The Therapy Journals of the Fat-Headed Klingon Woman

One woman's journey to becoming Her True Self

Cruise Report July 11, 2013

The following is the entire trip report of our cruise last year in one long post.  It was originally published here and on the Cruise Critic website beginning in mid-June 2012.

My Allure of the Seas Trip Report- There IS No Reader’s Digest Version!

Hello all! Well, we made it. I’m just back from my very first cruise. We were on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas,  sailing 5/27/12. I love to write and blog and journal, and there are so many different perspectives from which I could come at this review- first timer cruiser, single cruiser, cruising-with-kids cruiser, trying-to-budget cruiser. I will try to add in the important points from each of those perspectives when they come up. So anyway, I had been looking forward to writing this for quite a while before I ever even left home! I was even playing around with cutesy titles. Some of the contenders were: A First Time Cruiser’s Big Adventure! (Pee Wee Herman, Eat Your Heart Out!); Cruise Virgin No More- How I Lost It to The Allure of Seas!; and Me and My Kids: From Oklahoma to the Caribbean and Back on Two Prozac A Day! In the end, I just decided to go with the obvious.

Just the Facts, Ma’am:

First timers, family of 4: Mom, twin 18 YO girls, 11 YO boy

Allure of the Seas- Eastern Caribbean sailing

Captain Johnny

CD- Anna Banks

Pre-cruise- fly in on 5/26, stayed at Pier 66

Cabin- Interior Quad, Deck 3 #838

Dining- Traditional, early seating

Ports of call: Nassau, Bahamas; Charlotte-Amalie, St. Thomas; Phillipsburg, St. Maarten

Tours: Nassau- self-guided walking. Went to Pirates Museum and Ardastra Gardens

St. Thomas- Sunny Liston Fun Tours

St. Maarten- Bernard’s Tours, Driver- Sugar

__________________________________________________ _________________

And now… The REST of the story!

Saturday, May 26, 2012- We Leave For Cruise!

I woke up early and knew I had no chance at going back to sleep. Packing was pretty much complete, lacking only things we had to use before leaving that morning, like toothbrushes and deodorant. You’re welcome.  Being a charter member of Internet Addicts Anonymous, I got online, checked CC here, checked Facebook, and took a screenshot of my one-day countdown on Royal’s website. My nerves felt so tightly wound at that point, if I’d been hooked up to some electrodes or something, I probably could have powered a small city!

*

Finally it was time to wake up the kids, which if you have them, you know is a gamble as to what kinds of moods you’ll be facing when they finally become fully conscious. Luckily, on this day, mine were pleasant. I should add here, that in addition to being just your normal kid types, one of mine has been diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and some as-yet-undefined mood instability issues. Another one is developmentally delayed and operates at a level approximately 4-5 years younger than true chronological age. The third one is basically pretty normal and well-behaved, thank you Jesus!

*

Well, we got around, and got dressed, and got all the last minute stuff collected and waited for my mom (hereafter referred to as G-ma) to come pick us up and take us to the airport in Dallas. She arrived, bringing a few things that we had left at her house and might possibly need, (her credit card for emergencies being the most important) and we started loading our bags (2 large bags to be checked, and two carry-ons, if you’re interested.) Experienced a small moment of panic when her car did its usual thing of not wanting to start unless the key and the steering wheel were perfectly and precisely aligned. Finally it started. Whew! We stopped at the Dollar Store and I ran in to grab a few last minute things while G-ma ran to put gas in the car. Our flight was at noon, and we left my tiny little hometown (Lone Grove, OK) at about 8:15.

*

The trip to DFW seemed to take no time at all. G-ma had brought along a little GPS thing which kept telling her to take certain actions, and she would take them, and the calm little voice would say “RE-calculating…” as if we had totally gone off the wrong direction. These things do NOT take construction into account. (Later, we texted her to say one last goodbye and she said she was still “arguing with the lady who keeps trying to tell me how to drive!”) I wasn’t sure whether she would be able to accompany us into the airport or she would just be dumping us out on the curb, and as it turned out, it was a curbside farewell. She popped the trunk, plopped our bags on the sidewalk, hugged us all… and from that moment on, for better or worse, it was just me and The Munchkin Herd.

*

We paraded inside, a mama duck and her little ducklings (with suitcases) and checked our bags. I had done the flight check-in online the day before and that whole process was super easy and quick. (American Airlines, flight 600, if you’re interested.) We went to the waiting area, where The Boy quickly made friends with an older gentleman sitting nearby, who kindly and cheerfully chatted with him, as well as with the girls, despite the fact that he had just opened his newspaper. I love older gentlemen like that.  We had plenty of time before the flight, and the kids decided they were hungry. DFW has a wide variety of places to grab food and stuff once you get through security (at least from my less-travelled, not-familiar-with-many-large-airports perspective.) So The Rugrats decided they’d like some Subway sandwiches for lunch. I knew their usual, as we go to Jared’s Place frequently at home, and they ALWAYS get the same thing! (Remember this tendency of theirs toward habit and repetitiveness when it comes to food. This will be pertinent later.) So I trotted over to Subway and acquired sustenance.

*

Not long after I had returned to them and we had wolfed down our sandwiches, they began making the usual pre-boarding announcements and I ran back to get the other package of chips I forgot to get, and we got ready to board. The kids sat three across in one row and I was in the aisle seat across from them. There was a small child seated by the window in my row, all by himself. I quickly determined that his parents and two small siblings were in the row in front of us. I was worried that this was going to be a HUGE problem, as I could easily picture the little urchin wanting to climb in and out of his seat the whole flight. He was already playing with the trays and the window shades. He put the middle tray down and tried to put mine down too, and I ever-so-gently indicated that this would not be taking place. The middle seat was as yet unoccupied, but eventually a young man arrived and indicated that was his spot. A few minutes later his friend came and asked me if I could trade seats with him so they could sit together, but I politely declined, explaining that the three kiddos in the row across belonged to me, and I probably should stay near them. The two young men were perfectly accepting of this and the friend returned to his seat several rows forward.

*

We took off (the man in the aisle seat behind the kids crossed himself) and it quickly became apparent that the kiddo in my row was not going to be a problem. He conked out almost immediately. I am one of those travelers who feels she should make some attempt at conversation with those sitting next to her, and I felt guilty that I didn’t do that with this young man, because I didn’t really know what to say. He and his friend hadn’t seemed to be fluent English speakers, so I just let it go and consoled myself with the fact that he was listening to his music and napping anyway. The flight was somewhat bumpy and I think the captain left the seatbelt sign on for the entire flight.

(I don’t think I like flying much, by the way. The minute I step on a plane I always notice the mild urge to use the restroom, which gradually grows more “urge-nt” but I hate getting up and walking past all those people, so I just stay put and suffer the whole time. Strangely, I always accept a soda when the flight attendants begin serving beverages, and then I get to sit and watch the Great Pee Parade of others who also accepted their drinks, but don’t have my particular hang-ups.)

*

So anyway. Not a moment too soon, we landed in Ft. Lauderdale, and after a much needed restroom stop, we claimed our bags, which seemed to take quite a while, especially with The Boy, who was of the opinion that hanging back and waiting patiently for our bag to make its way around was for lesser mortals, and we needed to crowd our way up to the front and just get our bags, darn it! At one point I think he might have suggested we just leave it there and go on to the hotel. Patience is definitely not his strong point. (Not to get ahead of myself, but if you were unfortunate enough to come within a 25 yard radius of us at any point during the week, but particularly on Sapphire Beach, Studio B ice rink, or the 2:00 Cupcake Class on Saturday, you probably noticed this particular fact about him. I’ve been combing the reviews of my fellow sailors with terror, looking for references to “that one horrible kid I saw who …………………..” Fill in the blank with any one of a dozen objectionable attitudes he displayed during the week.)

*

Ok, we got a cab to our hotel. (Hyatt Regency Pier 66, if you’re interested.) Cab fare was $15.90 and I just gave the driver a $20. (As an aside, this would be a theme for the rest of the trip- cabs were always more than I had thought they were supposed to be based on research here on CC.) The room wasn’t ready, and we waited in their lounge area for only about 15-20 minutes, maybe. It didn’t feel like very long. It was here I uttered to my children the first of many similar sentiments I would reiterate in different variations throughout the week: “Don’t act like rednecks!” We felt like the hotel was a little on the fancy side for us. I wanted to make everything as amazing and impressive for the kids as possible for this trip, but we would have been just as well served at a basic Holiday Inn-type establishment. Anyway. The waitress approached us as if we were there to eat, and after a moment’s confusion we told her we were just waiting for our room. She brought us water and I left her a small tip. Finally, they said our room was ready, and we checked in and got directions to the room. It should be noted here for future reference that I am terrible with directions. TERRIBLE! So we took a rather scenic route to our room and finally had to ask a housekeeper to help us find it. We had a balcony room facing away from the port, with a big fancy yacht outside our window.

*

The kids were getting hungry, but they were also in full-on “Veg Out” mode, having discovered the TV clicker, and were flipping back and forth between something about alligators on Animal Planet, and Forrest Gump. I wanted to make the most of our only night in Ft. Lauderdale, and had planned that we would ride the Water Taxi around and eventually find a place to eat supper. So I insisted that they get up and we went to the desk to get directions to the Water Taxi stop. We had to stop once more when we got out by the pool area, and finally got headed in the right direction. The first of many poignant moments occurred about now- I was rushing along, trying to get to the stop, and we were passing all these boats, both super-impressive and not so much. The Boy said something like “Hey, mom, look at these fish!” or something similar, and I replied with something along the lines of “I don’t care about the fish, we’re trying to get somewhere, hurry up!” and I looked at the boat we were walking past at that exact second, and its name was “Share the Moment” which was the absolute most important objective for me on this trip. That hit me like a prize fighter, and I stopped, looked at the fish, and took a pic of the boat so I’d never forget that moment. And I won’t.

*

Up next: The Water Taxi, Embarkation, and First Day

Until next time,

D.

Part 2- The Water Taxi, and Embarkation morning!

After stopping to take pictures with a few more little dinghies that would make my poor Dad pea green with envy, including one incredible boat named Milk Money, we made it to the Water Taxi stop, taking the long way around the back of the building, thanks to my spectacular lack of instinct for locations. Daughter S. was quite certain by this time I was the WORST navigator on the planet. She turned out to be quite good at finding our way around different places, and at ever-so-gently verifying with me whether or not I knew for sure where I was going before she started making suggestions. She’s such a wise child. 🙂 The kids plopped down on the edge of the pier or whatever you call it, and started checking out the water below, arguing about whether their shoes would get eaten by an alligator if they dropped them in the water. I issued dire warnings that NOBODY had better drop their shoes in the water, and struck up a conversation with a rather perturbed lady sitting nearby, who had apparently been misdirected and had hiked all over land and valley to find her way to this stop, only to discover that the boat she desperately thought she needed to catch, being the last Hollywood Connection, or something, was too full to allow her and her husband to board. With many oaths and declarations of severe retribution, she sent her husband into the office to find out exactly where the next boat would take them and exactly when it would get there, stating quite firmly that she was not taking another unnecessary step that night!

The next boat came, and Happy Shirley was ready to go, but her husband was still in the process of getting informed, and besides, another boat was pulling up right behind this one. So we got on it and tried to make our way to the back where the empty seats were, without causing injury to the exposed toes of the other passengers. We found spots at the back and off we went!

*

I definitely want to point out here that the water taxi was one of my favorite parts of the trip, mostly because it was the first step and it made us feel like we were having an adventure! We rode through several stops, listening to the tour guide talk about all the different houses, marveling at them and being amazed at the amount of money some people have. I kept glancing and smiling hopefully at the kids, like “Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this cool? You’re having a good time, right?” And they assured me it was fun, and cool, and they were having a great time. The tour was a bit of a torture, though, because we kept passing eating establishments with the most delicious aromas leaking out of them, and if I hadn’t been 99.99% sure they were outside our budget range, I would have happily jumped ship at any one of them.

*

We had been perusing the water taxi brochure for the whole ride, trying to decide at which stop we should disembark, and the kids thought Stop # 7 looked promising, because it had listed under it, a pizza place. Doughboys, or something like that. My kids can always be counted on to be in the mood for pizza, so we left the taxi at this stop and proceeded to walk. And walk. AND walk! We had asked the tour guide when she came to sell us our tickets where exactly this place might be, and she said something like it was just a little walk down the street from the stop. Now keep in mind, we didn’t know our way around, and ok, boys and girls… how is Mommy with directions? Terrible, yes, thank you! I kept telling myself, “If we don’t see it by the next corner… ok, maybe the next corner.” Finally, the children were getting hostile and we started to go around one corner, then changed our minds and decided to cross the road, and The Boy almost darted out in front of a car, whereupon words I don’t normally say issued from my mouth.

*

We joined another group of folks crossing the street (who happened to be fellow Cruise Critic folks (CCers), btw!) and continued on a little farther. Finally, we turned a corner into The Shops on 17th Street or something like that, and desperately stumbled through the door of 5 Guys Burgers. My pizza-loving children were not exactly pleased at this point, but we were exhausted, starving, it was dark, and I. Didn’t. Care. Anymore! We threw ourselves on the mercy of the cashier, asking what was good and what we should order, etc. She was really super nice to us, coming over to chat a couple of times, and upon request, giving us the number to call a cab, and I paid it forward by asking for the manager or shift leader after we finished eating, and telling her that the girl was really great to us tired, hungry, out-of-towners, and that I just wanted the manager to know she was a good employee. I was trying to set an example for the kids that when people are kind to you, you try to be kind back.

*

Then we called a cab and took a short, uneventful, mostly silent ride back to the hotel. (Fare was $7 including tip, if you’re interested.) A little note about cab drivers here- remember when I said I feel l should at least try to make conversation with airplane seatmates? Same goes for cab drivers. I always feel guilty just talking to the kids or riding in silence, so I always asked the drivers how they were doing, in my whimsical, Southern Oklahoma way: “You doin’ alright today?” Some answered that they were fine, some barely spoke, and some were friendly and chatty. Mostly they seemed to want to just drive and not be too social, which I can understand.

