Jarod’s turn! We had such a great time on our last cruise Jarod decided he wanted to go on another one for his 16th birthday gift. Totally on board with that plan! And he gets to bring his friend Zak along too.
Category: 2015.03 – Jarod’s and Zak’s 16th Birthday Trip
Waaaayyyyy up high!
First travel day of the boys’ 16th birthday gift has been wonderfully uneventful so far. We met all our connections, all our luggage made it to Toronto, and our cab driver did find our hotel where it was supposed to be. It’s no longer called Holiday Inn Express — which is where I made the reservation — but that’s okay. It’s now a Quality Inn. Taking a brief rest before we go to the CN Tower for supper and sight seeing. I’ll check back in with you when we get back.
Our front desk clerk (hospitality officer?) kindly arranged for a driver to take us to the CN Tower; the drive there took an hour long, which concerned me a bit because we had to account for getting back to our hotel early enough to get some sleep before having to wake up at 4:00 am again to catch our flight tomorrow. No need to worry after all, the ride back only took half an hour.
I had planned on taking the family to Horizons restaurant at the tower for supper only to find out when we got there that it was closed for a private party. Nuts! We were really hungry, too! But we had passed a restaurant walking in to the tower called Baton Rouge, so we doubled back the short distance to eat there. They weren’t terribly busy, we were seated and served right away, and the food was really good. All three boys got burgers and proved the level of their hunger by demolishing the expansive servings.
The tower itself was pretty amazing. The views certainly were as advertised: beautiful! And the height dizzying. We stood on the main observation deck, looked down through the glass floors, and took a ride up to the Skypod level. Not bad for two of us being afraid of heights. Well worth the diversion. Although one of our group did note how even at the top of the world the cell phone reception had not improved. Particularly interesting when one considers that specific function being one of the tower’s main purposes…
Back to the Stash
We did so much today I forgot where today started: in Toronto. That might also be because the day started with a modicum of annoyance. We attended Toronto Pearson three hours before our scheduled departure time under the apparently false impression that we would be going through customs as usual. This was our second morning in a row we had to wake up at 4:00 am to catch a flight, so we were rather looking forward to getting through security, finding a spot near our gate, and grabbing a couple extra winks of shut-eye before boarding. Alas, that was not to be. After checking in and getting luggage tags we were directed to a waiting lounge. This is where all who are traveling to the U.S. are asked to wait until their flight time is called, after which we would be guided back through the terminal to go through customs. This presumably is set up to make the process go faster and smoother. If only. We were not called until an hour before our scheduled flight time. The que was amassed with bodies and luggage waiting their turn to go through. They led us in a huge line to customs where we again went through a que to obtain our automated check in receipts, then through another que to have the receipts, our boarding passes, and our passports edifice by a real person, then through another que to finally hand over our checked luggage (yes, that’s right, we’d been lugging our luggage around with us this whole time), then finally through security itself. By the time we got through security it was ten minutes past our scheduled boarding time. We rushed to the gate number on our boarding pass (you know, the one they issued to us three hours earlier) only to find out our gate number had changed to the other end of the terminal. On the rush to get to that gate we heard the final boarding call for our flight. Ridiculous. All said and done, we did make the flight, barely, no thanks to this new system of theirs. The flight itself was blessedly uneventful, although somewhat turbulent landing in Newark.
After a minor delay getting Dan’s luggage, we rented a car for the day and checked into our hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton Newark Airport (they got good cookies). Lunch in the Bistro, an update issue with our GPS rendering it useless on the east coast, a stop at Radio Shack for a USB car power port to plug my iPhone in so we could use it as our GPS without completely killing the battery, and we were on our way to Red Bank, New Jersey. Why, you may ask. Well, if you had read my previous travel blog Jessica’s and Maggie’s Sweet 16, you really wouldn’t need to. But since you do ask, Red Bank is home to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash (stop making assumptions; it’s a comic book store) and nearby in Middletown is located the Quick Stop. The common link between theses two locations is Kevin Smith, of whom our family are big fans. Having already brought Jessica three years ago I could not very well allow the opportunity pass to bring Dan and Jarod. Unfortunately, Zak had no clue of the relevance of this part of the trip for us, but he was a trooper and put up with us.
We booked it back to Newark to try out an Italian eatery we randomly chose from Googlemaps and it really panned out. It was called La Sicilia Pizza and Cafe. Really great food with really reasonable prices.
