If you’ve ever thought about taking a cruise, let me tell ya, it’s worth every penny. Yes, it can be expensive (but if you budget and book early enough, it’s truly not as bad as you think it is and most of that expense is your flight, quite frankly), but you have to remember that when you take a cruise, you’re actually taking about four, or five, mini-vacations all rolled into one.
There’s the experience on the boat (which is a vacation in and of itself) and then there’s the experience at every port of call.
All of your food is provided. There are numerous programs to entertain you and there are clubs and even a casino that offers even more excitement.
And let’s not forget the fun stuff you can book with shore excursions – things you would most likely NEVER do, or see, on your own.
Taking a cruise means you don’t have to stress about being a certain place at a certain time. You can eat whenever you want. You can sleep whenever you want. You can even lounge around and allow someone to wait on you, if you choose.
It really does give you the most bang for your buck.
We are absolutely sold on cruises. And if we can swing it, we plan on taking a different cruise every summer. (If you’re thinking about taking a cruise and have some questions, feel free to contact me and I’ll try and answer them).
But that’s IF we can financially swing it. The winds are changing in our world and it looks like I WILL be getting a job, outside of my webmaster duties, very soon.
But more on that later.
Let’s start at the beginning …
I spent all day Monday and Tuesday sorting through pictures. I had no idea we had taken so many. We took three cameras and between the four of us, we captured quite a few things. (Note to readers: If you go on vacation, don’t be afraid to take an extra camera or two and give it to the kids to use – you’ll be surprised at their different perspective!).
The pictures below are a hodge-podge mix of various shots we took around the boat during our week aboard.
Let me see if I can summarize this for you. It might seem a little choppy, formatting it this way, but it’ll save me from writing a novel and save you from getting bored and moving on … though I suspect it’s already too late for that. *grin*
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(RSS Readers: I had to insert the slide shows using Vodpod. As a result, the slide shows won’t show up in your readers. Please click over to view. Sorry about that!)
ø Beginning at the airport: We flew out of St. Louis on Saturday, June 20th. Even though we didn’t set sail until 4:00 on Sunday, June 21st, I wanted to go ahead and get to Miami the night before so we (okay, I) wouldn’t get stressed out about missing the boat. The last cruise Kevin and I took we cut it really close and were one of the last people to board. I didn’t want to go through that again.
ø Our flight was non-stop. We flew directly from St. Louis to Miami (about a 2 1/2 hour flight). We scheduled it that way because Dude HATES to fly and we figured it would be easier on him as opposed to dealing with layovers. (He did great, by the way). We flew out of St. Louis instead of Springfield because to fly out of Springfield would have cost us an additional $1,800. (!!!) It was way cheaper for us to drive to St. Louis and then park our car for a week.
ø We got into Miami about 9:00 p.m. and it took us a while to figure out which shuttle bus would take us to our hotel. Though we were tired and we stressed about finding the right shuttle, at least we didn’t have to pay $30 bucks for a taxi ride.
ø Miami is like stepping into a totally different country. It was rare to actually hear someone speak English. It both annoyed me (because hello, we’re in America, speak the language) and fascinated me.
ø We arrived at our hotel at about 10:00 p.m. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (because we’re smart like that). The room was small, but comfortable. Even though I handed out ear plugs (Kevin snores something fierce), they fell out for the boys and they didn’t get much sleep. In fact, Dude told us that between Jazz’s restless flopping around (he’s the type of sleeper that wakes up upside down and backwards) and Kevin’s snoring, he tried to sleep in a chair and even the bathroom, but ended up sleeping maybe three hours – total. To say he was cranky would be kind.
ø We had a relaxing morning at the hotel before catching a cab to the pier.
ø We arrived at the pier at noon (the place was packed by this time) and was herded through various channels (moo) before we made it to a live person to check in. I was a little nervous because everyone else had these packets with their cruise information in them and all we had was a piece of paper that had our “Fun Passes” printed on them. We had registered through the Carnival website and that’s all they gave us. But there was no need to worry – it was a smooth and flawless process and we left with our sail and sign cards in hand.
ø There was a lot going, and there were so many people, that we were a bit disoriented. Even though we didn’t have our luggage with us (there were porters outside the complex who checked your luggage in for you), we still had four bags on us. We were leaving the counter to head toward the boarding entrance when a woman caught our attention. We had nearly left our expensive Canon Rebel camera behind! I swear, if that woman hadn’t hailed us, we would have lost that camera. Thank God for nice, honest people.
ø Side Note: Even though you don’t “technically” have to have a passport when you travel (depending on where your cruise is taking you), get one. It makes your life a whole lot easier, trust me. The folks that didn’t have passports were kept a lot longer than the folks who did. And remember, passports are valid for 10 years so it’s not like you’ll have to go through the process each and every time you travel.
ø We had our embarkation picture taken. There are photographers all over the ship – it’s an excellent chance to squeeze more money from the tourists. And even though they are expensive, I would recommend purchasing a few because they really ARE a great thing to take home with you. (I love our smiles in our picture. We all look happy, relaxed and ready to have fun. Except Jazz, he looks shell-shocked. lol).
ø The picture of Kevin in his safari hat is one of my favorite pictures of him. He looks so cute and relaxed. He bought that hat in Cozumel because he refused to wear sun screen on his face – it breaks him out – and his face was getting pretty red [duh]. My husband is an oddball, but I’ll take him. 🙂
ø The funky circle pictures, and the slightly distorted pictures after that, were taken with a fish-eye lens. Kevin wanted to try and capture as much of the ship as he could. I don’t know about other cruise lines, but Carnival ships’ decor is a little (okay a lot) on the gaudy side – think tacky Vegas style. But they’re fun and I suppose that’s the whole point.
