Thursday, February 2, 2017

Family reunion running cruise!

It started as a "cruise marathon", a fun concept by the International Running Company.  Running a marathon while cruising on one of the largest ships in the world, on one of the best at-sea running tracks around?  Sounds like something we should try!

It morphed into a family reunion, with Mom and all 4 siblings together for the first time in over 20 years!  This turned out to be a huge highlight and the main reason for the trip.  It was a very special week, lots of fun, tons of reminiscing, reconnecting, and plenty of laughter.

So when the race got scaled back (due to things outside the race director's control), it hardly mattered.  The family reunion was the focus, and we are so glad things worked out the way they did.  We even got to run the marathon anyway, in a low-key kind of way.  On top of many other fun things!

Our week, in photos:

All excited to be getting on board finally!

Billi Jo looking absolutely lovely on formal night:

Kip demonstrating his prowess at creamie creation:

The first couple days were rather rough at sea, happily none of us were adversely affected.  The captain decided to outrun the storm that was chasing us, so we skipped the Bahamas in favor of an evening in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Yes!

It was awesome seeing the city from the ship's vantage point as we sailed into the harbor:

We would have loved more time here (I was ready to Uber over to the Bacardi tour) but we had only a few evening hours.  We debarked to wander around town:

Nice view of our ship all lit up:

The next day we docked at St Thomas.  Kip went to try flyboarding, and Mom and John followed him over there.  They didn't quite get there in time to take photos, but they did see him in the air a couple times.  Here's another flyboarder I saw in St Martin the following day - go Ironman!

That afternoon Billi Jo, Jay, and I went on a snorkel tour, yay!

The yacht that Steve Jobs used to own, quite fittingly sleek and white and shiny:

Ready to go!

Snorkeling was awesome!  Billi Jo jumped in from the side of the boat (!) about 3 feet up.  Jay and I opted to slide off from a ladder.  We saw sea turtles, including one with 3 legs named Tripod, colorful fish, and a small coral reef.  Then we celebrated with a bit of rum punch:

Our second stop was at a beach where Jay lost his expensive sunglasses while cannonballing into the water, then eventually found them with the help of snorkel gear and half the folks on our boat, thank you all!  Billi Jo and I went to order food while that was going on, and she noticed this beautiful seashell on the counter:

Having a little too much fun!

Coming back to the ship after an entertaining afternoon:

Mom and John going for a drive on the Promenade:

Our third port was St Maarten, where John, Kip, and I entered "The Race" because we will never pass up a chance to do an urban race, anytime, anywhere!

Playing around with water, sand, a sponge, a cup, and trying not to get each other TOO wet in the process:

A fun little trip into the local museum looking for artifacts:

A more modern-day stop at the Guavaberry rum store, yes please!

Working on a distance challenge (way easier than last month's version):

Our attempt at an "interesting" photo with an old car along a side street:

Kip learning how to drive again:

Beach bowling!

And one final challenge that John gamely tackled, swimming in the ocean:

Thanks for taking one for the team, John!

Our winning "booty", yay!  That was super fun, highly recommend this shore excursion on St Maarten!

View of a tall ship - and a taller one:

Jay had one request - to go parasailing.  There weren't any shore excursions offered for this, but I found a place on the other side of St Martin, so we taxied over to the French side of the island.

Pumped up and ready to go!

Just getting out to the boat looked like fun:

Conquering his fear of heights and getting attached to a parasail:

Gentle lift-off!

Jay flew all over the harbor, way up in the sky, woo hoo!

Very cool:

In the meantime, John had his own adventure exploring back on the Dutch side of the island - not many cruise ship passengers get to meet the mountain goats:

View of Philipsburg:

Our regal ship, the Oasis of the Seas:

Local scenery, including cactus (?)

Wow, what a day!  Hanging loose at the back of the running track and watching us sail away from port:

Time for some shows!  We loved them all, especially Cats, the Olympic divers, the comedians, the ice skaters, Come Fly With Me (way cool!), and Earl Turner the headliner.  OK, so all of them  :)  Also, I didn't get any photos but the tour of the Opal Theater was excellent.

Billi Jo got some great photos, including this one from the back of the ship:

Best towel animal I've seen yet:

Me attempting to learn a flash mob dance - I could totally get into this (if I got some practice time in first) - here we go, ole ole ole!

Another beautiful photo from Billi Jo:

OK, time for a marathon on the ship!  Mindy from the International Running Company set up a fat-ass style event, no awards or T-shirts, but she did provide bib numbers, lap counting, official measurement and timing, and lots of enthusiasm.  It was great!

Ready, set...

Go go go!

Kip and I tackled the marathon version - OK, that wasn't so easy!  The track is not as hard as concrete but not as soft as a normal track either.  Almost completely flat except two short ups/downs and the motion of the ship.  Great for shorter distances, especially with the long track length (2.4 laps to a mile) and it being mostly sheltered from the wind (it helped that we had a tailwind at the time).  After a while my legs started getting tight and it was clear that it would take some effort to finish.  At least it's "only" a marathon!

John and Mom tag-teamed to complete a half-marathon.  That is so cool that Mom was in the race too!

After a couple bathroom breaks (too much pre-race food!) I was able to pick up the pace in the second half.  Only 20 more laps to go!  (out of 63+)

And - done!  It wasn't fast, it wasn't pretty, but it sure was something exciting and different!  Thank you Mindy for the innovative double-phone timing technique:


Kip recovered from some minor issues and finished with a solid last few laps:

That was more fun than we expected!  Special thanks to John for crewing for us:

The siblings celebrate being done:

Congratulations to the half marathon relay winners  :)

Last day on the ship... time for some mini golf:

We super enjoyed the Captain's Q&A talk - I love Captain Rob!  He started every announcement with "Good evening ladies...  (long pause)  ...and gentlemen."  Very informative and funny.  And he didn't mind us getting a photo with him  :)

We went from there straight to a selfie scavenger hunt event (yes please!), where one of the items was a photo with one of the ship's officers - let's see if Captain Rob is still there, why yes he is!  So we got a 2nd photo with him:

Sleeping in the elevator in the middle of the event, because that's how we roll:

An action shot at the ping pong table:

Running into the library to read a book (good thing John spent the time earlier to find the library - it's not on most of the maps!):

A couple strangers helping us make funny faces:

A picture with a grand piano, and actually this has a back story.  The guy just in the picture on the right (I think his name is Jose?) was hosting a trivia event when we ran into the bar.  I had previously embarrassed myself at an earlier trivia contest, in front of him, so it was fitting that we were crashing his party and making a scene (again) - thank you Jose!  :)

Another fun time running around the ship!  And we finally won something (side note - we still suck at trivia) - not a highlighter, but better - some flashy glasses!  They go great with a pina colada:

John tackling the speed climbing challenge on the rock climbing wall (this time for the win, congrats John!):

Jay demonstrating what happens when you take your Daily Planner into the hot tub:

One of our more innovative selfies - in an elevator with a mirror:

Slightly more normal group photo:

A sculpture of how we all felt on Sunday afternoon on the way home - by the way, if you're ever in the Orlando airport, check this guy out:

What a week!  Thank you to the whole family for the fun times, the company, the smiles and laughter, the hugs, and the joy in being together!

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