Friday, May 22, 2015

Spring Break 2015 - Part 5 - Back at Sea

After three fun-filled days in ports, the last two days of our cruise were spent at sea. I was a bit surprised at how cool it was on the water. I had envisioned hot days spent lounging in the sun...not the case! It was partly cloudy, and quite breezy on the pool deck, but we still found plenty to amuse ourselves!

We saw a great magic/comedy show by Eric Buss. He was on America's Got Talent a few years ago, and now travels doing his act. Grant was so impressed that he decided he wanted his souvenir of the trip to be Eric's "How To" DVD. He was thrilled to get his picture taken with Eric, as well as get the DVD autographed. 

We played several games of shuffleboard. Boys vs. Girls, Kids vs. Parents, and every combination in between. Some of the games were pretty close and the competition was fierce!

We played Bingo in the lounge. While we were hoping to win big bucks, it didn't happen. But it killed a couple of hours and the kids had fun anticipating a win!

We watched a few movies in our room. More like the kids watched movies while Steve and I took naps! It was awesome!

We enjoyed more amazing food than should be legally allowed. Jack was the most adventurous of the kids, and tried something new at nearly every meal. He even ate sushi...and gave it a thumbs up! The Japanese Sushi restaurant was probably our favorite meal all week!

One of my hesitations about a cruise was the fear of getting Norovirus or some other crazy bug. With all those people in a contained space for an extended period of time, it's easy for viruses to travel like wildfire.

I was impressed with Norwegian's cleanliness. Staff members were constantly cleaning the general areas of the ship, and stationed outside of every restaurant was a staff member with a spray bottle of hand sanitizer, along with an automatic dispenser. The staff member would spray your hands and say "Washy Washy"...then as we rubbed our hands together, they would smile and say "Happy Happy"! It became our family joke...and stuck for several weeks after we returned home!

Every night while we were at dinner, our room steward Juniper would come and turn down our beds and leave a towel animal of some sort on the bed (or toilet!) with the schedule of events for the next day. These were some of our favorites.

What's with the tongue in pictures these days?
I don't get it!
The kids were amused by our Butler, Chris. Grant called him a few times making movie requests or asking other questions about activities on board. I was really proud of his courage in picking up the phone and calling, all on his own.

At the end of the show on the last night, nearly 200 staff members, representing every department on board the ship, came on stage to a rousing standing ovation.

It was really impressive to see how many staff members there are on a ship, and how hard they work day in and day out. Their contracts are for a minimum of 8 months, 7 days a week without a single day off. Most were from the Philippines, and many had young children back in the Philippines living with grandparents. I got a little emotional (big surprise, I know!) seeing all of them on stage, realizing the sacrifices so many were making in order to provide a better life for their families.

We so enjoyed the time together as a family. Our time with all three kids at home is quickly coming to an end...just two more spring breaks with Olivia before she heads off to college.

I feel so blessed that our kids enjoy each other's company and are good buddies (most of the time!). I hope those relationships continue as they grow into adulthood!

Steve and I commented that we were both pleasantly surprised with how much we enjoyed the cruise. It was a good mix of sightseeing and adventure, along with low-key relaxing. We will definitely do another one!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring Break 2015 - Part 4 - Puerto Vallarta

We pulled into Puerto Vallarta early Thursday morning. We had booked a zip lining shore excursion through the cruise, and were excited to get on our way!

We hopped on a bus, along with a few other families, and traveled about an hour outside of town into the jungle. Another example of how US driving laws vary from Mexican...the bus should have only held 12 passengers. But they crammed an extra (our boy of course!) in the front seat with Steve, and then Olivia sat on a padded milk crate behind the front passenger seat, facing the rear of the van. The crate was loose, but there was a seat belt bolted to the front seat that kept her from flying through the van as we zipped through the dirt roads!

We got all strapped into our harnesses, fitted with helmets and gloves, then went through a brief orientation by the very entertaining guides.

Over the course of the next two hours, we soared across nine zip lines and rappelled down two giant trees. I must admit, I was just a "little" terrified and screamed with exhilaration as I crossed every single one!

Grant was barely heavy enough to make it across the long lines!

We call this one "Jungle Monkey"!

This was my expression in most of the pictures...
a combination of fear and thrill!

Olivia is a rockstar. Seriously, this girl is so strong, so brave, and
not afraid of anything. She is my hero.

Jack was pretty quiet throughout the day, just taking it all in!

