It's hard to believe Christmas has come & gone. It was an emotional time for all of us. The days preceding Christmas, the kids all kept talking about how they wished Noah was here with us. They made sure he was included in our celebrations in every way possible. They wanted his Christmas stocking put out with all of theirs (which we ended up putting a little gift in for each of them from Noah). When most kids are anxiously awaiting the opening of gifts, my kids were writing letters to Noah and spent time in tears because their brother wasn't here.
We went to the Christmas eve service at our church. The kids were involved in singing a song with our pastors wife and other kids. It was a nice service, but at the end when we were all singing Christmas songs, I just broke down crying. It was too hard to sing some of those joyful words, my heart just wasn't in it. Knowing Noah's body was just laying right outside, I felt like I should've been out there with him instead of inside church while everyone was singing.
That night before bed, Hannah asked if in the morning before they open gifts, if she could read a letter to Noah she wrote. So precious that it was more important to her to talk to Noah before even thinking about her gifts, made my heart melt.
Christmas morning was a mixture of emotions for all of us. I think during prayer we were all wiping our eyes as Kevin talked about Noah. And then when Hannah read her letter, I tried to keep from bawling, her note was so sweet!!! We were definitely missing the antics of what a 5 month old would've added to our Christmas morning. But we are so thankful knowing we WILL see Noah again one day again soon!! I played the song "Christmas in Heaven" that I posted here just the other week, it's such a fitting song. I can't even imagine the celebration Noah got to be a part of in Heaven!
Here is Hannah's Christmas note to Noah:
Dear Noah, I hope you have a fun Christmas. It is your first Christmas. You would've loved moms homemade sticky buns. I wanted to get you a gift but it just didn't work out. I can't wait to have Christmas with you! I will see you soon. Merry Christmas Noah, I love you very much!
Here is a picture of the kids with their Noah dolls before opening gifts:
I guess Christmas is affecting us all differently this year. I know I've been feeling pretty down lately with not having Noah with us to celebrate his first Christmas. I cried the other day in walmart as I walked past the baby boy Christmas outfits as I know we would've bought Noah one. And I see lately how it's bothering the kids as well, they've had some rough nights lately. When most kids are anxiously awaiting all the festivities of the holidays, my kids are writing letters to Noah and crying at night because he isn't here with us to celebrate.
We tuck them into bed, and usually after awhile they come out crying. Susan has said she is really missing Noah and wishes he was here to hold and spend Christmas with us. Erik said the other night how he is bored because he doesn't have his brother here to play with. We usually end up talking, getting his videos out from the hospital so we can watch and hear him. I admit that's hard for me to do at times. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing Noah as it seems like just yesterday he was here. But it just makes my arms ache for my son and what I don't have.
The other night while watching videos, it went into clips Kevin had taken after he died. I had forgot we video taped all of us just holding his dear little body, staring at Noah and trying to take in every detail. The part we had of Sarah was her just gazing at him as she held him against her, all wrapped up in his blue blanket we bought him. She just rocked Noah for minutes on end, never taking her eyes off him. All of those videos are so surreal to watch, I can't even put it into words.
Watching the videos of Noah moving and hearing him often helps calm the kids down. We talk about what he might be doing in heaven and pray with them. The kids know that we don't have all the answers and we are always open and honest with them, as hard as it may be. It's so hard as a parent to see the kids ache so bad, I just want to take away that pain for them. I know that Noah's life is teaching them so much. I still wish though I could've spared their innocence from losing their brother.
I continue to be amazed at how God grants even our smallest desires! Earlier this week when we got our tree, I said to Kevin that I wanted to at get at least one ornament for Noah. I figured though it's late in season and I'd just focus on getting some things for next year.
Well today when we got the mail, I could hardly believe my eyes!!!!
Here we were sent a beautiful ornament for Noah! (with his name & birthstone). I don't know who sent it to us but THANK YOU!!! It means SOOO much to us! It brought tears to my eyes that someone thought of us and knew this is something we desired. It's hanging right in the front of our tree where we can always see it.
I can't get over how so many amazing people have been there for us this last half year. I don't know where'd we'd be without this wonderful support. ♥
I wanted to blog Wednesday night after my difficult day but I was just so drained. I've been anxiously awaiting Noah's birth certificate and social security card but figured paperwork takes awhile. After talking to Jen & Michele, I realized I should've received his paperwork long ago as I filled out the forms in the hospital. So I made the call Wednesday afternoon. This was after going grocery shopping that morning for the first time by myself at Shady since June which was a bit emotionally draining. I tried not to stop to really talk to anyone, I wasn't up for it, but still some people asked "who the babies are that were with me". No "hey how are you" or anything. I've been babysitting for several yrs now and everyone knows that. And considering everything, I guess I was just surprised I would be asked that. Oh well.
Anyway, I called and after some run arounds the lady finally asks me to identify myself with a bunch of information. Then she confirmed that yes, I filed for his birth certificate and they have it. But I wasn't sent it "because he died." I was shocked to say the least. She went on to say though that she will send it to me. I said what about his social security card as I filled out the info for that too in the hospital. She said "oh, that wasn't filed then because he died." She said once I receive his birth certificate, I will have to go down to the office to re-apply for his social security card. Needless to say I barely got off the phone before I burst into tears.
