So yesterday was our adventure to “stingray city,” and it was definitely unlike anything we’ve ever done before.
I’m going to back up a minute here, though, and say something that probably makes me a lousy mother, and maybe even a lousy person, but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true: This cruise would be a lot more fun without the kids. Now, I’m perfectly happy to be here with the kids, and I’m actually pretty fond of the kids, but this is just the true fact of the matter, that we are a little bit captive to their needs even with extended family here.
Chickadee is on steroids and that can make her behavior a little bit… interesting. Monkey is… well, I think Monkey is bearing up incredibly well considering that he doesn’t do well with 1) noise, 2) crowds, and 3) waiting, given that cruises are apparently filled with all three of these things. They pipe music into the pool areas so loud that I myself kind of want to wear earplugs (or stab the DJ with a fork; either way), so I can only imagine how irritating he finds it. Basically we are spending a lot more time in our cabin that we otherwise would, and a not inconsequential amount of time talking Monkey down from various perceived injustices and intolerable circumstances that arise from his schedule being turned upside down and shaken well with 3,000 other people and a lot of sea water.
Our two-and-a-half hour shore excursion involved setting out at 9:00 and not returning until around 2:30. Math was never my best subject, but I’m pretty sure that five-and-a-half is not the same as two-and-a-half.
The discrepancy arises because it doesn’t account for all of the things you have to do which are not actually part of your excursion. For example, you have to get off the ship along with the eleventy hundred other people attempting to get off the ship. Then you have to “tender in” from where the ship is anchored, which—just in case this is not a term you’re familiar with—means that the ship is a ways off shore and you have to board a boat to take you to shore, which also involves a lot of sitting on that little boat waiting for OTHER people to get on the boat. And then once you make it to shore you have to find where you need to go for your excursion, and then you have to sit there in the 90-degree, 90-percent-humidity weather while you wait to be picked up. (On assumes that during this time, the tour guides are all sitting in the air conditioning laughing at the stupid tourists sitting outside in the sun, explaining to their cranky children that they’ll be leaving “any minute now.”)
Then you get rounded up like cattle to board a bus. Then you sit on the bus and wonder why you’re not leaving. Then the bus does leave, and you drive and drive and drive and drive, and then eventually they let you out at a different location (where it’s now 95 degrees and 105 percent humidity) (I told you I wasn’t great at math) and tell you that the boat will be there “soon.”
And then, maybe, your kid who is barely holding his crap together anyway—after hours, by now, of being shoved together with so many people and in such oppressive heat—goes and uses the port-a-potty, and when he returns his bathing suit is somewhat askew, so you decide to fix it for him, only because he’s slick with a thick coating of sunscreen you somehow manage to slip off the waist of his suit and instead yank on a small fold of his skin and he shrieks and wails and all other three hundred people waiting for the boat wonder why you are apparently beating your child on a tropical island, you horrible mother, you. (This part is not included in your excursion fee.)
The boat finally arrives, and then it’s a slooooooow ride for half an hour out to the sandbar, and you may begin to wonder if this is really going to be worth it after all of this, particularly when one child announces that she’s dizzy and doesn’t feel good and the other asks if you have his Nintendo DS in the backpack. Or a book. Or “anything that would make this less boring and stupid.”
But THANK THE GOOD LORD ABOVE, it’s totally worth it. Because once you arrive at the sandbar there are stingrays EVERYWHERE, as well as other fish, and you literally cannot go three steps without seeing one (or five). If you are VERY lucky you may even just be standing there at one point and suddenly a giant one brushes up against your legs and the unexpected sliminess of it makes you startle and shriek like a little girl. Not that that’s ever happened to me. Ahem.
Our guides assured us that kissing a stingray gives you seven years of good luck, so first Monkey and then Chickadee and then I all smooched stingrays the guides gently held up out of the water. I’ve gotta say that I prefer kissing Otto, but it was kind of interesting. Then Monkey got to have a giant female draped over him like a blanket, which delighted him so much I could kind of picture the next craze in home occupational therapy tools including a Therapeutic Stingray Blanket for sensory calming (“Like a gentle, somewhat flappy hug!”), though I’m a bit fuzzy on the practical logistics of that. Chickadee got to hold a male (they’re quite a bit smaller), and the guide gently flipped him over to show us his mouth on the underside, right before he offered him a piece of squid (which the stingray was only too happy to snap up).
I don’t know how long we were there; maybe just an hour or so. And then, of course, we had to do everything all over again in reverse: the slow boat ride back, the bus ride, the walk to the boat, the waiting until it left, and finally the transfer back to the ship. Plus it was all over lunchtime and I was poised for a meltdown or two before we could get back. But somehow the return was much easier than the outbound journey; we talked about how many stingrays we’d seen and who had touched which ones and how much squid they ate and whether or not we could bring one home to put in the bathtub (no).
Once back on the ship, the kids begged to go change back into clothes before lunch, but we stuck to our guns and insisted that we go straight up to lunch, and they grumbled but complied. Both kids promptly inhaled about twice the amount of food they ever eat at home, and Otto and I congratulated ourselves on that smart call. Afterward we returned to our cabin for showers and dry clothes, and then we lounged around and read and decompressed for a while.
Today we have planned a whole lot of nothing. With any luck, most of the passengers will be off-ship on excursions, and the ship itself will be a little bit quieter and more manageable. That would be good.
On the other hand, I probably won’t get to kiss a stingray today. So I guess I’ll have to find some other way to stay entertained. Maybe we’ll just send the kids up to my brother’s cabin and then DISAPPEAR for a while. It’s not quite as good as the whole stingray thing, but has the potential to be HIGHLY entertaining, nonetheless.