Saturday, December 28, 2013

Boxes, Ribbon, and a Bad Cruise

So the holiday has passed and the trash bags are full of all that brightly colored ribbon with the boxes stacked for recycling. Well, unless you're like my family, and then you made a fort and sleds out of them, and you discovered that running and jumping to try and make them go faster only results in serious injury, but that cardboard can also be used to splint things, and aren't boxes fun!?

We're closing in on the end of the year, taking that last breath before the big blow-out of 2013 and the ringing in of 2014. In this moment, that's when we reflect. Or I do anyway, because I have nothing better to think about while I'm cleaning up the mess from the holiday (and it was sparkly clean hours before the holiday, so I have NO IDEA how they managed to do this much damage in such a short period of time. It's mind-boggling. Truly.) My thoughts wander and I start thinking about the year, in review, like a bad soap opera episode.

Previously, on the life and times of Kyra Wilson...

I think this has been a learning year for me. A slap you in the face, are you getting it yet? No? Have another wallop then, kind of year. It's like advanced calculus without that cheat sheet in the back of the book with answers to every other question on the homework and no cute tutors to ask for help.  If you're on Facebook, they have a link up that you can click to see the "highlights" of your 2013. I was very nervous clicking it, because I didn't think that could turn out all that well, considering...

It turns out that most of the pictures are of my daughter, because she would tag me in something and then her 80-million friends would like or comment on it, and I'd have a life-bi-proxy. Her picture of my cat stoned on catnip was the highest ranking "moment" of my 2013 spread. I'm trying not to look too deeply at that revelation.

I am doing a lot of reflection, though. I'm a planner, and in order to plan for the future you need to see where you've been. You need to look at what worked, what didn't, and what you want to change regardless. So, over the next few days I'm going to be touching on that because... frankly, I had a bad 2013. Some good things happened, but so much of the year just felt bad. I cannot control most of that, I can only survive it, but there are aspects I CAN control, things I want to change, and I need to find a way to make that a priority for me. So, those posts will be popping up this week.

I thought I'd leave that as my sinister foreshadowing, and jump back a minute to talk about my cruise/trip and share some photos!

First, we drove into NYC to stay the night and get on the boat in the morning. Our plan was to play around NYC and show the kids Time's Square (and my daughter had her sights set on Forever 21, because that's her favorite store... one of mine too!)

She's so happy, I wish we could get this store in Vermont!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was busy stirring up one heck of a storm! We beat it into the city, though! NO traffic coming in, I couldn't believe it! However, by the time we were wandering around it was cold. Bone-chilling cold. By the time we walked back to the hotel we were frozen and beaten down by the storm. Still, I had fun! My son decided we were specifically torturing him, but the rest of us were happy!

We saw the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (I hope this works, I took a 4 second video of it):

Hubby and I at the Rockefeller Christmas tree, FREEEEEZING!
No, I didn't pack gloves, we were going on a cruise!

These were just ridiculously cool. I wanted to play on them.
The next morning the storm had passed and we were off to the boat!

We cruised on the Norwegian Breakaway. I'm going to stop here to make something very clear: I am VERY angry at Norwegian Cruise Lines. This was a bad cruise. The crew on the ship were absolutely miserable, and it was evident from the moment we got on the ship. When people are going on a cruise to get away from it all, to be surrounded by an angry and miserable crew just makes everything worse. When we were all disembarking at the end, strangers were asking one another if they had a bad cruise too. This was not unique to us, and NO ONE said they had a good time. A good example would be that when they canceled the stop at Stirrup Cay (one of the islands we were so looking forward to), we personally witnessed crew members celebrating with high-fives over the decision.

Norwegian's policy on board was that the guest is always wrong. I'm not exaggerating, we had direct experience with it that was just sickening when we simply asked a question about something that wasn't clear to us and they immediately went on the attack. I was completely flabbergasted by this attitude, I've never seen anything like it anywhere - but most especially never in a vacation company. I'm always polite, I never get angry unless the situation truly calls for it with the person directly responsible. I am not that awful traveler you see on videos. I wait my turn, I'm respectful, and I'm patient. Being mean or rude accomplishes nothing, so I don't go there even if I'm having a problem. Not ever. It's unfortunate that the staff didn't have a similar perspective (I witnessed one yelling at a little old lady who was just trying to understand... oh it was just awful on that boat!)

The beds were horribly uncomfortable, they charged for anything they could think of, were completely disorganized, and on the last night they endangered my daughter's safety. My daughter loved the teen center on board, and on the last night a group of teens showed up drunk at 1AM (when they were closing.) Rather than call those teens' parents or security, my daughter (who had been in the teen center safe all night) was asked to walk some of them back to their staterooms.

