And proposed the idea to Andrew of going on a family cruise.
He wasn't so sure. He and I have taken three cruises together now. And they are SO relaxing. Total escape. Free to sleep in. And spend as much time as we want just reading up on the deck. He knew that having kids with us wouldn't be the same experience.
"But they have kids clubs and activities and we can still have lots of time to ourselves!" I said.
So, he was in.
The kids were WAY in. They have never left the country and couldn't wait to go somewhere new.
We got them passports.
And snorkel gear.
And new swimsuits.
And we were on our way!
Overall, the cruise was wonderful. But, as with most things, there were things we loved and others that we wished we could have changed.
*CAROLINE'S FAVORITE THINGS
*Getting a slurpee at 7-11 on the drive down. (Is this a Sweat girl, or what???)
We stopped at two ports: Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico. We spent time snorkeling at both. It was the first time any of the kids had gone.
Care Bear was a little hesitant at the very beginning.
She stayed right with her daddy.
But once she stuck her face in the water and saw how amazing it was under there, she was hooked!
She was good at spotting cool things, too.
In Cozumel, she showed us three little squids swimming together.
I had never seen squid while snorkeling.
*Swimming with dolphins
While we were in Cozumel, we swam with the dolphins! It was amazing. Caroline is an animal lover and was so happy to have the chance to be up close and personal with them.
The only bad thing about this place was they wouldn't let you bring your own camera (for the safety of the dolphins... really?) and then they charge you an exorbitant amount for the pictures they take. I had read about it online before we went, so I knew they would be expensive: SEVENTY DOLLARS A PERSON. Yep, they wanted me to pay $350 for pictures of our family swimming with dolphins. I love photos, but I couldn't stomach that. I tried to bargain with them and got them as low as $40/person. I told them I just wanted one photo of each of the kids and I would give them thirty bucks.
They said no.
So much for my bargaining skills.
So, instead, you get to enjoy the proofs that they sent me, asking me for $200. Or our firstborn child.
We got a kiss.
A turn to dance with the dolphin.
A nose tap.
A ride on a boogie board with the dolphin
pushing us by the foot.
(I didn't picture, because you can't see the dolphin.
Just envision C boogie boarding.)
It was really fun.
And then a pull from the dolphin while we held on to its fins.
I warned C that she may not be able to participate in the push and pull because the fine print said that you had to be 8 years old or older. And she is only 7 11/12. But, when we got there, no one asked her how old she was, so she swam out and took her turns. Those dolphins are big and strong. I thought she might be intimidated, but she loved it.
Water fight with the dolphins!
They've got hops!
*Hasbro the Game Show
This was the only show on the ship that all of us could enjoy together. They call people from the audience up to participate in the games: Yahtzee Bowling and Operation Skee-Ball. None of us got picked this time. But it was fun to watch.
*Unlimited ice cream!!!
Every kids dream!
And most adults, too.
We got very familiar with the lido deck ice cream stations and C got very good at making her own. She's ready for a job at Dairy Queen.
*WHITNEY'S FAVORITE THINGS
I realized I did a really bad job of taking pictures on the cruise. That's so not like me! Camp Carnival is the name for the kids' activities on the ship. I didn't take a single picture of it. Oops.
You can drop your kids off at most times during the day until 10 pm at no charge. Some of the activities the girls did: crafts, scavenger hunts, dance parties, a magician, movies, video games, and decorating t-shirts.
I was surprised to hear that this made W's favorites list. She liked the camp and made friends quickly, but she only wanted to do certain activities. So, we would drop off the girls at 2 and then they would want us to come pick them up at 3 because they were playing Bingo. And apparently Bingo is SO not cool when you are seven and almost-twelve years old. But then they wanted to go back at 4 to see the magician.... Sheesh. There was lots of walking around and checking them in and out. Whit was old enough that we gave her permission to check herself in and out, but we had to get C every time.
The craziest part about Camp Carnival?
You have to walk through THIS BAR to get there.
Who planned that?
*Swimming with the dolphins
Once in a lifetime.
(or twice if you're me or Andrew)
*Snorkeling in Cozumel
So, in Key West, we took a catamaran boat ride out into the ocean and snorkeled there. It was pretty good snorkeling. But, at the resort where we swam with the dolphins, we brought our snorkel gear and tried snorkeling right from the shore. It. was. AMAZING. I couldn't believe it. There were tons of beautiful tropical fish right by the shore! We could have stayed all day. Except our taxi was leaving after we had only snorkeled for about an hour. And we didn't want to be stranded in Cozumel. Well.... mostly we didn't want to.
Feeling right at home in the water.
Those stairs in the left corner are the shore.
This one gives some perspective on how big some of the fish were.
This fish was our favorite.
He was so big and colorful!
The camera doesn't do it justice.
Here he is from the top--teal, orange, green, gray.
Oh, how I wish we could snorkel near home.
Her words. What
twelve eleven year old uses the word "cuisine"? I guess the cruise increased her refinement and sophistication.
We loved the variety of foods available all day, but our favorites were the dinners. We ate all of our dinners in the dining room, where you have the same table and have to be dressed in more than your swimsuit.
Whitney is a super brave eater. She tried escargot, alligator fritters, strawberry bisque, and sushi as her appetizers. It was so fun to see her try all these exotic foods (and like them!) without us having to pay extra. The strawberry bisque cracked us up. I wished I had taken a picture! Badra, our head waiter, brought out a soup bowl with a teeny, tiny piece of what appeared to be red jello in the middle. It was a little bigger than a thimble. He set it in front of Whit. We just stared at her and started giggling thinking, "THAT appetizer won't ruin her appetite for dinner!" Then Badra came back with a little pitcher of the bisque that he poured on top of the red jello thimble to fill up the bowl. We laughed and laughed. I think you had to be there to find it funny, but we sure did.
On three of the four nights, we had our table to ourselves.
To be continued...