Education Thru Travel

Pretty much everything we do provides a learning opportunity for the girls.  So when we plan travel, we like to make sure it’s something we will all enjoy.

In the past, we have made our travel plans and then simply looked forward to what was in store.  This time I’ve decided to change it up a bit and will have the girls work on some projects leading up to travel time.

For those who have been following my blog since the beginning of the year, you are aware that one of our favorite ways to travel is by boat.  To be exact, by cruise ship.

During our cruise in February, we booked two more cruises.  Since then, hubby and I have spent quite a bit of time discussing our plans and decided to change them completely.

No, this doesn’t mean we’ve cancelled the cruises.  That would be crazy!!!!!

We simply changed the cruises.

Both cruises will be to the Caribbean, which is my favorite winter destination.

This winter we will be traveling again on Allure of the Seas.


This time though we’ll be heading to Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

The following winter we will be on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Symphony of the Seas.

Image result for symphony of the seas

She is so new in fact, that she is still being built and won’t sail until Spring, 2018.  Cruises will begin in Mediterranean before she sails to the U.S. in October, 2018.

On Symphony we’ll visit St. Kitts, St. Thomas and the Bahamas.

So what kinds of things can the girls be learning between now and our cruises?

  1.  How cruise ships are built?
  2.  History and facts on each of the islands we will be visiting.
  3.  Caribbean sea life.
  4.  Caribbean geography.

The possibilities are endless.



The End of our Cruise

It was our final morning and as always, I got up to head out to the balcony.  As predicted, it was foggy.  Very foggy!  We were sitting still off the Texas coast waiting on the Port Authority to give permission to come into dock.  In the distance, we could see some other ships, but the fog was thick enough that it was hard to tell just how close or how far away they were.

Regardless of the fog, the ship’s crew needed to stick to schedule as much as possible and since the Windjammer was only open for a few hours on our last morning, we got dressed and headed upstairs for some breakfast.

The Windjammer is extremely packed on two days of a cruise – Day 1 and Day 7 – and it was packed full of passengers.  Most were looking sad and tired as they stood in different lines to get their food.  Tables were difficult to find, but our friend Gena (you can read about Gena here) helped us find a table and we were soon making our way thru the crowd for our farewell breakfast.

Word from the Captain was that we would be pulling into port sometime after 10:00, but everyone needed to be out of their staterooms by 9:00.  Even though we couldn’t leave the ship, the crew still needed to get everything set up and ready for the new passengers that would be getting on the ship later that day.  So we stayed in our room as long as we could and then headed to our assigned place to await our departure information.

You might think it was exciting news that our ship was delayed getting into port, but with most everything shut down in preparation for the next cruiser’s arrival, all we could do was sit and wait.  There were a couple of places open for drinks and food, but it was primarily just sit and wait.

Finally, 3 hours after our original disembarkation time, we were getting off the ship.  After the long wait, it wasn’t quite as sad leaving the ship 🙂

The check out process, like the check in process, went pretty smoothly.  We stood in line, but the line continued to move steadily.  We found our luggage quickly and stood in another line waiting to get thru customs.  Once thru customs, we headed to our assigned spot to catch the shuttle to the cruise parking lot and soon were on our way to Houston to drop our friends off for their flight back home.

Hubby and I both agree that while we enjoyed our cruise this year, we enjoyed our cruise on Allure a little bit more.  Liberty of the Seas is a nice ship, with lots of activities to keep everyone busy.  The food and service were wonderful.  The shows were entertaining.  The pool area was very nice and we left our cruise with lots of wonderful memories.

Would we take another cruise on Liberty, absolutely!  However, we are more interested in cruising on Allure again and trying out some of Royal Caribbean’s other ships.  For a matter-of-fact, we left the ship with our European cruise scheduled but we scheduled a second cruise as well.  Right now we’re scheduled to go back to the Western Caribbean in December, but will likely change our itinerary and head back to the Eastern Caribbean or to the Southern Caribbean in January of 2018 .   We have some time to decide and with our reservations already made, it will be easy to change.

For now I’ll say Bon Voyage and leave you with more pictures from our week on Liberty of the Seas in the Western Caribbean.


