Back at the hotel, we checked out a few more things on TV, being very careful not to hit any channels that would result in having to pay more money. The girls showered, and we all eventually passed out.

*

I woke up early the next morning, like “isn’t this still the middle of the night?” early. The Boy and I had been sleeping in the same bed, and he was awake too. I had thought we might be up early enough to watch Allure coming in, (squeeeee!) and I had heard and read here on CC all about going to the top of the tower building to do so. So I asked The Boy if he was up for an adventure, told him I wanted to go check out the tower, and as always, he was gung ho. We walked over (my borrowed camera takes horrible pics in the dark, I discovered) and went up to the top of the round tower of Pier 66. My son was a little concerned that maybe we weren’t allowed to be in there, but I assured him it would be fine. As we walked in, we were bowled over by the beautiful scent of the flower arrangements still on the tables from the night before- calla lilies, and I don’t know what else, but they were so lovely. We stepped outside, took some pictures, admired the wrong ship (I forgot my glasses back at the room) and posted a preservation of the moment to Facebook from my phone. (Internet Addicts Anonymous, remember?)

*

We decided to head back and stopped at the pool. It was very gradually getting lighter. He stuck his feet in the pool and I took my first “lounge chair” picture, despite the fact that it was 5:30 in the morning or so! (I’m such a dork!) We went back to the room and tried to rest a little longer. He fell asleep and I got up and showered, and I let them all sleep until the last possible minute. Woke them up, finally, and everybody put on their new Allure of the Seas t-shirts that I had had made at home, which many people asked about throughout the day. Daughter J. was peeved that her shirt was too long and her shorts were too short, and she was rather cranky and irritating, but we snapped some “happy family pictures” on the balcony and went to check out. Easily got a cab to the port, but the kids had been hoping for some kind of breakfast, it being about 10:30 a.m. at this point, and I asked the driver to stop at one of the pharmacies on the way. We stopped at Walgreens and I grabbed some Pop Tarts and similar items, a cheap plastic watch because I’d forgotten one from home, and some Gatorade. We arrived at the port, all excited and nervous, flashed our IDs at the gate, and he took us to the terminal.

*

This was way too long, so I decided to break it up. Part 3 coming up: Embarkation, Moron Moments, and Sailaway!!

Part 3: Embarkation, Moron Moments, and Sailaway!!!

*

Now then, here is where I had the first of several of what I call my Moron Moments! When we got out of the cab and paid the driver, ($16 with tip, if you’re interested) it seemed like sheer chaos, despite the assurances of folks here on CC that there would be plenty of assistance and direction regarding where to go and with whom to leave your luggage. Being the small-town person that I am, I had no idea whether there were any “unauthorized” porters hanging around, or what they might look like if there were, and wasn’t sure whether to give our bags to the first person who asked, or just hang onto them a little longer. So when the first porter asked, I said no, we’ll keep them with us. What I thought was we would get asked several more times before we made it inside. But… we didn’t. We dragged all our bags inside and went through security (As an aside, when I handed the first agent our BCs/DLs, Daughter S. said “Calm down, Mom, you’re shaking!!”) Then we went through check-in and all, STILL LUGGING OUR BAGS!! I think I might have even asked somebody after we got our pictures made if there was anybody to leave the luggage with before boarding, and they basically said we were stuck with it.

*

So we had our pictures made, walked the gangway, and (hallelujah chorus) we were finally, really, truly onboard the Allure of the Seas. It was real, after all my months of planning and obsessing- we were actually there. It was big, it was beautiful, and we could not begin to explore it until we could ditch our bags, so the kids plopped down in some comfy chairs under a tree in the middle of Royal Promenade and finished their Pop Tarts while I went here and there taking care of business, like getting our SeaPass cards punched, asking for a map, etc. NOTE: They did not give us a map of any kind at check-in, and nobody said anything about The Boy needed a wristband, being 11 years old. When reading here, I had understood these things would happen at check-in, and they didn’t. No big deal, just pointing it out.

*

The girls weren’t interested in going ANYWHERE until we were luggage-free, but my little man is always ready to see what’s going on, so he and I went to Central Park. After the many rave reviews and drooling reports of that famous Roast Beef Sandwich, there was no way in heck I was going to miss out on this Embarkation Experience, even if I had to carry my luggage through the park on my head. I didn’t have to go that far, of course, because I had little slaves… uh, teenagers… to sit there and watch it for me. We joined the line of chaos that was Park Café (two lines- salad v. sandwiches, if you’re interested. I guess if you want both, you’re screwed! ) I had one Roast Beef and one Turkey and Guacamole Panini. Holy God, it was as good as advertised. I could eat those every single day! That horseradish is not something I eat in everyday life, but it definitely added a kick to the sandwich. That stuff will clear your sinuses, let me tell ya!

*

Finally, it was after 1:00, and The Boy and I returned to the girls, to find them hot, tired, and bored silly. We went to find our room (Again, Deck 3 #838, if you’re interested.) Desmond was our stateroom attendant, and he was very friendly. We ditched the luggage, a couple of us changed into swimsuits, and we hit the Boardwalk, which of course was one of the things the kids were most looking forward to… (musically) Carousellllll! We tried the Boardwalk Dog House (The Boy had a Coney Island and I had a German dog, not a dachshund. We left those at home.) Then we hit the ice cream parlor. It would turn out to be the only time we went there all week. It was very good, but they were happy with the free offerings elsewhere. I had Mint Chocolate Chip, one of the girls tried the Mango Sherbet, and The Boy had… what else? Chocolate.) They rode the carousel ( I think I still felt too silly at this point to get on it yet, but they would eventually insist that I join them before the week was out, and I decided it was worth it.)

So we decided to hit the pool deck. Daughter J. and The Boy swam. Daughter S. found a lawn chair and demonstrated proper Vacation Relaxation Mode. Eventually we found the yogurt machine and I ordered my first Mama Drink of the trip from the pool bar. (Frozen Lemonade, if you’re interested. In my best Cousin Eddie Griswold voice: It was goo-oood! )

*

Disclaimer to those who responded to me in all the exercise threads, and who promised to be my exercise buddy on the trip: In case you’re keeping track, it’s not even dinner on the first night yet, and we are already in full Weight Watchers FAIL!! I’ll mention somewhere near the end of the report, the final result of my unrestrained gluttony.

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Anyway, then I got bored watching them swim and made them get out and we breezed through the Promenade and hit the Cupcake Cupboard, that being what Daughter S. was looking forward to most. Sadly, she was disappointed. Somehow she described the cupcakes as “weird-tasting and too fancy” (I know, I don’t really get that either) but I could have slept in there!! My first cupcake was Lemon. Personally, I thought they were great. Seems like they were always on the cool side, temperature-wise, but I’d rather have a cold cupcake than a hot, melty cupcake so hey, I was fine with them.

*

We returned to the room, unpacked a little, and went to Muster/Mustard Drill.  Sorry, just a poke at some reviewers I’ve read who actually thought it was ‘mustard.’ Our station was in the Promenade, right where the Embarkation gangway was. Seemed like most people were quiet and respectful during the video, and we stood around waiting to be officially dismissed and it never seemed to happen, so people just drifted away!

*

At some point earlier, I had made it a point to locate my intended sailaway spot, Deck 11 aft, Port side. So after Muster we went straight there, and the view was awesome! It was great fun, Daughter J. watching the Dreamworks party and complaining about wanting to be down there in the Aqua Theater, but I told her she could see it just fine and there would be plenty more opportunities to see the characters, so suck it up, because we’re not going anywhere right now! (Daughter J. is the one who is developmentally delayed, and the Dreamworks program was high on her list of priorities for this trip. Most particularly the How To Train Your Dragon character of Hiccup. Remember this- there’s a story about this later.)

*

So finally we realized the ship had started moving, and we were all, “Oh my gosh, we’re moving! We’re sailing! Auuugggghhhh!” And then… it started raining. It was amazing how cold that rain was! We and a few other hearty souls who had staked out that spot stayed there and waited to pass the Webcam Building. (Rain be damned, I had requested a SailAway wave, and I was going to be there, just in case. (Sure enough, I watched it when we got home, and you can’t see us clearly, but it’s a blur of blue at the back with the bits of white that was our shorts and pants, bobbing up and down as we jumped and waved frantically.)

*

And so, sailaway happened and we were underway. Daughter J. was freezing and it was almost time to go to dinner. We were already feeling the movement of the ship, which, given the size of the thing, came as a total surprise to us, but which we now realize was a little more than normal, according to experienced cruisers who were there. So on our way to supper we located a restroom, washed our hands, etc. (Daughter S. is a bit of a germaphobe – she was in heaven with sanitizer dispensers so widely available. )

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We had also checked out our table location at some point earlier in the day, and wouldn’t you know- we were right in front of the door. I mean, the VERY first table you see when you walk in. This could have distinct plusses and minuses. For sure, one plus would be if The Boy started acting like a heathen during dinner, I could take him out and beat him quickly and easily. On the minus side, we were immediately visible to everybody who walked in the room, whether we were behaving well or poorly. (And I count myself in that behavior thing, because sometimes when it’s a good moment, our family tends to get silly and get the giggles, and I could just see us getting cracked up about something and everybody looking at us like we were completely uncouth.)

This post is already way too long, so I think I’ll cut it off here. Up next, our first night’s dinner and first port day- Nassau!

Part 4- Our First MDR Dinner, and Our Experiences Afterward.

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We arrived at the MDR (main dining room, for those unfamiliar with cruise abbreviations. (Deck 4, if you’re interested) a little early and there was a crowd waiting for the doors to open. I had seen pictures of this phenomenon on… ahem…a different line’s board, but I didn’t realize it happened on Royal. I don’t know why I thought this- maybe I had just never heard people mention waiting for the doors to open at dinner. It wasn’t the ‘waiting for the doors to open’ part that made me feel a little disconcerted, it was the crowd. Here was an example of one of those supposedly few moments on the Oasis class where you felt the crowding. But it should be noted that this only occurred on the first night. (I’m assuming on that night everyone wanted to be on time, and also that perhaps more people went to the MDR on the first night than on subsequent nights.)

*

Anyway. Once the doors opened, the crowd dispersed pretty quickly and we went to our table (#403, if you’re interested. Our waitstaff: Head waiter- Cesar, Waiter- Dalton, Assistant Waiter- Silvestre). It’s kind of a funny thing, but we ended up in the same places at the table every night. We automatically sat every evening in the same spots we did on the first night. So we met the aforementioned Dalton and Silvestre, and they were really nice. Dalton was very friendly and chatted, especially with my son, calling him My Boy every time he talked to him, giving him the Fist Bump every time Adam shared some fascinating bit of information with him. On later evenings when The Boy was displaying his usual tendency toward occasional surliness, Dalton was very engaging with him and usually managed to get him to smile.

*

Of course, I had already scoped out the menu ahead of time and I knew I was definitely interested in trying the Vidalia Onion Tart as an appetizer. The kids didn’t bother with appetizers, of course. I enjoyed the tart, but it wasn’t quite as Wow-inducing as I expected. It seemed just a little bland. Again, I did like it, but after reading about it for so long, I was underwhelmed. (Please note, I am the farthest thing from a food snob there could ever be- you surely can’t get to be as overweight as I was, with a picky, discriminating palate. This is in no way a huge criticism of Royal’s food. I ate it, I enjoyed it, and my WW weigh-in proved it. But I will admit to being less than impressed with the tastes and flavors I tried during the week. Again, I would not rate them as low as other people I’ve read from my sailing. They just weren’t as amazing as I expected.)

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Ok, enough of that. Daughter S. and The Boy both had the pasta selection from the Alternative Menu Selections and Daughter J. chose the grilled chicken. Remember I said they were all about habit and repetitiveness when it came to food? This was the beginning of a trend that would continue throughout the week. The Boy mixed it up a little, but if we were in the MDR, Daughter S. was having pasta! Yes, I am a little chagrined that they aren’t more adventurous about trying new foods and acquiring new tastes. I was hoping they’d be more open-minded on this trip, but alas. Indeed, I originally planned that I would order for everybody every night so that I could try it all myself, and if they didn’t like it, there was always Sorrentos. The WJ buffet, however, would later come to play an important role in their dining experience later in the week!

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For dessert I had the sponge cake, which was good, and The Boy tried the chocolate cherry cake, which he quickly dismissed as being bitter. (He’s from Oklahoma and he’s 11- his appreciation for chocolate comes solely from Hershey. What can you say, right?) I don’t think the girls bothered with dessert either, although J. might have had some sherbet or vanilla ice cream.

*

During the dinner itself, we got our first big taste (pardon the pun) of the feeling of the ship’s movement and the beginnings of seasickness. We didn’t feel sick, exactly, (except for Daughter J.- I ordered her a Sprite with her dinner) but we definitely just felt loopy and drunk. The Boy enjoyed laughing about that, and pretending that he was, in fact, drunk. (Don’t worry- he doesn’t actually know what it feels like.) We all had a few giggles. Finally, we ended the meal and said goodnight to Dalton. Before we left the table, The Boy expressed to me that we definitely needed to leave Dalton a tip, because he was a lot of fun. I skimmed over the whole ‘ship’s gratuities’ tradition, and promised him that we would most certainly give Dalton a tip at the end of the cruise. The Boy can be so sweet at times like these.

