Thursday, April 28, 2016

Family cruise: Random memories and things we'd change

Random memories:

*Andrea:  Old lady comedian. 
There were two comedians on the ship--a man and a woman. Andrew and I went to the woman's PG show. It was hilarious. She was a middle aged woman who dressed up as an old lady and she cracked us up.

*Andrew:  Driving in our taxi in Cozumel and hearing people speak Spanish took me back to my mission.

*Whitney: Shopping in Cozumel.
Before the cruise, we had a yard sale. The girls helped work it and got to keep the money for souvenirs. They had fun shopping at all the touristy places right at the port in Cozumel. Whit bought a new wallet and a fan. Caroline got a travel neck pillow, fan, a pen, and a stuffed animal dolphin.

This is an "Oxygen Bar."
I have no idea what that means.
I thought they looked ridiculous.
But they did have a cool gun that shot bubble rings!

*Drew:  The sweet curly mustache on our crew member in Key West's snorkeling boat.
I wish I would have taken a picture of that, too! I think it was the craziest mustache I've ever seen in real life. 

*Whit:  How Mom failed on her dolphin trick.
Ha! That was hilarious! So, there were two different tricks where you had to swim out into the middle of the lagoon and the dolphin would come out to you. On the first one, we had to lay on our bellies and your feet HAD to be flexed or the dolphin couldn't push you on the boogie board. This was FIRMLY emphasized.

For the second trick, you were supposed to just float upright in the water, with your legs dangling down and the dolphin would swim up to you with his fins out of the water and you would hold on to them. I was one of the first ones to take my turn and didn't understand. I laid down in the water on my belly again, but tried to have my legs dangling down. Oops. Poor dolphin was so confused. He went ahead and pushed me like I was a boogie board, even though I was only in my life jacket. It was hilarious. Out of the ten people in our group, I was the ONLY one that failed. :( But it ended up working to my advantage because they sent me out for a second try. Woot! (And I did it right that time!)

*Drew:  There weren't many crazy college kids on the ship, but our next door neighbors were some of them. We had to call security on them one night because they were being so loud.

*Andi:  Our tablemates that we scared off.
So, we had four dinners on the ship. We like to eat in the sit-down restaurant for dinner. They have assigned seating. The first night we showed up and had the table all to ourselves. The second night, another family came to join us. They were a married couple with three kids, a few years older than our kids. They sat down and didn't say a word to us THE ENTIRE NIGHT. Awkward! 

There are photographers who come around the dining room throughout the evening. When the parents were posing for their picture, the dad pretended (?) to be throwing gang signs. Andrew jokingly said, "Um, we need new table mates." 

And we never saw them again.


In the dinner restaurant, they have a kid's menu with all the traditional kid's menu fare:  chicken nuggets, spaghetti, pizza. Every night, Caroline would order an appetizer of french fries from the kid's menu. But that girl loves her meat and would then order a steak or a pork loin or some other hunk of meat for her main course. For dessert, she would sometimes order from the kid's, sometimes the adult menu. Our favorite item on the kid's menu was ASSORTED COOKIES. I don't know why we thought that sounded so funny. Every night, we would pretend we were ordering assorted cookies from each other and we would talk in a British accent when we did. One night, Whit actually did order them.

They were not the fancy assorted cookies we were envisioning.

It was just a couple of plain-looking chocolate chip cookies.

What a let down.

There's our ship in the background:
Carnival Fantasy 

Warm chocolate melting cake! 

Cruise elegant night 

Sunset at Cozumel 

C and I went to the towel folding demo 

*Drew: Checking in our luggage at the beginning of the cruise.
We are not first time cruisers, but in our haste to get on the boat, we somehow missed the step where you check in your luggage. I didn't mind. When you check it, it shows up in your room sometime on that first afternoon/evening. I was happy to have all our stuff with us.

But it also meant that we had to lug ALL our suitcases around with us on the ship until our room was ready--an hour or two after we boarded.

We looked pretty ridiculous. Andrew felt like he was one of the Beverly Hillbillies.