Someone let the bawl drop as others I know whose babies died, got their childs paperwork. So to tell me I didn't receive anything because Noah died was a line of malarky. I felt hurt and upset that my son wasn't treated like any other child all because he died. UGH!!!!
Thankfully today was a better day. Jen & Gwen came to visit (we missed you Michele, hopefully next time!). We had both made cookie dough prior to the visit so the kids spent the afternoon baking cookies while Jen & I got to spend time catching up.
During the afternoon, a friend from church stopped by with her daughter & surprised us with many goodies from our church family for Christmas. It was such an encouragement to be remembered and blessed in such a special way. It couldn't have come at a better time either. We really appreciate those of you who still lift us up in prayer, send notes, call to see how we are, visit and even the occasional meal or treat that always seems to be brought on a day when it's needed the most. We are so grateful to all of you for your support these last several months!!!!!
Today was back to the usual, babysitting the 3 little ones, co-op, etc. I decided to take a black forest cake in today for the moms as sometimes people bring in snacks. The kids and I unloaded everything at co-op and started to head in. I had the cake under my arm (it was in one of those round tupperware containers). As I was walking in, I felt something down my side only to realize the bottom of the container fell off and I was now wearing the cake (cream cheese icing of course) as well as it went down my bag that had my laptop, onto a bit of that then all over the parking lot. I just stood there in the cold wind not knowing quite what to do. Thankfully several moms saw what happened and jumped in to help me clean everything up before I could even ask for help. I was ready to just bawl. Thank you my dear friends!!!!
It's hard to believe it's been 5 months since Noah was born. I can't help but think of all the things he'd be doing now like rolling over, starting to push his arms up a bit, giggling at Erik making silly faces at him, etc. Just today during one of Erik's classes, they were playing hang man and were supposed to pick words related to their class. Erik's teacher told me when it was his turn the phrase he ended up picking was "I Love Noah". ♥ The kids pain is still evident in all they do still as well.
A close friend gave me a Christmas gift today. I know she said it wasn't much, but when I opened it I just cried. It was these adorable stacking boxes that match Noah's nursery (with animals and the coloring) and had his name on the boxes. And a lovely friendship mug that will always make me think of her when I use it. It meant so much to me that she remembered Noah. It may have seemed insignificant to her but it meant the world to me!
I can hardly believe Christmas is fast approaching. Admittedly I am really not in the "holiday mood" this year. It's just a reminder that Noah isn't here with us. I remember last year as we got ready for Christmas, thinking ahead and anticipating having a little one who will just be getting to a fun age around this time and wearing the traditional "babys first Christmas" outfit that the other kids wore.
A friend shared this song and it really touched me. Made me wonder just what all Noah is experiancing in Heaven as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Sorry everyone, it totally slipped my mind to send out a final update yesterday. But for those who weren't aware, we made it home safe and sound yesterday after traveling over 2300 miles via ship. To snow noneless, ahhhh!!!!!!! I admit, I've struggled with adjusting to this cold weather. Or rather my body has. I've been struggling with a headache since being home that turned into a migraine this morning.
Thank you to everyone for following our travels, for the many great emails we received (sorry if I wasn't able to respond to each and every one of them, slow ship internet) and for the prayers covering us as well. We all stayed healthy while traveling and everything went great! It was a much needed time away for all of us.
To those of you who will see the kids in the coming days, be prepared to have your ears yakked off with the many things they are anxious to share with anyone who wants to listen!Haha And a huge thank you to my best friend for posting my daily updates here while I was away. ♥
Today was our last full day at sea, which is honestly hard to believe. It seems just like yesterday we got on the ship. It doesnt matter how long vacation is, it always seems to fly by. We are definitely feeling the cooler temps today. I know, still not as cold as well experience at home tomorrow, but when youre used to 80-90 degrees for over a week, 60 plus windy feels cold! Haha
This morning after breakfast, the kids went to clubs again and we headed up to Dizzys to just relax and read. At 10:45 the kids came up as the kids club were having a talent show at 11 in Dizzys. All 4 kids did some hula hoop tricks for their talent. They had a lot of fun.
At noon, our roll call was meeting in the formal dining room for lunch, which weve never done lunch here. Weve always eaten lunch in the Windjammer. It was nice for something different. We caught up with everyone that was there, took pictures and exchanged contact info.
Afterwards, we headed up to the Promenade as we heard they had some sort of buffet out. Granted, I know we just ate lunch, but we all ate light and only had soup figuring wed get something somewhere else to eat later. They had all sorts of little stations of food set up from one end to the other. They had the largest black forest cake Ive ever seen. It was probably the equivalent of several full size sheet cakes. There was also make your own sundae, sushi, a guy demonstrating how they do fruit cut outs and designs, and all sorts of other food.
The kids then went back to clubs and I started working on doing a bit of packing then headed back to Dizzys to do some more reading. A few more pages and Ill be done with my 5th book since being on vacation! When the kids came back from clubs, they told us about a science experiment they did. I love Royal Caribbeans kids clubs as they dont just let the kids do whatever, they do educational but fun activities with them!