Day 6 – At Sea

We boarded the ship full of happiness and excitement about the week ahead, then suddenly our trip was coming to an end.   Yet, with a full day ahead of us, we were determined to enjoy it even though we knew tomorrow was D-day (disembarkation day).

I headed out to the balcony for one last morning at sea, but the sun was rising on the other side of the ship, so no photos.  Then we headed to the Windjammer for breakfast and later for lunch.  The girls enjoyed time in Adventure Ocean and at the pool.  We also went ice skating.

I’m on the ice helping Naomi get onto the ice.  Until this day, I hadn’t been ice skating in well over 20 years.  It was Naomi’s first time.
Now Lili is getting on the ice.  While I won’t go into a lot of detail, her ice skating experience was not a pleasant one for her.  We found out later that her skates were too big and she ended up with bruises on her arms from trying to hold herself up on the wall and not fall down.  She made it around one time, very slowly and then she was done.  I don’t think ice skating is in her future, but she can now say she’s been ice skating.
Naomi was slowly getting the hang of it and having a lot of fun on the ice. 

After ice skating and some pool time, we got ready for our last dinner in the dining room.

We really had some fantastic meals on board.  Each evening we sat at the same table with the same servers, which meant they knew us by name, knew what drinks we liked, what kind of bread we liked, etc.

This is Gena!  She was the assistant to our waiter and I swear she was the happiest staff member on board.  She greeted us each evening, but was also in the Windjammer each morning greeting everyone.  She was the one who taught us how to make the napkin cat ears that Naomi enjoyed wearing at dinner each evening.
I have no idea what she was doing here, but probably singing.  She and Gena got along very well.
Here is Gena with Lili, Naomi and our friend Grace.
This is Louie.  He was our waiter all week, providing us with wonderful service.  He also entertained us with magic tricks. 

After dinner, the girls went to Adventure Ocean one last time while our friends and I went to the theater on board to watch the Broadway show, Saturday Night Fever.  We had been waiting for it all week.

With everything packed and ready to go, I put our luggage in the hall to be collected and taken to the holding area for our departure the next morning.  However, we weren’t sure what time our departure would be the next morning as the Captain had announced that the Port Authority in Galveston was warning of thick fog which meant ships could not come into port.  We headed to bed knowing we would get more information the next morning and a little excitement that maybe our cruise wasn’t going to end quite as soon as we thought.



Day 5 – Continued

Day 5 was jammed packed with activity.  Instead of writing much, I’ll just post some photos Lili and I took while snorkeling as well as some photos from the Dream Works parade.  The underwater photos are not the best quality.  What we saw was much better than what the camera captured, but at least you can get a small glimpse of our experience.










Lili absolutely loved snorkeling and is interested in learning how to scuba dive. She is almost old enough, so we’ll be checking into scuba diving classes in the not too distant future.









Day 5 – Cozumel

We woke up to another beautiful day, but due to where our room was on the ship and the direction we were traveling, I wasn’t able to get a sunrise photo 😦  I’m sure it was beautiful though.  Yet I still had to take a picture of the morning.


I still set out on the balcony taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean.  I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of a couple of dolphins as we approached port, but not having my camera ready, I wasn’t able to get any photos of them.

During breakfast, we were joined by Allure of the Seas.  We sailed on Allure last year and it was good to see her again.


Here they are next to each other.

After breakfast, we got off the ship and headed to our excursion location.  We were going on a snorkeling and beach excursion, so Lili was pretty excited about the day.  She learned to snorkel on our cruise last year and was anxious to try out her skills once again.

A note to anyone going to Cozumel, don’t try to take fresh food into port.  We had grabbed a few bananas to have as snacks and had to throw them away before they would let us into Cozumel.  I have no idea what they do with all the food they collect, but they had collected quite a bit and it was sad to think it was going to be tossed.

It was only a short walk to the end of a pier near the cruise port and within a few minutes of arriving, a catamaran pulled up and we were soon on board.  Our excursion was with a company called Fury Catamarans and they wasted no time getting everyone on board, handing out snorkel equipment to those who were snorkeling.  Before long we were on our way while our tour guide gave us instructions, keeping us entertained as he spoke.  After he was done, we were free to move about the boat while we made our way to the reef, which was also a great time to get some photos.


