Episode VII: Nassau

After a pretty fantastic day in Key West, we decided to kick around the ship for most of the morning.

Nassau - MerryTime Reunion
Two little swimmers wearing their cover ups to breakfast.

Starting with a nice breakfast meeting up with Abigail and her parents, we soon ended up Mickey Pool. Both girls swam for a really long time. Abigail headed off to warm up. Kylee however, wanted to go visit a codfish.

Nassau - MerryTime Reunion
Arrrrrrr!

Turns out she and Captain Hook got along swimmingly. After a little sword fighting, they even settled down for a picture. Eventually everyone tired of swimming. After some quick showers for the kiddos, we dropped Kylee off at the club. The counselors verified if we were be heading to the island. (We weren’t.)

Nassau - MerryTime Reunion
Watching docking

Ben and I hung out in Outlook Café for a while, then we picked up Chris for some quality time hanging out on the verandah. We like to take a day on each vacation for time alone with each kiddo and today was Chris’ day.

Nasssau - MerryTime Reunion
This is why they tell you not to feed the gulls.

We watched the Wonder pull into the Nassau port, spinning to back into the pier. Someone down the ship didn’t listen to the “don’t feed the gulls” note and the whole side of the ship echoed the “Mine! Mine! Mine!” of the flock. Chris thought it was funny, but I’m glad mom wasn’t on her balcony.

Nasssau - MerryTime Reunion
Deck the Deck Party!

We collected Kylee and headed up to the pool deck to dance and party with Mickey, Stitch and our entertainment staff at the Deck the Deck Party. The kids divided into groups to participate in candy cane Limbo and other holiday games on stage. Kylee loved playing hula hoops with Pluto.

Nasssau - MerryTime Reunion
Pirate Time!

Everyone dressed up in their pirate best and headed back to dinner. We distributed wristbands to the family for our adventure on Castaway Cay the following day. I couldn’t wait to see the Grand Family cabana, especially after the way we ended up with it. After dinner, we headed straight up to the Pirates in the Caribbean Deck Party.

I am so glad that they moved they party time to in between the dinner seatings rather than after second dining; it’s much easier to take the kids to a party then. The Good Dinosaur didn’t appeal as much as football, so the kids headed over to the club and we hung out in Diversions.

Nasssau - MerryTime Reunion
Our abstract towelgami of the evening.

We arrived back to our room in time to find some chocolate doubloons (left from the pirates, perhaps?) and a chocolate challenge from Anna. Sorry for the short post, but we loved just lazing around for a day. Especially with Castaway Cay right around the corner!

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Disney Wonder
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion

  1. MerryTime Reunion
  2. Anchors Away!
  3. Character Overload
  4. Key West
  5. Nassau
  6. Castaway Cay
  7. More to Come!
  8. Personal Navigators for our 2015 MerryTime Cruise

Episode VII: Key West

Key West - MerryTime Reunion

I woke up early for a nice jog on deck, the humidity wasn’t too bad and the sea was pretty even so it was a good run. I think we were a bit off of Key West. The headwind suggested we were moving along at quite a clip rather than parked offshore.

Key West- MerryTime Reunion
My favorite jogging track.

Ernie joined me around sunrise so I walked with him for a while. The Wonder wouldn’t arrive in Key West until 11:30 so we had plenty of time.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Taking a moment to watch the sunrise over the water with my father in law.

I headed back to my stateroom for a shower then we hit Beach Blanket Buffet for a relaxed breakfast. Diana and Ernie met up with us and we hung about for a while.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
I love braiding Kylee’s hair back from her face. On port days, they can go from the pool to the port and even formal night without much more than a quick brush down of the ends.

And Kylee took some time for a swim. The pools are heated. The air is not. My kids, despite being born in the south, have no problem swimming when the air temperature is around 70. I do, but more power to her.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
She rode the Mickey Slide pretty much continuously for an hour.

I wonder why she had the slide and pool all to herself. Oh yeah. Because she’s crazy. I wonder if she’ll swim during our Alaska cruise? Chris headed down to the Oceaneer Lab rather than help supervise swim time, but Ben kept me company.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Waiting for the ship to dock. #firstworldproblems

Kylee eventually realized there weren’t any other kids and asked to go to the club until we arrived in Key West. Ben and I lounged around on deck enjoying the breeze until we were closer to port. We met up with the Ketchersides up on deck 9 around 11.

 

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Chris and Ben hanging on deck 9.

Most of us ate burgers while we waited for everyone to gather since we anticipated Key Lime based deserts in the offing. The kiddos headed down to deck four to engage in perhaps the least well organized game of shuffleboard ever.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Shuffleboard anyone?

Think Alice in Wonderland croquet without the flamingos.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Girls on Key West.

Once the crew announced all ashore, the kids all streamed down onto the dock. Docking at Mallory Square means that we were only two blocks from Duvall Street. Even the shortest legs in our party easily made it to Kermit’s.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
If you don’t go to Kermit’s did you even visit Key West?

Between all of us, I think we still only tried a fraction of the available desserts. Kylee (who was in the midst of adding dairy slowly back into her diet) licked the chocolate off the outside of her frozen chocolate dipped Key Lime Pie. I nibbled on my Key Lime jelly beans.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Key Lime snacks for everyone!

A few slices of classic Key Lime pie disappeared. Several limeades. Key limeades, naturally.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Mallory Square

We all walked back toward Mallory Square. Dad and Mom wandered off to take some pictures and window shop while Abigail headed back to the ship with her parents. Nancy and Shawn took Sydney to poke around the shops for some souvenirs.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Disney Wonder in Key West.

We took advantage of the perfect weather to wander up the coast and take some pictures.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
I guess Kylee comes by her photobomb tendencies honestly.

And goof off too.

By the time we headed back to the ship, the kids wanted to switch into comfy (read less sweaty) clothing and relax for a while. For Chris this means the Oceaneer Club.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Nothing is more relaxing than a dance party.