We followed that with an obligatory stop at Walmart for a couple things, including looking for a new jacket for Zak. I failed to mention earlier that Zak realized just as we got to security in Toronto that he left his jacket in the waiting lounge. There was nothing of value with the jacket and It was far too late to go back for it, so we figured we’d just get him another one from Walmart. Walmart, oddly, had absolutely nothing suitable. This is when Zak turns to us with a thoughtful look on his face and says, “you know, it might be in my backpack.” That’s right, he had not actually looked in his backpack all day. It didn’t matter, though, because it wasn’t actually in the backpack. We’ll pick him up a jacket from the hotel’s gift shop tomorrow before we leave.
We ended the day watching Penguins From Madagascar while eating remarkably decadent cupcakes we picked up while in Red Bank earlier. We did pick up milk to go along with the cupcakes, which Zak found odd, but admitted did make the cupcake a bit better than normal.
I believe that is it for today. Looking forward to a good night’s sleep and not having to wake up at a ridiculous hour of the morning.
Ahhh…to sleep in is a nice change. Packed our things, had breakfast, and still had time to get Zak a new jacket at the outlet mall we discovered was just 10 minutes away from our hotel. Another 10 minute drive got us back to the airport to drop off the car. We had lots of time before our scheduled check in time for the cruise to catch a cab, barring getting separated from the boys at the airtrain.
A train connects the different terminals at the Newark airport and we had to take it to get from the car rental area to Terminal A, where the taxis are. I swear, I was literally right behind the boys getting on the train when the doors abruptly closed right in front of me. We waved goodbye to each other through the window as the train took my boys away from me. No real worries, though; wait four minutes and the next train comes around. We were shortly on our way again, all together.
Our cab driver was a pleasantly talkative fellow who got us safely to the port, despite other drivers’ repeated efforts to the contrary. We ended up being roughly 20 minutes early for our scheduled check in time, but that too was no problem. Unlike the last time we went on a cruise, when we had to stand in a ridiculously long, snaking line of people, this time we checked our bags at the drop off site, went through security clearance, had our check in documents reviewed, and boarded the ship within 15 minutes of our arrival. Fantastic!
We found our rooms without any trouble. The boys’ room key didn’t work, but that was relatively easily fixed by going down to guest services where they were able to print new key cards for them. Actually, the only minor problems we had were easily fixed: the boys’ beds had not been separated into singles and our credit folio needed resetting so that I could connect to the onboard hi-speed wifi. On that note: we only have two devices we can connect to the wifi account and that will be my iPad and Dan’s work computer, so that means the photos I’ll be taking with my iPhone will not be uploaded here until I get within cell phone range.
We ‘lost’ the boys relatively quickly after boarding to their own explorations. They found lunch just fine on their own at Sorrento’s, as well as the recreation area and other places. Dan and I explored on our own a little bit and ate lunch at Johnny Rocket’s. The safety drill was conducted and included at the end a cute song about washing our hands. We were quick to notice the difference between this muster point and the last cruise muster point: this one is indoors.
The ship departed shortly after the drill and this time Dan and I were on deck to watch. I might remind you (or inform you) that our last cruise sailed out of Fort Lauderdale; this one is out of Bayonne. Just a smidgen colder on deck right now, I must say. But we stayed and watched as we sailed past Lady Liberty and beneath the Varrazano Bridge. Yes, beneath the bridge. It is not a draw bridge; it was a relatively tight fit.
My mani-pedi followed our departure, during which the boys partook of some ping pong. Not a clue what else, if anything, they did for the two hours I was occupied. I joined them for a match after my spa and then we went for a late buffet supper at the Windjammer. Wrapped it up pretty quick after that, although I think the boys were still raring to do something. As it is, it’s already 11:15 pm as I write this and we do have to be up for our all access tour of the ship tomorrow morning, so I’m going to call it a night.
*not sure how or why, but we’ve got cell service out here on the ocean, so I was able to email today’s picture to my iPad and upload them here. I’ll probably get dinged somehow later, but for now let’s see if this works…
First full day at sea
Well, the ship has been rocking gently but persistently all day. No sunrise or sunset to be seen this day. We started the day with an All Access Tour of the ship led by our guide Fritz from Philly (that would be Phillipines). He took us to see the galley, the control centre, the food stores, the waste management area, the crew areas, back stage of the theatre, and the bridge. Connecting all of that through the middle of the ship is one long hallway called the I-95. We’re no longer able to see the actual engine room for security reasons (9/11). The second officer on the bridge was a 23-year-old young man from Victoria, B.C. After the tour we were all gifted with an RC backpack, bandana, and water bottle.
Dan and I enjoyed Japanese food for lunch at Izumi before going to watch Mamma Mia! The musical, which were both pretty fantastic. The boys spent some time playing ping pong again and hanging out in their room. We contemplated going swimming, but the weather hasn’t let up, so we played Wizard in the library instead. Zak kicked butt at that game.
