March 25, 2006- First time cruisers DH, DW, DS 12 and DS 7. First of all, it was fun to meet many of you who responded to the cruise thread over the last few months as we sailed away on Saturday afternoon. Yes, it was cool and windy- but it beat the heck out of Wisconsin! It seems like we saw Ski Bum and Minnie 328 all over the ship! Now when we head North in the summer and go towards Three Lakes I wont be surprised at all if we run into you. We drove down taking a day and a half. We spent the night at the Radisson at the Port. We had a lovely room, much larger than I expected. It was too cool and a little late for swimming (10:00 by the time we arrived) so my boys were a little disappointed, but not too much. We got up early on Saturday and hit Ron Jons. They are open 24 hrs a day. Got the boys a couple of T-shirts- and now we can say we were there. The shuttle over to the Radisson was great. Got us there in plenty of time to enjoy the terminal and chat with other cruisers. The people in the terminal were great in double checking that we had all the right papers and in order. I think I was one of the first folks checked in. Had boarding pass 2 and got the boys checked in right away. Once we got onto the ship we headed up to grab some lunch and enjoy the sun. We thought the sail away party was exciting and got us into the mood for a great vacation. We were on deck 7 forward in a category 8. The cabin was very efficient and we had a wonderful stateroom hostess who still managed around our big mess the first night (boys luggage came almost right away, Mom and Dad- well we had to wait a little! We left a pretty big mess on our bed in the hurry to get dressed for dinner). I cant say enough about our Server, Asst. Server and even the Head Server (who seem to get a bad rap here on the boards). They made dinner very enjoyable each and every night and had excellent recommendations for us. Our Server and Head Server went above and beyond as well. DS 7 is very picky, we did worry about what he would eat being on a boat all week with a very limited menu. He discovered he liked the pizza at Pinocchios during lunch the day we sailed. He didnt like the pizza in the dinning room, nor the PBJ, nor the mac and cheese (told you he was picky!). They were able to get him his pizza every night of the cruise, going out of their way to get it the first night. The head server delivered it himself each night. In Key West we went to the aquarium (overpriced, but the boys enjoyed seeing a shark up close and personal), rented bikes and headed over to the southern most point and just looked around a little. The grown ups headed back into Key West for a drink and a bit of the night life after dinner, the boys headed to the youth programing. Windy and cold! The weather continued to improve over the course of the trip. In Grand Cayman we rented a car- it started out with Budget and ended up with Avis. In short, dont rent with Budget. After a two hour delay we were on our way. DH did pretty good with the driving. He only got on the wrong side of a roundabout once, but the boys are still laughing about all the times he turned on the windshield wipers when making a turn! We made a stop at the Turtle Farm. Holding the turtles were a highlight for me and the boys. If you go on your own, you dont get any information. We ended up trailing a tour that was there and using the guides to learn more about the turtles . We went to Cemetery Beach for a few hours. DH and I saw a stingray, and many beautiful fish snorkeling off this remote beach on the far end of 7 mile beach. This was worth having the car, to get away from the rest of the crowds. We returned the car, had a little lunch. As this was the only port I was going to get some shopping in at, the boys went back to the boat and I took an hour or so to hit the shops. Many beautiful stores. There were 5 ships in that day, the next day there were to be 7. I cant imagine how busy the area would have been with 7 ships. In Costa Maya we did the DCL Chachoben Ruins tour. Our guide was very good and we learned on lot on the ride out. The boys took a much needed nap in bus. The ruins are interesting as well. This was a good tour for us as the 12 year old has just finished a lesson on the Mayans in school. This was the only port where we heard any names being called as we were preparing to leave. We all watched out our porthole as the tram took off down the pier to get a women running down the pier. Our lines were off and we were preparing to leave I wonder what she would have done if we had been gone. We all enjoyed the pirate night, from dinner to the Shaggy Dog movie to the party on deck. Having the fireworks was just an added treat. Thursday was our character breakfast and our boys really took advantage of the youth programming during the day. They did the DCU graduation, and it was fun to see them on the stage. We also did Palo that evening celebrating our 20th anniversary. This was the only night that I felt that I ate way too much. We had a beautiful sunset to enjoy. Friday was Castaway Cay. A perfect beach day. A little cooler, but the Bahamas are much further to the north. We really enjoyed Castaway Rays and learned so much about the stingrays. We picked a place to spend the day closer to Castaway Rays, which meant more walking- to get lunch and to check our DS7 into the two programs he wanted to do that day in the kids club. DS12 and I did lots of snorkeling. It did take us two times out to find Mickey. Yes, the fish werent as beautiful as at Grand Cayman, but the structures they have put in the lagoon to attract fish are interesting. We also saw much larger fish. Word of warning. Try to get your family to pack on Thursday evening- at least a little. We only packed one little suitcase Thursday. That meant Friday evening was a little crazy. We wanted to see Remember the Magic and say good-bye to the characters. That meant things were stuffed into the suitcases. Maybe not too bad if you are getting home Saturday, but we really had no clue where anything was and we were driving home. Needless to say, as we didnt get dirty in the car we wore the same clothes two days in a row. Wish I could say the drive home was as easy as the drive down the whole state of Georgia was a traffic jam. In all, we were in 7 traffic jams on the way home and our 21 hour drive became 26! I guess it is a great vacation when your children tell you the last show Remember the Magic wasnt helping and that there were many tears as we left her Saturday morning. Hopefully one day we will get the chance to sail on her again. It did show us that we are the cruise type, and maybe we will try another line. As much as we wanted to rebook, the deals werent good enough and the prices were much higher than we paid for this trip. I am glad we were able to give our family this trip at least once.