Mostly harmless (corto) wrote,
Mostly harmless

Vacation Post 2009

Family Corto Goes Cruising
March, 2009
Sailing on the Liberty of the Seas

This is our vacation blog for this years big family adventure.
All the pictures are little in the blog, but you can click any of them to bring up an bigger version.

Day 1
Well day one was - like the whole vacation - well planned. It was all about travel and ... unfortunately, everything went wrong. :)
Our flight from Ottawa to Toronto was canned due to Air Canada having a broken plane. That meant we wouldn't make our Toronto flight to Miami.
Soooo, Air Can messed around for a half hour and we ended up booked on a flight straight out of Ottawa, direct to Chicago O'Hare on one of those mini-regional jets!! This meant we got to clear customs in Ottawa instead of Toronto. We had almost two hours to kill in Chicago and then it was time to fly (on another regional jet) to Washington, DC. We would have had a full 25 minutes in Ron Reagan Airport to get from our regional jet, to the big honker that would fly us from DC to Miami. I say "would" because we left Chicago late. Suz, the boys and I were all cued up at the door of the jet as they unlocked the door... I had a back-pack, and two rolling carry-ons (that I had no intention of "rolling"). The door opened and I "burst forth". :D We zooooooomed through the airport and onto the next jet, (after a course correction because I “burst” in the wrong direction)... which was mostly full of people who had been asked to wait while we (and several other folks on the jet out of Chicago) made our way onto the flight.
Thankfully, this got us to Miami... (11:30) - and thankfully, Suz planned to get us here "the day before" our ship departed. So a yellow cab "van" got us and our bazillion bags to the downtown Miami Hilton (another score by Suz's efforts on "hotwire" to book a hotel for next-to-nothing). Ok, "bazillion" is actually two full size bags (big ass bags) and two mediums - all checked luggage - two roller carry-ons and two back-packs. We even packed another bag to check on the way home for stuff we get here. :D
STUNNINGLY tired... I wandered to a "checkers" across the street and bought late night evil food (burgers, fries, rings, etc.) Got back and we consumed-mass-quantities... then all fell completely asleep.

Day 2
We got up nice and early... huge floor to ceiling windows showing us the port-of-Miami and there was our boat... er... ship… waiting for us. :D
Because the world is a wonderful place... Kris and Chris (Live-Journal friends) were able to meet us at the hotel for breakfast... Absolutely fantastic – so happy to make a random connection get better.
After that... it was "pack and go" time... we were settling in at the "get me a cab" zone of the hotel, when I looked down and saw a giant, fat, serious wallet. Checked it out...- cash, travelers cheques, credit cards, and ID - grabbed the guys drivers license and showed it to the valet and asked if he knew this guy? (I want to trust... really, but I'm also not going to hand a fat wallet to minimum wage guy in a hotel parking lot). He didn't recognize him... so I took it back in and brought it to the front desk... 10 seconds later... The wallet-ee shows up looking for his wallet. He was an insanely happy man. :D
It was a short hop over the terminal and then it was all about checking in!!!
We were there at 11:00 am... the majority of the other 3996 people showed up at 1:00 pm. So,... go us. :D We wandered through giant, mostly empty, "people corrals" and ended up doing the jaw drop thing as we walked into the ship. I say "ship" because I know how evil it is to say "boat" about something this big. This is the Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Sea - the largest cruise ship in the world (until a bigger one rolls off the assembly line - google RCI "Oasis"). It took most of the rest of the day to get all of our luggage delivered to our “stateroom” but we had enough in our "carry on's" to get us started. Flow Rider, Rock Wall, mini-golf, swimming pools, hot tubs... hot tubs hanging over the side of the ship, shopping mall, sports/fitness facility, Spa (and seriously? The money? !yhgtbkm!), lounges, arcades, "kids zones"... internet cafe ($0.55 / min. btw) the list goes on.
It's all awesome beyond belief... everyone walks around the first day with their collective mouths hanging open. Several south American dudes rush around cleaning the drool. I had a strawberry daiquiri, because I couldn't stand not having one... :D (ps. Which contributed to no end of trouble)
After kids swimming, and us signing up for things, and signing things away (wavers that include phrases like "from now, until the end of time" - I kid you not!), and unpacking, and doing the emergency-drill with ginormous orange life vests as far as the eye can see…
We eventually ended up in a theater watching a great show that - btw - included those two "quick change" performers... (oprah, elen, etc.) who were absolutely awesome. :) Then our first big "ship meal" - although the boys and I had pizza earlier, while Suz was busy giving money to impossibly attractive women in the "spa" to do her nails and rub wildly exotic creams on her, squeeze bits and rub other bits. Dinner was amazing... as every meal will be... and then the night kind of vanished ... (late seating dinner will do that – we sit down to dinner at 8:30). I never got near a craps table, and I didn't have a latte. I will remedy both of those things tomorrow.