Totally off subject, but I was putting cream cheese on my bagel the other morning and happened to look at the top of the packet when something caught my eye. The cream cheese I was putting on said it was made in New Holland, Pa!!! What are the chances my cream cheese was from our area!
I know I mentioned early on that we have 2 connecting inside rooms. I took pictures but pics dont quite do the room justice. Imagine a really small room, and its smaller than that! Haha The room is only slightly wider than a queen size bed which is at the far end of the room. Theres a little room on either side to get out. Theres a vanity with drawers, a mini fridge, a single chair with a small glass table and a nice size closet that has shelves in where most of your clothes go. The bathroom is about big enough for one person to turn around in. In fact, if you wanted to multitask, you could sit on the toilet and at the same time brush your teeth/wash your hands in the sink all while putting your feet in the shower to start washing. Yup, its THAT tiny! Haha J But it works for us as we are rarely in the room.
Tonight before dinner, they had a parade in the promenade which we watched. We decided to take a low key night and eat in the Windjammer for supper. But not before going down to the formal dining room to say goodbye to the great wait staff we had.
We have been blessed by so many people coming up to us all during this trip complimenting the kids and how they have enjoyed seeing them and how well behaved they are.
It has meant a lot to the kids to have other adults treat them almost as mini adults by shaking their hands and engaging them in conversations also. The demographics of this ship are at least 80% over the age of 60, so you can imagine the attention the kids draw. Weve gotten to know a lot of people during this vacation.
We are pretty much packed up now. We have to put all our luggage out in the hallway before midnight and cross our fingers well see it again once we arrive in NJ! Our time goes back 1 hour tonight so we have a little bit of extra time tonight. The kids are back in clubs for the last session right now. Im sure they will probably want to order room service again tonight one last time (they ordered fruit and cookies last night for a late night snack). Me, Im trying to eat my fill of watermelon while I can. With as much as Ive eaten of it lately, Ill soon turn into one!
Have a great night and Ill let you all know when we arrive home safely!
Ps. The picture Im including is from the talent show today. They had to give their name and age on stage. All 4 kids are there (Erik is sortve behind Sarah). And the girl next to Hannah is barely a year older than her!! Hannah is so tiny J
You know its going to be a rough sea day when you wake up to seeing puke bags all over the ship! Haha Yup, the waves were higher than predicted at 15ft swells today. Its funny sitting up in a place where you can see people walking. They all stagger from side to side as the ship rolls, its quite hilarious to watch. Thankfully the rocking & rolling of the ship doesnt bother any of us at least. This is mild compared to what we went through with a noreaster 2 yrs ago on this ship with 20-30ft swells!
After breakfast the kids wanted to go to clubs again. I wandered around the ship watching people, checking out the weather outside, taking pictures, etc. The ship is definitely getting ready for Christmas. There is a huge Christmas tree at the one end of the Promenade. In the Windjammer, there is this large gingerbread village. These houses are as big as doll houses, its incredible! Lots of poinsettias everywhere along with the occasional Christmas song being played.
Today was officially the last day of wearing shorts for us. By later afternoon, most of the pool deck was cleared out as the temps dropped a bit and it was quite windy out (about 70 degrees today). Ive officially soaked up every possible bit of sun that I could get. Which is kindve sad. I enjoy the hot, sunny weather and am dreading returning home to cold.
This afternoon we went to another ice skating show called Blades. They werent sure if they were going to have the show due to the rough seas but they went ahead with it. We all enjoyed it.
Tonight was our third and final formal dinner. So of course, that meant doing up the girls hair again and taking lots of pictures. The menu tonight included the fisherman's platter that had lobster tail. Erik & I both had that. It was good!
Weve really been spoiled with great staff on this sailing. We have a room attendant whom every morning while were gone, fixes/cleans up our rooms, replaces any linens that were used and fills our ice bucket. In the evening while at dinner, he does our turn down where again, he straightens up our room, replaces any towels that we used, puts our pillows in place, refills our ice bucket, leaves the newsletter for the next day on our bed and every other evening, he puts a towel animal in our rooms. They really take care of you! The one evening I left our curling iron out on the vanity (not put away) and he wrapped the cord up for me! If you have any requests, they do their best to fill those requests.
We are trying to savor every last minute here while onboard. Its hard to believe that weve been gone over a week and a half. It sure doesnt seem like it. The time has just flown by. Unfortunately, even on vacation I still have been having trouble sleeping and its really been catching up with me lately (and other than 1 late night, I havent even been out late due to feeling sluggish). Ive been feeling really tired but struggle to sleep. Pray that I can get some rest these last 2 nights, its frustrating. On the upside, Susans allergies and asthma has all but disappeared while weve been away which is a blessing. You wouldnt even know she has struggled with it lately, as she is perfectly healthy right now. Sea air and warm temps have done wonders for her.
