Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Family Vacation

Our original plan for a family vacation (with extended family) this year did not work out, so in April we decided we would do a Caribbean Cruise. When I looked at the dates on the calendar, our only option was to go the week right before school started. We've never done a vacation that close to school, but I thought after our busy summer it might be a good thing. So, I did some research and booked us on the Carnival Glory out of Port Canaveral, Florida. Normally we like to fly on American to get our frequent flyer miles, but I broke the rules this time and booked us on a direct flight on Southwest. With all the additional fees airlines are charging, Southwest is looking better and better.


On Friday, August 15th, my dad picked us up at noon and dropped us off at the airport for our flight. We each had one suitcase and one small carryon and then we had a garment bag with our "formal attire". The flight was on time. Wahoo! It had been a long time since I had flown on Southwest, but we were in boarding group A so we all got to sit together and I enjoyed the snacks they still give out. When we landed we went to the Budget Rent-A-Car counter to pick up our car and we were off to the port.

We had a room reserved at the Radisson at the Port and it was a straight shot, literally, from the airport to the hotel. By the time we got there it was time to eat, so after checking in we walked next door to Kelsey's to eat Italian food. Then we went to the store to get a case of water, 2 bottles of wine, and some cheap sunglasses for the cruise. Back at the hotel we discovered that there was a leak in the bathroom somewhere, but were promptly moved to the room next door. We watched tv for a bit and then went to bed.


Saturday morning we woke up about 7:30 to get ready. We headed down the road to IHOP for breakfast and had some yummy chocolate chip pancakes. Yummm! Then we headed back to the hotel to load up our luggage and check out. We took the car to the Budget location and caught their free shuttle to the port. We arrived about 10:15 and they were already letting people go through security and begin the check in process. Everything was quick and easy. After getting our room keys/sail & sign cards, we sat in the chairs to wait until we could board the ship. There was a Carnival employee asking trivia questions, so the time went by fairly quickly. About 11:30 they let us get on the ship!

As soon as we got on, we did a little exploring and then headed to the gym so I could sign up for yoga and spin classes. Then we headed to the Red Sail restaurant for some lunch. After a little more exploring we were able to get into our cabin. We had a balcony cabin on the Lido deck. Our luggage arrived by 2:00 so we were able to unpack before the muster drill. For those that haven't been on a cruise, EVERYONE is required to attend the muster drill so everyone will know what to do if the ship has to be evacuated. Now that's a nice thought to have when you start a cruise.

The ship started sail away during the muster drill, which I did not like. I like being on an upper deck watching as we leave. As it was, we hurried back to our cabin and just watched us sail away from our balcony. Then we went to the kid's club orientation to get both kids signed up for their programs and then got ready for dinner. After dinner, Madison went to the kid's club meet and greet and we took Dalton to the "family" meet and greet for his age group. We tried to get him to dance, but he wouldn't, so we did to embarrass him. Then we went to the Welcome Aboard Show and then to bed.


We woke up at 6:30 Sunday morning to get ready and eat breakfast before docking in Nassau at 8:00am. As soon as we were allowed we got off the ship and started walking toward the British Colonial Hilton. I had read on that they offered day passes and I liked the fact that we could walk there. We found it fairly fast, paid $20 per adult and $10 per kid and were on the beach by 8:30. There were only about 8 of us on the beach for about an hour or so before other people started arriving. We snorkled and swam until about 11:30 and then headed back toward the ship, doing a little shopping along the way. We got back on the ship and ate lunch before we sailed away at 2:00. The afternoon was a little overcast, but I found a chair out by the pool and read until about 4:15. Then it was time to start getting ready for dinner. We took some pictures after dinner and then went to the show.


Today was our first sea day. Due to my normal schedule, I was awake at 6:45am so I put on my workout clothes and headed to the jogging track. It's always harder to run on a ship thanks to the wind, but I managed to get in 3 miles (27 laps around the track - boring!) Then I grabbed a banana and some orange juice and headed back to the cabin to eat on the balcony. Yoga was at 8:45. The instructor wanted to be different and had us head up to the deck on the front of the ship - VERY windy.

After yoga I met up with the rest of the family and we headed for the pool. Dalton went down the slide 11 times. Around noon we ate lunch and then I spent some time on the balcony reading my book. At 3:00 I headed to spin class. That was a workout. Then I headed back to the cabin and had a glass of wine on the balcony before getting ready for dinner. We went to the show again after dinner.