Day 3
er... ok, let me back up a bit.
Ok… further back…
Today was a day-at-sea. We're going to be at an island called "Labedee" (part of Haiti that RCI has apparently leased for eleven million years). But today... is all about the ship. Sadly... today began for yours truly at about 4:00 AM when I woke up with a pounding, ball-busting headache. I popped two advil and crawled back in bed... I was blaming the strawberry daiquiri. We were all up at 7:00... working our way through showers and down to breakfast...
Oh, and wait... I didn't explain about our room. SCORE!!! :D We booked a family suite (not a “suite” suite, all special’n’stuff, just a normal room with an extra bit)… except we booked the "weird one". It's laid out long because of the way that the size of our deck changes from the deck below us. We're on deck eight and it's the last deck to have cabins in this configuration. So instead of a decent size "box" with a bathroom and a second tiny room with two bunks and over-all... two porthole windows... our room is a main-bedroom (with porthole, closet & tv), a dressing/luggage area that the head opens off of (closet, another porthole), the main room (sofa, porthole, tv, fridge, table) and then the "little room" (two bunk beds, another porthole, a bench and another closet!!). Dude! This feels huge - and we're on a cruise ship... we were expecting it to feel cramped and we were going to be ok with that... so this is very "bonus" for us. :D
We had a full breakfast in the proper dining lounge.. (delicious) and ... my headache was still in full force. Suz and I went to a meet'n'mingle with this group called "Cruise Critic" (they run a website) that we had kind of hooked up with on-line before the trip. Then, over the course of the day, we did much hot-tubbing, watched Flow Rider -worlds coolest water toy - (could not bear to try it with my head pounding), took two more Advil... shot an Imitrix up my nose, popped a Gravol, and took an extra strength Tylenol. With all those bases covered... I still needed to take two more Advil by the dinner hour. Sigh (yes, that is wwwway too much medication, but I was practically in tears at one point and I just had to shake that bitch). At a low point in the head ache, Geo and I climbed the freaking-huge rock-wall, we ate lunch at this mega crazy buffet place, and generally tooled around the ship. The kids played in the arcade and we signed up Ed for activities with the "age group for him" organized thing, especially because we need him to be supervised while we go on the zip lines tomorrow (he's not tall enough yet to go - and he wouldn't have wanted to even if he was tall 'nuf).
At one point... I went into the Spa to ask if someone would let me have a hot hot towel to put around my neck... and the first girl I talked to was a total sweet heart. She took me back to the freaky chairs, rubbed this lotion on my neck - made it tingle vastly!!! - and wrapped my neck in burning hot towels that were made of pure-awesome, laid back the reclining chair and told me to just stay put till she came back. She came back in 15 mins and I truly did feel a lot better (this was before my last dose of Advil). The Spa is a mega money making machine, so finely tuned that the place practically explodes with business. Sweetness? She did all this at no charge. I was well pleased. When I was done, I ended up chatting with her and the three other "spa women" at the front desk (it was a quiet time at the spa) and see... I can do this thing ... I seem to just naturally hit this perfect spot on peoples necks ... two fingers, and I can cover your body in goose bumps in, like, 5 seconds. I said as much and of course it was followed by ‘show me’. So I was showing them... and rubbing their necks... and getting them to demand that a) Suz come back in and get her nails re-done (I had explained that Suz was not completely pleased with the results of the manicure) and b) that I was to come back tomorrow and get another neck treatment. :D :D nice girls. One was actually from Ottawa... which is kind of trippy when you get right down to it.
While the kids played around on the ship, Suz and I sat in a coffee bar and ate snacks and drank tea and wicked wicked good espresso's - with a dash of hot, slightly frothed cream - the "double shot, short breve latte" except I had to explain the entire process to the girl behind the counter. :D
Then we started getting ready for dinner. It was the first of two formal nights. So we all got dude'ed up. Suz in a beautiful maroon dress, and all three of her boys in black suits... and black deck-shoes (except Geo, his are red. :D). We went down the zone and did all the picture-taking we could stand. I must have done the "here... let me take the picture for you" to about 25 families. There are a LOT of families on this cruise. I have to say... it was mightily awe inspiring... to see so many unbelievably beautiful people all in one place... in formal, smoking hot dresses, gorgeous suits, etc. Suz, of course, truly shone above them all... Just wicked.
We had a wonderful dinner... Ed got to have snails swimming in garlic butter, I managed to have two meals delivered because I couldn't decide, and... well, we ate like kings and a queen. (I had this Indian cuisine choice that was listed as a veg meal... and it was awesome - I also ordered the seared-sea-bass, and it did not get any of the awesome they keep in the kitchen).
After dinner we all took our gorgeous selves to the huge theater at the other end of the ship to watch a "singing and dance number" that was a re-creation of a lot of fairytales rolled together. It was nice for three good reasons... Everything is nice when you're on a cruise ship... the performers were wonderful and... my headache had finally receeded. FINALLY!
We put the kids to bed after that (it was midnight) and then we went to the casino. :D I cashed a fifty at the craps table, played until 1:00 and cashed out 150. So I tripled my money and had a great deal of fun. :D We came back to our room and ... now it's now... as I type. Note to self: I heard two Garbage songs and two Shakira songs amongst the many today. :)
Oh, and the Motorola T-something “alkies”.. WORK GREAT!!!! Totally excellent on this ship and pay for themselves every time Ed say’s “I’m going out… I have a walkie!”.
Ps. Every night, when room-slave cleans up and turns down your bed… he makes some kind of animal out of some towels and a pair of sunglasses (this is very standard issue cruise stuff). :D
G'night. :D Talk to you tomorrow.

