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We’d do it again… And we are.

IMG_0913We said

216-15154234-F Stairs 3 MS-18386_GPRWithin minutes of being on the cruise ship Emelia confided to Danielle that while she did really love the last cruise and wanted us to know that, but this one – with the surprise and all – was already better than the last one. We hadn’t even pulled in the ropes and set sail yet and we already had a home run! We enjoyed the last little but of cellular data and wifi we had letting those back home known know we were aboard, happy as all get out, about to drop offline and set sails for latitudes much closer to the equator!

IMG_0562When we were able to get into our stateroom shortly after 1:30pm, we found the thoughtful bon voyage gift from our booking agent – a bottle of wine and a thank you note. We uncorked, toasted and got situated in our home away from home for the next week. I, of course went right to the balcony to investigate my view for the next week’s days at sea. The best part: we had three state rooms in line with Bonnie, Billy and the girls so we had roaming space of three balconies joined! It was perfect bliss.

IMG_0567The first day was a combination of a couple things we love: the deck sail off party and our first dinner in the Animator’s Palette — our favourite restaurant on the cruise. We reeled in anchor, lost internet connection with the rest of the world and then set sail into the beautiful aquamarine oceans. Different than the last cruise this exit was less rushed and involved beautiful weather as opposed to avoiding a storm. The streamers were shot, the unique Disney horn sounded and we were off to our tropical, saltwater playground.

IMG_0583From the moment they connected in Cocoa Beach, Emelia, Riley and Ruby were inseparable! Emelia was amazing with both girls but there was a special connection with Emelia and Ruby. Not sure if that is because her being used to daycare kids and their younger ages or just her nature, but she seemed to be able to equally navigate moments between both girls no matter the age. Not having to worry about every moment on Emelia’s itinerary was the real blessing to this trip. Pretty much she updated us with what they were doing and we were just beside ourselves with the not having to plan for her!

216-15154234-F Stairs 3 MS-18386_GPROur first two days were spent at sea getting to our first port (Tortola, BVI) which was a relaxing way to start. With only three ports on this cruise, verse the four last time, the added time to relax was welcome! We spent as much time as we could on the main deck between the two pools, two water slides, and splash pads getting as much sun and laughter as we could stand. Early stand out as last time was the Aqua Duck but a close second was the all-you-can-eat self serve ice cream station. That may be where a good portion of our ‘cruise pounds’ came from.

IMG_0634We got plenty of sun burnt and enjoyed all that the cruise ship had to offer in those first two days before we hit a port. I swear by the time we  — hit Tortola it felt like in the two days we spent at sea, we’d already experienced eight days packed with fun and relaxation. We arrived at port at six in the morning, and in the state of relaxation I was in, I was up before sunset and able to sit on the balcony to enjoy the sunrise and the coming in to port. Shortly after we were all docked up, Emelia and Danielle were up and we got to breakfast. The early start to the day allowed us to get off the boat, explore Tortola and get back on before the heat made it too crazy. We did a bit of shopping, found some adult beverages and were back on the boat by the time most people were just getting off — in the equatorial heat. It also allowed us to enjoy a less busy boat while every one else was off the boat enjoying their excursions.

IMG_0756The next day we were at St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. This time Danielle was up in time to watch the docking while Emelia and I enjoyed some sleep. In St. Thomas, with the heat even warmer and Billy, Bonnie and the girls in tow, we spent our time a little closer to the dock and got back on the boat to enjoy more runs on the Aqua Duck. Again we found some adult drinks, some tropical treats. That afternoon, back on the boat the girls were able to take in some of the wonderful kid’s programs they have on the boat, and we were able to explore some of the grownup areas of the boat. Again it was the perfect sort of relaxing bliss we had grown accustomed to Emelia having Riley and Ruby to entertain her over us all week. And once again, the self serve ice cream was the thread to our day.

IMG_0762After St Thomas it was off to the common port from last trip and the one we were all looking forward to – Disney’s own island in the Bahamas: Castaway Cay. It was easily our favourite part of last cruise and we were fairly certain it would be again. The big thing this time however was the plan to take part in the Castaway Cay 5K Run. Even more surprising was that I was going to accompany Danielle and Bill on this run! Despite having never really run any distance prior, and the 92º temperatures, and my better judgment, we did the run and I survived.

