Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Vacation Day 4 - At Sea

We were at sea for our 4th day on vacation and that was nice because we decided to enjoy some of the activities on the ship and relax before we rang in the new year that night. We got up (we slept in - all of us until 10:40 AM! We are such slackers) and enjoyed a buffet breakfast again, delicious. We had promised Jasmine that we would go swimming and she had been looking forward to it. Before we hit the pool however, Lorne and I decided to take a dance class offered on the ship. We took a very fun waltz class with 2 of the crew members from the shows - Sandor and Juliana. It felt a bit like that scene in Dirty Dancing when the parents are taking the cha-cha class. Lorne and I had a blast and despite me being more pregnant, we did a great job and got complimented by the teachers. We love to dance together and I can think of no funner activity than to dance with my husband on the last day of the year.
So after dancing, we all got ready and headed up to the pool deck where we found a lot of people had decided to hang out and we had a hard time finding a chair for our things. We did finally find one and we readied to go in the pool. We were surprised to find that that the pool was a salt water pool with chlorine added to it. Jasmine and Lorne got in and swam around like champs. I never got my head fully under as it was my opinion the water was a bit on the cold side for me.After an hour of pool enjoyment, we headed back to our rooms to relax and change our clothes. Jasmine took a little nap and Lorne and I enjoyed reading our books. After Jasmine's nap, we decided to try out family bingo and we had a great time doing that. We didn't win a thing despite that they had 8-10 different rounds and they played different versions to keep the kids interested.After Bingo, Jasmine went back to the Fun Factory and we spent some time roaming around the ship. We checked out the art auction and casino and some of the shops. It is amazing what they can pack onto a ship - really. We also spent some time reading and taking a nap. It was so nice. When we picked up Jasmine from the afternoon activities (it was a pirate themed day with a scavenger hunt and face painting), she looked like she had had a blast and was decked out in pirate attire. Her role had been the Captain's girlfriend - I thought it was super cute and couldn't resist taking a few pictures.That night at dinner was formal night and since they take your formal pictures too, I wanted everyone to look their best since we hadn't had a professional family picture done yet in 2008. Jasmine looked amazing and her picture turned out so cute. Our family one was nice too and after the little photo session, we headed into the elaborately decorated dining room for a nice dinner.It was so nice because at our place settings, they had New Years hats and tiaras for us to wear and it was fun to see everyone in such a happy mood while they ate their last meal of 2008. And what a meal it was. As always, the food was amazing and even Jasmine enjoyed her food and the palette cleanser sorbet they brought for us.After dinner, Jasmine went back to the Fun Factory for some evening fun and Lorne and I caught the show. It was this guy named Steve who was amazing with his voice. He could make his voice sound like tons of stuff - trains, musical instruments and other things that he fit into his comedic act. He was very enjoyable and entertaining.The ship hosted a New Years party for everyone on the pool deck and of course we didn't want to miss it, so after the show, we headed up for the festivities. They had some live music and they had decorated the deck with flags and an ice sculpture that read 2008. We secured a great spot and then Lorne went and got Jasmine so she could be with us. They passed out noisemakers and champagne (we got some Sprite in the champagne glasses) and when it was midnight, Father Time and Baby New Year came out and smashed the ice sculpture number 8 with a sledgehammer and they replaced it with a number 9. It was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed it. I like that we didn't have to do anything but attend the party - they had already thought of everything.We were pretty tired and decided not to hang around for the after party and so we headed back to our rooms, but first stopped at the ice sculpture so that Jasmine could have a closer look. I loved being able to share this great night with my little family. I also loved that we could ring in the New Year with such a bang! Here's to 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Years Vacation Day 3 - Key West

As we blissfully slept in our stateroom, our ship sailed the seas to reach our first port of call, Key West. We awoke and traveled up a flight of stairs to an amazing buffet breakfast - the likes of which I have never seen nor tasted. It was the spread of a lifetime and we didn't know where to start. They had one section devoted to the sweet side of breakfast - waffles, pancakes, french toast and a special flavored french toast (which we later found out was different each day!). They had one large section devoted to the American breakfast - fruit, eggs, corn beef hash, sausage, bacon, cereal, oatmeal, breads of all types and an omelet bar. They had a cheese and pastry section, and another large section they called the English breakfast where they served such delicacies as toad in the hole. They also had an impressive selection of juices, milk, teas and coffee as well as our favorite, hot chocolate. Dare I say we indulged heavily.
