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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Baby let's cruise {Cruising with 3 kids under 4}.

.... awaaaaaaaaaay from heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre.  Huey Lewis?  Gwyneth Paltrow?  Anybody?  Nobody?  ::sigh:: 


I love that song.  


While Brian was on a business trip in April, he emailed to tell me that we were going on a cruise with his company in May.  I hit the Reply button, and then sat there staring blankly at the computer screen, a thousand thoughts running through my head.

Woo hoo!  Cruuuuuuuisin'!

Wait, 3 kids?  On a cruise?  

But it's a free vacation!  With our friends!

Buuuuuut ... 3 kids.  Under 4. On a ship.  

Matchbox room.  

Fancy-ish dinners.  

Thrown-off schedules.  

Vacation!  Bahamas!  No cooking!!  Or cleaning the kitchen!!

So much packing.  

But really, where are we all going to sleep?

Kelli.  F-R-E-E vacation.

So I decided to really just focus on the vacation aspect and roll with it.  I mean, we've never been on a family vacation other than to Michigan, so this could  will be fun.  

The HUGE plus is that we live 30 minutes from Port Canaveral, so there was no packing for a trip to get there.  All I had to pack for was the trip, which was a huge relief.  And really, packing for a 3 day cruise isn't really that hard.  We just threw the bags in the car and drove toward the giant boats.  

After the very smooth boarding process, we made our way to our cabin to get a plan together.  I was actually pleasantly surprised.  It was bigger than the other rooms we've stayed in and the bathroom was by far the biggest one I've seen.  Initially, our plan was to put Brennan up in the Pullman bed, put Beckett in the crib, and have Kiernan sleep in the big bed with us.  He had just begun climbing out of his crib at home and we were nervous that he'd do the same in these tiny little port-a-cribs.  Not to mention the fact that we weren't sure there would be enough room for 2 cribs.  

This plan failed miserably.  Miserably.  Our boys are used to getting into their beds and falling asleep in a dark room without us, so getting them to sleep was a challenge.  The first night, Beckett went to sleep after I rocked him back and forth on the edge of the bed, but Kiernan put up a fight.  He only wanted his Daddy (Mommy WIN!), so Brian was up and down with him most of the night.  The poor kid (and his poor Daddy) just couldn't get comfortable.  After another unsuccessful attempt at sleep during naptime the next day, we asked for another crib.  Our concierge looked at us like we were crazy, and we could no longer walk around the bed, but it was worth it.  

The room setup (on packing day).  Mr. Beckett loved playing on the big bed.  

Next challenge?  Meal time.  

Ohhhhh my heavens.  It was a relief not to have to prepare or clean up any of the meals, but holy bananas, we still did a lot of work.  Two of the three nights, we ate in the formal dining room.  They had high chairs for the boys and a great kids menu.  We just had to make sure to keep the 53434 glass objects out of wing span and be sure to watch the table cloth for major movements.  Of course, the 2ish hour process was a bit long for the boys, but they were troopers.

For the rest of the meals, we ate at the various buffets.  This, my friends, was chaos.  At the very first meal, I asked a crew member in the dining room for high chairs.  He replied that they didn't have any.  ::blink blink::  Ummmmm, OK.  So we made do.  Usually, Brian would sit at the table with the unrestrained munchkins and I would run and get food for the 3 of them.  I'd drop it off at the table while Brian started cutting and rationing, and then I'd head back for some food of my own.  When I returned, Brian would leave to get himself some food.  I'd gobble with one hand and run interference with the other.  By the time Brian got back to the table, the boys were usually done eating and getting rambunctious, so he usually gobbled just as fast as I had so we could get back to moving.  The nice thing though, was not having to worry about having too much or too little food for the bottomless pits!  

I didn't see a single person using a high chair anywhere but the formal dining room the entire trip.  On the last day, I was on my way to more chocolate milk for the boys when I saw a baby sitting in a high chair.  I think my jaw hit the floor and I asked the Mom about it.  She said that she asked someone the first day and they brought her one right away.  O.o  Apparently the person I spoke to didn't speak English very well.  Either that or he thought I didn't look crazy enough as it was.  

Dinner in the dining room and in the buffet dining room.  No, we didn't mistakenly grab a 4th kid.  That's our friend Liev.  

The ship had a pool, but Beckett and Brennan were not the least bit interested in swimming in it, so they headed to the splash pad in the front of the boat with Brian while Kiernan and I swam for a bit.  We eventually joined them and the boys had a BLAST.  

