Weekend Visit

My in-laws spent last week in Naples, Florida with Karl’s sister, Joanne. So on the way home, they stopped in Jacksonville to spend the weekend with us. It just so happened that Friday night was our regularly scheduled Card Night with friends from church (we get together once a month and play a different game each time, rotating houses) so Sue and Karl were able to join in on the fun.


We played our new favorite card game, called 4 Up-4 Down, that Pat and Don taught us previously and we just so happened to have already taught Sue and Karl during our family cruise over Christmas.

Pat also made an amazing dessert and since we have a running joke about how much whipped cream the guys always use, she presented each one with their own can.


On Saturday night, Carl and I had a pre-cruise planning session with Dee and Eddy (in April, there will be 20 of us from church going to celebrate Dee and Eddy’s 50th wedding anniversary…what fun!). So Sue and Karl took Zack out for dinner.

Other than that, there was lots of hanging out of the lanai enjoying the beautiful weather, watching the new tv out there* and playing games.


It was a short and sweet visit but we are always grateful to spend time together when we can. Thanks for stopping by, Sue and Karl!

*Since I haven’t shown a photo on my blog, here’s out new addition to the lanai, which I initially resisted but am now in love with! Thanks, Carl!


If I am going to lay around watching tv, I can’t think of a better place to do it!


Formal Nights

Cruise ship formal nights are always a great time for photos! So allow me to share some of my favorites with you now.



Carl with his new tuxedo which he bought a few months ago since we are cruising veterans now! Since we apparently are avid cruisers (this was Number 6 for us), he figured it was worth the expense.



Where was Anthony in all these photos, you ask? Several times before the cruise, I asked Anthony if he had clothes to wear for dinner each night. He kept telling me he had it covered. When shopping a few days before departure, I even texted him several casual shirts that I wanted to buy him but he again said he had it covered. And then when we got on the ship and we were all getting ready for dinner, he informed me “I have nothing to wear.” So much for having it covered, Anthony! Arghhhh! (But at least he still came to dinner with us each night, wearing the one Hawaiin shirt that he brought with him.)


Fourth Port-of-Call: Costa Maya, Mexico

Our final port-of-call was in Costa Maya, Mexico. For this port, the boys decided to stay on the ship with the grandparents while Carl, Kelly, Avram and I went to see the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben.


Our bus and tour guide, Hugo, guided us through the countryside and ruins, explaining all about the Mayan culture.


We got to see several ruins and were able to climb up them as well.


The highlight of the day, however, was seeing the spider monkeys in the trees surrounding the ruins.


It was a very interesting and educational day.

Third Port-of-Call: Mohagany Bay, Roatan, Honduras

Our third port-of-call was another new stop for us in Central America in the country of Honduras. For this port, I arranged a snorkeling excursion to the jungle on the east side of the country.


We had another 45-minute van drive with one other family to the resort. The drive was very interesting to see the poverty of the country and the little gem of a resort hidden among the squalor. Our hostess, Barbara, fell in love with the country about 11 years ago and left corporate America to build her dream in the jungle of Honduras.


Her property includes a 7-room bed and breakfast and daily kayak and pontoon boat snorkeling excursions among the expansive coral reef. She also hosts yoga retreats in her large yurt hut.


The day started out overcast and gloomy and we had to wait for a passing shower to head out on the pontoon to the coral reef.


When it finally cleared enough to head out on the water, we spent about 45-minutes in the water around the coral reef for the best snorkeling we have ever experienced. There was so much living, vibrant reef and a huge variety of fish of every size, shape and color.

My favorite was the lion fish that looked just like this:

Lionfish (Pterois mombasae) in a Moscow Zoo aquarium

After we got back on the boat, it started to rain, making us all cold and miserable. It actually felt better getting back in the water for our second snorkeling location. The second time we got back on the boat was sunny and warm and felt wonderful!



Barbara served an authentic Honduran lunch in her dining hall/yoga studio before the driver returned us to the port.


Here are glimpses of our ship in the background.