*

My recollection of exact events gets a little blurry here. Probably what happened was that the girls went back to the room for a bit and The Boy and I went exploring again. (Or possibly I went exploring by myself) but in my actual journal from the trip it says that I walked the decks, walked the walking track, checked to see if OceanAria would still be on, and found that it was. I collected the kids from the room, and we went to our first cruise show- OceanAria! It was really amazing. The athleticism and grace of those performers is so incredible. We enjoyed the Funny Guy who got the crowd warmed up at the beginning. He is supposed to look all clumsy and silly, but he’s probably one of the best athletes in the show. Note here: I agree with previous reviews I’ve read that there is absolutely no perceivable story-line to this show, just a sort of a theme of a primitive, underwater society. (That happens to spend a lot of time diving, bouncing, and swinging on things that hang from the sky.) It still rocks, and it’s worth watching

*

After OA, we went back to Boardwalk (again!) and they rode the carousel (again!). I think this might have been the first time I rode it with them. Then we went back to the room for a bit, and Daughter J. and The Boy took full advantage of the Dreamworks programming on TV (another of their trends for the week) and Daughter S. and I- well, I took my daughter clubbing. Because of a variety of indoctrinated religious and parental stuff, I did feel some slight sense of guilt or ambivalence about this, although I really enjoyed it.

*

We had planned on hitting up what is billed in the Compass as the Traffic Light Singles Party, where you get a cool little glow-y glass with the color that reflects your relationship status- Green = single, Red = unavailable, and Yellow = It’s complicated. This party was held in Blaze, and we finally found it, went in, sat down, and discussed what beverage we wanted. We decided on Virgin Margaritas. I went to the bar, ordered them, and received… no glow-y glass! L Oh well. Such is life. We sat there and watched the dancers and sipped our drinks. I don’t think she liked hers all that much. (Later she would discover a flavor that she found “de-lish-us, fo’ rizzle!” Yeah, she just talks that way sometimes, I dunno.)

*

So since both of us either a)can’t dance worth a flip (me) or b)wouldn’t show off our groovy, quirky moves in front of strangers if our lives depended on it (her), we finished our drinks and split. I was interested in checking out Jazz On 4, and so was she, so we did. It was a really cool, vibe-y little venue that would have made a great place to hang out and chill, but unfortunately we found the woman singer’s voice to be… um… not particularly pleasing. (Ok, we thought we could have sung better and if we had to listen to her very much longer, we might stick forks in our ears. I just didn’t want to say it like that.)

*

So we left after about 3 minutes, and grooved on down to the Karaoke Club. Success!!! We had found our Mother Ship! We sat there and watched and enjoyed the atmosphere as we listened to the performers. There was one girl who we thought seemed totally cool and talented (an African-American girl with short braids- we said hi to her later and told her we were big fans.) We really love the idea of singing karaoke (in fact, we had a big K party for the girls’ 18th b-day in November, and it was too much fun) but in this instance we were too shy to give it a go, and in any case it was almost closing. Among other memorable attempts, we watched the guy who sang Sexual Healing and ended up on the Cruise DVD, and after the final performances we went back to the room and she crashed while I got ready for our port stop in Nassau the next day.

Up next, Nassau…. and hopefully soon, some pictures!

Thanks again, everybody! I Heart U!

*

Thanks for sticking with me!!!

Port Day- Nassau!

And we continue…

I got up at 7am, took the stairs up to deck 5, and walked the walking track as far as the turn-off to Boardwalk. I grabbed a couple of doughnuts from the case and took them back to the room as, shall we say, Wake-Up Incentive!  The kids shared the doughnuts, but didn’t like the Magic Shell-like consistency of the chocolate coating. (I know, kids can be so weird.) But the doughnuts had achieved the intended result- the kids got up, and we got dressed, collected our “port stuff” and went to the Windjammer Buffet for breakfast. It was fine- I don’t remember what we all had, but I’m sure eggs, bacon, sausage, and Danishes were all involved. We had an enjoyable breakfast (I guess, because I described it thus in my original journal: It was good. And fun.) I’m assuming it was a bit of a zoo, but we wandered far enough that we found a seat. The trick, I think, is to hover nearby until a party of your size leaves their table and then swoop in like buzzards and sit yourselves down while the waiter is still wiping away the previous occupants’ crumbs!

*

Anyway. My original desire was to get off the ship as early as possible, take a walking tour of all the government buildings and the immediate area, and then hit the Pirates Museum, Ardastra Zoo, and end up with Junkanoo Beach. But then, sadly, I realized that 1) it was vacation and the kids were not going to be thrilled about getting up with the chickens every morning, and b) they didn’t give two hoots about seeing government buildings, and d) I had zero confidence in my ability to maneuver around the city in such a way as to make what we were seeing coherent and interesting. ‘Directionally challenged,’ you recall. So I decided we’d get off the ship just in time to walk directly to the Pirates museum, arriving there shortly after opening. We’d tour it, then catch a cab or bus or something to Ardastra Zoo and Gardens, arriving just in time to see the only scheduled Flamingo Show we’d be able to catch, maybe the Parrot feeding, see a few monkeys and other wildlife, and then go to the beach for a couple of hours before getting back to the ship.

*

The plan went well, as far as it went. We were off the ship in a fairly timely manner. The chaos at the port was pretty intimidating for a first-timer- all the touts for cabs and hair braiding and so forth. From watching YouTube videos, reading tour books and looking at walking maps, I was fairly sure I could find my way to the Pirates Museum, but I think somebody saw the confused look on my face, and after asking if I needed a taxi and being refused, asked where I was trying to get to, and I told them the Pirates Museum and they pointed me in the right direction. I actually was already on the right track though, for once.

*

We made it to the museum, met the enterprising “Pirate” gentleman at the entrance, and went into the shop to buy our tickets. (3 Adults + 1 Child = $42 if you’re interested.) We toured the museum, and it was mildly amusing, but it was hard to enjoy for two reasons: One, Daughter J. has serious issues with dark places with spooky noises coming out. She kept hanging onto me and cringing, even though the lady at the entrance had promised us that “Nothing touches you, nothing jumps out at you.” I guess J. didn’t believe her. And Two, The Boy wasn’t as into it as I had hoped, once we passed the areas with the figures and recreations, and he kept nagging at us to “hurry up, come on, let’s go!” (Maybe that was payback for when he tried to show me the fish, y’think?) Anyway, we finished the tour, took the obligatory pics with our heads in the stocks, and exited through the gift shop where I bought a few post cards and little parchment treasure maps, or something like that. I’m not even sure. I was just beginning to exhibit the symptoms of Crappy Souvenir Buying Syndrome.

*

We asked for directions to the zoo, and proceeded to attempt to follow them, but I think we basically circled the block before noticing a taxi stand and procuring taxi transportation to the zoo. The fare was $17 with tip, which struck even me as a little ridiculous, but we paid it. If I remember correctly, Daughter S. began to be rather aghast at my complete helplessness at this point. My attitude toward her was something along the lines of “Geez, my Girl Scout days were many eons ago, cut me some slack, how ‘bout?” But we made it to the zoo, took in the flamingo show (which was short, but pretty funny) and the parrot feeding, looked at a few other animals, got pictures made with a safari hat with a bird on our heads, also pictures with the one bird giving us a kiss on the nose, bought some much needed cold drinks, and hot-footed it out of there.

*

Before I leave the tales of the Zoo, I have to relate the story of Daughter S. stalking the flamingos after the show was over, determined for them to stay still long enough for her to get a close-up picture with them. She basically succeeded in this endeavor, and we have some really cute pics of her imitating their stance and the looks on their faces. I know, it takes a certain amount of talent to imitate the look on a flamingo’s face, but still, she managed. She and The Boy were really cute feeding the parrots too. I have pictures of them standing there with birds on their arms and heads, holding out their little apple slices. They really enjoyed it, I think. Then those pics I mentioned before- the flamingos’ drill sergeant is stationed near the exit of the zoo, with a well-trained bird (NOT a flamingo!) perched on a safari hat for people to have their pictures made with, for a small donation. They also found some other parrots on perches in that same area, that would do little tricks for you and talk to you. One of them was really funny- it would copy you if you stood in front of it and moved your head side to side. You move, he moves, you move, he moves. It was so cute!

*

So then we asked for directions to where we could catch the bus, and we managed to get there, despite some uncertainty that we were actually going in the right direction. ( I SWEAR, I need some kind of medical treatment for this condition, really!) We found a bus stop, right near some guys who seemed to be grilling conch or something, and also, much to my great happiness, a security officer, or someone who was posing as a security officer, who seemed to be functioning to protect tourists from the guys grilling conch on the corner, and also to stop the bus for helpless chickens like us, who would never have managed to brave that busy street to catch the bus if he hadn’t been there. I don’t know for sure who or what he really was, but I didn’t care, because the bus came after just a few minutes (Number 10, fare $1.25 pp, if you’re interested) and he told helped slow traffic so we could run across the street. We gratefully climbed on, flopped down, and tried to take in some brief glimpses of the beach through the windows as we sped back to the ship. And that is the story of how I went to the Bahamas for the first time, and didn’t go to the beach. Bummer for me.

*

When we got back to the ship, a not-so-great thing happened. I was dawdling, taking pictures, and the kids were outdistancing me on the walk back from the drop-off area to the security area, but I had the girls’ IDs in my wallet. They came back to get them from me and told The Boy to wait there for them, but when we got to that area, Guess Who had completely disappeared! We asked security if they had seen him and they said to go to the Gangway and see if he had been scanned onto the ship. Sure enough, the little monster had already gotten onboard. The girls headed to the room to either see if he had already made it, or to be there when he did show up, and I started combing the decks looking for him.

*

I went up to the pool area first, figuring that would be his immediate destination. I guess I am a stress eater, and when I saw the Wipeout Café, I remembered the reputation of the Pretzel Dogs from that establishment and figured this might be my only time to have one, so I zipped through the room, plated one, then left the plate and ate it as I continued my search for He-Who-Was-Now-In-Huge-Trouble. (The pretzel dog was really good, btw. I wish I’d had a chance to get another later, but I never did.) And here, I have to say, I realize this is going to sound like a horrible thing, but I figured he was on the ship and pretty safe for the most part, and at some point in here I found a phone and called our room, and he was already there. But I can’t remember if it was before or after I knew he was in the room, that I stopped at the pool bar, I believe it was, and ordered a Strawberry Margarita and continued walking. I remember thinking, “Great, I can’t believe this- Day 2 and I’ve lost one of them! I need a drink!” So I hope it doesn’t make you abandon reading my review, but he was fine and the drink wasn’t all that great, and we roll on.

*

I returned to the room and gave The Boy the required lectures about safety and dangers and so forth. It turned out that a staff member had seen him and asked him if he needed help and accompanied him to our room. We decided that he could be forgiven of this lapse in judgment as long as he was aware that he would NOT be allowed to roam alone after that, no matter what.

*

So Daughter S. wanted nothing but to shower and nap, but the other two were hungry, so we went to the buffet, where they had hamburgers and hot dogs and French fries, Oh My. I had a little lo-mein and curry, neither of which was particularly mind-blowing. I took them back to Boardwalk and they rode the carousel again, and Daughter J. finally got to get her picture taken with some characters. (I forgot to mention that the whole family had our picture taken with King Julien on the Promenade the night before, but this was her first solo picture.) The Madagascar Penguins were down there doing their thing, and the picture we got turned out quite cute. Then we went to the pool deck where The Boy enjoyed the Lazy River and Daughter J. sampled several of the different pools.

*

I found a shady chair and journaled a little. My unfortunate tendency toward negativity was rolling over me, and I was thinking and beating myself up about the Weight Watchers Failure I was becoming and the times so far I had already been cranky with the kids and said mean things that I obviously couldn’t rewind and un-say, and so forth and so on. Then I got drowsy and put the journal down and relaxed a little, and I was determined that tomorrow being a Sea Day, I would find some time for ME so that I could be more of who I wanted to be for THEM.

*

Up Next: Formal Night Festivities

And we continue…

*

In my actual journal from the trip, after I put the journal down in the above post, this is what it says: “Ok- after the previous- I totally forget what happened. We got ready for formal night.”

*

I wore my beloved yellow dress I bought on eBay and worked my a$$ off to make sure I fit into for this trip. And naturally I fidgeted with it all night! After going back and forth on whether we were going to “do” formal night and how fancied up we were going to get, we ended up bringing the formal wear, but honestly- neither I nor my girls are “girly-girls.” None of us wear makeup regularly in everyday life, none of us curl or straighten or perm or color our hair regularly (although since I am approaching 40, the “Great Battle of the So-Called Sparklies” has begun, and I do try to cover some evil grays from time to time.) So it turned out that none of us did much with our hair. I convinced the girls to at least wear foundation to even out their complexions, and I put on a little Bare Minerals and some mascara. After being all enthusiastic about bringing his suit and getting it all pressed and cleaned, The Boy was in the middle of a really sleepy spell when it was time to get ready for dinner, and had to be, shall we say, coerced, to get up and get dressed. Therefore he sat at table in his little suit, half asleep like an old Grandpa after Thanksgiving dinner, and had to be prodded awake to give old Dalton his order. Sigh!!!

*

The girls didn’t really do anything with their hair or jewelry, or even their shoes, but we didn’t really care that much after a while. We looked pretty good, and we were only in pursuit of Experience. So we went to our table, and I enjoyed pointing out other people’s pretty outfits to the girls, i.e. “Hey, look at that dress- that’s gorgeous!” And also, “Look out, that chick’s dress is so short, she’s fixin’ to moon us!” I had the antipasti, garlic soup, chicken marsala, and tiramisu. It was all very nice, but I began to feel guilty again, this time because poor Dalton would give us his little recommendations pitch every night on what was supposed to be extra good that night, and we never seemed to take them!! I think he got a complex, because he seemed fairly quiet and not so there the next few nights.