Day 4
Haiti... Wake up in the bay of Labadee. The plan (which always implies that things went awry) was to eat a nice breakfast, and head over to the official "We own that" RC play palace to spend the day doing all the stuff we booked and planned. What could go wrong? They call the problem... "liquid sunshine"... aka rain.
In cruise-speak, a "tender" is not a breaded, deep fried bit of chicken, but rather, a big ass tug-boat that has nothing but seats-for-bums. We got the 8:30 tender over the beach-resort, and I immediately returned because we had forgotten Ed's sun-glasses. I got back and once again thanked the motorola gods for our walkies. While Suz and Geo headed to the "dragon flight" zip-line thing... I took Ed to a beach to build sand castles for a bit.... then I plunked him in the organized-age-appropriate-day-care system that they call "Adventure Ocean" – which he totally enjoys!! My zip-line booking was about an hour after Suz and Geo's, so we had an overlap that needed "Ed care". Brilliant, gorgeous, sun block requiring sunshine got us to that moment. I plugged in my earphones and let sympathy (for the devil) provide a backdrop to the "here's what we're going to do" seminar pre-dragon-flight. At this point... a deluge of rain fell, along with significant winds. Based on some insurance rules they live by... suddenly anyone over 200 lbs was no longer allowed to go on the zip. That cut our group by a third... We did our training zip (smaller, 500') in pouring rain. Then we were driven up the mountain to this platform-in-the-sky. The sun came out for a few minutes and we did our zip thing. I screamed most of the way down... mostly because it was fun to scream. The zip line is the "longest zip-line-over-water in the world" Truly cool.
After this ... lunch at a big bbq set up by RC (therefore "included"). We then trekked over to the water play park and got beach chairs to relax on while the kids play in this awesome marked off zone filled with huge inflatable things to climb on, slide down, sea-saw on, fight over, and generally have a wet and wonderful blast. Sadly... it also began to rain... this brought... wetness and it also brought out the wasps. ack!! Geo got stung! It was getting late (DO NOT miss the boat), so we packed it up and headed back to this amazingly long line of folks that were waiting to ride a "tender" back to the ship. It got sunny again, for most of the line-up time, but when we got on the tender (on the top deck, no less) a brand new deluge of rain began to fall. Big Rain. Soaked to the bone and cold. Brrrrrrr!
Hot tubs fixed that up, while Suz did the athletic centre. We all chilled out for a while - very tiring day. We dressed in “nice casual” for dinner, and when to a show - and eventually it got to be dinner time. :D The night wore out... Suz and I went to an "adult comedy show" which basically means he says the f and c words a few times. :) Then it was the casino. I took my winnings and my stake from last night, added fifty more bucks to it... took a break... came back... and lost everything except the original fifty bucks. So two great evening adventures in casino-land for fifty. I brought cash I expect to lose in the casino... like my "payment" for all the fun I have playing the games.
It's 2:30 now... and I'm dead. So I'll see ya tomorrow. Oh, and tomorrow is Montego Bay, Jamaica. :D

