from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Caribbean Dispatch

OK – I’ll be brief when I complain that I had to settle for a western Caribbean cruise. A Mediterranean cruise (and the prices were low after that horrible Italian disaster) required too much air fare for each family member and Jake’s girlfriend, Larissa. An Alaskan cruise sounded gorgeous and maybe not so predictable, as cruises go, but Elise only had six vacation days with her new full employment and was not about to spend them “in a cold place with loads of old people.” I wondered if cruises to Cuba existed, knowing how Americans can get away with no passport stamping there and traveling with three Brazilian citizens. All the cruise lines that had attempted Cuba were no longer dealing with Cuba, and the kids would have none of Mom’s educational, historical, cultural enrichment approach. And why a cruise, anyway? Well, our kids pay their own way; we are all together, yet able to do many different things; sunning is involved; the lodging and food are included; and I’m the only one who objects. “First world problems,” as my kids would say! So Port Canaveral, Florida on the Royal Caribbean line it was.

astronautspaceTo mitigate the tourist atmosphere of Orlando the day before the cruise, we all headed for the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. While a bit sterile, it is full of interesting installations and artifacts, including a piece of moon rock one can stroke. I thought the highlight was the live talk by astronaut Wendy Lawrence, a four-trip specialist to the Space Station. We did not go to the separate area with an astronaut museum and simulated astronaut training, but I’m guessing that going through astronaut training (or watching others go through it!) would spice up the day aplenty.

Elise and I were suckers for this photo mock-up of Newton!



We all surrendered completely to touristy Orlando that night, attending a dinner/comedy show at Wonder Works – an annoying design feat of a building which appears to be upside-down. The show featured the most hilarious comedian and talented magician imaginable: one man named Tony Brent. We also managed a truly lovely Mother’s Day brunch the next day ahead of cruise embarkation. Thanks, m’loves.

pool areaI’ll just let the photos of the cruise speak for themselves. Chances are many of you are not overly sensitive to your surroundings as I am and would not suffer from this design work as I did!






On our first day at sea Jake was diagnosed with mononucleosis. He arrived with a very sore throat and swollen lymph nodes in his neck, for which a Las Vegas doctor had given him antibiotics. This was his second dose of antibiotics in a month after having jumped barefoot inadvertently on a piece of plastic in Thailand, developing quite an infection in his heel. He received excellent, inexpensive care in Thailand, but was clearly depleted from all the antibiotics and now feverish, nauseous, and turning a bit yellow. The ship’s impressive Columbian doctor initially suspected hepatitis and explained ‘quarantined in the stateroom’ and ‘leaving the ship in Jamaica’ to us while we all awaited the results of the blood test, which took only an hour. It turns out that mono was the good news: “You can stay on the ship, just don’t kiss anyone!” Since mono is a virus, the doctor suspended the antibiotics immediately and ordered plenty of rest and non-alcoholic liquids. Jake managed the two shore excursions that required the least walking from the ship to a chaise lounge. He had a few days of miserable fever, but managed most dinners in the dining room, a couple of cruise trivia games, miniature golf, family card games and $500 in winnings at the blackjack table with the less-vigilant-than-Vegas dealer. We admire his fortitude while in great pain and his willingness to hang out with us when possible.


formal 1trivia


Elise and Larissa, who are great friends, entertained each other most days and nights while Jake rested:



In the meantime, Newton and I enjoyed a nice jazz spot on the top floor, he played a few losing rounds of Texas Hold ‘Em (Jake: “I can never get Dad to learn the basics”), and I unsuccessfully tried my skills at the “Finish the Lyric” contest, where in lieu of the Cole Porter and show tunes I expected were ‘80’s pop songs for which I knew only the title line. The whole family made a decent showing at the Michael Jackson music I.D. contest, thanks to Elise and Larissa.

us at dinnerlyrics

Our four shore excursions were:

labadeeLabadee is a beautiful Haitian island leased by the Royal Caribbean line. They have organized a surprisingly lovely beach area on a peninsula of the island.







Falmouth, Jamaica, is an overlooked colonial town that Royal Caribbean is converting into another port of their own. This time, the new square they’ve built is lackluster, consisting of all the usual duty-free suspects. Some restoration has begun in the old town, though Newton and I appeared to be the only passengers from the cruise to explore it.

falmouth 1colonial town

Our ship looked like a surreal, photo-shopped monster while in port:


grand caymanGrand Cayman is another underwhelming port, but with a gorgeous reef for snorkeling. Luckily Newton talked me into going under for a few seconds at a time (since I panic if that thing is over my nose for very long) because the other-worldly scene that greeted me was something one does not forget.

under the sea

Cozumel, Mexico, made a good stop for us. Larissa found a very nice deal online ahead of the cruise where a 9 kilometer taxi ride landed us at a lovely beach resort, Mr. Sanchos, complete with food, drinks, snorkeling and kayaking.

cozumel 3cozumel 1

Cozumel 2cozumel 4

I loved the time with my adorable family, and fun was had indeed, despite my pickiness and Jake’s misery. Speaking of which, when we returned to Port Canaveral Jake’s throat had swelled beyond the ability to swallow food or liquid, so he was feeling worse than ever. (I know, perhaps because he didn’t JUST rest?…and we were all accessories to that crime.) Newton had jumped off the ship posthaste to catch his flight to China for business. I picked up a rental car for the next leg of my trip and we took Jake to an emergency room in Orlando. He managed a meal and liquids after intravenous cortisone for the swelling, around ten different people attending him, and several hours waiting for the results of an unnecessary blood test. Yet another new face had triumphantly announced that he had Mono. Duh. Once home, he went to another emergency room in Las Vegas, and three days later was admitted to a hospital for a night with worsening dehydration. The throat eventually managed to swallow again. Thank goodness he is finally on the mend with much caretaking by Larissa!

And what was my rental car for? A ROAD TRIP with my sister Donna to Savannah, Charleston and Ashville!!





  1. Fun times! Except for poor Jake...and the motion sickness I always seem to have on cruises... but still lots of fun :)

  2. Wow, awful case of mono twice diagnosed. Looks like fun was not avoided regardless of the first world thing. Have to say I've never been on a cruise, but would probably take the one to Alaska as a first choice. After all, we are now enrolled in the "old folks group". And further, Sand, salty water, and drinks with umbrellas and fruit just don't fit my fuddy duddy style. I think I need vacation training. Looking forward to hearing about the road trip. I really do like Ashville.


  3. I better take more Texas hold 'em lessons!!

  4. Bravo! I wonder how one can enjoy a lot here on this island, ur underwater pixs were good, perhaps this place is most visited one because of its unlimited fun events this place has grown in demand, tourist are increasing year by year, I came to know about this wonderful place when I read an article or a blog last week on net, I wish to be here soon, so I want to what to do in cayman when you are here, could u suggest more activities?


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