Planning for our cruise is still under way

In just 61 days, my family – along with my parents and brother – will embark on a Caribbean cruise as a joint celebration for my dad’s 80th birthday and my husband and my 20th wedding anniversary.

cruise list

Yes, we got our passports taken care of in February (or March for our son since they didn’t think the first birth certificate was official). We booked our shore excursions early too.

Occasionally over the past few months, we have briefly talked about things to take on the cruise and even bought a few things – water shoes, biodegradable suntan lotion and a new camera since ours stopped working on our last beach trip.

Now being a major planner, I need to start thinking about what we are going to pack and whether we need to buy anything else for the trip. One of my major concerns is over packing. It is easy to want to bring everything you think you might need, but the cruise cabin is not very big. We won’t have tons of room so packing smartly is needed.

Formal Nights

CIMG2188On our cruise, there will be two “formal” nights. Soon after we booked our cruise in December, we bought my daughter two nice dresses that were on an after-Christmas sale. Both my husband and I are already set for these nights, but my son has never really had the opportunity to dress up. I thought we might get by with dress slacks and a dress shirt. No so. Jase wants a suit, so he can be like daddy. (My husband is an attorney and often must wear a suit, though he hates it.) Now we bought Lexie’s dresses the next size up since we were buying them eight months before the cruise. I have been holding off with buying Jase’s suit. i am too afraid of a growth spurt causing it not to fit. I think we will buy it in July – a mere month before the trip.

Toys and kid technology

Typically when we travel, the kids pack a backpack with toys, stuffed animals, and their iPad/iPods. On our trip to Disney World last year, they were required to be able to carry this backpack through the airport. On this trip, I assume we will do the same, but I really want to limit at least them bringing any small toys that could get lost. Part of me doesn’t think they will use their toys very often but there will be some down time where they may need to get away from all the stimulus of the cruise and relax in the room.  Their iPads will go on the trip too but will be regulated to staying in the cabin.

And packing isn’t the only thing I need to think about. I am going to have to figure out how much cash we need to take for tipping of the people on our shore excursion and for buy souvenirs at vendors who don’t take credit cards. That reminds me…I need to add letting the credit card company know we will be out of the country, so they don’t think our cards were stolen to my list. See? So much to do and think about for a planner like me.

Planning a Caribbean Cruise with the extended family  

For several years now, my parents have talked about taking the family on a vacation for their 50th wedding anniversary. Well, my mom decided that is still too far away (Dec. 2017), so she decided this summer would be a good time as my husband and I celebrate our 20 year wedding anniversary in June, and my dad turns 80 in October.

So, in August, my parents, my brother and my family (me, hubby and the two kids) will be taking a Caribbean cruise. The last time the adults took a trip together was in 1997 when we went to Washington DC for my grandmother’s funeral.

It should be an interesting trip. The kids are excited about it. Of course, I first had to convince Jase that the ship was unlikely to hit an iceberg and sink.

Passports

Passports are not required when taking a cruise even though it stops in Mexico, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. You can get by with just a driver’s license, but a passport can make departing the cruise ship when we return to Galveston easier. And if there is ever a reason that you need to fly back, you can’t do so without a passport. And with traveling with Lexie, who has multiple allergies and very sensitive skin and traveling with my parents who are getting up there in years and have their own health issues, we thought it would be better just to go ahead and get passports. Better to have them and not need them than to be kicking ourselves if an emergency does come up.

Our local post office only does passports between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., which typically would mean that I have to take the kids out of school. When I called, they were booking appointments at the end of February, which actually worked well for us as the kids had early school dismissal and didn’t have to miss school.

The actual passport appointment was quick. It took about 20 minutes for all four of us. Now all we have to do wait for the passports to come in. One thing we did do is we took our own passport photos. Places like Walgreens offer to do it for $12 but when you have four of us that would be $48. Instead, I followed the direction from this website and printed our own from Walmart for less than $1.

Shore Excursions

The kids were excited about the different things that we can do in each port. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with too many choices, so I picked ten options – swimming with dolphins or stingrays, tours of turtle farms, submarine ride, trips to private beaches, horseback riding, climbing up a river/waterfall, buggy trips on the beach, glass bottom boats, and a pirate adventure.

Based on which ones they liked best – and what worked with the others on our trip – here is what we picked.

Cozumel – Trip to a private island. For the younger set (my brother and my family) we are taking a speed boat that does 360 degree spins and twists and turns – sort of like a roller coaster on the water. For my parents, there is the much calmer catamaran to the beach. It is all-you-can-eat and drink on the island. There are water sports, kayaks, snorkeling, water trampolines and slides, hammocks, kid activities and of course the beach to keep us entertained.

Grand Cayman – We are going to swim with the dolphins. Yes, we are actually going to be in the water with the dolphins and pulled across the water with them. Afterwards, we get to go to the neighboring turtle farm where you can pick up baby turtles.

Jamaica – This is the one location where instead of going as one big group we will be splitting up. My parents, the kids and I are going horseback riding, which includes riding the horses in the ocean. My husband and brother are going on an adventure package. They are going to ride a Jamaican bobsled and zip line over the trees.

This is shaping up to be quite the adventure. (And with all these cool excursions, it is shaping up to be an expensive one too.) I am sure over the next couple of months I will have some more posts about our upcoming trip and the fun of taking the kids on a cruise.