Upon further review, we did not order room service this night. I believe we did this the night before Castaway Cay. I hate that I am forgetting the details already a month later. Good thing I am trying to get this down while I can. Hard to believe that it’s been a month already since we were on the ship.
St. Thomas – Early Morning
So today was our first port day and what beauty St. Thomas is right from the start!
So I believe we actually quickly went to eat at Cabanas again. Figured out we had to be at Walt Disney Theatre by 8:15am to meet for our excursion per our tickets we were given when we checked in the very first day (don’t lose your tickets by the way). On our way back, Augers were trying to grab a bite quick so we told them we’d meet them at the theatre.
We got to the theatre and they gave us towels to take with us, put stickers on us so we knew which group we would be with, and we found a place to sit. Our stickers were Pumba from Lion King. There was probably another 4 tours in the theatre with us that were getting ready to go as well.
Heather went up to make sure Augers knew we were already in the theatre, meanwhile a few of my girls were getting restless that the Augers wouldn’t make it in time. They got to the theatre right on time so there was no need to panic.
Doubloon Snorkel Excursion
One of the staff members had a Pumba character on a stick so we knew to follow her off the ship and to our excursion. We decided to do the Doubloon, half-day snorkel excursion. We got on the boat and had to be careful with our step as much of the stepping areas were metal and were a bit slippery wherever it was wet. I had thought about sitting at the very front and brave the waves, but once we got to open water I was happy I didn’t. the front was bobbing quite a bit and were getting drenched with water the whole way there. It would have been fun for about five minutes but that would have been about it but once you are up there it looked like it would be a little dangerous to try to get down as it was moving up and down the way it was.
We start the “lubing up” process of putting on sunscreen on the ride out there. The next few pictures are of poor quality because Heather thought it would be better if we took pictures using our water proof film camera we bought because of the way the waves were spraying over the front of the boat.
We waited for everyone to get their snorkel gear which seemed to be a bit chaotic as a couple of the crew members navigated the boat while it was rocking and bobbing. They would forget who they left off with exactly or who they got a mask for. Then they’d have to maneuver up to the front or to a different side of the boat to grab another set or a different set of snorkel/fins. In the end, Heather and Sophie did not have all their gear in time and I think possibly one of the Augers as well.
The “captain” just sat in the back of the boat and did his thing steering the ship while the younger gal handed out gear and the younger guy tried to keep us entertained. He was funny and did OK in between trying to help the girl get the gear passed out.
So here is where I really had issues with the tour. We get to our spot and there are 3-4 other boats already anchored in the same area. Right before we get there, the younger guy tells us we either have to step down from the ladder that is on the side of the ship or just jump right in. Most of us had just received the last piece of gear when the boat stopped and it seemed sort of sudden that when we arrived because we had just all received our stuff and in fact, a few of us were still waiting for some pieces. We didn’t have much time to try the mask/fins on nor did we really receive any instructions on how they should fit or what to do when you get in the water. In fact, after about 30 seconds of no one jumping in the captain yells, “All right, everyone jump in the water! You’re wasting time!”
Well no shit!
So while Heather is waiting for her snorkel, she gets Ella’s equipment on and I hustle to get my stuff on and I am the first one off the ship as I jump right in. Ella wasn’t too far behind so I help her down the ladder and she immediately starts to panic cause she is not used to the fins and she is afraid that the life vest isn’t going to hold her up. This life vest is not like the vests she is used to. She eventually tries very briefly to dip her head in the water and she immediately starts to panic again.
By this time, Leighton has come to join me. I’m the only one in the water still at this point and of course, Leighton starts to panic as well. These kids are used to being at the lake and swimming and jumping in with life vests but they have never been in the open water quite like this without life vests that they aren’t used to. So now I’ve got two kids I’m trying to acclimate to the water hoping another adult comes down soon.