*

After dinner, we went and had a few pictures taken and then in true redneck fashion, we ditched our fancy clothes and went swimmin’! I felt pretty awkward waiting for the elevator in our swimsuits and cover-ups when there were tuxes and gowns and bling everywhere, but I got over it.  Tonight was a memorable moment in the trip. I went to the towel station to get us some towels, and the attendant, Andres, had a notebook on his desk where he had been drawing. I struck up a conversation about his art and how Daughter S. is an artist. She draws anime and would die to go to the Dallas Art Institute and become an animator. She thinks Avatar is the pinnacle of movie magic, and she also would love to do the voices for her own cartoon show. (Just a little networking there, sorry.) So I went back and told her all about him, and we went back and they talked, and we said she would bring her notebook down there either that night or the next night and show him her work. Unfortunately, we got busy doing other things and she never did go back that night. I’ll get back to this story when she did go back…

*

After swimming, we took The Boy and Daughter J. back to the room, changed clothes again, and then Daughter S. and I went to see Chicago. Now I have to say here, that I have never seen a real Broadway show, never even an “Off-Broadway” show. The closest I have come to that has been my local Little Theater group and Lone Grove High School’s esteemed productions. With regard to Chicago itself, I have only seen the movie and my little sister’s Humorous Duet of vignettes from Chicago in competitive speech, (which was a RIOT, btw) so I can’t say how good or not good the show was in quality. But I enjoyed it a lot, and I loved the music. I especially enjoyed the performance of “When You’re Good to Mama.” I don’t remember the actress’s name, but she definitely blew the roof off, and got a great round of applause.

*

Here was another of the best moments of the cruise as far as time spent with one of the kids, because S. and I got a severe case of the giggles. It went like this: I jokingly told her I was never going to cruise with them again, but then I said I’d definitely cruise with her, and I told her she could take me on a cruise to Alaska when I was old and departed. I meant to say decrepit, but we both cracked up at the idea of her taking my urn full of ashes or my coffin on a cruise to Alaska and touring with it. What can I say, we’re sick and twisted.  It was pretty late by the time the show ended, so after Chicago, we went back to the room and went to bed.

*

A note about the show content: You all know the story of Chicago- sex, betrayal, murder, etc. It’s not for kids, and the language is all there, but if you or your teenage children (I’d say at least over 14 or 15) are not sensitive or easily offended by such, OR if you have a relationship where you can talk about what you’ve seen and share your beliefs and thoughts, then feel free to take kids over the age of 15 or so, depending on the kid. I wouldn’t have wanted The Boy to be exposed to it, although he has watched many movies I probably shouldn’t have let him watch, and Daughter J. was recently baptized and is very church-y at this point, and wouldn’t have appreciated it anyway. Just FYI. And also, it was VERY cold in the theater. Daughter S. was wearing shorts and she was ready to pull her knees up under her shirt before it was over.

*

Up Next: First Sea Day!

Our First Sea Day: Moron Moments, Meltdowns, and Regrets

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We had signed up for the character breakfasts for each of the three sea days, so we got up around 7:00 and got dressed and headed upstairs. Here is where Moron Moment # 2 (I originally called them Jacka$$ Moments) occurred. Now before I explain this, I have to say that I have seen a lot of discussion on the CC boards about whether people are more rude than they used to be, or whether people do rude things intentionally or what. Well, if they are ANYTHING like me- maybe they would never mean to be rude, they’re just completely clueless. Maybe they’re a small-town goofball who goes around with their head in a bubble. We just never know, but here’s what the kids and I did: We were heading up the stairs to the Character Breakfast, which was held on Deck 4 of the MDR. We were only one deck below, so we took the stairs. We rounded the corner and saw a herd of people heading that direction so we joined them. We got through the main outer doors and formed a line at the desk nearest the inner door, and I began to dimly realize, standing there with these three teenage girls behind us who seemed somewhat disgruntled and listening to them talk, that the herd of people we joined was not just a large group of people all arriving at the same place at the same time, as I had assumed. Instead, they had actually been a bunch of people standing in a line waiting for the outer doors to be opened, which had just happened shortly before we rounded the corner! Then one of these girls, as I moved ahead, touched my arm and said “Excuse me, we’ve been standing in line, so…” and feeling like a COMPLETE idiot, I said “Oh, sure, sorry, go ahead.” And pulled the kids back a couple of steps, mumbling to them under my breath that we had just jumped in the middle of a line of people! Forgive me, but I didn’t go any further back in the line, because I had no idea where it would have ended, and I figured what was done, was done. That definitely doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like a complete schmuck!

*

So we were seated in a table right by a window, which was super awesome for us, given where our dinner table was situated (right by the entrance, if you recall, and nowhere near such a cool view as the one we now breakfasted with). We were given menus, etc. And the first thing that they brought around without us even requesting it, was a tray of chocolate pastries, of which I think I ate more than I care to admit here. Then I had an omelet, hash browns, sausage, and English muffin, plus coffee with cream, and some orange juice. It was all very good. The characters for the first breakfast were Shrek, Puss In Boots, and Fiona. They brought them in one at a time, spaced far enough apart that they didn’t create a traffic jam. Also, at the beginning of the breakfast, I think there was some singing and dancing by the wait staff.

*

Ok, I know it seems like I’ve talked a lot about Daughter S., but this one is about her too. I knew Daughter J. liked the characters. Ok, loved and obsessed over them. But I was not at all savvy to the fact that Daughter S. had a weakness for one particular character- Puss in Boots! When he came in, I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that she almost teared up a little!  We took pictures with all the characters (this is a ‘bring your own camera’ event, if you’re interested) and we finished and left. The girls went back to the room, and The Boy and I took another exploring tour. We saw the library and the chapel, and went back to Central Park. I’m not sure exactly why I did this, having had breakfast not too long before, but for some reason I ate an apple and a yogurt parfait in Park Café.

*

After a while, we went and woke the girls up for the parade. We got there a little late, and had a really lousy spot all the way at the end of the promenade, almost in the elevator hall. There were very few performers and even fewer characters who made it all the way down to our spot. Daughter J. caught a glimpse of Hiccup, from How to Train Your Dragon, about halfway down the Promenade. I tried to convince her in the moment, that the characters would go ahead and come down our way in a minute, but I was wrong. The parade ended, and J. was heartbroken. Heartbroken. We were scheduled to go to the Meet N Mingle and we were running late, so we didn’t have time to really deal with much at the time. I’m afraid I was probably not very sympathetic- I think I was kind of grouching at her not to be so sensitive or telling her she’d still have other chances to see him, etc. This was one of those occasions I wish I could go back and re-do. Not a possibility, obviously.

*

So we slipped into M&M when it was probably almost over. Took our gifts up to the stage when I went to go claim ours, and felt like a schmuck again. My gifts seemed a little small and boring compared to the rest, and to whoever got them- I apologize! When the M&M ended, Daughter J. was still so upset, she wanted me to go talk to Guest Services about the possibility of getting a Meet and Greet with Hiccup. So I went and talked to them. I explained her delays and disabilities, and told them how the ONLY thing she cared about really, on this whole trip, was getting to meet Hiccup. So the first girl I talked to said she would make a couple of phone calls and see what she could do. No, actually, she said she would email the DreamWorks coordinator and see if they could set something up. I didn’t have much hope, but I promised Daughter J. that no matter what we had to do, we would at least go to the ice show and we would stake out a better spot for the next parade, and we moved on with our day.

*

Then we went and checked on how full the next skating session would be, because we wanted to try it. The kids had never ice skated, and the last time I did it was when I was about 10. They told us when to come back, and we went to Mystery Matinee in the Adventure Ocean theater. I had signed up The Boy on the first day, just in case, but somehow we never ended up sending him to any of their events, which I really regret. He was very interested in the science lab, and wanting to blow things up,  and I’ve read one review since I’ve been home, that said their 11-y.o. did a lot of science stuff. I was just worried that he would get in one of his moods and make a yutz of himself and get sent back to the room. This is one of those things I’m struggling to let go of and call it good, because any future cruises we may take, he’ll be too old for that stuff.

*

Anyway, I didn’t know what Mystery Matinee was, but it turned out that it was basically just a surprise DreamWorks movie. In this case it was Madagascar 2. We got in and sat down, and I really wanted to leave almost immediately, but again, didn’t want to climb over anybody, and I thought watching a movie would take J’s mind off the Hiccup situation, so we stayed. When it was over, we went to the WJ buffet. I had a turkey burger, which was really good, and something I thought was supposed to be Waldorf salad, but it was pretty unsatisfying. It tasted too mayonnaise-y. But I also had some melon and tried a few bites of a couple of different desserts- white chocolate mousse, cappuccino pie, and roulade? (Something with layers of cake and creamy stuff, chocolate.) Those were all good.

*

After lunch we went to the Flash Mob dance class, (Daughter S. and I were the only ones of our family who wanted to do it, but we pretty much sucked). And then we tried ice skating. It was kind of a disaster. J. wouldn’t even try it, and The Boy…, oh boy! He tried it and kept flopping his ankles over and struggling, and he got in one of his moods and had a massive meltdown. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very sympathetic to this one either. I was doing a pitiful job of dealing with him- either to console, encourage, discipline… All I could do was keep him reasonably quiet by hissing dire threats if he didn’t knock it off immediately, until we could get the heck out of there! We went straight to the room for a MUCH needed time out (for ALL of us) and I paid for a movie on stateroom TV to give us all some downtime. (Also gave The Boy a half dose of a couple of his meds, hoping that would help.)

*

After a while, we went to dinner. And just now re-reading my journal, I realize I gave the wrong menu for what I ate on Formal night. I ate that on this night. Guess I got that part all out of whack. But on this night, the food was good. The girls left early and went to the room, and The Boy and I stayed and had dessert. I’m glad I did, because the waiters did their dancing, singing, napkin-waving thing and sang O Solo Mio. Here was another of the more poignant moments of the trip. I was watching these men and women, up there trying so hard to entertain a bunch of people whose lives are so far removed from their own, the difference must seem incredible. I was looking at them, seeing their smiling faces, thinking about how hard they all work, and finding them so… beautiful all of a sudden. I wanted to cry, and in fact almost did. I’m tearing up again right now, just relating it.

*

We finished dinner and left, and the next adventure contains yet another Moron Moment. Or maybe a couple, depending on your perspective, but I’ve got to cut it short for now. More on this as soon as I can!

Thanks again for reading!

*

So after the wait staff finished their performance and The Boy finished his chocolate ice cream, we went to Guest Services and cashed a couple of Traveler’s Checks. (I cruised on a cash account, never had to put up a deposit, cashed TCs throughout the week at Guest Services with absolutely zero fees or hassle, if you’re interested.) Then The Boy noticed that the Rising Tide was down, and he wanted to ride. Here is what could be considered a Moron Moment, taking your 11 yo in a “bar” but it was more of a giant elevator to him. Well, I ordered him a soda, and I decided to try something called a Japanese Collins. Well, let me tell ya, that thing was STRONG! Even on a full stomach, I was buzzing hard on just ONE!! We rode the RT and left it when it came back down, and I think I can blame the next Moron Moment on the Collins!

*

We were walking down the Promenade and I noticed again the little red car. I thought I hadn’t taken his picture with it yet, and asked him if he wanted a picture with it, and he said sure, so we walked over. There was a couple standing near the end of it, with their arms around each other, and I thought they were just standing there talking. So Adam posed, I snapped his picture, and right about then, I noticed there was a photographer on the other side of that couple!!  We had totally jumped right in the middle of their photo shoot, and of course, right about then some guy walks by and goes “You know, they tryin’ to take a photograph!” And I just went, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t see.” And walked away as quickly as I could, again feeling like a total jerk. I was so embarrassed! It really put me in a bad mood and all I wanted was to go to the room and hide, but when we got there, the attendant was in the middle of turndown. He said the girls had gone to the pool deck, so The Boy changed real fast, I dragged myself up to the pool deck, and sat there and commiserated with Daughter S. about what had happened. After a while, we returned to the room and the kids were chilling, and I was journaling, trying to reflect on how tunnel-visioned it can make you when you’re focused only on your child and making and preserving memories. I wanted to blame it on the “busy” atmosphere of the Promenade, how they’ve got all the little booths and things, and photographers always set up all over the place, but the truth is, I’m probably just extraordinarily unobservant. It didn’t help that I felt about half-drunk. That totally added to the feeling stupid and like a horrible parent, because I was dragging my child around with me when I felt so buzzy. I mean, HE had no idea, but still.  So if you were the people The Boy and I photobombed, we’re really sorry!!! Totally didn’t mean to!

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Short post this time. Up next: 2nd Port stop- St. Thomas, USVI

Second port stop- St. Thomas!

We were scheduled to see St. Thomas via Sunny Liston Tours. I had seen review for them here, looked them up elsewhere, and booked them several months back. (I think I paid a $40 deposit through PayPal at booking, and the balance in cash on tour day, if you’re interested.) I woke up early this morning, expecting to already be there, but we weren’t even docked yet. The Boy woke up early with me, and we went up to the pool deck, originally intending to watch the sunrise, but discovered it was already up. We had fun walking in the wind and pretending we were flying. I wanted to try the Solarium Bistro for breakfast, but it wasn’t quite open yet, so we went ahead and went to the WJ. Between the two of us, we had most of the typical breakfast stuff- eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy. For some reason, The Boy found cottage cheese appealing this morning, too. There’s never any telling, with him.

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We went to get the girls up and ready, and I thought we were running out of time, so I was going to make them just grab something from Promenade Cafe. All I saw were the donuts and pastries, and although I knew that wouldn’t make for a very filling, long lasting breakfast, I thought that was all we had time for, and I made them just grab a selection and eat. Daughter J. was particularly unhappy about this, as we had told her that we had been to the WJ and she thought they were going too. But when we tried to head for the Gangway, they said it would be another 20 minutes or so, so we zipped back up the the WJ so the girls could have something more substantial for breakfast.

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In between there, I also made a couple of trips back to the room, being the thoroughly organized person that I am, (not this morning, apparently) and then The Boy decided to spend 15 minutes in the bathroom, and FINALLY we got off the ship! I think it was about 20 minutes past the time we were supposed to have been meeting our driver outside the gate, so I was panicking a little, even though I had called him when we were in the WJ to tell him I thought we were docking a little later, and we’d be late getting off the ship. He said they’d be right there waiting. Ahh, reassurance!

