Our Mexican Riviera cruise back in February left us yearning for a family vacation with the kids. Sure we go camping several times a year & Disneyland is always an annual destination for us but we wanted our kids to experience a vacation like none they've gone on before. Less than 24 hours of stepping off our cruise we had another one booked... this time for 5!! And as long as we were giving them the opportunity to travel by sea, why not let them experience being hurled through the air at about 500 miles an hour? Thanks to Southwest and their $49 fares we were set to go. And what is a vacation without close, fun friends to hang with? We were stoked that the Lawrence's booked a cruise too!
So a little less than 2 months later the day had finally arrived. Unfortunately our departing flight was delayed 80 minutes but we found a cool Tech Museum display that entertained us all for quite some time. (SOOO much better than Sponge Bob!!) Something else that held Reef's attention was the bikini clad model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine. "Look Mommy, she's pulling down her underwear!!" I decided making a big deal out of it would only fuel his curiosity so I turned the rack around and ushered him to the candy where Disneyland Daddy was letting the other kids pick out sugary sweets to wash down their breakfast. As we walked out of the store Reef spun the rack back around, and pointing with his hand over his mouth repeated his observation to his daddy barely making it through his giggles. "Don't look at that. It's bad." was Daddy's response. Reef's quick reply? " No.... it's gooooooood" Note to self: Keep an eye on that kid. He likes the ladies.
It was finally time to board. I felt just as giddy as my kids as I anticipated their response to their first ever plane ride. They certainly didn't let me down. Mercedes' delighted chuckles as her stomach was stolen away as we took off, Beau's face all lit up as he watched the city below shrink to nothingness & even Reef's continual question "Are we in the air, yet?" (even as we sat on the runway) all made the decision to fly vs. drive totally, absolutely, 110% worth it! I felt like I was experiencing my own first flight. They were absolutely ecstatic when we flew through the clouds. Brandon and I wordlessly communicated with winks & smiles as we sat back and watched our children's awe.
After settling into our hotel room in Old Town San Diego we took the kids to the pool then hit the town. We toured an old cemetery, were serenaded by two Mariachis while eatting a yummy meal at Coyote Cafe --which I highly recommend-- and just walked around taking in this town so rich with history.
Victorian architecture is not really my style but the restored Victorians in Heritage Park were impressive. We didn't arrive in time to tour the inside of the homes or visit the shops here but had fun peeking through windows and enjoying the flora and fauna without any interruptions from other tourists. We had the entire village to ourselves.
We left Heritage Park in style as we rolled down the hill in front of the church. We were quite disappointed that the Mormon Batallion Visitors Center was closed. It is being remodeled and won't be open until 2010. I felt transported in time as we walked through the rest of Old Town. We saw many of the original buildings and learned their history. Neither Brandon nor I could resist the temptation to run our hands over the walls of the very first brick building in San Diego... built by the Mormons.... as it said in the brochure. To think that we were standing in the very spot and were touching the very bricks of our California pioneers seemed to bridge the time gap. The school was another interesting highlight. We marveled at the rules enforced back then and how shocked the original San Diegans would be if they observed the lack of rule enforcement in our schools today.
We were even able to find a little history in a surf shop. Old skateboard decks & surfboards were hung from ceilings, walls, and stashed in corners.
Back at the hotel we met up with the Lawrence's and Oelrich's who had just arrived from their 2 day stay in Disneyland. It was fun to have some adult conversation and a "date night" away from home.
The next day was the San Diego Zoo where the word of the day was "blustery". We heard this word all day. Starting with the weather man on the local news right down to the quirky, mustached zoo tour bus driver who took his job very, very seriously. We saw a few animal shows, ate some high-priced burgers, and I got up-close and personal with a huge, dead, white rat compliments of my thoughtful hubby. Reef wasn't as afraid of the bears as I thought he would be. And I think he was a bit let down that none of the monkeys threw poop at us. (Prior to the trip, he would tell anyone that would listen that he was going to the zoo where monkeys throw their poop.) Thoughts of the bubbly hot tub back at the hotel kept us warm as we endured our blustery but fun day at the San Diego Zoo.
