English: MS Allure of the Seas leaving STX shipyard, Turku, Finland. Photo is taken from Saaronniemi, Ruissalo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[NOTE: This post will be edited later to include trip pictures, so be on the lookout for that! Thanks!]
Hello all! Well, we made it. I’m just back from my very first cruise. We were on the Allure sailing 5/27/12. 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
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 the Cruise Critic message boards, 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, 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 kept trying to tell her 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 on Cruise Critic, or 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,