For Kylee it means heading to Santa’s Winter Wonderland Ball. The Snowbelles, Santa and Mrs. Claus and the Fab Five all hosted a singing dancing indoor party. If you missed the one in the afternoon, they offered another one after the second dinner seating too.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Belle meets her predecessor in the princess lineage.

Kylee popped into the club to get her face painted like a peppermint while we caught a football game with Matt in Diversions. Actually I think they were watching at least two games simultaneously. There might’ve been a third as well. I don’t follow sportsing that well.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
The only dog Kylee isn’t scared of.

We would be enjoying dinner in Triton’s so we caught up with Pluto on the way in. Dinner, though yummy took a very long time. Chris walked himself up to the club before us adults received our main courses. Kylee wanted to leave too but was waiting to split my entrée. After a bit of window shopping in Treasure Ketch (and some legit souvenir shopping too) we headed to Cadillac Lounge.

Key West - MerryTime Reunion
Cute little penguin.

We dropped off our purchases in the room then collected the kids to go watch Mike Super with Diana and Ernie. Chris turned to me a few moments after being seated to exclaim, “Wow. That’s really lucky. He has a great last name for a magician.”

The magic show itself was interesting and there were a few that were simply astonishing. After such a magical evening, Kylee wanted to be carried back up to our stateroom. Ugh. Not if I’m in heels and the ship is rocking. Thankfully everyone survived the five minute walk up to our deck seven home away from home.

As the kids fell asleep I browsed through the personal navigator. Tomorrow is Nassau. What kind of trouble could we possibly get into?

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Disney Wonder
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion

  1. MerryTime Reunion
  2. Anchors Away!
  3. Character Overload
  4. Key West
  5. Nassau
  6. Castaway Cay
  7. More to Come!
  8. Personal Navigators for our 2015 MerryTime Cruise

Episode VII: Character Overload

I woke up early the next morning and headed out for my morning run and empty ship photo walk. It’s nice to clear my head before a day that promised to be filled with nothing short of character overload.

Deck 4 in the dark.
How early? You really don’t want to know.

Suffice it to say that it was early enough that the waves on the left side of the photo are reflecting moonlight and I had plenty of time to run before our “early” Disney Junior Character breakfast.

We scheduled all of our character ticketed events back to back to back on our first sea day. We’ve found it easier to schedule around one day of character events and I’ve nearly forgotten later in the week tickets. Besides, to the girls meeting the characters is a major part of vacation and it’s much easier to bypass the line for Ariel if you already met her earlier in the week during a princess gathering.

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Character Breakfast - Due South
“Yo ho, let’s go!”

On itineraries of seven nights and more, the Disney Junior Characters host a character breakfast. The kids downed Mickey waffles (and so did a few of the adults) as Doc McStuffins, Jake (from the Neverland Pirates), Princess Sofia and as a special guest, Donald Duck greeted the tables. I don’t know if no one wanted to wake up early on the first day of vacation, but the characters managed to spend tons of time at each of the five or six tables with guests at the first seating. The entire center and far side of the restaurant stood empty.

Disney Junior Character Breakfast-Due South
Everyone loves meeting Donald! The surprise character at the breakfast rotates, so you may meet one of the classic characters (Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Daisy or Donald) with your Disney Junior friends.

Christopher does not like the possibility of Princesses sneaking up behind him, so we seated him toward the wall by the parents while the girls sat on the opposite side so they could easily slip in and out to meet the characters.

Bed Disney Cruise Line - Character Overload
Our room was already shipshape. This room attendant was on the ball.

Matt and Becky took Abigail up to the sports deck to play basketball and soccer while Chris and Kylee took a quick dip before the club opened. Chris popped over to the club while all the Ketcherside girls joined up to meet the princesses at the princess gathering.

Character Overload
Princess Gathering

Cinderella, Belle, Ariel and Rapunzel were out for the Princess Gathering, so everyone got to meet her favorite. Princesses vary cruise to cruise and somewhat ship to ship, so it’s best to keep an open mind about which princesses you’ll meet.

PawPaw and Mimi joined up in the atrium and all of the Ketchersides (except Chris) trooped from the Princess Gathering down the hall to Animators Palate

Frozen Meet and Greet- Character Overload
PawPaw likes photography.

Two gatherings down, one to go!

Character Overload
Let it go!

Seven princesses, a stuffed animal doctor, a duck with anger issues, a preschool pirate and a singing snowman later, we dropped the girls off in the Oceaneers Club.

Fruity Drinks-Character Overload
Because I could take a solemn artsy looking out the window pic…but it’s Ben.

Ben and I relaxed with fruity drinks in Diversions for a while. Matt and Becky headed up to the pool deck to track down Minnie Mouse with Abigail and lunch came and went uneventfully.

Character Overload
Walking with Kylee

Except that when we dropped by the club midafternoon to check on Kylee and Chris, Kylee hadn’t eaten lunch. Her special request (no dairy) lunch hadn’t been delivered. Some kind of miscommunication between kitchen and club staff. This became a running theme this cruise, though they did fix it by the end of the week.

We took her off to the pool deck for a quick burger, then she did what all good blogger kids do: asked to take photos of the unique carpeting patterns.

character overload
#bloggerkidproblems

Kylee headed back into the Oceaneer Club and Ben and I made it downstairs just in time to join in on Disney Tunes Trivia in the Promenade Lounge.

I missed one.
I missed one.

Do you know what state “Song of the South” takes place in?

I do now.

On walking up to collect my prize (a Mickey medal), I noticed a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. Alexia and her family relocated to Asia for work, but came all the way back to Texas to meet up with her extended family for this cruise.

Anyway, as I started to turn and head back to my table, the entertainment staff member started calling after me “If you want to keep the prize you have to sing for us!” Totally in jest. Alexia at the front table yells back “she’s in church choir!”

