The Rambling Family


Caribbean Cruise

Christmas Cruise Day 8 – Home Crap Home

Merry Christmas.

This morning was sad…we woke early.  Finished packing a bit.  Watched the kids sleep while mom and dad got breakfast.  Of course, they chose to sleep in on this final day – the day we woke up early.  Eventually they woke and we went to the buffet for breakfast.  Yum.  Grabbed some snacks for the road, too. When we returned to the room we just chilled out with my parents watching Christmas Story on the TV and figuring out when to get off the boat.    We were just going to hand carry our stuff, instead of having it tagged and being portered off.  This meant we could leave as soon as we were docked at 815.  Everyone needed to be out of their rooms by 9 and off the boat by 10.  Well, since we were all ready we decided to just get off. 
Bethany, Stefan, Tyler and Rosalie would meet up with mom and dad at the dock later.  We easily got off the boat, went through customs, and walked across the street to our car.  Bittersweet.  Said our goodbyes to mom who waited at the dock.  We drove Dad to the airport to pick up their rental car (the airport is the only rental agency open Christmas morning).  He then returned to the dock for the rest of the gang.  They all had more vacation ahead.  Tyler and Rosalie were spending another day in Tampa.  Mom and Dad, Bethany and Stefan were heading for Orlando for anther 3-5 days.

We drove home.  It was a quick trip, actually.  The roads were pretty empty.  I got a call about an hour away from our neighbor.  She was going to pickup any boxes that were delivered while we were gone….I had the mail on hole until yesterday.  Well, they were out visiting family yesterday.  When they got the boxes today one was broken into.  hmmm…. all is not well at home.

When we got home I went to the neighbors for the boxes and Bryan went inside.  We had pre-planted all the gifts from Santa.  You know, the ones he dropped off during our Christmas morning the first day of the cruise.  He came over to the neighbors and told me the house had been broken into  ughhh…….  Merry Christmas Crappy Valdosta.

In the end it wasn’t too much stuff gone, just a laptop, a camera, a watch, some jewelry.  BUT. the house was a wreck.  The gifts were all slashed open, our bedroom was trashed – the bed turned over and everything thrown around.  Avi’s room was also rummaged.    We called the police.  They have been helpful.  Seems the bad guys were looking for guns…targeting military homes lately.  And, MAYBE they were scared away as we arrived. We called our insurance.  They will pay for it.  It just made for a sad, disturbing present opening time.   We’ll get a new back door secured and install a security system.  Wish I was back out to sea.


Christmas Cruise Day 7 – Sea

So, today was our last full day on the boat.  It was relaxing.  We woke when we heard the kids next door in mom and dads room.  We all went to Versailles for some breakfast – I’ve gotten quite accustomed to being served breakfast and meals.  I am tired of the buffet, but I dont think I could tire quickly of people serving me great smoked salmon and bagels everyday for breakfast. After that we wandered the promenade, and then the kids joined Bethany, Nan and Grandpa Joe for some crafts in the kids seating area at the cafe.  Bryan and I got some coffee.
Later we went back to the room to change for the pool.  Well, Zoe and Bryan ended up at the pool with Bethany and the gang.  Avi and I fell asleep for a nap.  When we woke we got dressed to swim and then couldn’t really find anyone at the pool…eventually ran into Bethany, Stefan, Mom and Dad at the main pool for lunch.  Bryan and Zoe had gone back to the room for a nap.  We watched an ice carving demo at the pool before going to the kiddo pool to play.  Just me and my boy.  It was nice.  He loves the slides and does really well in the water.  He really wants to swim and tries hard to kick his feet and move his arms.  He also loves to jump into the hot tub every 5 minutes.  Nan and Grandpa Joe joined us for a while until we went to the room.

 Bryan was heading off to a meeting, so we roused Zoe, got dressed and went to the Atrium to see Santa!  Each of the kids sat on his lap and got a gift.  Zoe was pleased with her stick-n-peel scene, Avi was indifferent about his rattle but LOVED the music that started.  Zoe immediately wanted to play with her craft, so we got a seat in the little coffee shop to chill out while Nan got some excercise following Avi around.  He loves to pick at the fake flowers and play in the fountain.  There was a band playing, but soon a Caroling show started, so we stayed and joined in!  It was quite fun.  Zoe ran into her friend Bella from Kids Crew – another girl her age that she has been pal-ing around with.  They sat together and sang the songs, too.  It’s adorable to see my little girl so social.  Avi had fun clapping along and dancing, but started to wander. 