Day 5
Today was a day without a plan... and we pulled it off! :)
Our monster ship was pulling into Montego Bay as we crawled out of bed this morning. Our rooms all have big port-holes that face forward. We're at the front of the ship (see this map and find #8500), so this gave us a beautiful view of Jamaica on the way in. It was pouring rain when we woke up... but by 8:30 it was all sunshine and happy feet. We had a big breakfast, packed a bag, put a few sammiches from one of the restaurants into a zip lock, grabbed fruit... and headed out. The cruise line has all these "excursions" you can buy... often they are the absolute right way to do things... but not always. Our goal was to shop and hit a beautiful beach... we could have paid 75$ a head to do that with the cruise organizing transport and access, etc. but we didn't do that. Instead, we paid our own way in a cab, shopped a bit in the city centre, took another cab to "Doctors Cave" beach, paid access, rented masks and snorkels, a giant umbrella, and cab'ed back to the ship. This worked out to about 15$ a head. :)
I was snorkeling over a reef that was peppered with these little nemo's, and other neon coloured freaky fish... a local that I had paid to supply me with snorkel gear paddled out on his kayak and crumbled a cookie into the water just over the reef I was diving on... and presto!!! A national geographic moment. It was amazing. We saw some almond trees (yes) and other "crop" like fruit trees... but the hurricane in '04 (Andrew?) really messed up the islands GNP.
Back on board... after all the "are you smuggling drugs?" processing... and we split into our now standard protocols. Suz hit the gym, Ed hit the arcade, Geo wandered the ship, and I found my way to a hot tub. :) Our night was wonderful, with a trip to see the big "Ice Show" before dinner, an outstanding dinner (always), another show after dinner (more comedy) and then, after getting the kids to bed, Suz and went a'gambl'en. I rather quickly lost a hundred bucks at the craps table... and then watched Suz win it all back at the blackjack table.
Oh yeah, and our dinner was interrupted by a gang of cut-throat pirates… from the youngest-cruise-creatures. :D (very cute)
Now it's 2:00 in the morning and we're once again dead dead dead tired. So it's nighti-night from the middle of the sea that separates Jamaica from the Cayman Islands. Tomorrow is swimming with the stingrays in George Town, Grand Cayman. :)
ps. the "ice show" was spectacular, and yes, that does indeed mean that there is a skating rink on this ship.