Side note: I was. Back in 2009. It’s been a while.

Anyway, everyone in her family starts calling to me so, to make a long story even longer, two minutes later I find myself singing and clapping along to a piano rendition of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. Along with most of the member of the promenade lounge who mercifully joined in around “Mister bluebird’s on my shoulder.”

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh, my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay!

Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s actual
Everything is “satisfactual”

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
Wonderful feeling, wonderful day!

I’ve done musical theatre, but this was nothing like that. This was without any rehearsal, without any sheet music, without any lyrics and without any warning. I’d put this squarely in the “bucket list/terrifying/awesome” category. I have no photos (for obvious reasons) but for the right price, I’m pretty sure my husband would leak his copy of the video. It’s not my best vocal performance.

I walked back over to my table, or I assume I did because my in-laws (who’d arrived when I started singing, naturally) and Ben both stood there laughing and having an amazing time rehashing the whole thing. I still think it was the oddest most out of body style experience of my life.

Ben and I headed off to do some shopping before collecting the kids to get dressed for formal night.

Formal Night.
We clean up nice.

After dinner in Parrot Cay, where, per normal, my kids ate as fast as possible to be able to go to the Oceaneer Lab for Pluto’s Pajama Party. I trailed Chris most of the way to the club at a distance, but let him use his check-in privileges by himself to feel like a big kid. Kylee we still have to walk all the way to the club or lab (and plan to for a while yet.) Ben and I hung around the Cadillac Lounge enjoying Tim Ross on the piano and the chill atmosphere. There is something magical about getting to dress up and act like a lady. It almost makes me wish it were the fifties. Almost.

We fetched the kids in time to watch Ensign Bensen rescue the Golden Mickeys. This show grew on me. On first viewing I liked it, but after several rewatchings, I love the simple underdog message.

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Disney Wonder
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion

  1. MerryTime Reunion
  2. Anchors Away!
  3. Character Overload
  4. Key West
  5. Nassau
  6. Castaway Cay
  7. More to Come!
  8. Personal Navigators for our 2015 MerryTime Cruise

Episode VII: Anchors Away!

A dozen Ketchersides handed our boarding numbers over then headed past the official ship photographers. (Pro-tip, if you don’t want to stop and get a boarding photo, just walk past the photographers and proceed toward the ship. It’s totally optional and it gets you to the ship just a tiny bit faster.) We scanned in our cards and climbed the stairs (again, faster than using the escalator or elevator) and stopped just before the gangway.

Anchors Away MerryTime
Welcome Aboard and Merry Christmas!

The scent of gingerbread wafted out to greet us as we stepped aboard to cheers and applause. Cast members beckoned us into the lobby. As they stood ready to answer questions and directions to first time cruisers, we side stepped directions to dining locations and headed directly to Wavebands.

All the things we used to have to queue for on boarding are now available for prebooking online.
Last minute bookings.

We picked up tickets for the Frozen character meet and greet, the princess gathering, the Disney Junior character breakfast and gingerbread house construction for later in the week.

Sidebar: I am stoked to book onboard activities on the website ahead of time. Now they’re available when your booking window for port adventures opens. This caused some first time cruisers concern that they will get cut out of the meet and greets, but so far, they’re readily available at all booking windows, so it’s not an issue.

The dozen Ketchersides headed down deck three to Parrot Cay for a relaxed boarding buffet then divided up to explore at our own pace.

Shirley Temple - Anchors Away!
It’s not a cruise until there are fruity drinks.

We played some checkers and backgammon in Diversions and enjoyed some fruity drinks. The sports bar stood empty except for us for quite a while. Around 1:30 we headed upstairs to check our our new home away from home, 7062.

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah on the Disney Wonder.
Spot Duffy!

As huge fan of non-standard rooms like royal suites, secret porthole rooms and extended verandah staterooms, this was our first voyage in a standard “Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.” (All staterooms except for the standard inside staterooms are designated deluxe. In Disney speak, deluxe means there is a split bath configuration and an additional thirty square feet of space.)

After quick visits by our family’s staterooms, we went on a quick exploration of the ship. Then unpacked our suitcases and headed downstairs to our muster station.

Inside a Disney Cruise Line lifeboat.
They were busy training several new crew members on these lifeboats both before and following muster.

The kids liked getting to peak into a real lifeboat on the way to muster drill, but on the way back were far too excited to stake out our favorite spot for the sailaway party! Becky and I blocked out a small section in front of us to let the kids dance like crazy people without being in danger of getting stepped on.

Actually, once the cast members handed out the streamer sticks, we were probably in more danger than the kids were.

We enjoyed our first meal at Animator’s Palate. A few members of our party started to be glad that they’d brought motion sickness medication as they started to notice the motion once seated. Then there those of us who thrilled to the color of the walls and the excitement of vacation in a wonderful way.

I promise, I do try to teach her manners.
I promise, I do try to teach her manners.

Christopher bolted his dinner and made a beeline for the Oceaneers Lab. Kylee hung out with her cousins for a bit before similarly wishing to disappear to deck five. Ben walked her up and then he and I talked a bit more with mom and dad before they left for the evening. Ben and I headed over to the Cadillac Lounge to listen to piano and talk for a bit before the show began. I honestly don’t remember if we went to “All Aboard: Let the Magic Begin” or not, but we did return to the room shortly thereafter.

MerryTime Reunion
Our stateroom host left us a lovely little towelgami creation.

The kids fell asleep and were fast asleep in an inkling. And so did we.

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Disney Wonder
November 27, 2015
Seven Night Bahamian
Extended Family Reunion

  1. MerryTime Reunion
  2. Anchors Away!
  3. Character Overload
  4. Key West
  5. Nassau
  6. Castaway Cay
  7. More to Come!
  8. Personal Navigators for our 2015 MerryTime Cruise

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Family Reunion Disney Cruise

As an early Christmas gift (and to celebrate a big anniversary and some birthdays too), my in-laws took the entire extended Ketcherside family on the Disney Wonder for a Very MerryTime Reunion cruise.