While the boys, including Dan, went to play some more ping pong I went to the gym. That would have been fine if I had stuck to just doing some weights and core exercises, but no, I had to try doing some treadmill work. On a machine facing east on a ship going south against winds and waves buffeting it from a roughly southwesterly direction. It didn’t take long for a little bit of motion sickness to kick in, say five minutes. I got off the blasted machine and did a short round of the other stuff before returning to our room for some gravol. Supper at American Icon followed the workout mistake and quickly helped to resolve my problem.
Tally ho for now; it’s another day at sea tomorrow.
What a great day at sea!
I had fun today! The boys took some work, but sort of came around eventually. Dan and I went on the bumper cars after breakfast. The wait in line was about an hour, but I’m not letting any long lines deter me from partaking of the things I want to do on board! I’d have more than a selfie in the car if the boys had been around to take pictures, but they understandably got distracted by foosball and ping pong.
While the boys then decided there wasn’t anything to do and went to be lazy in their room, I got huffy at them and went boogie boarding. AWESOME! I am totally doing that again! No pictures of it today; as mentioned, the boys were in their room, and Dan was enjoying a talk on navigating given by the captain.
We managed to coerce the boys out of their room to grab a sandwich for lunch and go looking for this card and game room that we heard is somewhere on the ship. We did find it, but it was pretty small and almost full of people playing dominoes, mahjong, and Chinese checkers. We played a game of checkers and then I had to leave for my iFly skydiving simulator appointment. The boys said they were going to play ping pong, but while I was waiting for my group to be called they showed up and Zak wanted to go too. Luckily there was still room in the group, so Zak and I got to fly together! Not literally at the same time, of course. What a rush! Both of us enjoyed that. And our group was being filmed by a Japanese film crew for a Japanese TV show, too.
Now we’re relaxing on our deck, listening to the waves crash. Well, I’m listening to the waves crashing, Dan’s listening to an audio book, and the boys are actually in their room again, not on their deck. In a little bit we’ll drag them out to see what else is going on before another late supper. Early night tonight due to early morning tomorrow: Kennedy Space Center!
Not missing it this time!
Not missing it this time!
So, the last time we came to Florida we did not go to Kennedy Space Center, much to our chagrin; this time we made it so there was no other option. It made for a long day, but totally worth it. We bussed it with our tour group shore excursion at 8:30 am and didn’t get back to the pier until nearly 5:00. We stopped at the visitors centre first and viewed the rocket garden before going to see an IMAX movie, Journey To Space, narrated by Patrick Stewart. The movie was cool, but I enjoyed the rocket garden more. They had seven rockets, six of them standing upright and one on its side, plus one of the actual gangplanks used for one of the Apollo flights (yeah, details evade me now, it’s getting late) attached to a replica of a re-entry pod, another re-entry pod replica for photo ops, as well as several other pieces.
After the IMAX we bussed it to the Saturn V facility and by the launching pads. We saw the 1970(ish) version of the control room, Saturn V, LMs, spacesuits, articles, crawlers, real re-entry pods, and space dust. We had lunch and then returned to the visitors center to explore the Atlantis shuttle craft exhibit. There we saw a couple more short films on the history of designing the reusable shuttlecraft, for which planning was initiated just months before the first moon landing occurred. They have the decommissioned Atlantis in the exhibit, Canadarms intact; very cool to see! The interactive exhibits are really well done and there was plenty of examples of life in space.
We returned to the ship and since we had another three hours before last boarding call, I convinced the boys to take a taxi to a nearby restaurant on the pier instead of eating on the ship. When we got back to the ship Dan and I watched Name That Tune in the Royal Theater, which was a guest interactive version of the old TV show and included performances by the entertainment crew (dancers, singers, orchestra). It was fun! A guy from New Jersey won. Then we dragged the boys out of their room to go watch more people make good natured fools of themselves in 60 Seconds or Less. Guests volunteered to play four different games against each other, such as knocking down water bottles with balls in a pair of nylons stuck over your head and transferring cotton balls from one bowl to another using nothing but Vaseline on the end of your nose. Ridiculous fun.
Tomorrow should be a relaxing day at Cococay.
Sand, Sun, Surfing, and Tensor Bandages
Yeah, not what some of you might be thinking…
Let’s start at the beginning. We weren’t scheduled to arrive at Cococay until 10:00 am, so we did not rush to get up this morning, which was nice. When we did get up we learned the captain made excellent time and we had arrived nearly two hours early. We still took our time getting to the tender and it was nearly 11:00 by the time we got to the island. We remembered everything except cash with which to buy souvenirs from the vendors, but we still have time for that tomorrow. We found ourselves a couple of hammocks in the shade, pulled over a couple of recliners, and settled in. We chilled for a few minutes, Dan dozed, while the boys and I ventured for a walk down the beach.
