Did you know that every 15 degrees of the horizontal earth is another time zone? Which completely makes sense when you do the math. 24 hours in a day, 360 degrees in a circle. This also means that we are covering 1/3 of the earths’ time zones in just 24 days to get back to Canada, and as we cross the Pacific to the east we change our clocks one hour ahead every 3 days or so. That is a shocker that we didn’t fully understand before heading out on this journey; especially when we favoured the cruise over flying to make the time zone changes easier. Well, now “easier” can be debated because if you have children you can probably fathom the complexity of these two evils….
Sydney Harbour at Sunset
When our week long stay in Bondi, Sydney came to an end we packed up all our belongings again (we are getting quicker and more efficient now…despite accumulating more items) and headed down to Circular Quay to board the cruise ship. From there its a long jaunt full of island ports and numerous consecutive sea days from Sydney harbour to Seattle.
It was a fairly lengthy process to board the ship, which included dropping off the rental car, checking in our impressive luggage haul (now add two surfboards, and 2 giant boxes of diapers), doing check-in papers, security clearance, tax back kiosk, and customs.. phew.
So far, on our Sydney to Seattle journey, our Pacific Island hopping has taken us to some nice, quiet islands (like Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, and Mystery Island, Vanuatu) as well as some busy, less desirable port cities (Noumea, New Caledonia and Suva, Fiji) and because of our restrictions in age, ability and time constraints we were unable to do excursions and preferred the quiet islands for beach time and swimming instead.
For seven full days we crossed the Pacific “dendrums” without seeing a glimpse of land, before reaching the familiar islands of Hawaii. Then add another 5 sea days until we arrived at the mainland in Seattle. As the temperature began to fall on the way to Seattle we had to exchange our top deck activities (swimming and surfing) for some warmer, inside ones (paper plane competitions and ice skating) in order to pass the time.
Some things you might be wondering about…a family journey of 24 days at sea with two small kids?
Waves, wind, and weather…
We’d only been on one other cruise before this (about a week long, and 10 years ago) and these three items failed to remain in my memory. The waves were consistently about 2-3 meters tall, and from about 10 decks off the water they don’t look so bad- but, go down a few floors and they look a wee bit more intimidating. Also, the pool water sloshes out considerably on these sea days so that a 2-3 foot wave can rock the pool back and forth like a kid playing “storm” in the bathtub. It’s basically always windy when at sea, although it can still be hot. Hold on to your hat and your children folks, especially on the top decks. Balcony use was limited for us because we felt better that the kids weren’t anywhere near the railings. The door was much too heavy and opening it was complicated for even the three year old to figure out, which was a good thing. But, it was nice to have the extra light, the ability to see land when there was some, and to sit out for short periods with close parental supervision.The weather for us started out quite hot but as we worked our way to Seattle it cooled down considerably making indoor activities much more appealing!
Sleep and time changes…
As I mentioned before, no one likes a time change, especially babies and toddlers. Even just daylight savings swap can be torturous for some kids, though ours seem to adjust okay, and we were lucky. On time change days the baby was able to drop her second nap, as we are so close to transitioning to one anyway that it seemed to work out. The toddler had such busy days that every three days or so she could use a nap (or an hour early bedtime works too) and thus we put them down about the same time on those nights. Otherwise, the older one needs about 12 hours a day, and the baby somehow gets about the same but divided between naps as well, which leaves one parent to wander the halls (usually mom) at 6am when she wakes much earlier than anyone wants. Sleeping arrangements in the stateroom had us sleeping in the main bed, the toddler on the pull out couch and the baby in the lotus travel crib (which is worth its weight in gold for the number of times baby has nursed to sleep with me opening the side zipper and lying on the floor with her).
If you have kids, you can appreciate that meal times get crazy, regardless of location. Everyone is tired, and not keen on sitting still to have a restaurant style meal and for this reason, we were super lucky that we could enjoy a lot (ok most) meals in our room. For breakfast we ordered room service most mornings, and I have to admit we had room service for dinner nearly every night as well. Boring- yes. Peaceful-yes! Without having much in the clothing department that would pass dress code it was a pretty good excuse to stay in, and Josh is proud to say we avoided the dining room for all 24 nights of this cruise, including his nemesis- formal nights.
Eating at the Windjammer buffet can get old really fast (when you eat there for lunch daily and its the same food), so we enjoyed having dining room dinner options available right in our room. If we did get out in the evenings we would sneak a few minutes of the entertainment show before one of the two kids couldn’t sit still any longer.
There are plenty of activities on board this Explorer of the Seas ship, and we all have something to keep us eager and occupied. Josh has taken to the flowrider (a stand up surfing wave on the top deck). I’m most dedicated to spin class at the gym (nearly one floor directly above us-its the best commute to the gym ever) but I’ve also tried the wave. Ry loves the swimming pool and though it took about a week to get her to try it, she enjoyed going to the kids club (“school”) for games, crafts and play time with her new buddies. Zo was crushed because she couldn’t swim in the pools (no diapers allowed), but instead she would find puddles on the balcony or pool deck and instead was focused on practicing her walking skills, pacing the halls holding a finger or two, climbing the stairs repeatedly, and making silly faces at all her fans. She actually had a baby tantrum when we tried to take her back to our room, and she’d take us to the door and make noises asking us to go walking. Having two little ones on the ship amongst very few others their age (Zo was the youngest passenger onboard), both staff and the older generation onboard just loved both girls- showering them with attention and even small gifts.
Most of the photos from the cruise were of the girls playing in the room, and enjoying the beaches of the beautiful south Pacific Islands- none from Hawaii (because having been there on past trips, we were getting things done, like laundry and summer clothes shopping).
By the time 24 days was up we were ready to disembark the boat and head for home. The weather was pretty chilly, and four months was a long time to be away. The last day we left the ship we took a bus, an airport train, a short flight, and a car ride home, using all major forms of transportation in a single day. The kids were delighted to see their toys, their grandparents, puppy dog, and their bedrooms. I was happy to have my space, my pillow, but less excited to cook and do laundry after being spoiled the last couple of weeks. It was a great trip with lots a fantastic memories and photos to prove it. Normally we’ve got our next trip location identified while travelling, but this time I think we’ll sit back and relax and stay put for a bit before we think about packing any more bags.