216-15506794-Pier-18280_GPRAfter the run and a quick trip back to the boat to get out of our sweat soaked clothes and into our swim suits we were ready to get out on the beach and to meet up with the girls. Quickly we got some lunch and into our snorkel gear to go swim and explore the ocean bay. Quickly we were amid fish, sunken ships and stingrays. We spent well over an hour exploring as much as we could and snapping underwater pics with Emelia’s underwater camera. And before we knew it was getting close to time to re-board the boat and with the heat we were definitely to the early side of getting back on  than the last very moment like last trip — likely the 5K run was the biggest reason for that early return to the boat. But, we were just as content as last trip!

216-15520815-Beach-18279_GPRGetting back on the boat, while we didn’t really talk about it, the underlying feeling was clear: we knew this was our last night at sea. While we were a touch sad about that, we certainly feeling great about all the fun we had and memories we created. Our last meal on ship was in the Royal Court dining room – same as last trip – and then we retired to our rooms to start the process of packing up and getting ready to go home. Bittersweet yes, but we were ready to be back home too – the perfect measure of a great vacation. We were able to enjoy a nice leisurely pace to packing with the girls off to the kid’s area, and then with them back and in bed, a glass of wine as we absorbed the last night with a balcony view of the ocean.

IMG_0771The next morning was all about debarking and starting the journey back home. We had breakfast all together our last time, had our hugs and then began our separate journeys back home. We were off the ship and on land by nine in the morning. With so much time to kill before our 6:45pm flight and a rental car, we decided to see if there was any shopping we could do and low and behold there was the Florida Mall complete with a real live bonafide American Girl Doll store! The last surprise of the trip was pulling in to the parking lot right next to the store and Emelia seeing the store in all it’s glory.

IMG_0770Of course we had a stop there (and of course there was a stop first at Starbucks for Mummy & Daddy). While Emelia and Danielle took in the American Girl store, I got a chance to visit our Apple Store in the mall too. After a great visit meeting their team there, it was time to reconvene with Danielle and Emelia and see what a stand alone American Girl store was like — this one actually had a cafe in it to boot! Emelia of course, was in heaven. She spent most of her time fawning over the new doll of her dreams: Lea Clark. She has been saving diligently for a month and a bit with chores and behaviour and after we recognized that we could save about $30 on the costs back home, we entered into a bit of a loan/chore/behaviour agreement with Emelia where we would spot her the other half of her allowance savings and added (yet) another American Girl to our family.

IMG_0946With that bit of unplanned shopping out of the way, lunch in our tummies, it was time to get to the airport, return the rental car, and get ready to board the plane back home. We were all ready to be back home but it would take a near three hour flight to Toronto, hour to navigate he airport to our parked car, and the two hour drive home. Our heads hit our pillows and we were fast asleep in seconds at 1:00am after a long day of travel.

216-15097278-Embrk Terminal-18277_GPRWhen people ask us what our favourite memory of the trip was, it is hands down the moment we let Emelia in on the trip. When people ask us for favourite part of the trip, it is the same as last time – the day spent on Castaway Cay. And when people ask us if we enjoyed the cruise, my answer is this: Well, that was our second cruise, and while we were away, we – without hesitation – put down a deposit to hold our place (at a significant discount) on our third trip in the next two years. So did Billy. And now some of our brothers are even talking about going too. Yes, it is safe to say we created more memories for a lifetime. And we’ll do it again.

#SURPRISE!

IMG_0468We said

IMG_0425So… yes… we’re back. And here is – finally – the post that talks about the trip. But lets first spend a little time addressing why this post is so delayed. We flew back Saturday evening arriving in Toronto just ahead of ten in the evening. Knowing that the cupboards were bare and the fridge empty, on the highway just outside of London we put in an order for a couple personal pizzas from Boston Pizza to pickup and eat when we arrived at the house (which we did). A gluten free one for Danielle and a meat lovers for myself.

IMG_0428Precisely four and a half hours after inhaling that pizza and hitting the sheets exhausted I was awoken with an intestinal furor that kicked off twelve to eighteen hours of bed, bathroom, and wishing I had not even been on the same continent as that damned pizza! That’s right: food poisoning! I was horizontal until Monday morning and heading in to work. In fact, I didn’t feel one hundred percent until Monday evening. Trust me when I say this, while it did have a positive effect on the scale, weight loss by food poisoning is not the way to counteract all the amazing food I ate too much of on the boat.