Today was St Thomas. We were up around 7:00 to get ready and eat breakfast. Since we had left from the US, visited a foreign country, and were now enterring a US territory, we had to go through customs. I had heard horror stories of how long this took, but I guess we got lucky because it seemed to go fairly fast. Once we were done with that, we headed back to the room to get our things and got off the ship. At 10:45 we were on our way to Magen's Bay. We rented 2 chairs and found our spot on the beach. It wasn't crowded at first, but as the day went on it got crowded. We ate lunch at the beach around 1:30. They even had veggie burgers!

After we were done at the beach we caught a taxi back to Havensight Mall and did some shopping. Years ago I had a silver ankle bracelet that I always wore. I had it for years. But I think swimming in chlorinated water did a number on it and a couple of years ago it broke. My goal this cruise was to find me a silver ankle bracelet. Mission accomplished in St Thomas. And it only cost $18. (plus the cost of the cruise to get there).

The kids were worn out by this point so we headed back to the ship to get ready for dinner. After dinner the kids both went to the kid's club and then we went to see the nightly show.


Today was St Martin/St Maarten. We were up early for breakfast and were off the ship by 8:00. By 8:30 we were at Orient Beach. And it was basically empty. And it was beautiful! We found some chairs right by the beach and the kids jumped in. The waves here were coming in pretty big and the kids loved it. Orient Beach is on the French side of the island and there is a chance you may see topless and/or nudity at the beach. We saw both. Around 11, Madison and I headed down to the parasail stand and paid to parasail. We hopped on the jet ski and headed out. There were a few people before us, but when it was our turn, it was worth the wait. The view from above was gorgeous! And as he was bringing us back in, he slowed to boat down so that we would dip in the ocean. Then we headed back and sent the boys out for their turn. Definitely worth it.

When we were done at the beach we caught a cab back into Philipsburg on the Dutch side and found a McDonald's to get Dalton some food. He was so tired and worn out that he feel asleep at the table waiting for our food. After a little lunch he perked up and we were back to shopping. There was some wonderful African art but it was expensive and we didn't want to carry it back on the plane. So we settled for some smaller souveniers. Then we headed back to the ship.

We relaxed on the balcony until time to get ready for dinner. After dinner, we saw the show. (are you seeing a pattern here, yet?)


Another sea day. I love sea days. Woke up early so I went and ran 2 miles and then went to yoga. Found a spot by the pool and relaxed until 2:00. Then went to spin class at 3:00. Madison went to the spa for "teen day" from 4-6 so she just met us at dinner.

After dinner Dalton went to kid's club where he would stay until 3:30am (we paid extra). Tonight was also the Grand Gala Buffet. We went to view it at 11:00 and then went back to the room to meet Madison. She was tired and ready for bed, so I went to bed as well. Joel tried to stay up until Dalton got home (the counselors brought the kids home), but didn't make it. At 4am we woke up as Dalton was coming in the door. I promptly went back to sleep!


Our last day of the cruise and our last sea day. I actually slept until 8:00 today so I didn't run. I just went to yoga at 8:45, then ate breakfast. Went to the pool for a while and FINALLY had my drink of the day. Then I went back to the room to start packing. Luggage had to be outside the rooms between 9-11 and the show started at 10:15. I wanted it all done before dinner. We had all luggage out by 9:30 and were able to enjoy the show. I sat out on the balcony fairly late just relaxing and enjoying the ocean breeze before heading to bed.


Woke up early so we could shower and eat before they started calling everyone to get off the ship. We had number 14. We were off the ship, back to the rental car agency and on the road to Orland by 9:45. In order to get the best rates on flights, we had to book the direct flight which left Orlando at 11:25. Since I wasn't sure what time we would get off the ship, I made the return flight for Sunday and booked us a hotel in Orlando. We were at the hotel at 10:30 and decided to spend the day at Universal's Island's of Adventure. They have a few good rides, but I must confess that next time I'm in Orlando with some spare time, I'm heading to Disney.

Around 4:00 a band of shower's from Fay came through and dumped rain on us. We saw it coming and had already gotten to the car to head to the hotel thank goodness. Ate dinner and then went to bed.


Woke up, ate breakfast and headed to the airport. The line to check luggage was long, so I'm glad we got there early. My parents picked us up at the airport when we got home and then it was back to reality - washing dirty clothes, grocery shopping, and getting the kids ready for school.
We had a great time. I really love the Eastern route. But I don't think we will vacation so close to school in the future. Dalton actually missed a soccer tournament because of the cruise, but we didn't know about it when we book the cruise. August is full of soccer activities, so no more August vacations for us.
This post took FOREVER to post because of the pictures. We have almost 600 from the week. If I know you and have your email address and you want to see more, let me know.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun. I could use a nice beach right about now!

M, Ms. R, Mom, Auntie M, Marey said...

WoW!!! Great photos! Looks like you had a great time...glad you got to Magen's bay too.

Happy back to school!