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We were working our way through the crowds, and I spotted the right sign, and he pointed us to the open air tour bus. We climbed on, and I think we were the last ones. The other folks probably wanted to choke us, but thankfully nobody tried. The first segment of the tour was shopping time. We went to and area near Emancipation Park. There were a lot of shops, but there was also the flea market there, with 50 tables with the same stuff. We went around and around, looking at things and trying to decide if we wanted anything. I would have liked to buy a beach bag set that came with a little wallet and a matching wrap, but I ended up with several t-shirts, a bracelet for Daughter J.’s best friend, a wooden flute for The Boy, and a wrap for Daughter S.

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Then we thought it was time for us to go, but we had read our watch wrong, and we still had an hour!! So we sat in Emancipation park and just rested and watched the people around us. Soon, the driver came back and we piled on, and the fun part began! He started the music and the bouncy driving, and started pointing out areas of interest, etc. He took us to a couple of great photo stops- vantage points to see the island and take pictures. We also went to the Mountaintop Rum Factory, I think it was called, which was alleged to be the Home of the World Famous Banana Daquiri. Now, you would think I would have learned my lesson after the Japanese Collins incident, but I’m apparently a little slow on the uptake. We bought a few more souvenirs here, and I purchased a Beverage.

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Up to this point, The Boy had been being a little cranky and negative and argumentative, but after my Banana Daquiri, I didn’t mind it so much.  My head was a little spinny again, but the ride was a little more fun and the kids were a little less aggravating, and all was right with the world for a while. Finally, it was time for our beach stop. Sunny gives everyone a chance to vote for which beach they wanted to go to, and everyone said they wanted Sapphire, which I was happy with, because that was the one I wanted, too!

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Our first sight of a Carribean beach! It was sooo beautiful! The waves sounded so relaxing, and the palm trees were blowing… it was paradise. For a little while. The kids had brought two masks and one snorkel, and it was hard work making sure everyone was getting equal time. The Boy started getting mad again. I can’t adequately explain how he is when this mood sets in. The tiniest little things infuriate him. The waves pushing against him, rocks in his toes, salt water in his mouth. The girls weren’t sharing the snorkel enough. I was trying to keep him calm and help him to look around him and appreciate and enjoy the moment. It wasn’t helping much. I tried to help him float on his back and just relax and breathe, and that worked for a little while, but I decided to get out of the sun for a bit and go sit under our tree, and he reverted right back to the horrible attitude. I don’t know, maybe I should have taken him to the parking lot and spanked him, maybe I should have just made him get out of the water… I never know what’s the right decision. Anyway. He wanted to kayak, and the one-person kayak seemed pretty reasonable ($10 for half an hour, if you’re interested.) I was going to let him do it, and I thought he would probably be able to do it without much difficulty, because he has had canoe training at Camp Fire camp. But unfortunately the guy running the rentals decided in the end he’d rather not let The Boy do it alone if he wasn’t 100% sure how to do it. And of course, that made things a bit worse.

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So now, thankfully, it was getting close to time to go, and I was desperate to get away from this group of women sitting near me, who, in my paranoid state, I felt sure were talking about me and what a terrible parent I must be. I got the girls out of the water and we went toward the parking lot. The Boy was being as difficult as ever, and there was another lady from our tour (CruiseGal, I think, who responded to one of my first posts in this thread) who said her son had some of the same problems as mine, and she knew exactly how I felt. She was so nice to me and I felt so thankful to know somebody else understood!! I was hoping to get to talk to her more later.

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But we piled back on the tour bus, and even though Sunny played the music on the way back, and we did a little Woot, Woot to the Days of the Week song, it was a little more subdued ride back to the ship. Our hearts weren’t quite in it, I think. We were sandy, soggy, and sunbaked, and I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at this point. Many cruisers would probably not believe that anyone could be thinking, “Thank God it’s at least half over!” but I was. Especially after planning and looking forward to it for months and months, and living in fear that it would all go by too fast. Can you imagine?

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But we got back on the ship and everybody showered. I spent a little time trying to contain the chaos in our room by reorganizing and re-folding some of the stuff in the cubbies. We went to dinner and I had the crab and noodle salad, Surf n Turf, and coconut creme brulee. I guess sometime after dinner, the kids and I separated and I ended up journaling on the top deck, because I was trying to decide whether to blow off our scheduled show for that night or stop writing and go get the kids. (The planned show for the evening was the Headliner show, the Texas Tenors, if you’re interested.)

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In the end, I decided to go get them and go to the show, because I figured I didn’t come all this way to not do stuff I’d planned to do. Also, because anything had to be better than being alone with my negative thoughts. So finally we have a lighter moment, because the funniest thing happened on the way to the Headliner show! I can’t remember the exact chain of events, but the kids and I missed each other somehow. I was trying to decide whether to go look for them in the room, or just wait for them at the theater, and they were going to go look for me on the pool deck. So I was in one of the glass elevators, and I think I was just making Elevator Small Talk with someone else in there, and I turned around… and what did I see, but my three kids in the glass elevator across from me, going in the opposite direction from me, with their hands on the glass and shocked looks on their faces when they spotted me in the other elevator! It was the funniest thing I’d ever seen, and it was such a relief to laugh!

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So I went to the theater, and finally they showed up, and the show was just starting. With the assistance of a staff member, we found a place to sit and had to inconvenience some people to crawl over them, but we settled in and watched the Texas Tenors. Now, I didn’t know exactly who they were yet. Then their show started, and it explained that they had been winners (or runners up?) on the reality show, America’s Got Talent, a few years ago. They were these country-looking guys who seemed like they ought to be on the CMT Awards, but they were singing classical music! They also sang patriotic and folk music too, but I really enjoyed their show! They brought a lady passenger up on stage with them and sang to her, and made a big fuss over her. It was a lot of fun to watch! Then there was a big teary-eyed Pro-America moment when they sang God Bless the USA. All in all, I was really very glad I had not decided to blow off the show, because it was pretty enjoyable.

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So we returned to the room, and shortly after, it was time to go to the Comedy Show. I have to tell you about our expectations for this show. Daughter S. has a great laugh. I mean, a really funny, really catchy laugh. We were hoping that her laugh wouldn’t get us heckled by the comedians, in fact. (I was halfway hoping it would, actually!) Because I had been telling her for ages that if the comedian could make HER laugh, they’d have the whole room, because her laugh would crack everyone else up.

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Well, as it turned out, we didn’t have to worry about that, because it seemed that everybody appreciated these particular comedians, and there was a guy in the front row with a funnier laugh than hers, so I doubt anybody even noticed. But we thought they were really funny. (Gary DeLuna and Miguel Washington, if you’re interested.) We drank Cokes and laughed through the whole show. (She hates Coca Cola, and was in Dr. Pepper withdrawal the whole time, but she always has to tell me how bad Coke is for you, because it eats pennies. She did an experiment one time where you put a penny in Coke overnight and in the morning it’s just GONE. )

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So after the show, I went to Guest Services and cashed another TC and checked again on the ‘Daughter J. meeting Hiccup’ situation, because we still hadn’t heard anything from them and she was asking me about it every 5 minutes. This time, I talked to a man named Jorge, I think it was, and he said he would talk to the original lady I talked to, and one of them would definitely get back to us. I hoped maybe we’d get lucky. Then we went back to the room and got ready for St. Maarten.

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Up Next: St. Maarten and Rita’s Fiesta!

Hello again!

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Thursday was our port stop at the beautiful island of St. Maarten. I must have been determined to do better at getting off the ship in a timely manner than I did on St. Thomas, because by the time we got up, dressed, ate breakfast in the WJ, and disembarked, we were still early for the tour. Go, us!

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Through previous email communications with the tour vendors (Bernard’s tours, if you’re interested) I knew a little better exactly where to go and what to look for when getting off the ship. The steel drum band playing when we disembarked was charming, and a neat touch that really added to the festive feel of the port, at least for me. So we found the tour operator and paid for our tour ($40 per person, in case you’re interested). They said we were still waiting for some other folks, so we sat in the shade at a little table by the gift shop. I didn’t want my little darlings to get sunburned, so I took this opportunity to, as we call it in my family, “slime them down” with sunscreen. A note here: I had stocked up on sunscreen and had 5 (FIVE!) containers of the stuff in varying forms and strengths tucked away in suitcase pockets here and there.

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At this point, The Boy wanted to check out the gift shop. He was still on the hunt for “pirate stuff” because I had found the stuff at the museum in Nassau too pricey, and also because the shirt he had wanted in St. Thomas, (Pirate flag: Dead Men Tell No Tales) we hadn’t found in his size, although we didn’t actually look that hard. I checked out the gift shop with him, and found nothing we desperately needed. (Not like I was getting dangerously low on key chains and refrigerator magnets, right?)

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So finally the remaining participants arrived and tour was about to start. I had informed them when I made the reservation that we wanted to go to some other beach than Orient. Yes, I had read all the reviews and discussions about the whole nudity thing, and still hoped to minimize the likelihood that the kids would encounter it. They had told me they would take us to Le Galion beach, but the first thing the driver (“Sugar,” if you’re interested) did was to get on the bus and start trying to talk me out of going to Le Galion. He explained that the nudity was all contained to the left side of the beach and that if you don’t go that way you don’t see it, yada yada yada, but if we went to Orient and I still wanted to go to Le Galion, they would take me. Ok, fine, whatever, let’s go.

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Our first stop was the Iguana Farm. I couldn’t always make out every word the driver said, but basically some guy discovered that the iguanas would come up every day when he fed his chickens. Whether they were actually responding to his call or whether they just learned that there was food given there regularly, who knows? We stopped here and the driver had a bag of lettuce that he scattered around as he called to the iguanas with a high-pitched whistling noise. They came out of the woodwork, surrounding us like a swarm. There were all sizes and colors. The driver told us a few facts about them, and let the kids feed them, and they would come up and take the food right from your hand. He encouraged the kids to touch them, all the while saying they felt like a Gucci purse and asking if Mama liked Gucci. (For the record, Mom wouldn’t know a Gucci if one came up and asked her to dance. ) Anyway, we took tons of pictures and some video, and got back on the bus.

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Here was one aspect of our day on St. Maarten that I didn’t particularly care for. I understand why it has to be this way, but this wasn’t exactly an ‘at your leisure’ tour. The schedule is constantly in the forefront of the driver’s mind, because the stop at Maho beach is considered the highlight of the tour. If you want to see the big planes land and get back to the ship on time, you have to be there by a certain time. Therefore, your minor stops like feeding walking Gucci purses and fondling sea creatures (not as kinky as it sounds- more on that later) have to be somewhat regimented. Granted, it doesn’t take a great deal of time to complete these activities, but it does lend a somewhat rushed feeling to the tour, and a feeling of being herded.

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On the other hand, this feature of the tour might be offset for some folks by the fact that this tour offers free drinks! Sugar had stocked his bus with a cooler filled with water bottles, Capri Sun juice pouches (“for the babies,” he said, handing one to my 11 y.o.) cans of soda, AND… a huge bottle of some pink, fruity libation he described colorfully as “…special rum punch, I make it up fresh for you just this morning!” He passed it around to everyone on the bus, along with a stack of tiny little Dixie cups for passengers to help themselves to, or not, as they chose. On our particular bus, he only had to break out one bottle, although he informed us he had prepared FIVE! Yikes! I suppose on a different day, with a different busload of folks, the atmosphere might have been different and he might have needed all 5 bottles, but we were an unusually small group, and mine was not the only family touring with kids, so that might have had something to do with it. If you were the hard-partying type, you would have been well-situated. Later, he let one of the tour participants pour the remains of the rum punch into their own container to drink on the way back to security. I bet his wife really appreciated that!

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So anyway. Back to fondling sea creatures. Our next stop on the tour was a visit to an enterprising gentleman named Calvin who captured things like sea urchins and spiny urchins and sea stars, and let tourists hold them and take pictures with them. It was fascinating to see them sitting there, moving oozily around in your hand. (Although I politely declined to enjoy that particular sensation!) The kids had fun looking at them, and shock of all shocks, Daughter S. even let him place the sea star (an odd looking creature if I ever saw one) on the back of her neck, calling it a ‘temporary tattoo.’ It’s a great picture, though. Calvin had a little table set up, with shells and sea urchin bits for people to take for free as a souvenir. He also had a little jar and a sign reading, ‘tips appreciated.’ I thought this was, again, quite enterprising of him, and when I later discovered that the bits of seashells and stuff the kids collected while snorkeling didn’t make it through security and back onto the ship, I thought it was actually quite sneaky, and not in a good way. Anything you took from Calvin and left a “donation” for would probably not have made it home with you. ( In case you’re interested.)

So we returned to the bus and made it to our first of two beach stops- the famed, feared, and much discussed Orient Beach. The driver let us know he was taking us to the establishment of a good friend who would give us a great deal on beach chairs (Only $5 per chair, umbrellas free, in case you’re interested.) I think it was called Brothers? They also boasted easy access to food and beverage, and free bathroom facilities among their amenities. (I thought, GeezMaria, do they even charge for the bathroom in some places?!) Anyway. We were dropped off and made our way between the bar shacks to the chairs. I rented 2 chairs for $10 (the umbrella was free ) and the kids walked on down to the water. It was very beautiful and would have been a great time if we’d had longer than an hour.

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I plopped myself down on the chairs and promptly encountered the next feature of the day on St. Maarten that I didn’t exactly care for, and that was the vendor women. These women walked back and forth right at the foot of your beach chairs, trying to sell you towels, wraps, beach bags, and every imaginable variety of jewelry. I made the mistake of letting one of them get too settled in near me (she was hitting up the lady in the next chair) and eventually found myself the owner of $50 worth of magnetic necklaces. (5 of them, in case you’re interested.) I decided that on my next visit I’m going to have a matching t-shirt and hat ensemble made, with the shirt reading “Do Not Try to Sell Me Anything!” and a hat, says a big old ‘NO!’ on it! Lol! I hoped I didn’t get ripped too bad; I figured I’d stuff some in the girls’ Christmas stockings and give one or two of the others away as souvenirs. I’m telling you though, this particular vendor was pretty funny. I think I later remembered her making mention that she made all these beautiful things herself. It didn’t occur to me at the time that two of them were in plastic factory wrapping! ROFL! She must have seen me coming a mile away.