In the mean time, the rest of the people on the ship is getting into the water along with the younger gal from the boat who will be our tour guide in the water. So I hand Leighton off to Chris and by this time Sophie is coming in so I have to make sure Ella is OK as I help Sophie into the water. Thankfully Kaitlyn is in by now and is trying to help calm Ella but Ella is having none of it from big sister. Finally Heather comes in and everyone is now in the water.
By this time, the little tour lady has everyone on the opposite side of the boat from us and we are still trying to get used to just staying afloat. Heather takes Ella and swims with her. I’m trying to snorkel my way over to the group and Sophie is so scared she is riding me like a surf board as I swim.
We finally catch up and try to look at a few things. I am looking down in the water in between Sophie’s little panics that throw water into my breathing tube. Heather’s ankles are giving her problems with the fins and Ella is struggling with the fins as well so it takes them a bit longer to catch up to the group. About the time they catch up the group moves again.
As the tour moves there are 3 other tours in the water so it was a bit confusing at times as to exactly which group was ours. Our girl was holding an orange noodle that I could barely see while Sophie is straddling my back. Other tours had a better signal that was easier to see than ours and more identifiable.
Heather decides she is going back to drop hers and Ella’s fins off at the boat as they are just giving them too many issues. So I continue on with Sophie riding my back as I try to keep up with the group. Surprisingly it doesn’t take Heather and Ella too long to get back to the group and we swim along with the group for just a bit. Heather and Ella also come back with a noodle that Ella is riding and brought one for Sophie as ell. This would have helped but by this time, Sophie is just plain ole ready to go back to the boat. Heather offers to take her but I tell her it’s crazy cause she has hardly done any snorkeling by this time, where at least I was able to do it a little bit. The little tour girl then says, “OK, I will go back to the boat. You have 20-30 minutes free time to snorkel where you want then you have to come back!”
Thankfully, the tour girl offers to take Sophie back to the boat with her and the rest of us continue on. So we have 20 minutes left and we are finally able to enjoy ourselves. Heather is pointing a few things out to Ella and once Ella sees them she gets excited. Now I’m finally able to snap a few photos.
I tried to get a shot of Ella in the water. I wasn’t able to dive very deep to get a good picture. I only realized after I got back on the boat that I had inflated my vest to help me with Sophie and Ella and that’s why I wasn’t able to dive very deep.
Here became the highlight of the tour. Ella, finally getting used to snorkeling, and we spot turtles at the bottom. By this time, Kaitlyn and I believe Ally was somewhere nearby as well. When a turtle decided it needed to come up for air and came up about 10-15 feet in front of us. That was awesome!
Are you frickin kidding me? That’s it? So we get on the boat and all the other boats around us leave about the same time. We were actually the last ones to leave but we all left within 5 minutes of each other. We seem to be ahead of schedule as we were told we would be back to our ship by 12:30 so I’m thinking, they kept the motors on for the ride out, maybe they will shut them off and just sail back. That would be neat! Nope, they put the sail sheets up but kept the motor going the whole time.
So they gave us snacks which consisted of the packaged crackers with cheese in the middle. The young guy also handed out drinks which included an adult drink as well. I had to use the head before I had any drinks because I was a bit water logged. I attempted to relieve myself on the swim back to the boat, but it didn’t work, so I used the head as we sailed off. That was an interesting, tight little space with an open window to someones legs right in front of me. Anyone could have peaked right in! But I guess…Argh!!! That’s a pirate’s life!?
Anywho, you can see from this photo that Ally is not doing so hot. Eventually, she had to sit along the railings and throw up off the side of the boat. She did that a couple of times and then just sat there looking like she does in the picture above. We think it was a combination of dehydration, taking in a little salt water, and motion sickness. The ride back wasn’t as rough as the ride out. That’s why the pictures are now with the better camera. Still, Ally was not doing so hot and would sit in her room in the afternoon while we ventured out.
So this was funny….
