Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Scandanavian Cruise Part 1 - The Boat

Our cruise was awesome. So much fun, perfect weather, beautiful cities, great people, and too much food. I kept a travel diary during the trip and thought about submitting a post for each day. After thinking about it for a minute or two, I realized that it would be way too much work and would likely put you to sleep. In my attempt to summarize our trip, I have broken it down into two postings: the first (this one) is all about the boat, people, etc, and the second one (you'll see tomorrow) is all about the ports of call.

The State Room -- We ended up with the perfect room for us. It was right at the very back of the ship with a balcony that looked out over the ship's wake. We spent a lot of time out there...looking for other boats, watching seagulls (or eagles as Carter calls them), or being impressed at the captain's "parking job."

We had a sliding door that separated the stateroom into two parts. Perfect for when Carter went to bed every night as it meant we could still have a light on in our half of the room. In Carter's half of the room, he had a choice between a pull out couch or a bunk bed that folds down from the wall. Of course he chose the bunk bed and totally loved it. Here's a picture of Carter in his bed with his magnetic Bob the Builder toys hanging from the railing.

The Food -- So much food. It was unbelievable. This was the only reason I was happy the cruise has ended. I had no self control and just needed to be away from it all before I ballooned up. Breakfast options were french toast, waffles, pancakes, eggs made to order, omelets, hash browns, pastries, bagels & cream cheese, cereal. Though we consider ourselves fairly bagel deprived in Cologne, we opted more often for french toast or waffles instead of bagels. We didn't eat lunch often on the ship...only when we were at sea all day. When we did partake, nachos was probably our favorite choice, though pizza, made to order pasta, hot dogs, hamburgers, and various salads were also options.

Tea time was probably our favorite meal, at least it was mine. Every day from 4-5pm there were finger sandwiches, fruit tarts, cookies, scones, bite size desserts. After a day of touring a new city, this was the perfect snack to take the edge off until dinner. The dinner options were endless, too. We opted for the sit down dinner nearly every night. The service was impeccable. Perhaps living in Germany has really lowered our standards.

The People -- There were over 1700 passengers and 800 crew members aboard our ship and I think they all knew Carter after the first couple of days. Carter was one of very few children and he managed to charm the socks off of everyone. Towards the end of the cruise, Carter was getting high-fives from all the old men and wait staff as we walked through the breakfast room each day.

When we booked the cruise, we opted for a large dinner table that would seat 10 guests. We figured the more people at the table, the more likely we were to find people we liked. I was so afraid that with a small table we would be stuck for 12 days with a couple or a family that we didn't like. A larger table meant more options. As it turned out, we sat with two other families and loved them both.

The first was a family of three from western Arkansas. The father retired at the ripe old age of 39! He had been in the oil industry and grew tired of it and wanted to spend time with his son who had just been born. Fortunately for them, he is still getting residuals from some of the oil he discovered when he was working. Now he runs a ranch for fun. The son just finished his undergraduate studies and is starting dental school in the fall. The cruise was his graduation gift.

The second family was actually three generations: grandparents (Lee and Joann) and grandson (Hunter) from northern Louisiana and the daughter/aunt (Amy) from Texas. Lee had the most impressive handle-bar mustache. His wife, Joann, is a gun-toting, traveling nurse. Their daughter, Amy, is a 45 year old breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at the age of 37. Fortunately she has been in remission for the last 4 years. Carter immediately fell in love with "Miss Amy." He was broken hearted the nights she didn't come to dinner in the main restaurant. Amy was just too sweet to Carter. She read him books at dinner, bought him some cars at a flea market in Helsinki, and two small Legos in Copenhagen. I think that Carter would have happily ditched us and gone home with Amy.

The third family that we befriended on the cruise was a family of three from Edinburgh, Scotland. The daughter, Kate, quickly became Carter's best friend at the Fun Factory and as a result we got to know the parents (Scott and Pauline) quite well. Carter and Kate were nearly the only two young children on the entire boat and Scott and Pauline were one of the only other couples under the age of 50. As Scott said, it's not the quantity but the quality. We enjoyed having cocktails together after dinner in one of the lounges while the kids played together in the Fun Factory. We are hoping to visit them in Scotland before we need to move home to the US. Pictured below are Kate and Carter (she's standing and he's sitting in a chair...that's why he looks so much shorter).

Another group worth mentioning were all the Jewish ladies on our St. Petersburg Jewish Highlights tour. These were all New York Jews currently living in the Miami / West Palm area and they were professional cruisers. At first you could tell they were quite upset to have to share a tour with a 3 year old but by the end, Carter had them wrapped around his little finger. We were actually thanked by one woman for bringing Carter along on the tour. Another woman said, "Oy, my granddaughter would be perfect for him." And a third woman told us to have more children. The part that cracked me up the most was when one of them admitted to going to the Jewish services on the ship in order to find a fourth for Mahjong.

The Fun Factory -- This is essentially an on-board club for kids. In other words, free babysitting. They had scheduled activities every day, all day long. On port days, Carter would only go to the fun factory after dinner. On sea days, we would pick the activities in which Carter would be interested and then plan our day around them. Generally there were a lot of craft type activities and Carter would just play with his cars or Legos by himself while the other kids did the crafts. The two best activities were the Family Bingo and the Family Scavenger hunt. Of course the parents were far more competitive than the kids.

The Winnings -- Yes, you are reading that correctly. Ben entered two Texas Hold'Em Pokers tournaments in the Casino on the ship and won. The first tournament, he came in 2nd place. The second tournament, he came in 1st. Combined he won $500! Way to go, Ben. I can't say that I fared as well in Jackpot Bingo. However, the Gale family dominated Family Bingo in the Fun Factory and won great prizes like a Velcro wallet, a pillow, a beach ball, and stuffed (plush) starfish, and a beach bag...all with the Celebrity logo. Don't get too jealous.

Part 2 - Ports of Call will be coming tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Loved Carter's bunk bed. Leave it to him to find a girlfriend wherever he goes. Way to go Ben !

Young Survivors of Tarrant County said...

This is an awesome post....miss you all.