Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pirating the Caribbean II: St. Croix

St. Croix, USVI
May 2011
Royal Caribbean Cruise island stop #2 of 6
All photos unfiltered

This bad boy was much needed after my first scuba experience.

Like serious, man. #Respect

Hard to keep track of time on islands.
About to get my scuba dive on at Cane Bay Dive Shop. Never been diving before. Thought I was going to be awesome. #IWasWrong
This little chow is watching over the scuba gear.

So like much of the Caribbean, St. Croix is known for its scuba, but Cane Bay is considered one of the best places to dive in all the Caribbean because of a spot called the Wall. According to the Cane Bay Dive Shop website, the Wall drops from 40 to 3,200 feet, and includes essentially an underwater wall. But you can only dive that site if you're certified. I'm not. Never gone diving before. Thought I'd be a quick learner and asked if I could still do the Wall. Guide scoffed. They put on some 10-minute training video for me to watch, but there was an army of ants in the room and I spent all my time trying to avoid attacks, as opposed to learning how to operate that respirator-thing.

In a beginner's course of 3 people, I'm the only person who's never dived before. The other guys were working on their last dive before getting certified. When it comes to a scuba trip, you only get to stay out as long as the crappiest person. So if they run out of oxygen, everyone's heading back. This would not bode well for the others. After "viewing" my pointless instructional video, we waded out to the shallow end of Cane Bay. My first underwater breathing test resulted in the guide telling me "to calm your shit." I got water into my respirator, didn't know how to release it, began breathing through my nose, started suffocating, it was a shit show like Bravo's primetime lineup. Dipped my head under the water a second time, and the guide was like "good enough. Let's go." Always reassuring. As we backstroked to our dive site about 20 yards or so away, I thought for one of the very infrequent times in my life - that I might actually seriously injure myself. I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and if I panicked deep under water, I couldn't just rocket myself back to the surface without suffering from decompression sickness, the bends, which could cause permanent damage to the brain. The cheap ass part of me was also thinking - man, I might have to just eat the costs of this and swim back to shore, because I clearly don't know what the hell I'm doing!

This photo courtesy:
So this is some of what's to be seen at The Wall. This is not my photo as the camera I was using at that time couldn't go down to the depths we went. This is also not where I went; the company wouldn't allow me to go to the depths of the Wall for liability purpose. I don't remember how deep we went, I'd guess around 20-feet. Everything you see is incredible. It's as the scuba junkies say, it's the closest thing to space we can imagine. You're just floating around observing sea life do its thing. That said, I couldn't even really focus on enjoying the moment because I was so freaked out about breathing correctly and not giving myself brain damage. I was sucking up my oxygen tank with these huge yoga-esque breaths to calm myself. The guide told me to tap him when anyone hit the 50% mark of their oxygen tank. Knowing how quickly I was sucking up my tank, I tapped our guide at the 55-60% mark. He gave me the OK sign and we continued on. At the 40% mark, I tapped him again. A-OK he responds. 25% mark. A-OK. At this point, I'm starting to get nervous because I have no idea how far out we are, and he's probably underestimating my nerves of plastic. I'm down to about 5-10% of my tank, and tap him again… then realize that we're in a very shallow part of the ocean and if I stood up, I'd be above water. Freaked out for no reason. #WorstScubaDiverEver #DefinitelyShortenedTheOtherDiversTrips #oops
This guy knows how I was feeling post-dive.

Got a mahi maui burger and some tasty cocktail at this spot called Eat. All good. Though this 90-gallon dollop of aioli mayonnaise seems a bit much in retrospect.

Met some local at the bar. The locals there are stoked to meet tourists, forgot the name of the dude, but he was willing to drive me around to some other touristy spots - like the St. Pellier Hut Domino Club, which features a famous beer drinking hog!

Tada!!! This hog has been sucking down so much beer that animal rights activists started taking notice, so the bar and patrons started feeding him alcohol-free beer. If this were the Qwik-E-Mart in "The Simpsons", Apu would be in trouble.

Just being a friendly bartender.

The pig sucks it all down. Makes sure there's not even a drop left.

Then spits out the aluminum can. 

You know this dude has a problem, because no one likes O'Douls. 

These little guys are hopefully not going to be following in the same non-alcoholic footsteps.  Good lord,  is this what the other guy looked like before O'Douls took over his life??? #CautionaryTale

Didn't see any domino playing. Just beer-drinking pigs. But that doesn't sound as good on the marquee. #OrDoesIt?

Some random dam my new buddy/tour guide took me to. I asked him straight up - only half joking - "Uhh, you're not going to kidnap me are you? Cuz the ransom won't go for much."
The port. Christiansted.

That's my boat.


Next: Sailing in Antigua

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Pirating the Caribbean I: St. Thomas

St. Thomas, USVI
May 2011
Royal Caribbean Cruise island stop: #1 of 6
All photos unfiltered

Homage to old Toyota commercials at Drake's Seat. View behind is of Magens Bay.


Magens Bay. That water color tho.

Those tree limbs tho.

I strongly suggest renting a car on island cruise stops. Allows you to explore way more of the island compared to a cruise excursion. 

Hull Bay.


My dad snorkeling in Magens Bay.

Carib lager. A Caribbean beer brewed in Trinidad & Tobago. Don't remember how it tastes. But it was consumed on a beach in the Carib. Pretty sure it tasted awesome.

Coki Beach. Major snorkeling area. 

This looks like the island in "Cast Away." It's not. I'm just saying.

Pops getting that snorkel and mask action on a little early.

These are fish. Duh.

But he didn't say why!!!
If you want to be That Guy, the sand really isn't as white as it could be… #DBagComments

Ritz Carlton. My dad loves him some luxury hotels. Not to stay at, to pretend he stayed at!