Lunch, Shopping, Gondola, and Over Heated Children
So we went back to our room to change and after we were going to grab a bite to eat for lunch. We were back and a few of us changed and it was only noon by this time. Before we left, the people told us we would be back by 12:30 so we were back way, way, way ahead of schedule and was/am upset over our crappy tour. In fact, we were on our verandah when we saw our boat just sort of trolling around the bay near our ship, not really doing anything. What was the rush if that’s all they had to do? This was probably my only real complaint of the whole trip. I could have gotten more out of just finding a beach on my own. We picked this because of the pirate type of looking ship. We thought the kids would love it, especially Leighton. We did half-day because we weren’t sure if our kids would like a full day of this type of excursion plus it would give us time to explore the area just a bit.
So after lunch we went to walk around the shops and see if we could find some souvenirs to take home. We also wanted to find something cheap for the kids to take back to each of their classmates, 58 in all. So we all went shopping but never initially picked anything up, just kept a few things in the back of our minds as we looked but we couldn’t shop too long as our kids do not like to shop longer than 30 minutes.
We decided to take this gondola ride up the hill. It’s not cheap. I want to say $20 for adult, $10-15 for children? But what the hell. What else can we do with the kids? Plus, we’re on vacation, damn it.
And the view just keeps getting better and better! Surprisingly, Heather did pretty well on this ride. About 10 years back we were on a gondola with her parents and aunt and her aunt says, “I’m surprised Brad doesn’t have a permanent wrinkle in his pants from when Heather was grabbing on to them so tightly.” She was a little nervous going up.
We get up there and by this time our kids are very hot, tired, and very thirsty. We are trying to find shade and and a breeze and hopefully water. We passed by some birds but we could not take pictures because that’s how they made their living is by charging people to take pictures with the birds. The kids continued to complain and you would think they would be loving the heat rather than having to be back home in the cold but that was not the case. We continued on and found a restaurant to sit and have some drinks at so we could cool down.
Chris and I ordered beers, Heather and Linda had waters, the kids ordered smoothies.
Eventually the drinks came and we felt whole again. We were cooled off and we just sat there for a while and took in the beauty of the island.
On the way down, Heather and I rode with another group while Chris and Linda got stuck with the kids. The group we were with were on the Oasis. They were telling us how much fun that one has been but they could see how with kids, the Disney might be a little better. Still, it seemed they were having a good time. The older couple said they won their Mate Challenge and got a bunch of prizes. They would have been a fun group to be with I think.
As we were walking from the gondola, we passed a young girl laying on the ground. She was sleeping but looked to be very unkept. Ella asked what she was doing and we said she is probably lying there cause she has no home. That really seemed to shake her because she kept asking about her and why she has no home and how she wished she could have helped her. Bless her heart.
We thought maybe we’d get Kaitlyn’s class pens with St. Thomas on them but later decided we were going to pick up these sea-shell necklaces for ALL their classmates, we just couldn’t remember exactly which store they were in. So while we were looking, Ella and Leighton decided they should go to the bathroom so they asked where the bathroom was. It was across the street (and pretty much down an alley that would be a little spooky at night) and the two took off but initially they went the wrong way. Heather stopped them and Chris took the two to the bathroom.
So we are looking and keep going down a store, down another store, not really remembering where the heck these necklaces were at. Finally we see it and we want 60 (actually, we needed 58) . The lady at the till was nice and said they come bagged in packages of 10 and would just throw in the last two for free. She got six bags, then grabbed another 8 off the pegs where we first found them and still charged us $58 (they were $1/piece).
By this time, Chris and the Number 2s should have been back already. We were done shopping and still there was no sign of them. So we double back a bit to see if we can spot them and nothing. So we think, maybe they couldn’t find us so they went towards the ship. We have Ella’s Key to the World card so she couldn’t have gotten on the ship without it so they must be waiting out by the gate.
