Sunday (12/9) - We were told we wouldn't be able to begin embarkation until 1:00, but we read online in several reviews that if you arrived early, you could usually at least begin the process. We also read warnings of long lines and waits. So I bought giant lollipops for each child, and we headed to the port around 9:30, arriving at 10:30. By the time we got parked and to the entrance of our embarkation site, it was about 10:45. They began letting people in at 11:00, and it was a totally painless process. We were ushered into a waiting room where we sat for maybe a half hour tops. Alex and I passed the time playing a card game, and the boys enjoyed their video games. By the time we got onboard, we were all hungry and the restaurant that would become our favorite--the Garden Cafe--was open. Because we were ahead of the embarkation game, the restaurant was not crowded, and we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch.
After finishing our lunch, we explored for a bit and by that time, it was 1:30 and our rooms were open. We checked them out and found them to be cozy but very adequate for us. We had two adjoining rooms for the 6 of us--the kids in one room and the two of us in the other. The kids' room was two single beds with a bunk that folded down over one single bed, and a trundle that pulled out from under the other single bed. Every morning, our cabin stewards tucked the extra beds away, and every night, they pulled them out, turned them down, and left mints on our pillows. On some nights, they left little towel animals for the kids. So the rooms worked out perfectly. We spent most of the afternoon exploring the ship and then once again enjoyed the Garden Cafe. I'm not much of one for buffets, but this really was exceptional with a made-to-order pasta bar, wonderful salad bar, and other fantastic offerings...from hamburgers and fries to Indian food.
Monday (12/10) - What more could you ask for than breakfast right on water? The whole aft side of one floor of the ship was an outdoor restaurant aptly called the Great Outdoors. We had many meals here, but this breakfast was our first. After breakfast, we dropped Alex and Michael off at the Kids' Club where they were dying to play. The younger two, of course, wanted little to do with it. So we took our babies and explored the ship and visited the gift shop. Lunch was at the Garden Cafe again after which we made our first visit to the pool. I have mentioned in previous posts that they supposedly don't allow diapers of any kind in the pool, so we were thinking we would just have to forego all swimming (being the rule followers we are), but we saw so many children in the pool with swim diapers on that we decided to follow the crowd and break the rules. The kids loved the pool. Even Jacob got into the giant waterslide. Audrey had a little room of her own with a mini-pool and mini-slide. She enjoyed going down the big slide with Daddy as well. We swam until the "Men's Sexy Legs Contest" began. At that point, it was just about time for the Kids' Club family event anyway. We had a little "Amazing Race" game that led us throughout the ship, following clues, solving puzzles, and completing tasks. I had a lot of fun with it as I usually do with any type of competition. We didn't win, but I think we could have if it hadn't been for our little Princess-size handicap.
Dinner was at the Blue Lagoon which was a regular restaurant where you order and are waited on. It wasn't as good as the Garden Cafe, but it was a nice change. After dinner, we enjoyed a relaxing walk along one of the deck walkways. These walkways were generally not at all crowded, and not only could we enjoy the lovely ocean, but there were other activities along the way like the sports court and the giant chess game board.
Tuesday (12/11) - Tuesday began with another breakfast at the Great Outdoors. We had by this time docked in Cozumel and shortly after breakfast we went ashore to do some shopping. Although I would have enjoyed seeing much more of Cozumel, the kids were not quite as enthusiastic about the shopping or siteseeing, so we headed back on board and to the pool. Since the rest of the guests were on shore, we had the pool and the waterslide to ourselves. As the pool area began to fill, we left and headed back out to the Great Outdoors where we munched on a snack and played card games as we sailed away from Mexico. Dinner was at Mambo's, a Mexican restaurant--another "regular" restaurant but again the food was not as good as the Garden Cafe. By evening, we had begun to enter some stormy waters, so the wind really picked up. Surprisingly, it seemed that every night the pool area completely cleared out, so after dinner, the kids had a blast running like wild around the pool area. They raced around, fighting the wind, and making up little games.