We had a final whole-family dinner reservation at the Aqua tonight at 5:30.  It was an enjoyable time.  So nice to hear everyone’s favorite things, enjoy a special 4 course Christmas menu, and spend time together. We were seated by a window so Avi was busy playing in the sil most of the time until the food came.  He has enjoyed the chicken nuggets, fruit, and bread on this trip…plus other rando things we’ve offered.  Dessert is his favorite.

Tonight all the guys and Rosalie had Cigars under the Stars at the Bier Garten up on the toppest deck after dinner.  I’m sure they had fun!  Mom, Bethany, me and the kids, however, enjoyed the final show of the cruise: Elements.  It was fascinating!!  a cirque-du-soliel kind of thing.  The performers danceed, sang used trapeze, swung from cloth, and did some magic…all in color and music coordinating to the 4 elements.  They added ‘snow’ at the end – I think it was special for the Christmas season.   Both our kids were fascinated the whole time.  Zoe especially enjoyed the ‘mermaids’ that popped down from the ceiling directly in front of us; we were again at our special spot in the balcony.  Avi liked dancing along to the deep tribal beats during the ‘earth’ portion.   The show ended with a rousing tribute to all the staff – with many of them on stage holding their country flag.  We all agreed it was great.

I was going to meet Bryan to watch another comedy show just after the bit Elements show, but it ran late.  I still had to take Zoe down to the room to change for her final PJ party with the Kids Crew!   She has loved the kids crew!!! Bryan figured it out and met us while I was dropping her off.  Mom babysat Avi while Bryan I joined the young crowd in Tyler’s new room.  So, Tyler has heard a high pitched beeping sound this whole cruise and not been able to sleep, but got upgraded to a balcony room after someone else had to get off the boat in Cozumel!  Tyler and Rosalie slept much better in their new room.  Tonight, Bethany, Stefan, Bryan and I joined them to hang out for a bit of sibling time.  It was nice.  Eventually, Bryan headed back to our room to get stuff packed and I had to go get Zoe – Kid’s Crew runs until 1030.  When I picked her up she was tired but happy – she had had a great time at the party.  We stopped by the cafe for an ice cream treat on our way back to the room.  Mom and Dad were still up, they had gotten Avi to sleep in their room again. Zoe wanted to sleep with them too.  So, Bryan and I got another kid-free night!  Merry Christmas Eve!

Christmas Cruise Day 6 – Cozumel, Mexico

This may just be our best day yet.   We woke to spend time looking out in the window and watching as the boat docked in Cozumel!  There was another giant ship parking across from us, so it was crazy looking.  Of course, since we were awake, we woke my folks.  Having an adjoining door has been great.  They joined us in the Versailles for some breakfast.  After that we leisurely got off the boat for the day.  The crowds have diminished a ton! 
On the first day there was a huge line to get off the boat, but today there was nothing. We joined Mom and Dad exploring the mall area right at the dock before meeting Bethany and Stefan and heading to the taxi stand.  Unlike other places, the taxi fares here are posted and regulated.  No negotiations or scamming.  Cool. One vanload taxi to Chankanaab National Park: $22.  Perfect.  They actually ended up splitting us into 2 cars for only $20.  Even better.

Chankanaab National Park is amazing.  It seems a bit pricey at first – $21 each adult and $15 for Zoe. But this was money well spent!!  Mom and Bethany had booked a Dolphin swim ahead of time, so they didn’t have to pay the entrance fee.  After getting into the park, what to do?  We started at the snorkeling beach…. we snagged some cabanas and chairs thanks to my mom scouting them out.  Avi napped on Bryan, Zoe played in the sand, and the rest of us hopped in the water to snorkel.  So, it is a beach, but there is still a rocky shoreline with steps leading down into the water.  The park had lifevests, too. They were required, but the hut ran out so Dad, Bryan, and I could swim free.  The snorkeling was great….lots of cool fish to see and a bit of coral.  I did get stung by some miniscule baby jellys as I swam, but never even saw them.  It was like a bug bite sting, though, and dissipated quickly. By the time I was done snorkeling Avi had woken up and was having fun digging in the sand.  Bryan snorkeled for a while and then took Zoe in.  She brought her goggles and did a great job putting her head in to see the fish right around the stairs. 

Our beach time was fun, but we decided to take advantage of the rest of the park.  So, we went to see the Sea Lion Show.  The show was pretty standard and entertaining – sea lions swimming, jumping, balancing, etc…  At the end, though, was a special Mexican treat!  Everyone who wanted could go on stage and get a kiss!  Bryan took Zoe up.  It was too cool.  The sea lion tried to kiss Zoe, but his wiskers must’ve been tickly so she cringed back laughing.  It laid a big smacker on Bryans cheek.  After that we wandered around the grounds a bit – through the botanical gardens area where Avi spotted a huge chamelion. Both the kids had fun leading us through the gardens and exploring all the plants.  Bethany and Mom went to their dolphin swim, and Dad joined them to take video and pictures.

