Ships Ahoy! Our Time on a Disney Cruise

If you thought it’s been a bit quiet around here, you’re not imagining things.  It has been.  And no, I’m not staging another hiatus.

Instead, my family and I took a much needed vacation.

Last week we spent five days and nights on a Disney cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, sailing out of Miami to Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.  Five days immersed in the magic of princesses and pirates and plush characters.

And it was awesome.

Let me first state, my husband and I are not “cruisers.” I detest using the word “cruise” in any way, shape or form that might sound like something out of a Jimmy Buffet song. “Take a cruise,” or “Go on a cruise” I can swallow.  I did not want to “go cruising” or “be a cruiser,” all said while wearing a shirt from Tommy Bahama and flashing a Hang Ten sign.

My only experience on a cruise ship was one I took with my family over a decade ago on a Carnival ship for a week.  Most of it is a blur of booze, binge eating and trying to avoid being roped in to a “find your partner blindfolded by the feel of their hairy chest” contests.

So as we approached the idea of taking a cruise vacation as a family, I had my hesitations.

I had been told by many parents that if you were going to go on a cruise with your kids, a Disney cruise was the way to go.  And they were right.

From the moment we stepped on board the ship, Disney didn’t disappoint.

We were greeted by energetic crew members who asked for our family name.  Then, in grand Disney fashion, they announced that our family was on board and the line of crew applauded our arrival, as if we were walking on the red carpet.

Next, we headed to our room to check out our digs for the next few days.  We decided to splurge and get a room on the seventh deck with a verandah because the thought of being cooped up in a dark, black hole on the inside of the ship gave me the cold sweats.

The room was actually bigger than I expected, with two separate rooms for the toilet and the shower (both equipped with sinks), a large queen bed for the parents, a pull-out sofa and bunk bed for the kids, and a mid-room curtain so parents and kids could have their privacy.

The next stop was lunch in the buffet restaurant, because I can’t make it longer than two hours without needing a carbohydrate.  And here’s where my fears of contracting some type of pandemic bug were alleviated.

If you know me well, you know my anxiety about vomit.  Even hearing or reading about a Norovirus outbreak halfway across the country makes me reach for a face mask.

Yet, even before getting on the ship, I knew my fears were unfounded.  First of all, Disney hasn’t had a reported outbreak in over a decade.  And secondly?  My kids have a better chance of contracting some debilitating stomach virus at school then they do on a ship.

But this discovery made me happy:  Disney cleans the shit out of that ship.

Everywhere we turned, someone was disinfecting sinks or scrubbing walls or wiping stair rails.   And there were greeters standing at every entrance to every restaurant handing out sanitizing wipes before we ate.  Disney don’t mess around, y’all.

Then, our Disney cruise took off.  We had two full days at sea, where our kids swam in the pools, dove down the slide, treaded water while watching their favorite Disney flicks, and ate all the ice cream their small stomachs could hold.

And did I mention that there were Disney character meeting opportunities at every turn?  We saw just about every major character on the ship, and the lines to meet them and get their autograph were a snap compared to what it takes to meet a character at a Disney park.  The one thing I was amazed by with the Disney characters is that they seemed to take their time with each kid.  There wasn’t an urgent rush to do a fast turnover, and they made each child feel special.  That cements more memories than any photo or signature ever could.

A friend asked me if the ship was all “It’s a Small World” all of the time on the Disney cruise, and surprisingly, it wasn’t.  Sure, they piped Disney music in to the hallways and such, but it was at a modest level (and I have to admit, I was prone to singing along).  There were adult clubs, bars and pools where we could escape children and feel like we were on a legitimate adult vacation.

The shows on board were pretty impressive, featuring Broadway-style choreography and music, but just short enough to keep a little one’s attention.  My son loved heading up to the Wide World of Sports deck a couple of times a day to play hoops, jump in a soccer game, or swat at a ping-pong ball.

And the Oceaneer Lab was a big hit too.

I wasn’t sure how well the “kids club” was going to go over with our kids, since they protested their time at Club Med like it was a prison sentence.  But after seeing how much awesomeness there was during the Oceaneer Lab’s open house, the kids were sold.

