Friday, May 23, 2008

Were Back!

Ok, we have been back for almost a week now. We had a great vacation and a hectic week. I figured if I didn't journal soon I would forget! We left on May 9th for an eight night Eastern Caribbean cruise. My sister and her family went with us. They picked us up in a limo very early on the 9th. I think it was around 3am. See things are already getting a bit sketchy :) We flew to New Jersey and the seven of us with 14 suitcases, 7 carry ons, 6 cameras, and 1 camcorder loaded into a van for the 40 minute ride to Cape Liberty Bayonne. We waited in a huge holding area until the ship was ready to board. Then we were taken by bus about a mile to enter the ship. We were on broad by noon or so. We were able to have lunch and get our bearings before we had our muster drill. Everyone on the boat has to put on life jackets and meet with the group you would have to share a life boat with in case.... It went fairly quickly and it was mandatory.

That night we saw the 7:45 show at the Palace Theatre. All the shows on board were wonderful! The first night was Dan Wilson (comedian) and the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers. We had the later seating for dinner which was 8:30 each night. The food was just wonderful! Later that night I went and tapped the parade for everyone. Turns out my brother in law was sick, and my sister ended up with motion sickness for the first two days until she saw the ships doctor and was given two shots and some pills. We will see much more of the doctor as our cruise continues. Let me start by saying I always take Dramamine before flying and am always made fun of, so I was set. My sister's family has taken many cruises and has never been sick, but we left out of NJ instead of Miami. We didn't know how choppy that part of the ocean was. We will not be leaving out of NJ again any time soon! Even my kids and my sister's kids ended up taking Dramamine for a day.

The second day younger son found the teen club. I was hesitant about it, but he ended up loving it and came in handy when all of us over 18 could go to the casino and night clubs and he couldn't. They had so many things for the kids to do. So a couple of hours here and there I let him go. This is the day older son found the casino! He ended up winning $240.00. He started with $5.00. He played with that money the whole time on the ship and came home with about $60.00 of it. So he made $55.00 and had fun. I of course have been explaining the evils of gambling ever since! My sister slept most of the day since the shots put her to sleep, but by evening she was getting back to herself a little more. Since this was our second cruise we were invited to the caption's reception. It was a very nice cocktail event. There was great live music and dancing. Each of my boys and I danced. My sister and her husband have taken ballroom dancing so they really enjoyed it too. Younger son met a girl already by this time in the teen room, but was too shy to ask her to dance when we saw them there. Then were were off to the evenings entertainment which starred The Royal Caribbean singers & Dancers along with the Explorer of the Seas orchestra. Another great show!

Day three was Mother's Day. My boys bought a dozen roses and had them delivered to the room early. It was such a great surprise! We were still at sea all day, but found many things to do on the ship. They have a rock climbing wall, miniature golf, movies, many lounges with live music, games and contests, the casino, pools, full gym, game rooms, and all kinds of activities. The show that evening was Joey Vin, he did comedy impressions. Then we hit a welcome back party similar to the captions’ party the night before. We had dinner and then there was an adult show we all went too. Very funny. During dinner my sister was brought out 2 bottles of her favorite champagne from her two kids for Mothers day.

Day 4 we docked! Yeah! Our first excursion. We docked in St Thomas. We met a yacht that took us to St Johns. It was about an hour ride. Then we go on an open air bus and drove to the beach for fun and snorkeling. The driver was very knowledgeable and gave us a great tour as we drove even stopping for some photo opts. Which I LOVED, but not everyone felt the same. We only had a limited time and most wanted to just get to the beach. If we did it again, we would definitely find a tour that gave us more time on the beach. I am not a big beach person, but the other 6 are. We went to Trunk Bay; it is breathtaking in every way. The sands are so white and the ocean so clear and blue, you can look down and see fish just a few feet off of shore. We all had snorkeling equipment also. Trunk Bay is rated by the National Park as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I have never seen anything like it. Even I the non beach person wanted to stay longer and just take in the whole thing. Pictures do not do it justice, but believe me I tried :) After our time was up we took the yacht back to St Thomas and stayed on land to explore the area. This is when my brother in law took my older son and my nephew out for their first drink together. The legal drinking age is 18 there. Older son is almost 20 and nephew just turned 19. It was one of those guy bonding moments. If I didn't want to shop so much I would have stayed behind to snap pictures, but even I will put the camera down for a little shopping :) My sister and I had about an hour and a half before we had to get back to the ship. My sister and I use to hang out a lot when the kids were younger and they lived in the same state, but we don't get much time to just hang out together. We found some really cute buys and souvenirs. One of my favorite things I found was a glass 4x6 frame with St. Thomas written on the top and Family written on the bottom. My sister and I both bought one. I already have my favorite picture of all of us in it and by the computer. Back on the boat we dressed for dinner and then watched the ship take off. That was great fun! After dinner there was the Love and Marriage game show. We all went to bed early since the next day our excursion started at 8am.

