Spring Cruise 2012

Spring Break 2012 with the Preble family! Like last year, we took another Carnival cruise for spring break. But, this year we went with another family which made it twice as fun!

We'd been planning a cruise with another family for about 4 months leading up to Spring Break and managed to keep our kids in the dark the whole time. The night before we left, the kids spent that night at their grandparents, while we packed bags. The next day we hid the bags in the back of the car and I announced I had a last minute business trip... For weeks leading up this, the kids complained about not doing anything for Spring Break, and had been asking to go on another cruise again.... they got their wish!

Here's the boys at Dulles Airport enjoying a beer at the airport bar. :)

Party life for the boys... Bud Light Lime on the cruise deck before we even leave port! (Obviously, just joking.)

Chrissie and Chris enjoying the sun on the first day (Chris has retrieved his Bud Light Lime's from the boys).

Formal dinners were pretty disappointing in terms of food quality, but the company was great! We chose the my time dining, which lets you dine whenever you want. However, if you choose this option, I highly recommend that you show up either VERY early or VERY late. We would show up by 6pm and the line would already be forming. When we would finish shortly after 7pm, the line was long and slow as they waited for tables to open up. If you can schedule your dining regularly, do not choose "My Time" dining.

Underpants man makes a come back.

First full day at sea and everybody is enjoying their books, taking in some sun, and starting to unwind.

Second night at the formal dinner. Catey ordered the "single size" pizza.

Chase is already showing some sun on his cheeks.

Everybody say cheese!

It's time for Karaoke Awesome!!! Chrissie and Krista singing Dancing Queen!

I"m your ice cream man, stop me when I'm passing by....

Hey Soul Sisters!

A great shot of the kids running around on the deck after dark with the jumbo screen in the background showing the game

Day Three and our first excursion on Grand Cayman. We went and had fun with some dolphins before heading out to StingRay City. Met some bird brains along the path there.

Hanging out on deck waiting to jump in with the dolphins. Last year we actually "rode" the dolphins, but this year we just got to get in the water and play with them and pet them. Still fun, but did not get the video this year.

After the dolphin experience, we headed out on a boat to StingRay City.

It is absolutely ridiculous how crowded it is at the shoal called StingRay City. Are you kidding me?

However, once in the water, we did get a pretty up close encounter with the stingrays.

Some of the team got kisses:

Check out this video (lots of kissing going on!!!):

On the ride back the captain actually let the kids drive the boat almost the entire 15 minute trip. The kids loved it!

Chase and Caitlyn from the bow of the ship:

Great shot of the team in front of a pair of Carnival ships off Grand Cayman as we head back from our StingRay encounter:

Back on board it was time for another dinner, Karaoke and showing off some red cheeks!

Alex wants NOTHING to do with karaoke!

Day Four is upon us. Rather than pay for an excursion, we simply took a cab to Chankanaab National Park. The cab is very inexpensive (I think it was like $12). Then you pay about $20 to get into the park, as opposed to paying $50/person to do the EXACT same thing booked through the ship. For a family of four, you save about $100 just jumping in a cab.

The first thing we did was watch the sea lion show, which was very funny. Here's Chase getting his picture taken with one of the sea lions.

The other nice thing about Chankanaab is that they also have a VERY large freshwater pool, which is a nice change from the small saltwater pools they have on the ship. The kids really enjoyed the change.

After a dip in the pool, we went swimming right off the rocky beach. Tons of fish everywhere. I always bring food with me (take some cheerios boxes from the cruise ship and bring them with you in the water. This is the result:

And if you swim into deeper water they have sunk several unique things like this statue:

Some more great group shots:

After three full days in the sun (plus whatever we got on the day of departure) we are ready for something NOT in the sun. So, in Belize we booked an excursion to go caving called "Raiders of the Lost Mayan Cave". Here's some shots on the tender to shore"

My boy makes me so proud.

Here's the guide map of Belize with our drive route drawn on it for us.

Here's a picture of the caving system we're goign to explore:

And here's the bus. It's about a 40 minute bus ride, but the bus is air conditioned so it's not horrible. The ride is NOT paved so it's pretty bumpy... try to think of it as a full body massage. :)

Time to suit up!!!! If you've ever been to Luray caverns in Virginia, this is NOTHING like that. It is not lit. You are caving and will be climbing rock walls (rope assisted) with no light except what is on your head. It's awesome.

Hiking through the jungle. The guide said that sometimes they see spider monkeys in the trees during the walk. We weren't lucky enough. BTW, be sure to bring bug spray! We bought some right before we embarked on the cruise.

These caves were discovered about 6 years ago. The guide pointed to one unmarked entrance and said that the cave is not fully explored. They have explored this particular entrance as far as they can, and have not found the end of it yet!

Here's the main entrance that we will explore.

Once inside it is very dark. These pictures appear bright, but that is only because of the flash on the camera.

Here's one of the sections where you climb down a rock wall. They are very concerned about safety so you are harnessed up for anything that even remotely has a fall hazard.

Once again, he makes me so proud. That's actually a stalagmite.

Yes, bats everywhere:

At some point you emerge from that section of cave and take a zipline into the mouth of another section:

Here's a video of some of the jungle and the actual zipline experience:

Everybody survived the bus ride back and that evening we skipped the formal dinner and opted for the pizza on the Lido deck (though we still had our bottle of wine!!!). After a short dinner, we headed to comedy night with Percy Crews 2 who is very funny. He had a "family friendly" show at 7:30pm. After the show Catey got his autograph and then she and Caitlyn posed on stage for their own comedy set.

The next day we stopped in Roatan, Honduras at Mahogany Bay, which is a little spot that is carved out specifically for Carnival cruise lines. The beach was pretty crowded, but if you swim just a bit outside the ropes you can get to the drop off where the ships come and go. The reef drops straight down and we spotted all kinds of cool fish including Lion Fish and Barracuda.

The image below is an overhead of Mahogany Beach, which you can easily walk to from the cruise ship. The part with the circle is outside of the roped off swimming area. However, that is where all the coral actually is!!! I think they just want paid excursions with snorkels to go there, but that's just silly. If you walk out the pier they have entrances to the water on both sides, and we just jumped in. If you swim just out of the range of this picture to the right you'll come to a serious drop off. It feels like finding Nemo.

Here's the Lion Fish and Barracuda we saw. I should mention that where I took this picture, the water depth goes from 6 feet to 60 feet very quickly. It's very neat. For these pictures I had to swim down to about 20 feet deep.

The next day was a full day at sea. We took the time to just relax on deck. I finished that last Hunger Games book (I read all three starting the moment we got to the airport). The following day we disembarked and got very lucky. We had no checked baggage, which means you can disembark early, so we actually stumbled into the VIP line accidentally and were probably some of the first hundred people off the ship. We got to customs so quickly we had to actually step aside to fill out the forms!

We spent that afternoon at Miami Beach where the kids played in the waves, and I fell asleep on the beach for an hour followed by a really nice lunch and strolled around downtown South Beach with all the ships and restaurants.

My biggest complaint about this trip was probably the food. At the formal dining the fish was ALWAYS over cooked, the flavors were "so-so" and when I ordered up the prime rib one evening, it was cut so thin it looked like an undercooked slice of ham. Very disappointing. I landed, unpacked, repacked and immediately flew out on a business trip. But, when I got back, I made probably the nicest meal I'd had in two weeks. Oven roasted brocolli and cauliflower with pan fried salmon (a nice crisp crust), and an avocado sauce with a hint of curry in it.

Hope you enjoyed! See you next trip!