Eventually we ended up at the lagoon – this is a small water inlet that has a beach entrance.  We spent hours here!  Not only was the water warm and the beach nice, but there were rocks with little tidepools…anemones, corals, seastars, and tiny urchins.  There were tiny colorful reef fish swimming around.  There was cool seaweed to grab.  There were rocks perfect sizes for the kids to jump off.  It was great.  Zoe entertained herself for hours playing, exploring and swimming!  Avi was also super into it…he loved picking up rocks and swimming around.  So great.  Avi and I walked around for a bit to watch Mom and Bethany on the dolphins before they joined us.  Such a great day.  Once we took the cab back to the boat, the kids were sleeping.  Of course.  We bought some vanilla and got back on the boat for naptime and some food at the buffet.

 Tonight mom and dad babysat the kids while Bryan and I went on a date.  We grabbed some coffee, enjoyed some music at Gatsbys, and then went to the Comedy show.  We sat up on the balcony and saw my siblings down in the audience.  The show was funny!  After that we tried a little Salsa under the stars, and even sat in on the country hoe down.  It was fun to explore grown up things on the boat…just the two of us.  The kids slept over with Nan and Grandpa Joe tonight, too.  yippee!

Christmas Cruise Day 5 – Costa Maya Mexico

Whew…tiring day.

We started off with a quick trip to the cafeteria buffet to grab some snacks for our day off the boat.  Thank goodness the ship has a big dock here.. and it’s fancy. This time the cruise ship docked on the opposite side of the boat, so we didn’t know what we were in for until we walked off the boat.  It is awesome here! 
There is a specially made port area with a great pool, a beachy lounge area, swim-up bars and restaurants, and shops….I’m sure they are pricier than in town, but it is sure a cool place.  We met up with Bethany and Stefan and walked out to meet up with our off-the-boat tour group called Native Choice.  After hanging out a bit, Tyler and Rosalie showe up too.  All the kids are going on this excursion!  To Chaccooben Mayan Ruins!

We took a bus to the Native Choice office, were given wristbands for our tour and then waited a while for our bus to the site.  The ride took an hour…wished the guide would have used this time for some history or something.  When we got to the site we were broken into smaller groups and led into the sight.  It started with an amazing pyramid!  I was super impressed already.  The kids ran around the open space, we climbed up some of the steps, got pictures, and then the guide started talking.  He was very informative, but just took a bit long for my crowd of tiny people.  The kids found a cool little tunnel in the jungle foliage and played in there until the tour moved on.  The next stop was between a couple huge mounds.  We were told that any mounds are going to be an archaeological sight because the natural land is completely flat.  At this point the guide got kind of long winded – interesting stuff, but, again, I was ready too SEE some stuff.  Wished he would’ve done this background info on the bus.  Anyway, we moved on to the base of some huge steps and he stopped again.  At this point I used my ‘kids cant handle it’ excuse to wander a bit from the group.  We headed up the stairs and WHOA!  there was a gigantic pyramid up there!!  Rosalie joined us…she was also done with the talking – lets DO – we were now at the top of a huge man made plataeu with a smaller pyramid and the giant one.  Incredible.  The kids ran around, we got pics, and eventually the group joined us.  The view from here was awesome.  Bryan and Tyler also joined our gaggle of ‘wandering folks’ and we had a great time exploring for most of the rest of the tour.  Bethany and Stefan stayed with the group – mostly – and, I’m sure, learned alot more.  After the giant plataeu we wandered back down a different set of steps and then through the jungle to a courtyard/living area and the back of the first pyramid.  At this point I was hot, tired and hungry.  So Avi and I sat for a snack and drink.  Zoe and Bryan decided to do their own archaeology and found some amazingly cool pottery!!!  When the tour guide caught up with us he said they could keep it! After a quick pit stop for toilets and drinks at the bus parking we got back on the bus for a nappy ride back to the port.  I think the kids, Bryan and I may have been asleep before we got out of the parking lot.