We are still an hour ahead of you all and wont change back until later Thursday night. Im including a picture of us taken tonight all dressed up. Enjoy your evening! J
Today was the 1st of our 3 back to back sea days. So of course it was a lazy day since we didnt have to rush off anywhere. After breakfast the kids wanted to go to clubs so off they went. Mean time, Kevin & I went and sat outside for awhile to soak up some sun while we still have warm weather. It got quite hot sitting out on deck but it was very enjoyable.
We then met our friends down in Schooners for cartoon name that tune (theres always trivia or something fun going on somewhere on the ship). Our friends (whom we cruised with before) then offered to take the kids to lunch and let us sit out on their balcony for awhile.
So off they went to the Windjammer and Kevin & I headed to their balcony. Their room is only a couple of doors up from ours. I had never been in a balcony room before so this was a treat. I took my book along and read and Kevin just relaxed. We ordered room service (which is free) and ate out on the balcony for something different. I couldve fallen asleep out there if I had been in a lounger!
The kids spent some more time in clubs this afternoon while I finished up book #4 and Kevin wandered around the ship. Weve given them some freedom which they thoroughly enjoy. Weve allowed them to go up to Windjammer to get a snack without us (though all 4 of them are together and they take the steps, no elevator). They also have the freedom to sign themselves out of clubs if they want (but they have to come right back to the room). Theyve done that a few times, like last night, they were getting ready to play a movie theyve seen before so they came back to the room. Otherwise, they would have to sit up there till we come get them and we never know if they are wanting to leave or not. Theyve done well with having this extra privilege.
We noticed early on in the cruise that we saw our former waiters we had 2 yrs ago. This morning during breakfast both of them saw us and came up to talk to us as they remembered who we were! Which is quite amazing considering how many people theyve seen these last 2 yrs. So that was neat to catch up with them.
Its been hard for me to remember what day it is as all our days have ran together. Thankfully though, in all the elevators, there are plaques in the floor with the day of the week on it that they change every day. If it wasnt for that, Id have no clue what day of the week it is! Though several days ago, we got in the elevator one morning and had to do a double take as the plaque hadnt been changed. In fact, I honestly wasnt sure if that was the right day or not, so when we got off, I had to look in the other elevators to find out!
The kids are in clubs right now. They were having a music party and hula hoop contest tonight so they were anxious to get there once dinner was over. Were debating if well make this a late night tonight or not. Theres a hilarious game called Quest that is being played at 10:30 tonight that I missed the last time we cruised. Our waiter told us there will be a chocolate buffet at 11:30 in the Promenade. Not that I want any chocolate, but those specialty buffets sure do make for nice photo ops! Haha
Our waves have been about 8ft high today but the captain told us this afternoon that we are getting into rougher water and by tomorrow well have 12ft high waves. We are out further east in the ocean as we head back compared to when we came down. He said the depth under us right now it about 19,000 feet deep.
Im including a picture of the kids taken in front of the ship yesterday as we headed back to the pier. Have a good evening!
Today was our last port of call in St Maarten. We were here 2 yrs ago and had done a tour before, so we just decided to do a beach day today. We had gone to Orient beach before and were going to go there but someone else who we went to the beach with in St Thomas, recommended a different beach. He said Le Galion was a very calm beach that would be great for the kids that wont be crowded (Orient can get crowded).
So we hailed a taxi and off we went. This island is divided into 2 parts. St Maarten which is owned by the Netherlands, and St Martin is owned by France. The beach we were headed to was on the French side (we docked on the Dutch side). The island is only 36 square miles so it only took about 15-20 minutes to get to the beach.
It was a nice, quiet beach. There was a little restaurant there that also rented out chairs & umbrellas but otherwise, the beach was untouched and in a very natural state. The water was lightly lapping the sand which was perfect for the kids to play in. (Orient had big waves). In fact, they could go out very far as it never really got too deep. The beach was in a U shape and there was a natural reef out further that helped break the waves before they could come in further. The water was a beautiful clear blue and once again, it was very warm.
We spent a good part of the day at the beach and just enjoyed being able to relax in the sun. Im on my 4th book now!
We left the beach around 3 and went into Philipsburg to walk around the shops there. It was only maybe a mile from the ship so we walked back when we were done looking around.
When it was almost time for sailaway, we went to the upper deck to see what all was going on. There was another ship docked across from us so we were watching the people on there as we were really close. Our ship was taller than theirs so we had a nice view onto their pool deck. We noticed their ships horn went a few times over the course of 15 minutes but yet, their gangplank was still down and they were still tied to the dock. We figured they mustve been waiting for someone and sure enough, a golf cart came barreling down the pier with 2 gals who jumped out. Now, you have to realize, when people on board know that the ship is waiting, everyone goes out on their balcony or up on deck to watch the people running for the ship. So when these to gals went running to the ship, both ships erupted in applause as well as yelling and whistling at these 2. It is NOT cool to make a run for the ship!! Haha
We decided to take a break from the main dining room tonight and just eat in the Windjammer where we could eat at whatever time we wanted and its buffet style. We enjoyed that for something different. They had sushi rolls (which Erik & I had some), make your own pizza (then they bake it for you), they had make your own stir-fry where you select what you want in it and they cook it up for you, as well as tons of other things to pick from.
