind saying “From Wal-Mart”?

The next morning I was up around 6:30am (I was really excited) and proud that I was able to make it without her finding out.  I went into my office and locked the door. I never recieved a brochure or any travel info from the Cruise, so I went on-line and started printing photos of the ship. I placed one into the little window of the album and on the inside, I wrote her a letter… This is what it said.

Latif and Angel

To say she was excited would be a complete understatement. Well I did it! What I didn’t realize was that she didn’t realize that we were shipping out in two days.  She thought it was going to be in October, a time that we had agreed on a few days prior.  As soon as she found out we were leaving in a couple of days, I handed her the Credit Card before she could say “I have to go shopping”!

Friday morning a 5am we were out and on our way to the airport to catch a flight to Miami where we would board our ship.  The experince just boarding was exciting to the two of us.  I had called Joe Hanna the day before to get all the details about the trip. I wanted to make sure we had everything we needed, no disruptions whatsoever.

We are so use to airports, that a sea post was something really new to us. I personally hate going through Customs, for some reason, they make me nervous.  But we did it and all went well. They gave us our “Set Sail Passes” along with a word of the importance of not losing them. I’m telling you, we guarded those things with our lives the whole trip.  They made us fee as though if we lost them, we would be left on one of the islands never to return.

Angel and Latif Cruise

Well we are lead onto the ship and basically left in the middle of the lobby.  If you had never been on a Cruise ship, youwould know what I mean when I say we were lost. People all over the place, going from one part of the ship to the next.

Well we finally found our room.

Latif and Angel

It was nice.  It was a statesroom, supposedly bigger than your average. But also, that must apply to average sized people. (Okay, Angel is a little below average and I am a little above average so I guess it evens out).

In Room

We freshen up a bit and waste no time heading back to the lobby to begin our exploration of the ship, starting with, what else… The famous Windjammer. That’s where the food’s at. That was really cool, it’s set up like a huge buffet with diiferent areas hosting different foods.  Italian over here… Chinese over there… etc.

So we grab some food. A little advice here. Before grabbing the first thing you like.  Walk around the buffet for a minute and visit the other stands. It kind of sucked when I filled my plate with some yummy food, just to pass another stand with even yummier food.

Well we sit down, and wave to one of the attendants. He comes up and I as if we can get a couple of diet cokes and a drink for M’Lady!  The attendant replied.  “I would love to sir, but this is Carlos’ table, he’ll be right with you” I wait a second, because I hate to start eating without something on my plate. I start asking other attendants if they were carlos. They all apologized that they weren’t.  Apparently there is a slight code there.  Attendants don’t violate other attendants sections.

So we starting eating.  Finally Carlos arrives. I greet him like a long lost brother and smack a couple of dollars into the palm of his hand. “Stay close bu okay Carlos?” carlos agrees, still taking care of the other guest, i can see he has his eye on us. So we finish up and are about to leave. Carlos, comes up and says “Would you need anything else?” No thanks Carlos, but we’ll be back later.” He nodded and helped the misses out of her chair. But before we left I asked, hey Carlos, can I take a picture with you? Okay he replied…

Latif and the Windjammer Attendant Carlos

Well, we go outside and start walking around the ship.  It was truly incredible. The pool area was already packed. The music was setting the theme as the ships horn blew and we began to sail.

By the time we were deep into the ocean, it was time to get ready for dinner.  We had a 6:pm dinner set for each night.  Angel said, next time let’s take the later dinner, I thing it was like 8:30pm. This way we don’t miss things like, the sunset etc..

The first night was casual attire, so we thre on a little something and headed to Deck 3 where we would sit for our first dinner on a cruise ship. We chose to sit with others and there was a lady and her daughter sitting there. We introduced ourselves and sat down to eat. They turned out to be really nice people.  From the WestCoast, the mother brought the Daughter on the cruise for her birthday. The waiter brought her over a little cake and we got the whole place singing happy birthday.

Our Royal Dinner Guest

So after dinner, we went back up to our room, changed into something a bit more comfortable and headed back to deck 11 where the pool was.  We grabbed a couple of loungh chairs and faced them toward the ocean and just chilled out. Now that’s what I’m talking about. It was the most relaxing time I have had in years, and to have my wife with me, it was incredible.