(Thanks again mom!)

Family Reunion Disney Cruise
How many Ketchersides fit in an elevator? Not all of them.

Very MerryTime cruise on Disney Cruise Line?

Yeah, we’re so there. Having done a cruise or two during the holidays, as well as several that weren’t, I’d say that there’s definitely a little extra pixie dust around Christmas.

Our MerryTime Reunion Crew

Being a crazy large reunion cruise, we’d be sharing this wonderful vacation with the grandparents Ernie and Diana, better known as Mimi and PawPaw. They’re no strangers to Disney Cruise Line. Most recently, they costarred in my Liberty of the Seas Live Blog.

Sunrise breakfast with Mimi and PawPaw.
Sunrise breakfast with Mimi and PawPaw.

My brother in law, Shawn, his wife Nancy and my niece Sydney (9, like Chris) joined up. They hadn’t cruised Disney beforehand, so I anxiously awaited their thoughts on our vacation…

Kylee, Abigail and Sydney listen to an incredible, hilarious story from Uncle Shawn.
Kylee, Abigail and Sydney listen to an incredible, hilarious story from Uncle Shawn.

My other brother in law, Matt, his wife, Becky and my niece Abigail rounded out our new cruisers. Abigail was going through a clingy stage so they weren’t sure how much time, if any, she would want to spend in the Oceaneer Club with her cousins.

Abigail, Matt and Becky join in the selfie craziness.
Abigail, Matt and Becky join in the selfie craziness.

 

Then there were the usual suspects.

Merry and Bright!
Duffy made it into the picture, but Kylee not so much.

Ben, Chris, Kylee, Duffy the Bear and I rounded out this motley crew. This would be our kids’ fifth voyage aboard Disney Cruise Line, but only their second on the Disney Wonder and their first on the Wonder for a longer itinerary. Ben and I would be on our seventh Disney Cruise and counting…

Planning a Cruise Reunion

Ready to cruise!
Ready to cruise!

Unlike our previous cruises, we needed to coordinate four family’s calendars in the days between the announcement of the itineraries and the opening of bookings. I answered questions and sent spare copies of Passporter’s Guide to Disney Cruise Line Guides to each of the first time cruisers in advance of bookings. In retrospect, the two day turn around between announcement and booking is quite short.

After collecting everyone’s booking numbers, I waited a few days for the craziness to die down then called up to link our staterooms for dining. Other than reminding everyone when their booking windows arrived and planning for a surprise or two, a cruise more or less plans itself and is perhaps the easiest way for a large party to enjoy a Disney vacation together.

Matchy-matchy pjs for the kids? It's a vacation thing.
Matchy-matchy pjs for the kids? It’s a vacation thing.

It helps that everyone involved knew how to make their own magic!

Before Embarking

Bear ready to go!
Bear ready to go!

Since our cruise embarked on Black Friday, it was a bit of a mishmash until we met up at port. Diana, Ernie, Matt Becky and Abigail stayed at the Moody Gardens Hotel the night before (planning to avail themselves of a deal to stay and then enjoy a shuttle to and from the hotel). Shawn, Nancy and Sydney would drive in from the western suburbs on the morning of and we would all meet up easily well before our boarding time.

With our bags waiting in readiness by the door, it was only a matter of waiting for the kids to wake up before our adventure began as it always does.

With Mickey pancakes at our favorite diner. I know we could go there anytime, but we only seem to go out for breakfast when we’re going on vacation. For me, this is when vacation begins, MerryTime reunion or not.

MerryTime Cruise
That’s his “I’m on vacation!” smile. Chris looks pretty happy too.

Before we arrive at the restaurant, last minute reviews of lists, verifying paperwork and checklists occupy my thoughts, but after a nice slow fun breakfast? I’m on vacation.

Yeah, we still have to drive clear across town, over a causeway and to port. But mentally, I’m already drinking a fruity drink and feeling the sea breeze through my hair. Which is probably why Ben drives.

MerryTime Reunion
Driving? What driving?

We hang out at a little coffee shop just down the beach from the cruise terminal and I enjoy listening to various cruise staff as they pop in and sit down to enjoy the free stateside WiFi. At an hour until boarding we can’t wait any longer so we head over to our favorite no frills car park, EZ Cruise Parking.

MerryTime Reunion Cruise
Riding the shuttle to cruise terminal number two!

This is the point that Ben starts to act like he’s on vacation (after double checking that we have our proper documentation of course.) A very short shuttle ride later and we’re standing on the porch of cruise terminal two.

MerryTime Reunion Cruise
After five cruises they aren’t still excited or anything. Oh. Wait. YES THEY ARE! If anything knowing what to expect makes them even more excited.

After some quick pictures (and despite the fact that the first port arrivals don’t begin for an hour) we join the queue that runs halfway down the length of the building. Ben and Chris hold our place in line as Kylee and I say hello to half a dozen of our cruise meet friends, including a family from Nebraska that we’d cruised with the year before as well.

Diana and Ernie showed up shortly after us, followed quickly by Matt, Becky and Abigail. Once we were through security and checked in we did our usual check at the supervisors desk. As per normal, we were greeted by a “Captain Mickey is Sailing With a Full Ship” sign; no upgrades available.

MerryTime REunion
Together at last!

Kylee very nearly pulled Abigail off her feet in her excitement over seeing her cousin again while Chris and his bear played with Diana. Several texts and much speculation later, Shawn, Nancy and Sydney arrived. Just in time for them to settle in for a minute or two, wander over and meet Mickey and then….

MerryTime Reunion
Mickey and Minnie alternate meet and greets at the far end of the cruise terminal. It’s easy to miss them if you aren’t looking for them!

it was boarding time!

