Monday, December 31, 2012

A Happy Anniversary Trip

On Friday we got one more day "at sea" - which simply means you do things on the ship rather than off.  I finally went swimming with the boys, but it wasn't that warm.  The ship movement makes some cool wave action though!

At 3pm they have an Afternoon Tea in the dining room and although we missed the Dutch High Tea on Monday this day we went to the Indonesian Tea.  There was no formal ceremony, but they had little Indonesian style treats with our Indonesian Tea.

It was nice to sit and relax for a few minutes.  Seriously, I'm not sure cruising is all that relaxing with all the things going on!  But it was nice to have my laundry and cooking done for me for a week!

One of the servers in her Indonesian Dress.  Notice that I'm the under dressed one, whoops.

All the dining room staff and housekeeping were from Indonesia and all the bar staff and kitchen staff were from the Philippines.  Holland America has one school in each place to teach the staff.  I suppose it could be helpful that all the staff has the same language/culture.  And I noticed that I think those with the better English get to work in the dining room while those with less are the housekeepers.  They are all really nice, but it was next to impossible to talk to the house keepers when we needed anything different than the norm.

The had a crew show at 11pm one night that I really wanted to go to, but I was already low on sleep so I missed that one.  We only went to one show, called Recycled Percussion.  It was super fun though.  Four guys playing drums on recycled trash cans and lots of other things.  And they gave the audience all a drum stick and a discarded pot or pan. (also ear plugs)  I think they said these guys had been on America's Got Talent and now have a show in Vegas.  It would be worth going to!

Since we were at sea it was the last Formal Night - the Farewell Dinner even though we still had one more night on the ship.  And yes, my children are at the stage where they don't take pictures well... oh well!

All the staff came out to sing for us and they encouraged us to swing our napkins... poor Uncle Kevin!

And this night we celebrated my parent's 40th anniversary (which was actually just on Saturday).  This was the reason for our big family trip.  25th in Mexico, 40th in the Caribbean!

Yay for 40 years!

That's our server, Yassir, in the background.  He was really nice and helpful with all our issues (needed overcooked veggies for babies and GF food etc.)

Our present to them: a personalized map of our trip that we got at The Yoda Guy store in St. Maarten.

Our towel creation for the night.  It was supposed to be a dog I think, but to me it looks more like a pig!

It was Pirate Night in Club Hal.  Cory went a few nights after dinner and really enjoyed it.  Noah wasn't quite old enough, bummer.  I highly recommend to anyone that they don't take a cruise until their children are old enough to participate in the kids' activities.  It's very nice to have something just for them.

And this night was the "Dessert Extravaganza" at 10:30pm.  I went to see the ice sculptures they'd been carving that morning by the pool because the boys wanted a picture of the finished product.  I "think" this was supposed to be a swan, but I wasn't impressed.  It did not live up to the hype of some of the other cruises my parents have been on.

All the decorations from around the world were made of styrofoam and the desserts actually weren't all that good... except for the caramel or chocolate covered apples.

Me and my sis-in-law!  So happy she's better!

Her sense of humor still intact... this is a Tamarind bean... or a uni-brow, you pick!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

St. Maarten - The Gorgeous One

If I had to pick one place to go back to from our trip this would be it.  I'm not sure I'd ever even heard of St. Maarten before this, but it was so beautiful.

The Great Bay where we were swimming was perfect. Beautiful color, warm water, very little waves, and lots of interesting people to chat with.  One guy we met told us that he had been to many islands and beaches in the Caribbean and this was THE perfect beach! (This is also the famous island where the airplanes fly right over the beach to land, but that was around the bend in the next bay over)

It was quite warm out and a lovely Italian lady let me use one of her beach chairs to sit under the umbrella and nurse the girls so the boys could play a bit longer.  Her son is to the left of Brian in the picture above and Cory sort of made friends with him although I'm not sure they could understand each other.

Poor Noah came up to me and was shaking and complaining of being cold.  I thought he had gotten too much sun (although we'd only been there an hour) so was having him drink my water.  2 days later he ended up going to see the ship's doctor to get antibiotics because his neck was so swollen.  She thought he had mumps, but upon our return, a visit to the doctor, and then a baby sister with strep throat we think we finally know what he had.

Even sick Noah loves Yoda!

Our time on the island once again was short so we wandered through the main street a bit and came across the most random of all museums... That Yoda Guy.  This man was one of the original creators of Yoda for Star Wars and he has his private collection (it's quite extensive) of art and artifacts from the movies in an upstairs store.

For the price of a gift we purchased for my parents (the whole reason we even found the shop) he let the boys hold his light saber and take pictures.  He was very serious that they not "cut" anything with the lit part!  And he told us that in the original movie the light saber handles were rubber and plastic and anything they had lying around the shop that would hold a broomstick as the saber part!

In the museum part were some of the full size costumes including Darth Vader and some masks of famous actors.

There is so much history on this island too, half of it is Dutch and the other half French, but alas, we had to get back to the ship...

In the very touristy "port" where you get off the ships they had fun brightly decorated Christmas trees.  This one and one in blues and purples.  Poor boys, I forgot their sunglasses in the mad packing rush.

A late lunch for babies in the cabin... they didn't have to stand for their food most of the time, but it worked!  And the two pack'n plays in the cabin meant we had very little extra space.... This is the first time I can ever remember actually unpacking while on vacation because there was no place for the suitcases to go other than under the bed!