Day 6
Oh look...I'm covered in stingrays...
We woke up to our alarm at 7:00... saw rain... went back to sleep. Woke up again at 8:00... to sunshine. :) (so we got up). We arranged to go to on a Stingray adventure - but not an excursion associated with the cruise. We booked with "Moby Dick Adventures". This was dramatically less expensive than the same trip via the cruise line so.... Our ship made anchor in the Cayman Islands bay with three Carnival Cruise Lines ships around us... It is stunning to see how big those ships are... and then go ashore and see how they are dwarfed by the size of our ship!! gah! We ate a quick breakfast, slathered on the sun block, packed the back-pack and got on a tender to take us from the ship to the docks in George Town, Grand Cayman. We killed an hour shopping in stores that kind of made you want to throw up in your mouth a little with the wall to wall total crap (aka souvenirs), broke a souvenir mug in a pirate store, cut Geo's hand (marginal) on said broken mug... paid 2/3s of the price of that well busted mug and decided that we really didn't want to shop. So we headed back to the pick-up zone for Moby Dick and the next thing we know... we're on a boat powering out to sea with fifteen other people from various ships. Our destination was a sand-bar situated half way between one Cayman Island and the next that is affectionately known as "Stingray City". The excursion starts with all of us suiting up with flippers, mask and snorkel to swim in 20 feet of water over wicked reefs and watching cool fish do their thing... then we pile back on the boat and go to the 4 foot deep water directly over the sand bar.
Now this is the freaky part... There are all kinds of boats there, doing exactly the same thing... anchor, and then put a floaty thing filled with chopped up squid out in the water. Then we hop in ... You grab a hunk of squid and hold it a certain way and feed a stingray. Sounds easy... hahaha... I'm holding my squid-bit and I've moved away from the bulk of the people... I have a mask and snorkel on still... and I'm looking around for the stingrays. Suddenly a seagull swoops down and rips the squid from my hand... just as four (or was six hundred?) huge (4 ft wing span? – or were they 15 foot mutants?) stingrays swarm over me. Honestly? I screamed like a little girl.
I was kind of caught by surprise. :D
Before long I was a pro. Diving down with my squid-bit and showing it to one of any number of 'rays zooming around in the water. The 'ray will swim up to you and if you put your hand under its face, it opens its toothless (but plenty powerful) mouth on it and sucks it from your hand. I mean "suck it" like you cannot imagine. Ed tried... but was very freaked out... Geo and Suz got the hang of it and I was totally into it. At one point I had a vast female (girls are bigger) stingray in my arms... it's "snout" against my chest and resting it's wings on my outstretched arms... and it was just staying there. I was literally holding it... almost cuddling it. It was one of the most bizarrely amazing things I've ever done. Meanwhile two dozen 'rays are swarming around me... It was very "other worldly". Out in the middle of nowhere, and playing with life forms that my only "point of reference" for were some space ships in Star Wars, although I think they used a similar model for a ship in "The Abyss". It was just wild.
When out time was up... we piled back into the boat and they motored back to the port where we caught a bus back to the cruise ship port. That got a bit dicey because the ships DO NOT WAIT for you if you're late, and we were totally pushing the envelope. Needless to say, our fears were groundless and we made it back in good time.
Today was another "formal day" so we had a nice long hot tub thing when we got back, played around, showered, cleaned up and eventually (dinner isn't till 8:30) got ourselves all dolled up. Oh, and I brought Suz up to the spa to capitalize on the invitation the girls gave me to re-do her nails. They completely re-did - for free - the whole manicure service... I credit the goose bump/neck thing but I know it had more to do with "total customer satisfaction”.
Again with everyone-play-dress-up-Barbie-and-Ken. It occurs to me that I am completely without the ability to guess a woman’s age – I can gauge generations, but it ends there. They all fade to black against a backdrop of the "women of all ages" dressed up like you just can't believe. Suz, this time in black dress that was cut to be twirled, was the most beautiful. :D And to be serious... she has never before shone with as much brilliance as she does now. Just... drop... dead... beautiful. sigh.
The night wore on with lots of pictures, a wonderful dinner and me feeling like an elephant. So much food... so much delicious, gourmet food... Tonight was lobster and steaks... :D
Riddle me this: How can "5 + 5 + 5 = 550" be an accurate statement by making one change? (official "bar riddle" to be used to acquire free drinks).
It has been "big party night" on the ship, with dusk till dawn parties on deck and in the various lounges. We went to the "air show" (think Cirque de Solie) tonight in the big theater... and it was wonderful. We did some casino but not much... we left it too late and were only able to play for a half an hour. :)
I've met so many families and couples on this trip it's silly. I just keep finding myself in some situation where I take their camera to "get everyone in the shot" or offering up tid-bit of information on an excursion or whatever. It's been nice.
Tomorrow we arrive in Cozumel, Mexico, around 10:30 in the morning... and we don't leave until 6:30. We've not made any plans...
Oh... and one of our coupons gave me 5 minutes of free internet access. They only charge $0.55 minute but still... So I used another minute to upload a "formal night" picture to my blog. :)

