Monday, November 2, 2015

Cruisn' The Carnival Freedom

In September, we took our first big vacation without Bean! We left Bean with my sister in Indiana while we headed out for a 7 day cruise to the Western Caribbean -- private island in Honduras, Belize, & Cozumel. 

(We helped Bean get read for the trip by having her spend a couple nights with Amber as a trial run.  About a week before the cruise, Bean and I headed to IN so that she could stay a day with Amber.  I didn't think it was really necessary, but I will say that it did help add hype to the trip.  Bean was really excited to go back to IN to see "Amba" & "play wit Gabbie".)

We headed to IN after Steve got off work on Thursday evening.  We drove a different route than normal, so that I could pick-up my wedding ring from the jewelry store.  I had taken it in a few weeks prior to get it resized (smaller!).  The mall that the store was in has a nice food court and is just slightly out of the way to my parents, so it worked out great.  

(There is a little kids play area with riding machines.  So we let Bean try a couple.  Most ate our quarter, but this ice cream truck one moved.  She thought it fun!)

(We couldn't get this one to work, but she liked sitting in it anyway.)

Our flight was on Friday evening out of Chicago.  Steve worked from my parents' house in the morning while my dad went into work.  He came home afternoon and we got the van loaded up.  We were on the road by 2 and got into Chicago with great time (and minimal traffic!).  Our flight went smoothly and we got into Houston late evening.  A hotel shuttle was supposed to meet us and take us to the hotel, but when I went to talk to the guy, there was confusion on his part and he wasn't willing to wait and confirm we were to go with him.  So we got left at the airport longer than we should have been.  We had to call the hotel  again to get the shuttle and the same guy ended up coming later (and had too many passengers because he was being ridiculous earlier).  Oh well, we finally got to our hotel and we all crashed!

(On the plane! I only read books while traveling, so I was pretty excited to dive into "The Martian".  Oh man, let me just say, 10 min in, and I was sold.  It's an amazing book. Go read it.  NOW!)

To get from the hotel to the cruise terminal, we had to go back to the airport and catch the Carnival transport.  That transfer went smoothly and we got to the terminal in Galveston with no issues.  We must have gotten their earlier than we should have because we had to wait way too long in the terminal to get onto the boat.  But of course, it was all worth the wait once we got on the boat.  I didn't care where we were going or what we were doing.  I was just ready to not cook/clean/think for a week!  

(Steve surprised me and had our room decorated for our anniversary!)

(Our real anniversary was in August, but we didn't ever do anything special for it. It wasn't our original reason for going on the cruise, but I'm glad he can still surprise & spoil me!)

(This is what vacation looks like!)

(Steve was super excited to be able to play with is GoPro all week.  He would set it up for sailing shots, use it to capture sunsets, and he videoed our entire cave excursion.  He still needs to edit all the footage and put a video together - hint, hint!)

I was pretty nervous about leaving Bean.  I knew she'd survive the week without me, but I just would get mental about how I know her every need and desire. I, of course, had nothing to worry about.  She had 3 cousins to entertain her for the week.  Amber did great sending me texts (until I couldn't get anymore) and even a couple emails -- but we never checked them!  We went the full week cold turkey, and just trusted all was well.  My sister sent me the following pictures/messages throughout the week:

("Dear Mom & Dad, Vacation is fun. We are at the zoo. I got a sucker. It is a beautiful day. Try to have some fun even though you're not on vacation, too. Love, Bean")

(Email: "Dear Mom & Dad, This Vacation thing is great. I now see why grown-ups talk about them. I should take them more often. Everyone waits on me hand and foot, and I get whatever I want. Try not to be jealous. Love, Bean")

("Dear Mom & Dad, Vacation has been lots of fun. But I'm readt to go home. Love you and see you soon.)

We had Sea days on Sunday, Monday & Friday; with our stops on Tuesday-Thursday.  Every day was pretty much filled with laying in the sun, maybe a dip in the pool, maybe go to a trivia event (where we never won, but always laughed), and always lots of food.  I will not admit how much weight was gained on the ship, but I'll hang Steve out to dry and say his was double digits! 

(Best part of any cruise is ordering tons of food!  Where else do you get to try multiple dishes for 'free'??)

(Pictures at dinner!)

(Our side of the table!)

(Dressed up for formal night.)

(Formal night photo obligation.)

 We had 3 different stops on 3 different days.  In Honduras, we got off the ship for a little bit and went to Carnival's private beach.  Steve and I got in the water while my parents lounged in the chairs.  It got too hot if you weren't in the water, so we decided to go back on the ship and enjoy the pool there.  In Belize, we took a private excursion and went cave tubing.  Our guides took us into a national park where we were able to float on tubes through caves while they taught us about the scenery.  And lastly, in Cozumel, we went shopping! We just got off the boat to find some souvenirs, then headed back to enjoy the pool and emptiness on the boat.   

(Headed back to the ship after our little beach outing.)

(It was hot, but beautiful!)

(Pretty much what we wore all week - suits & shades!)

