A vacation isn’t always synonymous with relaxation

Especially with the steely grip this winter has had on many of our moods, it was high time for an escape. I took the kids on a cruise to the Caribbean, to find some relaxation, sun, sand, and heat.

I’ve travelled with my children before, but never for such long airport layovers, and never on a cruise. While I did find sun, sand, and heat, I’ve come to realize that relaxation is a stretch if you plan on seeing any of the ports of call or you want your kids to have a good time.

We cruised with the Celebrity Summit out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and due to airline delays thanks to the polar vortex, we found ourselves rushing to make one flight, then dangerously close to missing the cruise. By the time we boarded the boat, I had definitely found heat; I was glistening with sweat from carrying too many bags, too far, in much too hurried a manner.

A welcome drink on the cruise was more than welcomed. Our room was great, but with space at a premium I looked at all of our luggage quizzically. We were going to have to unpack before discovering the ship — realistically we were going to have to unpack if we wanted to even get out of the room!

The kids asked to play “that game that they saw people play on cruise ships on television.” Poker? Roulette? Slots? Then a sweeping motion by one of them led me to realize that they wanted to try shuffleboard. They also wanted to play ping pong, basketball, go to both pools, try out the kids’ club, eat at the buffet and the restaurants, have room service delivered, do the cruise scavenger hunts, go to a show (or two), watch cartoons in our room, and “chillax.”

It was at the long end of their wish list that I crossed “relax” off of my list because I would do everything I could to complete theirs.

Of course, in addition to the ship activities there was the small complication (or joy) of arriving at a new port almost every morning. I’d booked a few kid-friendly activities to introduce them to some of the colours, sights, and sounds of the Caribbean.

It was the colours that struck my daughter the most. She kept trying to take photos of all the different colour houses that we passed. The camera was full of blurs of pink, lime green, and turquoise. She was quite taken by St. Kitts.

My son was more about the animals. On the islands we saw wild iguanas, and a mongoose dart across the road, then there were the caged or trained monkeys, parrots, and baby turtles. In the ocean, he was rewarded by seeing bright and multi-coloured fish of all sizes, different corals, and crabs.

His love of animals and animal facts did cause a near panic, however.

My daughter called out all of the things she was seeing as she swam. “There’s a sea urchin!” she proudly announced. Suddenly, my son who had been snorkeling calmly holding my hand, started to wriggle like a harpooned shark and fiercely fought his way out of my grasp and towards the beach. His eyes were frozen wide making his eyes look like toy googly-eyes behind his mask.

I got off his mask and he spluttered out his fear of sea urchins, because according to his books, they are poisonous and one of the most dangerous creatures in the ocean. I finally got him settled and cursed the books for not making it painfully clear that sea urchins stay on the bottom of the ocean…and pose no threat to snorkelers fifteen feet above them. He rebounded well and later in St. Thomas he greatly enjoyed snorkeling with wild turtles and sting rays.

My favourite moments were watching the kids drinking it all in: all the newness, all the differences. Since it was the three of us travelling, I also revelled in giving them more freedom and responsibility and they glowed.

All in all, we found our beaches, sun, and the heat, and the kids did their share of “chillaxing.” Too bad good old mom was too busy trying to make sure everyone was safe and having fun to have found any relaxation for herself — we’ll work on that next vacation.

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