We get to the gate and nothing. We have 2 hours now until all aboard, which is plenty of time, but still, Kaitlyn is already freaking out and Heather didn’t need to be around that or it would start to freak her out. I take Heather and we go back through the stores again to see if we can spot them. We zig-zag in and out and just peek into the jewelry stores kind of knowing he wouldn’t have walked into those. I go to find the bathrooms, walk around in the Mens and try to scope out the Women’s without being too creepy and still….nothing. I go back towards the gate the back way from the bathrooms thinking maybe they went back that way and found something along the way and I would meet Heather back there.
Nothing. They are nowhere. Linda and the rest are still there and Kaitlyn’s face is looking more worried. We still have an hour and a half but Kaitlyn is bouncing between losing those three and missing the ship herself. At one point Kaitlyn says,
“Let’s just get on. I don’t want to miss the ship and have it leave us too. That’s their fault if they aren’t on. …..What would we do if we can’t find them?”
By now, that thought is starting to creep into my mind. We had some time but when scenarios start running through your head, 1.5 hours isn’t a lot of time.
Heather’s nerves are starting to get the better of her, especially with Kaitlyn around and she wants to go look some more so her and Linda go on another search. I am trying to keep Kaitlyn calm while the rest of the kids are going between being bored of sitting there and sort of knowing the situation at hand.
I keep thinking these three are going to walk around the corner any time now. We wait for fifteen minutes and around the corner comes Linda and Heather. No Chris. No Leighton. No Ella.
Finally we just have to ask the guard at the gate if he’s seen these three.
“Excuse me, did you see a guy around here with two….?”
He interrupts, “Two little kids? What did the kids look like?”
“A boy and a girl around 9 years old,” we say.
“Yeah, they came through here a little while ago.”
Oh…my…God, are you kidding?
“OK. Thank you very much. We didn’t think they could get through when the little girl didn’t have her card”
“Well, he explained that he got separated from you and thought you might be on the ship already,” he says.
As we are now walking towards the ship we hear, “Hey CHIC!” which is Chris’s nickname for Linda. Yup…there they are, waving off of deck 4.
So we go through the gate and up the gangway to check back in when one of the crew members asks, “Is Ella with you?” She was showing up as not being checked back in yet.
“Ummm, yea she got through already even though she didn’t have her card with,” we tell him.
“She’s already on?”
So we meet those three back in our room and Kaitlyn makes Chris feel real guilty about making us worry. Now we calm down and I start to realize, I didn’t get a souviner from St. Thomas so Linda says, “You have 45 minutes go quick.”
“Ummm, not after what we just went through. I’m not taking my chances.”
A little bit later we get a call that says Ella is not checked in. We tell the person on the other end what had happened and they ask, “So she is in the room right now?”
“OK, thank you”
So kind of neat that they will call to make sure everyone is on.
Linda said, “I should have known Chris would wiggle his way onto the ship even without Ella’s card.”
Fast forward one week and I’m coming home from work. I suddenly notice I have a couple of voice mails on my phone. One of them dated February 10th said, “Hey Brad. This is Chris. I’m just letting you know I’m on the ship with Ella and Leighton.”
Thanks Chris! Better late than never!
I asked Ella what they did when they were on the ship waiting for us. “We went swimming.”
Tonight is our Palo night for just the adults. Ally really wanted to see the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey”. The movie started at 5:30 and was two hours long and our dinner was scheduled for 7:30 which meant the Number 2’s and 3’s would be alone in the room for a few minutes until the Number 1’s got back. Before that however, Chris and I quick got ready while the wives got the younger four ready for dinner. Once we were ready, we took the younger four to the show at Walt Disney Theatre while the wives got ready for dinner.
Instead of sitting in our usual spot for some reason we sat on the opposite side. Tonight was the illusions of Shaw Farquahar. He as an award winning magician from Canada. He was really good and entertaining. He would bring people on stage and Sophie tried everything she could to get picked but he never even came close to coming our direction.