If we could go back and do it again, I would have packed a separate bag with swimsuits and sunscreen so that the kids could swim right when we got on, but we wouldn't need ALL of our suitcases.

Imagine lugging all of those suitcases around!

*Drew, Me, and Whit: Longer excursions!
Our stays at the ports were TOO SHORT. We were in Key West from 9-2ish and our excursion was from 10-1. It felt like the kids were just getting their bearings for snorkeling when they blew their whistles to let us know that it was time to get back on the boat.

The big kids and I stopped at a couple of shops when we got off the catamaran, but felt very rushed. I wish we could have explored Key West more!

It looks like a fun place to explore.... 

Maybe I'll never know...

Cozumel was the same way. We would have loved to have stayed at our resort another hour or two. There was so much to do and not enough time to do it all.

We watched a little sea lion show. 

It was OK.
But if we knew how good the snorkeling was,
we would have skipped it to just spend that time snorkeling. 

Maybe we'll go back sometime.

*B:  Don't let sevvies into Circle C.
Ha! I don't think the parents of sevvies would be OK with that. What I should have done was register him for the 15-17 yr old club. He's so tall that he totally would have blended in with them. And no one asked for proof of birth date.

*B:  Free wifi.
Personally, I loved disconnecting from the world for the week. Teenage boys apparently do not feel the same way.

*Drew: That we didn't have to drive 12 hours to the port.
I don't know if we can sail out of Miami again. The drive down went completely smooth and it still took twelve hours. That's just a long day.

And the drive home? UGH. Don't even get me started. I-95 during spring break is just RIDICULOUS. It is packed with spring breakers as well as snow birds heading back up north for the summer. SOOOOOO SLLLLOOOOOWWWWW. And there are no good back roads to take.

Andrew actually vowed to never go to Florida over spring break again. I told him to pull over and let me drive because he's not allowed to make ban the state that has some of my fave vacation spots. I took over driving for a couple hours during the stop and go, but still don't know if he'll go back with us if that's where I want to go next year.

*W: Shorter lines
Sometimes the lines for the buffet, the burger joint, or the taco shop were LONG.

*W:  More variety at breakfast.
We loved the dinners, but by the end of the week, the breakfasts seemed monotonous. Would have been nice if they could have mixed things up a bit more.

*Drew and Caroline:  More ice cream stations and flavors.
On this ship, they only had two ice cream machines, both in the same spot on the lido deck. They had vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. On one of our previous cruises, the ship had two different spots for soft serve. We missed that.

*Andrea:  Leave chocolates on our pillows at night
On all of our previous cruises, we come back to the room at night to find towel animals, the schedule for the next day's activities, and cute little chocolates. I loved them! Carnival is cutting back on us, apparently, because no chocolates this time. Sad.

*Andrea:  Different shows on the ship
Andrew and I cruised a year and a half ago for his 40th birthday and this ship had the EXACT SAME SHOWS. And we didn't like them last time. Boo! Lame! Time to update the entertainment, Carnival.

*Andrew: Don't play "Baby Got Back" in public.
Yikes. The kids were swimming in the lido deck pool and there was a DJ out there who played Baby Got Back. Seriously???

Cover your ears, kids! 

Those are the types of things that make me want to save my pennies up to take a Disney cruise. I bet they don't play Baby Got Back on that ship! (Who has been on one? Do they?) I looked into it for this cruise and it would have cost TWICE AS MUCH to sail with Disney on an itinerary that was ONE DAY SHORTER. Hard to justify. But I might try it eventually.

*Andrea: Don't get stung while snorkeling.
At the very end of our time in the water off of Key West, I got stung on the neck by something. Our mustachioed guide said he thinks it was a fire sponge. It hurt really bad when it stung, but then it was just a minor discomfort for a couple of hours.

It left a yucky welt, too.

As you can see, our complaints sound pretty trivial. Overall, we loved sharing a fun adventure as a family. I'd love to do it again. Hopefully out of a closer port. And maybe try a different cruise line for variety. We'll see!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Family Cruise: More favorite moments

*Swimming with the dolphins

B did great with the dolphins and 
loved the whole experience.