Jasmine had her first VIP special activity that morning where she got to go and take a tour of the bridge, which is where the captain and his crew control the ship - The Celebrity Century. It is closed off to the public and not even the parents were allowed to go. I did have a second camera with me so I gave it to the fun factory staff and they took a few fun pictures of Jasmine while she was on the tour. We heard later that the crew fell in love with Jas and wanted her to stay with them. She is such a charmer.After Jasmine returned from her special activity, we readied ourselves to get off the ship and explore Key West. We were excited and it was really no hassle to get off the ship. We could have paid an obscene amount of money to do several activities but we decided to explore the island on foot and see what we could see.We went to an open market and I found a hat I loved and also some new sunglasses. We also secured a hat for Lorne, which was so important because he burns easily and we were in a hot and sunny climate.As we walked around, we found a garden with busts of important people who had lived on the island, among them the famous author, Ernest Hemingway. I couldn't resist posing next to it.We walked down the main drag in Key West and came across the oldest house that had been built on the island and they were offering free tours so we decided to check it out. As we waited for our tour to start, we wandered around the gardens and Jasmine spotted some fun little lizards and we made a game out of trying to find them and then watching them disappear into the brush.The little house was neat and the tour guide was very informative. I thought it was especially neat that the house was still standing after many many tropical storms have hit Key West and it still has many of its original windows. They just don't build houses like they used to I guess!We decided that we wanted to take a tour of Ernest Hemingway's house and so we walked quite a bit until we found it. By the time we arrived, Jasmine had fallen asleep in her stroller and since she had been up so late the previous nights, we wanted to let her sleep as long as possible. Lorne went on the tour first and I sat with Jasmine and then we switched. This whole process took almost 2 hours and Jasmine slept the whole time! She must have been tired and I am sure the sticky hot humid weather helped as well.The tour was very interesting and I learned so much from our tour guide. As with so many authors, Hemingway's past is checkered with many wives, drunken antics, depression and a brilliant career. I learned he loved cats, and consequently they had over 40 cats wandering the premises that are descended from a cat he had named Snowball. The house is nothing super grand but it is very fitting for the type of person Hemingway was. I was glad we got to tour the house and learn more about him - I want to read more of his books now.As we left Hemingway's house, Jasmine woke up and we decided to make one more stop before boarding the ship again. We stopped at a Key Lime Pie factory. This is fitting because when in Key West, you must consume Key Lime pie. This place boasted the best there is and indeed it was delicious and we even learned the history of the Key Lime Pie. Amazing, we are so cultured!After boarding the ship, we readied Jasmine for dinner as she was eating at the Fun Factory that night and we would be eating by ourselves. What a treat! Lorne and I headed up to watch the sunset before dinner as the boat pulled away from Key West.After dinner, we headed to the theater again for another show (seriously, how spoiled were we?) and this time we were entertained by a show called A Touch of Broadway which really was a very fun compilation of several musicals. It included music from The Producers, Cabaret, The Lion King, Hairspray and another less known musical I can't remember the name of. The cast was amazing and we really enjoyed the show!After the show, they were having Karaoke at the Rendezvous Lounge and so we decided to check it out. Anyone who knows me, knows I am always up for some good karaoke. I sang my signature - Nancy Sinatra's These Boots are Made for Walking - and I was a hit. We met some fun and rowdy people that seemed to take to us rather well. We stayed for a bit but then decided we were tired and we wanted to pick Jasmine up and go to bed!