We took advantage of their excitement and participated in the Dine and Play option, since we ate so late for the second seating at 8:15pm.  The servers would bring out our kids’ food first, and then at around 9, the activity counselors would come get them and bring them to the lab so that Jon and I could finish our dinner in peace and quiet.  Like a date.  Like grown-ups.


Our port adventures were pretty fun too.  We spent our day in Grand Cayman on the beach.  Did I mention how spectacularly gorgeous the water is in the Caribbean?  It’s so much prettier than the mysteriously brown stuff I grew up wading in in the Gulf of Mexico.  The kids loved strapping on their goggles and swimming to see colorful fish.  And I didn’t mind sipping fruity cocktails on the shore.

But perhaps the best thing we did was swim with the dolphins in Cozumel.

When I first booked this excursion, I grappled with the dilemma.  I hated the idea of these captive dolphins being cooped up for human enjoyment.  But then countered it with the thought that I would probably never get this chance again.  And that thought won out.

Because two seconds after being in the water with these beautiful mammals, all of those animal rights thoughts rode the current out to sea.  What an amazing experience!  And to see the wonder and excitement on my children’s faces as they took a ride in the sea with a dolphin was pretty priceless.

All in all, our family had a fantastic time on our Disney cruise.  So much so that coming back to reality has been hard.

No one wanted to head back to work or school.  We’re suffering from self-serve withdrawal.  I miss having someone make my bed twice a day.  We didn’t get our “land legs” for a couple of days and Jon and I feared that other families who spotted us at IHOP the next morning we returned suspected we were all drunk.

The kids are already asking when we can head back to a Disney cruise again.  And my guess is, we’ll definitely do it again.

Who knows.  Perhaps we’ll become “cruisers” after all.

7 Things Vacation Taught Me

Some of you my have noticed that I’ve been scarce around these internet parts in the past couple of weeks.  The cause?  My husband and I took a much needed vacation away.  Far away.  As in, all the way to another country.

Without the kids.

Yeah, you read that right.  I don’t type that out to spark jealousy, but out of pure awe and gratitude.

Awe that it took over seven years for Jon and I to take a vacation by ourselves.  Awe and gratitude that everything aligned to have grandparents available to watch our kids for six days while Jon and I remembered what it was like to eat outside the feeding schedule of a four year-old.  Awe and gratitude that nothing catastrophic happened while we were gone.

It was great to reconnect with my husband, to be able to sleep in a little and eat meals without corralling small people to eat just one more bite. The weather cooperated for the most part, I imbibed way too many fruity adult cocktails, and am now trying to assimilate to life back at home.

I expected to remember that I liked sleeping, that I liked sunshine, and that I need to be able to miss my kids every once in a while.  But there were some other things I learned on this trip, too.


Things like…

I don’t look that bad in a bathing suit.

Sure, I don’t look as great as I’d like (especially around all the firm, athletic 27 year olds that were at the resort), or as I used to ten or even two years ago.  But I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror when I ran to the bathroom without covering up the first day and realized, it’s not the horrible sight I have played out in my mind.


I can’t hold my liquor.

There was a lot of drinking on this trip.  No, strike that.  There was a lot of dranking.  Sure, neither of us got drunk or wasted or stumbled through the pool area to the swim up bar and set up shop.  But a steady stream of fruity cocktails, combined with the champagne the waiters seemed to pour freely when you told them you were celebrating an anniversary really got to me by the end of the week.

It got to the scale, too, but I’m going to pretend to ignore that for another week or so.


I still don’t like the ocean.

Yes, the Gulf of Mexico is far calmer and bluer than the Atlantic Ocean.  And, sure, it would have been romantic to frolic in my husband’s arms while on vacation in Mexico.  But I got as far as knee-deep and then noticed the strong undercurrent, the large waves crashing, and retreated to my margarita along the shoreline.


We need to keep the television turned off more.

In our home, unless it’s a weekend morning cartoon, a special movie night, or an important game, our television is usually off.  Until the kids go to bed, that is.  Then my husband and I plop down on the couch to catch up on our shows (usually with one or both of us on our laptops as well).  While on vacation, we plowed through not one, but TWO books.  And it gave us a well of new topics to talk about.  I’m thinking we need to keep the TV off, read more, and in general be less plugged in.