Back at the dock Bethany joined us for some swimming in the port pool as the rest of the gang went their own ways.  The pool had a great shallow area with fountains for the kids and a cool view – past the swim up bar and dolphin tanks – of the cruise boats.  Very fun.  Bryan headed over to the ship after a bit of swimming.  He was able to make a meeting that afternoon, and a few others over the course of the week.  The rest of us eventually got dressed and wandered slowly back toward the boat.  Zoe and I were able to pet and hold a baby tiger at a stand set up.  It was a fundraiser for a big cat rescue group.  The little guy was adorable.  We fed it from a bottle and passed it back and forth.  Even Avi and Bethany got to give it a little pet!  From the port shops area was a free little tram back to the boat, and we decided to ride it since we weren’t in a hurry and Avi has a new word, “Choo Choo!!!”. 

Back on the boat we stayed in our swim stuff and went up to the main pool.  We hadn’t explored it yet and there was to be a party soon!  Both the kids enjoyed some rides down the slide before we were told babies weren’t allowed and Zoe was really to be going down with a grown up.  I was kind of frustrated about this since there isn’t any food or drinks or music back at the kiddy pool.  I was looking forward to spending some time with our whole fam – mom and dad had also showed up.  After some grumbling I gave in and took the kids to the back pool.  We had fun. Tonight we all just kind of grabbed some dinner in the cafe or out at the pool grill when we felt like it.

Eventually, the whole fam met up again at the 7:30 show of the evening: The Magic of Craig and Liz.  It was fun to watch.  Entertaining.  Mostly, it was Liz getting into a contraption, disappearing, maybe getting run through with skewers, and reappearing with a new outfit.  Neat.  Avi fell asleep. Bryan took him back to the room, but I took Zoe to the evening Chocoholic Buffet!  It was packed.  Zoe got a chocolate covered apple and some truffles from the kid buffet.  I got a piece of cake. After that we returned to the room and got Zoe situated for bed.

I headed out for the one party I wanted to attend: the White Hot party.  There has been a theme party every night, but they start at 1030 or 1130 and I’m usually too tired or already alseep by then.  For this, I stayed awake! Bethany and Stefan joined be and we grabbed a snack at the remnants of the chocolate buffet before heading to the Spinnaker Lounge.  It was rainy so the boat was a-rockin.The Mojito special came in a light up cup!  woo hoo!  Once the party got started we had a blast dancing out on the floor and getting sweaty.  Tyler joined us and Rosalie came later. Around midnight I realized what time it was and headed back to the room for bed.  I knew I’d be waking early again – Avi doesn’t seem to adjust his schedule regardless of time zone changes or my partying.  =)

Christmas Cruise Day 4 – Belize

“Butts and Nuts Up”  That is the theme for today.

Bryan woke early today to go up to the dining room and get us a ticket for an early tender off the boat.  In Belize there is a huge coral reef, so no docking at the actual town.  The boat had to drop anchor out about 5 miles and then all these ferry – sized ‘tender’ boats came to pick us up.  Well, my wonderful husband got us tix for the first tender out!

The kids were also up bright and early…so Bethany delivered Avi to us around 6:30 and then mom and dad opened our adjoining door soon after.  I started packing stuff up for the kids; today they spent their time with Nan and Grandpa Joe.  They were all booked on an excursion with NCL to go to the Lamanai Mayan Ruins.  It seemed fun – they met in the Spinnaker lounge around 7:30, boarded a special tender to the mainland, and then got aboard a little speed boat.  The boat sped along up the river for almost an hour until they reached the ruins. Dad and mom were both super impressed…they got to climb up, too!  I guess the kids did fine as well and had fun wandering around.  I can’t wait to see the pictures.

Bryan and I, on the other hand, were booked on an excursion through an outside company.  Major Tom and Minor Tom’s had a great deal on a cave-tubing and zipline combo tour at half the price of the cruise line.  The challenge, of course, was getting of the boat in time.  This is why my wonderful husband was up early for the first tender tix…and we were on the first boat out.  Funny, we saw mom and Zoe on the other boat as we left. Arriving at the port in Belize is very different from the one in Roatan.  Here it was much larger, with tons of shops, restaurants, and people within the port area.  We rushed past these and went out into the main town where we found Major Tom!  He directed us to a meeting area where we waited for others a bit and then boarded our bus for our adventure. 

The drive out to the Sibun Caves Archaeological Park was about an hour. At first the scenery was super flat an covered in scrubby little plants, but the farther inland we drove the bigger the trees became and then the mountains appeared.  During the bus ride out our guide Mikey talked about Belize, its history, the people, the food, and the plan for our trip. Mike was hysterical!  Everything was a joke and he made the bus ride feel quite short.  Once we arrived it was off to the zipline…we were each hooked up with a climbing harness and walked to the first zip.  There are actually two lines – one for a backup. The ziplining was super fun and milder than I expected.  We did 8 lines total – they got higher and longer as we went along.  The setup was pretty cool, too.  Many of them started up in trees up the mountain – the platforms were like treehouses. 