Parasailing looks like fun, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to actually do it.

Not sure I can ever get enough of the blue ocean water.  It is so beautiful!!

We’re getting further away from port.


These two love being on the boat.


They are having too much fun!


Hubby was enjoying himself as well.

And then we arrive at the reef.  It was time to put on our snorkel gear and get in the water.

Naomi was too scared to try snorkeling this year, so she and hubby stayed on board and took pictures.


Snorkel time!


The water was a little cooler than I expected, but it didn’t take long to get used to it.


The fish and the reef were AMAZING!!!  I’ll share underwater photos in a separate post.

Lili and I snorkeled for about 30 minutes and then headed back to the boat.  A few minutes later, everyone was on board and we headed to the next part of our excursion.

Beach time!!!

This is Naomi’s idea of water time.  She knows how to swim, but isn’t sure of her abilities yet.  Hopefully another summer in our pool is all she will need.

This beach had some fun water play equipment as well.


Lili worked and worked and worked trying to get up this slide.  It was missing a handle and she finally gave up and moved on to this slide.






Lili had a great time trying out the different play equipment.

Naomi, on the other hand, had a great time collecting shells and coral pieces again.


And covering her body in sand.


We spent about 1 1/2 hours at this beach and it was wonderful.  We enjoyed the sand, the water, the sun and the drinks that were included as part of our excursion.

Too soon we were back on the boat for our trip back to the ship.  Little did we know that it would become the party barge on the way back.

They served drinks and the crew lead everyone in dancing the Macarena, YMCA, a Conga line and a couple other dances.

Hubby and Lili sat back and watched the dancing.  Naomi and I, on the other hand, joined right in and had an awesome time.

Once we were back on shore, we headed into Cozumel to do a little shopping.

But first we needed to get a picture of the girls with this guy.



Out of all the stops on this cruise, I was looking forward to Cozumel the least.  We had been there on our first cruise and while we had a good time, it wasn’t anything spectacular in my book.  This time, Cozumel was my favorite port stop out of the three.  The excursion was fantastic and the next time we return to Cozumel, we will be going on another Fury Catamaran snorkel and beach excursion.

Day 5 was packed full of fun and activity, including a Dream Works parade.  I’ll share those photos in a later blog post as well.

Adios for now!




Day 4 – Belize

Sunrise on Day 4

When I went out to the balcony to take my sunrise photos on Day 4, I saw land and a short time later the ship dropped anchor a few miles off the coast of Belize.  The only way to Belize and the islands were via tenders that would be running every 30 minutes while at port.

Our tender to our excursion was leaving a little later in the morning, so we were able to take our time getting ready, which was a nice change from the previous day.

The tender took us to Starfish Island off the coast of Belize for a few hours of sun, ocean, food and drink.

The girls had a great time playing in the water and building things with sand.


They also spent quite a bit of time collecting shells and pieces of coral.  However the big find of the day was a conch shell Lili found.


Everything was returned to the water before we left.

It was called Starfish Island for a reason.





Naomi was not interested in getting in the water with the starfish or touching them.  She did pose for this photo though.


As the after went on, the cloud started moving in and before long it began raining. We got back to our tender just before the downpour, but before it began raining, I managed to get some good pictures from our time at Starfish Island.





Overall, it was a nice day on the island, but I was pretty disappointed with our stop in Belize.  I had really wanted to see Belize and didn’t know that our excursion wouldn’t take us into Belize City.  By the time we returned, there wasn’t enough time left to catch a tender into Belize and spend any time there.

We returned to the ship, got cleaned up and by that time the rain clouds were gone and we enjoyed a game of miniature golf.

Last year, Naomi held her golf club upside down. This year, she got a hole in one on her first shot 🙂 Wish I could say the rest of her game went well, but all had a good time playing and then it was time to pose for some more pictures.


Lili was good for one picture, but Naomi was all about finding different back drops for her photo ops.





Soon the ship pulled anchor and we were sailing once again.  We enjoyed another wonderful dinner in the dining room and turned in early for our early excursion departing the next morning.

Day 3 – Roatan

The sunrise as we approach Roatan, Honduras.

