Onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas, November 2010

At the beginning of November, Jeff and my parents and I all packed for a cruise that had been planned for more than a year. I was excited beyond belief. The last vacation I took that was at least a week long had been back in March of 2009. I was long overdue for some fun and sun.

On the night of November 4, after work, Jeff and I drove down to my parents' house in Connecticut. We spent the night there, and in the morning, the four of us met up with a group our travel agent had put together and took a bus from Waterbury, Conn., to JFK airport in New York. It was a long ride, but I figure riding is better than driving. We also got a great deal on our airfare and hotel stay by joining the group, so that's why we opted for JFK instead of just flying down from Boston.

I spent the plane ride dog-earing wedding magazines and talking wedding plans with my mom. When we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., we waited a bit for a bus and then shuttled over and checked into the Crowne Plaza, a new hotel near the airport and cruise port. While the hotel itself was nice, the lobby was really small and got crowded pretty quickly with our whole group trying to check in (poor design).

We chose to stay at the hotel for dinner since we were all tired from traveling all day. Dinner was okay, but we were disappointed in the "ultimate nachos," which was a portion barely big enough for one.

We spent the night in the comfy hotel beds and got up bright and early the next morning.

After a bit of a crazy adventure finding Starbucks (we ended up walking several blocks, guided by the GPS on Jeff's phone, and finding one in a hospital lobby), we got on shuttles and were brought over to the cruise port.

We dropped off our luggage, went through security, waited in line, got our sea passes, and finally got on the boat!

As soon as we boarded, we were offered pina coladas in souvenir glasses. After turning them down the first five times they were offered, my mom and I finally relented and got one each. I instantly decided it's important to have a frosty drink in hand when starting one's vacation.

We spent that first day wandering around the boat, checking out everything from the spa to the shops and restaurants.

When we attended the mandatory boat safety meeting, we learned that our cruise was being rerouted because Hurricane Tomas, while on his way out, was still leaving some windy, rainy weather behind. We were supposed to arrive in the Bahamas the next day but instead we would spend three days sailing to St. Thomas, then move on to St. Maarten, and finally end up at the Bahamas on the second to last day of the cruise. That was okay with me... it may have even been better. Instead of worrying about having to be ready to get off the boat the next day, we could just sleep in and relax.

That brings me to our room... we had an exterior state room with a balcony. Besides having loud, chain-smoking neighbors, we loved our room, and we enjoyed the balcony when they weren't out on theirs.

We took full advantage of the days we spent on the boat.

My mom and I visited the spa and got the fire and ice manis and pedis. Basically this is a normal manicure and pedicure, but they rub an icy cream on your arms and legs and then cover them with hot towels. You go from feeling super warm to feeling so cold you get goose bumps. Then they massage your arms, legs, hands, and feet with oiled hot stones. The manis and pedis were nice -- we left with pretty fingers and toes and felt relaxed -- but not at all worth what they charge for them.

The next day Jeff and I got a couples' massage -- again it was very nice but not at all worth what they charged. But the two of us are both naturally tense people so it was a good way to get us to just unwind a little and relax.

We visited the hot tubs at least once a day. I didn't count them all, but there were a ton of hot tubs on the boat. Usually we could find some empty ones after the people with a 6:30 seating had gone to dinner (we had the 8:30 seating). This one right below was our favorite. I liked being able to look over the side of the boat; Jeff liked that it had two TVs.

Jeff and my dad played some shuffleboard and pingpong during the week.

I obsessively read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

My parents went to check out Hairspray.

We went to the champagne bar a couple of times. I always ordered a Kir Royale (Champagne and Chambord).

And the waiter would bring over some complimentary hors d'ouerves.

One night at the Champagne Bar was enough for the guys though, so they got beers at another bar and then joined my mom and me with our girly drinks.

We finally made it onto the floating bar on our last night. It starts on the 5th floor and travels up to the 8th while you're on it and then back down again, which is kind of fun. And it's very aptly named Rising Tide.

But we never tackled the rock climbing wall, rode the zipline, or tried the FloRider.

And in spite of all our promises to ourselves, we never ran around the track.

But we did eat a lot! Up next: the food!

Still to come: St. Thomas/St. John, St. Maarten, and The Bahamas