Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Cruise Stuff

As I mentioned before we left, our cruise had four stops. The first was at Princess Cays, Bahamas, then Ochos Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. At each one you can pay extra for little excursions or tour around on your own.

The first stop was at a privately owned area of the Bahamas called Princess Cays. There wasn't a lot to do here, except beach stuff which is not really my thing. We just wanted to spend the day relaxing, so that's what we did. We grabbed a couple of beach loungers and camped out. It was wonderful. There were also some little shops to check out. There was one little market area that you had to leave the Princess compound to get to so we checked that out too. We didn't really see anything that caught our eye so we just enjoyed the buffet lunch and the sunshine again. It was probably in the high 20's that day. A few clouds but it only rained for a few minutes. By mid-afternoon it was getting quite windy, right about the time we had to board the tenders (little boats) back to the ship. Our tender ride was very rough. There were little hatches that could be opened. The one by us was closed. We debated opening it but decided to leave it closed. The one opposite us was open. As the ride continued and got rougher more water started coming in the hatch. Two women were sitting underneath it and one woman got a little wet and decided to come and sit by me to keep dry. Almost as soon as she moved a huge wave hit and it looked like a waterfall came in the window. The woman who hadn't moved got absolutely soaked! She was a good sport and laughed so we all could laugh too. Good thing, because it was pretty hysterical.

The next stop was on Tuesday at Ochos Rios, Jamaica. Here we had a cool excursion planned which involved climbing Dunn's River Falls followed by a bobsled ride on Mystic Mountain. It was an amazing day but with one major problem. It was pouring. I can't state that enough. Absolutely pouring. This was a negative on a few levels. It was raining so badly we couldn't take our camera out of the bag so we didn't get any pictures. It also meant that after we climbed the cooooold waterfall there was no way to get warm. The bus that took us to the mountain were air conditioned and that didn't help either. I had a dry shirt and dry shoes to put on afterwards but they were both soaked within minutes too. I was in Jamaica and I was freezing. They were giving away coffee samples at the top of the mountain and that helped a bit but not much. We had ridden a chair lift to the top of the mountain and the higher we got the windier it got and I was just unbelievably cold.

We looked around a bit at the top of the mountain, which had a bit of a Jamaican hall of fame, specifically some Jamaican athletes who've made it big like the original bobsled team. I finally got nearly warm enough to attempt the bobsled. It was on a roller coaster-style track but we could control the speed. Our cars were attached together so Nick in the front got to control the speed. I took this video to give you an idea of what it was like for us. What you can't see is our camera case (empty) flying out of Nick's seat at one point. He was sitting on it for safekeeping but wasn't counting on being lifted out of his seat! Oh well. We were told that the ride was going nearly twice as fast that day because of the rain.

After the bobsled, I was still cold. We took a bus back to the main shopping area near the boat and in one store a sales clerk told me to imagine I was somewhere warm. I told her I was in Jamaica, I thought I was somewhere warm. After a bit of shopping our day in Jamaica was ended and we got back on the ship to warm up and dry off.

Tuesday night was a very rough night at sea. Even people who had cruised many times found it to be very rough. As a result when we got back to our room after dinner we found out that our excursion planned for the next day in Grand Cayman had been cancelled due to the high winds we were experiencing. We were supposed to visit Stingray City and swim with stingrays. This was something Nick was really looking forward to, and so was I but there was nothing we could do about it. Any of the other excursions we were interested in were also cancelled so we decided not to do anything and just sightsee around Grand Cayman.

The first thing we wanted to do was call the kids. We hadn't spoken to them since we left and it was now Wednesday. We had brought some international phone cards with us but couldn't find a phone to take them, they only took credit cards. So we took a chance and used our credit card (found out when we got home that it cost nearly $70) and called home. It was great to hear Darcy's voice and hear that both kids were doing great while we were gone. We got to hear, many times, about Wesley peeing on the carpet of Darcy's room. Funny stuff. We spent the rest of the day walking around Georgetown and eating a ridiculously overpriced lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. There were three cruise ships docked there that day, adding ten thousand people to an area with a normal population of 40 thousand. All the restaurants were really busy and we thought that was the best we could do. Never again!

Thursday was spent in Cozumel, Mexico. We had arranged an excursion here called "Discover Mexico on your own". It said that taxi fares would be included as we discovered Mexican culture or something like that. When we got off the ship and found the people we needed to talk to we found out that we were actually being taken to a place called, "Discover Mexico". We were being taken on our own instead of part of a tour group. It was a replica village filled with miniature versions of some historical Mexican landmarks. It was interesting but not what we would have chosen for ourselves if we had had all the information. We got back in the taxi and paid a few extra dollars to go downtown. We had a bit more shopping to do but we weren't prepared for the high-pressure bartering that happens down there. Holy moly! No prices were marked, it seemed, you just had to haggle with the sales people. And heaven forbid you tried to leave to go to another store. They'd follow you out of the store, yelling the whole time. It was a bit much. We bought a few things and then decided to go back to the ship for lunch. Afterwards we stayed closer to the ship and bought the rest of the things we needed in a less intense environment.