La-Ang Chill

So the next morning we wake up and I rush to look out the window.  We are at Coco Cay, a private Island owned by Royal Carribean. It was a beautiful Island and I couldn’t wait to get off the ship.
We had to take a Ferry from the ship to the Island. The day was a bit cloudy, and a storm was approaching.  I had wished it was a nicer day, but then again, I got to experience a real Tropical Storm.

Coco Cay Entrance

I was a little nervous though.  I had signed us up for Para-Sailing. What was I thinking?  Angel didn’t know this till we set foot on the island.  At first it wasn’t ready due to the storm.  Good thing, the lightening was intense and Benjamin Franklin already discover electricity. So we decide to chill at the Straw Market, have a couple of drinks and wait out the storm. I could never understand why they called it “The Straw Market”.

Latif and Angel

Angel has a Drink

Latif has a drink

Angel has another

Latif has another
Okay Latif, that’s enough!

So we get to the waiting area for the Para-sailing and their are a young couple, two brothers, and some lady and I guess it was her lover she was with. We All pile into the small motor boot with two guys who looked as though they were from one of the neighboring Islands. They were cool though. Angel and I were the first to sit down and then the rest followed. The waters were real choppy because of the storm. We zoom out to the middle of the Ocean, the Island and our ship still very visible. The guy points to Angel and I and say… “You’re First”! The pleasant smile I had on as I boarded the boat suddenly disappeared and nervousness kicked in.  I had told guy earlier that I weighed just 250 pounds and that Angel was just 115 pounds totalling 365 pounds. The weight limit was 375. Just as he was strapping us in, I nervously confessed that I was at 295 and Angel at 120, bringing our total weight to 415 pounds, 40 pounds over the limit.
The guy just waved it off and continued strapping us in… Oohh. Now I was really nervous. Hm, did I sign a waiver when I signed up for this?

Getting Strapped in

So they strap us in. I have my cool smile on, Angel as you can see by the ripples on her forehead was feeling as confident. You know, if I was the correct weight and the person I was going up with wasn’t, I’d have ripples on my forehead too. So he straps us in and ask are we ready?  Hold up a second I yelled.  Any instructions?
“yes” he said, sit up and relax!” then he takes off and the chute yanks us back. I had given my camera to one of the guys on the boat. As soon as we took off, I felt my body fall back and my ass sort of popped out the saddle. I tried to sit up, but to no avail. I even tried to reach under to pull my pants up, I could’ve sworn, until I saw these pictures I thought everyone on the boat was watching my ass the whole time.

Latif and Angel go Para-Sailing

So up we went.  whats confussing to me though is, if you look at this picture, how is the brace leaning toward Angel’s side? Hmm..
So we’re off. The boat is going faster, and we are going higher…

Latif and Angel Para-Sail

… And Higher. let me point out something for a moment here. Now if you look at the strap that Angel and I share in the middle. Now, If I were her, I’d be pissed. There are two other straps right above my head, why would they put me on hers.  If mine snapped, she’d be going down with me.
I want you also to take note of the knot that fastens our chute to the pulling rope. You see, I didn’t notice thats this was just your regular everyday, childrens knot, until I was way up in the air. We’ll get back to that later.

Latif and Angel Para-Sail

If you look closely, you’ll see Angel turned toward me. This is when I told her that I felt like I was slipping out of the saddle. You see, she’s sitting up like they said, I’m basically laying back, but holding really tight to the straps, so tight that I swear, if it would’ve snapped under me I’d still be holding on.

Latif and Angel Para-Sail

And even higher.  Now lets go back a second.  Remember when I mentioned that I noticed that the knot looked like it was tied by a second grader?  Well this is where we were when I noticed it. talk about a panic attack. I was able to see the ship and by the strength of the wind and the direction that it was blowing, all I could picture was the knot coming loose and us flying full speed at the side of the ship…
As we are relled down to the boat, the guy yells at us to try and land on our feet. That was easy for Angel, very hard for me.
I decided to land on my but. Take note of the choppiness of the water.

Latif and Angel Para-sail

So we made it! And spared the ship a nasty dent on it’s side. We take one last photo of our adventure. It was great, a first for the two of us.

Latif and Angel Para-Sail

Well that was enough adventure for me… Time to chill and just take a dip!

Latif Mercado In The Caribean
I’m not particularly fond of this picture. It shows too much Baby Fat.