Even though there were some differences this cruise that we didn't care for (like no ice or chocolates in the room at night; no tablecloths at dinner; just missing some details, etc), we still had a great time with Carnival.  I think one thing that really made the week was the great staff.  Our cruise director (Malcolm "Woohoo" Burn) was the BEST cruise director I've ever had (I've been on 6 cruises, so I think I can say that).  He had a fun personality that just made you want to get involved.  We had the same servers each dinner and they were always funny and entertaining.  And last (but not least) the performers and shows were amazing! The singers all had great voices and you could tell they enjoyed what they do.  It was a lot of fun to watch them sing and dance each evening.  

(Our head server was pretty funny.  On certain nights, there was a "Showtime" where all the servers would dance to a song together.  Our guy had some pretty good dance moves.)

(So this picture isn't the best, but right smack dab in the middle is a guy in blue with a blonde faux hawk -- that was our cruise director! He was a 6'6" tall black guy - who does NOT play basketball - from Brooklyn.  He has the personality to be doing what he does. He could persuade anyone to do anything.) 

(Waiting for a show all dressed up on the other formal night.)

(Showtime selfie)

On our Sea days, they made a big deal about Dr. Seuss.  There was a parade, story time, and even a special breakfast.  We participated in all the Seuss events and even went to the special breakfast (limited seating & tickets were $5/person).  It was a fun and memorable time! 

(The tables were all decorated in Suess themed items.  The menu looked just like a Seuss book.)

(Mom & Dad being crazy.)

(The front of the menu.)

(Thing 1 & Thing 2 came around and wreaked havoc.  They made dad drink his water and they kept tipping the glass so he couldn't stop. Then they tussled his hair.)

(Thing 2 sat on Steve's lap and tussled his hair, too.)

(My food! Steve got Green Eggs & Ham, but I got fruit loop crusted french toast.  It had a Seuss name - something about Horton's toast - but all I remember is that it was delicious.  I may have had this for breakfast 3 times on the ship (it was on the regular brunch menu, too, just not Seuss named).)

(Cat & Sam-I-Am came to breakfast, too!)

(The only photo of all of us together.)

(Thing 1 & Thing 2)

Needless to say, we love cruises.  Steve maybe loves them a little too much.  He was already looking up new cruises as we were getting off the ship.  I will not confirm or deny if he has already booked another one.  Okay, who am I kidding?!  We will be going on another one in 2016! I'm one spoiled girl :)!

And just when you think the story is over. . . 

Getting off the ship was very hectic and we cut it pretty close of getting off the boat, getting our stuff, getting through customs, getting on the bus and getting to the airport.  The bus stopped at 2 different airports, ours being the 2nd, which added even more time.  We got through security quickly and made it to the flight with no problems.  We were even able to grab some quick food and get right on the plane.  Once we got to Chicago, we got our luggage, got to the van and headed out of Chicago.  

We stopped for dinner a little after 8 just cross the border into IN.  As we were getting back onto the highway though, my dad noticed the engine's temp was too hot and pulled over.  He was able to pull off on the extra long ramp (so we never made it up to actually merge on).  

(Dad and Steve assessed the situation and realized there was a leak in the radiator.)

Mom had a couple water bottles so dad poured water into the radiator.  I found an auto parts store a couple miles away, so dad backed up on the ramp to get to the road.  Not even a half mile on the road, and we had to pull off again.  The temp was still climbing and dad didn't want to push it.  We stopped in an empty lot next to a fast food stop.  I took all the cups and bottles from the car and went into the fast food place and filled everything with water.  It took a couple of trips, but dad was able to dump enough water in to cool it off some.  He noticed as he poured the water in, it immediately poured out, so he knew there was a big crack somewhere.  We got enough water in it that dad felt confident to go the last mile to the store. 

Dad parked under a light and went inside with Steve to assess their options.  Originally, he was going to get some product that you poured into a line to create a new seal.  Once he talked to the worker, though, he realized that wasn't going to work.  The worker did a quick inventory and discovered he had 1 radiator left for the make of car my dad owns.  So, a decision was made -- replace the radiator!  Usually, dad travels with a tool box in this van (it has a record), but he didn't have it this time.  The worker offered a set of tools and many items to help get the job done.  The store closed at 10, so dad had a deadline.

(New radiator purchased and quickly disassembling the old radiator.)

(Dad put Steve to work prepping the new radiator.  Steve would also do whatever my dad asked -- get tools, loosen/tighten bolts, etc)

(Working like crazy.)

(Old radiator out, just prepping to put the new one in.)

(I think this photo was taken around 9:30 - 30 minutes to go!  The worker would even come out and check on us to see how it was going.  I think he was routing for my dad more than mom/I were!).  

Dad got the new radiator in and all the tools packed up just as the building was closing.  He filled the radiator up with antifreeze, but the temp still wasn't going down like it should.  He figured out that the coolant wasn't circulating.  Luckily, there was a Walmart just across the street.  So we loaded up the van and drove over there.  Dad/Steve went in to buy a couple wrenches/tools.  Dad has encountered this issue before and knew that the line needed "bled".  He knew exactly where the issue was and got it fixed within minutes.  We were back on the road by 11! 

My sister had put Bean to bed at my parents.  So she was asleep when we got home (at 1am!).  When she woke up early in the morning, she was crying for Amber.  I went over to her and told her it was Momma.  She immediately grabbed me and held on tightly.  Oh how I missed that girl! 

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