kristen reNae

travel

Cinco de Mayo Cruise

My first experience on a cruise could not have been on a better weekend: Cinco de Mayo. Not only was it on one of my favorite “holidays”, but it was also going to Ensenada, Mexico.

The cruise was out of Long Beach, which was about a two hour drive from San Diego. So we decided to head up there on Wednesday and stay the night for an easy departure the next day.

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Thursday flew by and we were soon boarding our Carnival Imagination Cruise. The setup was about the same as a plane (as far as boarding) – you went through security, getting your “pass”, and then finding your room. 2016-05-05 14.16.20 2016-05-05 14.16.30 IMG_7031

After receiving your pass, you are immediately bombarded with photographers wanting to take your picture at every station. This was fun for the first couple of days, but a little uncomfortable. We found our rooms fairly quickly and then decided to explore the ship.

We found the main stage, dining rooms, multiple bars, casino, and clubs. It seemed to never end and I knew I would indefinitely get lost.DCIM100GOPROGOPR0619. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0621. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0623. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0624. 2016-05-05 15.36.41 2016-05-05 15.38.04

 

The ship finally departed around 530 and we had to do the mandatory safety briefing, which seemed disorganized and was extremely boring, but understandable.

After the briefing was over we decided to have a couple adult beverages and head up to the main deck where there was a DJ and Cinco de Mayo festivities. They were giving out sombreros, fake mustaches, and chili necklaces. I scored a small plastic sombrero headband which accompanied my poncho perfectly.

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The first night, we had a taste of everything – we enjoyed the main deck, casino, main dining room for dinner, and the piano bar – such a fun night.

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Saturday quickly approached and our day was off to a running start, literally. Since Mike and I are training for a Marathon, we had to get in a “long” run. We knew we would be on the ship so we managed to get ten miles in on a treadmill. Although it was extremely boring, I am so glad we got it done. (Also, the gym was really nice)

This also happened to be the day we were at the Ensenada port of call. So, after our run we attempted to get breakfast quickly. However, there really isn’t any way to get food “quickly” on this cruise. I was amazed at how many people were constantly in line for food. The food was always there, but people seemed like they would never eat again. Anyways, we finally grabbed some food and headed off the ship to explore.

We walked from the port into the main Ensenada strip for a little over an hour. The streets were filled with small businesses mainly for tourists. Some items were very beautiful, most were souvenir trinkets.2016-05-06 07.19.27 2016-05-06 11.20.03 2016-05-06 12.02.54 2016-05-06 12.03.02 2016-05-06 12.03.30

Next time I would probably sign up on an excursion – they had offered tours in their main strip (which was either a bar crawl or shopping), wine tours, and other miscellaneous tours – all seemed like they would have been a good time.

Mike had taken this cruise before and had an acquaintance at this small tequila hut. His station was right next to the ship, so we felt safe having a “couple” drinks with him. However, the “couple” quickly turned into a couple more. We finally called it quits and headed back to the ship with enough time to rest up and then get ready for our dinner.2016-05-06 12.52.26 2016-05-06 14.29.39 2016-05-06 14.31.30

We missed our initial dinner setting and ended up at the later dinner, sitting with a group from the L.A. area who had a great energy/vibe about them. Although the dinner was great, it had been a long day and the motion sickness (maybe tequila) was getting to us. Needless to say, it was an early night.

Saturday was our “day at sea” and we decided to get our breakfast on and then spend the day next to the pool. By the time we made our way up to the pool deck, the majority of seats were taken, so we ended up on the upper deck, which actually ended up being the best seats in the house (mainly for people watching).cruise1

The Carnival Crew put on a show right in front of our seats for the “hairiest chest contest” – I know it sounds totally sick, but it was hilarious. It turned into a Magic Mike show and it was great.

We spent the day laying out, eating food, jumping in the pool and just relaxing until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Saturday evening was our formal night (not sure if it corresponded with everyone else lol) and we headed to dinner. After dinner, we decided to try out a “show” called “Divas” – not quite what I expected, but definitely worth a try. After that, we headed to the piano bar, and this time we stayed for the “adult” version – needless to say – we all had a great time.2016-05-07 23.09.45

Sunday we were docked at Long Beach in the early hours and were ready to jump off the boat to head back to San Diego. Hands down I would do another cruise; however, I might stick with another short day cruise.