So back to the ship we go.  It’s getting late and we have to get ready for dinner. You know a brother don’t miss a meal! We shower, change and head down to dinner. After dinner, we decide to walk around the ship and look for a couple of the clubs that are there.  First stop, a Salsa club… Every white person on the ship was there. They love Salsa.
It was cool, we hung there a bit, had a couple of drinks, then we were out. If you think about it, Angel and I basically work in clubs, and eventhough this club was on a ship, it just wasn’t where we wanted to spend out cruise time.

Latif and Angel Mercado

It’s time to call it in and get ready for tomorrow. One note about sleeping on the ship. Not sure if it’s just me, but I slept like a baby. I guess it’s the subtle movement of the ship.  very relaxing. What I also liked was the idea, that when I wake up, I’d be at the next port, which in our case was….

Latif and Angel Mercado

The first thing we decided to do, recommended by my good friend Joe Hanna, was to take a tour around the island, which we did.  Great way of starting your day on the island.  It’s about  hours and very informative. They took us from the rich areas to the Ghetto, Angel and I are originally from the Ghetto’s of New York, the South Bronx to be exact, so it’s always interesting to do some sort of comparison. I have to admit though, New York Ghettos are living large in comparison to some of the Ghetto’s around the world, including the Bahamas.
So we took the tour, went to Paradise Island and into the Atlantis Hotel. Nice place with a sort of Aquarium in the lobby. Huge Aquarium though, had Stingrays, Sharks, Barracuda’s, that was great. More impressive to me than the $25,000 a night suite everyone talks about, where Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson stay when they are in town.
Tours over and they bring us back to the port where the market it. Here is where you get your souvenirs and other island memorabilia.
So after doing a little shopping, a heard this really weird sound. I asked Angel, “Did you hear that?” She kept silent for a second, then said “No, what was it” “My stomach, I’m hungry get’s go get a bite”
The only thing with me, my chosen menu is stuck on the typical American diet, which may include Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, namely Puerto Rican and Cuban foods, that’s it! I don’t experiment. If I ever go to Germany, I’d be looking for the “Golden Arches”, believe that.
So, we found a Hard Rock Cafe, great! But wait, I’m low on cash, and need an ATM machine. I ask someone working in the area where I could find one, and they point to a bank next door.  We go inside. The bank is closed, but like in the states, they have an open ATM in the vestibule.
I like to keep at least 4 or 5 hundred dollars in my wallet when I’m away. Just me, makes me feel safe I guess. But, I know we are about to get back on the ship and I don’t think we’ll be spending that much more between now and when we board the ship again.  So I decide to take out just $200.00.
Cool, I swipe my card, punch in my pin and …. Oh Snap! It shot me out $200. in Bahamian money. Thank God I just took out $200. So we took it to the Hard Rock and had a great time. Bahamian Money and American money have the same Value in the Bahamas.  If you take it back to the states, and exchange it, you’ll take a lost.

Latif gets Paid in the Bahamas

So we stuff our faces, give the waitress a big Bahamian tip, and get back to our ship. Earlier on the cruise, Angel had lost one of her earrings. It upsets her, I’m use to it, she’s always losing earrings. Anyway, we get back to our room and sitting on our bed is an animal shaped out of a towel.  This is a regular thing that the room attendants do while you are out… this and I guess go through your stuff Lol.
So he made this towel animal, put Angel’s shades on it and the earring that she had lost earlier in the trip on it’s nose.

Latif and Angel

I gotta be real here for a minute. Honestly, I have to admit. This could be a great way for attendants to secure themselves a good tip at the end of the trip. Find something of value, in the beginning of the trip, then give it back at the end. Well, if that was the case, then it worked, because Angel was thrilled she got her earring back, and our attendant got a fat tip. We hung out on the deck for awhile, then went to get ready for our final dinner.

Special Thanks to a few of the people that made our1st Cruise Special.

Latif and Angel
Juan, the Assistant Waiter

Latif and Angel
Desmon, our Waiter

Latif and Angel
Alberto, our Room Attendant

Latif and Angel
Our good friends Black Beard and Poly

Latif and Angel
All our Fellow Cruisers that weekend.

Majesty Of The Seas
Our Ship “The Majesty Of The Seas”
And of course….. GOD!

GOD
For making it all so perfect!

Latif and Angel Mercado
Thank you joining us on our 1st Anniversary!

La' Entertainment
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