In loving memory of my deceased uncle, my dear aunt generously treated twenty-three members of my extended family to an Eastern Caribbean Cruise in November 2009. The family came from Colorado, Utah, Minnesota and Slovakia to Florida where the ten-day party began.
Hakuna Matada is not exactly my family’s theme song! They had to play “musical rooms” across the entire ship dragging along heavy luggage even though the staff on Carnival’s cruise ship Valor had efficiently planned rooms for us. Fortunately the registration staff, from exotic countries around the world, was patient with the ridiculous number of key card exchanges, because any typical employee would have thrown us overboard.
Quickly the standard meeting place for our family became Rosie’s CafÃ©….what’s a cruise without food? Every exotic or fun food was available 16 hours a day. What more could a teenager ask for? To counter those calories, my cousins and I went to the dream gym daily. Running on the treadmill made it feel as if you were running right on the ocean with the landscape windows at the front of the gym. While on board, the girls spent relaxing hours on the Lito Deck with the sun rays bronzing our snow white winter skin giving us bragging rights with our friends back home in the sub-zero weather.
Every night, the whole family met at the Lincoln Restaurant with our waiter, Juan. He was amazing and soon knew our names, favorite desserts, how my brother wanted his steak done, that my two year old cousin only liked chocolate milk and, most important, that every night I needed my chocolate melting cake. Juan soon became an unofficial member of our family. He had a wife and a two-year old son in Haiti that experienced the devastation of a hurricane a few weeks after our cruise. Our hearts and prayers lovingly went out to Juan’s family.
Carnival is considered the best cruise line at making the cruise fun for kids with great activities provided for all ages in the various clubs. The night life was….well let’s just say my Mom might read this essay.
The ports provided unforgettable memories from zip-lining to swimming with the dolphins. Upon disembarking, the locals are at your service to give personalized tours of their home with the best activities at half the price of the cruise tours. That is where Grandma’s embarrassing bartering skills came in handy. The first stop was at the Cayman Islands where we unloaded some of our cash shopping at the great outdoor malls and then vamos a la playa! The water at the beach was the most pure aqua color and so refreshing.
Next was Isla Roataan, Honduras, where we flew across the tree tops of the jungles on zip lines. The zip line towers were a little wobbly and stood hundreds of feet in the air. My 350 pound Uncle was the last one to ride the line into the first tower. Somehow he missed the instruction of how to break. Fortunately, the 110 pound Honduran guide put his life at risk to stop him and save us!
On Thanksgiving Day, we realized just how much we have to be grateful for as we witnessed the poverty of Belize. While touring the inspiring Aztec ruins, we learned that happiness does not come from money, but from family and love. It is a Thanksgiving I’ll never forget.
Cozumel Mexico was the final port with the most amazing experience of all….swimming with the dolphins. When I returned home it felt as if I had just woke up from a dream, my dream vacation.
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