ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 3)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

Day 5 – Belize Mayan Ruins

5 AM on Thursday … As the alarm clock started ringing Aaron and I groggily looked over on each other debating whether we should go explore some Mayan ruins in Belize or take the day to sleep. Cruises can be exhausting if you are always on the hop with different shore excursions. However, you must keep in mind that this was my first real vacation in 8 years without any of my family or caregivers. So, while we might’ve squeezed a few too many adventures into our 7 days, Aaron popped out of bed and made quick work of getting me ready to go explore thousands of years of history!

We arrived in Belize City early that morning, but were anchored offshore. We were anchored at what is called a tendered port. Essentially, you have to take small little dinghies seating anywhere between 50 to 80 people from the cruise ship over to the port of Belize. These little tendered ports are not for the faint of heart, especially in a wheelchair, because with the rocking ocean and trying to lift my manual chair onto this little boat presented its own unique set of challenges. Fortunately, the weather was quite calm so we were able to physically leave the ship, but there are days when they will not allow a wheelchair to maneuver onto the small vessels.

Ligia, our concierge attendant on Royal Caribbean, escorted us to the tendered boat as we skipped all the lines 🙂 I was decked out in sneakers, sports cloths, my manual chair, and ready to get bounced around! It took us about 30 minutes of rocking around on this boat, but we made it to the dock. I’d been to Belize nearly 10 years ago and from what I had recalled, which turned out to be exactly correct, Belize City is no joke from a dangerous perspective. It is not a city you want to go roaming around in alone as a tourist … and certainly not with an expensive wheelchair! It has a very high crime rate, poor infrastructure due to a hurricane hitting the city years prior, and not a very friendly crowd. When we arrived at the docks there was a small little area for tourists and tour guides to meet up with one another, make haste of getting into a van, and getting the heck out of the city!

Since I hired a private accessible tour company who partners with local tour companies who claim to be handicap accessible, and who would be able to show us the Belize Zoo in addition to some Mayan Ruins – I was pretty excited! We did have quite a bit of bother trying to find our tour guide due to many miscommunications, but we did eventually find him.  We were running behind schedule though. I wasn’t quite sure how far away our excursions were, but we literally had to be back to the boat in five hours.

Our tour guide, Ricky from Roam Belize Tour Company, greeted us with a smile and proceeded to show us the way to our “accessible” handicap van. Well, there was a van, and there was a ramp that you had to take out of the van to attach to the rear of the vehicle to push me up. I would say it was accessible, but not particularly accessible friendly if you know what I mean 🙂 Once I was loaded into the back of the van I was looking for straps to lock in my wheelchair. Ricky informed us that there were no straps as they were a tour company that was just getting up and running with providing accessible tours to folks in wheelchairs. The way the van seats were laid out, unless I was a paraplegic and could transfer my own, was not going to work to transfer me onto an actual van seat because Aaron could not lift me up with a height of the van.

I did call the company to confirm and I filled out many forms saying that I was paralyzed from the chest down, and that needed to stay in my wheelchair, but being a foreign country things get lost in translation sometimes. No big deal we thought!

We decided to just keep me in my chair and sit next to Aaron. What I did not realize was that the roads in Belize were half paved at best. The moment we started driving down the road my chair fell backward and I thought I was going over. Fortunately, Aaron caught me and we figured for the rest of the way to the ruins he was going to have to weave his legs inside my wheelchair and hold on to me for dear life. We bounced around like two yo-yos for the better part of an hour and learned that it would take an hour to get to the ruins, then another hour to get to the Belize zoo, and then yet. another hour to get back to the port of Belize. Thinking critically about our time constraints we decided to give up the Belize Zoo and see the Mayan ruins in a relaxed manner, and stop somewhere locally for lunch.

One challenge with cruise ship excursions is that you can’t venture off too far in order to make it back to the ship on time. In Belize, the best ruins are at least 3 to 4 hours into the jungle, which was not particularly feasible in our case. So, we were only able to go see the smaller of the Mayan ruins, but thousands of years of history was awaiting us none-the-less. When we arrived we could see multiple buses from the cruise ships pulling in to the ruins as well.  We decided to hurry so we would beat the crowds as we had a private tour with our own tour guide. Aaron had never been to any kind of ancient Mayan Ruin before as I had on my previous trip to Belize 10 years ago. I knew what was in store for us, but the look on his face of pure joy and excitement when he saw these magnificent structures was absolutely priceless – perhaps the most memorable moment on the entire trip!