I like my husband.

Before you get all “ick, gross lovey dovey stuff”, let me explain.  Yes, I do love my husband immensely.  But this trip reminded me that I also really like him.  Like, genuinely enjoy being around him.  This time together brought us back to who we are as a couple, in all our stupid-joke glory.  And that after all of these years, we still get each other.


My kids are great kids.

The Catch-22 of getting away from your kids.  You can’t wait to be free of them, yet you think about them all of the damn time you’re away.  Seeing all those other cuties on the beach made me yearn for mine to be there with me.  WTF?  Clearly, I need to get out on my own more.

But all that time away from my kids gave me perspective.  As much as I let them get under my skin, they’re good kids.  They’re great kids.  Well-behaved, loving, and funny as hell.  And I love those little stinkers.


We need to get away more often.

I’m not talking about the two-hour road trips to visit family for the holidays.  I’m talking the “ship the kids off to family so we can be alone” kind of get-aways.  Seven and a half years is way too long of a time to wait to take a trip together.  Financially there’s no way we could afford to do this every year, or even every five years.  But I do think we need to make carving out time for just us a priority.

All in all, not too bad of a takeaway from a vacation, if I do say so myself.  Though, I could probably use a few more lessons.

Lessons that could be learned in, say, St. Lucia?


Why the beach is better than the ocean…

There are lots of things I like about the ocean.

I love listening to the waves crash upon the shore.  I will gladly lounge on a balcony, sipping an adult beverage and soaking in the view of the ocean.  I enjoy strolling just on the shoreline’s edge, letting the water lick my feet.  And napping on the beach is one of life’s greatest indulgences.

But swimming in that gigantic and seemingly endless body of water?

Not. A. Fan.


I can remember going to Florida as a kid, and wading out in the Gulf of Mexico with my family.  My father would take off on his own, swimming out a bit too far for my liking.  With only his head visible, I’d start to worry and panic.  “DAD!!!  COME BACK!!!” I’d yell, knowing full well that he couldn’t hear me.

He always returned safe and sound, and with the full force of my 6 year-old fury, I’d scold him to never scare me like that again.

My daughter, much like my father, is a water dog.  Fearless.  Thinks she’s a better swimmer than she really is.

Jumping through waves with her on our recent trip to Myrtle Beach gave me a panic attack the size of the Atlantic.

She wanted nothing to do with holding my hand.  She wanted to stand unassisted and plunge her body in to an oncoming wave that was two feet taller than her head.  Every time she’d go under, I’d survey the water like a bear searching for fish, hoping she’d surface.

I couldn’t go on like this forever, on the brink of completely losing it.  So I did what any protective mother would do.

I clutched on to the back of her bathing suit tutu as hard as I could and let her flail her small body through the crashing waves.  With that fistful of cheap Target tulle, I felt a bit more in control, a tad more comfortable, just shy of exuding the confidence of David Hasselhoff in a Baywatch beach rescue.

What was I afraid of?  With my dad, and my children?  The list of reasons I avoid the ocean are endless and read like phobic lunacy.

Unless I’m in the crystal clear and calm surf of somewhere tropical like the Caribbean, that murky water is just too mysterious.  When something brushes against my leg, I can’t tell if it’s a fish, algae, or a diaper gone AWOL.

The pull of the ocean is stronger than my preschooler’s ability to dog paddle.

Have you seen Jaws?

Some people use it as a giant toilet.  A Giant. Freakin’. Toilet

Once I get pulled under, sand gets everywhere.  And I do mean everywhere.  In painful and discreet places in folds and creases I never even knew I had.

No, no.  The sandy beach is where it’s at.  It’s my happy place.  The one that offers solid ground, cold and fruity alcoholic drinks, and serenity.

On the beach, the only thing I have to fend off is the seagull that wants dibs on my can of Pringles.  The sand doesn’t plot to topple me over, suck me under and leave me scraped and cursing.  It’s a gentler side of nature. The shore provides a place to relax, soak in the sun, and pretend I’m the star in an anti-depressant ad.

And, not to toot my own horn, I do make a mean sand turtle.


