Monday, January 16, 2017

Family Vacation - Part 1

My siblings have been pushing for a destination Christmas for quite a few years now. The last few years have been full of weddings, babies, relocations. 2016 was pretty wide open though, so this holiday season seemed like the perfect time to make this family vacation a reality. We decided on a Caribbean cruise the first week of January. A cruise was perfect for a large group, 12 adults, 3 kids, 2 infants. It gave us all the freedom to customize our rooms and activities while still getting to spend time together as a family. As it turns out, my younger brother and and my SIL weren't able to join us :( , but we still had a big group of 15 total.

We were able to fly out of Fort Wayne for about the same price as flying out of Indy or Chicago. We flew out at 7:50am on New Year's Day. An early flight on NYD meant everywhere was still closed, except for the Starbucks inside our local Kroger. Thank goodness for coffee and breakfast sammies at 6:30am when traveling with 4 kids. Also, not having to drive a couple hours before our flight was amazing. We had a layover in ATL, and landed in San Juan just after 4pm. All of the kids did really well. I even managed to watch most of Bad Moms on the flight from ATL to SJU. My parents were on all of the same flights as us which was a huge help. I came down with a migraine after traveling all day, so I missed out on the first evening of vaca. Our hotel had a great pool and a lobby bar/restaurant, so everyone stayed in at the hotel while I slept off a migraine.

Jan 2nd. San Juan - The babies were up bright and early after a not great night's sleep. We all met for hotel breakfast and then Harrison and Brooke took off with my siblings while Rob and I hung back with the babies while they took their morning nap. H and B got to check out Castillo San Cristobal. The new governor's inauguration happened to be on this day, so Old San Juan was extra crazy while we were there. It made it a little difficult to get around, so Robbie and I missed out on the Castillo. Once we did meet up with everyone we walked around Old San Juan and grabbed lunch at Mallorca before heading to the cruise ship. The first evening on the ship was spent checking out the different decks and getting settled. I wish we would have been able to see the ship take off, but all of the kiddos were so tired, so we were in our room before the ship left port. We definitely felt the boat moving all night however.

Jan 3rd . St Kitts - Robbie and I had a snorkeling shore excursion planned for this day, but it got cancelled. We decided to hitch on to my older sister's plans for the day. We found a wonderful cabbie named Mr. Rogers who told us all about St Kitts as he drove us to our destination. We went to Shipwreck Beach Bar in South Friars Bay. The restaurant was great and very kid friendly. Awesome fish and veggies tacos. Hot dogs and chicken tenders for our picky big kids. As an added bonus, there are monkeys and mongooses that live in the woods and come down close to the restaurant. We thought this was way cooler than the kids, but what do they know. ;) We didn't bring swim suits, which was a mistake, because the beach was great. H and B were completely soaked and covered in sand. They played in the water and sand, and we searched for shells and bottle caps. There were free lounge chairs with shade which was perfect for nursing and napping babies. Mr Rogers was back to pick us up on time, we found all of our drivers to be great about being on time for return trips, and we headed back to the ship. It was the last day of Carnivale, and I wish we would have had more time to check it out. The kids were ready to get back to the ship and have a snack before dinner.

Jan 4th Antigua - As was the case every morning, the babies were up by 5:30am. The pack and plays weren't very comfy, so they slept in our bed every night. We were waiting for the breakfast buffet to open every day at 7am. This day we ventured to Darkwood Beach. Everything we read said the beaches of Antigua were fabulous, and they did not disappoint. We were able to rent lounge chairs for $5 each and arrived early enough to get "public" shade. Darkwood Beach Bar and Restaurant serves onto the beach, and was very kid and adult friendly. The water was turquoise blue, and had the perfect amount of waves. All of the beaches we went to were on the Caribbean side, and none of them were to difficult for the kids to handle. Clark spent a good portion of his day napping in the shade, while Scarlett was having too much fun to rest. Harrison and Brooke swam with their cousin and uncles and we could barely get them to stop long enough to eat and reapply sunscreen. They learned how to body surf the waves and chicken fight. We found some really great shells and coral, but they won't let you take it back on the ship. Our driver was on time to pick us up and get us back to town. 4:30 was our departure time each day, so we didn't get to stay anywhere later than 2 or 3 pm. We definitely could have stayed at this beach all day. We did dinner in the main dining room each evening, and then it was bed time for the babies, and Harrison, immediately following dinner. Brooke and her cousin went to Adventure Ocean, the kids play area, each evening after dinner. Harry just wanted to stay with us and get extra sleep.

Jan 5th St Lucia - We arranged a private catamaran tour along the coast with Mystic Man Tours. We got to snorkel, see most of the Caribbean coastline including the Pitons, enjoyed lunch and rum punch punch while sailing, watched flying fish, had a mini dance party on the boat. I can't speak highly enough about this experience. We got to see so much of the island, and I can't wait to go back someday for an extended period of time. I took at least 50 pictures of just scenery. Mountains, trees, quaint villages, boats lining the shore. It was all so beautiful.

Part 2 coming tomorrow.

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