So, I think that's about all for our cruise trip updates. I think I've covered all the major things. If I think of anything else, I'll write more later.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We're Back!

We got back on Saturday night but it's taken me a few days to get around to writing this post. There's a few reasons for that. The first is that I haven't been feeling all that great since we got back. I've still been feeling like I'm on a boat and it's been making me more nauseous than I ever got on the ship! It's been a lot better today so I'm hoping that's the end of it. Another reason is that there's just so much to say that I don't know where to begin! I'm going to start writing and if it gets to be too long I'll probably break it down into several posts.

Let me start by saying we had an absolutely wonderful time. If you haven't already seen them, there are pictures on facebook and on flickr. All of our travelling was as smooth as silk, meeting up with the Princess reps in Fort Lauderdale was really easy and getting on the boat was a breeze. We didn't get to talk to the kids before we got on the ship because they were out on the town with their grandparents and Auntie Stef. We later found out that they did great without us so that helped us relax and enjoy the trip more.

I struck up a conversation with a couple that was on the elevator with us on our way up to the lunch buffet on Saturday as soon as we got on the ship. I thought they had been on the bus with us from the airport so I asked them where they had flown in from this morning. They said that they had come in from Detroit, but that they actually lived in Canada. We said, "Us too." Then we asked them where they lived and they said, "Windsor, Ontario." We couldn't believe it. The first people we meet on the ship and they're from Windsor. Crazy.

One thing we were disappointed with was our dining room experience. We had asked for a table of 6 but were put at a table of 4 and the other two people at the table were two women in their late 60's and early 70's. They were very nice women but just not our first choice of dinner companions. Also, our waiter wasn't all that great. Aside from that, everything else on the ship was wonderful. We were especially impressed with Zoltan, our room steward. He was responsible for our section of hallway and he was amazing! He seemed to be always right outside our door ready to help us however we needed it. He went in our room twice a day to clean up , even folding up my robe one time when I left it lying on the bed.

All of the food was amazing and there was just so much of it. You could eat all day long if you wanted. Restaurants, buffets, cafes, you name it. Food everywhere you turned around. There were several comedians on the ship and they all joked about how small the rooms were and how much food there was to eat.

When we were at sea, my favourite thing to do was sit on a lounge chair in the sun, reading my book. I loved it. Then I'd spend some time in the hot tub and then back to my deck chair. Wonderful. I went in the big pool once to cool off after being in the hot tub, but I thought it was shallow and I when I went in over the side I thought my feet would touch bottom but they didn't. I went right under. I wasn't prepared for it and was wearing my contacts. I went right under with my eyes open which totally freaked me out. I managed to struggle my way back up and also managed not to lose my contacts (which was good because I'd only brought one pair and no prescription sunglasses). However, that was the end of the pool for me!

I think I'll leave it at that for now and write more about the shore excursions tomorrow.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Out of Here!

Well, today is the day. Nick and I are heading out of here tonight for our big Caribbean cruise. We'll spend tonight at a hotel in the Detroit airport so we can check in for our flight at 5:30 tomorrow morning (shudder).

By early afternoon tomorrow we should be on board the Ruby Princess preparing to set sail. By late afternoon I plan to be sitting in a hot tub, reading a book. Sunday will be spent on a beach in the Bahamas. We'll be at sea Monday and then in Jamaica on Tuesday. In Jamaica we'll be doing a bobsled run and climbing a waterfall so hopefully we'll have some fun pictures of that. Wednesday we'll be in Grand Cayman swimming with the stingrays. Again, more cool pictures. On Thursday we'll be in Cozumel, Mexico and we haven't quite figured out what we're going to do there. We'll see how we feel on Thursday. We arrive back in Fort Lauderdale Saturday morning and we'll fly home Saturday night.

The kids are doing great with their Montreal family here but Wesley is really cuddly today. I think he can tell that something is up. I know he'll be fine but there might be some rough moments tomorrow morning when he wakes up and we're not here. So, I hope that all goes well and that I'm able to fun even though I'll be missing them so much.

I'm going on a Jamaican bobsled. How can I not have fun?

See you in a week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Big Field Trip

My Mom may think that parts of this story are untrue, but I assure you that every bit of it actually happened!

Darcy and I went on her big field trip today and I'm happy to say that I survived and actually did well. I was really nervous before we left but I settled down once we got going. However, they saved the snake for the very end of the afternoon so I had a lot of time to worry about it.