After that we got changed into our swim stuff, hooked up with some tubes and walked to the cave.  The walk to the cave was pretty crazy – we forded the river (with a not insignificant flow) a few times.  Our tour guides also didn’t leave time for stragglers.  It was too funny that we were zipping past huge groups of other cruise passengers and taking shortcuts through the jungle.  When we arrived at the cave entrance, the other groups were all linking up in gigantic groups of 20.  We were split into manageable groups of 6.  Much nicer!.  And, since there was time Mikey led a few of us interested over to a boulder in the cave for a nice dive into the cold water. Yippee!!  and cold!  Once the big group was out of the way we got ready to go.  6 in a group, linked by the legs in a train.  As we floated into the tunnel we were reminded that when Mikey said “butts and nuts up” he meant it.  The depth of the cave changed quickly so we needed to listen if we wanted to avoid getting bumped from the bottom.  Inside the cave was cold and big!  Much bigger than expected with great stalactites, sparkley formations, and even a waterfall.  We floated along in the cave for a long time…I got cold.  Then we finally emerged into the sunny jungle.  The warmth felt so good.  The rest of the float down the river was fun, too.  We unlinked and enjoyed ourselves.  At the end was another big boulder to jump from.  The rest of the trip was quick – we were given some chicken, rice, and beans for a late lunch then boarded the bus for a nap trip back to the boat.  We returned with enough time to wander a bit at the dock and catch a tender to our ship….4pm again. 

Tyler and Rosalie came over to our room to hang out for a bit and gave their gifts to the kids for Christmas. Thank you!  It was neat to catch up with everyone to see what they did today.  I think this vacation has had a good blend of time with everyone, time with a few folks, and just time with our little fam. Today is mom and Dads anniverary, so they are on their own for a date!   In the evening Zoe wanted to go to Kids Crew again, so after dinner at the buffet we droppped her off and Avi, Bryan and I went to the “Band on the Run” 60s & 70s show.  We sat up in the balcony close to the stage – Avi loved it!  He had a spot to stand and watch and dance. This boy loves music.  Eventually he fell asleep during the show.  We wandered back to our room – got Zoe from Kids Crew where she was busy dancing – and went to bed.

Christmas Cruise Day 3 – Roatan, Honduras

What a great day!  This morning we woke early again – thanks to Avi’s sleep rhythm we never sleep past 7.  So, we woke my folks and all walked to the Versailles for breakfast again.  We then got ready for our day at the beach and watched the boat dock out our window.  Our room – 5120 – is almost right above the docking door down on the 4th floor…so we get a front row seat to all the docking stuff.  Avi had a blast sitting in the window watching the Honduran band playing.  Zoe spent the morning coloring in her new notepad.  She got herself all set up on the desk; it is now her ‘studio’.

When the call came that we could get off the ship, we were ready and excited.  Today Mom & Dad, Bethany & Stefan, and Tyler joined us on our beachventure.  I had researched before we left and found that the West Bay beach area suited our needs – nice beach, close taxi ride, and snorkelling reefs nearby.  Unfortunately, the costs of taxi rides here in Roatan were crazy!  They all charged us per person!  What?  it’s nuts.  We shopped around briefly and found a van that ‘only’ charged $15 per adult. Round trip.  Still expensive, but what can you do.  Right at the last minute, too, a “tour guide” jumps in who isn’t paid, but we can give her tips.  A bit irritating if you ask me….but we were off to the beach.  Along the way our ‘tour guide’ Anna did tell us about the area and the plants and then told us that at the public beach it’s free, but there are no drinks and the chairs are $5 to rent.  However, she knows a place that is only $10 each and we can each get a chair, plus there is a pool, and restaurant, etc…  If it had just been my frugal fam we would’ve stuck to our guns and gone to the public beach.  But, with everyone along I let the group decide.  So we were off to the Mayan Princess resort.

The Mayan Princess is pretty nice.  There was a cool swimming pool, palm trees along the beach, a restaurant, and waiters coming around to get us drinks.  We found a set of loungers under the trees and got to swimming.  The water was unbelievably clear and warm.  The kids had so much fun.  We brought Zoe’s lifevest so she could have the freedom to swim as she’d like.  Avi swam a bit with Bryan or Nan, but mostly loved to dig in the sand, sit in his holes, and drop handfuls of sand into the water.  Zoe also found an awesome sideways growing palm tree to climb on.  The rest of the fam seemed to enjoy themselves with relaxing, drinking from coconuts, and swimming. 