Episode VII: Merrytime Reunion

Disney Wonder
November 27, 2015
Seven Night BahamianExtended Family Reunion

  1. MerryTime Reunion
  2. Anchors Away!
  3. Character Overload
  4. Key West
  5. Nassau
  6. Castaway Cay
  7. More to Come!
  8. Personal Navigators for our 2015 MerryTime Cruise

Liberty of the Seas Live Blog | Galveston

Royal Caribbean Dismebarkation

It’s the end of the cruise as we know it!

Royal Caribbean Dismebarkation
Christopher developed his usual end of cruise cough/cold.

With our debarkation time set from 9:30-9:45 but breakfast ending at 8:30, there was no reason to leave our stateroom until around 8. So of course everyone was up before six.

Royal Caribbean Disembarkation
“Home sweet home! Can we get off of the ship now?”

After peering about the deck for sunrise obscured by the coming storm clouds, we decided to head back indoors and swing by Café Promenade one last time.

Royal Caribbean Disembarkation
Ran into Mimi and PawPaw one last time.

After seven days of just missing the chocolate donuts, Kylee was over the moon to finally get her very own. We visited and reminisced over the favorite bits of the vacation. Splashaway Bay earned high marks, as did both of our stateroom attendants and Windjammer Café.

After a few more photo sessions, Mimi and PawPaw headed off to collect their bags from their staterooms and we did likewise.

Royal Caribbean Disembarkation
Bye y’all!

We grabbed our backpack and the kids stuffed animals and bid Richard goodbye. At 7:30 we headed up for one last meal in Windjammer.

Royal Caribbean Disembarkation
A spot of breakfast.

This is when I realized that the set times to exit the ship don’t readily correspond to the meals. See Windjammer serves breakfast from 6-8:30, but assigned debarkation times range from 8-10:30. This left us hanging at loose ends for quite a bit.

Royal Caribbean Debarkation
Our assigned meeting place, the Platinum Theatre

The kids watched the better part of The Return of the Jedi on my phone before “getting bored.” They walked up and down the aisle for five minutes to stretch their legs.

Royal Caribbean Disembarkation
Royal Promenade? Still open seating

Then someone had the brilliant idea to go up to the Royal Promenade and catch another round of hot cocoa while we passed the two hours between breakfast and our turn to exit the ship. As we filed onto deck four (with our SeaPass out and documentation ready to go), the lightning and thunder picked up and the sky dumped buckets of water onto Galveston.

We opted to use a porter. I didn’t see how I could manage two kids, three suitcases and negotiate the rain without assistance, and a porter proved well worth the tip. By the time we left customs and headed for the EZ Cruise Parking shuttle, the rain slowed to a drizzle.

Royal Caribbean Debarkation
Rainy last view of the Liberty of the Seas

The porter saw us and our luggage onto the first EZ shuttle and we reached our car within fifteen minutes of clearing customs.

Royal Caribbean Dismebarkation
Rainy Galveston and the Liberty of the Seas

Driving home (with our customary snack stop at Buccee’s) proved difficult given several car accidents in the freeway and the construction traffic near NASA. Two hours later, the kids leapt from the car, very glad to arrive home and see Ben!

Live Blog Links

Preshow
Day 1: Embarkation
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Galveston
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean

Liberty of the Seas Live Blog | Day 7 At Sea

Liberty of the Seas

The kids both “slept in” until around 6:30, so they took advantage of the free time before breakfast to behave like monkeys.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Code Monkeys. And a photographer stymied by the sheer number of mirrored surfaces in the room.

We headed up to Windjammer (which both of the kids pronounce Wind-jza-may, like Tar-jzay) for a nice breakfast. Kylee finally discovered the French toast station and Chris ate his bowl of fruit loops slowly and deliberately.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Still a little sleepy from the looks of it.

Both kids opted to forgo their morning swimming in favor of trying out the morning session at Adventure Ocean. The session looked to be themed all about super heroes, their wheelhouse. First we had a little time to kill, so we headed down to Liberty Dunes for a quick round.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
This time for the title.

Kylee ran into one of the children she knew on the cruise, a lovely little girl who spoke Spanish. Kylee and she had a marvelous time playing golf and talking in Kylee’s limited Spanish. (Here it is! Please? Thank you. You go. Me? That sort of thing.)

Sea Day
Getting along across party lines.

We headed downstairs for my midmorning smoothie and a celebratory hot chocolate for the kids. Once again, chocolate donuts were in the case, until Kylee asked for one. That kid cannot catch a break.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Don’t worry, she still got a sprinkles donut.

Both kids seemed tired when they went into Adventure Ocean, so I thoroughly expected to get called to get them well before noon. I headed up to the gym to sneak in a quick workout, then headed off to my already cleaned stateroom to shower in peace and quiet.

Liberty of the Seas Trivia
Fun Fact: while the average uses 13,000 pounds of beef, only 600 pounds of berries are consumed.

I headed to the Star Lounge to catch the Captain’s Corner, an interactive Q&A with the Captain, the Cruise Director and the Chief Engineer, and slipped into an open seat in the row in front of Ernie and Diana. Some of the highlights included whether the Oasis and Harmony might come to Galveston, concerns about who is actively steering the ship and points about the recent refurbishment. I have two pages of notes, but no way to transfer them to my laptop, so I’ll save that for a later post.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Bargain hunters

I accidentally got caught in the 11am t-shirt sale roving hordes bargain hunters. If you have any sense of claustrophobia, stay far away from deck five during this sale. There is a very Black Friday crowded frenzy to it and the Royal Promenade is all but impassable during the sale. I think watching from the chairs between the elevator at six forward might be the way to go.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
The main dining room is ridiculously lovely.

I retrieved the kids for lunch in the main dining room, but after a perusal of the menu, we ended up at Windjammer. Somehow Kylee misplaced her stuffed cat during the morning (between the minigolf and the game room) so we swung by guest services. Thankfully someone turned it in.