Day 7
If it's Thursday, this must be Mexico...
We woke up at a leisurely pace today... with the ships plan being an arrival in the port of Cozumel at 10:30. Last night was a general party night so a great many people did the sleep-in thing. We woke up at 8:30. This is the sleep-in. hahaha... On a vacation like this... you pay too much to sleep. So stay up late, get up early and beg-borrow-and-steal the energy to be Mr & Ms Busy all day long.
Never-the-less, today was an easy wake up. I even dialed in a second wake up call so I could tell the first one to shove-it. I sat in our room, with the binoculars, and watched out a giant portal as we rounded the corner of this big honking island and headed for port. When the kids and Z were all awake and ready to go, we went to the giant breakfast buffet and feasted. Seriously... every meal, in every eating spot aboard ship... is fabulous. Breakfast is always especially so.
We packed a light bag - having made absolutely no plans for Cozumel, and wandered into the tourist trap attached to the Port Authority building. We picked out shirts, shawls, mescal (little "fun size" bottles), .... and stuff. Then we turned around and went right back onto the ship. I know Coz is famous for snorkeling, but a) anything we do would have to compete with the sting-ray thing and b) It's been a long week... I don't need to be impressed any more. I'm in a constant state of "impressed". :D
We spent the afternoon doing truly lovely, relaxing and fun things. The boys put some time in to the arcade, Suz and I went for a hot-tub... then drew the boys out for some swimming. This led us to a moment of cool, as we converged on the "Flow Rider" station. Geo did other things... he'll be "Flowing" tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Ed and Suz did great (me too - but I really want to try the mini surf board, versus the boogie board - that's tomorrow). We all hooked back up and got ourselves dressed up for dinner. We went to the early "show" - a singing and dancing number put on in the huge theater room. Then dinner. :D
Lots of pictures going on, and a fabulous meal. Geo headed off to adventure-ocean activity. :)
Ed, Suz and I, headed down to another sort-of-party. Hundreds of people sitting in 'sections' around the ice rink (which was now a dance floor). Our team didn't win but we had a gas playing.
MC: "Bring me four pairs of men’s pants, without men in them" or "get ten people from your section and have them imitate a game of Twister. blah blah blah... it was terrifically funny, and when it ended... it all turned into a dance-party that had Edward just a’jump’en and a twist’en. :D We finally put Ed to bed, George was still out... so Suz and I went for a walk and ended up in the casino. Oh, and our ship pulled out of Cozumel at 6:30. We're headed for a full day at sea and then arrival in Miami on Saturday morning. :)