The kids wanted to go up to kids clubs tonight, so thats where they are at right now. Last night while in clubs, they said the captain came up to meet with them. They thought that was pretty cool as not many people get that opportunity. For one of the activities they did in clubs last night, the kids were split up by ages. Poor Hannah got mistaken for a 5yr old. Haha But they did have fun with pirate night!
A funny sign I saw in one of the elevators recently; the #6 button had a sign over it saying out of order, press #3 two times if you want the 6th floor! haha I wish I wouldve thought to have taken a picture of it, it was hilarious! It didnt last too long until it was fixed.
Well, today was the last time we were on land until we arrive back in NJ on Friday.
We should have nice weather the next 2 days to still enjoy the outside and sun. I hope this finds you all doing well!
Today we arrived in Antigua. I had nothing lined up for today other than going out and getting a taxi to a beach. I had no clue yet which beach I wanted to take everyone to as Antigua is known for its 365 beaches. We were here 2 yrs ago and went to Long Bay Beach so I knew we wanted to try a new one (though that one was gorgeous!). I was reminded that it was December as I stepped off the ship to hear a steel drum band playing Christmas music!
I knew wed get bombarded by people when we got off the ship but as long as you looked like you knew what you were doing, a simple no thanks kept people away. I was looking around to see if I saw any of our friends to meet up with as many didnt know what beach they were going to either, but I didnt see any of them. A female taxi driver approached and I told her what beach I wanted to go to and asked the price. She then said she recommended an even better beach that wont be crowded and would be nice for the kids. She said if I didnt like the looks of it, shed take me elsewhere for the same price. So off we went.
She recommended Millers by the Sea. It was only about a 10 minute drive from the port (the last time we were here we had a good 30 min drive to the beach). She pulled in and it was perfect! So we gave her a time to come back and get us and off we went to stake a spot on the beach, which wasnt hard as we were the only people there!! We had the entire beach to ourselves for a long time.
It was a nice setup. Plenty of palm trees for shade as well as built in wooden canopies. There was 1 small restaurant there and lots of open beach. So we got a beach chair and picked a canopy as we planned to be there all day. It was also another beautiful warm day in the upper 80s.
I love Antiguas beaches! Soft, fine sand and clear aqua blue colored water.
Walking into the water felt like taking a dip in bath water, it was so incredibly warm!! I snapped a bunch of pictures of the kids as well as the landscape. Even while we were there all day, I bet there was never more than about 30 maybe 40 people tops who showed up. It was perfect. There were a few natives who were selling things but they didnt bother you. Our taxi driver said at some of the other popular beaches, people constantly are bugging you to buy stuff.
There was a lady who was giving different types of massages on the beach. She had her own table and she also offered her services right in your beach chair (and it was really inexpensive). So I treated myself later afternoon to a leg & foot massage as I sat in my beach chair, feet from the ocean while reading my book. That was SO amazing & relaxing!
The restaurant there was playing music, Christmas music to be precise. It probably seems completely normal to the island natives, but to us, its so different. Sitting on the beach in the almost 90 degree sun, hearing the ocean and listening to Away in a Manager just made me chuckle. We saw a lot of Christmas decorations and trees on our drive to and from the beach.
The kids played a lot in the sand since it was perfect for making stuff. They also collected more shells and spent time in the water using the float toys we had along. I worked on finishing up book #3 and also floated in the ocean for quite awhile in one of the tubes. We had a great day at the beach!
Tonight was pirate night in the kids clubs so they wanted to go up there after dinner. I heard before we dropped them off that they were getting their own bandanas and going on a scavenger hunt around the ship.
We just walked around the ship and then hung out in Dizzys overlooking the pool deck. About the time I send this, Kevin will go pick up the kids.
Tomorrow we go to St. Maarten. Oh, we were thinking of you all today back home in the cold weather as you had flurries and made something for you on the beach today. Im including a picture! Haha
Once again we were blessed with beautiful weather. It was a warm 80 degrees first thing this morning already. I had a private tour lined up for 9:30 with another couple from our roll call. In talking to other friends of ours last night from our roll call, they asked about coming along. So it turned out we had 4 others join us which was great.
You may have noticed from my updates that I dont do the ship tours. I prefer to do my own research ahead of time and find private tours that a) get you more involved in the local culture, b) are much smaller than ship tours and c) are way cheaper than ship tours!
We were loaded into an air conditioned van. I noticed right away the steering wheel was on the right side of the vehicle which meant that they drove on the opposite side of the road than we do. Our tour today was part of an island tour & panoramic view then spending a few hours at the beach.
We saw many interesting sites on the island and were taken to several different towns. We learned a lot of neat history and facts about St. Kitts as well. The island is only 28 miles long. Their main industry a long time ago was sugar cane mills and there were still old mills standing (they had a lot of slaves as well a long time ago). We saw a bastik factory (a certain type of cotton and how they use it to make many different things from pictures to clothing).
As we were driving along the coast, the driver pulled over and showed us some cow hides someone put out on the rocks to dry out, interesting to say the least.