Royal Caribbean Lost and Found
Reunited.

After a quick coating of sunscreen, it was pool time.

Liberty of the Seas
Ice cream anyone?

I read a book on my Kindle and tried not to doze off as I watched the kids splash and frolic and generally have a marvelous time.

Royal Caribbean
Infinite Ice Cream? I’d like to test that theory.

After two hours, it was time to either reapply sunscreen or call it. Both kids showered off then we settled in for an afternoon break.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Synchronized Napping Champions 2016

I read all of “The Half Blood Prince” and both kids were still awake. Two pages into “The House of Gaunt” Chris eyes shut and Kylee’s blinks got longer each minute. I read another page then asked if anyone who was still awake could raise their hands. Nothing.

I read some more in the quiet of my stateroom as tiny snores echoed through the afternoon. I decided to wake both kids up at four. Then they could attend at least some of the afternoon session of Adventure Ocean.

Royal Caribbean Adventure Ocean
Face paint game is on point.

I texted with Ben a bit then picked both kids back up for dinner. Kylee and Chris loved going to Windjammer for a third time (especially since Kylee could eat another bowl of curry.) Frankly after at least four ice cream cones, I’m amazed anyone ate any dinner. Kylee wanted to change into pajamas to maximize her time at the last session of Adventure Ocean.

I packed the rest of the luggage.

Did I mention yet how pleasant it is to already have all of one bag full of clean clothing? Royal Caribbean will wash and fold one bag (their size plastic bag, not a suitcase) of clothing for $30. I’d say it’s well worth it to come home with clean underwear for everyone.

Christopher preferred to be picked up an hour early in order to have time to put his clothing in the luggage.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Staying up late with a bear and a book.

Consequently he and his bear caught up on the parts of “The House of Gaunt” he’d slept through after a quick cookie. He fell asleep and I went to fetch Kylee (and a rather large poster board) from Adventure Ocean right at the stroke of ten.

She chatted all the way down to the room and then ate part of a cookie and fell asleep in record time. With that, there is only one thing left to do…go to sleep myself.

Good night!

Live Blog Links

Preshow
Day 1: Embarkation
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Galveston
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean

Liberty of the Seas Live Blog | Day 6 At Sea

Royal Caribbean at sea

We woke up, per our usual, well before breakfast was served and headed out on deck to see the sunrise.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Sunrise over the Caribbean

I used Voom to take a BodyFlow class, courtesy of YouTube. The children played shuffleboard and everyone got their wiggles out a little. Then we headed off to our usual spot in Windjammer for a spot of breakfast.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
If you ever forget what day of the week it is, just look down in the elevators.

I availed myself of the make your own miso, while Chris opted for some sliced ham and cinnamon rolls. Kylee tasted maybe two bites of her Fruit Loops before she decided they were pretty but not very tasty.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
File this one under art supplies.

I took both kids back to the stateroom and got everyone ready for a morning of sun and swimming. (Loaded up on the sunscreen, too. While no one was burned per se, there were far more pink in their cheeks than normal.)

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
The pool, the sky and the gentle rolling of the ship at sea. A girl could get used to this.

The main pool sloshed back and forth with the rolling of the ship, creating a little bit of wave pool action for the kiddos. They frolicked and jumped and I hopped in and out of the pool a few times with them.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Kylee picking up a bottle of water at the pool bar.

Both kids learned quite a bit this cruise, but one of the nicest parts is that they’ve been practicing their manners when ordering items from servers and attendants. After an hour or two in the main pool, the kids wanted to go back.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Back to Splashaway Bay it is!

Splashaway Bay opened promptly at 9:30 and the kids headed straight back into their favorite activity of the ship. This kids only water play area is not only super fun between the enormous dump bucket, the sprayers and the slides, but it also does a great job of entirely wearing out kids as they spend the better part of the time climbing stairs.

Both kids doubled back to grab sodas from the bar and a quick break after a half hour then headed back into the fray. After a while, Chris decided he’d like to try out Adventure Ocean again. With only an hour left in the morning session, I agreed he could try it.

Kylee headed out for a little one on one time with the grandparents. I strongly suspected it would involve photography and shopping. PawPaw brought his good camera on this trip, so it was inevitable, I suppose.

I ordered my usual protein/soy milk blend and drank that while reading a bit of a book on my Kindle. Kylee ended up with a cute watch and all three met up with me in café promenade just in time for Kylee to decide she was ravenous and need a donut. Right as they were swapping them for lunch snacks.

headed down to café promenade just in time for her to decide she was ravenous and need a donut. Right as they were swapping them for lunch snacks. Easy come easy go, right?
No donut for you. Nothing could be done and they wouldn’t just hand her one as they pulled them from the case.

Easy come easy go, right? Instead, Kylee picked at a cookie. I decided to grab a soy hot chocolate to sip as she nibbled, but for whatever reason they gave me a decaf café mocha with whip. At this point I started to wonder if the barista just didn’t like me, but that’s a whole other story.

Kylee and I played slapjack for a bit, then went to collect Chris for lunch. Windjammer featured all of the kids favorite foods (namely, pizza) and the succotash was pretty good too. After lunch, the grandparents took Chris for some time to wander and pick out his souvenir (instead, he opted for several rounds of Pac-Man).

Royal Caribbean at Sea
Splish Splash.

Kylee and I hit Splashaway Bay for another run at the slides. The pool deck turned blazing hot, so there was a lot of hiding far back in the shade and kids running on the deck to keep from burning their feet.

Chris and the grandparents arrived at the pool around quarter to two, so I decided Kylee probably needed a little time out of the sun. Back in the room everyone showered off and switched into dry clothes.

Royal Caribbean at Sea
There may have been napping.

Chris fell asleep before I started reading for our afternoon rest time, so I decided to roll with it. Kylee insisted she wasn’t tired and crawled into my bunk “just for some snuggles.” Until she also caved and slept for a half hour of course. This is probably the first time in my seven and a half years of parenting two kids they napped at the same time. (It’s a cruise miracle!)

