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6 Things That Made Our Hearts Pound on Our Caribbean Cruise

“There he goes again,” I thought to myself between heavy breaths. He was a 50-something runner who had the pace of a jaguar. He ran in thigh-high running shorts—you know, the marathon type—a bare chest, which dripped salty sea-air sweat, and a pair of nondescript running shoes. He lapped me and everyone else on the cruise ship’s outdoor jogging track that morning. I don’t think he noticed us at all, except when he had to juke and jolt between walkers. He’s a runner, that’s his trip, and he was simply doing his thing.

I’m a runner too, but I’m nothing like him. I don’t do it because I love the sport. I don’t have any real aspirations to run a marathon or travel to Africa to run with competitive runners (OK, that does sound pretty cool). For me, it’s a necessary evil, more so as I creep closer to 40. Personally, I’d much rather be surfing or skateboarding or even playing tennis, anything really. But running is easy to do, especially when traveling. That’s how I found myself on the track with the runner.

As we ran independent of one another around the whale tale of the Carnival Dream, I decided to challenge myself. “The next time he passed,” I thought, “I’d lock on to him and see how many laps I could do at his pace.” He zoomed by and I picked up my pace; he had no idea, of course, that some weirdo was now drafting him, but I kept pace: one lap…two laps…two and a quarter…come on Randy, you can do it!…two and a half…three laps. We roared around the track going nowhere, as we moved closer to Montego Bay, Jamaica. My whole body tingled as I slowed and bowed out; he kept going only to lap me, again, several minutes later.

That morning on the track, though, wasn’t the only time my heart raced on our Caribbean cruise. Truth be told, we get a little bored just sitting around the pool drinking Mai Tai’s all day on vacation, so we took full advantage of any adventures that we could find. One of things I really enjoyed about cruising was the variety of options we had on and off the cruise ship. If we felt like lounging the sea day away, we could. If we wanted to work out, we could do that too. If we wanted an adventure, while that was also an option. We were able to strike up a good balance between relaxing and adrenaline pumping activities, which really fits our travel style. Here are six things we did on our Carnival cruise that got our hearts jumping.

Freewheelin, four-wheeling Jamaica

The simple act of riding an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) gets me excited, driving one around the hills of Jamaica, well that’s like hitting a $1,000 lottery scratcher on pay day. We explored Montego Bay’s rural side with Chukka ATV Safari. For an hour or so we drove up and down dirt roads, traversed streams, and took in postcard views of Montego Bay most tourists never see.


Slip, sliding away

Growing up I had four interests: rollercoasters, waterslides, arcades, and skateboarding. Yes, to say I was a child of the 1980s would be a colossal understatement. Around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we had two water parks—Idlewild and Sandcastle. Of the two, Sandcastle was the best, as it boasted, at the time, some of the biggest waterslides in the state. I’ll never forget standing in line near the top of the park’s 60-foot high slides with my friend Ryan, who was about to tackle the wedgie-ripping vertical plunge for the first time. “Feel my heart,” he said as we moved closer to the top. “It’s beating so damn fast.”

Fast-forward 25 years. It’s been years since I’ve ridden a waterslide. As I get into position on the Twister Slide on the Carnival Dream, my heart beats fast and I can feel the adrenaline building as I look down the colored tube. Then…whoosh…I’m off! Coming out of the spiraling tube and into the pool of water, I feel like I’m 12 again. I race back to the top to try the DrainPipe, which is a style of water slide that didn’t exist in the waterparks of my youth. The first half is like the Twister Slide, but midway through you are shot out into a huge funnel, which whirl around like you’re being sucked into a drain. It’s a lot of fun.



In my brief experiences with yoga, I’ve found that sometimes it’s meditative and other times it’s more aerobic. Really, what you get seems to depend a lot on the instructor. Our fitness class on the cruise ship was a mix of yoga and Pilates, I’d guess you’d say, and that was all right by me. I have always preferred exercising in the morning, so it was a great way to start one of our sea days. Plus, our view in the exercise studio was dynamite. One whole side was floor to ceiling windows, giving us a view of the ocean as we practiced our downward dogs.


Well, hello, Bloody Maria, where have you been all my life?

I went through a heavy Bloody Mary phase in my early 20s. She was good to me then, but our relationship only lasted a year or two. It was my fault, really. I didn’t want to spend a lot on her—our dates often revolved around early mornings at San Diego dive bars like the Ye Olde Plank Inn in Imperial Beach–and she became tired and faded and lost that loving taste that brought us together in the first place. Now, after a 15-year hiatus, I think I’m ready to love another tomato juice cocktail. This time it’s the Bloody Maria. I didn’t go on our cruise to fall in love with another cocktail, it just kind of happened one morning at brunch. “Tequila instead of vodka,” I mumbled to myself while Beth looked at the shore excursion booklet. “That sounds interesting.” So, I went for it, and it hit the mark perfectly. My heart fluttered with every spicy sip, and I knew in that moment it was the start of a beautiful friendship.


Going deep in Grand Cayman

Sitting on the ocean floor and breathing as if you’re sitting on a sandy beach is a real rush. We went diving in Grand Cayman for the first time as part of the Discover Scuba Diving excursion. For the first 40 minutes or so, we learned several dive basics and practiced them on the lagoon floor. Breathing under the water, completely submerged, was exhilarating. Once our instructor gave us the A-Okay, we swam out to Cheeseburger Reef, where we hit depths of 45 feet. On one hand it was super relaxing to be floating around the reef, checking out the vibrant sea life, and on the other hand adrenaline was gushing through my body, because after all, I was nearly 50 feet below the ocean surface.


A cocktail for your thoughts

I’m three years away from 40 and I still get nervous when I have to approach strangers for interviews about a story I’m writing. My heart races, I get an adrenaline rush, and I sometimes I even start to sweat a little. However, once the initial introduction is behind me, I’m good. I’ve always been this way and realized long ago that if I wanted to succeed as a journalist then I just have to do it; no thinking, just go for it like jumping into a cold pool or ripping off a Band-Aid. During our cruise on the Carnival Dream, one of our assignments was to create an A to Z Cocktail Guide by buying other passengers drinks and getting their best cruise tips. Beth and I had a lot of fun working on the assignment, but I’ll be damned if we didn’t get little heart palpations every time we approached someone for the story.


What’s the best heart pumping adventure you’ve ever had on vacation? 

This post was created for Away We Go with Carnival, the destination for getting in the getaway state of mind.