The one stop on the cruise was in Nassau, Bahamas.  We took a cab to a free beach near Atlantis and spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful scenery with our friends Roman & Lisa and their kiddos, Liev & Abby.  Of course, I hauled my nice camera the whole way there, only to realize that I left the battery on the charger on the ship.  Lisa was sweet enough to capture a few photos for us.  

Family shot.  --  The Dads and all 4 boys down at the shore.   

Brian and I were both able to spend some time with our friends during the cruise as well.  The first night, my nerves were raging and Kiernan only wanted Brian, so I headed out to have a beer or 3 with the company clan.  The next night, Brian headed out while I watched the boys.  On the third night, Roman & Lisa (whose cabin was right next to ours) watched the boys while we met people for a comedy show.  It was nice to be able to have a little "escape" time!

When we weren't eating, sleeping, splashing, or spending time off of the ship, we were exploring it.  I can't tell you how many laps we took around the track, but the boys loved running.  Running = tired boys = good sleep.  So we let them run wild.  Brennan spent a bit of time at the ship's Kids Camp.  He wasn't a fan at first and cried when Brian left, but he ended up having a good time for a couple of hours.

In the end, I would call it a successful trip.  Would I pay to take my kids on a cruise?  At this age, probably not.  Our boys are just a little bit too young to really appreciate it.  One of Brian's coworkers has preteen boys and that was an awesome age for a cruise. Nevertheless, we were so.incredibly.appreciative that Brian's company gave us the opportunity to make some great memories with not only our boys, but our friends as well.  We are so lucky to be a part of such a great company!

But in case I do get a case of the crazies and decide to do this again in the next year or three, here are a few tips I'd remember, some of which I did and they worked out, and others I didn't do and wish I would have:

  • Get the sleeping arrangements figured out as soon as possible.  Make it as much like home as you possibly can.  So you have to crawl over the bed to get to the other side of the room?  Who cares.  You don't spend much time in the cabin anyway.
  • Unpack, put suitcases away, and designate a dirty clothes suitcase "hamper".  Grind it into husband's head that dirty clothes do not belong on the 3x3 ft space of visible floor.  
  • Snacks.  Snacks, snacks, snacks.  Pack lots of them.  Non-perishable, heat-resistant snacks.  I am not afraid to say that I buy my kids happiness with animal crackers and fruit snacks.  It's better than screaming cruise babies.  
  • Buy a pack of Take'n'Toss sippies.  They take up a tiny bit of room in the suitcase, are easy to wash, and are easy to throw in the diaper bag on the way to dinner.  
  • Speaking of diaper bags, leave it at home.  Pack a small-ish bag into which you can throw a few things you may need while at meals.  Why take diapers all over the place?  The cabin is a pretty short walk away.  Pack another bigger bag for the pool.  
  • Take sunscreen everywhere.  Even better, just put it on in the morning and reapply with diaper changes.  Or something like that.  All too often we would get out wandering, end up in the sun, and wish we had sunscreen with us.  
  • Ask for high chairs.  If one person tells you no, ask again.  And again.  And again.  I would have had less diarrhea and gray hairs if I'd just asked more people.  
  • Check and double check the camera for a charged battery and memory card.
  • Or, forget the camera and just carry your phone with you more often.  I put mine in the safe for the majority of the trip, but I really wish I would've put it in airplane mode (to avoid roaming charges) and used it as a camera.  We didn't take many photos because it was usually a hassle to get out the camera and corral the crazies at the same time.
  • Plastic bags.  Kill all the plastic trees, forget your reusable shopping bags for a grocery trip or 2, and hoard those suckers like they're gold.  Then take them all with you.  And ziplocs.  Take lots of ziplocs.  Big ones, small ones, whatever.  Just bring some.  There are a bajillion different things I used them for and I could have used more. 
  • Pour whiskey into a wine bottle and recork.  Buy soft drink package (we always do anyway because Brian likes to drink his calories and I love the cancer juice) and add some Jack and save a few bucks on booze.  I mean, we took a few bottles of wine, but the whiskey would have lasted longer.
Last, but most definitely not least, try your hardest to get some adult time.  I was a raging madwoman the first day and getting the chance to go sit in a bar with other adults was amazingly helpful, even if Brian couldn't come with me.  Actually, he was probably thankful that he had to stay and deal with the over-tired, sleep-resistant Honey Badger instead of spending time with his crazy wife!  I know I was actually pretty stoked to get some peace and quiet alone time while he went out the next night and the boys slept.

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