Mimi showed up right around when Kylee woke up and gave me a lovely sun hat. (Yay! No more sun on my nose this trip!) Kylee asked to be taken up to try the club again, so they walked her upstairs. I decided to wake Chris up around an hour of naptime. (I’d much rather deal with him cranky over being woken up than moping all through dinner over missing time in Adventure Ocean when his sister was there.)

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Guess what? They do have phones! They just don’t like to give them out to everyone.

After the bad experience the other evening at Adventure Ocean, they decided I could borrow a phone so that they could contact me and vice versa. Why don’t they issue pagers or phones to everyone with a kid in the children’s programs like every other ship? Beats me. I am just happy that they let me check one out each time I check in the kids now. Apparently “these are mostly for the parents of kids under three.”

Royal Caribbean At Sea
Gak, Slime, whatever you call it, Kylee had fun.

I picked both kids up an hour later for dinner. Chris enjoyed the king of the swamp game then read independently and happily for over an hour during the other activities. Kylee loved adventure science and brought home “Shrek Mud” but somehow lost her certificate. Chris nevertheless was given a certificate even though he read through all of the Adventure Science activities.

The grandparents decided to forgo the main dining room and catch the early showing of Saturday Night Fever, so the kids and I returned for a third seating at Windjammer.

Windjammer vegan
Happy vegan! Curried tofu, grilled eggplant, zucchini and summer squash.

This, despite it’s commonplace appearance, is the most delectable dinner onboard thus far. Ten points to Windjammer!

Windjammer Sushi
Sushi? But of course!

Chris delighted to find a variety of sushi onboard and ate a few pieces before I snapped a pic.

Windjammer
That’s one happy little cruiser.

Even Kylee’s face lit up when she found her favorite dessert. Yes, it’s strawberries dipped in yellow mustard. Yes, she’s enjoyed the cookies and ice cream and mousse today, but this is what made her face light up. My kids are strange.

Card Room Royal Caribbean
Slapjack!

After a little more time playing games in the card room and a quick call to Ben over Facebook, both kids headed off for an hour of Survivor night at Adventure Ocean.

Royal Caribbean Sea Day
Already?

I popped by the room to discover the saddest part of a cruise is almost at hand. I packed up all of the things we won’t need and clothes and dirty stuff and handed off a bag to our room steward to be “cleaned and folded for $30” to see how that goes. Richard promised they would be back the next evening by five.

The kids were starving at 8, so I picked them up and we hit the pool deck for some Fro-yo with Mimi and PawPaw. Chris didn’t care for the frozen yogurt, preferring the real ice cream, and really how often can you stay up late eating a waffle cone as a kid?

Royal Caribbean at sea
Carpe diem, Adventurer Boy.

Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream with sprinkles please!

Kylee opted for a mini-cupcake as a frozen yogurt chaser. With the aid of a fairly substantial sugar crash, both kids fell asleep quickly.

Good night!

Live Blog Links

Preshow
Day 1: Embarkation
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Galveston
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean

Liberty of the Seas Live Blog | Jamaica

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica

In which nobody naps.

Liberty of the Seas in Jamaica?

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Lovely.

Yeah.
After all day yesterday in the sun and sea, we decided to forgo our planned beach break and enjoy the (mostly) empty ship to ourselves.

 

First things first, breakfast!

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Kylee brought her stuffed cat to breakfast, naturally.

While Chris dug into Mount Bacon, Kylee sat mesmerized by the view. Jamaica is oddly stunning with it’s mountains, hills and breadth. I ate my soup and Chris had an odd exchange with one of the officers who came over when he was nearing the end of Mount Bacon.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
A boy and his bacon mountain.

Part jokingly the officer told Chris if he didn’t finish his bacon it was wasteful and he wouldn’t be allowed pizza and ice cream at lunch. Chris takes things pretty literally and didn’t like that much.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Liberty Dunes, take two.

After breakfast, we hung around for a while until Mimi and PawPaw could hit the Liberty Dunes. I worked on setting up Chris new walkie talkie with batteries while they worked their way around the course.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Kylee managed to hit her ball into this little hut inadvertently and climbed in to retrieve it.

Everyone did their best, but between the heat and glare as the sun beat down, they were all glad to finish their round. After getting so overheated, there was really only one thing to do.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Pool time! All by themselves. Two pools and a hot tub.

A good hour of pool shenanigans did the trick. The kids needed a little time indoors to cool down properly and rest. We grabbed a plate of toast and peanut butter from the remnants of Windjammer’s breakfast buffet and headed to our stateroom. Both kids changed into dry swimsuits. Then, with both children happily curled up with a movie starting and snacks to munch on, I headed off to lift weight at the gym, walkie talkie in hand.

After a quick workout, I returned to the room and showered. We headed to the quickly filling Windjammer and gathered some lunch. Mom and dad joined us after a bit. Chris said he wanted to try Adventure Ocean for the first time since Tuesday evening and I promised him he could drop in during the afternoon session.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Splashaway Bay.

Everyone stuffed courtesy of the excellent buffet options, we reapplied sunscreen and hit the now open Splashaway Bay.

For over two hours they splashed and slid and went back around to do it again.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Nothing that some Band-Aids and an ice cream cone can’t fix!

With only a few minor injuries (no running as the splash pad can be quite slippery!) and about three ice creams per kid into the afternoon.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Tuckered out. Despite giving them up years ago, I thought she might cave and nap after a shower, but no such luck.

Then it was time to head inside before anyone turned into a lobster. After showers and a first layer of aloe vera, we rested and read for an hour, then I dropped Chris off to Adventure Ocean, and Kylee and I headed down to the Café Promenade lounge.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Doesn’t need or want a nap…sure.