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All this while, the kids were snorkeling and having all kinds of fun. They found a crab, fairly recently deceased. He was very pretty. Too bad for him he was dead. He must have been very popular with the ladies. Eventually, our brief stop was over. I had only walked down to the water and got my feet wet, rather than swimming, because I knew we still had a little touring to do before our next beach stop, and at the time, I didn’t want to be wet and sandy walking around in Marigot. Of course, if I had it to do over again, I’d say the he** with it!

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So our next tour stop was Marigot, the French side capital. The kids were pretty hot and tired by this time, so all we did here was get off the bus and walk across the street to a pastry shop called Serafina’s. This place was freakin’ awesome. I took a picture of their display case- beautiful pastries lined up for yards! Ok, maybe only a couple of yards, but still- it was pretty impressive to this little small-town girl. We were all ravenous, so I bought the following: a chocolate eclair, a lemon tart, a goat cheese quiche, a fruit salad, some kind of little sandwich and drinks for all of us. I might have forgotten an item or two, but I thought that sounded like quite a lot for a reasonable price. ($22, if you’re interested.) And let me just say here- it was heavenly. Lemon is my favorite flavor of absolutely everything, and that tart was soooo good! We shared everything, and it made a wonderfully refreshing lunch/snack. If I ever go back there, I will most definitely stop in there again. Yum! If my Weight Watchers hadn’t already been a total trainwreck, this would have absolutely killed it, but it was well worth it! How often does someone from Lone Grove, Oklahoma get to eat real French pastries. Oh, and by the way, if you’ve been there before and they’re actually more French-ish than real French, don’t anybody tell me. Just let me keep my happy delusion. Lol!

So finally we went to Maho beach. I could have and should have gotten in the water here, but I was already getting sunburned, despite my earlier “sliming,” so I opted to be the weird woman sitting on the beach with a wrap over my legs and a towel across my shoulders. Besides, if I’d been in the water, how could I have taken pictures of the planes? Also, the beach was pretty crowded and I wasn’t sure how safe our stuff would be if I left it there.

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I met and chatted with a few CCers here, and had a private, wry chuckle at at least one other. Sorry to tell tales here, but this person’s spouse said that this person was “completely toasted” and every time someone answered one of this person’s questions or volunteered information to this person, they would invariably reply with a hearty, “No sh**!” It was pretty funny, if a little obnoxious. I can’t really say anything, because as I have previously confessed, I did a number of obnoxious things on this trip.

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So finally it was time to go. The kids had had a good time snorkeling and Daughter S. had worked hard to collect several really pretty little shells that, as I mentioned, didn’t make it back through security with us. The scan picked them up and they were removed, but Daughter S. took it much better than I thought she would. We stopped at the “discount” souvenir place, Rimas, that Sugar told us was the ‘WalMart of island souvenirs,’ meaning they were cheaper here than anywhere else. He said he took us there because we had been delayed and had such a short time at Orient Beach, but maybe he always stops there. Not sure. Anyway, in true Hillbilly Tourist fashion, I went in and stocked up. Got some more necklaces (but this time it was a 6-pack for $6.99, in case you’re interested.) Also bought some magnets, postcards, and a completely redundant purchase of some flip-flops for the boy, who had tolerated 3 beaches with socks and tennis shoes as his footwear. So had I, but I don’t have his lack of patience with sand. (By the way, my case of Crappy Souvenir Buying syndrome had now reached a semi-critical level, but it wouldn’t peak until the last night at sea when I “hit the ship shop.” Try saying that 5 times fast! Anyway, more on that later.)

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We staggered back to the ship, taking a few more pictures along the way, and went back to our room. Daughter S. showered, and the rest of us hung out. For some reason, she and I were both in the bathroom at one point (I don’t know how- we defied physics.) I heard a high pitched screeching commotion and asked her if The Boy and Daughter J. were fighting. (Not at allll out of the realm of possibility.) I burst out of the bathroom ready to conk some heads together if they were the ones making that racket, but what I discovered was Daughter J. jumping up and down and shrieking with joy. Guest Services had called and told her that she could meet Hiccup after the first How To Train Your Dragon ice show on Saturday. She was ecstatic, to say the very least. I have not yet emailed the corporate head honcho boss guy whose name everybody throws around here, but I can’t currently remember (- Oh yeah, Adam, how could I forget?) but I plan to. And I plan to tell him that of all the good food, good service, fun entertainment, amazing piece of machinery/art that is this ship, and everything else we experienced this whole week, that one small gesture that probably meant little or nothing to them, topped it all for my special little girl. More than they will ever know.

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Hey all. Just wanted to let you know I’ll be working on the next post soon, but in the meantime I just sent the following email to Adam G. We’ll see what happens.

Dear Mr. Goldstein,

Hi. My name is DeeAnne xxxxxxx, and I am a single mom of three children, whom I recently took with me on an Eastern itinerary sailing of Allure, 5/27/12. It was our first cruise, although I hope it won’t be our last.

I just wanted to tell you that although the food was good, the service wonderful, the ship clean and beautiful, and the ports gorgeous and amazing, there was one incident on this trip that was really very special, and I wanted to share it with you.

One of my twin 18 year old daughters is developmentally delayed, and although she does not have severe disabilities, she operates emotionally at a level about 4-6 years younger than her true age. She loves Disney and DreamWorks with a passion, and would love to someday work for one of those companies if she could.

The only thing she really cared about on this trip was the characters, but especially the character of Hiccup, from How to Train Your Dragon. She had been watching the ice show on YouTube for months, in addition to the parades and everything else she could find. Well, her first opportunity to see him was the first parade of the trip, and she was really excited. Unfortunately however, we got there a little late and got a really poor viewing spot at the last minute (all the way at the end of the promenade, practically in the elevator lobby).

Well, very few of the characters came all the way down to our spot. She spotted Hiccup about halfway down the Promenade, but he never came anywhere near us, and she was absolutely heartbroken. She cried for practically 20 minutes after the parade ended. I tried to explain to her that she’d see him in the ice show and that we would make sure to stake out a better spot for the final parade, but she was still so bitterly disappointed.

She asked me if there was anyone I could talk to, and I didn’t have much hope, because I know Hiccup is a face character and not a head character, so he wouldn’t have any meet-n-greets like the others. But I went to Guest Services. I first spoke with a girl from China, whose name I’m not sure of, sorry) but she was very kind and said she would contact the DreamWorks coordinator and see what she could do, and get back to me. A couple of days went by and we hadn’t heard anything, so I returned to Guest Services, and this time spoke with Jorge from Brazil. He was very efficient and seemed much more serious about helping to make this happen.

On the day of the St. Maarten stop, we returned to the ship and hadn’t been there very long when we got a call from GS that Jasmine would have an unofficial meet-n-greet with Hiccup after the first ice show performance on Saturday!!! She was so completely ecstatic. You just wouldn’t believe how happy this made her.

We waited after the ice show on Saturday and spoke to one of the tech people standing there and he asked if we’d spoken to anybody, and we told him GS had told us to wait. He called back to the back and then told us Hiccup was coming out. Joey Russell, the performer, (I’ve googled him) came out and talked to Jasmine for a few minutes, took several pictures, and just could not have been more of a doll! I know he had to be in a hurry to rest and prepare for the next show, but he was so patient and kind, and acted like he had all the time in the world. Please see the attached pictures.

So, long story short, your Guest Services department, DreamWorks team, and Joey Russell made this the trip of a lifetime for my special little girl, and I just wanted to say… Thank You. From the bottom of our hearts. This may seem like such a small thing, but it was the world’s biggest WOW for us.

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1647724

Sincerely,

DeeAnne xxxxxx

xxxxxxxxxxx

Lone Grove, OK 73443

xxxxxxxx@yahoo.com

580-xxx-xxxx

Continuing With Rita’s Fiesta

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So we had received the news that Daughter J. would get to meet her favorite character after the first ice show performance, and there was general happiness all around. For some reason I cannot fathom, knowing what was scheduled for the evening (namely Rita’s Fiesta), I decided it would be a good idea to go to Park Café and get a Roast Beef Sandwich. Still as good as the first bite! I swear, I could have lived

on those things. Then I went to Guest Services to get new cards for myself and Daughter S. because the sunscreen had rubbed the letters off ours. (In case you’re interested.) When I returned to the room, The Boy seemed to think he was starving, and he thought a visit to Boardwalk Dog House was in order. And so it was that he had two Coney Island dogs, and I (again, reasons unfathomable) tried a Wunderdog. The kids were vegging out and watching a movie. I realized I had now missed all sailaways except the first one. We killed time for a while, because the kids wanted to go to WJ before Rita’s. Yes, that’s right- they don’t care for Mexican food.

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So we went to WJ. After all, the kids had a pressing date with their oft-repeated chicken nuggets, French fries, spaghetti, and burgers. I do NOT know what had come over me at this point, but for some reason I had a couple small bites of some other things, (the little garlic-y mozzarella balls were particularly good) and tried a lemon tart. Then we went to Boardwalk to kill time until the Fiesta. They rode the carousel again and we checked out the candy shop. We hadn’t spent quite as much money as I had planned for, so I thought they could have a little candy. (Which, of course, they needed like Custer needed more Indians, but parents do crazy things sometimes.) So they decided they just had to have some gummy bears, and J. got some Reese’s pieces and cherry candies. We went to check out. I had seen the number on the screen for the customer in front of us and had begun to get concerned. When the staff member put their candy on the scales, I almost choked. I don’t think I remember seeing a specific price for the candy in any of the reviews I’ve read, but I think it’s about $0.75 an ounce! The total for the junk the kids bought- $26.00! (In case you’re interested.)

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We also checked out the Pets At Sea shop. There was one somewhat negative incident that occurred in here. In addition to her other issues, Daughter J. is blind in her left eye due to an injury at about age 8 from a flying fork. (I know, it’s a hideous story.) So the Pets at Sea shop is pretty small, and Jazz was walking around looking at the animals, and there was this large older lady just kind of standing in the middle of the room, staring around, blocking traffic. Jas didn’t see her there and kind of bumped into her, and she said something snippy. (“Knock me over, kids, please!”) I wish I’d told her what was what, or maybe I should have apologized and explained, but I just grabbed Jas’s elbow and tried to steer her out of the Old Dear’s way.

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So finally we went to the Fiesta. We waited in line, checked in, and received our drink bracelets and Fiesta souvenirs. The Boy got a little sombrero and the girls and I got a little flashing rubber spikey ball on a necklace. (About the drink bracelets, they put a little plastic tabbed wristband on you, either green or red depending on your drink being alcoholic or not, and you give the staff one of the tabs each time you order a drink, in case you’re interested.) We were seated in the far corner near the kitchen entrance, but it was ok, because I wasn’t sure how J. and The Boy would do with the noise level. Neither of them is super comfortable with “loud” but I figured it would be ok. They took our first drink order. As mentioned in other reviews, the wait staff acts like you can only have margaritas, and for the first one, I kind of took them at their word and had a mango one. It was pretty good, but the lady at the next table had something that looked much better, and I resolved to ask her what it was and order that for the next one.

*

The entertainment began- they had everybody do a train through the restaurant area and out into the Boardwalk. They snagged one person at a time from each table until almost everyone was on their feet. J. and The Boy flatly refused to get up (they’re such party poopers) but Daughter S. and I joined the crowd. I made one or two circuits through the restaurant and went back to the table, (I could be a party pooper, too) but she went all the way out to the outside area. Then when that song was over, everybody returned to their table and they started bringing food. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that much of the food they brought to our table would go to waste, and I feel kind of guilty for even booking this, but I mainly did it because I thought the 3-drink thing was a steal.

*

They brought the chips and salsa, which I thought was pretty darn good, though some reviewers on CC have panned it. Naturally, the kids didn’t try any. SIGH! We were all pretty tired and a little sunburned after two port days in a row, but I had hoped they would perk up a little. Daughter J. finally smiled when they played what we call the “football game” song. You know the one- “…na na-na na, HEY! …” It probably has a real name, but I don’t know it. Anyway, then they brought a little dish of pico, sour cream, and guacamole. The pico was good, the guacamole fair, but I was so full. Then they brought flour tortillas and a dish of fajita filling- I think it was mixed beef and chicken with onions and peppers, but it may have been just beef. I went ahead and made one fajita and ate it, and it was reasonably tasty, although not the best I’ve ever had. Finally they brought a dessert tray with flan, churros, and tortillas wrapped around bananas, along with some chocolate dipping sauce. We had never tried churros or flan before, and we didn’t know what to expect, nor do we have anything to compare them to, but Shannon and I had been looking forward to trying them. They didn’t seem to be anything terribly special.

*

I feel like I’m being unfairly negative about the food here- I’m sure it was good, but I was so ridiculously full already, I couldn’t give it a fair evaluation! The kids didn’t really try much of anything, although Daughter S. did try the churros. And speaking of her, remember when I said early on that she didn’t enjoy the virgin margarita I had bought for her, but she later found a flavor she really loved? This was where she found it, and it was virgin strawberry margarita. She was kind of in love with that drink, and thankfully she used all three of her drink tabs.

The Boy was so dehydrated from all the swimming and snorkeling, all he wanted was “water! More water!” and Daughter J. might have had some water and one Sprite. So in addition to not being able to really give the food a chance, the drink deal was a bust too. I ended up having all three of mine (the drink I mentioned earlier, that the lady at the next table had ordered, turned out to be a B-52, I think, which I luuuuuvvved.  My final drink was a regular ‘rita. It was super strong and I took it back and asked them to weaken it, and then I think they gave me a virgin one, because I couldn’t taste anything at all in that one. Who knows?)