He also warned us not to open the windows as it would smell really bad! Ha
We were taken up to an overlook with some amazing views of the island. One view showed us the narrowest part of the island where the Atlantic ocean was on one side and the Caribbean ocean on the other. On the opposite side of the mountain, we had a view of Frigate Bay which was just stunning!
After our tour, we were taken to Frigate Bay for a few hours. We were all ready to get in the water as it was getting really hot in the sun by this point. The water felt like bath water, it was that warm! There werent any major waves, just slight rolling ones which made it perfect for the kids to go out in it up to their necks. There were lots of fish swimming right around us. Some as tiny as minnows, then bigger ones that were around a foot and a half that looked like mini barracudas (but they werent, at least I dont think so! Haha) I even saw a crab near my foot at one point. (the kids didnt like that and stayed far away till it was gone!)
Our one friend is big into scuba diving and snorkeling so he went out to see what he could see out deeper, near some rocks. He saw huge lobsters, a sea turtle, eel, barracudas, and several different kinds of fish. He found a huge conch shell but when he brought it up, it fell apart. The kids also collected a lot of neat, unique types of shells here as well.
At point one, a small boat came right up to the beach and these guys unloaded 2 huge bags of freshly caught lobster and carried them right into the one restaurant on the beach. Cant get much fresher than that!!!
Once we were taken back to the pier, we walked around a few shops there. One our last cruise, the kids started a collection of getting a key chain from each new country they go to. They found key chains that had names on them and said St Kitts. Didnt they find Noahs name and they each bought a keychain with his name on it. My sweet kiddos constantly thinking of Noah!
Tonight was our 2nd formal night, so the girls wanted their hair done. So I spent some time curling it and putting it up for them. We had a couple people from our roll call who said they had coupons for free photos that they werent going to use and wanted to give them to us to get family pictures. So tonight while dressed up, we decided to have the photographer take our picture. Of course, we wanted Noah to be a part of the picture so the kids brought along his lamb to be in it. The lamb sure was a conversation starter. In the elevator, someone asked Hannah if she made the lamb on board (like build a bear). She was so sweet, she said no, this was my little brothers lamb when he was in the hospital but he passed away. Everyone in that crowded elevator didnt know what to say. I admit, taking pictures of the kids dressed up tonight with the Noah lamb, made me tear up. I miss my little guy!!
After dinner, the kids wanted to get their nightly cup of hot chocolate so we walked down the promenade to get it. The kids were stopped by so many people telling them how adorable they looked.
In fact, several ladies asked if the girls had gone to the salon today to have their hair done and they said nope, our mom did it!
Oh, when I ended my update last night, I said I wasnt sure if I was going to go take pictures of the 11pm pool buffet. Well, it was about 11 when I finally got the emails sent, so I figured I might as well go up and snap a few pictures. I couldnt believe the huge spread of food they had set up! It was insane!!! They had one table of the most intricately carved watermelon youve ever seen! I snapped several pictures of the arrangements. Of course as I walked away, I took a bit of the fresh fruit for a snack. I really wasnt hungry but the fruit has been my weakness this last week. I am living up the watermelon, pineapple, etc while I can because I know once I get home I wont have any more fresh fruit. There was also a guy doing a massive ice carving demonstration.
Today we woke up to a beautiful, warm day in St Thomas. We had no plans for today other than to wonder out and catch a taxi to the beach. We had been here 2yrs ago and had done an island tour and went to Sapphire beach that time, so we wanted to try out a new beach this time. I had done some research and felt pretty confident that we wanted to try out Emerald beach.
We got off the ship and walked a ways until we found the area where the taxis gather. Most taxis here arent like what you picture at home. They are open air vehicles that can seat many people at once.
The dispatcher was trying to organize mass crowds it seemed. I said we wanted Emerald beach and we were told which truck to get into. Our driver apparently didnt want to go to this beach and tried to get those of us who got on his truck, off. Eventually it got worked out and he was told thats where he is to go. A couple sitting in front of us had been here several times before and they too were headed to the same beach. He said its an excellent beach but that the taxi drivers try to get you to go to ones further out because they can get paid more. So I felt good knowing I chose a great beach. Another couple also jumped in the taxi and it turned out they knew who I was from cruise critic as they were part of our roll call (I didnt recognize her but I knew her username once she told me). So it was nice to spend some time with someone familiar.
There was a nice hotel located at the beach we went to. They had an open area outside we walked through to get to it and as we walked past the hotel onto the sand, we all were really happy we chose this beach. Plenty of open space to spread out, not crowded at all, and the water was really calm.
The kids discovered right away that this was a good beach to find lots of different seashells. So they spent a lot of time walking around collecting shells. They also blew up the 2 tubes we brought along to float around in. The water was again really warm, felt great and it was oh so clear! Kevin went out deep to where he couldnt stand and he said you could still see perfectly to the bottom. We saw several fish swimming around our feet, they were all around a good foot long.
We stayed till about 2:30 and figured we better head back as traffic can get backed up as everyone makes their way back to town. A lady had her taxi there and had room for a few more (it was just the cruise critic couple and us). There were already a ton of people in there and I had no clue how she was going to fit us in. The back of her truck was open where everyone else was sitting, but she had a double cab truck in the front and yup, thats where she was going to stick the 8 of us (plus herself who was driving). Holy cow!! Thank goodness the kids are small. I had to chuckle, as we were driving, I saw a plaque in the front of her truck that said total capacity 18 people. HAHA There were 9 of us alone in the double cab and I bet another 12-15 in the back.
