Everything went as planned, and Erica and I were married in Miami on January 14, 2006 aboard the Royal Caribbean ship "Navigator of the Seas". Since I've had a few people ask me already, here's the log of what we did.
We set out from Aurora, IL on Friday morning for O'Hare, and met up with Erica's parents, brother, grandmother, and aunt there. After a little excitement before boarding (Erica's dad disappeared, people went to look for him, he showed up, and then we couldn't find the rescue party), we hopped aboard our American Airlines flight to Miami International Airport. When we arrived, I checked in with my mom and the rest of my family: they'd all arrived just fine, and were getting ready to call it a night. We grabbed a bite, and packed it in for the evening. The next morning, we split up: Erica and her mom headed to a hair appointment, and the rest of us packed up and headed for the dock, where everyone from both families finally met up for the first time. After a fairly lengthy delay, the ship was cleared for boarding about 35 minutes before we were scheduled to have the wedding, so everyone scrambled for their rooms, got ready VERY quickly, and headed to the other end of the ship for the ceremony in the ship's chapel.
The ceremony was brief, but didn't have the "cheeziness" that you would expect of a cruise ship wedding; the officiant (who had been helping us get on the ship all morning, and generally making sure everyone had the documentation and clearances they needed) treated the ceremony with the significance and demeanor you would expect for a wedding, and the other coordinator who helped us worked just as hard to keep things moving behind the scenes. The photographer was hilarious; he reminds me of Mitch, the fellow building the engine for my Eclipse, in that he was a complete geek about what he did (and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word; he really seemed to love what he did, and while he was a consummate professional about the whole thing, you could tell he loved geeking out about photography and digital imaging) and took a lot of pride in his work. Anyway, after the ceremony, we got everyone together on the staircase in front of the ship's main stage for a group shot, and then we spent the next hour running around the ship with the photographer getting pictures all over. A quick change, and we were ready to watch us leave port, and head for dinner and the welcome-aboard show. Not bad for what would normally be a lazy Saturday. ;-)
The next day was at sea, which worked out great; everyone had a chance to get the layout of the ship, see what there was to see aboard, and generally relax after a fairly "exciting" first day. We picked up our first piece of art of the cruise from "Park West At Sea", a piece on wood by Slava Brodinsky depicting the Tuscan countryside. As it turns out, we also won a serigraph by Emile Bellet, which I have no idea what we'll do with.
On Monday, we pulled into San Juan, Puerto Rico. Erica, my sister Sharon, and I all headed for Fort San Cristobal for a little sightseeing. After that, we split up and did a bit of shopping downtown, then back to the ship for dinner and a broadway musical show.
Tuesday was probably the highlight of the cruise for me, second only to the wedding. We pulled into St. Thomas, and headed immediately over to a dive shop called "Waterworld Outfitters" to make sure everyone had the necessary gear, and then we headed out with Underwater Safaris (who appear to be all part of the same company) to Buck Island, a couple of miles south of St. Thomas. First, we hit Rye Reef, which was cool, but the second dive was the impressive one: we saw the Cartanza Sr., a World War I tramp steamer that had broken up into several pieces, with an open view of the engine room and it's two engines, and a beautiful approach view of the forward bow of the ship. There was a barracuda hanging out behind one of the engines, and over the course of the two dives we managed to catch a view of a "baby" giant sea turtle, a puffer fish, and a ton of other random fishies. What a great time. That night, after a bit of shopping downtown, we watched the Ice show aboard, and grabbed dinner in the main dining room, where Sharon showed us her brand new camera that she managed to get an incredible deal on in the "shopping capital of the caribbean". ;-)
Wednesday was St. Maarten/St. Martin, and both sides of the family went on a bus tour of the Dutch and French sides of the island. We had about an hour to wander the flea market on the French side (where I managed to pick up some papaya hot sauce, and Jeff managed to barter a $300 titanium ring with a sapphire for his girlfriend down to $100), and then we headed back to the Dutch side, where Erica, Sharon, Mom, and I all wandered the shopping area, picked up some Belgian chocolate, and laughed at the store called "That Yoda Guy". We grabbed a water taxi back to the ship, ate dinner, and caught an excellent Motown performance aboard ship. Late that night, we attended the midnight Gala Buffet, then crashed.
Thursday was another relaxing day at sea, which all of us desperately needed after going full-tilt up to this point. We slept in, headed down to the art auction, and picked up a piece by Alfred Gockel called American Vet, rounding off our cruise artwork purchases. We also managed to meet up with Domcic Vladan (the afore-mentioned photographer) who gave us first cuts of our photos (and all of them, on CD), along with a very cool video slideshow of the pictures that he made for us as well. The rest of the day was spent lounging around, and eating. ;-)
On the final day of the cruise, we hit Nassau, Bahamas. Both Erica and I had been here before, so we ended up taking a late departure from the boat, and heading to the local public beach with her brother and splashing around a bit before taking a leisurely walk through the downtown area, and heading back to the boat early. We were entertained with a final show aboard ship, as well as a rather large goodbye dinner. I can't say enough good things about the service we received from our waiter and assistant waiter (Jose, from the Phillipines, and Dwayne, whose home country I can't remember off the top of my head), as well as the head waiter who spent far more time with us than I was accustomed to on previous cruises. We worked right up until the deadline to get our bags packed and out in the hall, and divvied up the photos between parental units, and collapsed for the night.
Come Saturday morning, we were up bright and early to get the early ship departure window. We were delayed quite a bit by the late arrival of one of our bags (and the non-arrival of one of Erica's parents' bags), then rushed over to the airport to catch the plane home, which I slept on most of the way back.
What a week. I'm amazed at how well things went, with 19 family members along with three sides of the families represented; much better than I expected things to go. The dive trip was incredible; I can't wait until summer when Erica and I can hit the quarry for a few more dives. The Sensus Pro units that Erica picked up for us did a fine job of logging everything (which I'll have to come up with a way of representing online), and I'm pretty much convinced that by the next time we take a serious dive trip, we'll be bringing all of our own gear. The wedding was great, and reflected us perfectly: brief and without a lot of hype and fanfare, but solemn and respectful as well. And we were able to give a few members of both families an experience that some of them would never have had a chance to have otherwise, which almost made this trip worth it all by itself.
Now I need a vacation from my vacation. ;-)