Day 8
'av you ever been to seaaaaa
Our last day was a "day at Sea". Other than really outstanding wind, it was a beautiful sunny day. (and I mean wind you have lean into in order to walk forward!!) We slept in - a bit - and let the kids keep sleeping, while we went to a nice full breakfast in the dining room. We met a nice couple there who have a claim to nominal fame as the guy (JT) in the television insurance commercial, slipping on a banana peel in Quincy, Illinois. (and a Russian family on the other side who were blessed to have 16 year old son who, apparently, has never heard of deodorant. We filled our day with ship-board activities... flow rider, rock wall climbing, swimming, hot tubing, and shopping! They (RCI) break out sale tables in the "Grand Promenade" in shifts... one of the shifts was the 10$ watch zone. Some really crappy watches... but some truly nice looking crappy watches. Later, they were replaced by tables covered in jeweler and watches... this time? really nice watches. I was getting all keen on one until I realized that the "after 40% off" still meant 325$. I needed to do a lot better in the casino before that was happening. :D.
We also had to pack, and get the tip thing sorted out. If you've no clue... they give you a very formal process to 'tip'. The room-steward, waiter, "assistant waiter" (aka Busboy), head waiter (lol)... and then anyone else you though was exceptional. ($3.50 per person per day for the steward, ditto for the waiter, $2.50 per person per day for the busboy, and what-ever-you-think-is-good for the head waiter)
So the head waiter... It's like they needed to come up with something for him/her to do that would justify a tip... Result? He cuts your food. LOL For example: Lobster night (yes, each night has a dinner menu theme) includes head waiter dude coming to your table and cutting the lobster out of it's shell for you... other nights? He literally comes and cuts up your food for you... lol. It's kind of funny. Never-the-less, he is part of the whole "gold service" concept... i.e. walks up to your table when dinner is served and if there's anything marginally wrong with the look of your meal, he'll direct the waiter to replace it. He's also the guy with a bunch of entertaining tricks up his sleeve - literally... doing magic tricks at your table.
Coffee, tea, milk, water, ice tea, etc... is all "free" for the asking from any of the bars or restaurants... (soda pop too, if you purchased the "soda package" - which we did for the boys). But if you want a latte, or an espresso... you have to pay. There was this one particular restaurant that was proximate to where we would enter or exit the promenade going to and from our stateroom. The woman working there sat through my complete explanation of exactly how I would like a coffee (double short espresso with 2 oz's of heated, slightly frothed whole-milk.) She made a point of making these for me when I came by... so I gave her a big-ass tip on the last day too. They want you to tip the wine-steward too... but we never ordered boozy drinks or wine (except three glasses of wine over the week) so he got nothing. :)
The last night included the last show - this one included a comic and another show by the quick-change artists (Pasha and Alonia?)... That and dinner was a prelude to our mad packing extravaganza. All luggage is to be outside your stateroom door by 11:00 pm on Friday night... sigh. Suz and I got all this sorted and turned the kids loose for their last night. Ed just went to the pizzeria and loaded up to go back to the room and watch tv. Geo headed off to one of the "Teen bars" to hook back up with friends he made on the trip for the last-hurrah. Suz and I headed for our last go at the casino. En-route, we pass four young girls... with Geo, headed for the "screening room" (on-ship theater). This brought smiles to us for the sheer cuteness factors. :D
Our waiter was great (the busboy was - is usually - best)... but the waiter... Romanian... amazing "rolling R's"... and this substantial black mole in the middle of his forehead. No power in the universe could keep me from mumbling "molly-olly-olly-molly-olly" under my breath - ne: austin powers - ever single time we sat down to dinner. :D
The casino was very nice to us this night... When ever I would get down to my last 10$ in chips, I would go to the roulette table and plunk it down on Red. Magically I would always win this. LOL!!! I'd put the ten back in my pocket and ride the other ten on various side bets (black/red, odd/even) until I lost it all or - as happened on the last night, it turned into 80$. Then I'd go back to the craps table and run my game - I bet a 5$ pass line, 1$ on each hard way, and bet 5, 6, 8, and 9. Given that I have enough to weather a few 7-outs (losing everything) this would turn my 80$ into $160 and before I got cocky... I'd scoop it all up and go to the blackjack table where Suz would typically be doing just fine (thank-you-very-much) and play for another hour. :D We closed out the casino pretty much every night, and then go to bed at 3 in the morning.
All week... bed at 3... up with the sun. OMG I'm so tired!!! :D

Day 9
Homeward bound.
We got up extra early - because you HAVE TO - and headed for breakfast in the main dinning room. By 8:30 had cleared US customs and we were heading for the Miami International Airport.
This is where I am right now... sadly; the only flight we could get for this trip is not leaving until 7:50 … PM. I've got all of our luggage piled up on a cart and I've sent Suz and the boys to a shopping mall (Dolphin Mall) to kill a few hours shopping.
Without any hesitation, I would say this has been the most exciting and rewarding, luxurious!!! trip we've ever taken as a family and we are all confident that we want to book one for next year.
ps. Suz lost one pound, and I lost two. Go figure?

(Thanks for reading... I hope you enjoyed our story. :D)
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