Cruise recap – Dolphins, horseback riding and more

The sand, the waves, the cheery people…it was all good. Yes, we finally went on that Caribbean cruise that I have been blogging about since March. And by all of us, I mean my family of four, my parents and my brother. We all had a good time.

Everything went pretty well except for one day, which I will get to in a moment, and of course the end when we came home to a 95 degree house (our air conditioner broke while we were away).

IMG_0249So let’s see…the cruise ship – The Carnival Magic – was excellent. I thought the pool seemed kind of small for that size ship (holds up to 6000 passengers and crew members), but it had a water park with two awesome slides, a 9-hole miniature golf course, a sky/rope course, a basketball court and at least six hot tubs.

IMG_0232The kids loved our room. We had a balcony and a connecting door to my parents’ room. Lexie enjoyed sleeping on the top bunk. And I never heard any whining about “getting dressed” for dinner. (No shorts or flip flops allowed in the dining room.) There were a few complaints about having their picture taken on the Elegant nights, but that was easily solved by bribing them with a trip to the onboard candy store.

DSCN0268Of our three stops – I can’t say which was the best. Even Jase said he couldn’t decide and loved all of them. If you asked Lexie her favorite part of the cruise, she would probably say getting chocolate fro-yo from the 24-hour ice cream and frozen yogurt place on the ship.

twister boatIn Cozumel, we took the twister boat out to a private island. The twister boat does 360 degree turns, and you get a “Mexican shower” when the ocean spray hits you. The ride was wilder on the way back as we sat up front and were facing each other.

DSCN0215My parents joined us on the island but took the much slower catamaran. The food was good on the island, and the kids liked playing in the sand and ocean. There was a trampoline in the water. Lexie went out there with her dad and uncle, but Jase thought it was too far from the shore.

CDK_9039 CDK_9137 CDK_9302 CDK_9322Our next stop was Grand Cayman. The ship was late getting in and due to some misinformation, instead of the 7 of us going on our dolphin excursion together, we got separated. My parents and brother made it to the 10 am trip but my husband, kids and I didn’t get off the ship until 10:40 and had to join the 11 am excursion. We went to the turtle farm briefly and then over to swim with the dolphins.

The kids did better than I thought they would. My husband helped Lexie, and I helped Jase. They got pushed on a boogie board and pulled across the water by a dolphin and then got to “dance” and kiss the dolphin though Jase opted out of the kissing. We got some really good (and expensive) pictures.

tia72tia6_#1 The next day, the kids and I went horseback riding in Jamaica with my parents. My husband and brother went zip lining and on a Jamaican bobsled. Their trip took all day while ours was only during the morning. This was my kids first time riding anything besides a pony. They did great. It was an hour-long ride through the Jamaican country-side, and we ended it with a brief ride/swim in the ocean.

DSCN0269Of course, I think Jase’s favorite thing was seeing the kittens at the place.

Overall it was a great cruise minus that one hiccup in Grand Cayman (and coming home to no AC). Everyone had a great time, and the kids are already talking about doing it again.

Packing and buying items for our cruise

In just six days, we will be rising early to head to the Port of Galveston. There we will board the Carnival Magic for seven days of fun…with the family.

Yes, our family cruise is almost here. And by family, I mean me, my husband, my two kids, my brother and my parents. It is the first time we have all gone on vacation together. It should be interesting to say the least.

Lexie is so excited to be going on a ship. Jase is too, but I expect him to be a little bit apprehensive when he actually sees the ship. He is our worrier so the safety of the ship will be on his mind as well as not letting Lexie on to the room balcony with any of her toys – especially her favorite stuffed animal, Snowball.

This is packing week. I already have my list of what needs to be packed so that I am not taking 14 outfits per person (that would be 7 day outfits and 7 evening outfits). The goal is to wear at least shorts (or jeans) more than one day and possibly wear our evening attire for dinner on more than one occasion. I hope this will cut down on the amount we want to take.

It is hard not to want to over pack. And this isn’t like a normal vacation where you can run to the store if you forget something or need additional of an item. We will be at sea, which means you either do without or hope to find the item in the ship’s shop where it will undoubtedly be overpriced.

91IcUKlJMqL._UL1500_We made a couple of purchases recently for the trip. One was a garment bag. We have sufficient suitcases but since we are bringing suits for the boys and nice dresses for the girls and cannot bring an iron, I wanted something that might transport these clothes with the least amount of wrinkles. I bought the bag on Amazon’s Prime Day Sale so it was 30% off and of course is something my husband can use for travel. He is an attorney so often needs to pack suits. Before we only had a bag that held one suit at a time, which was good for overnight trips.

I also bought a small purse for carrying my room key and whatever I need while I am up on deck. If I am in shorts, I figure I would just have stuff in my pockets but in a sundress, there is no way to carry your room key which in our case also lets the staff know we are on Carnival’s unlimited soda plan. You can’t get a soft drink (or juice) without your room key.

91gUSeAptTL._UL1500_I found this cute little purse on Amazon and bought both the grey and tan colors. I tried the tan one on my recent PTA leadership conference (more on that next week). It worked out great. It easily fit my iPhone 5, my car keys, ID, credit card and some money. Since I don’t carry a lot typically in my purse, I can see myself using this at home too.

71UQSXTAeML._SL1500_Another item that we bought earlier this year was digital cameras for each kid. I wanted something that each of them could easily use. The Nikon CoolPix S32 received good reviews and as a bonus, it is waterproof and shockproof.

DSCN0062We have spent part of the summer testing it out at Sea World and our neighborhood pool. It works great and is very easy to use. (The photo to the right was taken with this camera.)

Now I think we are ready for this cruise…or we have just a few more days to figure out if we have everything. I will give a report on our trip later this month. But just because I am gone next week, it doesn’t mean I won’t be posting. I already have topics scheduled so you guys won’t even miss 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.