Magical! (kind of)

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.


  1. Karate Mom

    Mir and a stingray, sitting in the sea, K-I-S-S-I-N-G….
    OK, I’ll stop being 12 now.

  2. Leandra

    Man, I wish I’d stowed away in your suitcase.

  3. Karen

    Mir it all sounds wonderful and exhausting at the same time. And.. what are grandparents for if not for a little babysitting sometimes… can you and Otto go on an excursion of your own, and leave the kiddos with the grands for just alittle while?

    And, I wouldn’t let licorice know you’re all kissing stingrays in her absense.

  4. Chris

    Yeah, I would recommend when you get home you figure out how to take another cruise without the kiddos. We just went for our 10th anniversary at the end of April and it was FANTASTIC! I missed the kids a lot, but not until about day 5 of 7. :)

  5. Leanne

    So jealous right now… we just canceled our 4th cruise for next year (not our decision, it was RCCL’s, we plan to reschedule another in a few weeks)!

    Our first cruise my parents paid for as well… it was their 25th wedding anniversary and they scooped all us kids and significant others up and took us away. Had a great time… same with our 2nd cruise… however the 3rd… BIG MISTAKE bringing the kids who were 10 & almost 2… far too needy for my ‘relaxing’ vacation.

    Enjoy while I sit back and HATE reading your blog this week.

  6. Patricia

    Don’t forget to take them up to the kid’s program — I know that’s the best way to get kid free time when I’m on the ship — plus my son BEGS to not get off the ship if he can go to the kid zone.

  7. JennyM

    Good luck orchestrating a disappearance. (Heh.)

  8. StephLove

    We went on an Alaskan cruise when our son was 4 (our daughter will be seriously annoyed when she realizes we took him to Alaska before she was born or even conceived). Anyway, he loved the Fun Zone kids’ area. It opened at 9 a.m. every morning and we were usually up at 4 a.m., having not adjusted to West Coast time. That was a long five hours but we got some free time.

  9. Megan

    Mmmmm… nothing like that mama guilt for realizing that children are, bless ’em, kinda a pain [sometimes! You know, just… sometimes].

    The waiting and the fussing and the bother is probably out of proportion in your brain now, but in a week when you’re remembering it all? It’ll fade away because the sting rays and the snorkeling and the time together doing stuff you never dreamed you’d do are so much brighter.

  10. Half Assed Kitchen

    Well, you’re not exactly selling the cruise experience. :) Which is okay because I’ve never had a strong desire. But I do hope you get to do one sans kids someday.

  11. Tracy

    How exciting is that! I’ve determined I’m more like Monkey, I don’t like noise, crowds or waiting on anything or anybody. But I would love to experience a cruise ONLY without kids. I love kids, especially since they are all adults now but I also love my peace and quiet…and soft serve at 10 a.m. I hope you are HIGHLY entertained today.

  12. Kira

    I TOLD you you should have taken me instead of the kids! I would almost certainly be less needy. At least a little.
    Hope you get some peace today.

  13. mamabird

    I never imagined stingrays would be tame/-d/-able!

  14. Kate M

    I love Stingray City. We wanted to take the kids on that excursion when we were last on a ship 6 years ago. Alas, the weather was icky (though it didn’t look all that bad – just chilly & drizzly) and they ended up skipping Grand Cayman all together because it wasn’t safe to tender or some such crap. I’m glad you got to go and that Monkey liked the Stingray blanket.

  15. Jessica

    I am so glad you are telling us about your cruise. I went on one cruise, childless, and had a blast and you are bringing back many memories of the inhilation of food, the loud noises, the long arse bus rides to excursions and of course the “Made in China” monkey heads!

  16. Karen

    I have cruised a few times, but never with kids. And to be honest, I think it would be difficult with kids – or even whiny adults. But you will all be talking about hat sting ray experience forever.

  17. TC

    Don’t laugh…We did that on our cruise a couple of years ago. Sent the kids to an activity (they were 8 and 5 at the time…) and then went to do something together and, um, yeah. The kids got lost, and we had to put away our bingo cards (and I was TOTALLY about to win that cruise t-shirt, too!) and go to the pursers office and pick them up, where N had fallen asleep in a chair and they all looked at us like we were the Worst Parents Ever (which, you know, we might be).

    Still BEST THING I EVER DID. Even the weight gain was worth it.

  18. bethany

    I love it that you are blogging from your cruise. So many bloggers disappear for a week or two adn then regurgitate what they can remember when they get back and it’s just not the same. Thanks!

  19. Amy

    The stingray stuff sounds amazing. The cruise ship–not so much. Did you say there were 3,000 people on the boat? REALLY? There are only about 1000 in my town. I can’t even wrap my head around 3x the population of my town on a BOAT.

  20. Nelson's Mama

    We’ve cruised four times, but have missed Stingray City each time. I’ve always wanted to do that!

    You hit the nail on the head about the crowds, lines, tendering and the sensory overload – like I said yesterday, fly me to my destination and let’s get to vacationing!

  21. Pat

    The cruise I went on years ago, was childless….Yay! Didn’t get to swim with the Stingray… bummer. But I took a nap so that I could get up and go to the midnight buffet….It was CHOCOLATE!!! Best thing I ever did! Enjoy……

  22. Carmen

    I’m guessing you didn’t read about my trip to the Caymans with my husband, where he was stung (they never, ever, EVER sting!) by the sting ray, necessitating a trip to the ambulance, signing out AMA, and then going back to the hotel, only to discover that my husband had an allergic reaction to the venom.

    Probably better that you didn’t read that story before today, I guess.

  23. Kristel

    This sounds amazing;-)

  24. Katie in MA

    And I bet the DJ even has music to pipe in for THAT! ;-)

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