The weather was spectacular: a light breeze, blue skies, calm water, roughly 22C temperature — gorgeous! Unfortunately the boys found it too hot and after grabbing some food for lunch they opted to crash in the hammocks while Dan and I went for a walk. We waded out into the ocean a goodly distance, not getting any deeper than maybe knee height until we stumbled into a little pocket that got up to our hips. There was no surf whatsoever. We could see lots of small and larger white fish all around, loads of hills and airholes (?) indicating clams below the surface, a large sea cucumber (?), and one small, long, odd-looking fish.
Upon our return to the boys, we found them sharing a hammock, head to feet, chatting away. We agreed to make our way back to the ship to use the pool there. I did manage to sucker them into a couple of detours on the way back to the tenders, first by following an iguana to take pictures then by suggesting another path that would take us across a bridge might be shorter (it wasn’t).
Back on the ship we parked on the pool deck for a bit, ate some ice cream, took a dip in the pool and whirlpool (22C is too hot, but the whirlpool isn’t???). Three o’clock rolled around and stand up surfing on the Flowrider started, so I headed over there with the boys. They opted out of giving it a try, Jarod because he just wasn’t interested and Zak because he still found it too hot under the sun and didn’t want to stand in line. But they stayed long enough to film my first two efforts. Is that ever harder than boogie boarding! The first time I managed to take the instructor out with me when I fell spectacularly. The second time I managed to stay up for no more than five or six seconds on my own. Now, this is where I’m sure some of you are thinking I’m going to say I managed to blow my knee out again, but you are incorrect. I managed to surf a third time and stayed up for nearly a full minute! The boys did not witness this spectacular feat as they had already left, but Dan did.
Dan and I then left for a quick snack before returning to the Flowrider so I could do some more boogie boarding and maybe try a 360. Alas, that was not to be today. Dan took a misstep when we got there and twisted his ankle. Nothing broke, but something tore. It swelled really fast. We put ice on it, had to report the accident, and agreed to wheelchair Dan to the medical facility to have it checked out. They gave him a tensor bandage to wear, told him to put ice on it when he could and to take ibuprofen, and if it got worse to go back to see them. Dan was good natured throughout, but was pretty embarrassed.
We still made it to supper at Wonderland, which was absolutely fantastic! The decor was themed to Alice in Wonderland. To see the menu we were given a framed piece of paper and a paint brush; we had to paint water across the paper to reveal the invisible words. The food choices were divided into five themes offering different ‘courses’ that we could choose from to build our meals. We could share them family style or choose individually. We chose individually, but ended up sharing much of it. I can’t even begin to describe the combinations of food available! They were weird, unusual, and absolutely delicious! And the service was top notch. They knew what they were serving and made excellent recommendations throughout.
Dan and the boys returned to our rooms afterwards while I attended a concert put on by Clint Brown. He performed a variety of pieces, including a few of his own — which I really enjoyed — and wonderful renditions of Wind Beneath My Wings, Mr. Bojangles, and Hallelujah.
Tomorrow is Nassau where we spend the day at Atlantis.
Atlantis appears…and disappears
We arrived in Nassau bright and early, and departed on our shore excursion to visit Atlantis at 8:15 am. The place is huge, and fantastic, and the guides were diligent in pointing out the Michael Jackson Suite that occupies a bridge connecting two of the towers that goes for $25,000 a night.
The boys were super excited and we took off pretty quickly to ride the water slides, leaving the injured Danny to guard our stuff and soak in the sun and sights.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see the rest of the facility — the Exhibits, etc — because we found ourselves on another adventure to get to Calgary right away; Dan’s mother passed away this morning. We scrambled to arrange flights, go through immigration to get off the ship and officially into The Bahamas, and get to the airport to catch an evening flight off the island. The flights and waiting were the most stressful. Immigration was pretty fantastic — got a stamp in our passports. We had to promise pretty much everyone who helped us that we would come back; not an empty promise that, as Nassau was picturesque.
It was a long set of four flights to Calgary, but we did get first class seating on one of them, which was kind of exciting. We slept in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, which actually wasn’t too bad. Arrived in Calgary Thursday afternoon.
This is where I will end my blog, under the circumstances. Fare well, and hopefully another adventure will arise soon for me to write about.
Adelle – I love your travel blogs. I’m so sorry you had to cut your vacation short. My condolences to you and Dan. From, on Mar 20, 2015 at 05:40PM
Thanks, Leah, for both the compliment and the condolences. From, on Mar 21, 2015 at 04:46AM