We tried to snorkel, but there is just sand on the bottom at the beach.  Bryan and I talked to one of the many boat operators who have their boats anchored at the beach.  They said the reef is just out a bit.  So, we paid $15 each to be taken out to the reef…one of the kids (both the guys running the boat were probably 15) then led us around the reef for about an hour.  It was incredible. …the most amazing colors and size of coral I’ve ever seen!  Huge canyons of coral, tunnels, and the fish! Tons of colorful fish.  We even saw a barricuda.  Definitely money well spent.  The reef was, of course, closer to the public beach.  We realized as we boated out that we might have been able to snorkel from the beach to a little part of the reef, but the gorgeous part we went to was just a bit too far out.  When we returned to our beach the group agreed it was about time to go. 

Most of us had packed some food and snacks from the cruise ship, but some croissants and fruit just don’t tackle the hunger of a beach trip.  So, we rode in our taxi van back to the port.  We took a quick swing through the local town – not worth stopping in – and then ventured back to the boat.  What a tiring day!!  And yet, there was more…it was only about 4pm. Our first stop was, of course, the cafeteria for some food.  Then, it was time to rest in our room for a bit. 

This evening Bryan and I had a date night!  Dad and Mom took Zoe while Bethany and Stefan took Avi….I think they mostly all hung out together, though.  Bryan and I went to the Sushi bar!  On Norwegain, the ‘freestyle’ dining also means there are restaurants on the boat that aren’t completely included in the price of the cruise….they have extra charges.  It’s actually a bit irritating to have things that are and aren’t included.  But, the prices at the sushi bar were not bad and it was really tasty.  So nice to have time alone with Bryan.  We also went to the piano bar called Gatsby’s to listen to the “Carpenters Tribute”.  It was a funny sing along in a cool little hangout between a few other restaurants.  The highlight of the evening was seeing the show Duo Amaury in the Stardust theater.  It was a dancy acrobatic show – a couple who do all kinds of crazy stunts hanging from a rope or fabric or a hoop.  We thought about also going to the hypnosis show, but decided we were too tired an headed to bed.  So nice to have a kid-free room tonight.  Hopefully Avi doesn’t keep Bethany and Stefan up too much.  Not worried about Zoe – she sleeps like a log.

Christmas Cruise Day 2 – Sea

This morning started with a Christmas surprise. Zoe noticed first – she woke and asked if we hung the stockings…she missed this because both kiddo’s fell asleep last night at the show.  Santa came on the boat!  I guess he decided to drop off our treats a bit early so the kids could play with their gifts during the cruise. They each had some animal grow capsules, candy, new crayons, a notepad, toothbrush, slippers Bethany made, some Christmas jammies, and a few other things.

Since our room adjoined my folks’ room, they were also woken up early by all the commotion and came over to join us.  They headed to the top deck for a walk around the track (it’s full size), and we headed to breakfast.  At the back of the boat is the fancy restaurant called the Versailles and we decided to check it out. During the early morning it is almost empty, so we got a premier table at the back windows!  Great view of the sea, but a bit bumpy.  Breakfast was great….almost any breakfast food you could ask for was available.  The kids had fruit and pancakes, eggs and sausage.  I had salmon and bagels.  Bryan got yogurt and granola.  The service was also great. The ladies were all so enthralled with the kids they helped keep the kiddo’s entertained while we ate.

After that Zoe REALLY wanted to get to the kids crew.  Well she was ready as it opened at 9am!  She had been looking forward to that for a long long time and finally got to go.  They were playing, crafting, and doing some fun organized activities, too.  Looked like a lot of fun!   After that Avi got sleepy so he and I took a nap while Bryan went to the gym.  Later, I took Avi to the “Under 2 Zoo” baby playtime.  He had fun with the other young kiddo’s.  Bryan picked up Zoe at the Kids Crew so we could grab a snacky lunch from the buffet.  Of course Zoe was now tired and wanted to nap, so Bryan spent time with her in the room while Avi and I joined my folks at the “Comedy Hypnosis” show.  It was hysterical.  This hypnotist got people to dance, sing, model, and stick themselves in their chairs.  We met up with Bryan and Zoe before all heading out to the pool with Grandpa Joe.  At the back of the boat is a kids’ pool with three great slides, a swimming area, and a hottub.  We spent hours here.