Oooohhhh, Mexico…

Hola!  Here I am, back as promised, with a little recap of our trip to Club Med Ixtapa Pacific.

After a long couple of plane trips and bumpy bus ride, we finally arrived at Club Med.  The resort (or “village” as they call it) was really nice, and we were greeted at the bus by a vast crew of staff (or G.O.’s as they’re called, short for Gracious Organizers), applauding our arrival and welcoming us with cool, lavender-scented towels.  A G.O. showed us around the village and took us to our room.  We ate lunch, checked out the kids clubs, then went to our room to get swimsuits on.  The pool was almost too warm, but the kids had a great time.  We went back to our room to shower, headed to the bar to get some snacks, saw the Pirate Show and got to bed early.

Sunday was our first full day of vacation.  Thankfully, the kids slept in a little.  We got dressed, ate breakfast in the restaurant, then dropped Miss P off at Petit club.  I don’t think she knew what she was in for, because she was preoccupied with the kiddie cars.  We ran Mr. B over to the trapeze area to meet up with his class, and got to see him swing for the first time.  With freedom at our fingertips,  Jon and I skipped back to the room, changed into swimsuits, and spent the better part of the day at the beach.  This was our schedule for the rest of the week.  Not too shabby, eh?  The ocean was warm and pretty calm, and the beach wasn’t too crowded.  Throughout the week, I managed to read an entire book, take a couple of naps on the beach, and get enough sand in cracks and holes to start my own sandbox.

I won’t go in to too much of the day-by-day schedule, because it sounds pretty boring.  But I’ll give you some bullet points.

First, the LOWLIGHTS:
•  Miss P hated the Petit club.  On the first day, she went willingly.  But the rest of the week, she screamed every time I dropped her off and could be heard crying throughout the resort every time the group took a ride in their buggy (or the the “trail of tears” as someone coined it). Every time I saw the buggies come, I’d find myself ducking behind a bush or tree while listening to the unmistakable call of my daughter saying “I want Mommy!  I waaaant Mooooommmmmy!”.   And this?  This made me feel horribly guilty.  I honestly tried to push it to the back of my mind, and I did a pretty decent job of it, considering I plowed through a book, took a few naps in the pool and beach chairs, swam some laps, and had many strawberry daiquiris during my stay.  But in general both kids were often whiny when we’d get them from the clubs, spending the afternoon complaining and fighting, and in general sucking the life out of whatever sense of relaxation and patience Jon and I had achieved throughout the day.  I’ve come to the conclusion that our next vacation might very well be sans kids.  To a certain extent, I get their dissatisfaction.  While we tried to prepare them and get them excited about the clubs, I think they were under the impression that they’d be spending the entire week with Mommy and Daddy, soaking in the sun, swimming in the ocean and pool with us.  We tried to put the “it’s like a fun camp!” spin on things, but I’m not sure it took.  Mr. B seemed to like it more than he let on, as every time we’d see him with his group, he looked like he was having a great time.

Miss P just seemed miserable most of the time.  Perhaps it was just not her thing.  However, she starts daycare in a week, so it seemed like a good introduction to the concept of getting dropped off.  Plus, she managed to take a few naps there too.

• On Wednesday, after a particularly quiet day from Mr. B, and following an extremely whiny afternoon, he came down with a 104.5 fever.  In Mexico.  NOT the place you want your child to get really ill.  We skipped dinner that night, opting for bringing food back and letting Mr. B watch a movie in between throwing him in a lukewarm bath.

After a few rounds of drugs, his fever still wasn’t getting much better, and we ended up calling a doctor to our room around 10:30 at night.  She gave us some kind of antibiotic and a vague Strep diagnosis, and by morning Brady seemed almost back to normal.

On to the HIGHLIGHTS!:
• Jon and I went sailing on Sunday, and it was my first time.  The winds were pretty rotten and we didn’t go anywhere, but it was fun to get out on a sailboat.

