Photos courtesy of Ryan Prouty

Monday, February 22, 2010

The details...really so I don't forget them...

So, I promised more about our vacation (first one in such a long time!), but I am sure you haven't lost any sleep over my procrastination, so I am really adding these tidbits and pictures so that I remember what the cruise was like.  It is amazing to me how much of my life I have already forgotten and the thing I love about this blog is the memories it preserves for me! Friday, February 5th was Gabe's actual 13th birthday and it was so fun to celebrate outside the US for the first time for any of us.  Seems we were not the only ones who had the idea to take a birthday cruise.  We were pretty surprised at all the choruses of "Happy Birthday" we heard that evening in our restaurant.  There were 5 other birthday celebrations and one large table had 3 birthdays just at their table!  There were 2 other restaurants and a second time slot (we had the early the way, I suggest the late meal for anyone considering a cruise...we were rarely hungry by our 5:45 slot, the 8:30 would have been better, maybe we would have felt actual hunger!) where I am sure there were more birthday celebrations.

Gabe was brought his very own cake which he graciously shared a few bites with each of us who were mostly too full to hog too much of it and ate nearly all of it as well as his piece of cheesecake that he had ordered for dessert!  It was the easiest cake I have ever had to coordinate/bake/decorate!  A simple e-mail made it happen!

To deal with the guilt of all the amazing food, Paul and I hit the (very nice) gym two of our days at sea.  It was fun to run overlooking the water while watching a Disney movie (Land of the Lost one day and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs the other day).  This was the only place we went where there was NO crowd!  I thought that was hilarious!  The kids were thrilled we wanted to go work out because they got to go to the Oceaneer Lab.  This is a secure place to check in your kids so they can play board games, computer games, video games, make cookies, flubber and do crafts and eat snacks with other kids.  I am convinced our kids would have spent the entire day there if we had let them!  They loved it.  One of the days we went to the gym and then laid by the adult pool for 15 minutes before we missed the kids and went to "rescue" them for some family time!

It was cloudy and a bit cool for us thin blooded Floridians, but as you can see, the pool was the place to be!  The water was heated and very warm and each kid had exactly 33 inches of water all to themselves!  The pool is not much bigger that what I captured in this photo!

This was our first dinner before we really knew what to expect.  It was pretty fun to get a menu and order whatever you want to eat or drink without considering the dollar signs!  I ordered an appetizer, soup, salad, an entree AND dessert.  Then, when I LOVED my souffle a little too much so that everyone wanted to taste it and our server noticed, he went and got me a second one! As if I needed that!  Didn't stop me from devouring the second one without any help.  Did I mention there was French bread??

Even though I have NO culture, (you know, I would rather go to a football game or Nascar race than about anything) I agreed to go to one of the shows the first night.  It was "The Golden Mickeys" sort of an Oscar spin off for the Disney movies.  I ALMOST enjoyed it. Couple of uncomfortable parts involving people singing directly in front of me and looking directly at me and even being touched once.  I would still rather have my fingernails pulled out one by one that have someone sing to me!  BARF!  Okay, I think I have made myself fairly clear regarding my feelings on that one! In spite of the way I felt, the kids really enjoyed it.  I have not corrupted them completely...yet.  The theater was first class.  Disney knows entertainment!

We had to walk outside a bit to get to and from the theater because we didn't know another way.  It was fun to watch the water go by.  We were all very surprised by our speed.  We were grateful the mild rocking didn't make anyone sick.  It was actually great when we turned in for the night!
Paul had some fun looking for an artistic picture.  He took this picture looking down between the railings of the stairway several floors.

Friday morning we found ourselves docked at Nassau, Bahamas.  Mom and Jo had an excursion booked off the boat as did many others from the boat, so we decided to take that day to do some of the things the ship offered while there were fewer people there.  Here are a few pictures of what we saw of Nassau.  Above off the deck in the morning and below the harbor.

The food was really one of the most amazing parts of the cruise (I am not sure if it was the taste or the fact that I didn't have to prepare it, or that I didn't have to shop for it, or that I didn't have to plan for it, or the fact that I didn't have to think about it for even a second!) and was totally first class.  Unfortunately, we ate most of it instead of photgraphing it!  One night there was even a midnight buffet and dessert bar...unbelievable!  It was a great time to try new things.  I do regret not trying the caviar or escargot.  I was pretty convinced I wouldn't like either of them since I hate anything that even hints of fish, so I stuck with things I might have a chance of liking.  I am pretty sure I ate my weight in fresh pineapple!  We also discovered a pasta bar where you choose your own veggies and sauces and have it stir fried in front of you.  It is the only pasta I have ever had that compares with the pasta bar at my old job at the U!  I also regret that I only had one stomach to fill!  There were so many good things to eat!

