Thursday, February 05, 2015

Ahoy! TCP Takes to the Seas

(Part 6 of 8)

Aboard the Norwegian Epic we traveled 

Miami>Jamaica>Grand Cayman>Cozumel>Miami

How is this boat possible?  That was the number one question on our minds.  How in the world can something as monstrous as this float? All week long everyone tried to figure it out and everyone kept coming up empty.  It is not possible we concluded. This must not be real.  

My Mom and Dad booked the cruise several months ago. They are celebrating 45 years of marriage this year and somehow we benefitted from their longevity and got in on the celebration. We were nine people in three rooms one after the other on the tenth floor. The ship had 16 floors.  Because why not see how many floors will float? 

Because they are awesome-sauce, Mom and Dad suggested that no kids sleep in the stateroom of Troy and Tara. 

This was our first experience on a cruise ship.  I don't know what each of us imagined, but I am guessing we were all off a bit in our estimation of the size of the boat.  Holy man. Gargantuan. 

We left on a Sunday afternoon. The ship had mechanical problems which meant a later than planned departure.  Troy and I enjoyed that the ship had mechanical problems. Things getting broken and lateness make us feel comfortable and at home.  It is also oddly reassuring to know that things break in other places. 

As we boarded the boat (six of us in one group that went first, three in another group that had to board later after returning rental car) we chatted with the kids about what to expect.  Lydia heard me talking about the kids club. At one point I refered to it by its proper name, Splash Academy.  Lydia got a wrinkle in her brow and said she had no interest in going to Splash Academy.  I said, "You said the kids stuff sounded fun, what changed?"  She crossed her arms and said, "I know they are gonna make me do math." The word "academy" means school to her, and she was having none of that.  

There is a transition that must be made whenever there is cognitive dissonance. In the past I have managed to offend others when I struggled with making room for two realities that are incongruent. I have not yet found a way to feel the discomfort without making people feel defensive.  Let it be said, my dissonance isn't really about anyone else. I'm not telling anyone to feel bad about their aisles of choices at the grocery store, nor am I saying anyone is a bad person if this dissonance stuff doesn't mess with them.  

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values

The fact that both Haiti and the Norwegian Epic are real places, feels a bit improbable. It for sure causes mental discomfort for some individuals. Troy spent time once we were off the ship researching the cruise industry and wanting to find out all the things. His exhaustive research taught him this: Some people are on the ship for a relaxing vacation, others leave their families in the Philippines for months in order to provide. 

It is similar to the economy and situation in Haiti, wherein those here depend on family with jobs elsewhere to send money back home. 

It is possible to be both glad they have an opportunity to work, and sad that mothers leave two year olds for 9 months at a time in order to make ends meet. It is certainly easier to only think about the positive benefits of a job - but I found myself thinking about all of it.  Rod, the guy that took care of our rooms shared that he has a 16 year old daughter that he hopes to send to college. In the incongruent world sometimes parents don't get to know and raise their children if they also want to provide for said children. 

End portion of deep thinking.

Now, icecream! 

I laughed at Hope when early in the cruise week she said, "I feel bad wasting this ice". By the end of the week it became apparent that ice wasn't something to fret about.  (But, in her defenese, ice is a Haiti treat and if you take more than you need at our house, Troy will notice and tell you to knock it off right quick.)  

The kids started out unsure of how to be fancy, but by midweek they were ruined. The day Phoebe's fresh hot waffles came out without the little side of whipped cream and she crossed her arms and said indignatly, "What!?! No whipped cream?" we pretty much knew they'd crossed over to the fancy side.  The first night at dinner the server asked Noah, "Would you like a starter?"  Noah said, "sure" and handed his menu back. Choosing your main course and ALSO a starter is a learned skill.  We also learned about butter knives and napkins on your lap and trying not to pass gas at a white tablecloth restaurant. 

Noah decided in October that he will not eat mammals. This is not a difficult decision to make on our island, we don't really eat much meat anyway. Five out of seven meals a week are generally without it as it is. 


noun pes·ca·tar·i·an \ˌpe-skə-ˈter-ē-ən\
Someone who is too lazy to be a vegetarian, and will only eat fish. Refraining from the consumption of mammals.
Aboard the ship, there were menu choices galore. Noah ordered fish most nights while his carnivorous siblings tried all varieties of beef.  

Lydia made us feel a little sick when she chose and then effortlessly put away 16 ounces of steak four nights in a row.  The missing front teeth made for quite an event each night while she chewed and chewed and chewed her adult portion of steak. 

Soft serve cone machines are located in multiple locations aboard the ship.  We let the kids serve themselves a cone at anytime. They thought they had died and gone to heaven. 
Watermelon and French Fries 24/7 for this guy

On the second day of the cruise Noah sprained his foot pretty badly. The limping was a bummer, the sadness it caused was worse.  Thankfully he didn't let it take much more than a day away from him.

We went on an excursion in Jamaica to a waterfall area. The guides wanted to move us through quickly and were just a liiiiitttle too pushy for someone that struggles with authority. As he (the guide) demanded the girls change without a bathroom to save time, I told Troy, "We are not letting that guy boss us. He can go without us."  