• I started trapeze on Monday and became hooked.  To the point that I did it every day.  I’d go around 4 to learn a new trick, try it a few times, then head back around 5:30 for “catches”, where someone is on the other swing, and when you let go of your trick, they catch you.  Pretty exhilarating.  Have no fear, you’re totally harnessed in the entire time.  Still, that first time up on the platform, I thought I might just hurl my most recent strawberry daiquiri. Monday night, after only getting caught once (on my first try!), I got coerced in to being in the show.  Along with a group of 14-year olds.  Talk about feeling my age…

However, the circus crew is a fun group.  With names like Rock, Gigante and Chucho, how could they not be?

• Mr. B did the trapeze too!  His Mini Club class, the Geckos, were in circus school every morning, and he seemed to enjoy it.  I think his favorite part was having Marcelo let him run along the net after his trick, only to get pulled back at the end like a stunt double.

• Jon and I got to eat lunch by ourselves pretty much every day.  This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s HUGE in my world.  It was one meal a day that didn’t involve begging someone to eat, ordering someone to stay in their seat, or having to get up several times to get someone something or send them to time out.

• The food was pretty amazing.  Every morning I feasted on egg whites, fruit, and brioche and pain au chocolat smeared with Nutella.  With a side or two of cafe con leche.  Followed closely by several fruity cocktails on the beach.  Being Mexico, there was never a shortage of quesadillas or tortilla chips, but I also caved in to the tasty french fries at lunch.  There was lots of fresh veggies, salads, and pastries to munch on.  And dinner was different every night, ranging from traditional Mexican to Indian, Mediterranean, and Asian.

• There were a few family events that we participated in, including a pirate treasure hunt,  a t-shirt tie-dying event, a pinata bashing, and some small shows. 

• The kids loved playing in the ocean and digging in the sand.

But I think they loved the pool even more. Especially if a local iguana happened to be strolling by…

There was a smaller kiddie pool that both of them could stand in, which gave the parents a break from being eagle-eyed lifeguards (although they had those on duty as well).  Then they also had a larger pool (where I did a nice daily swim) that gave the kids a chance to swim in larger distances.  Mr. B held his own with the bigger kids, being able to swim almost the entire width of the pool, and loved using his new mask and snorkel.  And Miss P?  Well, we’re hoping she’ll be our college scholarship kid.  That girl has zero fear in the water.  Jumping in without abandon (and without looking to see if someone was there to catch her), she amazed most of the other parents there.  The girl is swimming.  Not only swimming, but doing complete back flips in the water.  One of her favorite tricks was climbing down the metal ladder, jumping in to the water, turning around and swimming back, then climbing out so that she could do the whole thing again.

So, while there were some good and bad parts of the week, if I look back on our vacation with a soft focus, it was a wonderful week.  I know that in a few short days I won’t be able to do the mental “this time last week we were doing x, y and z”, and that makes me a little sad.  Even sadder, the fact that Miss P won’t remember this trip in a year.  Mr. B might not either for that matter.  But Jon and I will.  Our first big vacation together will go down in history as being full of adventure, complete with a list full of “firsts”, replete with swimming, and lots of quality time together.           


I know, I know.  I haven’t been in here much lately.  Not nearly as much as I’d like.  I’ve had a lot going on.  Both externally and internally.  My mom was in town last week while my husband was away on business, and while that sounds like “help”, it didn’t feel like it.  I spent the majority of the week feeling pissed off that I wasn’t getting much help beyond a comment here or a picked up toy there.  And then there was another person to clean up after and schedule showers around.  My mother means well, but as like many grandparents, it’s been a long time since she’s been around small kids, and has no memory of what is needed.  And she’s in a self-absorbed place in her life, trying to take care of her needs, which I’m trying to respect. 

And last week was just too down of a week for me to write.   I felt like I was riding first class on the slow train to Crazytown half of the time.  I just want these drugs out of my system so I can feel even again.  But who knows, maybe I’ll never feel entirely even again. 

We’re headed on vacation soon, the first little official vacation that our family of four is taking.  It’s beachy, has a kids club, and offers the promise of relaxation and reconnection.  While I feel a good 5-6 pounds chunkier than I’d like to for parading around in a bathing suit, I’m also super excited to fall asleep while reading a book poolside, indulge in a fruity Adult Cocktail throughout the day, see my daughter play in the ocean for the first time, bury my kids in sand, and spend some kid-free time with my favorite guy in the world.  I just can’t wait…