A few weeks ago we embarked on a week long Disney Cruise to the Caribbean with my amazing family and 4,000 of our closest friends, compliments of my incredibly generous parents! At first, there was a bit of trepidation from Russ and I about the ‘cruise’ part of things, given that the last cruise we went on, we found ourselves in a shoe box with an inoperable porthole and a vent that was mainlined to the grease vat of the ships galley, moving us to the deck to sleep on lawn chairs, only to arrive home three days later with nasty cases of step throat. Needless to say, we had fairly low expectations and braced ourselves. My mom helped to ease some of our worries by sending pictures and website links of what we could expect, and we couldn’t help but find joy in the boys eager anticipation and excitement to be with all their cousins and hang with Mickey Mouse!
Off to a great start with Delta Comfort plus…extra leg room, tv’s and free cocktails as we flew to Orlando.
I wished I had a pocket size dust buster to clean up the crumbs on and around the boys seats, while not as bad as it is when we go to a Chinese restaurant with fried rice everywhere, it was bad enough for me to say “Im so sorry for the mess” about 20 times as we were exiting the plane. I figured if I made it seem like one of my kids threw up or took a dump in the seat, finding a few thousand crumbs wouldn’t seem so bad.
Once the rest of my family arrived (minus one of my brothers, his twins and pregnant wife, and a nephew in the Little League championship who sadly all had to stay home) the excitement for the trip really kicked in. The kids were hugging and spazing out and the adults all joking around while simultaneously yelling at the kids, and so began the attempted coordination of keeping a 17 person group together. Step one: check in and drop off bags at hotel. Step two: cocktails!
We headed off to Fort Lauderdale the next morning with Cinnabon and McDondalds breakfast on our Strelgewich bus, then swam through 90% air humidity before “embarking” upon the Disney Fantasy. The ship was HUGE!!! Our room was beautiful, clean, big, and had a veranda!!!!
We attended the “in case the ship starts sinking and we have to cram into claustrophobic orange boats…” meeting, then we gathered in my mom and dad’s suite for the bon voyage and set off to sea. After one of the kids stood up on a chair to lean over the railing and “get a better view”, the adults had a collective “DON’T EVER DO THAT” conversation with all of them, heavy sighed, and cheersed to the start of an awesome and SAFE adventure.
laughing at uncle Dan’s sunburn due to improper sunscreen application, and enjoying great dinners at 5:45pm every night followed by Disney theater. We celebrated Russ’ 38th birthday, and he got a special visit and birthday message from Crush (the turtle from Finding Nemo).
Pirate night was a huge hit, and uncle Sam got in on the dance party
My sister-in-law and I did a Boot Camp the first morning of the cruise and were too soar to work out again the rest of the trip which put a damper on having more of a carefree attitude while consuming 5,000 french fries at lunches and never missing dessert after dinner. And admittedly there were daily moments of irritation and brief hyperventilation on the one deck of the boat where every single person aboard would go to eat at the buffet and take their kids to swim in the two tiny pools. I tried not to wince when I witnessed obese diabetics with bulged ankles walk to and from the all day, all you can eat soft serve ice cream bar, and we were baffled when, for the fourth time in four days, the staff had to close one of the pools, drain it, sanitize it, and fill it back up, because THE SAME little girl crapped her bathing suit in the water! With that said, Disney clearly had someone like me on their sanitary planning committee, because you couldn’t walk ten feet without someone handing you a wet wipe, or spraying disinfectant and wiping something down. I’m not saying i would ever walk into a bathroom with no sandals on, but in case of a missing sandal, can’t hold it any longer emergency, I would not have been completely mortified if it happened on that boat, they were always so clean, but thankfully i didn’t have to test that out.
Days off the Boat
The first excursion took Russ, Charlie and I to Norman Island for snorkeling (Crew was too young to snorkel which was fine due to his fear of sharks…I’m surprised he goes in a pool), and a trip down memory lane, because it was there, 11 years ago, that Russ proposed to me! To return there with our 7 year old son, and tell him the story of our hike to the top of the island and what it meant when daddy bent down on one knee at the top of the hill and asked mommy to spend the rest of her life with him, was truly a special experience.
The second excursion took all of us to Magens Bay on St. Thomas. As we drove on the bus that sounded like it dropped its transmission every time it switched gears, I was surprised by how poor the city seemed, almost 3rd world. Run down shacks with rusty cars sitting abandoned in overgrown brush and chickens meandering past men sitting bored, smoking next to empty shops. It was a small window, a peephole even, into a life outside of our bubble and we could certainly benefit from seeing and experiencing it more often, to harness a greater perspective of the world around us and open our hearts and minds to the difficulties we have never had to face, and the beauty of simple joys we neglect to embrace. We spent the day swimming with the boys and my parents in the bay and watching my superwoman mom, at 67, stand up paddle board across the bay with Charlie sitting on the front.
The last excursion was to Disney’s private island, Cataway Cay where we huddled in a rented cabana while rain and thunderstorms came through. This didn’t dampen any of our spirits…we got lunch and buckets of beer and watched mother nature throw lightning through the sky for our entertainment. We lounged and napped and the kids explored the lagoons when their were breaks in the weather.
Farewell to Mickey and the Gang
We said farewell to Mickey and the gang the next morning, disembarked the ship, and after a trip to the Kennedy Space Center, which was amazing,
we gave lots of hugs and sad good byes to the famdamily, and headed for home. Salt Lake City airport has to be one of the best to fly home to after you’ve been on a long trip, there is always a Mormon Missionary coming home, and though it’s not you’re friends and family, and you weren’t the one living in Kentucky, or Kenya for two years, it’s still a personally welcoming feeling to ride down the escalator toward baggage claim and be greeted by 50 people holding signs and balloons with looks of joyous anticipation on their faces to welcome home brother Peter.
Fourteen loads of laundry later, and a few lazy mornings in pjs till noon (except for dad who had to get right back into work mode), we were back in the swing of things. Almost daily, something reminds us of a funny memory from the trip and we retell the stories, like the fact that my youngest Crew, known for acting like a total neanderthal, was nicknamed Eeep by my sister, after the baby in the movie The Croods, and Link by my brother, from the movie Encino Man.
And Charlie has decided that his Delta Pilot uniform now doubles as Disney Cruise Director…no detail is too small for him to share about the trip… “first we boarded the ship on Deck One Mid Ship before going to our room which was on Deck 11 Aft, that means toward the back of the boat.” He may get his concise story telling ability from me.