Saturday, we were to dock at Disney's private island in the Bahamas.  But, the massive snow storm that hit Washington DC caused lots of wind and clouds in our area and they were unable to bring the ship into port.  So, we were stuck on the boat all day instead.  We never did set foot on foreign soil!  Paul did discover the basketball and dodgeball courts on the top deck and took the boys up there to play for a bit...I got stuck at the pool with Alayna and a couple hundred other kids...but I'm not bitter!

It was absolutely unbelievable how many kids could be crammed into a small pool! The kids did enjoy the water slide.  I was very disappointed to be just 2 inches too tall to get to go down it! Gabe just squeaked by!

This is Boneface, our head server who was from India and took such fabulous care of us.  This was our dinner on our last night.  When he asked Alayna what she wanted for dinner, she replied "Steak!" But it wasn't on the kids menu that night.  Before I could explain that to her and have her choose another item, he wrote it down and asked Paul how he would like her steak prepared!  He brought her an adult entree that was offered that night which was the best of the entrees.  I can't remember what they called the cut of meat, but it melted in your mouth and tasted like prime rib.  I ate all of mine that night because I didn't like either one of the two appetizers I had ordered!  Not only did he accomodate her every wish, but he also cut her steak for her so we wouldn't have to! THEN, he remembered how I had loved the souffle on the first night and offered to get it for me from the other restaurant!  I took him up on that offer!  First class service!

And these are all of our servers with us.  Boneface behind Gabe and I, Leonardo behind Alayna and Joao behind JoDee.  We never wanted for anything gastronomically speaking!

Gabe and Boneface hit it off!

Holden took a family pic for us in front of a port hole after dinner. I am surprised Paul let me sit on his leg after all I ate!

And at last, the reason for the entire trip...a wonderful birthday celebration for Gabriel!  He had several other surprises during the cruise.  Like this poster we made and signed and snuck onto the ship and put on the door.  JoDee got him a t-shirt with his name on it and a big "13" and an obnoxious blinking "Its my birthday" button!  He ate up all the attention. He is afterall, the firstborn!

I am so glad God chose me to be your mom! You bring such joy to our family with your servant heart and I am so proud of the teenager you have become. I know there will be tough teenager times coming up, but always know that there is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you like CRAZY!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Birthday Bash

I have to admit that I am a little embarassed to tell you all how we celebrated our most recent birthday in our family.  Gabriel, the baby that made me a mama turned 13 (unbelievable!) last Friday.  Quite a milestone for all of us!  We were hanging out at the pool last summer and out of the blue, Gabe says, "For my birthday (still months away at this time), I want to go on a the Carribean!" Now, I was impressed with his ability to plan ahead, but quickly apologized to him and explained he was born into the wrong family for such extravagance for a birthday!  A few weeks later, TravelZoo advertised a Disney special that allowed kids to cruise FREE...yes, all four of! The adult prices were not astronomical for the 3 night cruise, so we took the plunge and since we had several months until the cruise date, we were able to save up to pay for it! We also told the kids there would be no Christmas or birthday presents for any of them, instead a fabulous surprise sometime after Christmas.  We left it at that.  Needless to say, they were full of questions, but agreed to forgo their gifts for the unknown "fabulous surprise".  So, it seems quite extravagant and decadent, but, it was fabulous and probably once in a lifetime for Paul and I!  We had so much relaxed family time together just having fun, not worrying about what was for dinner, who was on the phone, who needed posterboard for an assignment, etc, etc, etc!  That was the most amazing part!  We did have a couple disappointments.  Paul and I were completely unprepared for the crowds.  Hadn't thought that one through.  There was virtually no place you could go for some quiet...except your tiny stateroom.  Though it was tiny, it was FABULOUS for sleeping.  We had an inside cabin (we are surprised they don't make you pay extra for the cave-like atmosphere that allows for sleeping in to any hour imaginable!) that had a tiny bathroom (Paul couldn't stand up straight in the shower!), a couch that turned into a twin bed and a bunk that pulled down directly over the couch and disappeared into the ceiling during the day as well as a bigger bed at the end of the couch.  Across from the couch was a desk and small flat screen TV that pulled out and swiveled. But it was all we needed!  My sister and mom went along with us and had the little 2 kids in their room just down the hall, so it worked out very well! 