*

While everybody was eating, but more toward the end, they grabbed a contestant from most tables and had a dance-off, first the women, then the men. They asked where everybody was from and then seemed to try to pick a song that “went with” that state, but I could be misinterpreting. The contestants all got a shot of tequila afterwards. One lady had some serious moves and seemed to be the most popular dancer of our Fiesta. The guys were goofy, as always. One young man had enjoyed his drinks quite a lot, apparently, and tried to take his shirt off! The host quickly put a stop to that. (I can’t remember the host’s name, but he was pretty funny.) So all in all, for us, on this particular occasion, Rita’s Fiesta was fun, but a pretty big waste of money for us, but with more enthusiastic, hungry, and energetic dinner companions, it would have been a fantastic deal.

*

So we took Daughter J. and The Boy back to the room, and Daughter S. and I returned to the Aquatheater to wait for the Sing-Along Grease movie. First, they were having a 50s and 60s Rock n Roll Dance Party, which was a lot of fun to watch and listen to. The lady who had been the best dancer at our Fiesta showed off her moves here too, and she seemed to be gaining a following. She really was an enthusiastic dancer.

*

So then Grease came on, and we watched and sang along, and it was kind of tricky trying to figure out whether there were really that many people actually singing in the Aquatheater! It sounded like quite a lot of people, but I didn’t think there would be that many people who would like that type of thing. I thought maybe they had added extra voices to the sing-along lyrics. I thought surely we were the only nerds! I never did look behind me to see how full it was, but when it was over and we were leaving, it seemed that there had been a good crowd, so I guess outdoor sing-along movies are more popular than I thought! When it was over, we were tired and looking forward to winding up our trip with a couple of leisurely sea days in a row.

*

Next post, we’ll see how leisurely they turned out to be!

Hello all… So sorry for the long absence. As I was saying…

So we’ve hit the last two full days. At this point in the experience, there begins to set in the tiniest feeling of panic. Time is running out, finally, and there is so much still to be done and experienced. And have I really had any time to just take a moment? Have I soaked in every possible memory? Have I done everything I could to make sure the kids were satisfied with their experience and would treasure their memories from this trip forever? I wasn’t sure, but oh well. Who has time for such navel-gazing when there’s characters to be dined with?

*

I had signed us up pre-cruise, for all three character breakfasts. We woke up on Friday morning and got ready. Well, Daughter J. and The Boy and I did. Daughter S. chose to sleep in. That’s basically her favorite thing in all the world, sleep. This breakfast we were visited by the Madagascar characters, Mort, King Julien, and Alex. This one felt like it was taking longer than the previous one, because they forgot to bring us our menus! They never brought us the character menu, and after a while, the waitress brought the regular breakfast menu around, and she was all, “You never said anything!” Kind of frantic-like. I just thought, ‘Yeah, ‘cause I didn’t realize we’d been forgotten, I just thought you were slow!’

*

So anyway, the kids had typical breakfast stuff, and I tried Eggs Benedict for the first time, which was pretty good. We had our pictures taken with all the characters. (Gloria was not a part of this breakfast, in case you’re interested. I assume it’s because she’s too big to maneuver through the tables easily.)

*

We returned to the room and Daughter S. woke up and went to the WJ for breakfast. (She had discovered a soft spot for the pastries.) I decided I wanted to take some Mom-Time (Hallelujah Chorus again). I wanted to experience the Solarium, so I took my little journal and went up. I wandered through the area, trying to decide on the best, most comfortable spot for journaling, resting, “relaxating”, and um… whatever else came to mind. I ended up in a pretty good spot, right in the middle of the upper deck, but after a short time there, I realized… it was stinkin’ hot up here! So I relocated to a semi-shady spot on the pool deck. I wrote for just a little while, and they were playing some fun music (Rhianna, Don’t Stop the Music, in case you’re interested.) So I just kind of closed my eyes and wiggled my little foot and tried to chill for a mo’.

*

Much too soon, I decided maybe I’d better go check on the kids and make sure they were getting ready to go to the all-important event: The first HTTYD ice show! We got there early, although there were already several people in line, and J. was freaking out, worrying that we wouldn’t get the seats she had been told by a cast member were the very best. (Cast Member- I sound like I’m at Disney. One of the people who had stopped by our table at breakfast was somehow involved with the ice show and told us which seats were near most of the action. This of course was vital information that J. took strictly to heart. J

*

But we got in, got the seats we wanted, and waited. The show itself was really good. The skaters were very much “in character” and the props and effects were wonderful. So, now the big moment. After the show was over, we looked around for someone to ask about the meeting with Hiccup. One of the tech people, I assume, was standing there sort of making sure everyone got out, and we talked to him and told him the story- how Guest Services had arranged a special meeting, etc. He made a quick call to the back and then said it was ok, and Hiccup would be right out. I think I was as nervous for Daughter J. as she was at this point. Needless to say, still cameras and video cameras were at the ready. I had assigned Daughter S. to roll video and I was on point with the digital. Incredibly, Daughter J. had her back to the rink when he skated out. I told her ‘Hey, look there…’ and pointed behind her, and she turned around…and there he was, right behind her. She just grinned bigger than Dallas and he reached out to give her a hug.

*

He was really sweet and friendly, asking her questions about how she was enjoying the cruise and what all we had done so far, etc. We took several pictures and he let her pose with his Viking weapons and shield. I tried to hurry her along at one point, because I knew he probably had limited time to rest between shows, but he acted like he had all the time in the world. He just could not have been more kind. Even so, the meeting only took a few minutes, maybe about 5 or 6, but Daughter J. was perfectly content. We said goodbye and watched as he disappeared back into the set.

*

After the Big Moment, it was off to the WJ for lunch and then back to the room. Daughter S. and I rested and napped, The Boy watched TV and Daughter J. went back to the second HTTYD show by herself! (This by the way, was a huge thing, because normally she’s very timid about going places and doing things on her own. I was proud of her.) She reported that she enjoyed the second show as much as the first, and that Hiccup had recognized her when he skated past, and waved at her, called her by name, and said hi. What a sweetie!

*

So then we all continued to rest some more. Why we didn’t go rest up on the pool deck in the sun with a buzzy frozen drink in our hand, I do NOT know. Maybe because of the A/C? Anyway. It was nice, and when I got up, I started trying to organize and pack a little. After some discussion and dithering back and forth on the issue, we blew off the second formal night and went to the WJ again for supper. I don’t know why I didn’t suggest going to Johnny Rockets on one of these occasions, because I had planned in my budget for us to try the place at some point, but it was one of those things we never got around to. Toward the end of the meal, the kids had all gotten up and were grouped around a 2-person table looking out of the window at the sea. ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight?’ from Lion King was playing on the speaker and the kids were all very still and quiet as they stood there, seeming lost in thought. I was hoping that they were reflecting on what a good time they had been having and how they would never forget this moment. ‘Cause I was.

*

After supper, The Boy was dying to swim, but first we sat on the top deck right behind the Solarium and watched the sunset. This was one of those things that became a Must-Do since I never woke up early enough to catch a sunrise. I wanted them to be able to, again, take a moment, maybe just think a little, just absorb the beauty and the experience.

*

Unfortunately, not all of their experiences had been so peachy keen. Daughter S. had a bad moment today when we were headed to lunch. I had wanted to try the Solarium for lunch, so we went there first and I checked out what they had and decided I’d take a plate and meet the kids in the WJ. They had to cross the pool deck to get there and the sun was so bright that Daughter S. had closed her eyes for a second or was rubbing them or something, and right when she opened them, she either bumped into some guy or he bumped into her. I guess she said sorry and he just made some impatient scoffing noise. She gets really upset at stuff like this, and she cried a little at lunch. She said she was never cruising again and I told her that could just as easily have happened at home in WalMart. She was of the opinion that if it had happened at home, the other guy would have said sorry too. She’s probably right.

*

But anyway. After we watched the sunset, The Boy got in the pool and the girls went to change. Now, remember when I talked about us meeting the guy at the towel station who was also an artist like Daughter S.? Here’s where we finally went back to see him and show him her artwork. We had been talking about it all week, feeling pretty bad that we hadn’t gone back yet, and she finally grabbed her notebook when she went up to change. After they got out of the pool, we went to his towel station. I walked up and said hey, and I could tell by the look on his face that he remembered exactly who we were, and he was also a little peeved. I shrank about 6 inches, but S. was right behind me, and we just said hi and that we hadn’t forgotten to come back and show him her art. He kind of thawed a little and was very nice to her as he looked through her notebook. (At some point in there, he also just happened to throw in that he had brought his own artwork back the next night, comprising some 200 drawings. Thanks for the guilt trip, Andres, but we deserved it.) He especially admired her wolves, which are her specialty, and gave her some constructive advice on how to make some parts better. They talked about the animation in some of their favorite games, and a few other things, and he told her to always keep drawing and improving, and we said goodbye.

*

At this point, we were running very late for Blue Planet. We ran back up to the room, threw on different clothes, and ran back down to the theater, which was full. The poor, beleaguered staff member at the door was under attack from some grumpy old guy who didn’t seem to understand that there WERE no seats left. The staffer said that since we had had reservations, he was under obligation to let us go in and look for seats, although he knew there were none, so we went ahead and went in, and the kids ended up sitting in the floor by the back wall while I alternated standing and leaning. I know this was probably a safety hazard, but what’s done is done. The show was totally awesome, although we would have enjoyed it much more if we’d gotten our butts there on time and got a good seat. I was surprised by this show, by the way. I guess I had always thought there was some storyline to this one too, but maybe I just didn’t read enough reviews or something, because it was just acrobatic and aerial performances set to a variety of music. But I very much enjoyed all the songs, so I was fine with it.

*

After the show we went to bed, and I was trying to compose a mental list of Absolute Must Dos for the next day, and I was also sort of pre-writing in my head what I hoped to journal on the flight home, summarizing the whole thing, what I’d learned etc. More later on how that turned out!

ETA: The lunch in the solarium was the best! I wish I’d eaten there more often throughout the week. Their wraps were super tasty and the asparagus was wonderful!

Up next… The Last Sea Day

The Last Day Arrives!

After noting in the compass that the last character breakfast was supposed to be the Shrek family again, and thinking ‘Eh. We’ve seen ‘em…’ I decided to let the kids sleep in and I went up to the Solarium for breakfast. I had some turkey bacon and eggs, and no telling what else, probably a yogurt parfait. It was good, but…lonely. Here was one of those moments when I’d have given anything to have another adult along, especially a Significant Other to enjoy these moments with. (Lord willing, my next cruise will be with just such a person. I just have to find him first.)

*

But anyway. I left the Solarium and stopped at Boardwalk on the way back for coffee and a doughnut or two. (I know, I’m can’t even believe it myself.) I should have just found a convenient spot on the Boardwalk to sit and enjoy my post-breakfast snack, but for some reason I went all the way back to the room and ate them. In the dark. With the kids still asleep. Yeah, I’m beginning to wonder about me, too.

*

Then I remembered I wanted to get to the photo place and look over all our pictures. We had taken comparatively few, I knew, but I wanted to see what we had, especially from the one formal night. I decided the photo book for us was a good deal, because we only had about 30 ship’s photos and a lot of those were sort of duplicates. So I stood at the kiosk and made the picture book. (Which seemed to take for freakin’ ever! In case you’re interested.) But finally I chose to buy the photo book, the cruise DVD, and the picture frame deal, plus 4 other single prints. The photo book held almost every picture we had taken, and was $129 and the frame, dvd, and prints were $109. Yes, it was a relatively big expenditure altogether, but again… once in a lifetime, right? (Somewhere in this time period I also went to Guest Services again and got some cash for the tip envelopes.)

*

Returned to the room to find the Herd was awake, and J. was all insulted that I didn’t wake them up for the last character breakfast. She didn’t care that we had already seen Shrek and company. I explained to her (in so many words) that I had other stuff to do. Which in essence meant I was tired of wasting precious time sitting round waiting to hug people in costumes.

*

So we went to the WJ and they had breakfast. We followed that up with a little show in Adventure Ocean Theater called ImagineOcean. (This is a black-light show that is mostly geared toward very young kids, if you’re interested. But I had thought it would be entertaining for us and take up some time, and I was determined to see as much as possible. And it was a fun, cute little show.)

*

After ImagineOcean we went to Let You Entertain Me, where I had my first true Umbrella Drink of the cruise. From a pineapple, no less.

*

(Or so I thought. I think the ‘Searching For The Boy’ Strawberry Margarita had one in it.) Anyway, The Boy was terribly sleepy because he had missed his night meds the night before, and he was being a brat, so I gave him half a dose in the morning, and he was too sleepy to stand it, so I let him go back to the room by himself. The girls and I watched the show and went to the room to check on him. He was fine, and they stayed there while I went walking again and spending some more ‘on my own’ time. I walked the walking track, spent some time at the aft step-out off the track, peeked into the fitness room, and went to Park Café to get my last Roast Beef Sandwich (I’m telling you, this thing deserves to be capitalized.) Plus, I finally got to try a Create Your Own salad and I also got a strawberry mousse, which I didn’t realize until halfway back to the room, was not what I had pointed at! I had actually asked for one of those little puff-pastry sandwich-y looking things. Ah, well. Took it all back to the room and realized I’d forgotten to grab a fork. So I just had a Caveman moment and ate it with my fingers. (I know.)

*

Then I realized we’d almost forgotten the Cupcake Decorating class! We went upstairs for that. The Boy was in one of his moods and was pretty impatient with the whole process, and Daughter J. was running a close second! Admittedly, it was a little more involved than I expected, constructing that little cupcake just right. Also, the icing, while delicious, presented a bit of a problem, because it began to be pretty melty, pretty fast. The instructor tried to explain how to avoid this phenomenon- you simply hold the bag as little as possible, and when you must hold it, try to squeeze it only with the tips of your fingers. It didn’t really work as well in practice as in theory. Still, we enjoyed the fruits of our labors:

*

But it was fun, and after scarfing our deformed-looking cupcakes, we bought some sodas and went to the last show- Ice Games. This was very enjoyable. Especially the guest pairs skaters- I must have said ‘Wow!’ about 10 times during their routine. A couple of the lead male skaters (including the aforementioned skater who played Hiccup) were pulling off triple jumps (Yes, I used to be a big figure skating fan-nerd). They introduced them all by first names only after the show, and I had to Google when I got home to discover that Hiccup was Joey Russell, from Canada.