Wednesday (12/12) - Breakfast at our favorite spot. As we pulled into the waters of the Cayman Islands, it began to rain a bit. Grand Cayman does not have a regular port, so the ships anchor off-shore, and a "tender" takes people, a couple hundred at a time, to shore. We had signed up for a tour, so we met in the theater at 11:00 with the rest of our tour. We boarded our tender and were taken to the island. From there, we got a bus to the island's Butterfly Farm. The kids got a detailed and interesting lecture on caterpillars, metamorphosis, and butterflies. Afterwards, we spent some time roaming the farm and capturing some of the winged beauties on film. From there, we boarded our bus again and were taken to the famous Seven Mile Beach. It was pretty, though not as pretty as I remember Cancun. It may have had something to do with the fact that our weather was not cooperating 100%. We had a few sprinkles here and there and a few sunny moments as well. The kids really enjoyed the ocean and the beach, though. After we were taken back by bus to the embarkation area, we did some shopping and then caught a tender back to our ship.
We had reservations at the ship's Italian restaurant, La Cucina, and we all got dressed up for a nice dinner. After dinner, we found some seats in the Stardust Theater where we enjoyed a show. I wasn't sure the kids would like "The Garden of the Geisha," but it was fairly short, the costumes were colorful, and there were some good stunts. Alex especially enjoyed it, giving huge rounds of applause after every act. The boat was rocking quite a bit with the storm brewing outside; I was surprised they performed so well in spite of it. Audrey took a hit from the motion, however--she was trying to move from my lap to Mark's and fell, splitting her lip on a seat. After getting her calmed down, she promptly fell asleep on my lap; thankfully, we had had the forethought to bring her blankie along!
Thursday (12/13) - OK so we had breakfast in the same place everyday. After breakfast, I took Alex up to the rock climbing wall where she almost made it to the top! Then we headed out to the pool for one last time. Unfortunately, Jacob got his split lip--he was running from the bottom of the slide to the stairs going up. We had lunch again at the Garden Cafe, although we could have done without lunch because in the afternoon we took part in a pizza making party with the Kids' Club. So, as we did the whole cruise, we ate way too much! After dinner at the Garden Cafe, we headed to the Stardust Theater again. This time, we made sure to get there 45 minutes early to get a good seat for a magic show. We brought the boys' video games and a card game to pass our waiting time. We all thoroughly enjoyed the magic show: Richard Burr and Josette. After the show, we bought the kids their own magic kit--we'll see what happens with that! And then headed back to the Garden Cafe for dessert crepes. As the kids were getting ready for bed, Jacob lost his tooth! I told him how excited the Tooth Fairy would be to get to go on a cruise. Unfortunately (for the Tooth Fairy), she had no change, so the lucky toothless boy made off with $5.00. I suppose the Tooth Fairy thought it was worth the extra cash to get a chance to cruise.
Friday (12/14) - Happy Birthday, Alex! (Not much of a birthday for her, so we've done some celebrating today.) We had different options for disembarkation. We could have let the crew have our luggage the previous night so we didn't have to worry about our suitcases until we got to customs, but that would have meant we could only disembark at a specific time. With a 12-hour drive ahead of us, we wanted to be on our own schedule, so we opted to keep our suitcases and just disembark at our leisure. We ordered room service for breakfast and were out of our room by 8:15. I think it was about 8:30 when we got to our car--a very simple disembarkation and trip through customs!
Mark's plan was to take the Florida Turnpike up to the Orlando area, but it was stopped dead for what appeared to be miles, so we took a slight detour across Alligator Alley. That actually ended up being very enjoyable. Alex and I were spotting alligators every mile or so as well as some very unique birds, so I'm glad it worked out that way. We had quite a long trip back as far as stops go, but it actually seemed to be a shorter trip than we expected. We had to stop quite a few times for potty breaks, plus Audrey developed a really bad cough. She has a horrible gag reflex, so even simple coughing often turns into vomiting, and, yep, we got to deal with her vomiting in the car. Only a couple times, though, and both times I caught it with a towel and then a pillowcase, so it wasn't too much of a mess thankfully. We made it home by 10:30, and everyone was asking to get in bed.
So now we're home--trying to keep our balance on our sea legs when, at times, the whole house seems to be gently rocking. It's good to be home, but it is a little sad that our adventure came to an end. I guess it's on to the next one!