His ending was really neat. He said normally a magician ends with a big finish but he would end with a card trick. He told someone to sign one card and put it in the deck. He brought out someone with a camera so we could see what he was doing better on the screen . He then played a song where the chorus would go through the various suits and scattered through the remainder of the song would be other random cards. He would continuously shuffle and on cue with the song, when a certain card or suit was sung, the correct card would be flipped over. Right at the end, the card with the signature showed up. It was a pretty neat trick.
So the shows over and we take the kids back to the room. We started a movie for the Number 2’s and 3’s so they could watch it until the Number 1’s got back from their movie. They were then instructed to start heading to Enchanted Garden at 8:05 where Budhi would take care of them and make sure they were fed. If we weren’t back by the time they finished, they were to go to the kids clubs right after.
The adults got dressed and left a little before 7:30 and had the rest of the kids watching a movie. The picture above, the wives are showing off their dresses along with their pirate tatoos they got from the excursion. The movies you can order on demand for free which is great. Pretty much any popular Disney movie is on there and I believe Disney television programs as well. I don’t recall what they watched this night, but is such a great feature to have, especially on a night like this where you need to occupy them for a little while.
We got up to Meridian which sits in the middle of Palo and Remy (get it? Meridian….middle?). Remy is more French cuisine while Palo is Italian. Meridian looks to offer drinks to those who are really serious about their hard liquor. They have things like scotch and cognac and things I normally don’t drink.
We are told to sit for a bit but it doesn’t take too long and we can go in. On our way, the lady starts talking about the chandelier and decorations right in Palo to which Chris pipes in,”You know what that looks like? Spaghetti!”
Heather and I just about lost it right there. If you read my Day 3 blog, about 2/3 of the way down is when we went on the boring “Art of the Theme Tour” and Chris picked up that little nugget on the tour and decided to use it like he thought of it all his own.
“That’s right,” the lady says.
“Wow, good job Chris. How did you come up with that?” we ask him.
“Well you just look and see the wavy lines and those balls look like meatballs,” he says.
“That is correct,” she says confirming what Chris just said, “they are like meatballs.”
Wow Chris, you are amazing! That was the start of what was a great night.
Our waitress comes up and who would it be? Jessyca, the assistant waitress we had from the very first night. We remembered her and she remembered us. She remembered Chris and the rum filled Diet-Coke Chris got even though he didn’t order it. She was very personable and had a steel trap memory. Part way through the night she asks, “Didn’t one of you have a big birthday?” Yeah, that would be me. “I’ll make sure to get you something special tonight,” she continued.
They come out with some great breads and then she rolled over a cart of anti-pesto. My goodness that was great. We all ordered a glass of wine to go with our dinner. There was some sort of anti-pesto/wine combo you could purchase but we didn’t fully understand it. We all agreed that it can be hard to understand the wait staff at times when they have an accent you are not used to. I do better when they stand beside me because I don’t have the best hearing so it was good to know it wasn’t just me. We jokingly said we’ll all just turn to Linda because she took Spanish so she should be able understand anyone with an accent. It doesn’t matter though because all we knew is it was more than we were willing to spend anyway.
We got a little palate cleanser which in itself tasted great. Jessyca sold the three of us on the gnocchi while Chris went with beef I believe. The gnocchi was unbelievable and was by far the best thing we had the whole trip. It was a marshmallowy potato that just melted in you mouth. I wanted more and the cream it was soaking in was so great so I took some bread and soaked up the rest of the cream off the plate with it. Chris seemed to love his dinner as well.
To end the night, Jessyca “bought” us a lemon meringue soaked in liquor. I put bought in quotations because she said she bought it for us but when we looked around, everyone had it at their table so I think it just came with the dinner. This was also awesome and we wanted to lick the bottom of the cup like I would when I have a cup of ranch. Just take my finger and swipe the bottom and lick my finger. We figured that wouldn’t be appropriate at such a high class place.
So as happens many times, the Shutter’s Photographer comes around and takes pictures of everyone. Afterwards, as is also typical, we decide we should probably take our own pictures. Linda had her camera this night and said to Chris, “We should take our picture too.”