*

After Ice Games, the kids wanted Sorrento’s. I’m not sure you’d believe it, but this was only the second time, I think, that they had had pizza all week! There I was, thinking they’d be there every single day, especially after the missed opportunity to have pizza in Ft. Lauderdale, but they made a monkey out of me, as usual. So anyway, we went to Sorrento’s and it was my first time to try it. I created my own (ham, sausage, spinach, red onions, tomatoes, and mozzarella) and it was super good. Supper wasn’t too far off, and I knew we were going to the MDR for dinner in order to give Dalton and Silvestre our tips, so I saved half of my pizza to use for a post-packing late night snack. : ) Also stopped by the Cupcake Cupboard for one last cupcake for the same purpose. (It was a key lime, in case you’re interested.)

*

We returned to the room and I prepared the tip envelopes and worked on packing until supper. You may be wondering what, about packing, could possibly take so long. Well, there was also sorting, organizing, trashing, etc. taking place, and also, I roll everything. My little sister had turned me on to this whole ‘rolling’ methodology, and I’m definitely a devotee now, because if we hadn’t had the formal night stuff, could have fit everything we took in two large suitcases and one carry-on. Family of four. Eight days. That’s a lot of crap, people!

So finally we went to our last supper, so to speak, on the Allure of the Seas. The food was good (I had turkey and dressing. Wha…???) but I was so full I really couldn’t enjoy it that much. We gave our waiters their tip envelopes and said our goodbyes, and like other people have mentioned, I felt a little misty-eyed leaving the dining room. Daughter J. had taken off early in order to stake out or spot for the final character parade. We caught up with her and ended up right in the middle of the Promenade, next to the airbrush tattoo booth. We enjoyed the parade and Daughter J.’s final goodbye to Hiccup. Then we went to tackle yet another of our Must-Do’s at the last minute: Miniature Golf! Daughter S., The Boy, and I went up and got started, while J. went to the room to grab her swim stuff. When she got back, The Boy abandoned his golfing and went to swim. When S. and I were finished with our golf round (an achievement that was slowed considerably by the number of people who apparently also had the same idea) she joined them in the pool and I hurried back to the room to finish packing.

*

I had another minor Moron Moment during this time- I let the door shut when I stepped outside to stuff something else in one of the suitcases I had already set out! I looked around a few halls for a nearby stateroom attendant, didn’t find one, and then dithered about for a while, wondering whether to go all the way back to the pool deck and get one of the kids’ cards, but luckily for me, they returned before I had committed myself to that idea. So they changed clothes and THEN I found Desmond next door and gave him his tip envelope. He was really very nice. (We had had a towel bunny, a towel elephant, and a towel monkey, in case you’re interested. He had also tucked Daughter J.’s Goofy doll and The Boy’s Spyro the Dragon carefully into bed in one location or another every night.)

*

After carefully verifying that we had everything we would need for the next day, I put all the luggage outside the room well before 11 and we all crashed. I had ended up eating the pizza sometime in there, but the key lime cupcake ended up as a tart accompaniment to my WJ breakfast the next day.

*

The Last Morning, Disembarkation, and the Flight Home.

Hello again. Nearing the end… : (

I let the kids sleep in as long as I dared, and we went to the WJ for breakfast. (This part is totally pathetic, but we were all tickled pink to be back in the US where we could use our phones! All three of us girls had ’em whipped out and were texting like mad over our eggs and danishes! LOL!) My mom had already been up and watching the webcam and marveling again about how big the ship is. I have a picture of Daughter S. with a whole muffin stuck in her mouth like a roasted pig with an apple, but it’s on the one memory card I haven’t managed to upload yet- the micro one from my phone.

*

After breakfast we consulted the oh-so-convenient digital signage that tells you where you are to wait for your number to be called to leave the ship. We were assigned to go to MDR deck 5. We went down, and rather than wander around looking for a table, we plopped ourselves down right at the entrance behind the danish and coffee table. Yeah, it might have been a little rednecky, but we set a trend. We were the first, and a couple other people followed suit shortly after. The father of this family was a rather cranky old soul, and by the time they called our number, I was ready to jump out the window if I’d had to listen to his voice one more second.

*

So we waited about 45 minutes and they called our number- 75. We got off the ship and into the luggage area, only to find that we’d had a Group Moron Moment, and our number was not 75, but 72! So we could have gotten off a little sooner if I weren’t such a scatterbrain! Oh well. What can you do, eh?

*

Unfortunately, here is where our experience went sour. One of our bags was missing. I knew the minute I saw the ones that WERE there, that the missing one… also happened to be the one with the seashells in it. Oooooohhh boy! I began to be ever so slightly terrified that our bag was missing precisely because it had shells in it, and I would be concluding my vacation with a nice little stay at the Gray Bar Hotel. We searched and searched, checked the Lost Luggage area, waited, wandered, asked a few different people, and finally decided to give up. We went through customs (me still shaking inwardly, wondering if they had somehow flagged me and I’d be stopped at that point. I wasn’t). So we went outside and up to the first agent we saw and told them we still hadn’t found our bag.

*

Apparently some breakdown in procedure had happened here, because the first 2 or 5 people we had talked to inside should have directed us to the ‘fill out the correct form’ desk, but we managed to get outside without having to do this, and we were sent right back in the front door. Then we were sent OUT the front door and alllllll the way down to the Day Visitors door to fill out the form. Talked to some guy with a walkie talkie who seemed to be listening to someone on the other end telling him that some bags were still in customs. Again… oooooohhh boy.

*

So I filled out the form and we waited around for a few minutes, and I began to be further terrified that we would miss our flight. The kids were a little distraught at this point, especially S. She of course, being the wisest and most discerning among my three little munchkins, was quite upset that this would happen to us. The other two were just kinda like, “How long is this gonna take again?”

*

After a while, I decided that we’d better just go. It was 10:45 and our flight was at noon. We left the room and trotted as fast as we safely could without running, alllllll the way down to the end of the terminal where the taxi line is, got in the line, and tried to just breathe. The kids at this point were like, “Ok, so we’re leaving without it. How are we gonna get our stuff?” and I said I hadn’t the foggiest. I was trying not to have a weeping meltdown at this point. What a crappy end to a great trip.

*

Finally we got in a cab. I did my usual thing of asking the driver if he was doing ok, and he just kind of shrugged and mumbled. We made it to the airport. (Fare was $15.90 and I gave the guy a $20, in case you’re interested.) We checked our luggage at the curb, because I didn’t know you could do it inside, and we got stuck behind these two women traveling together who had the wrong luggage with the wrong ticket, or something, but finally we got inside. I felt a little lost, because it seemed like there were no employees anywhere, and I went up to the desk to ask where in heck we were supposed to go. [ETA: I had used the Flight Check In kiosk late the night before, which was quick, convenient, and no complaints.] I got directed in the right direction, and we went through security. The kids went through ahead of me and I somehow started talking to this lady and telling her what had been happening, and it was here that the stress finally got to me and I began to cry.

*

I went tearfully through the rest of security, and got my shoes back on, and we found a place to sit and wait. This terminal, I might add, was nowhere near as well-appointed as DFW’s was- it was tiny and crowded and stress-inducing, but maybe that was just because of where my overall stress level already was. Right before boarding I ran and bought some gum and some water and Chex Mix. We stepped onto the plane and I immediately began to need to pee. But I was in the middle seat with Daughter J. on my left and some cute kid from Nebraska who had been on a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas on my right, and so I just put it out of my mind.

*

Toward the end of the flight, I desperately needed to go, but the kid was asleep and I just decided I’d suffer until we landed. Finally we made it, and I waited patiently before standing up until most of the plane was already clear (may not have mentioned that on our first flight, I stood up as soon as we stopped moving, and I felt like a moron still stuck waiting there for everyone to clear ahead of me. Live and learn.)

*

Once again on a Bathroom Mission, I apparently went sailing right past my dad, who saw us come off the plane and waved like crazy, but we were oblivious and finally spotted him again closer to the luggage claim area. The kids made a mad dash and we swarmed him and hugged him, and then a little farther on, Mom was sitting there too, in the row of seats against the wall, and we ran for her too, and I have to confess here, that although I will be 40 years old in September, I have never been so glad to see my mommy and daddy in my entire life! I wanted to cry with relief!

*

So we claimed our luggage, got out of the airport, went for lunch at Cracker Barrel, and headed North! Stopped at the WalMart in Gainesville to pick up a few things that J. needed, because get this: we were taking the poor child straight from the airport to a week of church camp! Finally, we got home, dragged everything inside, and started trying to refresh, renew, and recuperate.

Ta-Dah!

Things I learned:

1) If it’s not formal night, almost anything goes in the MDR, but it really does look a little sloppy to go in there in shorts and t-shirts.

2) I only noticed what people were wearing because of the CC boards.

3) Give your luggage to the first person who asks.

4) Every time it occurs to you to do something, go ahead and do it, because you may not remember to come back to it.

5) The wild animal species LoungeChairius Hoggus does exist, but the FoodLine-icus Defenderus is much more prevalent and vicious.

6) Never again with Character Vacations unless the people I’m with are prepared to Divide and Conquer the character search on their own time!

7) Powerstrip is definitely a must (didn’t have) and we forgot to even try to use the Ipod dock. We had a wall charger with 4 USB ports for that. We had an alarm clock, but I never needed it because I always wake up at around 6:30 on my own no matter what.

8) We apparently scored the Triple Crown Trifecta of family travel: three women in the family and nobody was on their “Girl Time”!

Things I took and didn’t need:

1) Dollar Store rain ponchos (it rained a couple of times on ship, but if we hadn’t stayed out of the rain we might have just enjoyed dancing in it. You never know. Although now that I think of it, they would have been great at Sailaway! Duh!)

2) Clothes pins. (never saw a clothes line)

3) curling iron, nail polish and remover, and other beauty items like hair combs, pins, and so on. (You just can’t make a bunch of girly-girls out of a bunch of low-maintenance country girls, even on Formal Night!)

4) Highlighter- nope, never used it. I either circled stuff in pencil or just carried the compass around and referred to it frequently.

5) Workout clothes- Duh, goes without saying. (Here is the promised confession of the result of my incredible gluttony: For the two weeks between the Tuesday before we left and the Tuesday after we came back [Weight Watchers meetings are on Tuesday] I showed a gain of an incredible 15 lbs.!  But I am happy to say that in the ONE week after we were back, I made such good choices I took off the entire 15, plus a few ounces, which tells me that the VAST majority of it was nothing but water retention.)

6) Sunscreen- not all of it, just two or three extra bottles I could have done without, seeing as we didn’t spend a ton of time on the pool deck, and when we did, it was after dark!

7) Extra swimsuits. I didn’t end up getting to swim all that much, either on ship or in port, and I had about 4 or 5 with me and only two ever made it onto my body.

*

*

*

And so we come to the end of our journey. If I forgot to revisit any subject I promised to revisit, (and in case you’re interested) please ask any questions you have. If you have any other questions, just let me know, and I’ll try to remember.

Regarding what we’ve been up to since the cruise: We picked J. up from church camp last Saturday the 9th and went straight up to Oklahoma City for my baby sister’s wedding. It was beautiful, and I enjoyed meeting up with an old friend from high school (read: an old crush!) and catching up with him. We now have a few days before we leave for a road trip to a family reunion in Colorado that I’m very much looking forward to, and when we get back from THAT, I need to immerse myself in paperwork for Daughter S.’s college and The Boy’s online public school that we’re going to try this next year.

*

I don’t know when we’ll get to cruise again. I like to think that I will eventually get to go again someday, with someone, but if it never happens, I had this one golden memory of a trip with my babies at a special crossroads in our lives.

Thank you for being with me!

Until next time,

D.

PS:

Re: the lost luggage

A nice lady called me the next day from Alabama and said the porter had stuck it on the cart with her group. I called Royal, they called her, somebody paid for it, and it arrived via Fed Ex the day after next, everything intact, as far as we could tell.

WHEW!!!

Another PS-

Regarding the letter to RCCL about the special meeting w/ Hiccup-

*Got an email from AG

*A day or two later got a call from customer service thanking me again for the email and offering a couple of special things for the next time I cruise- $100 OBC and a special amenity like perhaps some cupcakes in our room. (Think maybe they read my review?

Thanks again, RCCL!

Hello all. Thanks again so much for the kind comments and wishes. I really, truly appreciate your words.

*

I remembered a few things I wanted to share about the post-cruise experience, how I was feeling in the week or so after we returned home. For one thing, all of us still had the “sea legs” sensation of still feeling movement when we were sitting still. Seemed like it took a whole week or so for that to disappear completely.

*

And also, I wanted to share, from a first-time cruiser’s perspective, how it feels once you’re back home. I remember thinking about this and planning to include it in my eventual review. The first few days, I tried to see everything around home as fresh and new. I’d be driving around during lunch or running work errands and be thinking, “I’ve been in a different part of the world since I was last on this spot!”

*

It’s difficult to put into words. I was thinking about how when you come home from seeing a different country or a different area of the world, especially if you’ve seen the poverty and neglect of some places, it’s sort of like everything has changed. Everything looks different. But it’s not that your home has changed, your hometown. It’s that YOU have changed. Or more accurately you have BEEN changed. You are now seeing what’s in front of your eyes with a different perspective. You’re seeing blessings, or maybe luck, fortune or favor depending on what you want to call it. You’re seeing accessible technology and infrastructure, food and transportation, entertainment, medical care… all of these things, and they remind you what a blessed life you really do lead, and you come to appreciate your own world, just a little bit more.

*

When it comes down to it, I think maybe that’s why people travel- to gain perspective and to learn appreciation, both of the places they’ve visited and the place they started from.

Just my thoughts… what are yours?

 

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