When we booked our cruise, the port I was most excited to visit was Roatan.  Finally, we were there and I was excited to get off the ship for our day on land.



We had an excursion scheduled, so after breakfast, we got off the ship and waited for our escort to lead us to our departure spot.


Soon we were on our way.


Our excursion group loaded onto a bus and drove to the other side of the island where we boarded a glass bottom boat for a ride out to see the coral reef.


Our tour guide was a marine biologist who told us about the different kinds of coral, how the female fish lay their eggs in the sea grasses to protect them from predators, and how global warming is causing the reef to die out.  We need the coral reef for many, many reasons and must do what we can to protect this earth and all her inhabitants.

The next stop on our excursion was the west end where we were treated to an ethnic dance before heading out to do some shopping.


Before shopping though, we stopped at a little grocery store with an outdoor café for a taste of some Honduran food.


After a quick-lunch and some purchases, we got back on the bus and headed to a cameo factory.

Honestly, I was underwhelmed with Roatan.  It’s possible that my expectations were just too high or maybe we simply chose the wrong excursion.  However, I did expect more.

We very much enjoyed the glass bottom boat.  We did enjoy trying some of the food.  I found the dance to be interesting.  I thought our bus tour guide was very informative and easy to listen to.  Yet I left wanting more and feeling a bit disappointed.

Maybe we’ll return one day to visit again.  After all, first impressions aren’t always the best.

Day 2 – At Sea

One of my favorite parts of the day was to get up before the rest of my family, grab my camera and head out to our balcony for sunrise photos.  Typically, I would be joined a few minutes later by one or both girls, but those few minutes in the morning, with only the sunrise and sound of the ocean were so beautiful and relaxing.

Dream Works Character Breakfast!

Lili’s cupcake decorating class creations.

Naomi’s cupcake decorating class creations.

Liberty of the Seas has many activities for their guests and the girls really enjoyed decorating cupcakes.  We had done it last year on Allure of the Seas, but only decorated one cupcake and got to pick out a second cupcake.  Decorating three cupcakes was a much better deal and everyone had a good time.


It was formal night in the dining room.  Lili despises dressing up, but agreed to this shirt with a cute black skort and black sandals.  Not sure who she is looking at in this photo, but this was our dining room table every night of the cruise.  We very much enjoyed our dining room experience on Liberty of the Seas.  Our waiter and assistant were awesome and we had wonderful meals each night.


Our wait staff assistant taught everyone in her section how to use a napkin to create cat ears.  Naomi’s are a little askew, but she thought it was awesome and was creating and wearing cat ears at some point each evening at dinner. 

Another nice day at sea!



Day 1 – At Sea

Just some photos from our first day at sea.

Enjoying the morning on our balcony!
The prettiest girls on the ship!!!!
The girls wanted to get a picture of me.  And I love the blue ocean!!!!!
We were having fun taking pictures around the ship.


The girls were really into posing!


And then it was my turn to pose.

We had a pretty relaxing day on the ship.  For a matter-of-fact, I think hubby was napping while the girls and I were out exploring and taking photos.




Cruise Day

I had every intention of having my first blog post completed and ready for your viewing pleasure, but was having some technical difficulties all day yesterday and this morning.  I don’t know what the problem was, but it seems to be resolved now and I’m happy to begin sharing pictures and details about our 7-Night cruise adventure.

Let me begin by saying, our cruise was nice.  I can’t say it was fantastic, although there were certainly some fantastic moments.  Hubby and I did spend the week comparing our cruise from last year, to this year and I’ll share some of those thoughts with you along the way.

We had driven from our home in the DFW area to Houston where we picked up a friend and her daughter who were joining us on the cruise.  After a night in a hotel, we drove into Galveston and parked at Discount Cruise Parking.


It was very reasonably priced for the week and the staff were very friendly and helpful.  They helped unload our luggage onto a cart while we waited for the shuttle to arrive.

Lili with Hedwig the Owl.  She calls him her cruise buddy since he has now gone on two cruises with her.
Naomi didn’t want her picture taken.  Notice the flamingo shoes she picked out for the cruise.  They were quite a match to her anchor pants and shirt.
They say everything is bigger in Texas.  That includes the flip-flops.