ø Picture of Jazz on the steps: Our cabins weren’t ready when we boarded, so we had to sort of wait around until 1:30 when they would be ready. Jazz looks a little depressed in this picture – I think he’s still shell-shocked and trying to take it all in. At least, that’s what I tell myself. *grin*
ø The diner pictures: This was the 10th deck I referred to earlier. We ate all of our diner meals here. It was quiet and had a spectacular view. The boys also spent a lot of time playing cards on this deck, too.
ø We took most of the pictures of us on deck before we left the Miami pier, and I’m glad we did. Because when it came time to set sail, it started pouring. The pictures of us sitting on the deck is when we were waiting for the rain to pass so we could watch us take off. The rain delayed our departure about 30 minutes. But it was worth the wait — there is nothing quite like leaving the pier for the first time. Our vacation had officially begun!!
ø Picture of Kevin in front of the accounting office: inside joke. He’s an accountant in real life so … we sort of HAD to take that picture.
ø Picture of disgusting food substance: There was a fish and chips station on the 10th deck and one day we were walking past and noticed tentacles sticking out of a pan. The chef was cooking baby octopus. The dish? Something with BBQ octopus in it. Yeah, I couldn’t even eat the rest of the day (okay fine, for a few hours). Have any of you tried octopus?
ø There are two pictures of Dude after the octopus picture. The second picture – his expression … omg, so cute. He looks so much like my little boy in that picture. People outside of the family don’t see this expression very often. It just melts my heart.
ø Picture of Kevin’s legs – yeah, I put that one in there as payback for the HUNDREDS of pictures he took of me this vacation. Just wait, there is one set where it’s all me and I’m quite annoyed with him for being so shutter happy.
ø The funky light pictures: We were waiting in the Ivanhoe Theater for the next show to start and Jazz took my camera and started experimenting. I thought they turned out pretty cool, myself. Just another example of what happens when you mix a bored kid with a camera.
ø The ship actually had a miniature golf course up by the smoke stack. The snake on the rock pic is from that golf course. It’s missing it’s head and for some reason, Kevin thought that was hilarious. (Snake issues?)
ø Me and Kev – posing right off Isla Roatan (Honduras).
ø The next set of pictures is of the guys playing some card game that someone taught Dude at school (during class one day. WHY they weren’t learning is beyond me). The boys played A LOT of cards.
ø The boys posing with their towel animals. They really got a kick out of the towel animals. Alfredo made one each night and put it on our beds while we were at dinner. I thought it was funny that the ship actually sold a book on how to make towel animals. We actually saw one kid reading it while we were waiting for a show to start in the theater. Talk about milking tourists for every single dime! (Alfredo made a towel heart just for me and Kev. Aww).
ø Picture of Kevin and the boys looking at something. They are looking at the underwater pictures that Kevin took while snorkeling off of the Cayman Islands. We bought a cheap (but reusable!) underwater camera at the photo gallery. He RAVED about the great pictures he took and when we got them back (they developed them on the ship), they were … uh … anything BUT great. We laughed about them the entire cruise.
Here’s a short video of the guys looking at the pictures:
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ø The boys, standing outside their very own cabin. (If you have teenagers and can afford it, BOOK THEIR OWN CABIN!!! Man, was that worth the privacy).
ø Next picture: Me and Kevin on the first formal night. I love this picture of us, but I’m hating how white my face is. I’m definitely wearing the wrong powder. I look like a mime. 😦 Cruisers had the option of having dinner in the restaurant each and every night. We had scheduled our dinner for 6:00 p.m. and we ate at the restaurant each night. We could order anything from the menu we wanted – we could even order two dinners if we wanted – but we didn’t want to. We all enjoyed the food, but Jazz wasn’t crazy about it because he’s such a picky eater. However, our waiter was awesome and made sure that Jazz liked his meal. There was even one night that he brought him an extra pasta dish because he didn’t look too happy with the dish he had chosen.
Even though a lot of people dressed up for formal night, the mode of dress was varied. There was one gal in a ball gown and tiara, but for the most part, everyone was dressed in cocktail dresses. I sort of wished we hadn’t participated in formal nights – it was a PAIN to come back from an excursion all hot and dirty and then rush through a shower and get all dressed up for dinner one hour later, but it’s something that should be experienced, at least once. It IS pretty fun to get dressed up because that’s not something you get to do on a daily basis.
ø Last picture: This is the first (and probably last) time the boys wore a tie. Aren’t they handsome?! It cracks me up how low Dude’s pants are though. The boy should have worn a belt but we didn’t pack one. And I’d just like to add, getting the boys to pose for the photographer was hilarious!! The photographer was of some Indian descent and so he talked very fast and tried to pose us like plastic people and Dude was so uncomfortable …. “he is very stiff,” says the guy. “He is so awkward!” “Oh, his hands very cold.” I was laughing so hard that the pictures he took of me and Kevin didn’t turn out, but at least it broke the ice and that’s the reason the boys are smiling so much because it was one of those really funny, awkward moments.
And that’s it. We spent our first day at sea and we explored the ship, hung out by the pool, played a little Bingo, dressed up for dinner and watched a Vegas-style show. It was a relaxing and fun day.
Little did we know that the next day, Dude and I would nearly drown …