Even though St Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, they actually drive on the opposite side of the road. But their steering wheels are where ours are at, so it makes it interesting. This country probably resembles the closest to home out of all the places we will visit this trip. We saw a Pizza Hut, Wendys and around the corner from the dock we were told was a Walmart & Kmart! And the other interesting fact is since they are part of the USVI, they are also included in most cell phone coverages from the US. So I brought my phone with me and surprised a few close people with a call while basking in the warm 85 degree sun.
(Ive heard its been yucky weather at home and I sure dont miss that!)
Once we got dropped off, we decided to walk around some of the shops nearby before heading back to the ship. The kids each had a little spending money and all but Sarah decided to get a little something. After getting back on the ship, we went on deck to watch sailaway which was 5pm our time.
Ive been really proud of the kids. Most of the times at dinner, they will order something that they never had before (and that quite honestly, is usually pretty exotic).
Especially Erik. Hes had many different types of fish this week and tonight, he ordered the asian duck (which was really good as I tried a bit of his). Sarah and I had wild mushroom & goat cheese pizza.
Tonight after dinner, there was an ice show (yes, there is an ice rink on board that seats a few hundred people). I didnt realize they were handing out tickets the day we boarded so we hadnt gotten any (they dont cost anything but you need one to get in as they only hand out so many due to limited seating). We were told though we could line up and if there were open seats after the ticketed people sat, we could go in. While we were waiting, a stagehand came up and asked if one of the kids could be in it. See, 2yrs ago, during the same ice show, Hannah got asked to be in it so we knew what to expect. So this time Susan was the one picked. So since she was in it, we got escorted right inside to reserved seats right smack in the front row, woo-hoo!!! We all enjoyed the show and Susan was grinning from ear to ear when it came time for her to be taken out on the ice (she was sitting in a small sleigh).
So that pretty much was our day today.
There is a poolside party & buffet up on deck at 11pm that I am debating about checking out. No, NOT for the food as Im still full from dinner but more for the photo op. Im sure Ill still be awake as I need to go send this update, so well see.
Tomorrow we will be spending the day in St Kitts. Enjoy your Friday night everyone!
Today we were in Samana, Dominican Republic. It was a bit overcast this morning. Around 8:30, we headed down to deck 1 where we had to catch our tender. This country does not have a dock for ships, so our ship has to dock about a mile away and we take small boats in. I was told often the ship uses the life boats to tender, but here they used a local speed boat service which was nice as the trip only took about 10-15 minutes. (wouldve taken a lot longer using the life boats).
I had a tour lined up for today with a private guide. I found him highly recommended on a website (cruisecritic.com) as well as a friend used him last year. I also had 2 other couples from our roll call join us. The tour guides name is Terry and he is from the USA (Pittsburg born). His wife is from the D.R so hes lived here the last 8 years he said.
As we headed off in an open air vehicle, it was starting to rain. He said not to worry because chances are when we get over to the other side of the island, itll be clear. We had an almost 40 min drive to our beach. During that time, he told us a lot of neat facts about the island and tidbits of information most people wouldnt know. We passed a beach where Terry said wouldve been the first place Christopher Columbus wouldve landed before Santo Domingo but he was chased off by Indians.
We saw lots of tiny shacks that were basically the equivalency of a grocery store. He said most people go here before each meal to buy the supplies they need for just that meal. Most people dont have transportation to get into the bigger towns, plus they cant afford to stock up like you and I do. Nor could they chance something spoiling before getting a chance to use it. He said they walk into these stores, ask for say 5 pesos of tomato paste, the clerk dishes some out of a large container into a baggie, and thats how they get the stuff they need for each meal.
We also saw these small tables with beer bottles sitting on them. He said those bottles are NOT beer but gasoline. A lot of people have mopeds they get around on. If they drove into town to fill up, theyd waste half their tank of gas getting back again. So someone buys a big thing of gas, divides it up into the beer bottles and thats what individuals buy to refuel their mopeds.
Terry explained the school system here. They have lots of tiny schools within walking distance of the students. Most are only 1-2 rooms big. They cant fit all the students in at one time, so the kids are split up. Elementary students go half the day, then middle school goes the other half of the day. Each group gets about 3hrs of schooling each day. He said there are high schools located in the bigger towns and its up to the students to get themselves there, which he said most do.
As we drove around, we were definitely reminded that we were in a third world country. Youll see some scenery pictures when I eventually share my photos from today. But despite that, it is a very beautiful country, untouched by the common touristy things like other Caribbean countries are. Their language is Spanish. So it was nice to be able to understand what those around me where saying and to be able to converse when needed.
We finally arrived at the beach La Playita. It was breathtaking as we pulled into it. And yes, by this point in time, the rain was long gone and it was sunny out and temperature was in the mid 80s! You had the mountains in the distance which made for a gorgeous setting for the beach.
