Our Family Cruise: [Part II: Jamaica & Cayman Island]

After 2.5 days at sea we arrived in Jamaica. The sky was dark and foreboding as we disembarked. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it through the day without getting rained on.

The excursion we chose in Jamaica was a Dolphin Encounter at Dolphin Cove then some time at a local beach. A bus picked us up and we met our tour guide for the day.

Jermaine. The kids love him. He taught everyone about the Jamaican dialect.

When he asked if anyone had questions about Jamaica, E raised his hand and asked, “What is the primary source of income for the Jamaican people?” We all chuckled, as did Jermaine who didn’t know the answer to the question other than tourism.

Oh how I love that smile. This is the uninhibited smile we only see regularly away from the camera.

This is just fantastic compared his last encounter with dolphins….

Peter, the most hesitant of all, pulled through without any freak-outs.

After the dolphins we headed to the beach. The kids were hungry but we didn’t want to buy lunch when food on the boat was already paid for (don’t judge my frugalness.) We did conceded to buy them a smoothie, however.

Everyone scattered to their favorite activities (eating) and new friends they made once we got back on the ship. Ryan and I enjoyed a quiet (and delicious) dinner alone while the kids ate more burgers, pizza and chocolate cake.

The next day we arrived at Cayman Island.

I chose not to bring my Canon “big” camera due the fact we’d be doing water activities all day. Instead, I brought my underwater camera.

Our excursion for the day was Kayaking and Stingrays.

E kayaked with me so this is the picture of us: his distorted upside down body and my feet.

We stopped a learned a lot about the mangrove trees they had there. Super fascinating (for some of us, at least.)

And we learned about their iguanas and how the government paid people to kill off an entire type of iguana that was threatening the mangroves and vegetation on the island.

I can’t believe I got this good of a picture of the iguanas with my underwater camera. We kayaked by them so fast I thought for sure the pictures would be a waste.

So cool.

After kayaking we got on the pontoon boat to head out to the stingray sandbar. It was about a 20 min boat ride there which would have been no problem except the foreboding clouds over where we headed.

Our tour guide asked if we all wanted to dare the storm. We voted to go for it and we headed out into the rough ocean waters just as the rain began to fall.

It was cold.

And the rain and water hitting your skin was painful.

Which was a really a bummer because these waters were absolutely gorgeous. The kids didn’t get to take in the beauty, they just wanted to survive the ride.

This was the last picture I took because the rain, kids, and stingrays were all too much to handle without worrying about pictures.

So here’s how the stingrays went down:

They were amazing. Ryan and I got off the boat first then helped E and Peter down the ladder. Immediately, they were freaked out by the shear number of WILD stingrays among them. (I had told them this would be more an “exhibit” where the stingrays don’t have stingers…oops! Definitely not an exhibit.) We literally had to carry each boy as we would babies on our hips. They refused to get down. After 5 minutes we grew weary and carried them back to the boat.

Adam and Lance were still standing there. With ZERO intention of getting of the boat. The wanted nothing to do with the stingrays.

X and Lily did manage to get off the boat but they held on to one another for dear life. Every time a stingray would swim by them they’d screech and laugh – undoubtedly worsening their safety in their freak out. They lasted longer than all the boys but still did not (intentionally) touch stingrays. The stingrays did, however touch them.

Ryan and I loved it. It was totally amazing to be standing in the middle of the ocean surrounded by stingrays. And honestly, they were friendly. We loved the way they felt.

The ride back to shore was as equally painful as the ride to the sandbar. Then, still wet and freezing, we had another 30 minute bus ride, 20 min line for a tender boat, 5 min tender boat ride back to the ship, and 30 minute wait to get off the tender and on to the ship.

Needless to say, no matter how much we loved kayaking and how much they wanted to love the stingrays, everyone was done.  After some hot showers and warm clothes (me) we settled in under some blankets for the night’s Dive In Movies.

Then we rested up for the day we had be anxiously waiting for in Cozumel!!

Stay tuned….

 

 

Our Family Cruise [Part 1: The Beginning]

It’s hard to vacation with a large family. The most economical option would be to drive somewhere but considering five minute car rides to church is enough to incite fighting and frustration, destinations longer than 5 hours away are out of the question.

Five hours is low long it takes to get to South Padre, where we have visited 3 times. We survive that trip with the aid of electronic devices and Benadryl.

The real problem is that the kids are getting big. There is no longer any breathing room in between one another when they pile in side by side whether into the Pilot or the Minivan.

And while we all LOVE South Padre, it’s either 2 hotel rooms or a suite, either way, it is expensive so we don’t spend more than 1 night there.

We decided long ago the best vacation option for our large family would be a cruise. We wouldn’t need further transportation once we got on the boat, the children could do their own thing if they desired, and I wouldn’t need to be responsible for feeding everyone everyday.  Win. Win. Win. So we began saving.

This year was the best year to go. Before long, the older kids would have jobs and high school activities limiting our schedule. Missing school wouldn’t be an option over the next couple years either as everyone moves out out elementary school and middle school and high school are hard to miss. So yeah, this was the year.

It took quite a bit of planning, all of which we can thank Ryan for.

We pulled the kids out of school early on a Friday. To say they were excited was an understatement.  We had been counting down months, weeks, days, and hours in anticipation to a 7 day vacation.

We packed 8 duffel bags, one for each of us and headed to Houston.

We spent the night and visited with our dear friends and old neighbors when we lived in Houston, the Aloia’s.

We met these friends 14 years ago when their daughter was 1. When X joined our family 4 years later these girls became instant friends. Now (geez!) they are almost all grown up.

The kids all had a fun time together, especially because Allie is an Arial Silk gymnast (if that’s what they are called.) My kids fell instantly in love with these silks…

They could have done this all night long. Unfortunately we don’t have high enough ceilings to put one of these in otherwise I think I could keep them entertained for an entire summer.

Morning came and we headed down to Galveston to find our ship! We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful Texas day.

This was our first glimpse of the ship….

They were mesmerized.

After a fairly painless boarding process we made our way to the pool area and secured some seats as we waited for our rooms to be available.

We were all so excited to finally be here.

But not as excited as they were when they discovered the ice cream.

And the hamburgers…

I asked them at one point how many hamburgers they thought they were eating a day.

Three hamburgers a day.

Ice creams?

Five or Six.

That was when the boys told me they backed up their toilet and had to get ship maintenance to fix it.

Awesome, I thought. They solved the problem on their own!

The first day we saw each other a lot and I got a bunch of pictures. The second day, not as much, and so on.

The more comfortable the kids were on the boat the less they needed us. They all made friends in their “kid areas.” Which, for going the 3rd week in May, there wasn’t an abundance of kids on the boat.

This made for a very relaxing trip for Ryan and I.

Sunset the first night was absolutely gorgeous.

After each night’s “Dive-In Movie” we rounded up the kids to go to bed, usually around 11:30 or midnight.

We often found them at the bar drinking soda (we bought them “limitless bubbles” so they wouldn’t come ask us for a drink constantly) or we found them in line for pizza. A few nights they were already in their rooms with empty plates of chocolate cake (ordered through room service.)

As far as I know, no one got sick from all this food. Amazing.

Meanwhile, my guilty pleasure was a bag of M&M’s. Ryan’s was Starburst jellybeans. We grabbed a few every time we went to our room. Considering we couldn’t really eat any other desserts on the ship, we felt like we were still winning.

And, Ryan and I were getting up and running and working out together in the mornings so I had zero guilt.

Then again, I’m pretty sure my kids carried zero guilt either for their culinary indulgences. As long as they were having fun, we didn’t care.

 

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