Our nightly animal... the elephant!

Three days of port stops in a row was a bit much, the next day was at sea thankfully!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Our port stop in San Juan was from 1 to 8pm.  My parents went off first and we stayed on with the kids for nap time.  I wandered up top the ship to get a few pictures in the daylight.

One of the Disney ships was in port next to us, the Fantasea.  They had a pretty sweet looking waterslide on the top of the ship...

My view of Fort San Cristobal from the front of the ship.

After my parents came back my mother-in-law, Cory, and I got off to see what could be seen in 2 hours... We actually got a taxi van with a really nice driver.  I think his name was Marvin Maldonado.  I'm sure on the last name as I went to school with some boys with that name, but I can't remember the first name for sure...

Cory wore his headband from Club Hal the night before so he was easy to spot...

Anyway, I had fun practicing my Spanish and I got maybe 60% of what he said.  He was giving us some history of the city so it was a bit hard to follow without a lot of context/pre-knowledge.

We said we wanted to go to the Fort San Cristobal, but he took us to El Morro instead.  Both of them closed just as we would have gotten there and I think he thought we would have better views from El Morro.  I have to admit, it was pretty spectacular!

While we didn't really get to go inside it was fun to walk around and think about this history that was there...

I don't get much time with just Cory so it was a good excursion for us even if it was getting dark and we had very limited time.

We visited El Catedral de San Juan Bautista - also sadly closed when we got there - which has the tomb of Ponce de Leon in it.

Then we turned around and walked down a pretty steep and narrow street to the only original gate to the city that is still standing.

A house along the way with Christmas decorations.

This was the gate that the dignitaries came in through.  The date on the door says 1749, but I either heard or read that it's not even the original door.  We don't have much history here that's that old so it's kinda cool.

Straight up through the gate and up the street is the church pictured above.

Walls to the old city, right on the shore.  Gate would be just out of the photo to the right.

Cory and Grandma in front of one of the giant trees there.  And the frogs were singing like crazy by this time!

Me and my silly son!

After this we went to one souvenir shop although it took me awhile to explain to the driver what I wanted because I couldn't remember the word for souvenirs.  Whoops!  He took us to a shop with native Taino crafts and we did find some cool stuff.  Cory picked out this mask called a vegigante.  They're made out of gourds traditionally and worn for carnival.  They all have horns of some kind which he thought was cool.  We just brought home a little souvenir one not a full size one though.

Then we took one last driving tour of a couple of streets (the square with a statue of Colon and the government buildings - they have a street with a bunch of US president statues on the sidewalk!) and then it was back to the ship.

Someday I would love to spend more than 2 hours in San Juan and/or Puerto Rico as a whole!  Brian and his dad did a rain forest zip line thing that took way longer than it should have due to some technical difficulties, but they got to see the tropical side of Puerto Rico.

Our bedtime turkey creation

And as we pulled out of port... the shoreline.  El Morro is to the far left, but it's a National Park and has no lights so you can't really see it. 

And that was Day 3...

Friday, December 28, 2012

On a Holiday Cruise

For the first time ever in my life I have now been on a cruise...a happy 40th anniversary cruise for my parents!  We were a party of 12 in 4 rooms with lots of fun to be had!

Once we finished our marathon almost 2 days to get there and were on the boat we had lunch in the Lido.  "Deck 9 - Lido" as the elevator and my boys would say every time!  This was the buffet and also the deck with the pools.  Cory discovered the penguins so we took a picture.

This is another Holland America ship loading up in port before we sailed off into the wild blue yonder!

Sunset at sea with just a bit of the shoreline lights still visible.

Hope just chillin' at dinner.  We had to "dress" for dinner even on the casual nights!

My brother and sister-in-law with Noah on the first formal night.  We had a really nice server named Yazzir (pronounced Ya-SEER) who by the third night was pretty good about bringing us gluten free toast with the regular bread and applesauce for the babies first thing.

Even babies get fancy!

Every night after dinner we came back to find some fun towel creations on our beds (with chocolate).  It cracked me up that the eyes were always crossed though!

Our first port stop was Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos.  I didn't take any pictures on shore except with my disposable waterproof camera so those will come later... I hope they turned out!  Yesterday they were sitting on my desk and the boys wanted to see the pictures from our snorkeling excursion... and I had to explain to them that they had to be sent away and developed first.  It was a hard concept to explain why we couldn't just put them on the computer and look at them!

All the tourist boats tied up now that the two ships were out to sea.  In the upper left is a small cargo ship washed ashore by Hurricane Sandy.  They're still waiting for it to be removed.  We snorkeled just farther past it and saw/touched a couple of nurse sharks as well as lots of pretty fish.  We then went the other way to Gibbs Cay and got to hold a sting ray.  That part wasn't nearly so impressive, but we had another chance later in the week that was much funnier...

Hope on a boat with Nana and Grandma.  I think Joy must have been sleeping when we went exploring... the girls were slightly on opposite schedules for the trip, which made it complicated.

Playing Patty Cake in the Crow's Nest.  These babies got a lot of love on the trip, which was good because there was no place for them to play other than in their Pack'n Plays in the room.

Mommy and Me!

And that was the end of the second full day on the boat...