Thursday was a sea day, so we relaxed on board. The Norwegian Dawn truly is a beautiful ship, and artistic touches are everywhere. We were invited to have dinner with the assistant hotel manager, and we jumped at the chance. Mr. Lee was a very charming and interesting man. He told us a lot of great stories of interesting things that had happened on board. Our table mates were also intriguing, and it was a wonderful dinner filled with great conversation.
Friday, we went to NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. The island is not very large. The vast majority of the cruise guests congregate on the beach, so the beach is very, very crowded. In the shade a little further back, there are hammocks, which were very, very nice to relax in. We took a hike to the light house, which is small. In and of itself, it's not worth the walk, but the island is beautiful, and I enjoyed the walk. On the way to the lighthouse, we found the Great Stirrup Cay "International Airport". We both got a giggle out of that.
After that, we decided to snorkel. I was really annoyed because they require all snorkelers to wear a vest while snorkeling. However, they charge a $5 rental fee for the vests, which struck me as a bit greedy and unfair. I think if they are going to require the vests, they should be free. It probably doesn't help that I had no desire to wear said vest. We decided to just snorkel without one and see if we got caught. They had a couple lifeguards. One of them pointed at us as we stood up to talk (yeah, it's that shallow for much of the swimming area), but we hurried and stuck our heads back in the water and swam off, and nobody actually confronted us.
The snorkeling wasn't as good, but we did see a half dozen or so lion fish near the artificial reef, which I thought was incredibly cool. They've always been one of my favorite fish, so it was really exciting to see them.
The next morning, we had an early breakfast, and did express walk-off. This is available to people who are willing and able to handle their own luggage. We found ourselves off the boat much quicker than I expected. We found a taxi immediately, and were checked in at the airport by 8:45am. Unfortunately, our plane didn't take off til 1:45, and there was not much to do at the airport. Our plane was delayed an hour or so, but since we'd had a 3 hour layover in Atlanta, we were fine. We boarded our plane in Atlanta after a minor delay. The plane pulled away from the terminal, but as we were getting in line to take off, a mechanical problem was found. So, we had to turn around and go back. Thank goodness they let us off the plane while they worked on the issue. After waiting an hour and a half, it was determined that it couldn't be fixed quickly, so they found us another plane. We finally got loaded on that, and took off about 10 minutes before we should have landed in Salt Lake. What should have been a 3.5 hour flight was 5 hours due to a strong head wind and bad weather. Through all of this, I still felt pretty lucky. Airports all over the country were jammed due to bad weather. Most of the people on our plane missed connections in Salt Lake, which was disappointing. A significant number of people on board were traveling from Europe, and they looked dead on their feet. Best of all, we didn't have to deal with exhausted children.
We finally got to the airport a little after 1am. Luggage was a nightmare- none of the carousals were marked, and there was 3-4 flights of people looking for their stuff. There was also a ton of luggage in the middle of the baggage claim area from people who were stranded elsewhere in the country.
We ended up sleeping over at my parents' house (thanks mom and dad!) and left Sunday morning.
It was so, so good to see my babies again, and I'm glad to be with them.
But, even now, I'm finding myself pricing out cruises. I want to take the kids next time (I don't think I can ask my parents for a week of babysitting for a while), so I need to sell a few houses to afford that.