These are my initial takeaways from the trip:
1. If you have children of any age, find a jar TODAY that you can start throwing money into to save up for a Disney Cruise.
2. I am completely enamored by palm trees.
3. Life does not get much better than sitting in an open air bar on Key West with your hubby (and knowing your three wonderful children are being well cared for by their grandparents and aunt and uncle) enjoying a Mile Marker Zero pale ale.
4. I am happy to be part of a 12 person family who can go on a massive trip together and still speak to each other after 7 days of non-stop fun.
5. Castaway Cay (pronounced "KEY" even though it looks like "CAY") is the closest thing to paradise on earth that I have ever encountered: clear water, palm trees (see #2 above), light breeze, chairs and umbrellas on the beach, floats to lay on, snack bar, gift shop, free food, and to top it all off: a Disney waiter walking the beach asking you if you'd like a drink. Yes, I'd like to take ALL OF THIS HOME WITH ME.
Here's the first batch of pics in general chronological order....
Alec relaxing poolside at the hotel
Kate, Jenna and Michaela enjoying the surf
View from the beach of our hotel
Pool area at our hotel
The view out of our hotel room window... palm trees and the ocean behind it. Heaven. I couldn't stop staring.
The second day there we ventured into South Beach proper. It was interesting- great architecture and, of course, palm trees. No celebrity or model or "beautiful people" sightings... just a few people walking around and other tourists. We did take our first taxi ride as a family back to the hotel. Alec was fascinated that we got into a car we didn't know and drove.
Thursday morning, getting our last licks in at the pool before boarding our Disney cruise.
Life is rough. Michaela really enjoyed the smoothies.
Making our way to the van that drove us to the Port of Miami, aka Alec's Favorite Part of the Trip per him.
Breakfast one morning on the upper deck of the cruise ship, overlooking Nassau, Bahamas.
Dan ran the Castaway Cay 5K on Sunday morning. He did great!
Our girls playing on the beach in Miami
Lunch under the tiki hut in Miami. What a life these kids enjoy.
On the boat, the kids (except for Alec) loved meeting all the characters. ("I don't want to meet any printhetheths..." said he with mild disgust.) On Friday morning all the princesses came down the grand staircase in the lobby and met their adoring fans. Beautiful.
Dan and I took a trolley tour of Key West, which we LOVED. Here's the Southernmost point of the US.
Enjoying a drink at Island Dogs bar.
One of the beautiful churches on Key West.
All of us with Goofy!!
Alec is less sure of his Goofy encounter. He has a firm grip on his Pirates of the Carribean flintlock pistol.
This was an exciting night for us... Kate and Jenna got to go onstage for the big show that evening and be dwarves with Snow White. Later Michaela and I were on a game show called "So You Think You Know Your Family?" and had to answer various questions Newlywed-Game-Show style. Questions included: Name your child's best friend (Isabel), What do they want to be when they grow up (a teacher), Who is the boss in your family (very loaded question, don't you think??... we both answered 'both mom and dad' but they made us choose one and we both chose Daddy), What does your parent do to embarrass you in front of your friends? (sings) and If your parent had to be punished, what would be the worst thing to take away from them? (I said my cellphone and she said Pinterest. Michaela argued for a half point since Pinterest was on my phone and they gave it to us!) With Michaela's argued half-point, we won the game! It was a real blast and a great memory from the trip. Plus for the rest of the cruise kids came up to us and said, "Hey! I know you! You were on the game show!" and I felt as much of a celebrity as I ever will. Take that, Ty Pennington.
Alec and Dan in Nassau, Bahamas.
While we were in Nassau we got the girls' hair braided by "Certified Hair Braiders". They provided a LOT of local color to our trip there. The lady who did Michaela's had four gold upper front teeth and was wearing so much makeup that I wasn't convinced that she wasn't a man in drag. Jenna's was a bit gentler and patiently answered all of my annoying tourist-y questions. It only took them about a half hour to do the hair but we got to see all the women fighting over who gets to braid whose head and all the catfighting between them, which was pretty vicious. It was particularly interesting because they were all speaking English but I could barely understand them because of the accents and the dialect. I bargained them down on the price (they wanted $80 per girl, which was out of the question) and both women mentioned three times to me that I need "to take care of them" and give them "a good tip" because I was paying less. The girls looked beautiful and it was a great way to mark our visit to the Bahamas.
Lots more to share in Part 2!