So, my 15 year old was walking drunk teens back to their rooms at 1AM by herself.  The top of my head blew off when I found out. The things that could have happened, what could have gone wrong. She came back to our room late (we were waiting up for her, panicking and my husband had been out trying to find her but the center was shut down when he got there and there was no one to ask) crying and told us what happened. My daughter is the good girl. I mean that, I'm not just being a silly parent here. She is on the honor roll, student council, cheerleader, soccer goalie, charity volunteer, helps anyone and cares about everyone, respectful of authority - she is the poster child for the good girl. (I know, that she is related to me is one of life's great mysteries.) So, when an authority figure - the teen center counselor - asked her to walk those teens back to their rooms, she did.

She was wrong to have done as they asked. We had to have a long talk about doing the wrong thing when the authority figure asks you to. What a bizarre conversation that was, but in the end I suppose a good teaching moment. Just because someone is supposed to be trusted and in control, it doesn't mean their direction or requests will be the right thing to do. We talked about how she should have high-tailed it back to our room and told us what was going on. We would have gotten involved, believe me. After the fact, there was simply nothing we could do. She learned a lesson, and I learned that Norwegian is a company to NEVER cruise with again.

They called me yesterday to ask if I would like to book another cruise with them. You can imagine my (polite, if angry) response. Their response? "uhh... sorry." And that was it. I've written a comment and review to them, but I don't expect to hear anything because they simply do NOT care. So, I'm putting this out there: avoid Norwegian, they're awful.

(I've really enjoyed other cruise companies though! If this had been my only cruise, I would never cruise again. Fortunately, it was not. I love cruising, and we plan on doing lots of it in the future - hopefully with a company that respects and cares for their guests. My favorite so far? Disney. You wouldn't think of them for cruising, but I've never experienced such wonderful service, kindness, and organization from a cruise line. Even without children, they offer adult only options and I would pick them without a doubt. The cost difference is worth it.)

OK, enough about my anger. I'm working on letting that go. *sigh*

What saved parts of the trip were the stops. We only got two, because they cancelled one of the islands, but we stopped in Port Canaveral, FL and Nassau, Bahamas. In Florida, we booked an excursion to see the manatees. Alas, they weren't there (too cold), but we loved kayaking! I was in a boat with my son and we saw some wild dolphins and fish that tried to jump in our boat! It was a lovely day.

In the Bahamas, we booked an excursion with Dolphin Encounters on the Blue Lagoon island. We chose them over the Atlantis option because we heard they were better - and I think they really were!

My girl and I on the boat going to the Blue Lagoon Island!

Oh, you have no idea what it was like to swim with dolphins! I have pictures and video coming... it's not here yet though. We were in the water, so we had to order them! But we swam with them for over 30 minutes, and at the end they pushed us across the water by our feet!

What I do have to share are a few I took on my phone after we were done swimming:

Saying hello!


The beach on the Blue Lagoon Island

Those two shore excursions were wonderful. That's what I'm trying to look back on, and what great companies those two were! Swimming with the dolphins was amazing. Kayaking was fun. Warm weather (not hot, just warm) was such a nice break. It made Christmas seem a million miles away. I don't think I could live in a warm climate year round if I didn't go somewhere cold for Christmas. It's so pretty there, a perpetual summer of a sort (compared to Vermont, anyway.) But I would miss my snow!

So, not great trip, but some excellent moments. And in the end? We needed a break, even if it was a bad one. I sincerely wish it had been good, and the money we spent for what happened makes me want to cry, but at least it was a break of some sort. And hey, no food poisoning, plague, or loss of life or limb, so it's a win, right? *wink*


Rebecca said...

Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry you guys had such a horrible time. I've only cruised with Carnival (3 different times), and loved it. We knew the crews had really hard jobs and worked a lot for little pay, but you would never be able to tell it from their service...they were wonderful even in their exhaustion. And I've noted your bad experience and will not cruise with Norwegian if I can help it (which I can). Was the food good at least??

Kyra said...

Not really. There were some good food moments, but otherwise it was... kind of mid-end buffet food. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to do on the ship (it's a HUGE ship, but instead of putting in plenty of amenities, they used it to jam more people in) so I spent a lot of time eating out of sheer boredom. Which was stupid, I grant you. There were some nifty pretzel rolls I really liked though. Like a dinner roll, but a pretzel! And hey, never a line for the salad or fruit!

Grace said...