*Snorkeling in Cozumel
Not long before we left on the cruise, my friend Jayne was telling me that the first time she went snorkeling, she couldn't see anything because she needs glasses.

Oh my gosh.

I hadn't even thought of that! I wear my contacts snorkeling, but B doesn't have contacts! I quickly did some googling and found out that you can order prescription swim goggles through amazon and they aren't that expensive--in the fifty dollar range. I decided that would totally be worth it. I called B's eye doctor, found out his prescription and ordered a pair. I'm so glad I did. I would have felt awful if he was blindly swimming around in the ocean for two days.

The goggles worked great! Yay!

Brandon took to snorkeling so quickly! I knew he would. He was good at diving down, popping his ears, and then clearing his snorkel. Aunt Celeste--you may have a scuba diving buddy here someday!

He took a lot of the closer-up pics of the fish we liked.

And this cool one of an underwater statue:

He's a natural.

*Just chillin and relaxing on the boat
Brandon was not a fan of the tween/early teen club. The age range for his club was 12-14 years old. He is 14 and 9/12. There's a BIG difference between an almost-fifteen-year-old and a twelve year old. He didn't make friends. He called them a bunch of "sevvies." Is that a word other teens use? It's short for "seventh graders" and that's what B called kids that are a couple years younger and less mature than his wise high-school-savvy self. :) So, he didn't spend much time at Circle C.

But, he downloaded a couple new apps for his ipod before we left, and he was so happy to just hang out in the cabin playing his ipod. (He could be doing that at home! Oh, wait, only for an hour a day because his parents are super strict with screen time!)

We got two adjoining cabins.
This was the kids cabin,
where B spent a lot of time just "relaxing".
(read: playing on his ipod)

Our assistant waiter was named Oleh. He was probably in his early twenties and was from the Ukraine. The kids LOVED him. They loved his accent and mannerisms. He would kind of lean over your shoulder and ask, "Ice water?" He sounded a lot like Oaken, the shop keeper/spa owner from Frozen.

*Snorkeling in Key West
It's always a little nerve wracking to watch your kids try something first time. Especially when it's something you LOVE and you want them to love it, too. Andrew was so happy to see all of them doing so well with snorkeling, especially since their first time was out in the middle of the ocean!

*Snorkeling in Cozumel
The spot we snorkeled in Cozumel had a cool hole in the rock, almost like a little cave.

Andrew got down, almost into it.

I was a little freaked out. 

Then he went to the side and got these pictures of the 
fish swimming under there. 

A great fishy hiding place.

Drew is also really good at diving down under
while snorkeling.

*Having all five of us pile into our king sized bed to read Lindsey Stirling's autobiography.
The kids love Lindsey. Andrew listened to an audiobook of The Only Pirate at the Party on a recent road trip. He thought the kids would love it. I checked out the ebook from the library and we would take turns reading out loud to the kids. Since most of the on-board entertainment didn't appeal to us, we entertained ourselves.

Her book is hilarious.
Lots of LOL moments.

*Snorkeling in Cozumel (this was the only item to make ALL FIVE lists! Winner! Let's go back!)
If I could choose to spend a day doing ANYTHING I wanted, snorkeling would most definitely be in my top five choices. It is so beautiful and relaxing. I love feeling the sun on my back while taking in the gorgeous underwater sights below. I don't like diving down much. I prefer to just float on the ocean and take it all in.

Loved sharing this with the kids! 

Look at that gorgeous water! 

The little tiki huts where we left our stuff while snorkeling.

*Reading out on the deck, with the warm sun shining down on me, the sea breeze whipping, and watching the ocean go by.

Ahhhhhh.....this is the life! 
My blood pressure drops just looking at this picture.

We got to show the kids the flying fish that we like so much that you can see from the deck. And I even saw two dolphins swimming on the side of the ship! (No jellyfish or hammerhead sharks this time.)

*Swimming with the dolphins.
I'm a sucker for dolphins! I love that they seem so friendly, yet powerful. I would totally swim with them again if I could.

We've got moves!