When we woke up on day 5 we were already in San Juan, Puerto Rico. What a great day. The weather was in the 80's and beautiful. I was so worried about getting into 90 degree weather; I am not a hot weather person. 80's were great. We did the Old & New San Juan City Tour. The tour gave you a feeling of the history of the town. The tour guide was really good. We stopped at Fort San Cristobal for about an hour. This was younger son's favorite thing we did. The fort was huge. We were able to walk through it and go to the top and see all the look out points, cannons, and such beautiful views. This is where my favorite picture of all of us was taken. A nice woman walked up when I was taking a picture and asked if I would like to be in it with everyone. It is one of the few with all of us in it. We left much too soon for younger son. This place we may have to figure out how to get back to one day and spend an afternoon exploring. The tour dropped us off in Old San Juan at the end of the tour for some shopping. We were just blocks from the ship. You would think with a ship that big we couldn't lose it. Not true! After a while we were a little turned around until someone pointed the bunch of us in the right direction. One of the big attractions is a store called Senor Frogs. That was a goal of older son's. 7 years ago when we went to the Caribbean he found a Senor Frog t-shirt that he loved so much he wore it out and then took my nephews because he never wore his and then wore that one out too. So now both sons have a new Senor Frog t-shirt. When we went back to the boat we stayed by the pool for a few hours and swam and relaxed. Both sons and nephew rock climbed, we played a trivia game in one of the lounges and did quite well. That night’s entertainment was Charles Peachock. He was a comedian. At dinner it was Italian night. I finally was able to get a tiramisu for desert! I was looking for it all week. Younger son went to the teen center that night and played cards.

Day 6 we set anchor by Labadee. It is the island owned by Royal Caribbean. We tendered from the ship to the island. It only took about 10 minutes. Now this was a hot day! The weather said 86, but it was so humid it felt like 100! My niece had to see the doctor because of sunburn. She is fair skinned and didn't cover up enough on the first day at St. Thomas. The first thing my niece and I did when we got to the island was have our hair braided. My nice has had it done a few times before, but didn't mention how much it hurt! I was in for a surprise. It didn't take too long, because they had teams of 4 working on each person and we only did the front part of our hair. It cost $40.00 for the front only. In retrospect I am glad I didn't know going into it that it would hurt or I may not have done it. I let my hair grow for a year and a half before this trip so my niece and I could do this together. I am glad I did it at least once. For the day we mostly swam and listened to great Caribbean music. We bought a cd from one of the groups. They were just a few feet from us playing. Royal Caribbean had food set up for lunch and the tropical drinks were great. I am not much of a drinker and with the heat; all of mine were non alcoholic :) The only thing that I didn't care for was how hard it was to go look at things that they had for sale. All the locals make their living buy tourists so it is important to them that we buy. I would have loved to look around and shop more, but they were in your face the whole time and always touching you and trying to get you to touch their items. They had some beautiful things and I would have like to purchase more, but with the heat and everyone grabbing for you, it was no longer fun and relaxing. I did manage to get a couple of things, but missed half of the stands. My sister and I were trying to pick out bracelets for my mom and I still don't care for the one I picked just to get out of there. Now if it was either air conditioned the people wouldn't have bothered me as much or if the sellers would have let us shop the heat wouldn't have been so bad. Just not a great combination. The area was beautiful again and the water great. The kids tried to get on the banana boats, but they weren't renting them when they tried. Older son went back to the boat a little before us and we left as one of the last groups. The show this night was my very favorite!! It was a group called the Unexpected Boys. It was a musical tribute to the Four Seasons. They were so good. We ran into one of the guys the next day and got to talk to him for a while by the ice cream machine (yep, soft serve by the pool anytime you want). He was from New York and just finished up a Broadway show and was starting a new one the following week. The company that employs the group has a couple of people they interchange for corporate events and this was their first cruise ship gig. It went over well and they are hoping to get a contract from them. Royal Caribbean flew them in when we were in Puerto Rico and they were able to sail back to NY with us.