So…

IMG_0438That brings us to the trip. The week leading up (and from our last post) blew by in a whirl of getting everything that needed to be done, done. And before we new it, it was Thursday, the daycare kids were all gone and we were eating a quick meal before hopping into the truck and heading to Toronto for the night. Emelia was still ensconced in the storyline that Daddy was going to Toronto for work and they were tagging along. We got settled in to the hotel near the airport and readied ourselves for the early morning wake up.

IMG_0445That brings us to Friday morning — the best part of the trip and what we had planned and looked forward to for well over a year. When we got to the parking garage at the airport for what Emelia thought was to pickup a fellow manager from another store in Vancouver, that was where she learned that Danielle and I had maybe not been completely honest. With the car parked, as we got out I told Emelia that I needed to check an email on my phone to see where we were to meet Jim, Steve or Mike (or any one of the names I had given her for this manager we were picking up that I couldn’t ever remember – my continuity game was weak).

When I checked the email – slash – open my phone to the camera to record, that was where we let Emelia in on the secret. I told her there was a change in plans, that weren’t going to be staying in Toronto for the week, and unfortunately that we were doing something else. And that something else was the cruise!

 

Emelia’s reaction was exactly as I expected – she overwhelms easy and her curious nature leads to her wanting to know the intricate details of what is going on—even in ‘made up’ versions of what we’re doing as she is every bit the planner/organizer that Danielle is. But as I look back at the video of her reaction and her first statement “I knew you guys were lying to me” and then the subsequent controlled, organized release of realization and then excitement, it is every bit what I expected and the memory of a lifetime for us. What followed after I hit stop on the video was a million questions from Emelia working through how our version of the story didn’t work. But, for the first time in a year, we were now able to talk about the trip to Emelia!

IMG_0457And yet there was still another big surprise to come…

We made it to Florida and the hotel on Friday with little to no incident. We got situated in our room, picked up some supplies with our rental car and then got our swimsuits on with plans to hit the ocean. Little did Emelia know, there was another surprise coming her way. My cousin Bill, my Aunt Bonnie and Bill’s girls Riley & Ruby were at the patio restaurant on the way to the beach and they were all ready to let Emelia know that they too were going on the cruise with us!

IMG_0461In the hotel room I told Emelia that I found out my friend who lives in Florida just so happened to be at the hotel we were at and we were going to say a quick hello before hitting the beach. After having already started the day with a major reveal, her skeptical reaction of “are you lying to me again Daddy?” was to be expected. When we got into the restaurant and got to the table where Bonnie, Bill, Riley and Ruby were sitting, the look on Emelia’s face was priceless. And, I was finally able to assure her that was it for the surprises and (more importantly to her) the lies.

IMG_0462The girls were elated to be all together and better yet to learn they were spending a week together on a Disney Cruise Ship in the Caribbean. But the best two parts seemed to be the Aqua Duck water slide on the boat and that we had made the girls matching shirts to commemorate the cruise! We sat together at their table while they finished up there lunch and then hatched plans to go play in the ocean for the afternoon. The girls were immediately inseparable and it was awesome for Bill, Danielle, Bonnie and I to be able to just sit back and watch them build these lifelong memories – it literally was like watching the best movie ever.

IMG_0474We squeezed as much as we could out of our short stay at Cocoa Beach in that hotel right on the ocean. We had our first tastes of saltwater on the trip and got sand in our trunks. The last time we cruised we arrived late the night before, stayed at hotel in the airport and then boarded the shuttle to the cruise the next day, early. This arriving early the day before, getting to Port Canaveral right away and spending  the day on the ocean to unwind before boarding the cruise was perfect, and the only way I will ever do it again – special thanks to Danielle’s great foresight and planning!

IMG_0476The next day – Saturday – was all about packing up, and moving on as we were boarding the cruise ship. Once we had the rental car returned, boarded the customer shuttle to the port all the memories of the trip three years prior came flooding back to us. As we got up close to the ship and in through the boarding process, it was impossible for any of us to contain our excitement. And what made it even more so was on the shuttle with us was a family about to embark on their very first family Disney Cruise. There Danielle and I were with a window vision of what we must have looked like three years ago, not completely able to predict or rationalize the lifelong happy memories they were just about to create.

IMG_0482And with that, we were aboard the boat, in our cabins and ready to set sails. We dropped off bags and headed to the deck for the sailing party!

 

Next week: Our wonderful week on the ocean!