Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

We didn't take many pictures at all this Christmas.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Disney Cruise - Castaway Cay

Our last stop was Disney’s private island. It did not disappoint! They rotate the cruises so there’s one cruise ship there per day, and almost all the staff is from the boat. There’s only a handful of people who come over from South Abaco island every day to help, the rest are different every day depending on what ship is there. All the food supplies, towels, etc. and brought off the boat and then put back on at the end of the day.

We didn’t explore the whole island, but they have tons of stuff to do. We had one snorkel excursion and planned to spend the rest of the day loafing on the beach. There’s a huge play area for the kids that’s built right into the ocean where the water is a couple of feet deep. The water was clear and warm and perfect.

We took a boat ride to a rocky area off the north side of the island and snorkeled there for a while. The water was really choppy there, and the current was strong, so the kids and I kind of struggled to not drift out to sea or crash into the rocks some of the time, but there were so many fish! There was a lot to see. Our guides were very good about calling us over when they saw something cool, or they would bring things over to show us. Rob was able to see a 3-foot-long barracuda. After spending some time there, the boat moved to a calmer, more sandy area and we all swam down that direction. We didn’t have to work quite so hard there and were more able to enjoy snorkeling. We saw some stingrays from a distance, and we saw several big starfish.

The guides then helped us back on the boat and they drove us over to a sandbar. We weren’t sure what we were supposed to do on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, but that’s exactly what it was. I looked up Castaway Cay on Google maps and was able to find an image of the sandbar:

(Sandy Point is on South Abaco Island, Bahamas)

So we got off the boat in waist-high water and waded up onto the sandbar, where it was no more than knee-deep. It was a cool place to splash around in the waves and squish our toes in the sand. Pretty soon we started noticing some rocks on the bottom – they were sand dollars. Big ones!  Like 4 and 6 inches across and 2-3 inches thick. The guides were telling us the white sand dollars we usually see are dead shells, but living sand dollars are dark brown. It wasn’t long before we started noticing dark spots in the sand – living sand dollars! That was a neat thing to see. When you hold them, you can feel their little spiny feet moving a little. They’re very prickly, and the white sand looks neat in the patterns on their undersides.

On our way back to the boat, Robbie spotted something big and dark in the water. It was a big stingray. That was cool to see – from a distance, mind you. There were also some small fish now and then. We left our (non-waterproof) camera on the boat, so I don’t have any pictures of the sea life we saw there, but here are a couple of pictures of the area.

It’s crazy how you can see the difference between the shallow, light water around the sandbar and then the dark blue where it drops off into the ocean.

This is a view of Castaway Cay and the cruise ship on our way back.


Disney Cruise - Jamaica

Jamaica was our most adventurous port day. We took a shuttle to a place called Misty Mountain Resort where we rode a sky ride (ski lift-type) up to the top of a mountain. The line to get on the sky ride was in a cool jungle-y area with lots of mist and crazy-looking spider webs.

When we were waiting in line, we noticed the workers were chatting up all the tourists & we loved their accents. They were asking the group ahead of us what type of music they like, and one of them them said Justin Bieber. When we were getting on, one of them said to Robbie, “And what about you, little man, you like Justin Bieber?” Robbie said no, so they asked who he likes and he said Bob Marley. They all went nuts, cheering and giving him high-fives!

This is a view from the sky ride:

Then we rode bobsleds halfway down the mountain on a gravity-fed track. We each rode in separate cars – not sure why I didn’t get a picture of Robbie in his.


Here’s a view from the track. It was very fast and very fun; too scary to take pictures during the turns!

At the bottom of the bobsled track, we had a Jamaican jerk chicken lunch, and got all suited up to ride ziplines the rest of the way down. The lunch lady style hair nets were super-attractive.

We rode down a series of four ziplines. One of them was a vertical drop, which was a little scary, but short enough that it wasn’t terrifying.

In the second video, you can see Rob going over part of the bobsled track.

