Sometimes it feels to me like my family is always in 100 different places, working, at school, participating in sports, after school activities .... I am sure any mother of teens can understand what I'm talking about. I see my older kids in the morning for a minute, then sometimes at dinner time - or later at bedtime. Everyone has somewhere to go, someone to see, something to do! Not ideal, but life is just busy.
I'm happy that our family has been able to take a vacation together each year. A week away from the hustle and bustle while we reconnect and try to remember the important things. This year, we took a cruise. Officially it was designated as a New Year's Cruise, but it happened to be a time when we were all available and really READY for a trip, so off we went! Now that we're back and the laundry has been done, the suitcases have been relegated to the attic until next time and YES, the photos have all been edited - NOW I can share a little bit about our vacation!
Our cruise left from Tampa, Florida. Which means that we had to GET to Tampa, Florida, from New Jersey. For various reasons, we chose to drive down in our van. A little bit of extra family togetherness. Yep, it was just as good as you are imagining. Since I am one of the smallest in the family, I got to sit all the way in back for most of the ride. Don't be jealous of my view. Good times. Yes, that is rain, which is what we drove through for most of the trip.
All was forgotten when we arrived - the weather was beautiful and HOT! We didn't have a lot of time but we did get to visit Clearwater Beach briefly before our cruise and it was beautiful.
Departure went without a hitch and we loved the views from the Tampa port. Can you believe those blue skies and white fluffy clouds?
Our ship was The Vision of the Seas from Royal Caribbean. Did you know that Royal Caribbean is autism certified? They know just what to do when it comes to guests with autism and they are really great about dietary restrictions too. Here's my son Oliver, chatting with the head waiter Anca about what he plans to eat for the week. They brought him everything he asked for. They gave us a quiet place to wait during the muster drill and when it was time to depart. We just had to say the word "autism" and people would come out of nowhere to help us. Gotta love it.
I'm going to save the port days for later, because otherwise this will get long. Today is just all about the ship. We were on an older ship, smaller and less fancy than some of the newer mega-ships. But we like this type of cruise better. By the end of the week, we felt we knew a lot of the crew members and many of the guests. I enjoyed having someone else do the cooking and cleaning - and the whole family enjoyed the food, entertainment, pools, hot tubs and the beautiful warm weather of the Caribbean.
The Captain, Marek Slaby from Poland, was one of the most engaged captains I have ever met. He played volleyball with the guests in the pool, sang Bon Jovi in the Centrum and then there was the night they had a "Dancing with the Stripes" event. Kind of like Dancing with the Stars, but the stars were officers and the dancers came from the entertainment crew. Wow, look at Captain Marek in action. He didn't win, but we were all still impressed.
Another amazing night - 70's night - and once again, the amazing crew members kept us entertained. Activities Director Elvis Pinto (in the sailor suit) got everyone moving. He actually had everyone moving every day - ok maybe not me - I admittedly just watched with a frosty drink in my hand when he did zumba classes by the pool. C'mon, it was vacation! I did dance during 70's night. I can't resist a good ABBA song.
My daughter enjoyed the rock climbing wall. She almost made it to the first bell.
One of the last nights was the Parade of Flags when we learned about the crew and where they were from. This is the head housekeeper who was from Germany (in case you couldn't tell). It was amazing to see all the nationalities represented.
It's not a vacation unless you get a good profile picture for your social media accounts, right? Me and my girl on the last formal night - she's the one in the crown, I'm the one dressed like a zebra. All the other pictures of me involve water shoes, a baseball cap and a swimsuit - and no one is seeing those!
We tried some group photos. Every night the ship's photographer would take our picture, but we got a lot of this:
Our ports included Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. I'll post about them later. Because I have a lot to say about everything! It was a wonderful trip for all of us - we came home feeling refreshed and ready for the new year! My mind is still filled with thoughts of ocean breezes and beautiful sunsets at sea. Just what the doctor ordered. "Somewhere ... beyond the sea ... somewhere, waiting for me .... " (Yes, I know that song will be stuck in your head now, and yes, you are welcome.) Check back in a few days to hear more about our port days - monkeys, Mayan ruins, giant trampolines and girl with a rat on her head. Yep. You're gonna want to see those photos! For now, I'll leave you with that song in your head and my favorite sunset photo, taken somewhere between Cozumel, Mexico and Tampa.