I should back up and share the kid's reaction to finally finding out where we were going.  We made up several stories (that sounds much better than lies, doesn't it??) about school being cancelled for the day on February 4th since we didn't need to leave until around 9:30 am.  Pretty pointless to ship them off to school for such a little amount of time.  They were not suspicious, just excited they got to sleep in!  When it was time to leave, we slyly loaded the suitcases into the van and Paul told them the school called and the problem was fixed, school was on, but they could wear civies (a huge treat, they usually wear school uniforms).  Riley shed a few tears (he'll appreciate me recording that memory for him) and they hopped into the van.  Since we had to drive right by the school on our way, Paul pulled into the school for drama.  It was obvious school was in session and that we were the only ones dropping off at that time.  The kids were a bit confused.  Paul pulled away before any of them could get out of their seats and we told them we were leaving for our trip that day.  Riley immediately shouts, "That's why there are suitcases in the van!!" Gabe says, "What suitcases??"  We all cracked up!  We headed up to Jo and Mom's house to pick them up and they piled into the van.  We headed for Cape Canaveral.  The entire way there (only about 2 1/2 hours) I kept asking them if they had any idea where we were going.  Holden kept saying "Ice Skating!" every time I asked since we had to plan a hoax birthday party for Gabe that involved ice skating. When we approached Orlando, Disney World was a guess, but we waved goodbye to Orlando. Holden spotted a sign for the "Cruise Terminal" and asked it we were going on a cruise.  When I said yes, the van erupted in excitement!  Hoden declared that day the best day of his life and Alayna immediately stated her intent to tell her entire class where she got to go.  So funny.  Here they are waiting in line to board:

Boarding after a slight altercation with a health care worker who had to check me out since I admitted to having a runny nose and cough (of course I come down with my 2nd cold in 18 months just before we leave...), and then had a fever according to their thermometer.  Fortunately it wasn't so high that she prevented me from boarding, but she sat across from me with a clipboard and wrote  notes behind a piece of paper and made me very paranoid! We were then escorted to the front of a very long line of people waiting to have their photo taken (security reasons) and then were free to board.  Thankful for sickness sometimes!

finally inside:

Still in port at Cape Canavral, Gabe off the front of the ship...amazing view! He was afterall the reason for the entire trip!
I think most people on the cruise were there because their kids loved Disney characters or movies or both.  Don't get me wrong, my kids love movies, but they are not into the characters and had no desire to wait in line for Micky Mouse's autograph (YIPPEE), or anyone elses' for that matter.  We bumped into Snow White in the hallway and Alayna got her picture taken with her, but she was less than thrilled. I hope Snow wasn't offended.  Now, if she had been Batman or Darth Vader, I think there would have been more enthusiasm! Love the pose!  The next picture  was what really excited Alayna.  At dinner, her ketchup had  a special plate all to itself and was poured into the shape of Micky.  Ketchup...exciting...who knew???

There was a sort of welcome party/disembarking party on the pool deck that was ummmm not our idea of a good time...we'll keep it at that!  Lots of shouting people trying to get us to dance and sing...yeah, not our thing.  It was windy and a bit chilly for us up there.  Alayna and Grammy kept each other warm!

While the rest of us looked out at the water/port!  Hard to tell in this picture, but the action is all going on behind them and the water in front of them.

This is Alayna not getting her hair wet before dinner.  This was also one of the rare times there were not 40 other kids in the pool.  Yes, it looks crowded to the untrained eye, but trust me it holds a lot more kids!  It was crazy! No one could really "swim" around because it was too crowded!  Note the cloudy'll be seeing lots more of it in the future pictures too!

Now I am really out of order chronologically, but oh well. Too much work to move the pictures around in blogger anymore! This is Gabe on his birthday (it was Friday 2/5) with our servers Boneface from India, Leonardo from Peru, and Joao (don't know where he was from...he only visited our table briefly each night to make sure the servers were doing their jobs). They brought him his very own cake (vanilla with strawberry filling topped with fruit and a white chocolate happy birthday banner) and sang to him LOUDLY. He loved it! He was sang to at lunch as well. Quite the birthday! These were the nicest guys and they took GREAT care of us gastronomically speaking! Boneface had remembered how much I loved a dessert the first night and offered to get it for me from the other restaurant even though it wasn't on the menu our last night! I took him up on it!

Okay, that's all I have time to post today. Wanted to get this posted for family who are anxious to hear about our trip.  Will add more later! We are happy to be home, we just wish we could have brought the food and cabin service with us!