The water was a beautiful clear blue and you could easily see the reefs that were spread throughout the beach. It was amazing how far out we could walk and the water was still so shallow. Terry went out and snorkeled a bit and found a sea urchin for the kids to see and hold. The kids found some neat shells as well to bring home.
Our lunch was included in our tour. The restaurant sat right on the beach. We had a typical family style Dominican bbq.
Bbq chicken, grilled fish, fried plantain, rice, etc. It was amazing!!!! He said you never know what fish they will have. They serve whatever they just caught that day. He said the chicken is fresh too! LOL (you see them running around everywhere).
After lunch, we took more pictures, played in the water and laid out in the sun. About 2:30, we headed out.
We asked about stopping by a school to drop off school supplies we brought with us. (thank you to those of you who donated supplies!) We got to meet a small elementary class of 9 students. Our kids gave the teacher the bags of things we brought along and the students thanked them. We also took a picture of our kids with the class together.
There were so many interesting things Terry told us about this country, I couldnt begin to list everything. He was a wonderful tour guide and I wouldnt hesitate to recommend him to anyone.
We set sail a little before 5pm. We truly enjoyed our day in the Dominican Republic.
It certainly doesnt feel like it, at least here in the Caribbean! We went to eat breakfast this morning and had a nice view of Haiti out our dining room window. As well as a view of the sister ship of the Explorer right next to us in dock (Navigator of the Seas, also a Royal Caribbean ship in the same size fleet).
Once we heard we were clear to disembark, we headed off the ship. Not too many people we getting off yet. It was about 8:30 when our feet hit land for the first time in 3 days. The temp early in the morning was already 80 degrees and hit about 90 till later in the day.
I know Haiti has been in the news a lot lately due to the cholera outbreak. But where we were was very safe (trust me, I did plenty of research before we came). The piece of land we were on is privately owned by Royal Caribbean and is secluded (and barricaded) from the rest of the island. All the food and drinks are prepared and brought in off the ship.
We walked around until we found a spot near one of the many beaches. It wasnt too far from a kiddie water park and had a view of the zip lines coming off the side of a mountain over the ocean. There were plenty of loungers as well as hammocks to use. We found a spot near the water but under a coconut tree so we also had some shade if needed.
The kids were in the water in no time and said how warm it felt. I wandered down there eventually and sure enough, you could walk right in. It was so nice to be in water where you could see your feet and see where you were walking. The water was fairly calm so even Erik could walk out till the water was up to his shoulders.
They played in the ocean, the water park (which had a lot of fountains and fun things to do) and also played in the sand as I had brought along a few small beach toys. I occasionally went in the water, but spent a lot of time just laying down reading. I dont get to do much of that at home so Im making up for lost time. I brought 5 books along and there is a library on board if those arent enough. Im almost finished with my 2nd book!!
We had a yummy bbq lunch that was prepared for everyone on both ships; ribs, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, etc. There were some guys playing live island music. Though I had to laugh when they started la-la-la-ing the tune to silent night with their maracas, bongos, etc.
Im guessing they dont know it in English. Yup, that was a reminder that it is indeed December!
We headed back to the ship a little after 3. We were schedule to sail around 5, but since everyone was on board earlier, we sailed around 4:30. The girls and I went on deck for sail away as Erik was taking a nap. We mustve gotten onboard just in time before a rain shower had come through as the deck was wet. It wasnt raining while we were on deck, but it was overcast.
I have to say the kids do really well at dinner each night. Especially considering it usually lasts an hour and a half. We are all so spoiled. Not only are the kids regularly brought chocolate milk without asking, but if I even pick up a knife to cut the kids food, our waitress is right there cutting their food and wont let me do it. Now THAT is service!! She is constantly bringing us things we dont order just for us to try a taste. Tonight after she brought us our main entrée, she came out with 2 plates of nachos with an amazing cheesy spinach dip. Seriously, we can barely finish our food most nights (as 3 courses is a lot for us). So she told us to take the dip up for a snack later. If you go hungry on this ship, its your own fault. Everywhere you turn, theres a variety of food to eat.
And that my friends is the reason we rarely use the elevator!! LOL We are constantly walking 3-4 flights at a time just to make sure we are burning some of these calories.
Tonight the kids club had family cookie decorating so we headed up there with the kids. There was only one other family there with their 2 small kids.
The kids really enjoyed this. I admit I had fun decorating my cookie as well and got quite creative (pictures once we get home).
Afterwards the kids asked to hang out in the kids club, so thats where they are currently at as I finish up this email.
Since we are heading further east, we have to set our clocks forward one hour tonight, so well be ahead of you all at home for the next several days. Tomorrows stop is in Samana, Dominican Republic.
My name is Jenn & I am a homeschooling mom to 8, beautiful kiddos that God has blessed me with. I started this blog during one of the darkest times of my life when I found out my son was going to die. God has been using our journey for His glory! I continue to write about our everyday life as I try to live out our "new normal". More can be read under Noah's story. Please feel free to contact me if you are facing a fatal prenatal diagnosis, have lost a baby, are supporting someone who has or just need a listening ear and prayer.