We only waited a few minutes for the shuttle to arrive and it was a short drive from there to our cruise port.

And there she is . . . . . Liberty of the Seas!!

The photographer was trying to quickly take a photo of the ship.  Obviously, she didn’t do a good job getting the camera straight for the shot 🙂

It was a little cooler than I would have liked and although you can’t see it here, it did get a bit cloudy by sail time.  Overall, I would say it was a pretty good day weather-wise.

A friend and her daughter joined us on this cruise.  I was so happy and excited they were able to take a vacation with us.  They are still in Illinois and with us now in Texas, we don’t get to see each other very often.  Now we had the chance to spend a week together sailing the ocean blue.  But first we had to board the ship.

Our first stop at port was security.  We were hoping for a much better experience from last year in Ft. Lauderdale, where there was virtually no organization and everyone was unsuccessfully trying to figure out where the lines were.  Instead, we all followed the people in front of us,  but with so many different lines of people, everyone was jockeying for position.  It was not fun at all.  In Galveston, everything was very well-organized and we moved along smoothly and pretty quickly considering there hundreds of people in front of us.  In all, it took maybe 30 minutes.

After security, we moved on to check-in where we had to present our passports (I.D.) and get our Sea Pass cards.  The Sea Pass cards become our identification, room key and credit card while on board.  It is also mandatory that security scans all Sea Pass cards when getting off and back on the ship at each port of call.  No need to carry anything but the Sea Pass card while on the ship.  It’s really quite nice.

By noon, we were on board and in the Windjammer for lunch.  The Windjammer is Royal Caribbean’s buffet dining.  Like all the other cruises, it was packed full of hungry and excited cruisers, so finding a place to sit was a bit challenging.  Thankfully, we found a group who was just getting ready to leave, so hubby and one of the staff stalked the table for us while we headed off to fill our plates.

We were just finishing lunch when they announced that all staterooms were ready, so we headed out to find our rooms.

This is a shot from our balcony into the room.  We got a balcony room for the first time last year and won’t ever go back to an inside or outside stateroom.  Each evening, our stateroom attendant would come in while we were at dinner and pull out the sofa, which converts to a bed.  That is where the girls slept each night.  The room had plenty of room in the closet and drawers to store all our clothing for the week.

Ours was on Deck 10 and in a really good location.  Just a short walk down the hallway and one flight of stairs up to the Windjammer and the pool deck.  It was only two flights of stairs up to Adventure Ocean, which was our next stop.

Adventure Ocean, which we commonly refer to as the “Kid’s Club” is Royal Caribbean’s program for kids.  It is broken down by age group, however, since we tend to sail during the school year (thanks to homeschooling), they typically combine the 6 – 8 yr olds with the 9 – 11 yr olds.  They work hard to make it a fun-filled place for kids to enjoy their own cruise experience, away from their parents and the girls were looking forward to spending some time in Adventure Ocean.

After filling out the necessary paperwork for Adventure Ocean, we went to check out the pool area and wait for the ship to sail.

Liberty of the Seas is an older ship that recently went thru renovations.  Part of those renovations were adding in water slides and a splash park for the kids.

The splash park had smaller water slides for younger kids.  Larger water slides for older kids and adults were at the other end of the ship.

We were really impressed and looking forward to spending many hours over the upcoming week enjoying our time in and around the pool.

Before we knew it, we were leaving port and heading out to sea.

The girls were ready and anxious to try out the pool, but they did want to see us sail away first.

The girls didn’t spend much time watching us sail off before they were ready to start the real fun of their cruise.

She is letting me know that the water is pretty cold. 


The hot tub is much more up Naomi’s ally and hubby’s too.  Neither of them handle cold water well at all.  By this point, Lili also needed to warm up

By 6:00, we were dried off, dressed and heading to the Main Dining Room for dinner.  Last year, hubby and I weren’t pleased with our dining room experience.  Primarily, we weren’t impressed with our server, but it didn’t take us long to realize that this time around we would be enjoying a scrumptious dinner in the dining room every evening.

The girls were anxious to go to Adventure Ocean, so we dropped them off after dinner and enjoyed a little kid-free time on the ship before we all turned in for the night.

Our cruise day was done, we were tired, happy and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before our first full day at sea.