As we roamed around the ruins and took some pictures I could see Aaron anxiously waiting to climb the ruins as Ricky was giving us some history lessons on the Ancient Mayans who thrived roughly around 200 A.D. or so.  Many of these ruins had been hidden away by nature with mounds of sand, dirt, and time covering them. .In the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s many archaeologists started to excavate this part of the country to unearth the incredible civilization of the Mayans. One notable advance the Mayans made, and they were many, was a contribution to astronomy. High up in the tall ruins many of the higher society scientists would gaze at the stars for years on end and estimated the days of the year down to the fourth decimal place! It is completely mind blowing to think about. I could write an entire blog on the numerous facts we learned about the Mayan culture, but I will leave it to your curiosity to poke around Google!

There was only one specific location you were technically allowed to climb up, but Aaron threw out the rulebook and started climbing like a monkey. When Ricky turned his head Aaron was practically halfway up the side of the Mayan Ruin. He told me that was illegal, but I told him to relax a little bit and look the other way … I do not think Aaron was harming anything with these large stone structures. While the other tourists were huffing and puffing up the side of the ruin, Aaron was running circles around them 🙂

When we were done with our adventure we still had several hours before we had to be back to the ship. We asked Ricky to take us to his favorite local spot to eat and then pull off on the side of the road somewhere so we could have a little bit of a picnic. He told us he knew this beautiful waterway that we could pull off to and we were pretty keen to check this out.

Unbeknownst to us, what Ricky meant by beautiful waterway was a tiny dirt patch of land next to some water off the highway. While slightly disappointing, it was all about the company and we were fascinated to get to investigate Ricky’s life story a little bit more. Ricky did tell us that this was the “Make out Spot” for young kids in Belize in order to evade detection from their parents 🙂 Anyway, we had a lovely time eating local chicken, beans and rice, and plantains. I always find it more interesting to get to know a little bit more about the local culture of places I travel to.

On our way back to Belize City Ricky offered to drop us off into the city to walk around, but Aaron and I looked at each other cautiously, and kindly turned down his offer to likely get mugged in the middle of the city and miss our ship departure!

While the day presented us with some challenges we got to experience some lovely people, learn about ancient culture, and get off the ship for a few hours. As you might expect we were completely knackered by the end of the day, but we mustered up some strength to get changed, and find some food on the ship. We generally kept going to the cafeteria area, called the Windjammer, that was open most of the day where they served an over the top buffet daily. It was relaxed, not rushed, and we had the chance to speak with some of our fellow cruise mates until about 8 PM when we retired for our next day’s adventure.

Day 6 – Costa Maya, Mexico

Friday was our last excursion day before having one more day on the ship and then ending our cruise. We decided not to plan any excursions as we were not quite sure how we would feel by the end of the week. We were quite pleased with this decision as we were teetering on sheer exhaustion by this point. We were told by Ligia that Costa Maya was not actually a specific destination in Mexico. I was curious because I had looked up this location online and couldn’t find anything on this area in Mexico. As it turns out, and I had been aware of this, many cruise ship lines get together and purchase a piece of land or an island, especially in the Caribbean + Bahamas, and construct what I can only describe as a giant tourist island theme park of sorts.

I grew up in Cat Island, Bahamas, which is a very out island in the Bahamas with many dirt roads. A tiny island to the right of us about a 30 minute boat ride away was always a favorite camping spot of mine when I grew up. About 10 years ago I took one of my friends by boat to go check out this little island and I was completely flabbergasted to find cruise ships on this teeny tiny little island with all kinds of outdoor activities. I had learned the cruise ship lines had purchased this island, and, unfortunately, completely destroyed it.

So, once I heard the story from Ligia that the cruise ships had made this little tourist theme park I was well aware of what we were in for. I told Aaron about them and told him to be prepared to have a completely corny tourist day, which made for some pretty fabulous photo ops. I’m pretty sure many of the passengers had no idea what was going on, but we were able to pull right up to the port, right into this “fantasy like” island tourist theme park, and play a game of how many tourist activities we could participate in in just a few hours! Honestly, it provided Mucho entertainment 🙂

“Giant pool bar, piña colada’s, ceviche, and strike a pose!”

$20 ceviche… Coming right up :-)”

“Bargaining like a Tourist”

 

There were Mexicans flying through the air, swimming with dolphins, a fake snorkeling pool, restaurants galore, real and fake (Chinese made) Mexican trinkets to bargain for on every corner, a giant pool bar, and a treehouse bird sanctuary to name a few. I’ve included some pictures below which should require no explanation. Suffice to say… We were two giant children in a playground sipping piña colada’s and going from venue to venue!