She enjoyed a biscotti, and I talked with some of the other guests. Everyone wondering why the same couple was late back to the ship on consecutive port days in Cozumel and Grand Cayman.

Kylee challenged me to a few rounds in the card room, so we Scrabble Juniored and Slap Jacked until dinner. We retrieved Christopher from the club. Stepping just outside to Johnny Rockets, we were pleased to find that Mimi and PawPaw already claimed an indoor booth for us.

The service in Johnny Rockets was very cheerful, but more drama than necessary surrounded Kylee’s request to make a Route 66 burger with a Boca patty. Thankfully, the onion rings held her at bay until her order could be corrected. Burgers, vanilla sodas and ice cream sundaes gone and our bill paid (around $7 each) we bid the grandparents a good night.

Liberty of the Seas Jamaica
Front row seats? Check.

The kids accompanied me to the magic/comedy show. Parts they loved, parts they didn’t get (particularly the political and innuendo jokes) but mostly they were tired and pink from two long days of fun in the sun.

We headed down to the stateroom after the show and slathered everyone in Mary Kay after sun skin relief gel and got into our pajamas. I read another chapter of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” to the younglings and they fell asleep very quickly. I had plenty of time to facebook message my husband and blog, but the sun is catching up to me as well, so after a big drink of water, I’m going to turn in a bit early.

Good night!

Live Blog Links

Preshow
Day 1: Embarkation
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Galveston
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean

Liberty of the Seas Live Blog | Grand Cayman

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman

Mimi quite unintentionally woke us up the next morning, not knowing we’d stayed up much later than intended. We agreed to meet for breakfast in the Windjammer in a little bit.

Liberty of the Seas Adventure Ocean
Sleepy baby. Two people and one twin bunk style.

After the usual breakfast, (build your own Miso for me and bacon and cinnamon rolls for the kids) we discussed our plans for the day. Dad had attended to veterans meet on the last sea day.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Cruisers queueing for tender tickets.

 

The kids and I headed by the card room to borrow Chinese Checkers then headed off to the promenade lounge for a pre-excursion snack and a game. Mimi and PawPaw had beat us there, but they weren’t sure what they would do today other than soak Mimi’s ankle in the hot tub.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Kylee and Chris’ first game of Othello ever. How do we not own this game? It was a favorite of mine growing up.

After we got our swim bag packed and our SeaPass and ID together, we still had time for a quick game of Othello before our meeting time. We headed off to the Platinum Theatre promptly at 11. Unfortunately, they did not put our group onto a tender until nearly noon or onto the bus until 12:20. Most of that time was spent waiting. (Our excursion was scheduled for 11:45 and should last two and a half hours.)

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Everybody’s tendering.

What’s interesting is that since the kids were mildly sleep deprived, they really enjoyed staring at the sea on the tender and the Sea Goddess. The waters around Grand Cayman range from an impossible blue that Mimi refers to as “Slurpee Blue” to a clear bottle green.

The moment of truth arrived after a brief educational presentation on stingray safety. While a very tall person could theoretically step off of the ship onto the sandbar, I’m five foot three, so I spend the first bit of this excursion swimming above stingrays that are nearly as wide as I am tall. Then finding stable footing to turn around and coax the kids to jump in and swim after me.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
After a tender, a bus and a ride on Sea Goddess, we’re almost to Stingray City!

Chris was a little more jumpy around the stingrays once we were in the water, but Kylee laughed and shrieked happily while the stingrays swam past, around and under us. That is she did until Chris accidentally rubbed part of a ray the wrong way with his foot.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
The suspect. They’re huge. And kind of beautifully graceful.

Much like a cat’s tongue there is a rough direction to the skin of the ray. Chris thought he’d been stung and well and truly freaked out. Kylee’s giggly shrieks stopped as she actually became scared for Chris. One of our fellow cruisers, a former lifeguard helped me wrangle the kids back onto the boat.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Cheetos in hand, watching the adults scream when startled by the stingrays, the kids learned about one of life’s simple joys: schadenfreude.

Laughing at the adults startling and shrieking in the stingrays brought back the kids laughter as they sunbathed and snacked on Cheetos and Lay’s with many drinks of the complimentary fruit punch to wash it down.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Much easier to be brave from this perspective.

We changed just before the group rounded up and rejoined us on the boat. All of the guides and other guests told our kids time and again how well they did at playing with the rays and not totally freaking out. Several grown men admitted they screamed like little babies and the kids explained how they’d been watching and didn’t realize the adults could startle too.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
The tender back. AKA nap time.

Both kids slept through some of the tender ride back, exhausted from swimming in the surf and laying in the sun. Kylee and I chatted with some Canadians on the bus back to the terminal, but Chris snored his way back to the port.

IMG_6146
Pegleg pirate turtle? Grand Cayman is so cool.

Rather than hopping directly on the tender, we doubled by the customs office to get our passports stamped. Then right back onto the tender, since it was 4:00. (Our two and a half hour tour took up almost our entire day in port, somehow.)

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Tendering back to the ship.

We popped by the grandparents and the kids headed off with Mimi for some ice cream while I sorted out and hung up the various swimsuits and towel bags to dry. On regrouping, a quick consensus lead us straight down to Sorrento’s Cilantro’s for a quick slice before the Move It! Move It! Parade. We ended up leaving early, because adults kept pushing in front of my kids to try to get a better view or angle to record the parade. We headed up to the room and waited for maintenance to come fix the room safe, then headed up to Windjammer for dinner.

Liberty of the Seas Grand Cayman
Bed time story!

With all the tired kids around, it was time for an early night in. So we showered, watched some Madagascar, read a little Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and said good night.

Live Blog Links

Preshow
Day 1: Embarkation
Day 2: Sea Day
Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico
Day 4: George Town, Grand Cayman
Day 5: Falmouth, Jamaica
Day 6: Sea Day
Day 7: Sea Day
Day 8: Galveston
Disney Cruise Line versus Royal Caribbean