Monday, January 30, 2012

Cruisin' the Caribbean

What a wonderful way to spend a week in January!!! We left here on Saturday January 14th after a couple days of cold temps and a little snow/ice and made our way to Fort Lauderdale to embark on a 7-day cruise of the Western Caribbean, the four of us and Meme and Grandpa.
While the weather in Florida was still a little windy and the temperature was in the low 70s, it was wonderful to be on Holland America's newest ship the Nieuw Amsterdam for 7 days of great food, relaxing by the pool, meeting a few new friends, and making wonderful memories as a family. We had four great ports-of-call and a few days at sea!

The girls enjoyed the beach at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. It was a little cooler than we would have expected, but you know that never stops children (or a crazy grandmother) from taking the plunge. The water was an amazing blue and as clear as crystal (you could see your toenail polish). Holland America hosted a scrumptious island barbeque. Yum! Yum!!

We visited Georgetown, Grand Cayman Islands where we had a wonderful tour guide who took us on two of the funnest shore excursions. We went on a semi-submerged boat that allowed us to see the remains of two large shipwrecks caused by pirates. We also saw beautiful fish, turtles, stingrays. . . and coral reef--simply breathtaking. We also made a visit to a turtle farm where we saw turtles that were tiny and those that were huge (500+ pounds). We even got to hold some of them and that was a hit for all of us (well, except Carrington).

Our day spent in Roatan (Mahogany Bay), Honduras was such a great experience. We had a local gentleman take us on a tour of the island in a van we rented. He took us from one end of the island to the other. This few mile stretch revealed the extremes of the socio-economic spectrum. Seeing extreme poverty firsthand always baffles me again and again, and I pray I'll never get used to it or be okay with it. We, as Christ-followers, have so much to do. There are still so many people, in our town and across the world, that need us to make a difference in their life. We saw houses that looked like little more than sheds on a side of a hill. We saw women washing clothes in a plastic tub and then hanging them out to dry. Children who were quite young were walking down the streets unattended and evidently that's very common and not a concern at all according to our guide. And yet, at the opposite end of the island there were nice resorts for visitors--a stark contrast.

The men and women we met were all so very kind. They made the most beautiful things from mahogany, different kinds of sea shells, and coconut. Meme bought a mahogany bowl that was beautiful. (Our family will be laughing about the discussions over this purchase for some time--right grandpa??) Roatan was a beautiful island, with beautiful people. As we were finishing our tour, the guide pointed out an orphanage on the island--a small one, but a gentle reminder of thanks for God's people around the globe who are taking care of the orphan until He establishes them in a family.

Our final port was Costa Maya, Mexico. We visited the Mayan Ruins and climbed to the top of the highest one. WOW!!! It's amazing to think that these massive structures were bult without any modern machinery, just bare hands and hard work!! Such a neat experience to step back in time and get a small taste of history and see firsthand something you've read about during schooltime.

Formal dinner night was so much fun!!! The girls loved getting all dressed up in their sparkly dresses and shiny "heels." The dining stewards spoiled them rotten. The food was delicious, and the stewards treated them extra special with origami and magic tricks each evening. They were the nicest men--all from Indonesia. One of our funniest cruise memories will probably be the shocked looks on their faces when Anna Claire ordered coffee each night at dinner with her dessert. They thought this was just hilarious. I'm not sure how many times they've had a six year old order coffee!! Carrington found a new love--coffee ice cream. She can't wait for me to buy some at the grocery. Do you think it's safe to say that we're creating a love for coffee in both of them at an early age? (HA!) We're thankful for this week spent together. We're thankful for Henry, the dining host we saw each night after dinner who gave us mints and made us roses from paper napkins, but more than that he told us his story of his family living in Indonesia. We learned of his wife, twin seven year olds, and eight year old son. We are thankful to have written down their names and to have made the promise to pray for them. We're thankful for the young couple from Houston we met and their sweet daughter. It was such a blessing to share a little of our faith and have him open up about how their learning to live as a Christian/Muslim couple, and how he hopes his little girl will choose Christianity. We'll be praying for them too. We're thankful for the sweet family from Virginia and the way our girls connected with their eight year old daughter, spending hours in the pool and enjoying Club Hal for Kids together. We're thankful for family memories, for opportunities to see the bigger God picture all around us, for laughs and jokes made as a family that will definitely live on for years. We're thankful to Meme and Grandpa for the gift they blessed us with in a week spent on a Western Caribbean cruise as a family--all six of us. We're thankful for times that will not quickly be forgotten. BLESSED!!!!!


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