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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Day 3 – Roatan

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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.

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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.

Next Cruise

Every morning, we would head out to breakfast at the Windjammer and on our first sea day, the girls were anxious to go to Adventure Ocean.  So after breakfast we headed to Deck 12 and dropped them off for a morning of kid-filled fun and activities.

Hubby and I headed down to the pool deck, sat at a table, and got something to drink.  We sat there talking and enjoying the ocean view.  Our conversation centered on future travel plans and hubby asked me when we were going to go schedule our next cruise.  I don’t know for sure if it was the look on my face as I sat there in pure enjoyment as I sipped my drink while gazing out over the ocean or if in that moment he was caught up in the enjoyment of being on a cruise once again.  However, his question was unexpected as I thought we had made the decision to take a trip to Europe and that he was not interested in a European cruise.  None-the-less, I was very excited at the thought of having another cruise on our agenda for the future and quickly finished my drink so we could head down to the Next Cruise office.

Upon arrival, we discovered that many others were anxious to schedule their next cruise.  All the cruise agents were with customers and there were others waiting, so grabbed several cruise flyers and headed next door to Café Promenade to look them over while we waited.

A short time later a couple came in and sat across from us.  They saw the stack of flyers and asked which cruise we were scheduling.  I told them I was interested in a cruise to the Southern Caribbean out of Puerto Rico, but was also interested in taking a European cruise and then spending another week in Europe after the cruise.  With confidence, they told me we should go on the European cruise.

As the conversation continued, we found out that this couple was celebrating their 66th Wedding anniversary.  They started cruising in 1999 and have gone on over 100 cruises, all but a handful had been on Royal Caribbean and they were part of the Royal Crown and Anchor Society’s Pinnacle club.  They knew a thing or two about cruising and we were more than willing to listen to their expert advice.

They also told us about their two sons and grandchildren.  They talked about their pre-retirement life and about some of the cruises they’ve taken.  The conversation was maybe 15 or 20 minutes, but it was a precious few minutes that we will always remember.

We headed back to the Next Cruise office, waited a few more minutes and sat down to book our next cruise.  We discussed option and when we left the office, we had booked our cruise to . . . . . . . .

Europe!!

It is scheduled for this fall, but once Royal Caribbean releases their 2018 European cruise dates, we’ll be pushing it out into 2018.

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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.

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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.

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Lili with Hedwig the Owl.  She calls him her cruise buddy since he has now gone on two cruises with her.
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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.
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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

More Cruise Photos

I finally got the photo situation resolved.

Here are more pictures from our cruise.

Our Little Mermaid
Our Little Mermaid

 

Approaching our Dolphin Encounter excursion at Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas.
Approaching our Dolphin Encounter excursion at Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas.

 

This is Cacique. We were able to get in the water with him. It was an awesome experience.
This is Cacique. We were able to get in the water with him. It was an awesome experience.
I love the towel origami our state room attendant left for us.
I love the towel origami our state-room attendant left for us.

 

More towel origami.
More towel origami.

 

Okay, I am a bit obsessed with the towel origami.
Okay, I am a bit obsessed with the towel origami.
Naomi really wanted to get her picture taken next to this car. It was parked on the ship.
Naomi really wanted to get her picture taken next to this car. It was parked on the ship.

 

Royal Caribbean has a program for the kids called Adventure Ocean. The girls loved it and one day they decorated bandanas and did a Pirate Parade. Naomi was in character.
Royal Caribbean has a program for the kids called Adventure Ocean. The girls loved it and one day they decorated bandanas and did a Pirate Parade. Naomi was in character.

 

Hubby forgot about the time difference and his alarm ended up going off much earlier than we needed to rise. Even though we were all tired, Lili was happy to give me smiles.
Hubby forgot about the time difference and his alarm ended up going off much earlier than we needed to rise. Even though we were all tired, Lili was happy to give me smiles.

 

Perfect princess chairs.
Perfect princess chairs.
Some of the cruises on Royal Caribbean have DreamWorks characters. So we did a character breakfast one morning. This was on the wall in the dining room. Each state is made from license plates in that state.
Some of the cruises on Royal Caribbean have DreamWorks characters. So we did a character breakfast one morning. This was on the wall in the dining room. Each state is made from license plates in that state.
The menu from our character breakfast.
The menu from our character breakfast.
Gloria joined the World of Weeks for a photo op.
Gloria joined the World of Weeks for a photo-op.

 

And Alex joined us for a photo op.
And Alex joined us for a photo-op.

 

King Julian needed to get in on the action.
King Julian needed to get in on the action.

 

Later that day we caught up with Mort on the Boardwalk.
Later that day we caught up with Mort on the Boardwalk.

 

Tableside Junkboxes. So fun!
Tableside Jukeboxes. So fun!

 

What's better than a Rootbeer Float? Sharing a Rootbeer Float.
What’s better than a root beer float? Sharing a root beer float.

 

Then getting up to dance with some of the crew at Johnny Rockets.
Then getting up to dance with some of the crew at Johnny Rockets.

 

My beautiful girls in Central Park on Allure of the Seas.
My beautiful girls in Central Park on Allure of the Seas.

 

Snorkling at St. Thomas
Snorkling at St. Thomas

 

Once Lili got the hang of it, she was all about snorkeling.
Once Lili got the hang of it, she was all about snorkeling.
Like I said, she loved snorkeling.
Like I said, she loved snorkeling.
Naomi was all about looking for shells.
Naomi was all about looking for shells.
There's our ship.
There’s our ship.
Daddy and daughter.
Daddy and daughter.
Our last stop before heading back to the U.S.
Our last stop before heading back to the U.S.

 

Hubby and I bought new wedding rings. After all, this was a 30-yr anniversary cruise, so why not get new wedding rings.
Hubby and I bought new wedding rings. After all, this was a 30-yr anniversary cruise, so why not get new wedding rings.
Even with the clouds, St. Maarten was beautiful.
Even with the clouds, St. Maarten was beautiful.

 

Our St. Maarten lunch spot. The girls stayed on board enjoying time in Adventure Ocean while hubby and I spent our day together.
Our St. Maarten lunch spot. The girls stayed on board enjoying time in Adventure Ocean while hubby and I spent our day together.

 

Great name for a restaurant.
Great name for a restaurant.
Look at all those ships! We were on Allure of the Seas. She was the largest of them all.
Look at all those ships! We were on Allure of the Seas. She was the largest of them all.
Pirate ship!
Pirate ship!
Lili and her cupcake creation.
Lili and her cupcake creation.
Naomi and her cupcake creation.
Naomi and her cupcake creation.
Hubby was imitating the way his octopus looked on his cupcake.
Hubby was imitating the way his octopus looked on his cupcake.

 

My cupcake creation.
My cupcake creation.

 

These are just a few highlights from our cruise.  Hope you enjoyed them.