“Behind us is a tree house type bird sanctuary and a dolphin swimming pool”

“Look… We found a shark!”

“Of course I had to take a picture with the giant fake fish”

“Flamingos… Naturally”

We were set to depart mid-afternoon back to Tampa Florida. We had the entire day on Saturday to roam the ship on our cruise day back.

Day 6 – Cruise Day

Honestly, I don’t think I took any pictures that day, we slept in a little bit, roamed around the ship some more, took a nap, took a shower, and packed up the room for an early departure at 8:30 AM the next morning. Most folks were packed in by the pool and soaking up in their last day. I actually found it quite chilly on the ships, so I was unable to really bask in the sun with the wind. We had to pack all of our luggage and put it outside the door the night before, and Ligia would meet us the very next morning to personally escort us off the ship!

We did manage to sneak in a beautiful specialty dinner at their Steak restaurant where Aaron ordered Rack of lamb with mint jelly, and I ordered a mediocre salmon. I have to admit Aaron’s rack of lamb was pretty much close to perfection!

Again, an early night for us as our adventures were about to come to an end!

Day 7 – Goodbye

We were up bright and early and, as promised, Ligia escorted us off the ship, through customs, through the thousands of people trying to scurry to find their luggage, and directly to our van parked a few blocks away. If that is not one-on-one service I don’t know what is!

If you don’t have some sort of VIP service or you are not in a wheelchair, you may want to think very carefully if you are claustrophobic about taking a cruise 🙂 The waves of people pushing one another, cutting lines, trying to be polite, but impatient at the same time, as they tried to debark the ship to perhaps make a flight was not the best representation of humanity I’ve ever seen!

Now, I’ve got one more blog to go to sum up my overall experience with taking a cruise in a wheelchair, so stay tuned for my Lessons Learned Next Week 🙂

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 2)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

We spent the first night, Sunday night, on the ship a little later than we planned dancing the night away. On Monday morning we docked in Key West, Florida for our first day’s adventure.

DAY 2 – Key West, Florida

We docked right in the center of the city of the island of Key West. For those of you not familiar with Key West, it is the coolest little funky island, and is the farthest South Island on the chain of the Florida Keys. It takes about 3 ½ hours to drive there on one road from Miami, Florida. It is filled with eclectic bars, unique restaurants with their own personalities, 1 million little shops with fabulous trinkets, and a group of folks who are so unbelievably laid-back. Most of the locals on Key West are the kind of people you just want to hang out with with the beer by the water, and hear their life adventures.

“The Port of Key West”

I’ve been to Key West many times before as I previously lived in Miami for about 10 years. On one of my adventures down to Key West with one of my great friends from college we ventured down to the island for something called Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is kind of like a Mardi Gras down in the keys. Thousands of folks drive down, dress up in the most wonderfully outrageous costumes, walk the streets, and party the night away. When I was 21 we headed down to Key West, but we forgot to book a hotel. So, we took my sisters truck and decided we would find a parking lot, and sleep in the back cab.

I was unbelievably surprised at the copious amounts of folks strolling around in giant penis costumes, body paint, and a ridiculous amount of other fun filled costumes. Of course we got ourselves into all kinds of devious trouble, met cute boys, partied the night away, and by 3 AM in the morning we ventured back to a church parking lot where we paid $70 to park our car for the night. When we woke up in the morning we were sleeping in the back of the pickup truck with our little feet hanging out the back side. We woke up to some strange folks tickling our feet… I’m not kidding. It was disturbing and hilarious all at the same time.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to take my power chair off the ship as Key West is relatively accessible. There is this one fabulous restaurant I’d remembered from years prior called Blue Heaven that was wildly eclectic with the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, and a laid-back atmosphere that made you want to just sit in a hammock with the Corona, and drink the day away. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to dive into Key West, so I had to make a strict itinerary so we could see a few things before we headed back to the ship. We met one of Aaron’s long-term family friends who had retired in Key West for lunch at Blue Heaven. We laughed, drank, ate delicious food, and then strolled around the little eclectic streets of Key West for hours. Key West doesn’t have many hotels, but rather these old colonial Bed & Breakfasts, which are just precious historical gems I would recommend if you head down that way. Now, they are not particularly handicap accessible, but if you’ve a strong man who can carry you up the stairs … Go for it!