This evening was also dress up night.  So, on NCL this is optional but it’s super fun to get dressed up on occassion.  We did it!  Even Zoe brought along a dress special for this evening.  She ended up wearing a special red dress Aunt Bethany brought.  Again we joined up with the whole family, but tonight it was at the fancy Versailles!  Our reservations were at 5:30.  Dinner was nice…all kinds of fancy food.  It took a bit long, though.  The servers don’t seem to completely comprehend that it’s better to keep dinner moving when there are kids.  We aren’t really prepared for dilly dallying between our 4 courses.  Again, someone brought gifts, though!  Mom and Dad brought a few things for the kids, and they had fun with those items while the service was slow.  Thanks so much!  Unfortunately, the boat had been rocking a bit much all day and both Zoe and Stefan felt yuck and needed some dramamine.  After dinner we all got portraits taken – there are photographers all over the boat. It was fun! 

In the evening, Zoe wanted to go back to the Kids Crew for their prince and princess party.  The kids crew is open from 9am-1030pm – and even later for a fee.  So, we dropped her off in time to go to the Spinnaker Lounge for some dance music.  This is a big lounge / bar at the back of the boat, so again it felt pretty rocky.  Avi loves music, so I thought he would like to dance a bit.  Dance he did!  He loved anything with a beat and also had a great time running and following some other kids around.  Mom and Dad also danced a bit, and I was able to get Bryan out for a dance or two.  At 830 ish mom and dad took Avi down to the room for bed.  Bryan, Bethany and I stayed for the “Newlywed, Not so Newlywed” game!  It was funny, and Bryan and I almost made it on stage.  We had to compete for the last spot by making out in front of everyone…we made it pretty dramatic, but the couple that wont the spot were rolling on the floor not just knocking things over like us.  It was fun just to watch and play along anyway… then off to pick up Zoe and get to  bed for us.

I was worried that our day at sea would be boring, but it was quite the opposite.  We had a ton of fun.  I’m ready to be off the boat, tomorrow, though.

Christmas Cruise Day 1 – Tampa

This is it!!  Cruise vacation here we come.  Norwegian Star. 18-25 Dec. 2011 – Western Caribbean.

Friday night Bryan and I started packing a few things, and finished up on Saturday moring.  We were too excited to sleep very well, and got on the road earlier than we thought!  The kids woke up and played while we tucked our stuff in the car.  After breakfast a very excited Zoe did her ‘swimming hand’ symbol for the cruise…and we were off. 
Actually we had a couple stops for wipes, dramamine, and mail.  The drive down was quick and simple; I- 75 all the way.   I had used priceline to book a fancy downtown hotel for cheap, so we checked in early at the Westin Harbour Island.  Spent the afternoon swimming at the hotel pool and then wandered downtown along the channelside before heading downtown for some dinner.

Mom and Dad, Bethany and Stefan, and Tyler and Rosalee flew in ealier.  We were all a bit spread out at different hotels through Tampa…without too much transportation.  There was also an NFL game in town bringing crowds, so we decided we’d all finally reunite on the boat.

So, this morning I woke up and glanced at the clock – it was just after 7am.  I got super excited and ran to the window. Sure enough, a giant cruise ship was floating by our window!  awesome!! Bryan thought I was nuts to be up so early, but I was so excited.  Zoe got up to see with me.  We tried to go back to sleep, but were just too excited.  Time to sing, “Jingle Cruise” and get ready!!

Before going to the port we took a quick side trip to the Tampa Thai Buddhist Temple. They have a weekly market on Sundays that we wanted to visit.  It was really cool to see a Thai Temple in Florida, and the
market had great food.  We tried some chicken and potato dish with rice.  It was a great breakfast.  The kids enjoyed mostly rice and playing with some other little kiddo’s that were running around.  After that it was off to the boat!  We made a quick pit stop at Bethany & Mom’s hotel to drop off some packages for Bethany.

Parking at the Tampa cruise port is super easy. We rolled in around 12pm.  It’s a lovely parking garage directly across the street.  We just pulled in – prepaid for the parking for the duration of our cruise, parked, and dragged our giant suitcase and duffle to the terminal.  Easy peasy.  Out front of the terminal – port 3 to be exact – were lots of porters ready to take our bags.  We filled out a few tags with our room number, tagged our bags, tipped a couple bucks, and went up the escalator.  In the terminal there was a security screening similar to at an airport.  No shoes off or ’empty that water bottle’, but we still had to send all our carry on bags and Zoe’s Doggy through the x-ray machine and then walk through as well.  After that we stood in a line to get checked in.  There were tons of people in line, but NCL kept them moving pretty well.  At the check in counter we each got our picture taken and gave them a credit card to be used for our room account.  We were then each (yes, even the kiddo’s) given a ship card; it was our boat ID, our room key, and our charge account for any purchases while cruising.  Pretty cool!  Next…up the escaltor again to get our family picture taken before boarding the giant boat.

