The author and expert cruiser report from Olivia’s Western Caribbean cruise.

I don’t know if there can be any good last day when it comes to a vacation. But our last day on the ship was cold and rainy and windy and we found ourselves spending it reading and napping and trying to prepare ourselves for “re-entry” into our normal everyday lives.

The highlight of the day was actually the night. Vickie Shaw performed and was as hilarious, as always. Then we enjoyed a fabulous last dinner in the dining room.

After that, it was off to the Olivia Idol Finals, which turned out to be pretty amazing. The finalists were great, performing numbers including Downtown, Keep Your Hands to Yourself, You and I, and Boondocks.

But the judges and the host were as entertaining as the finalists. Julie Goldman hosted and Vickie Shaw, Lori Michaels, Gina Yashere, and Sweet Baby J’ai were the judges. After each contestant performed, the judges gave their feedback, which was always equal parts supportive and hilarious.

Jen Smith was the winner. And it was definitely well-deserved. She was incredible. After the show, we headed to “Club O” in the Crow’s Nest and danced till we were nearly the last ones on the floor.

We hadn’t even packed a thing and we had to disembark at 7:45 Sunday morning. So, I guess we were in a little bit of denial.

When we finally couldn’t put it off any longer, we made our way back to our room and got all packed up. We slept a few short hours and before we knew it, there was a knock at our door—breakfast: our favourite wake up call.

We had hardly finished eating and gathering up the last of our things when the announcements called for all of those carrying their own luggage off.

That’s the only way we like to do it. Otherwise, you have to have your luggage outside of your door by 1:00 am and collect it when you disembark. I prefer to keep it with us and not mess around.

The whole process could not have been any quicker or smoother. Before the stroke of 8:30, we were already checked into our room back at the Intercontinental. I was really impressed that they were able to have our room ready that early. We just called in advance and they generously accommodated.

Flights were way cheaper back home to Dallas on Monday morning than Sunday, making it more economical to stay the night. The Intercontinental turned out to be the perfect choice for pre-and post-cruise lodging.

It’s only about two blocks from Tampa’s Westshore Plaza, with lots of restaurants, including PF Chang’s and Pinkberry, where we had dinner and dessert respectively.

And there are plenty of other places to eat within walking distance as well, including Subway and Chipotle.

We had big plans to spend the day at the pool since the weather was gorgeous. But between walking to lunch, napping, and walking to dinner.

Our flight leaves at 6:00 am in the morning. So, it’ll be a short night’s sleep before the hotel’s 5:00 am free airport shuttle takes us back to Tampa International.

It was an amazing week. It really was. Regardless of the weather and the sometimes-bumpy seas, it simply didn’t seem to matter.

The only thing that did matter was having the chance to meet and hang out with 1300 incredible women who want nothing more than to live free, open and honest and free.

Every time I hear the Olivia theme song, Beautiful Together, I imagine a different world where, as the song says, “We lift each other up and we’re feeling free… And we live our truth and we love our lives… I love the way we love everybody free… Every kind of love is alright with me… Come outside the whole world’s alive…We’re living free and we’re loving life.”

Until then…