Day 7 we were at sea again heading back to NJ. This is the day my brother in law took his turn at seeing the doctor. He had been sick since we left and finally went in. He had a sinus infection and was given antibiotics. We had fun hanging around the ship and miniature golfing. We saw the ice show in the afternoon. Great show too. I forgot what day maybe day 8 all the boys went ice skating too. The show that night in the Palace Theatre was "Dancing With The Stars" At the beginning of the cruise you could try out for this night. They picked two couples and they practiced all week with one of the choreographers from Dancing With The Stars. We were able to vote who did the best job. Then the Royal Caribbean singers and dancers finished the show.

Day 8 Last full day of the cruise. We will arrive in NJ by morning. We all did different things around the ship until the show and then we met for the evening’s entertainment. Right before the end, younger son said he wasn't feeling well and was going back to the room. I told him I would walk with him. We stood up and I said just a minute. I was going to tell my sister I would meet them at dinner after I tucked in younger son. As I turned younger son passed out. He hit his chin and head on the way down. By this time the show had ended and everyone was clapping. I screamed at my niece to get her mom. Younger son was lying on the ground and I couldn't get him to come too. I was slightly hysterical at this time in all the noise; I just couldn't get any ones attention. I finally caught my niece and she got my sister. In all the noise she though my niece said I fell off a bar stool:) My older son caught a glimpse of my face and jumped over my sister to get to us. He was trying to get younger son to come to also. In the meantime the bartender saw this and called 911. My sister came over after she saw us on the ground. Everyone was pretty confused and the theater was starting to be much crowed with everyone standing to leave. Younger son came to and then passed out again. At this point I was thinking something was terribly wrong and in the back of my mind I was already trying to figure out how I was ever going to get home tomorrow with him sick. I could not tell you how wonderful the medical staff was on the boat. The 2 doctors, nurse, and gurney people were there in minutes. They had a stretcher, wheel chair, life support stuff and oxygen there with them the doctor tried for his pulse, but it was very weak. They didn't even try the wheel chair. They put him on the stretcher and we were at the medical facility in minutes. They considered him ICU and had the 2 doctors and the nurse with him all the time. In the matter of 15 minutes took a CBC, strep, mono, flu, and EKG and had all the results. They started an IV and gave him oxygen for a few minutes longer. He had a slight temperature. Everything thank God came back normal except white cells were slightly elevated. So they concluded he had an URI or Sinus infection along with being a little dehydrated. He was released with antibiotics in about 90 minutes. I will never be the same, but younger son already looked better and by morning he was still a little weak, but able to travel. That night I talked everyone else into going to dinner. They were a half hour late, but it was the last night and we had all the tips ready to go too. They came back from dinner with trays of stuff for younger son and me. I didn't sleep much, but at least younger son slept through the night. I woke him at 4:30 to give him Tylenol and go figure out how I was going to pay an extra $1500.00 bill they billed to my sea pass last night. I did not know what was happening until 30 minutes before we were getting off the boat. When on a cruise ship the do not take insurance. I tried to pay with an equity line check, but their rules will not allow a check over $300.00. What a mess, but we took care of it and made it home.

The morning we were coming into NJ I stayed on deck for hours watching to see the statue of liberty. It was so important to me to see it as my grandparents saw it coming to America so many years ago. When we left on this vacation it was the one thing I just had to see and knew I would be able to. Unfortunately the weather was so bad leaving the statue was not visible. Coming back it was also cloudy, but I managed to see it from farther away coming under the bridge. It was getting later and I had o get back to younger son as I knew he would need to be woke up. I never saw it passing, but older son said he took a picture for me. He forgot the camcorder, but that’s ok. I did get to see her under some fog and from a distance.

The way back home was fun. Younger son was tired from the night before, but feeling ok. We all had breakfast then grabbed our luggage and went into the ice arena. That was the holding area for people getting off first carrying their own bags. We decided to do it this way to get off faster because our flight was early. It worked so well! We were off the boat, through customs, and back in the van in about an hour or so. We had three hours at the airport and I was able to pick up some postcards and look around.

We took the limo back home and my sister's family had another hour ride home. There have never been three people so happy to see a dog in their life! Milo was pretty happy too :) He has not left my side ever since. Maybe it has something to do with the suitcases still in the living room that older son hasn't brought back to our shed.

All in all it was a great time. Now the insurance night mare can begin!

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