Grant sailed right down the rappelling lines!

Smile for the camera!

It felt like a very loonng way down!

Steve, Jack, and Olivia all climbed up a 200' rope ladder, walked across a tight rope, and then crossed a zip line on a wooden surf board. Grant wasn't quite tall enough to reach the safety line, so he and I hiked up and met the rest of the group at the top. He wasn't too pleased to be left out of that part of the adventure! (I, on the other hand, was a little relieved!)

It was an amazing day, and it is so fun to be at this stage with our family where we can experience adventures together!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring Break 2015 - Part 3 - Mazatlan

We docked in Mazatlan early on Wednesday morning. We had decided to just do our own thing, no pre-planned tours or excursions booked. We got off the boat and were greeted by multiple resort guides, offering us a day pass to their resort, with access to beach and pools. We accepted one of the offers, and hopped in a cab to the resort.

We spent the morning on the beach before it got too crazy with tourists and beach vendors. Seriously, if I had a dime for every person that walked by wanting to sell me silver, sunglasses, or braid my hair...

The kids had a ball splashing in the warm ocean waters, and Steve and I enjoyed lounging on chairs watching!

We saw a couple of guys offering parasailing, and asked Olivia if she wanted to give it a try. She hadn't seen anyone do it, but she is adventurous and brave and decided to go for it!

The second she took off, Grant was begging to do it too. I didn't think he was big enough (and was secretly hoping he wasn't!), but he marched right up to the guys and asked if he could do it...and much to my surprise, they said YES!

It was a little sketchy watching him take off...but before long, he too was sailing high above the ocean!

I was grateful to have both kids safely back on solid ground. Here's the guy that made it all happen!

By about noon, the beach was packed and we decided it was time to head on out. There's something about a jam-packed beach that doesn't necessarily scream "rest and relaxation"!

We headed into town to grab a bite, and found some good photo ops along the way.

Yep, we're classy like that!

Cheers to another great day!
We headed back to the ship by way of a golf cart cab. I think it legally should have only held three passengers. But the guy insisted he could fit all five of us, and proceeded to speed through the streets of Mazatlan. Jack held on for dear life, and Steve documented the whole thing. It was hilarious. And for Olivia, who is learning to drive, it was a good lesson on how lucky we are to live in the United States and have actual rules of the road to follow!

We capped off the night with a breathtaking view of the sunset as we sailed out of Mazatlan and continued our journey southward. Next stop. . . Puerto Vallarta!

Spring Break 2015 - Part 2 - Cabo San Lucas

Our first port stop was in Cabo. We had decided to do a ship-endorsed snorkeling excursion in Cabo. We got off the ship, and boarded a catamaran for an hour ride out into the Sea of Cortez. It was pretty windy, but plenty warm and it felt good to feel the cool ocean breeze!

Steve, Olivia, and Grant sat right on the edge for the ride out.

Cheers! Don't forget to hydrate!

Sailing past "Arches"
Jack stayed close to the center of the boat with me.

 This was the kids' first experience with snorkeling. They are all super strong swimmers, but Grant was a little freaked out when the tour guide announced that there had been some jellyfish sightings recently, so to proceed with caution. Grant got all his gear on, then laid down on the boat to practice breathing through the snorkel. It was hard to tell if he was really nervous, or just wanting to appear nervous. He's goofy that way sometimes...

We saw some really cool fish, the water was the perfect temperature, and it was super fun to be out there with the kids. Makes me think that we need to get to the Caribbean or Hawaii in the not too distant future where they can really see what it's like to swim with the fish!

Grant and I got back on the boat sooner than the other three, and enjoyed some cool drinks and snacks in the sunshine. I love this little squirrel of a kid. 

On the ride back to the ship, Grant got a little more adventuresome and "surfed" on the mesh at the front of the boat. We were heading into some pretty good waves, and he and the other kids were loving it! And no one fell overboard!

Our cruise ship in the background

It was windy!

When we got back into Cabo, we still had a few hours before the ship left again. Steve found a restaurant to hook up to wi-fi and check in with work while the kids and I did a little sightseeing.

Homer drinking a Corona. Perfect.

Grant thought this street performer was pretty cool!

This ATM machine cracked me up. "Cashola - Say hello to your money" funny!

We were all tired and a little sunburnt by the time we got back on the ship. We got cleaned up and enjoyed another yummy dinner, and were all ready for bed by the time we turned out the lights. Next stop...Mazatlan!