Awesome Family Fun in Aruba

Aruba’s license plate slogan is One Happy Island, and we certainly found our happy place today. We spent the day at De Palm Island, an all-inclusive waterpark where we could snorkel, splash, ride banana boats, play basketball, eat, drink, and relax. The weather was perfect, everyone found something fun to do, and I didn’t vomit once. Life just doesn’t get any better than that.

We’re all tired and most of us are sunburnt, but it was totally worth it. A great day.

On to Curacao…

Spaced Out at Sea

I usually find sea days a drag, but I was grateful for this one…I’ve had stomach issues since 1:00 last night and have spent much of today with my head in a toilet. I recovered enough by late this afternoon to do some line dance lessons, so at least the day wasn’t a total loss. We’re hoping to catch a country music production show on the main stage tonight; I’ll make sure to sit on the end of the row closest to the bathroom. We’ll see how it goes.

Aruba tomorrow…

Rafting on the Rio Bueno: Falmouth, Jamaica

Yeah, mon.

It’s a shame we have no photographic evidence, but there were smiles all around on our river rafting excursion today. Even Justin was looking forward to this one, mainly because we forced him to do white water rafting in the Rockies last summer and he (gasp) actually enjoyed it. This time it was a very different experience: we didn’t need wetsuits, we hardly had to paddle, and we didn’t have to endure a 30-minute safety briefing outlining all the ways we could fall in the river and drown (come to think of it, there was no safety briefing at all. This is Jamaica…no problem, mon.)

We ended up at a beach, where we had an hour or so to splash around, enjoy ourselves, and get some cool pictures. An awesome time.

Tomorrow is a full day at sea. The kids will be partying with their pals until late tonight, and Chris and I might check out a Yes or No game show in the observation lounge. I haven’t been super impressed with the evening entertainment on this ship, but it could still get better.

And now we sail…

The Crystal Caves of Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is the epitome of what comes to most people’s minds when they think of a Caribbean island: gorgeous sandy beaches, sparkling blue water, and Jimmy Buffett tunes by the bar. Having been here once before, though, we were looking to go beyond the beach and explore something different. So when I heard about a relatively new attraction called the Crystal Caves, I jumped at the chance to go.

We walked through three separate caves (there are more than 100 of them in the northern part of the island, but only three have been developed for tourists) and marvelled at the amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. The guide even showed us how he could tap on different formations to create different chimg sounds—it was like he was playing a series of bells. Very cool. The hitch was that we had to walk directly underneath 300 bats to get out of the caves…which wasn’t fun, but we made it.

I’m not going to pretend this trip is all sunshine and bliss. After all, we’re traveling with a mischievous 10-year-old who loves to push people’s buttons and a surly teenager who thinks everything we do is totally lame (actual quote while inside the caves: “I’m not trying to be negative, but how can you find this interesting?”) But even still, we managed to have a pretty good time.

On to Jamaica…

A Lazy Day at Sea

I guess we should get used to falling asleep before our kids get home. Both boys were initially reluctant to join the kids clubs onboard, but we convinced them to give it a go, and we’ve hardly seen them since. Brayden gets to hang out with the 10-to-12-year-olds and come and go more or less independently; he was busy with his new buddies until 10:00 last night. Meanwhile, having just turned 13, Justin qualifies for the teen club (a fact that irritates his brother to no end) and has easy access to an adult-free zone filled with air hockey, foosball, and PlayStations. He even stayed up until 11:00 for a teen-only game of dodgeball on the sports court, and this is a guy who routinely falls asleep around 8. Huh.

Today was at sea, so we’ve been exploring the ship (though not together — we all get up at different times and it’s actually been a bit frustrating trying to keep track of each other). I went for an early jog, had a nice breakfast with Justin in the Irish pub, and got some sun on the pool deck. Brayden emerged from the kids club long enough to have lunch and a game of Scrabble with me; I even got to spend half an hour with Justin before he took off again. Both boys did (eventually) come back so we could all have dinner.

The kids are crashing in front of the TV tonight while Chris and I check out a Battle of the Sexes game in one of the lounges. Should be interesting!

Grand Cayman tomorrow…

Setting Sail on Spring Break

After a bit of a bumpy start, we are off on our latest family adventure: a cruise of the southern Caribbean. We booked this trip eons ago because I was intrigued by the itinerary…and then hurricanes wiped out most of those islands last fall. We’re still going to have a great holiday; we just aren’t going to any of the places we originally wanted to see. (I know, I know. First world problems, right?)

Stay tuned!

Terror in a Toga

We had a most excellent evening in ancient Rome at this year’s murder mystery party. Battles and betrayal (not to mention bedsheets) abounded. Who could have guessed that bringing senators, merchants, and slaves together for a celebratory exhibition of gladiator warfare would lead to someone’s untimely death? Oh…right.

