So this past Wednesday, my family returned from an amazingly wonderful vacation. It was probably the best vacation we have ever been on together. For those of you who don't know, last year was a really hard year for my family. We had three deaths within five months on my dad's side of the family. My cousin, Ryan, died from a brain tumor in September. My Aunt Ellen died from complications with her kidney in October. And then in January my Gramma Margie died from weakness and sickness due to the strain that lung cancer had on her body in 2007 and 2008.
Since it seemed as though we were constantly getting together for a funeral, our family decided that we would get together for happy occasions, too. We wanted to spend time together while we still have the time to do so. It all started with a mini-family reunion in April, then another in September over Labor Day. Talk of a cruise came up, and since Lauren graduated from high school and I graduated from college, it seemed like the perfect excuse to extend the invite to 16 other family members!
We headed out from Charleston on Friday. We all wore our cruise tshirts and were easily recognized as a large family. :) Our day at sea on Saturday was spent reading (I was really into The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks and highly recommend it), sunbathing, and eating. We arrived in Freeport, Bahamas on Sunday. We walked around the touristy shops at the harbor and spent the rest of the day at the beach. Getting 20 people to figure out what they want to do and then getting them all to one place is no easy feat, but despite the craziness that is my family, that beach day was amazing. My sister and I lived it up with some of our cousins on a banana boat. Best $15 I have spent in quite some time. His creation is so amazing. We could see to the bottom of the ocean even when we were far away from shore. Words cannot express the amazing beauty and tranquility of the ocean and the clarity of the water. We played for about 3 hours; we exhausted ourselves and were quite ready for our dinner that night. Our taxi driver, who hit the jackpot by transporting 14 people at $5 a head, had to fight for us when we got back. It was funny, yet uncomfortable to see the two Bahamian taxi drivers going at it, both of them wanting to make a profit. Our taxi driver, Josey, was classy and composed, though.
My parents at dinner the first night in their cruise shirts.
Lauren and I at the beach in Freeport, Bahamas.
Our family pretty much took over karaoke, too. We only skipped one night, and we got pretty popular on the ship for our performances. It was HILARIOUS to be recognized. My cousins Patrick, Brad, my Uncle Thomas, and my dad called themselves "The New Temptations" and sang hits like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" each night. The DJ for karaoke was this hilarious Asian woman named Yanti who could really sing. My Aunt Frances sang "Get Up Offa That Thang," except she didn't really sing...she just danced. And it was so. funny. Yanti would say "You don't have to know the words, you just have to shake the booty!" in her hilarious accent and we would just die laughing...When we got off of our taxi at the beach on Sunday afternoon, two boys asked my sister and I if we were the "girls from karaoke," and in line for food at the lido deck, two ladies asked if we would be coming back to karaoke one night. It was kind of fun to feel like a celebrity, haha. We also had a great time dancing like crazies at the "Electricity Discotheque" to the best of Michael Jackson. That was a party, let me tell you!
Our family had the best waiter ever for dinner in the Celebration Dining Room. (Fun fact: The dining room was named after the ship we went on for our first cruise. It was the oldest ship in the fleet, dating all the way back to 1973...it is now retired, haha.) His name was Kishore, and he was the most adorable little Indian man. Carnival has amazing service, and he made sure he always put us first. At the end of each meal, I ordered tea and gouda cheese, and by the third night, he would bring it to me before I even ordered it. He also was a great dancer--he taught us some great moves. Every meal was special and delightful. The man who cleaned our stateroom was the cutest thing, too. His name was Gusti and Lauren and I (ok mostly me) kind of had a little crush on him. I am sure our towel animals were the best on the ship.
The family all dressed up for the Captain's Dinner on the second night. :)
Dancing with Kishore to "Low" at dinner.
On Monday, when we were in Nassau, Lauren and I's main objective was to get to the beach or at least see some sights. It was raining, which is uncharacteristic for stereotypical Bahamas weather, but we were told by our amazing tour guide that it "never rains all day." Our family decided to go on a tour of the island. Because we were such a large party, taxi drivers were yet again fighting over us. They could make some big money with $20 a head for 18 people! We were driven through the lower, middle, and upper class. We got to see Atlantis, the world famous resort which is featured in the Mary Kate and Ashley movie, Holiday in the Sun (one of my faves), and various other publications. The Michael Jackson suite at the Atlantis Resort is $25,000 a night, with a minimum 5-night stay, and it is booked for the next 2 years. Um, no thanks! We also saw both the public and private hospitals (the private was where Anna Nicole Smith had her baby and where her son died), St. Andrews Kirk, the financial districts with a jillion banks containing a bunch of offshore accounts, and the Queen's Staircase, which took 160 slaves 16 years to complete. It was a day full of rich history. We also walked around the straw market and took a look at some of the handcrafted things that the native islanders make and sell. It was funny to see the bootleg DVDs and "Coach" purses displayed for all to see.
A man collecting conch shells to make conch fritters.
Honestly, this vacation was just what I needed. It was so fun to spend time getting to know my extended family members better, and we laughed so much. The Lord romanced me through all of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets, my dad and I ran on the track, my sister and I bonded, we danced like crazies, and all of the amazing crew put great smiles on our faces. This was a vacation that I will always remember.
Funny story: my Uncle Coleman, who is 70, was not really looking forward to this vacation, but didn't want to be away from his wife...now he wants to plan a yearly vacation like this one. All I can say is sign me up!