Well, hello. I promise I’m still around! We returned home safely from our trip 15 days ago. We walked into a house that was ripped apart from the remodel and between that and starting the school year earlier this week, I just have not taken the time to blog. I could barely find a chair or my computer – or much spare time – to collect my thoughts.
I have noticed a lot of traffic on my blog lately though so that would lead me to believe that a few have found me via Optifast searches or through the links by other awesome bloggers out there. So, if you are a new reader, welcome!
I started a really long blog post during our trip but that all seems like ancient history now. I’ll summarize it briefly here. It was AWESOME! We had such a great time together as a family. We spent a bit more time racing around rather than relaxing, but we did get a few blissful days of downtime too. We started out with several days in Orlando to see the new Harry Potter theme parks at Universal Orlando. I am not a huge HP fan, but they were very cool and well done. The crowds were large and the temperature and humidity were high, but neither were quite as bad as I imagined they would be. We did brave the line for the new HP ride which we heard had been as long as 7 hours the week before. We waited about 3 hours, despite a sign telling us the wait was 1.5. Oh well, we had fun!
Moving on, we barely got back down to Fort Lauderdale in time to catch our ship. I’m not sure what we were thinking cutting it so close but I hated that we were so stupid. But, we made it on and were absolutely amazed at how beautiful the Oasis of the Seas was. This is one of the largest cruise ships in the world and it was sold out….I heard something like 6500 passengers were on board. The amazing thing was that, most of the time, we hardly felt like there were that many. Our stateroom was a family suite with an ocean view. Paul
and I had a large king bed, we had a pull out sofa for my oldest, and the younger two had bunk beds. We had a large sitting area and a balcony with two chairs and a table – and a gorgeous blue ocean out our sliding door. Being able to unpack our suitcases and settle in for 7 days was heavenly. No driving. No packing and repacking. No more hotel check in and check outs.
The ship had plenty to keep us occupied. We saw lots of great shows. The kids had a blast on their own on the ship – my youngest really enjoyed the Kids Club and we gave her privileges to sign herself in and out. There was more than one night we were all ready for bed after midnight and she wasn’t back in the room yet – and she’s only 10! We had 3 port stops. In Nassau, Bahamas we had a short amount of time at the port so we skipped the expensive excursions and, following some leads I got online, found the local bus and headed across the island to an area where some nice beach resorts are and bought hotel guest day passes to enjoy their beach and pool. We sat out on lounge chair in the white sand and played in the warm water. They had kayaks and stand up paddle boards so I checked one item off my bucket list and that was to try the paddle board. It was really fun! I took my first of several “bathing suit” pictures on the beach.
We really enjoyed our days at sea, there was plenty to do on the ship and it was nice to know we had the whole day to just relax. I brought my running clothes and really did enjoy running on the ship’s track, which was located on Deck 5 and had some awesome views! It was pretty warm and humid though! I ran out on the track 2 of the days and the other day at sea I used the gym on the ship, which had lots of treadmills and ellipticals, as well as a full weight room. I liked the motivational signs they had hanging from the ceiling along the track – “Tonight’s Dessert Can Be Guilt Free”. My eating was really not good on-board the ship, but that was part of my “plan” – to not worry about it. I did hope to take it easy on the drinks/alcohol but we sort of made the mistake of buying pretty expensive all-inclusive drink packages and, me being so cheap, kind of felt like I should get my money’s worth. They had some really yummy frozen cocktails and the bars were so plentiful and accessible. It was not hard to over-indulge. Again, it was a vacation…
The second port we went to was St. Thomas and I had booked an excursion with a sailboat captain to take us out to Turtle Cove to snorkel. It was another gorgeous day and the ship and crew were very friendly. There were about 20 of us on board, so it was small and very relaxed. It was great to just hang our feet off the side of the sailboat while the warm waves hit them and we sailed in the Caribbean. I was a tiny bit nervous about snorkeling, not sure why, but it was really fun. We did see quite a few sea turtles and were able to swim right by them. I loved that I didn’t feel self conscious at all hanging out on the boat in my swimsuit and that I could easily maneuver on and off the boat with my snorkel stuff on. I think so much of the trip would have been different if I were still uncomfortably large.
The next day we arrived in St. Maarten and we had our biggest excursion planned. The kids had wanted to swim with dolphins and although it was really pricey for all 5 of us to do it, I realized that this “bucket list” item could be accomplished in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, and in a somewhat natural habitat. We took a long ferry ride from St. Maarten to the island of Anguilla. The dolphin habitat and pens are actually built in the ocean. We were divided into very small groups and led down to swim while the other groups hung out on the beach. The water was an amazing blue color and very warm – the sand was white. Gorgeous. With life jackets on and brief instructions from our photographer that would be with us, we each took turns doing certain poses with the dolphins. We each got to be pushed on a boogie board by our feet by the dolphin, ride on the dolphin’s belly (my favorite), get a kiss, give a kiss, swim out in the middle and “hold” the dolphin while she swam into your arms, dance with her, and have her touch her nose to our hand. The photographer caught some great photos of everyone in our family and sold them to us for a small fortune (no cameras were allowed out there, of course, so they can make lots of money on this “bucket list” experience that you want to have documented).
Again, it felt awesome to not cringe when I saw the pictures. I think my arms look pretty damn good – I wasn’t critical at all, just happy. I want to look at the photos and remember how great it was to be with the dolphins and not what I looked like, which shouldn’t matter.
The cruise ended the following Saturday morning and we took a few hours to visit the Florida Everglades and see some alligators from an air boat before our flight home. We also met up with one of my friends from college that drove down with her husband and kids. That was fun to catch up a little after many years. We, of course, raced back to the airport because we didn’t give ourselves enough time – and then we realized that my suitcase had not made it into the rental car that we had for the day. After searching all over the rental car terminal, I finally had to give up and head to the US Airways terminal and catch our flight. I was so frustrated and bummed to lose my suitcase and a ton of my new (skinny) clothes – fortunately I packed my old Asics and not my new Brooks running shoes. As of today, 15 days later, it still has not been found – which I don’t understand because I had a name tag on it, etc. I can’t blame anyone but us – no airline involved or anything. I’m sure at this point, the clothes inside are so disgusting from the damp humid air – and a lot of it was my running clothes and shoes. Yuck.
Anyway, we made it home and returned to reality of back-to-school, the remodel, sports, and gymnastics. It’s all good though, we have some pretty awesome memories….and an extra 5-8 pounds to work off now!