Decorating for this one was fairly easy. I rented some columns, bought lots of fake greenery, made a few paper torches, and turned a shower curtain into three wall banners that a friend of mine very kindly painted for me. I even used my wood burner and some styrofoam to make signs that looked like chiseled marble (did you know melted styrofoam gives off some seriously toxic fumes? Whew.)

We’ve done these parties for six years now (click here to see past posts) but it never ceases to amaze me how creative and innovative people get with their costumes. The charioteer arrived on a broomstick-chariot, the grand champion gladiator created a suit of armor that was 80 percent duct tape, and the lanista’s wife packed a teddy bear under her skirts to simulate pregnancy, thus inspiring a never-ending stream of bear jokes.

An awesome party!

A Final Day of Wonder

I think I’m mellowing with age. I used to hate being stuck on a ship for the entire day; I was always anxious to get out and explore. But I’ve come to realize that having an entire day to read, play games, and be passively entertained while eating meals I didn’t have to prepare is actually pretty awesome.

After a gorgeous (albeit very windy) early-morning jog on the promenade, we relaxed with some new friends by the adults-only pool, watched a really lame ventriloquist show, and lost badly at a couple rounds of trivia (how would anyone know the name of the actor who played Mini Me? Argh.) But that was all just the build-up to the coolest event of the day: dinner at Animator’s Palate, the most unique restaurant on board. Designed like a blank artist’s canvas, the walls and artwork start off as black and white, but over the course of the meal they transform into swirls of color; the artwork even changes from still pictures to fully animated graphics. The finale involves a montage of Disney films set to music, and sorceror Mickey comes dancing through the restaurant. It’s a truly spectacular experience.

The final production show tonight is a song-and-dance number celebrating the music of the more modern Disney and Pixar films, which I’m really looking forward to.

It’s been a great cruise! Home tomorrow…

Where the Waters Meet: Cabo San Lucas

There’s a reason Cabo is known as Land’s End: it’s located at the very tip of the Baja peninsula, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean. And it is a spectacularly beautiful port. This is a top destination for many snowbirds, and I can see why. With its dramatic rock formations, white sandy beaches, and picture-perfect weather, Cabo certainly makes an impression.

We took a harbor cruise to get an up-close view of the enormous rocks that line the bay, including the famous Arch of Poseidon that resulted from natural erosion. Along the way, we also saw scores of sea lions, pelicans, and even dolphins. I wasn’t sure how I’d fare on the smaller boat given my motion issues, but it all worked out all right. Very cool.

That Frozen show last night was just meh (not coincidentally, that’s also how I felt about the movie version.) Olaf the snowman was cute and the overall production was well-designed, but the storyline just doesn’t appeal to me. As part of the ship’s Halloween celebrations, there was a special costume party with all of the characters in the atrium; there’s also a special 3D screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas on the main stage tonight, but I think we’ll skip that to do some ‘80s music trivia and see the Beauty and the Beast movie we didn’t get to watch yesterday due to Chris’s nap.

One more day…

Disney Fun in the Mexican Sun

Having one foot in both the adult and kid worlds is really working for me. I love being able to hide away in the adult-only areas but also join in on the family fun when it suits us—like at the pirate party last night. We found a perch on the upper level that let us observe all the fun without being crushed by the crowd of mini swashbucklers. The characters and cruise staff danced and boogied to songs catering to a wide variety of audiences—at one point “Captain Rock” and a selected group of middle-aged guys from the audience banged along on stage to a bunch of 80s hits (one guy got so into the air guitar thing that he wound up on his knees and there was some question about whether he’d be able to get up again). For the big finale, the Mouse himself rappelled from the ship’s funnel down to the stage and an amazing series of fireworks lit up the sky. AWESOME.

I enjoyed the illusionist’s show too. He did the usual card tricks and the old cut-a-woman-in-half bit, but this being Disney, he also got the kids involved. He called a bunch of kids up on stage, then asked each of them their name and where they were from. The first little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five, announced her name was Holly…but when pressed on where she was from, she paused for a few moments before admitting with great anguish, “I forgot.” It was adorable.

After breakfast and workouts this morning (I’ve been jogging the promenade deck and Chris has been hitting the gym…yay us!) we did a special tour of the ship where the guide explained what went into the design and “imagineering” of various areas and features. Can you believe Disney was so insistent about controlling every detail of the look of their ships that they battled for six months to get authorization to use yellow-colored lifeboats instead of the standard Coast Guard-approved orange ones? (Why? Because Mickey doesn’t wear orange; his shoes are yellow.) I appreciate attention to detail when it comes to theming—the Halloween decor on board is awesome—but that’s just unreal.

We’re having drinks by the pool right now, but will shortly be heading to the movie theatre for a show before going to dinner at the Little Mermaid-themed restaurant. Tonight’s big production is a stage version of Frozen, which should be pretty cool. (Get it? Ha! I crack myself up.)

Cabo San Lucas tomorrow…