Chris starts to get up and says, “Yeah. How do you want to do it? Over the table? Standing up?”
To which Heather and I start cracking up at the innuendo. I don’t know if Chris meant to do that or not but quickly Linda and Chris caught on and we all lost it to the point where we were crying. I said, “well us being appropriate is out the window, might as well lick the bottom of our cup”, and we continued to cry laughing.
The dinner had great food and it was a great time with our friends.
Children and Post Dinner
When we were about 3/4 of the way through our dinner the Number 1’s called and said they made it to their dinner in time and were almost finished. We asked them, “Is Budhi and Daniel taking care of you guys or are you driving them nuts?”
“Budhi isn’t here tonight. He had to get a tooth pulled and couldn’t come to work,” Kaitlyn said. She continued with Ally confirming in the background, “But the guy who is filling in is really funny.” I don’t remember who they said it was but at least they had a good guy.
The next day we saw Budhi at Cabanas and gave him crap that he would rather get his tooth pulled than take care of our kids. He exclaimed that he wanted to go to work but the doctor wouldn’t let him because he would be drugged up.
So I tell them to go to their clubs and we will pick them up later. We went down to The Tube because they were doing 80’s Trivia. Unfortunately we arrived late because between Heather and Chris we could have crushed any table and I am confident on that one.
After trivia they opened the dance floor. Now you would think after pulling in a good house for 80’s Trivia, you would then play 80’s music to get people dancing. Nope! They broke into more current stuff and most of the people left.
We went down to grab the kids as it was time for the Oceaneer Club to close
I guess our room attendant came to turn down the room when the kids were still in there so he made Sophie a special towel animal.
This was a long night as half way through the night Ella got the runs and also threw up a couple of times. We didn’t know what to do and saw that we should take them to the doctor if she has some of these symptoms but we didn’t really know was she sick or dehydrated or what was going on here? We gave her some immodium which eventually helped her so she could sleep through the rest of the night…which we didn’t have much of the night left by the time she got it under control.
Some Video of Day 4
Click HERE for some video footage of day 4.
Tips for Future Travelers
- I personally would advise DoubLoon excursion. Especially if you have younger kids. Now there were other kids on this excursion but none as young as ours and they seemed to be OK. I have heard others that said they liked them. I would say don’t let the pirate ship lure you. Know you have to jump into the water and that you should be a good, confident swimmer cause there is no time to mess around apparently.
- Know what excursion you want so when the window opens up for you to register online (usually 60 days before your cruise if this is your first time) you can sign up for your excursion before it fills up.
- Be careful if you sit up front on your excursion boat as you may get more wet, more often then you are ready for.
- Practice snorkeling with young ones before the trip. That was our intention but we never did it for some reason.
- If you have your own snorkel gear, I would recommend bringing it rather than rely on the rentals. Later in the cruise I tried the rentals at Castaway Cay which were the same kind they used on the excursion and they sucked. Nothing beats a good snorkel set. Plus, you really don’t want to put your mouth around these things and swap spit.
- Again, everyone is different but next time I would find a beach to relax by, do a different excursion, or if it’s another snorkel excursion, do a full day.
- Go up the gondola. It is not cheap but it is so beautiful up there and you can sit in the restaurant and have some cold drinks while you soak up the scenery. Don’t expect fast service however.
- At least once, let the kids order a Disney movie on demand. It’s free and a nice way to let you and your kids unwind before or after an event.
- Do a Palo/Remy brunch or dinner and just relax and have a good time. It costs extra but the food is awesome. I would highly recommend the gnocchi at Palo.
- If you are not comfortable with having your kids going to the normal rotating seating like we had our children do, get them something to eat before hand at Flo’s or maybe better yet, order room service!
- Set up a meeting point at port so should you get separated, you know where to meet.
- If you want jewelry, do research before the cruise. There are jewelry stores everywhere and I had no idea if I was going to get a deal or not so I didn’t even bother going in