The Norwegain Star is huge!  As we walked on the crew greeted us singing  Christmas songs and cheering.  We entered straight onto the 7th floor in the grand atrium.  Tyler texted us that he was aboard and in the Red Lion pub.  We booked it upstairs to the Kids Crew area to get Zoe registered and pick up a schedule.  She has been so excited to go on this cruise and go play in the kid area. As we wandered back downstairs we ran into my parents and then Bethany and Stefan as they came aboard as well!  Our whole gaggle pushed over to the Red Lion pub for hugs and greetings.  Woo hoo! We all made it!!  The Chrismas Cruise has begun.  Soon after that, the boat crew announced that rooms were ready.  Time to check out our home for the next 7 days.

Room 5120 is just a few doors down the hall from the mid-ship stairs.  It was a great room!  Dark blue carpet with nautical knots, super comfy big king bed with white bedding – a great duvet, and wood trim everwhere.  It seemed very upscale to us!  At the entry is a mini hallway.  Just past the door on the left is a little safe, a couple big shelves, and a big closet with hangars and more shelving.  Just past that is a set of drawers and a mini frig above them. After that is a little table with our full ice bucket and some glasses.  Above the table is a shelf with the TV, and a shelf above it.  Plenty of storage in this room for all 4 of us and our clothes!  On the right side of the entry hall is the bathroom.  It had a pretty ingenious design…walk in to a large sink and wall mirror – storage under and over the sink with a towel rack the whole length of it.  To your right is the toilet in it’s own little closet room with a sliding door; to your left is the shower in it’s own little sliding door area.  Cute!  The main room also had a desk with shelves and drawers – lots of space for us to move in, which we did.  The big bed was two singles pushed together, with a barely noticeable crack.  Above that was the pull down bunk for Zoe and crammed beside the bed was a pack n play for Avi. On a side note, there was a trundle bed under ours that could potentially be pulled out to make room for another person – it would need to be pushed back under every night to allow any room, though.  Against the far wall was a nice big window that we could sit in and watch the world go by!

After settling in a bit we went up to the 12th floor Market Cafe buffet for some late lunch.  This is a gigantic place with 5 buffets.  We later figured out they were each a bit different.  Good selection of food – everything from salad to burgers to custom-made pasta and vegetarian Indian food.  For drinks there was water, milk, juice, and ice tea.  Soda’s and alcohol cost extra on the cruise.

At this point Avi was getting sleepy, so Bryan took him down to the room for a nap.  I think Bryan also appreciated the nap since I woke him up so early.  Zoe, Mom, Dad and I explored the boat. Lots of deck area, pools, playground, hangouts, performance spaces, and restaurants!  The cruise also got underway!  We boarded pretty early.  All the passengers were to be on board by 2:00 PM, but the boat wasn’t leaving until 4. It actually left about a half hour after that. It was too cool and super exciting to watch Tampa slowly…very slowly at first…disappear in the distance as the sun started to set.

When we returned to our room, the suitcases had been delivered, so we spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking.  In the evening the whole fam met up at the main dining room – the Aqua.  It was on the floor above us and super convenient.  Bethany had made reservations for us at 6:30….with a group our size they recommended reservations any time we wanted to eat together.  This is the ‘freestyle’ part of Norwegians “freestyle cruising”: no set dining time or tables.  Nice for a no-schedule vacation, but a snidge inconvenient with a big group because we needed to plan ahead anyway.  Dinner was nice – I had the lobster, Bryan got a steak, and we ordered Zoe a sweet potato thing that arrived and was too fancy for her liking. Lesson learned…order off the kid menu for her.  Avi, however, LOVED his portion of fruit salad and cheese for dessert.  I LOVE cheese plates for dessert.  awesome.  Dinner took almost 2 hours, and the kids got antsy but did OK.  Bethany and Stefan brought gifts for the kids, and the rest of us (against the rules).  It was super nice, and they were entertained with their new little treats. 

After dinner we all trucked over to the Stardust theater.  This is a full-size-stadium-seating-with-balconies theater!  huge.  The show for the evening was a bit of an intro for the week; a bit of singing, alot of ‘what’s offered’ this week, and some acrobatics.  It kept our attention and gave all of us some ideas of what we would do for the week.  I think this may be one of the few nights we all end up doing the same activities…there are all kinds of other things going on.  The show was at 7:30, so it was off to bed for us after that.  I think Bethany, Stefan, Tyler and Rosalie were staying up for a party.

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