After we ditched the guide, life was much better. I loved the beauty of the waterfalls and the lush green that surrounded it. I hated the coronary they caused as I watched five kids climb them and wondered what the evacuation plan was if somebody cracked their skull clear open. Phoebe is our most cautious child and I fully expected her to not want to climb the falls. She surprised us and was all in and did everything the other kids did.  

Leaving the waterfalls they funneled us through a trinket market where the sales men were hard-core. They asked your name and began carving it into the items they were selling before you had a chance to think. Isaac and Lydia both got suckered into buying wood carved animals. Both animals broke before the sun set that same day.  Noah said, "I'm not buying this stuff, I know how this works."  I applauded his good sense and asked him to teach Isaac and Lydia something. Isaac owns an alligator with no tail, Lydia a dolphin without a nose. 

Interesting Jamaica facts: First time we'd been someplace where they drive on the opposite side of the road which is really kind of scary at first, "ya mon" is really a thing people say, we were told there are not problems in Jamaica, only situations. Also, two people tried to sell us wacky-tobaaccy. We declined. 

Later in the trip we learned we left a piece of ourselves in Jamaica. More on that drama later.

On the ship there were waterslides, trampolines, places to play basketball or soccer, a rock wall, and kids clubs that did not make anyone do math. The kids all love dancing, we got to do that a few times. 

A drunk guy was super awkward and kept bugging Isaac to join his family on the dance floor. (Isaac isn't that into dancing because what is one to do with limbs that long?)  The same twenty-something guy hit on my Mom after that. The Blue Man Group performed on the ship. (I listed the BlueMan Group in a top ten things I dislike most post one time.) Surprisingly enough, watching my kids watch the Blue Man Group was way more fun than watching those creepers without kids many moons ago. 

Lydia and Phoebe were hardcore about everything they did. The two of them worked out a system where one person went to get the icecream cones while the other kept playing. Most of the time it meant we could just follow drips of icecream across the pool deck when we didn't know where they had gone. 

Noah and Hope met some ladies from London at lunch one day and came back telling us about their chat with new friends.  On another night the kids were in the elevator with a young married couple named Paige and Michael, they filled the unsuspecting cruisers in on how important those two names are to us. 

On the very last morning we got up early to have one last shot at massive plates of bacon and fresh whipped cream with waffles with Grandma and Grandpa.  After breakfast we helped the kids find the stuff we hoped they would forget, (because we hid them in places and hoped they wouldn't recall having it) such as the slinky prizes they won and other worthless crap like that.  

They called our group to get off the ship.We went down to the floor we were instructed to go to in order to disembark.  My Dad left to use the bathroom and came back like four years later. We were just about to send someone to see if he had a heart attack on the toilet to end his cruise.  When he returned we had been waiting so long that we kind of made a quick decison to make a move and to make it fast. 

Troy told me to lead the way toward the end of the long line to get off the ship.  We all walked briskly for about five minutes until we reached the end of the line on the other side of the ship.  Once we were standing still I looked back to see that I had the wrong number of kids.  Lydia was not with us.  

Troy sprinted back toward where we had been waiting for my Dad.  He tried not to push over small children or the elderly, but it felt pretty scary realizing how long she had already been alone. When he got to the spot she wasn't there.  He looked around a little bit and found her with a staff member crying. The staff member looked disapprovingly at the terrible father and Lydia told him she thought we decided to leave her.  By the time Troy got back to us in the line (in order for us to also know Lydia was found) I had imagined no less than sixteen possible tragic ends to my last-born child's life. 

We are too many people to move anywhere easily. The plan was that my Dad would leave with Troy to go drop him to the Miami airport car rental desk and I would wait with our kids and the luggage at the port.  We had rented a vehicle in Troy's name in anticipation of that plan.  

While my Dad went to get his car we realized that Troy could not find his license (or my license) that he last had in his pocket on the island of Jamaica.  He did not even buy the pot he was offered, yet all our detective work points to the fact that he got back on the ship without two Minnesota driver's licenses.  

Things got a little tense while Troy searched through all his pockets looking for those. Phoebe might have started to cry from getting snapped at and Hope might have decided we were the worst parents ever when she got blamed for something she did not feel was her fault.  Happy family week comes to an abrupt close with stressy parents snapping at everybody. Troy had left his Haitian license in Haiti  - meaning no renting anything for him.  Thankfully, I had mine in my wallet or we would have been in a world of hurt with lots of bags and kids and no way to move any of them.  For me, it was a rare moment of being the responsible one.  Like Troy's friend Blake said, maybe it is time to re-think who holds the passports when we travel. 

Went to shore at Grand Cayman for a couple hours 

Fancy Dining experts - butter knives, and napkins in place

Soft-serve cones without limits 

Troy and the three oldest did Cozumel while the rest of us ate icecream cones on the pool deck.

last night out, to BlueManGroup and dinner

the one that loves to dance the most

last photo aboard the ship, right before the trauma 

We are so glad to have experienced this week with my parents and to have been able to celebrate their wedding anniversary with them.  The kids all say it was a week they will never forget. It might be another decade before Lydia can put the hurt on giant slabs of beef four nights in a row again, and that won't be too soon for any of the on-lookers.

Next:  In part 7 - Five nights in Sarasota before flying home - where the cognitive dissonance was more about the Amish buggies and the quiet in contrast to the string-bikini-clad women having dancing contests to the booming base aboard the ship.