“This sign display had been up for the last 15 years… I had been dying to take a picture and pay someone to watch them shower for a while ;-)”

 

We ended the afternoon at a Tiki hut bar, my absolute favorite, right on the ocean with some reggae music watching the boats sail by, and enjoying the 80° weather while sipping on some lovely alcoholic beverages.

As the day ended we boarded our ship and we were met by our fabulous concierge, Ligia. Continue reading

Let’s Talk about Sex Baby

I mean really, who doesn’t love sex? I suppose it is one of those taboo topics that you don’t talk about at the dinner table like politics or money, but it is such a natural act – I’m not quite sure why we are so weary to talk about the subject publicly.

Before my accident I thoroughly enjoyed sex, exploring my sexuality, and engaging in as much sex as I could 🙂 Admittedly, I probably had sex too young, but as the saying goes “curiosity killed the cat,” “curiosity killed my virginity.” I was a young teenager and I simply had to know what all the fuss was about. I even let a guy convince me that I could not go to high school a virgin because I would be the odd man out. How gullible we are as young teenagers!

For several years I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about as I don’t think I was doing it quite right … Not that many teenagers, in my opinion, know how to enjoy sex anyway. I finally met a guy when I was living in the Bahamas one summer who was several years older than I was and he really taught me about the enjoyment of sex. I mean we literally had sex classes on a daily basis with respect to experimenting with what felt good to me, what felt good to him, trying different positions, oral sex, etc. It was also new and exciting to me, and by the time our lessons had completed at the end of the summer I felt like I had earned a degree in sexual pleasure … Probably not something most parents want to learn about their children as teenagers 😉

“Partying in my young 20’s with my sister”

Over the next 10 years before my accident I had multiple partners and I was not ashamed of it either. Naturally, I think I was called several “not so nice names” by women around me, but I simply didn’t care. I was a completely free spirit and enjoyed sex just as much as I did hiking in the wilderness. I wanted to keep a diary for the future of all of my “Sexcapades” because in my mind I thought one day I would always write a book about sex. At that time Chelsea Lately was one of my role models and she had a brilliant book called “One Night Stands.” While I did have some more thoughtful and influential mentors, she was definitely my sex mentor. I decided to keep a little black book with all of the men I had slept with over the years. Honestly, sometimes I couldn’t remember their names, but I remembered where I met them, what they were wearing, what they looked like, what we did, etc. I will spare you the hot and juicy details, but after my accident I completely forgot about this book.

When I broke my neck the concept of sex completely flew out the window for me. I considered myself “A sexual” at that time and figured sex was behind me, which did not make me very sad because I certainly had my fair share of fun for 27 years before my accident in 2010. However, years later amongst all of my things I found multiple pieces of paper stapled together with all of my sexual exploits in a box. I must admit I was laughing my ass off because I had forgotten about many of these gentlemen. I decided to take the time and type several pages of stapled paper into a digital black book of sorts. I still have it to this day and I think that is what probably prompted me to finally start dating five years after my accident. A funny inspiration, but my personal story none-the-less.

Post-Accident Sex Continue reading

My Intimate Experience with a Paralyzed Guy BEFORE My Accident

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When I was strolling along the Art Deco streets of South Beach with my boyfriend this past month while on vacation in Miami I stumbled across one of my old stomping grounds … A beat up Irish pub called the Playwright where I would love to dance and get into trouble. I couldn’t resist popping in for memory sake when a flashback hit me of an experience I had with a gorgeous man in a wheelchair.

Beautiful South Beach

I must have been 24 years or so when I was out late one night and I spotted this beautiful man sitting at a table with his friends. I’ve always been the type of person to go up to random people and start talking to them. I walked over to the table, took a seat, and decided to strike up a conversation with the group. They happened to be from Australia and I have always been a sucker for Australian accents.

I was attracted to this one guy in particular and we started flirting. Continue reading

My Famous “Underwear” Dates!

When I first started online dating and meeting gentlemen I wasn’t quite sure how things would progress when I reached the bedroom stage of the relationship. I am paralyzed from the chest down with some arm function.  So, in order to get me into bed I have to have somebody lift me, take off my close, clean my catheter, and get me into position. Clearly this is not the most sexy activity and I was not quite sure how I was going to proceed with getting naked with men that I did not know very well.

As multiple dates progressed it was getting to the point where I was probably going to have to stop secret make out sessions around my apartment complex and take them upstairs. I explained to my gentleman callers I had caregivers that would help me with my daily living activities, but I did not explain what that entailed.

