The Family Vacation

Ready for that endless slide-show while I drone on about jewel-colored waters and sunburn? Well then, settle in!

Each year I take the kids to the beach for a week. Well, I take the younger two boys. My eldest usually declines because we stay in a family-friendly spot as opposed to a hopping-party spot. The kids practically live in the water during this week and I chill under an umbrella slathered in sunscreen and obsessively watch them in case they get swept out to sea, or attacked by a swarm of jellyfish.

This year the youngest declared that he wanted to fly on a plane somewhere, because he’s never flown and after watching me jet around for business the last eight years, he wants in on some of that action. I immediately thought of my cousin and her family down in Siesta Key who have repeatedly invited us to come down. That’s when I had the Great Idea.

Great Idea = Fly the whole lot of us to Tampa. Spend a few days with my cousin and her family. Get on a cruise ship to some exotic destination. 

So off we flew, with some minor scheduling mishaps with my eldest’s travel arrangements that put him on a different flight. My cousin’s house in Siesta Key was lovely, and she is truly an amazing hostess. The kids enjoyed their pool, fishing off their dock into the canal, the sunset drum circle on the beach, and boating. We stuffed all three boys onto a round floating thing that bore little resemblance to the actual inner tubes we used when I was a kid, and hauled them behind the boat, speeding along and turning so they flew over top of the boat wake.  There were many incidents of children flying through the air into the water, and everyone of them came up laughing and wanting “more, more”. The waters of the Gulf were calm and warm, so very different from what we swim in off the coast of Maryland. I loved our visit, and so did the boys!

Next stop was the cruise terminal. And Terminal is an appropriate word. I felt like we were in purgatory, awaiting entrance at the burning gates of hell. Checking the bigger bags, we followed the helpful, if somewhat harried, staff to stand in line. Our boarding time was noon, and even though I’ve only been on one other cruise, I remembered the wait time to board. After about fifteen minutes on not moving one inch, we asked a passing staff member if we were in the general boarding line. No, it seems we were in the preferred boarding line, so we trudged along to our appropriate place. I was alarmed. If the ‘preferred’ people weren’t budging, then I had little hopes that we’d get onboard before nightfall. My eldest complained that I hadn’t bought VIP entrance, or somehow waved a fist full of cash at them to get onboard. After shelling out a huge chunk-o-change for this vacation, I’d balked at the fast-board price. And judging from the Preferred line, I don’t think we would have fared much better.

Two. Hours. Later. The line moved. We were standing in the July Florida sun, so staff came by with water bottles and snacks. Finally we made our way inside, through passport check, security, and all the other hoopla, and armed with our stateroom keys, onboard we went. Of course, they’d just boarded nearly 3000 people who had been standing in the hot sun for hours with only a mini bottle of water and an equally mini bag of Fritos. We went to the lunch buffet to find the room wall-to-wall people. My eldest vanished, hangry beyond belief, to find himself something to eat while I settled in with the kids in a line for pizza – a line that people were constantly jumping. It seems if one person you know is in a line, it is perfectly acceptable for twenty of their closest friends to join at that spot, claiming “we’re with him.” And don’t get me started on the people who just walk right up front. Let’s just say I came close to being hauled off the boat and arrested for assault that afternoon.

Thankfully everything started looking up after the kids got their pizza and my eldest returned less hangry. A few of the highlights:

  • The Carnival logo thingie on all the door handles and frosted into the windows looks like a dick and balls. I giggled every time I saw it and insisted on calling the dining place Erection (It’s real name is Elation). “I’m going to the Erection for breakfast,” I’d tell my eldest. He’d cringe and say: “Mom. Don’t.” because although it’s acceptable for his 20 year old friends, it’s not cool when your 52 year old mom makes those kind of jokes.
  • My youngest thinks the sea water smells like dead lobster. And now the B52’s song Rock Lobster is one of his faves.
  • Kim Harrison was on the entertainment billing and I became deliriously excited that I’d get to meet a fellow Urban Fantasy author who outsells me by a zillion books. Sadly, this Kim Harrison was a comedienne. I don’t know if she was a good comedienne because I was too disappointed to go see her shows. I probably should have gone, just in case Dawn Cook was moonlighting on the side under her Urban Fantasy pen name as a comedic act on a cruise ship.
  • I saw a woman whose hair in a pony tail went past the back of her knees.
  • After spending a bunch of money on an eco-tour kayaking the mangroves in Grand Cayman and going to snorkel with the stingrays, neither of my two youngest can tell a black mangrove from a red, or know anything about marine wildlife. They did have a wonderful time, so I guess I need to chill on the whole “education” thing and just go with it.
  • One-stop shopping in Cozumel

    My “just go with it” resolve was tested when the tour company in Cozumel put us with the wrong group and we realized too late that instead of riding a bus for an hour to see Mayan ruins, then walking around a small village, we ended up on a snorkeling adventure and tequila tasting. The kids had far more fun snorkeling than they would have being eaten alive by bugs while looking at ruins that they couldn’t touch, and honestly I probably did as well.  It was like snorkeling at the Baltimore Aquarium, only without the staff yelling at you and threatening to call the police if you didn’t get out of their display tanks.

    J.C.- a man way too generous with the tequila pours.

    And the tequila tasting was fun. My eldest got to partake as he is 20 and legal to drink in Mexico. We were pretty tipsy when done, which is probably why we bought fresh-made margaritas with the local tequila in these earthenware clay pots that I was determined to bring home with me, as if we don’t have clay pots here in the states. Needless to say, they remained on the cruise ship.
    Later we ate at Three Amigos near the port and were pestered to buy all sorts of things from Jell-o shots to a picture of us with sombreros on. I’d had enough tequila that I bought all of the above. Yes, it was a chain, but it was fun, and we got to sit out on the dock where they had two big bathtubs you could fill with water and sit in, drinking margaritas and overlooking the Gulf, just like in the Viagra ads.

Am I happy to be back? Yes. Would I do it again? Heck, yes. The kids had a total blast. I had a lot of fun. It was definitely a pricey trip. Not so pricey that I was tempted to steal dozens of little cereal boxes from the cruise ship like some passengers did, but still pricey. I’ll save up so we can do it again in a year or two!

4 thoughts on “The Family Vacation

  1. You deserve a vacation. I just wanted to tell you that I absolutely LOVE the Imp books. Sam, Wyatt , & the angels. I’m a paranormal lover. Cut my teeth on Steven King & Anne Rice & Ht Night. But YOU have created a wonderful new world for me to explore. I’m reading the series again!

  2. Sounds like an awesome family holiday. Memories for sure. My kids still remember Key West when they were 6 and 4. Unfortunately travel from Australia to anywhere overseas is waaayyy too $ to be realistic, but we’ll get there one day. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Or, come with us to Alaska for a cruise. Staying over on Kenai peninsula and we’ll see if we can outrun bears while wearing hip waders…

    I’ll be re-reading all your Alaska-themed books on the cruise ship.

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