Disney Cruise - Grand Cayman

Our next stop was Grand Cayman Island. We took a shuttle to a turtle farm where we got to see huge sea turtles and hold baby turtles. When you hold a turtle, it will slap the heck out of you with its flippers unless you rub its tummy.



They also had a huge man-made lagoon with fish and turtles. We spent a lot of time snorkeling there and getting up close and personal with the fish. One edge of the swimming area was a huge glass wall with sharks on the other side. There were peacocks just wandering around, and iguanas would hop in to swim around and sun themselves on the islands in the lagoon.

We were too busy/wet to take pictures of this area, but here’s one of random people from their website that gives you an idea of what it looks like.


Disney Cruise - Cozumel

Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico. This is looking across the dock at the neighboring cruise ship. These things are huge!

The water was absolutely gorgeous.


We didn’t spend much time in port, but we rode a very bumpy boat out to a submarine dock and then took a submarine tour. Here’s the sub above surface.

On the submarine:

104 feet below surface:

The photos didn’t turn out well, but the visibility was very good, and we got to see a lot of different fish.


Disney Cruise 2014 – The Ship

Our first cruise was on the Disney Wonder, and this time we went on the Disney Fantasy. The Fantasy is bigger than the Wonder, and we could tell the difference in the crowds. Both ships are really nice, but we prefer the smaller one. They have a lot of the same features, and similar restaurants.


We didn’t take very many pictures in our room, but it was very similar to the room on our last cruise. Here are the kids after their beds were all made up on the first night.

Another shot of the room and the towel snake the housekeeping crew left us. We didn’t take pictures of all the towel animals but it was a different one each night.

We had a veranda, which was nice for watching the sun rise.

One of the things the kids liked most was the AquaDuck waterslide. They rode is at much as they could. You can see them on the raft in the clear tube just above the yellow slide.

The kids’ clubs were great. Erin was old enough to go into the “tween” age club, and she could still go into the younger club with Robbie if she wanted to. We were worried about Robbie being on his own since he’s so shy, but he did fine.

There are a few different entertainment venues/night clubs. We spent a lot of time in The Tube, which had a cool 1960’s London theme.

There are neat things in unexpected places, around corners and in hallways.

 The entertainment crew was very friendly and would joke around with everyone between shows. This guy Brett always had the craziest socks.

Erin was especially fond of Carlos the bartender, although she never spoke to him or interacted with him in any way. Hmm….

This was one of the theaters:

Big Hero 6 was released that week, so it was fun to watch that in the theater. The shows and plays were all top-notch, too.

We were paired up with a family of four from Springfield, IL for dinner, and we got along pretty well. You have dinner with the same group every night, but you rotate to different restaurants and your waitstaff rotates with you. So the servers quickly learned what everyone likes to drink, etc. and they were really nice.

The adults of Table 31 (the kids were always quick to take off after dinner to start partying)

 Our servers had a trainee shadowing them, so we go to have three. They kept saying she was “earning her ears”, so on the last day, Rob gave her a set of ears and we made a big deal about her graduating from her training.

One of them made Robbie a Peter Pan hat out of a napkin on our first night.

One night of every Disney cruise is Pirate Night, complete with pirate-style food and a big deck party with fireworks. Ready for Pirate Night, complete with eyeliner tattoos:


Robbie had a sweet beard and drawn-on earring.


Disney Cruise 2014

We went on our second Disney cruise. This time, we flew to Florida and stayed at Cocoa Beach before going to the cruise terminal in Orlando. This was Robbie’s first time flying and Erin’s first time that she was old enough to remember.

Our hotel was right on the beach, so we took a walk that night. This was both kids’ first time seeing the Atlantic Ocean.

We saw a jellyfish that had washed up on shore.

The cruise terminal was very crowded, so we spent a lot of time outside looking at the ship. We ordered matching t-shirts for the trip…

They were already starting to decorate for Christmas!

This is the gangway leading from the terminal to the ship.

It started to rain on us just as the sail away party was beginning, so we went inside and watched the ASU/Notre Dame game on one of the big screens.