Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Prelude to a Cruise: 2014

Rob and I had been on three cruises together (I've blogged about the last two, the first one was over shadowed by a terrible stomach illness).  We kept saying we would take the kids at some point, but hadn't felt they were old enough yet to really appreciate it, and behave, and make it not too much work for ourselves.  This past summer though, we thought we weren't going to be able to go to the family timeshare in Florida again, so we started seriously looking at cruises (it turns out we could have gone after all).  We had casually looked at cruises on and off since the last one, but this time, it was getting serious.
 In August, we found a cruise in October that appealed to us, but we couldn't get adjoining rooms and felt that giving a Christmas present two months early would mean trouble come Christmas Day.  We found another one that had a great iternary, in January, leaving from Port Canaveral.  However, once we looked into the logistics and cost of transfering 7 people (more on that later) from Ft Lauderdale to Pt Canaveral, we opted to pass.  Plus, we couldn't get adjoining rooms, just adjacent rooms (which I was fine with, but others weren't).

Finally, in late August, we settled on Independence of the Seas, leaving Saturday, Jan 18 from Ft. Lauderdale.  We could get adjoining rooms on deck 8, and a direct, affordable flight from Toronto with no baggage fees.  Rob's parents decided they would join us, and got a Promenade view room on deck 8.  We had also considered a family suite, but felt it wasn't worth the extra cost--you get only ONE bathroom!  We booked an airport shuttle to pick us up on Friday morning at 4:15am.  Oy. 
Rob and his mom worked really hard to find a hotel for the Friday night.  Our agent recommended the one we stayed at last time, but it was pricey!  They found a cheap hotel and booked it, but after reading the reviews, they cancelled!  Rob phoned the other place and asked about getting a government employee discount.  The manager confirmed that OPG is on the approved list, and we could book up to four rooms!  Funny thing...the other supervisor I work with in the kindergarten classes went on a cruise in December, and she also stayed there, another repeat customer!

It was really hard waiting and preparing!  Shopper's Drug Mart had a special points redemption day and I used all my points to get a Fugi waterproof camera.  SO excited about that!  I also picked up new bathing suits and flip flops for the kids, and other stocking stuffers, related to the sun and travel.  Rob bought a set of walkie-talkies as well.  I bought Rob a snorkel set. 
We debated how to actually give them the "gift" though.  Rob was going to make a PowerPoint presentation at work, but that didn't happen.  I wanted them to open all their stocking stuff, then the bigger items, thinking they would clue in at some point.  Lucy had been hinting that she knew, but really, we had talked about it sooooo much, and often said at dinner "Oh, you're not ready for a cruise since you just blew bubbles in your milk" etc.  We continued to look up cruises and pretend to try to pick one.  We did say that we weren't spending much on Christmas, since last year we had done some big gifts. 

On Christmas Eve, the kids got their new pajamas.  I had thought about getting them tropical themed ones, but that seemed too much work and too much of a hint.  Hugh's boxers did have pirate skulls on them though.
  Late Christmas Eve, Rob struggled to write up a letter telling the kids about the cruise gift:

Christmas morning, it all started as planned.  There wasn't a whole lot under the tree, but it didn't look too skimpy either (some of these were presents from a party that was cancelled due to the big ice storm):

 They started with their stockings like usual.  No one clued in to the mini bottles of hand sanitizer, or the sunscreen, or the after-sun spray, or the Sun In hair lightener, or the lip balms, or the floating straps for everyone's glasses....then we went on to the gifts.  Bathing suits...iTunes cards...snorkel set for Rob....can't even remember what else there was!  Then Rob brought out the three last ones.  I think next was the waterproof camera.  That was interesting, but not a hit.  Then the walkie talkies.  Not much reaction.  Then he gave them the letter and let Lucy read it (watch for Hugh's reaction):

I'm having trouble with blogger, trying to get the video, which was taken on my iPad and downloaded to the computer, loaded onto Blogger.  Tried using the iPad but Safari didn't want to play nice with Blogger.  Loaded the video to YouTube.  I think I got the right one above!
We started preparing in earnest, before Christmas we picked up a carry on suitcase at Value Village, and then after New Year's I found a great pink one!  Took the kids on a shopping spree to Value Village for some formal clothes (look how skinny Hugh is!!).

 Haircuts.  Made sure the kids took vitamins and probiotics.  Stocked up a travel first aid bag.  New memory card for the camera, floating strap for the waterproof camera, etc.  Discussed the layout of the ship and what checking in would be like.  It was amazing how many times we seemed to have to answer the same questions!

The Sunday before we were leaving, Hugh started feeling sick.  By Monday morning it was obvious he probably had street throat.  No problem, our doctor is in her office on Mondays!  Except for THAT Monday!  After lunch we endured the walk in clinic, and the drug store.  Luckily, Hugh's not much trouble when he's sick, but I hadn't expected to lose all of Monday!

Packing was fun.  We started early in the week, since I was going to take our dog to my parents on Wednesday and wouldn't be home till late.  Yet, somehow some kids didn't seem to have the clothes they were supposed to pack LOL.  We ate as much of the food from the fridge as possible.  I skipped band on Thursday night, and the kids were in bed by 9pm, but I didn't make it till 10:30.  Thank you melatonin!

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