Family Sail-Away to the Caribbean

So the topic around the dinner table was whether or not lobster would be a good choice the next night.  About half of us were looking forward to it and the rest were “so-so” about it, saying that it was often disappointing – being a bit tough, not too tasty and well, just not the best.  Four of us were scheduled to eat at the Sabor Mexican specialty restaurant and would be missing the last fancy meal (I didn’t time that meal choice right) and even Jackie expressed concern that we would miss out.  She was reminded that she has a shellfish allergy and wouldn’t be eating it anyway, but she felt bad for Doug missing it.  But before we finish that story, let’s start at the beginning.

Last April my brother Jeff announced that he and Vickie were going to spend spring break on Harmony of the Seas and did anyone want to join?  Since it seemed likely the pandemic restrictions would be gone and cruising would surely be back to normal by then, we said sure and talked it up.  Soon we had nearly the whole family booked (14 of us) and were excitedly planning the adventure.  My nephews Adam and Chris had gotten married during the pandemic and were anxious for something fun to celebrate with the family – their wives Ashley and Becca were all in, plus Ashley’s twin sister Chelsey had also gotten married last year to Eric and they were also up for some fun.  Our son Alex and wife Bethany were in and my sister Linda and husband Norm said they would fly in from California to be part of this.  Ok, big group!

Fun times started right away.  The cruise departed from Port Canaveral, Florida so we all planned to travel the day before and stay local overnight before boarding.  The SC gang quickly posted a travel selfie from the road followed by us (taken safely while stopped) as we made our way to Orlando and Cocoa Beach.  It was something of a relief to be on the road, considering that we each had to have a negative COVID test the day before – which also involved a lot of “negative” text messages among the group as we sweated the results.  

In Orlando we had to wrangle a bit to get us all to a place to eat, but we managed to squeeze into the Rav4 and hit up Rockpit Brewing for some beer and barbecue. Thanks to Bethany for taking the far back storage area to make us all fit!

Next morning I dropped Linda and Norm at the airport so they could catch the shuttle bus to the port, circled back to the hotel, packed up the rest of our crew and we were off to the port.  Checking in at the port was a bit of a crowd at first as everyone had to pass a health check, wear their masks and go through security, but once aboard we were told the masks can come off and it wasn’t long before we all caught up on the top deck to gather and grab that “Welcome Aboard” first drink.  Yeah, we all bought the drink package.  Oh, and somebody’s hat decided to sail away overboard as we departed Port Canaveral.

Ok, so here are some stories from the trip – at least those that I know about.  For some of us it was our first time cruising, for some it was the first time on Harmony of the Seas, for some of us it was our second time aboard, and for a few it was our third time on the ship. Newbies went exploring right away and we all had different activities on our “checklist.” (You can now watch some video highlights at “How we did Harmony of the Seas . . . Again“).

Flowrider and Waterslides

Jeff and I got on the Flowrider almost first thing and mostly got the hang of it again.  The boys joined us and did well considering it was their first time.  Linda was in charge of photos “Is it on?” and did a decent job.  Of course we all had to try the waterslides, some of us nearly getting stuck mid-way with not enough water pressure and the day was VERY windy at the top. 

Onboard Entertainment

I think we tried to catch everything on board, from “Grease” to the ice show and aqua show to comedy to trivia and dance parties.  Some of us did quite well with the dancing, others not so much.  The gaming tables were probably a break-even plus a little more for the craps and roulette players, but I think some of the guys did better at blackjack.  It was exciting fun anyway.

Poolside on Sea Days

We started off on the solarium deck the first day, but once we found a better spot by the pool with good bar service and mostly enough chairs, it made for a base of operations.  The sun got pretty strong, so some of us moved in and out of the shade, grabbed munchies at the mini-bites and solarium bistro and had our share of frozen drinks and beer.  Oh, and milkshakes from Johnny Rockets!  A few braved the Abyss dry slide, which we were told “needed waxing” so it wasn’t too zippy scary.  

