Our Family Cruise Part III: Cozumel

Maybe this post will be worth the long wait. Maybe it won’t.

Let’s see where I left off…..three months ago we went on a cruise. Our third port was Cozumel. It was by far our favorite port of all! Perhaps it was because we were out of the dark clouds and into blue and sunny skies. But maybe this was because of our chosen excursion: The Amazing Race of Cozumel.

If you knew me back in the days when I had television, you know The Amazing Race was one of my absolute favorite shows. I was so excited for this excursion!

I made one crucial mistake, however.

When we discussed the cruise with the kids, describing the excursions we would be doing: Swimming with Dolphins! Kayaking! Stingrays! The Amazing Race! the Amazing Race was overshadowed. Also, since my children had never seen the television show, the name meant nothing to them. They had zero context of what it entailed or how much fun it could potentially be. They just heard “race around the city against other people.” Which to them meant: boring.

I write this from my hindsight perspective on the situation. In the moment, I was sure they were just as excited as I was.

Here’s how it all went down.

We created a team name and received some instructions. We chose the team name: Ocho Amigos (eight friends, for those who don’t speak Spanish.)

After riding in a Taxi (they got a taxi van for our large family) to our starting point they gave us instructions how the whole race would work. Staff were stationed everywhere to make sure no one got lost. The Amazing Race Staff took pictures as they came across us. Many of the pictures below (the ones with slightly lackluster color) are ones the staff took of our family.

Please note here the state of confusion my kids seem to be in.

We tried to get them excited, we really did.

Our first clue was deciphering five things different between two identical pictures. It was fairly hard. We weren’t the first team done, but we weren’t last either. We got our next clue and were off.

Well, I was enthusiastically off and running. Everyone else followed, attempting to keep up.

We arrived at our second clue that was a Mexican meat market of sorts. It felt like legit Amazing Race stuff as we walked by butchers chopping up fresh animals right in front of us.

The picture below isn’t great because I snapped it really fast, but the look on Lily’s face says it all.

The first couple of clues were fun as they required simply finding the locations and asking for the clue.

One clue was found inside an ear of corn.

Other clues required deciphering and problem solving. Which didn’t seem fun for hot and tired kids.

Another clue required us to get on a boat (above is everyone waiting to get on a boat), cruise out into the ocean a bit then have someone in our team jump in and snorkel to find the name of a sunken ship.

E and Peter volunteered for the snorkeling.

The name of the sunken boat helped decipher some code which told us where to go next.

Oh, that Cozumel water was so gorgeous.

Once back in the boat, we had to furiously move to get the boys dressed again.

Another clue brought us to a museum to find intricate facts and details to record and then decode our next clue.

One required someone to receive a Henna tattoo telling us where to go next. X happily volunteered for this.

Somewhere along this whole journey, Ryan said to me: Kel, you have got to slow down. The kids are dying – we aren’t going to win.

The wind in my sails calmed. I forced myself (as much as possible) to walk slower and stop telling my kids to hurry. This was hard for the achiever in me.

The picture below kind of says it all – ha! Me, leading the pack and my kids straggling behind.

Finally though, we made it to the pit stop.

And we weren’t last!!

This picture (above) is one of the ONLY pictures in existence where my kids are all genuinely smiling without being forced. Amazing.

At the end of the race we got to enjoy lunch at this REAL Mexican restaurant (not like the Tex-Mex back at home) as part of the excursion. It, too, was AMAZING!

“What is this? This isn’t salsa!!”

Regardless of everyone’s exhaustion at the end, we had a blast. As we discussed it all on our taxi-ride back towards the port Ryan and I realized we should have actually watched an episode or two of the Amazing Race with the kids. Then they would have understood my fury from task to task.

Over this past summer we did just that: watched The Amazing Race. We purchased a few seasons on iTunes and watched them on our Apple TV. The kids were hooked immediately. They all assured us that, had they understood the idea of the race, they would have tried harder to win. Oh well, the race was still immensely fun and watching the episodes together was also equally fun.

The girls stopped to get their hair wrapped (Lily) and braided (X) before we re-boarded the ship in Cozumel.

We spent our last day at sea where the older kids hung with their new friends (we barely saw them) and the younger kids bounced in between hanging with us and their kid zones.

One notable mention from the last day, however, is E’s award!

He beat out adults and kids alike at the cruise’s Paper Airplane Competition!


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….