Several of these men were courting me and I felt I was at that point and comfortable to where I wanted to dive in and have sex with them. This still left me with the conundrum … How on earth was I going to look sexy for the first time?

I woke up one morning racking my brain because I had invited one of these men up to my bedroom on a Friday night and it was presently Wednesday morning. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I should be all prepared in bed for them so they did not have to do any work. I could put on sexy lingerie, tape my catheter tube to my body so they did not rip it out, lay myself in a somewhat attractive position, and have them walk into my apartment.

The next question that was playing in my mind was how to tell these guys that I would be ready for sex and all they had to do was walk into my apartment. I agreed with my caregivers beforehand that they would hide in their room when the guys walked in in order to not make them uncomfortable.

The term “UNDERWEAR DATE” was born. Essentially, I would be in my knickers and a sexy little blanket waiting for action! I didn’t think these guys would have any problem with the concept as I pretty much could not make it any easier for them 🙂 You must remember that this was a time in my life when I wanted to experiment sexually and I was not interested in a relationship. I needed to explore my body sexually and figure out what worked for me, and what did not. Clearly this would require a little bit of experimentation, a great deal of humor, and a carefree attitude.

“I was trying to be wonder woman in bed! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do”

I will not going to details of all of my underwear dates, but I will highlight a few of the funnies. Continue reading

SEX & ORGASMS….. Yes Please!

Considering the Quirky Quad Diaries is a blog on “Sex, Sass, and Spinal Cord Injuries” I thought I would dive into the topic of Sex in intimate detail!

Sex … I grew up in a culture in Europe where sex was a very open topic. I was taught to embrace my sexuality and not be ashamed of it, which so many societies, especially here in the United States, seem to shy away from.

Most sex shops are in the back of parking lots and buildings with no windows. I’m not quite sure why as a culture we are ashamed to go buy a porno film, vibrator or any other sexual toy that one desires. Why are we so quick to judge people on race, sexual desires, sexual preferences, etc.? The human condition perhaps?

This spills over into another topic. SEXUALITY & BEING HANDICAP. From numerous conversations with handicap folks and able-bodied folks over the years I’ve come to gather the impression that many people think just because someone is paralyzed that they are not sexual, cannot feel sex, nor do they enjoy it.

This is a very sensitive topic for most and one I am also intimately familiar with. For almost 5 years after my accident I did not think I would ever find love, have sex again, or find someone who would see beyond my disability. Whether you are overweight, short, tall, skinny, disabled, mentally impaired, or different it can be easy to assume sexuality can go out the door. I did not feel sexual, pretty or desirable as I did before the accident, which took me many years to overcome.

However, this particular blog is not about the emotional roller coaster of dealing with sexuality and being handicap. I want to focus on the physical act of Sex. I am constantly flooded with questions from handicap folks and able-bodied folks alike with respect to what the sex actually feels like for me? How about for most handicap folks?

While I cannot speak for everybody I can say that when you do have a spinal cord injury sex dramatically changes. The sexual nerves are wrapped around the bottom part of the spinal cord called the sacrum. If you sustain a spinal cord injury then your sexual function is impaired in the traditional sense no matter how paralyzed you are; whether from the neck down, chest down, waist down, legs down, etc.

As I was preparing to have sex for the first time I had no idea how it was going to feel like or if I would be able to orgasm.

The first question is what is an Orgasm?

Continue reading

Welcome to the “Quirky Quad Diaries”

This blog and website has been a long time in the making. I created the Quirky Quad Diaries on my personal Facebook page over the last year and a half. Several months ago I realized I had over 80 pages of blogs written on Facebook, but they were lost to the news feed.

So, I got off my butt and decided to create a website & blog to share my stories. Now, you can browse my stories, blogs, and other sections of this website at your leisure in an organized manner.

I created the Quirky Quad Diaries to share stories of my life experiences before and after the accident, crazy adventures I have experienced, things I have been through, and so much more. Hopefully, and above all, I will make you laugh, but I may make you cry, shock you, and hopefully will be able to bring a little joy to some people’s lives 🙂

I will do my utmost to post a blog each week unless I am on some sort of crazy adventure.

I have created multiple sections for this blog, so please poke around and explore!

About Me

Blog

Pictures

Crazy Medical Stories

My Life

Get Involved

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Please feel free to reach out to me as I love to help everyone and anyone in any way I can!