After the zoo and hot tubbing we decided to take the kids to dinner & a movie. Rather than pay $25 to take the trolley we decide to all load up in Amy's van. That's right... all 16 of us in a Honda Odyssey. Brandon & I took the cargo area. I have always been impressed with the size and depth of the storage capacity in the commercials but never fully appreciated it until I was the cargo. Melinda was on the floor holding a kid or two. Poor Amy. I'm sure it stressed her out to have so many lives hanging precariously in her hands. Thanks for not getting rear ended my friend! I'm sure we were quite a sight getting out of the van. (I wish I had a picture of the Volvo woman's face that we parked next to.) After dinner at California Pizza Kitchen we split up to see a movie. Amy & Josh were truly the heroes of the night. Not only driving us all but taking all of the boys to see Monsters vs. Aliens. Us and the Lawrence's had parent/daughter dates to the Hannah Montanna movie. I. Loved. It.
The next day we couldn't get out of that hotel fast enough. Not just from the excitment of getting on board the ship but Reef was pretty upset over he & Beau getting stuck in the bathroom after showering. Daddy had to huff & puff and practically break that door down. We didn't have to wait long as we were the first group to board the ship. First item of business? The water-slide!! Second order of business? Drying Beau's tears after discovering he's not tall enough for the slide. The water slide was a big deal to this little guy. We kept talking up the vacation and getting him excited for this slide. Little did we know he wasn't quite grasping the idea of it. Since he only has seen one kind of slide on a (house)boat he assumed we would slide right into the ocean but was trusting and willing to try it anyway. We didn't discover this until one night when he asked, "Dad? After we go down the slide, how are we going to be able to catch back up to the ship?" Even Disneyland Daddy's smooth talking didn't buy him a chance to go down. So he soaked up the sun, enjoyed the spa, and every once in a while glanced at that slide with intense longing.
My kids definitely like getting star-quality treatment. Mercedes was stoked about not having to make her bed all week. I am quite proud at how they behaved themselves during dinner. It was great for them to learn where the napkins are supposed to go, which fork to eat with, and how to politely order food themselves. Reef, who is usually a wanderer during mealtime (but I'm sure will grow out of it as my other kids have) sat longer than I thought him capable and enjoyed toasting an empty glass to his good friend, Brock.
The Camp Carnival kids program was great and offered fun activities for each age group. They colored T-shirts, had faces painted, went on scavenger hunts, built & erupted volcanoes, danced in the disco, played video games, played Ping-Pong, made art projects.... it was great. We were glad that each of our kids had one of the Lawrence kids in the same age group. Except for Taylor, that is. But she seemed to take it in stride and enjoy herself.
Mercedes' dreams came true in Ensenada where she got to ride a horse for the first time. It was made even better by being able to horseback on the beach. It was a fun filled hour and nobody laughed harder than Melinda when she fell off her horse and left Brock to his own devices, fearfully clinging to the reins for dear life. I was too busy trying to save the day by attempting to catch Brock's horse to snap any pics but he finally heard his dad yelling at him to pull the reins and was able to stop his horse. Then he jumped off his horse and onto mine probably afraid the horse he had named "Muddy" would bolt off again.
Our shuttle then took us to "La Bufadora" loosely translated as "The Blowhole". It is one of 3 in the world of it's kind and if the tide had been higher it would have been more impressive but we enjoyed it just the same. Walking through the colorful, open-air market I saw the most random thing... a black & white oil painting of Joseph Smith. Then it was time to wash our churro samples down with delicious $1 carne asada tacos & more churros.
Back on the ship we played mini-golf and Lifeguard Brandon made a heroic save of a drowning boy. Miraculously we were ready for formal night in less than one hour. My kids were honestly looking forward to dressing up. Especially Reef. He couldn't wait to put on his "mosquito"(tuxedo) . That night cookies with smiley faces were waiting for the kids on the bed... with the usual chocolates, of course.
It seems that we can never go on a trip without some kind of drama making an appearance. We had a 9:25am flight booked and at 8:30am were still awaiting clearance from the local authorities to debark. To make a long story short, Brandon's quick thinking and smooth talking earned us a personal escort to the front of the V.I.P. line from our Australian Cruise Director and we were the first ones off the ship. Our taxi drivers violated a few driving laws and a family showed us some mercy and let us cut in front of them in the security line. The kids were great sports about running (shoeless) to the gate where we made it with less than 5 minutes to spare. Once I had those boarding passes in my hand a HUGE wave of relief washed over me and I had to fight back the tears. We somehow pulled off the impossible.
I'm convinced that cruising is the best family vacation EVER. Although this is the first big vacation like this that we've taken as a family. So, I don't know. Maybe Hawaii would be better? I sure would like to find out.