St. Marten

Our first port of call was Phillipsburg in St. Marten.  It was going to be a busy day with four big ships in port.  Half the group had an awesome ATV trip around the island exploring beaches and mountains and half the group had an excursion to Creole Rock on jet boats to try snorkeling.  Jackie and I were on the jet boats with Norm, Linda, Alex and Bethany and had a blast bouncing across the blue waters and among lots of sailboats.  The snorkeling was not great, since the reefs were pretty well blitzed, but the water felt wonderful and it was a thrill on the boats.

St. Thomas

Our second port of call was St. Thomas and we again split up for different excursions.  Jackie and I, Norm and Linda took a FastCat boat to snorkel at Turtle Cove and then hang at Hollywood Beach on Water Island.  Snorkeling was much better, water was awesome and clear – we did not see turtles but there was a barracuda under the boat that most of us spotted.  The beach spot was just perfect, as we bobbed in the clear shallow water.   

Perfect Day at Coco Cay

We were joined by Independence of the Seas at the dock on CoCo Cay, so it was going to be a crowd at the watery oasis.  Some of us found chairs at the Oasis Lagoon pool, some at the South beach area in the sand.  We spent time at both spots and I enjoyed the pool, which was a bit chilly, except that the music by the swim up bar was rather loud and created a very congested “spring break” style crowd.  Too many people, too loud.  Otherwise we all got plenty of water, sun, drinks and snacks.

Dinner

Our plans for dinner were to eat in the main dining room and I thought I had things pretty much set for everyone to be together at a reserved time each night, but it took a little negotiating at first to smooth things out – the result was a long table for 14 and the BEST dinner service ever.  A few of us had specialty restaurant reservations during the week, but the table was lively every night.  Our first night was a champagne toast to Dad, who along with Mom, introduced the joy of cruising to all of us.

For the most part the food was excellent and well received by all.  The prime rib slices were huge, the apps delicious – although there was some discussion about the lack of beets and oranges in the beet and citrus salad by some among us.  Someone finally got a banana split, french fries were quickly brought out for some of our diners and then there was the lobster affair.

You will recall I mentioned that the next-to-last meal was the fancy lobster tail meal choice.  Linda and I had booked the Mexican restaurant for that night, not knowing it was lobster night, so we were going to miss it.  Well, we resigned ourselves to missing what could have been a meal of average lobster – and most of us figured it would be chewy and tough anyway.  But the next day our crew said, guardedly, that it really was a spectacular meal and the lobster was the best they had ever had.  In fact, beside two tails each, the wait staff brought our extra plates of tails.  Oh, boy, that news didn’t help.

As we sat for dinner the last night and our waiter described the choices, I made pinching motions with my hands and told him that he could bring me my missing lobster tail from the night before.  I joked with him quite a bit but ordered the short rib anyway – and when taking my order Al said he would try.  Word around the dining room was that they had exhausted their supply the night before and not a lobster was on the ship.  That’s ok, I was fine with my order of short rib – I won’t pout.

When I finished my appetizer, the dining room manager Catherine came to my shoulder and asked how my day went in Coco Cay.  She said she saw I missed the lobster dinner the night before and then slipped a plate in front of me and revealed … a whole lobster, split and beautifully broiled!!  

After that last meal together we took some last group shots, broke off into small groups, packed our bags and some of us returned to sit on our connected balcony overlooking Central Park and reflected on a very satisfying family get-together that was the perfect start to the summer.  Even our armadillo mascot Heffe enjoyed himself.  I love our family!

I have some video I will soon edit and post, both here and on the “Videos” page, so watch for that update.  

What’s next?  This upcoming weekend we volunteer to pour at the Kennesaw Beer Fest and in 2 weeks we take the motorhome down to the panhandle of Florida and Grayton Beach State Park, meeting our good friends Dan and Terry, and … another cruise?  Stay tuned.

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One thought on “Family Sail-Away to the Caribbean

  1. schooloner

    What a gloriously hedonistic vacation, with your huge and wonderful family. Good times.

    Like

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