If you have any recommendations of cruise lines or destinations, would love to hear them!

 

cruise3The turn-down service always left a cute little towel animal – I was so excited to see each one. Aren’t they just adorable?!

Washington DC + Cherry Blossom Festival

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When Mike and I moved to the East Coast, we were excited to live closer to his family. However, his immediate family lived in Maryland at the time, which was about a seven hour drive from us. Fortunately, we were able to drive down several times a year to visit.

One of our first trips to Maryland happened to fall at the tail end of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.6.30.14 027

His sisters had been a few times and suggested we make a day trip out of it. This was the perfect time to go, there were trees still blossoming and we beat the busy crowds from the first weekend of the festival.6.30.14 042

The crisp East Coast weather and the blossoming trees symbolized the arrival of spring for our visit.

The story goes that the plantings of the cherry blossom trees originated as a gift in 1912 from the emperor of Japan to the United States as gesture of friendship and goodwill. Since then, the number of trees has expanded from 3,000 to approximately 3,750 trees of 16 varieties on National Park Service land.

Obviously there is a ton of history to begin with, but the addition of these beautiful trees to the already magnificent landscape was incredible.

I had never been to DC before, so there was everything and more that I wanted to see! However, with only a day to explore, we didn’t visit any museums; that would be a definite for next time. I would highly recommend spending more time there.

Here are a few photos from the adventure:6.30.14 025 6.30.14 024 6.30.14 017 6.30.14 036 6.30.14 048

 

 

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After spending the day walking through the memorial grounds, cemetery, and monuments, we made our way to Alexandria, Virginia for dinner and then we walked around the harbor area before heading back to Maryland.group

I will definitely be planning another trip to the Washington D.C. area and would love any recommendations on places to eat in the area and museums to see! Please leave suggestions and comments below!

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Pablo Escobar

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Those “who forget their history are doomed to repeat”

Our tour guide from Comuna 13 advised us to contact him if we wanted to venture out, as he also offered private tours. When in Colombia, you of course need to do a Pablo Escobar tour. I mean, how can you live in Colombia and not learn about a man that ultimately changed the city of Medellín? So we set up a private tour for that following Saturday.

The first stop was to Escobar’s private “jail”, aka “La Catedral”. The government negotiated with Escobar, convincing him to surrender in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment at this jail. The agreement would stand if he ceased all criminal activity, however, if he was caught, then they would prosecute and extradite him to the U.S..

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The jail consisted of separate rooms for him and about eight personal body guards, a helicopter pad, and a fútbol field. In 1992, the government found out that Escobar was still operating his drug business from La Catedral, so they sought to move him to a more conventional jail. However, he found out about the plan and escaped before they could move him.

His total jail stay was about a year until his final escape. Escobar was on the run for over a year until he was finally caught at his uncle’s house. There, they surrounded him, and contradictory to what many believe, is that he shot himself in the head before his captors could kill him.

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Pablo drove a hearse during his escape to stay under the radar.

 

 

 

 

Our tour explored the jail grounds (which now serves as a retirement home and also a place that priests conduct exorcisms), his grave, the neighborhood he stole his first bike, the house he grew up in, the café he was a regular at, the place he died, as well as, the neighborhood he built. The only place we did not visit was his “ranch” – which other tours will take you on (and I would definitely recommend).

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We were told that Medellín was split between those that loved him and those that hated him. There were also many men under him who had way too much power and exploited a lot of the city and the people. Throughout this time, many people were killed; some out of hateful actions towards a specific person, but many were innocent bystanders.

At one point, Escobar offered anywhere from 2000 to 5000 pesos to civilians who killed a cop. They were instructed to remove the police patch as proof and the payment depended on the cops level of hierarchy. So in retaliation, the police began killing civilians. They stated that for every one cop that was killed, they would kill four civilians at random. Sometimes they would pull up to a street corner and take fire at a crowd. These were horrible times the people had to live through – but Medellín has become a much more peaceful city now.

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As with the last tour – our guide showed much pride in the progress this city has made. They are rebuilding the city, offering the metro, cable cars, and a new trolley system – much of it free to the people. The city has been recognized with the happiest citizens and other countries have approached Colombia to copy the systems they have put in place for creating better welfare for their citizens.

So, although Escobar created a lot of turmoil for his country and the people, Colombia has risen from those dark times and created a much better environment.