A little bit ago, as part of our role with Ensemble Travel, we went on a vacation. A cruise actually. And for a family that hadn’t really had a chance to just sit and relax for quite some time, it was exciting! Yes, we had travelled for a year, to many different and unique places, but we hadn’t *really* ever chilled out and fully relaxed. Decompressed, I guess. Well I’m sure Sully & Max had, but I hadn’t. There were times and locations I was close to doing that (Gili Air, Borcay, Palawan and Apo Island all come to mind) but I was constantly thinking about what was next, where we were heading and frankly, what we were eating or sleeping in, that night. As a travelling threesome, we had never really been on this type of vacation…where everything was taken care of and we had nothing to worry about. This was our chance!
We had a few hurdles to get over first. After travelling all over the world for a year and boarding 36 different flights, the idea of getting on another plane to go some where was exciting, but it didn’t appeal to all of us. Max needed some convincing. Lots of convincing! However, an opportunity to go on a cruise for a week sailing through the Caribbean and exploring some new countries, peaked his interest. And after Sully and him spent a few hours researching the ship and all the activities and entertainment that it offered, he quickly changed his tune. It was settled. A family that had never been on a cruise before was more than excited. We were setting sail on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Getaway ship, stopping in three ports - Honduras, Belize and Mexico. And from the moment we stepped on to the Getaway, it didn’t disappoint.
Norwegian Cruise Lines did a fantastic job of ensuring that first-time cruisers became initiated in all of the many things it had to offer without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. Although there were a lot of people (making the people watching amazing) navigating our way around the ship was easy and when we downloaded their app, all the events, schedules and excursions were in the palm of our hand. Literally. By the second day at sea, the boys had the lay of the land and the ‘wheres’ and whats’ all figured out. We brought along walkie-talkies, so that we could get in touch with each other if needed. Sully became known as ‘Big-shooter’, Max, ‘Little-shooter’ and I was ‘Big-Daddy-shooter’. In many cases, the walkie-talkies were used just so we could call each other by our code names! Ropes courses (which included a 2 metre walk-the-plank off the side of the ship!) were conquered, waterslides relentlessly plummeted, pools were swan in and hot tubs became the destination in which we could chill and recharge. Many times with a frozen cocktail in our hand. Virgin and not so much. And the best part of all, was this took place on the spacious upper deck with an unobstructed 360 degree view of the never-ending sea or a disappearing coastline.
Travelling with kids, as an only parent, can be very rewarding. I’m able to see them 100 percent of the time in all their glory. Experiencing what they’re experiencing and making the final call on what activity we’re going to do without having to consult anyone. My absolute favourite is watching things through their eyes for the first time. The excitement, energy and curiosity in which they participate and explore is like nothing I’ve ever imagined. If you ask me what the favourite part of our year away was, that was it. Just watching them, essentially, be them. But many times travelling solo with kids can also be difficult, frustrating and exhausting. Haha! Yes, really!!. There is no one else there to tag in or help pick up the slack when the inevitable whining and witching hour kicks in. Or when I’m completely exhausted and just can’t deal with one more, “Daddy, can I…?”. NCL did a superb job of anticipating all of this. They catered to kids in a way that made it feel like the vacation was just for them and they were in complete control. Sully and Max were able to enjoy all their favourite foods (um, hello Max and his unlimited ice cream cones/ice cream floats) as well as select show performances and excursions that they were drawn too. NCL’s kids club programs were the cherry on top, though. EVERY night the boys would plan their following day around what kids club activities they wanted to attend. It was kind of hilarious watching them decide what activities to go to (ALL OF THEM!) and which ones they were disappointed to have to skip because of an excursion. And once their day was planned, I was able to figure out when I could enjoy some much needed solo time or time at the fitness center, without having to worry about where they were or what trouble they were getting up to. The relationship was ideal for all of us!
Our excursions were an added bonus to the fun of being on the ship. And all three excursions offered something entirely different from the other, which was perfect for us. We spent a long afternoon on Roatan Island in Honduras. Our guide drove us to the other side of the island, where we boarded his boat and spent 2 hours touring the coast, stopping at strategic points along the way to snorkel and watch dolphins. A highlight was watching the boys dive deep and come up with a starfish. At Harvest Caye in Belize, it was all about lounging on the warm white sand and enjoying the crystal clear water of the beach. Norwegian Cruise Lines has developed an area of the island that is essentially like an oasis. The walking area, lagoon style pool, swim up bar and even the fans that spray mists of water all made it feel like we were in a small piece of paradise, if only for an afternoon. Our last stop in Cozumel, Mexico offered the piece de resistance of our trip. A definite highlight for all 3 of us. We were able to swim with dolphins! Knowing they were being kept in captivity, I felt conflicted about whether to do it or not. But sometimes you just have to be a kid. And both Max and Sully’s minds were blown by the dolphins! What amazing creatures they are when you get to experience them up close. The facility on the ocean was amazing and provided the perfect balance between excitement and education. Sully and Max recognized it wasn't the wild, so there was lots of conversation after about how we can do better as people. And no doubt they will.
Our last day was spent at sea. After eating dinner and watching a mesmerizingperformance of Illuminarium (a magic show/dinner theatre), the boys went to their last kids club session to spend time with their new found friends and say goodbye to their counsellors. I retreated to our balcony and enjoyed a few glasses of Prosecco as we sailed north in the dark, past the coast of Mexico. Reflecting on the week, I was delighted we went on the cruise. Warm weather, friendly people and lots of excitement is never a bad thing. But neither is being alone, curled up with a good book on a chez lounge by the pool or having a raucous dinner, in all the best ways, with 2 of my most favourite people. The cruise provided us with the best of both worlds. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled.