Our quiet year came to an abrupt end on the 17th October
, with the much anticipated arrival at the Orlando International Airport of 9 rambunctious, excited children along with their 6 tired, jet lagged parents.
It was a nervous 30 hour wait from the time Darren, Mel, Zahara & Declan, Shane, Kat, Jaxon, Liam, Mekhi & Zaylia, Mick, Juls, Levi, Oakley & Ezekiel boarded the flight in Australia, & was a relief & so exciting to see them finally walk through the doors & the kiddies all running across to us. The 2 youngest did not remember us, but Ezekiel came to us with a big smile, Zaylia was shy, but it didn't take long for her to warm to us.
Well, anyone who knows our family, the term 'quiet' is NOT what one would use to describe us, (well maybe Mick is the exception to the rule)
, so it was rather a noisy reunion. The young ones were very excited to see Papa & Grandma's bus. It was so great to be finally together again & there was a cacophony of noise as we all talked 100 miles an hour, catching up with news and stories of the past year
. We relaxed the next day to allow them all to get over the 'jet lag', it took a few days to adjust to the time change.
We visited the Holy Land Experience, a theme park based on the Bible and enjoyed seeing a model of Jerusalem, the Tabernacle and a presentation on how our Bible came to be. The kiddies enjoyed the children's section, doing rock climbing, going into the Whale like Jonah, seeing Noah's ark etc. They also enjoyed an interactive play on David & Goliath & the good Samaritan, Darren, Shane & Liam were chosen to be a part of this presentation. On Sunday, two vans picked us up and we went to Port Canaveral where we boarded the ship - Freedom of the Seas
. We had kept this a secret from all the young children, so while waiting in line for the ferry, as they thought, we told them & they were soooo excited. After settling into our cabins, we all went up to Windjammer Buffet on the 14th floor, quite crowded as everyone was doing the same thing, couldn't wait to start eating!! We then went for a walk round the ship, looking at all the different pools, promenade, etc. Mel is scared of heights so didn't like to go near the edge & wasn't fond of the glass lift, or the stairs with gaps at the edge. We all had to go to the 4th floor deck for the drill and safety briefing.
Soon it was time for dinner, & when the 17 of us walked into the beautiful dining room, the looks we got as we came to the two tables prepared for us, ......it was as if everyone round us was saying.....'well there goes our quiet week of dining'!!
Our waiters were so good with the children, giving them coloring to do, kids menu and helping out where they could. We enjoyed a great week visiting Coco Cay, a beautiful beach resort on an island, St Thomas in the Virgin Islands & St Maarten's. Mike and I minded the 2 little ones, while the other children went to Kids club & their parents went over to St Thomas to enjoy the day. At St Maarten they all enjoyed watching the planes come in low over the beach, then stood by the fence & was almost blown into the sea as a jet took off.
We had a fantastic cruise, there was so much to do, Shane went on the flow rider, the children loved the kids pool, the endless ice creams on the pool deck, a magnificent ice skating show & other entertainment, including a fantastic piano player & magician
. The children & parents also went ice skating which was a lot of fun. We all enjoyed dressing up for 'formal' night, the young children went to kids club and had dinner there. Towards the end of the week, the sea became quite rough, as the huge super storm 'Sandy' was heading towards the New York area, and we were following it
& were told it was going to get rougher. All port holes were boarded up, no-one was allowed to go out on deck. When it became VERY rough, Mel & Kat were quite scared. Then the captain informed us the speed of the wind had been downgraded, it became a bit calmer, so the ice rink was opened & the dads & older kids went ice skating, we had coffee at Starbucks & Deck 4 was opened for people to go outside
. The captain also told us that it should be a lot calmer at night, so the girls were happy about that. Hmmmmm if only we knew!!
A few of us went for a tour of the kitchen which was very interesting. On this ship, 10,000 meals are prepared each day. One of the days they cooked 7,500 lobsters for nearly 4000 people, so some (including Mick) ate 2!!
The meals were amazing, Our waiters Clifford & Miladden were so nice. They had it easy some nights, when the children ate in Kids Club, other nights, when we were all there, it was busy for them. They enjoyed our Aussie humor & friendliness.
We all tried escargot,(snails) even most of the little kids tried it as well. Clifford was from Jamaica and Oakley (aged 4) asked him 'Why is your skin that color'? He also asked a bald man on the ship, 'Where has all your hair gone?'......We all sang happy birthday to Jaxon for his 10th birthday, (a few days early) the waiters brought out a piece of cake & candles & sang along with us
. Our room cleaners, Brian & Joann were also sooo nice, doing a wonderful job and were great with the children, giving them all a hug when it came time to go. The children took turns sleeping in our room. On Zaylia's first time away from her parents, I assured them I would look after her like any good grandma does. Well, at 6am, there was a knock at our door, & Juls was holding Zaylia. She had woken up and silently opened the door (which should have been locked!) and wandered off down the corridor to find mum.
Someone had brought her back, and must have seen us with a lot of children, & strollers outside our door, so knocked on Mick & Juls door and asked, 'Does this child belong to you?'
. Wow, good grandparents hey!! Another incident was when we had the 2 little ones on the top deck
, looking out at all the people, Zaylia threw her Penny doll & dummy over the edge, 14 floors to the wharf below. So
grandpa had to get off the ship looking for this old looking doll that is her favorite toy & she doesn't sleep without it! Fortunately security had it, so the lost was found and thankfully it had not gone into the depths of the ocean! Well, contrary to what we had been told, the last night was the roughest we have ever had on a cruise.
After all thinking it was going to be calmer, & with no warning from the captain, it was not something the girls were prepared for. This 160,000 ton ship was easily tossed around, the front of the ship diving into the waves, then there was the loud banging of waves on the side. Kat was SO nervous
, shaking, just petrified, she couldn't sleep & thought we were going down, & no matter how much we tried to allay her fears & tell her what we were experiencing was nothing to what the ship could cope with, she still wanted to get all the children & herself into a life boat with life jackets on and sit until we arrived back to land! Juls & Kat put their life jackets on for a photo in the hallway, and were going to pretend to fall just for the film, when a huge wave hit & they were flung off their feet!! Quite funny!
Kat went out onto the balcony with Mike to make herself feel better. We didn't get much sleep, as she was back & forth until finally at 2am, her & Zaylia came and slept in our room, with the 4 children who were already in there. We were all amazed at the power of the sea in a storm. Finally Mike was getting his wish, he has always wanted to be in a storm on a ship so he, Darren & Mick loved it,
they saw a trolley go rolling down the promenade, plates falling & smashing. They walked through the casino & as a wave would hit, coins would fall out of one of the machines! Cupboard doors in our cabins were swinging open, Shane, Ezekiel & Mel felt a bit of sick, so stayed in their beds.We arrived back, safe & well, all a bit tired from lack of sleep. After breakfast, we commenced the long departure process, our cases had been picked up the night before & were on the dock. After retrieving them & clearing customs, & picking up our rental vans, we drove back to Tropical Palms resort. During the following week, the dads & older children went to The Kennedy Space Centre for the day. On the 31st was Jaxons 10th birthday and also Halloween
. We know that Halloween is supposed to be some silly folklore myth about ridicolous demons and devils, but to us and pretty well 99% of all Americans it is a fun time for the kids to get dressed up usually in scary costumes and get free lollies!! The children were all excited to be having their first Halloween in America, so they went out & all bought costumes to dress up in to go 'Trick or Treat'
. Not sure who had the most fun, them or their parents. After painting their faces & dressing up in costumes, we had a party for Jaxon. It will be a birthday to remember!!
At about 6.30pm, we all jumped into the cars, and off we went, kids with buckets, hoping to have them overflowing by the end of the night. The lineup of cars, all going to 'the rich area' was amazing, it took about half an hour to go 5 miles, drivers & passengers dressed in all sorts of costumes & police directing traffic. The children had so much fun, running up to the houses, and getting 'candy' telling each person, they were from Australia and having their first Halloween.
The kids soon worked out if they went up once without a mask, then again with their mask on, they could get more lollies!!! A great time was had by all and we were amazed at the amount of parents & children on the street, all ensuring the dentists of America have endless work!!! Jaxon certainly had a very memorable 10th birthday. We all headed back & added to the sugar fix by bringing out a birthday cake, all sang 'Happy birthday' and enjoyed the cake, before 9 tired children went to bed and off to sleep.
We spent the next week or so visiting Magic Kingdom, Epcot & Hollywood Studios theme parks. Everyone had a ball going on roller coasters, scary rides, seeing stunt shows, and various activities. The parks were very crowded, but a great time was had by all. La Nouba, Circus du Soleil was a hilite for everyone with amazing acts & skill.
We also had fun at Disney Quest, an indoor interactive games park
. The children went swimming every day, which
they loved. We also enjoyed some shopping days, as everything is so cheap here compared to home
, and we all needed to get warm clothes ready for the next part of our adventure. Once we leave Orlando, the weather will be quite cold, at the moment in Grand Canyon it is -10C at night, so should be interesting!
That's all for now, having a blast.... noisy, busy, and loving it all. On Thursday we are off to Abilene to visit our good friends and the Abilene ecclesia ... looking forward to it.
Finally Boofie & Dummar havent had much of a look in since the kids have arrived, in fact at the time of writing this blog Boofie has gone missing ... so we may end up having a funeral for one of them soon .... a bit sad we know, but things happen!!
Keep very well and hope you enjoy this blog ... some more pics maybe of the Disney parks next blog (if there is time to do one) ... love reading any comments.... thanks for reading!