Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane

It’s been a few weeks since my last post…and for good reason.  We packed our bags 2 weekends ago and headed south for the winter.  We (ok…I) wasn’t quite ready to go somewhere without Sassafras for an entire week so we decided to take her along for the ride.  Choosing a vacation spot with a little one is a delicate process…adult time, child friendly, budget conscious, and somewhere warmer than MO in the dead of winter.  We decided on a Royal Caribbean cruise (Liberty of the Seas) that sailed out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL and stopped in Belize City, Belize and Cozumel, Mexico (two ports we hadn’t been previously).  We sailed on a sister ship 5 years ago and loved the experience.  The company’s website touted their family friendliness…even for children under 3…all things considered, we thought we found a real winner.

In my mind the experience was going to be fantastic…the ship had a pay-as-you-go daycare so Little Bit would enjoy time with qualified caretakers when JPug and I wanted to have a nice dinner or hit up the gym.  We were hoping for the perfect balance of spending time as a family and enjoying our time as a couple.  In reality, the experience was so-so for a multitude of reasons.  So mediocre, in fact, that this was the first vacation I can honestly say I would have rather stayed home.

The Pros:
  • Our stateroom attendant was AWESOME.  She was ridiculously helpful and really catered to us (although she had a number of other rooms she was responsible for).  The only way Royal Caribbean has to recognize an excellent team member is to provide them with an additional tip (which we did)…too bad for Heather from Trinidad & Tobago that we couldn’t shout it from the rooftops.
  • The entertainment on board was really first class.  We saw a number of shows and I would rate them all somewhere between good and great.
  • Our port excursions were excellent experiences!  We took a private tour with the director of the Belize Zoo (in a Jaguar’s cage, up close and personal with Toucans, etc.) and joined a local Cozumel Chef for a culinary tour.  Both excursions were booked outside of the cruise line and were fabulous.
  • The weather!  Can’t beat 75 and sunny when KC is below freezing and under a foot of snow…literally!

 The Cons:
  • Pay 3rd person rate for a 3rd person no matter the person’s age…14 months or 50 years.
  • Although the ship touted being family friendly, they didn’t offer changing stations in any bathroom or cups with lids in any dining area.  Seriously?!  Aren’t those two of the top things you’d be sure to have on board if you’re going to welcome children under 3?
  • We also had a lot of difficulty getting a high chair (waited more than 10 minutes) in both the main dining room as well as the buffet.  The issue wasn’t lack of availability, it was lack of service. 
  • Special programming for children under 3 was not as advertised.  The website shows special developmental programs for families to enjoy together but they didn’t seem to exist.
  • The Food!  I couldn’t even believe it…5 years ago our dining experiences were top notch.  Unfortunately, this time around the food was some of the worst we’ve ever had.
  • In two instances, family members added shipboard credit to our account so we could enjoy the ship’s amenities at no additional cost to us.  In both instances, the Royal Caribbean representative on the phone asked what they would like their notification card to say but we never received the information.  Talk about sounding ungrateful when you recap the trip and have no idea credit was given as a gift.
  • Available elevators were hard to come by.  Carrying a 20-lb toddler up 10 flights of stairs isn’t feasible so the alternative was to wait a LONG time.

I’m sure I seem ungrateful for our experience and that’s absolutely not the case.  My problem is that the service and experience should be commensurate with the price of the trip and therein a major discrepancy lies.  We relied on information provided by the cruise line to choose our vacation and the “caring details” for children under 3 were all but forgotten.  At least we’re wiser for the future and I can say with certainty that we won’t make the same mistake twice.  I did send a letter voicing my concerns to Royal Caribbean and will provide an update if I receive a response. 

You may be thinking the least I could do is provide a few pictures of our trip.  Well, on the last day we (most likely I) misplaced JPug’s phone…which was on airplane mode (no find my iPhone).  Unfortuately, all of our vacation photos were lost with the phone.  Also, no iCloud backup because wifi on the ship is $0.85/minute and we would have never thought of the downstream ramifications of losing phone…airplane mode…no iCloud backup…no vacation photos.  Yes…I may never forgive myself for that one!  I had a handful of photos on my phone…below is Little Bit playing in the pool on our first day.

Given our experience…do you have any recommendations for successful vacations with toddlers?

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Few Thoughts on the Gym

This month, I started back at the gym after an almost two year hiatus.  Infertility treatments, pregnancy, a newborn, working full-time, and JPug’s work/travel schedule didn’t leave much opportunity for me-time.   When 2014 rolled around, I decided to make myself a priority which meant paying the neighbor girl to watch Elle for a couple of hours a week so I could go to the gym.  We had a Title Boxing Club membership that was on hold for nearly two years so back to Title I went (at least until July when the membership expires and I potentially look for something new).  Being at the gym after nearly two years hasn’t been the seamless transition I envisioned…here are a few thoughts from the last 3 weeks.
  • Since when is going to the gym a fashion show vs. actually working out?  The first day I showed up in my traditional running shorts and panhellenic (look at that…it has the word hell in it…maybe it was the subliminal message I never got) rush t-shirt.  Literally every other woman at the gym (not exaggerating!) was in skin tight capri-length yoga pants, a neon racerback tank, and neon tennis shoes.  Say what?!  I’m too cheap to buy fancy work-out clothes…my sweat-wash-repeat cycle isn’t worth it.
  • Try not to overexert yourself during the first 15 minutes of a 60 minute class.  What?!?!  My muscles have atrophied over the past 2 years and now I’m exhausted and can barely move?
  • Tuck jumps after having a baby will never be the same.  I tried a couple and nearly peed myself.  Now, I stick with the safer and less (potentially) messy lunges.
  • No matter how hard I try or how many days a week I go to the gym, the jiggly spare tire around my midsection will never go away.  Well, maybe it would go away if I gave up craft beer and bread but that’s just silly!
  • Every day I go to the gym I can feel myself getting stronger.  The impossible plank is becoming possible and the flutter kick/scissor kick combo isn’t complete torture.
I may never be my former fit self again but I’m making progress, carving out time for me, and making positive strides toward a healthier and happier 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Talkin’ ‘bout a Resolution

I’m typically not one for resolutions.  But since 2014 brings a fresh start, JPug and I thought it would be a good idea to put pen to paper and take a good look at the purposeful life we want to live in 2014.  As my friend Jayme reminded me, putting thoughts and theories into writing creates a higher level of accountability so I decided to take our goals a step further and post them for all to see.  As you may notice below, our goals aren’t SMART …who really wants to be that formal…just thoughts we have and improvements we’d like to work towards over the next year.

Eek!  I’m already crumbling from this accountability pressure…just kidding…sort of!

Make time for me
Volunteer 50hrs/year

Plan father/son trip
Go hunting

Stick to budget…it’s not there to look pretty and sound fun!
Increase giving to 10%
Hit the gym
Grocery shop/homemade meals
Unique experiences/explore KC with Elle
Elle sleeps in crib
Visit STL once/quarter
Organize/purge entire house
Car replacement fund $XX
Basement finish fund $XX

Given that we’re nearly halfway into January, I can say that things are going pretty well.  Perfect?!  No, but life’s not perfect.  We’re making positive changes and feeling progress…not too shabby.