Hi Kyra, I found your site via a comment you left on Ellen's (Fat Girl Wearing Thin) blog. What a coincidence that my husband and I just finished a cruise on the Norwegian Star from LA to Miami. I can honestly say that if it had not been for some fabulous ports of call, our cruise would not have been very good. I really enjoyed almost everywhere we stopped. I didn't have as bad an experience as you did, but I agree that Norwegian could stand a lot of improvement (if you read my first day of our cruise...that was the worst). Many of the staff were great, but there were indeed many rude people, mostly the ones that seemed higher up in the organization. In my blog posts, I really don't talk much about the cruise itself because it wasn't that impressive. And the food? Just meh.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi, sorry you had such an awful experience. This was my first cruise, and I am not sure I want to go on another one...even if I cruise again, we definitely will not cruise again with Norwegian. I think there are other cruise lines that are more customer oriented.

Rebecca said...

That is crappy. So sorry!! As for the Manatees, in the winter months they swim up rivers and springs where the water is warmer. The first spring we went to to see them was 40 miles unless they took you guys to a spring, you wouldn't see them. The second was on the Gulf side and was about 10 miles inland where a power plant discharges warm water.

MaryFran said...

I've always wanted to go on a cruise...I will be definitely ignoring Norwegian when I do!!!

I'm so with you about the past year. All we can do is put it behind us...learn from our mistakes and move onward!!!!

Lynn said...

So sorry it was a bad experience! Although the dolphins look fun. That is a beautiful picture of you and your daughter, and your cat is adorable!

Kyra said...

We were close to the power plant, but we couldn't go around to it because the winds were too high. It was just around the corner, so close, but no dice *sigh* We still enjoyed it though!

Kyra said...

Hi Grace! I'm sorry to hear it was bad for you too. We wondered if it was just because of the boat coming out of NYC, because our other cruises have been from FL. Sounds like it has nothing to do with that. I think the trip itself would have been more redeemable with more stops, but coming from NYC, we had lots of sea only days. So, a 7 day cruise, with only two stops, leaves 5 for experiencing the climate on that boat. Ugh.

I really do recommend looking at Disney - even without kids (they keep the kids nicely in certain areas, and somehow seem to keep it all calm even if you are there by them.) They vet their excursions extensively (I know, because I asked at the time and they explained that to have a contract with Disney they really had to step it up and guarantee a level of service, etc.) When my daughter felt off one night and we went back to my room from dinner, the waiters showed up with one of everything from the dessert tray because they didn't want us to miss out. That was more than I ever expected, but I certainly appreciated it!

I have also cruised with Royal Caribbean. I felt the cruise was acceptable. It wasn't over the top amazing like Disney was with service, cleanliness, organization and so on, but there was a positive attitude, lots to do, etc. Even with Carnival being in the news for all those scary things, I have still heard good things about them and may try them at some point. But hands down Disney for us so far.

Kyra said...

Yes, I'm all for saying good bye to 2013! 2014 has got to be better, right? :)

Kyra said...

The dolphins were fabulous! :) That day was worth it, absolutely.

Primal Gwen said...

Hi Kyra! I think we were blog buddies for a short time earlier in the year; but lost touch. Not sure/don't remember why. LOL I LOVE your blog design now; I'm sure that is new? (or is my memory getting that bad?) LOL Sorry about the cruise, and thanks for the warning about Norwegian! I've only been on one cruise, with Celebrity with my mom; trans-Atlantic. It was fine until her 85 year old gut started reacting, and we made the stupid mistake of telling the crew. She was then bound to stay in her cabin, and me too (guilty by osmosis) for 48 hours, for fear of being contagious. (she had a history of this when she gets excited at her age, but they didn't trust us/believe us.) I don't blame them; they were trying to protect thousands of other people on the ship. That said, that long on a ship without touching dry land is tough enough without being forced to stay in your room, even if you have a 'stateroom' with a mini balcony. Still, we made the best of it, and can laugh about it now. I hope your family reaches that level of distance. That is VERY scary about your daughter's situation that one night, though! :: shudders ::

Happy new year!

Kyra said...

Hi Gwen! :) I think maybe I lost your blog on the google reader changeover. I know I lost a few... readded it! Yes, the design is new. I just found these owls and I decided I loved them when I was looking to change out the Fall template (I forgot to update for winter and Christmas. Oops!) At least if I forget the owls, they'll just look cool anyway!

Boy, being stuck in a room would drive me a bit crazy! I understand why they did it, but yeesh!

Primal Gwen said...

what made it worse was it was during the trans-Atlantic portion, where you couldn't get live TV on the TV...only old game shows they must've had loaded. BORING. Thank God we both brought a couple of paper back books! :)