Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life on the Boat

This was our first experience with a cruise.  We really had no idea what to expect, and we really didn't do much research, either.  We just packed up our stuff, got in the car at 4 am on Tuesday morning, and started driving down to the port city of Genoa, Italy.  It was about an 8 hr drive.  We made two short stops, but tried to keep things quick because we had to start boarding at 2 pm.  I had almost no sleep the night before, so the kids and I snoozed for the first few hours while Nate drove.  That made the drive so much better and seem so much quicker.  Nathan even brought the Wii in the car, so Sawyer could play on the gamepad.  Between that and movies the kids were happy as clams. Isla is the most difficult in the car, by far.  She isn't yet entertained by movies, and she just gets bored back there.  I brought some toys along for her, and also thought about bringing the little reach in snack container.  She actually loved having that and it kept her busy.  Overall, she did really well on the drive.  We got there a little before 1.  About 5 minutes before pulling up to unload our luggage, Sawyer got car sick and puked.  Luckily, he gave me enough warning and I was able to hand him a paper bag that had had donuts in it (ok so there was still one donut in it).  98% of the barf made it into the bag (thank goodness!).  So we pulled up to the dock where they had a curb-side check in type thing going on.  We frantically began unloading our bags, trying to stuff our car snacks in, and get the kids out.  A friend had warned us that they make you pay for water on the boat, so last minute we threw a bunch of water bottles in the trunk.  We were also trying to stick those into our luggage as quickly as possible.  It was a little chaotic.  10 minutes later, Nate left me on the curb with the kids and went to park the car.  When he finally found us again, I asked him if he had remembered to throw out the barf bag.  Oops.  That was going to be fun to come back to (agh!).  So we checked in and got settled in our extremely small interior cabin. Two twin beds separated by a small isle, and two fold down bunk beds above those beds.  Any remaining floor space was taken up by Isla's packnplay and our absurd amount of luggage.  Let's just say, our living conditions with 5 people in a small room were not ideal, but we managed.  It took us a little while to figure out all the ins and outs of boat life.  We had no idea that there would be suggested dress codes each night, and we hadn't brought anything dressy, so we felt kinda silly at dinner on gala night.  We later learned we could have just gone to the buffet instead of the restaurant.  haha.  And they had plenty of water at the buffet area.  We only had to pay for water at the restaurant.  Our classy bunch ended up bringing our own water to the restaurant.  I'm pretty sure our waiter hated us.  lol.  They had a kids' club on the boat that did fun things with the kids.  Sawyer cried the first day we left him there.  He complained that no one knew English.  He was kinda a punk about going there for the rest of the trip.  There was a pool, of course, but it was still freezing cold.  The weather was great, although at times windy and chilly.  Not quite warm enough to swim all day.  When we did go swimming, the kids played in the hot tub the entire time.  It was a little tricky trying to entertain our kids and take care of Isla (naps, etc.) on the boat everyday.  Our days at sea were not my favorite.  We did decide just to let Isla nap in the room by herself, and would often go eat in peace while she slept.  We took the video monitor with us so we could check on her periodically.  It worked out great.  They had a cheesy show every night.  We went to a few of them...that was one of Sawyer's favorite parts of the trip.  The kids came down with colds half way through the trip (which we later learned was a hand foot mouth epidemic that had been going around our nursery at church for fact they are canceling nursery today because they finally sanitized the whole place and they want to quarantine the room for a bit).  Anyways, we had some fun times, but mostly we just looked forward to getting off the boat.  I know it would have been much different had our kids been a little older.  I have also learned a lot about cruising that we will look for in our next experience.  I will pay much closer attention to port times.  We had way too much time in Casablanca and not nearly enough in Barcelona.  The cruise line we traveled with isn't too fancy...but they were super cheap and the kids were free.  So we seriously can't complain!  We had a lot of fun...about as much fun as you can expect to have when traveling for 8 days in foreign lands with 3 kids under 5.  The drive home seemed to last forever (about 11 hrs instead of 8 thanks to traffic and potty stops), but we were so happy to be home.  We will definitely try the cruise thing again, as it's the best and cheapest way to see a lot of different places in Europe with our whole family.  We were grateful to go and now have lots of fun memories and pictures to look back on.  
Pool time is exhausting

The lighting was horrible in the restaurant, but this is where we would eat a 'fancy' meal...and this was on gala night.  I at least had some casual dresses for the girls.

On this night the kids went straight from kids club to the show.  They made cute little batman headbands with them. 

Eating outside with Nathan...Isla was sleeping and the kids were in the kids' meal :)
I have to say that I did love being out in the middle of the ocean.  Pretty amazing.  And I we didn't have any trouble with sea sickness (except for the night that we left was horrible and we all went to bed asap to avoid feeling sick!)

Walking through all the sunbathers was always fun.  We were like sardines on that deck!

I seriously love Violet's expressions!  This one was just because of sun in her eyes...but still!  So dramatic!
Lookin super cool with a mermaid barbie tucked in the back of his shirt

face painting day at kids club

There was a lounge with orange-lit tables.  Isla loved walking around those things.

They pretty much ate a hot dog or pizza for every meal.  oh and french fries.

Nate was our adventurous eater on the trip.  This one was squid.  Yuck.

We loved our housekeeper, Jose.  He spoke Spanish with Nathan and was so nice to our kids.  He made this Easter bunny towel on Easter.  The kids loved it.

Getting off of the boat.  One last family picture!

Looking for our luggage

Loading and organizing the car.  We found some weird bean thingies that we had bought on the side of the street in Malaga.  I still have no idea what they were.  They were very salty.  Not bad, though.

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