I guess the Ritz is alright.
Next: St. Croix, being the worst SCUBA diver ever, and a beer drinking pig.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Outlandish Icelandic Cuisine & More: Iceland the Sequel

Who needs words when pictures can tell a story? The conclusion of my Iceland trip - surfing, spas, trying outlandish Icelandic cuisine - told via photo captions #AndHashtags! #ImLazy

Practically private parts.

This is þorlákshöfn. As is the photo above. Don´t ask me how that´s pronounced. Although the þ is sounded out like "th." This was in the southwestern part of the Island. The water was definitely cold, but our wetsuits were super thick and included gloves, booties, and full head cap. There really was no place for water to seep in. 

Entrance. The paddle out took forever. There were long, rolling waves - we're talking 4-6 footers for the most part. It certainly picked up at times, even started to drizzle for a little while, but was cool to say we surfed in Iceland. It was also expensive as hell because gas is so costly. We went with a group called Arctic Surfers, the guides were awesome, super chill dudes that you wouldn't mind just hanging out with. Talking with some locals about surfing, they said that was a total tourist thing to do - as no Icelanders would consider jumping into the freezing ocean. I don't know how cold the water was, but if I were to guess - 40-50 degrees? One of the benefits of not knowing, is that you can trick yourself into thinking it's warmer (or colder) than it actually is. #Placebo
This is at þingvellir, also known as the Continental Divide. It´s a major tourist destination along the country´s famous Golden Circle tour that features waterfalls, river, and off in the distance, Iceland´s largest natural lake, þingvallavatn.

This is the actual fault line at the Continental Divide. Every year, these rocks actually separate a few centimeters.
This is a restroom that we had to pay about $2 to use. It does have a nice view. #Stupid

We climbed over a rope to get this picture. Such rebels. We´re living on the edge like Aerosmith in 1993.
I don´t know how I passed on this deal.
This is Strokkur, a geyser in the appropriately titled town called Geysir. It erupted every 5-10 minutes, which was cool because I´m a lazy photographer and didm´t want to sit around forever. Probably shoots around 50 feet in the air. Geysir is also part of the Golden Circle. #NotAsCoolAsOldFaithfulAtYellowstone #Murica

Pretty sure this is a shrine to Steelers' defensive end Brett Keisel.

This is Gullfoss. Another stop on the Golden Circle. It´s an impressive series of waterfalls.
I'm impressed with how close we could get to the falls. The area isn't monitored by anyone. I'm not impressed with this pose, however. #Tool
More Gullfoss.

Dinner at the Linden House, which came highly recommended by Lonely Planet… or did it?  The guide book called it the best restaurant in the area "for miles" - but if there aren't any other places to eat for miles - what does that really mean? The head chef spent some time in NY, sounded impressive. They made an amazing lobster bisque. You're looking at a terrible picture of grilled lamb, which was spectacular. Among other native foods tried: arctic char - a local fish, tasted kind of like a whitefish; some weird bird that I've already forgotten the name; reindeer; and ahem, horse. Yes, we tried horse. To be honest, it's not as bad as you might think, it's just the concept of eating horse that's unfortunate. That said, I won't be trying it again.

Viking ship sculpture in Reykjavik. This boat probably wouldn't float very well. 

Outskirts of downtown Reykjavik.

Harpa Music Hall in Reykjavik. Only the finest performers get invitations to play here - like Insane Clown Posse.

I liked this mural of fake Iceland landmark stamps: there's volcanos, vikings, geysers, waterfalls, flag, horse, and Bjork. #TheresNoBjork

Tjörnin - a small lake in downtown Reykjavik. Lot of swans up in that lake. I had to tell them to stop looking at me. #BillyMadison

Hallgrímskirkja - a church in downtown Reykjavik. 

Chuck Norris Grill. There are Chuck Norris facts written on the windows.  Here's a classic: Chuck Norris has a grizzly bear carpet in his room. The bear isn't dead, it's just afraid to move. 

That's smoked whale from Sjavargrillid (Seafood Grill). There was also puffin somewhere on this sampler. A lot of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik offer a puffin and whale menu. I don't remember what they taste like specifically, but I was not a fan. Whale is supposedly like red meat, with an ever-so slight fish taste, but I could clearly taste the sea. In case you're concerned about eating whale and puffin out there, the whale population in Iceland is enormous and are not even remotely close to endangered species. I still wouldn't try either again. Was craving a McDonalds' Filet O' Fish though.
This is a bar called B5. I think. The nightlife in Reykjavik starts around midnight and goes until about 4-5a. According to locals, everyone's cooped up during the week then go all Amanda Bynes on the weekend - meaning Friday and Saturday. We went out briefly on Sunday night, as well. #GhostTown Drinks are expensive, people are nice.  Women are gorgeous, and on average, around 6-feet tall! Among the bars/clubs we went to: Austur, Kaffi Barinn, Bar 11, Celtic Cross, The English Pub, Harlem - I would make recommendations, but I don't know which one was which.

Meandering the streets of Reykjavik at 4am, you stumble upon a lot of strange sights. Sorry to say we didn't make it inside. No pun intended there. Icelanders, grow up!

The famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spas. Probably the country's biggest tourist attraction, Iceland is known for great hot springs, the plus about the Blue Lagoon, is that there's no sulphur smell. The water is surreally blue because of the algae, silica, and minerals. 

When we got to the Blue Lagoon the weather was awful, but the water itself was about 90 degrees, depending on the spot. In addition to the giant lagoon, there were saunas, steam rooms, and some weird facial mud mask that allegedly does wonder for your skin. We smothered it on our faces, but I don't know if it did anything, except poop on our masculinity.