We started off with a "creepy critters" slide show and then a nice walk through the trails at the nature centre. We didn't see too many animals on the walk but the kids found some cool leaves and they thought that was pretty exciting. Then we went back inside and that's when they brought out the snake. I really thought I was going to crawl out of my skin when she was taking it out of it's bag but once she had it in her hands for a few minutes I settled down. She walked around the room giving the kids and adults a chance to pet the snake. I wasn't going to do it, but then I told myself to grow up. If a bunch of 4-year olds can do it, then so can I. So I did. She had walked past me and I called her back so I could try it. I wasn't about to be outdone by those kids. It was really dry. The lady beside me said she'd only touch it if they turned it into a pair of boots. Darcy touched it as well and was really proud of herself for doing it. I'm pretty proud of myself too. And Mom, I didn't even cry! Hard to believe, but true. One of the moms screamed when the lady pulled out the bag with the snake in it, but not me. Of course, she grew up in Africa so she's used to much more dangerous snakes than what we were dealing with today.

The more I meet Darcy's teacher the more I'm impressed with her. She's absolutely fantastic. Darcy loves and I can tell that Mlle Dresser gets a kick out of Darcy too. She let Darcy hold her hand a lot on the nature walk and even sat with Darcy on the bus on the way home. She told me again how pleased she is with Darcy's work, which is great.

When we were having lunch before we left home today Darcy kept saying she hoped I would be her group leader and that she'd be able to be with me at the nature centre. Once we were there all the other kids who had moms on the trip walked with their moms and held their mom's hand, but not Darcy. Oh no, it was like I wasn't even there. Once she saw her teacher I became chopped liver. Some of her friends thought I was fun though. I guess I'll have to take solace in that!

There are some pictures of the field trip posted on our flickr page and on facebook.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Notes from School

We're constantly getting notes home from Darcy's teacher. Usually they're asking for money whether through a fundraiser or a hot lunch or whatever. Sometimes it's worksheets that we can work through with Darcy at home.

Last week she brought home a note saying that her first field trip was coming up, that they'd be going to a local nature centre. I kind of skimmed the note, getting the main information, the date, the times, and the fact that they were looking for parent volunteers. I checked the date and saw that Nick is off that day so I filled out the information saying that I would volunteer to go with the class. Darcy's friend was over that day and the two of them were excitedly talking about the upcoming field trip and the things they would see there. I heard them say things like "bats, bees, bugs, plants and snakes". Snakes?!?!? There would be snakes involved in this field trip? No one had mentioned snakes. I looked at the letter again and saw that the teacher had, in fact, mentioned snakes. The theme of this field trip is "Creepy Critters" and they're looking for everything Darcy and Quinn mentioned. I am terrified of snakes. Absolutely, irrationally, terrified of snakes. That will teach me to read something thoroughly before I sign up for anything else!

So I had a choice. I hadn't returned the paper yet. I could cross out the information saying I could help with the class or I could face my fears and show my daugther what it means to be brave. The last thing I want is for her to inherit her fears from me. She is really overcoming her fear of dogs and cats. How can I ever encourage her to do that if I would let a garter snake or two keep me from going on this field trip. So I returned the paper still indicating that I would go on the trip. I was hoping that maybe they'd get more volunteers than they needed but I got a note from the teacher thanking me for volunteering, assuring me that I am needed on Friday.

Quinn's class went to the nature centre yesterday and he disappointedly told me last night that he didn't see any snakes. Maybe there's hope yet!

We also get a montly newsletter from the school. On the first page of the newsletter all the students of the month are listed. I kind of scanned the list and it's a good thing because the student of the month for reading in Mlle. Dresser's class was none other than Darcy T! A couple of days later, Darcy brought home a student of the month for reading certificate. That's very exciting. We have noticed a huge difference in Darcy's approach to reading since she started school. She still can't "read" but she is really improving in knowing what letters make what sounds, and recognizing both upper and lower case letters in her books. We're really proud of her and we're glad to see that her teacher is seeing her hard work too. Great job, Darcy!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween, Part 2

We had such a great night last night!

When Darcy got home from school we loaded everyone up for a quick bite to eat at the mall before trick or treating there with our friends. We met up with three other families from church, each with 2 kids (unless Dayna's gone into labour by now - ha!) so we had 8 little trick or treaters roaming the mall. It was a bit hard keeping track of everyone sometimes but we each made it home with the kids we brought, plus a lot of candy.

Darcy then met up with her friend Quinn and they went trick or treating on our street together. They were out for about an hour and again got a lot of candy. When she was finished that she went to our neighbour's house to hand out his candy. He let her keep a lot of what he had leftover at the end of the night (which was a lot because we had a slow night on our street) so the girl really ended up with a boatload of candy and other treats.

Wesley and I stayed out on the front steps all night handing out our chips to kids. I let Wesley try some at one point and he devoured the whole bag and then went looking for more! He really loved wearing his costume and all the attention he got. He's a big fan of Halloween already.

If you're on facebook you can check out my pictures there. If you're not, you can see them here.