Despite some rain, it was a great day snorkeling in this beautiful place!

Second Port-of-Call: Belize City, Belize

Our second port-of-call was a new stop for us in Belize in Central America. For this port, Carl, Kelly, Avram, Zack and I took a private Ziplining and Cave-tubing excursion in the jungle. (Anthony was originally scheduled to go with us but decided it sounded too lame to him but boy did he miss out because it was so much fun!).


After an hour van drive, we started with our zip-lining adventure.


After getting suited up, we headed up onto the first platform in the jungle.



We did five different runs that were super fun and very high over the jungle and river.


It was way more exciting than we thought it would be and loved every minute, although I personally was scared to death for most of it, especially when I would turn backwards on the zipline and couldn’t see where I was going!


After a short van drive down to the river, we then began our cave-tubing adventure.



Although there were many groups in the river, it was just our family, plus another mother and son attached together for our trip through the cave.


Again, it was way cooler than we thought. This was a 45-minute journey through a gigantic tunnel full of interesting formations in complete darkness, except for our head lamps.


When we emerged from the cave, we then traveled another 20-30 minutes down the river.


Although we thought we would have plenty of time for this excursion, due to some waiting around, we ended the river excursion with just one-hour to get back to the ship (with a one-hour drive ahead) for the last tender back to the ship. We briefly stopped at the office, where they handed us lunch-to-go (it was supposed to be enjoyed outdoors at a BBQ) and our driver skillfully and speedily got us back to the ship just in time. However, since there were at least 1,000 people in line for the tenders, it turns out we really didn’t have to rush at all and had an hour wait to get back on the ship. Talk about worrying for nothing!

It was a fun day doing something unique that turned out to be way more fun than any of us imagined. So glad we got to enjoy this exciting adventure in Belize!

First Port-of-Call: Cozumel, Mexico

Our first port-of-call, on Christmas Day, was in Cozumel, Mexico. Carl and I arranged a private driver for a 5-hour island tour so the whole family could be together.


Cresensio drove us through the city and along the west and east coasts, telling us all about Cozumel and answering all of our questions.


We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right on the water.



Since the drinking age in Mexico is only 18, Zack was thrilled to enjoy his first legal alcoholic beverage and as a true Russian, he chose a shot of vodka for his inaugural drink.


In a highly inappropriate and embarrassing Christmas day moment, our waiter served us all free shots of tequila from a male-anatomical vessel.


Beckoned by the waves, Anthony took a few moments to jump into the bay.


It was a fun and educational tour of Cozumel and a great way to spend Christmas day together!


Merry Christmas from Cozumel, Mexico!



Christmas Cruise

After missing Christmas together last year due to my father-in-law’s broken femur, Carl, our kids (plus Kelly’s boyfriend, Avram) and Carl’s parents made up for it in a big way this year by celebrating Christmas together with a family cruise!


Kelly’s boyfriend isn’t in this photo since we met him on the ship a little later. Since he had to work through Friday, he flew into Orlando and took a shuttle to the ship while the rest of us drove down together from Jacksonville.

This cruise was also our celebration of Zack’s high school graduation this year.


Last March, when my mother-in-law asked when we would be having Zack’s graduation cruise (since we did the same for the older two kids), I mentioned that it would be harder since everyone was in different states now, we already flew the older two kids home for Christmas and Kelly, Avram and Anthony all had busy school schedules. Thus was the inspiration to do our family cruise over Christmas, when everyone would already be gathered together.


We enjoyed a week aboard the Carnival Magic, which happens to be the same ship the Carl and I sailed the Mediterranean for our 25th Wedding Anniversary in 2011.


It was a great cruise with lots of fun activities and excursions (which I’ll tell you about in posts all week).


We enjoyed cocktails together (which was fun since 2 out of 3 of our children can now legally drink…although that didn’t stop Zack from enjoying some drinks with the adults on occasion).




We played games nearly every day.



We enjoyed Christmas festivities aboard the ship.


We saw nightly shows.


We made towel friends.


It was a great week of family bonding in the Caribbean!