Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cruise Day 5: Costa Maya

Danielle's turn with the camera!
We went ashore today with just a vague idea of what we wanted to do: play in the water.
We got off the ship and looked around the town center.  We found a booth called "Last Minute Tours" and decided to take their "Jungle Beach" tour, which gave us a bus ride down to a resort to spend the day. We had about two hours until our bus left, so we went back aboard the Sun and got our snorkeling gear, then went shopping and found presents for all the kids. Jon made the locals laugh with his "Tampequenos" joke (In Spanish: Por que no se puede ver la gente en Tampico? Porque son tan-pequenos... jaja..). It was great to get to speak some Spanish with the people there by the port and apparently we got "better prices" because of it...maybe...Random occurrence: met a Free Mason in the silver shop who knew about Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, I didn't have a Book of Mormon handy, let alone a Libro de Mormon, when he requested one...

After walking around the town center and taking pictures with some people dressed up as... something very cultural looking... we couldn't get them to tell us exactly what they were supposed to be...

...we got on a nice cool bus with another two families from the Sun with their kids.  They were jealous that we were here kid-less :) We rode the bus for about half an hour before arriving at the resort: Jungle Beach Club.

The resort was beautiful! White sand and Palm trees with plenty of chairs and a fun boat-shaped basket woven seat. There were kayaks, a little play structure, and motor boats to rent. We started our day there by gearing up with snorkel stuff and then swam out to a floating inflatable playground! It was awesome! Like Wipeout! We ran and jumped and climbed for a long time! Jon was the only one who could jump over some of the obstacles. He was willing to really throw himself into it! There was one tall tower with ropes and handles to climb up, and a slide and a 10ft jump down into the water! Jon finally figured out how to climb the handled wall.

After that, we snorkeled around a bit more, saw a few fish, lots of grass, and smelled some stinky mud by the shore...ew... I jumped on the trampoline, we read and sunbathed, and then went for a quick turn in the kayak. Drinks were "included" in the price of the tour, so we enjoyed PiƱa Coladas, Shirley Temples, a Miami Vice, and diet coke all afternoon! Some nice people watched our stuff while we were off snorkeling and playing around. Jon climbed a palm tree with coconuts, much to the amusement of other vacationers there, and got his picture taken by fellow cruise passengers while in the tree. Overall, a relaxing day of  fun!

But we both got sunburned.

Back on board, we ate at the Four Seasons restaurant and then went to a hilarious ventriloquy show. Kenneth Byrd was the performer's name.  At one point in his show, he chose a little boy from the audience to come up.  His name was Aiden and he said he was in first grade. Kenny asked him some first grader "Do you know your ABC's?" and Aiden sang his ABC's.  "What's 1+1?" and "What's 2+2?" and Aiden was quick to answer...  Then Kenny asked, "What's eight trillion three hundred thousand plus two zillion three hundred twenty three?" Aiden thought and then smartly said, "Well... I think that's in third grade..." What a funny kid! Even Kenny had to take a moment to regain his composure...

And that night, we found our towels in the shape of a frog!

Note for future cruises: bring walkie-talkies if traveling with kids... Or any group really... Easy way to keep track of each other...if they work on board... We've seen some very frustrated parents and parts of groups trying to hunt around the ship for each other...


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cruise Day 4: SCUBA in Belize

Day 4 was the most exciting day for me! Not only would it be my first time to Belize, it would mark my first logged SCUBA dives after being certified in October!  Was I nervous? Yes. But very excited anyway.  Jon had promised and promised again to stay right by my side and to help me not look too much like the rookie diver I am... So, with a lot of nerves, we packed up our dive gear and headed down to the Stardust Lounge, where the dive group was meeting.

Belize does not have a dock with deep enough water for the cruise liners, so instead of a gang plank to shore, passengers use tender boats to ferry to and from the Sun.  So, as it turns out, it was the perfect day charter a dive boat because we skipped the crowds waiting to pick up tender tickets and then waiting for their ticket numbers to be called...we were picked up directly by the dive boat! We only showed a little bit of smugness as we walked through the crowds waiting to board the tenders and stepped onto our almost private dive boat!

Our boat had first made a stop at the Norwegian Dawn, another cruise ship anchored a short distance away, to pick up twelve divers, and then came to the sun and to get our six divers.  After a short ride over beautiful sapphire blue and turquoise waters, we arrived at a dive shop where we could rent gear and wet suits. Sadly, I had to pay for a full rental, even though I just needed a regulator... grrr...  I also decided to rent a spring suit (short wet suit), because it was, after all, December! (Turns out I was really glad I did... the little extra exposure protection made our long dives not only endurable, but perfectly enjoyable!) It was a thrilling moment when I flashed my SCUBA certification card and got handed gear! WHHHAATTTT!! (In my head, I'm saying that like Shawn Spencer from Psych...)

Anyway, I watched closely what the other divers did as they prepped their gear for the first dive site. Unfortunately, I was too slow on the uptake and my gear didn't get a spot on the nifty little tank and BCD rack on the boat, so my stuff had to look all nerdy stuffed under the bench... all well...

We went to two dive sites.  The first one was called Commando. I was very jittery getting all my stuff on and ready... trying to act all smooth and experienced... Jon and I were in a group together.  They asked us on the way about our level of experience with diving.  Jon has some 50 logged dives, and they only asked him, assuming that I, as his wife, had similar experience... so we were put in a group with all the other experienced divers... and me. Oh the pressure was on to look good... I got everything clipped in, snapped on, and buddy checked. The dive master walked me to the edge of the boat, saw that I had my regulator in, and said, "Ready? Off you go!" Ker-Splash!!! In I went.  Bubbles... breathe... blue water... breathe...bob up... breathe... Whew! I made it in and signaled OK to the boat.  What a rush!  That was a giant stride for me in more ways than one...

 The first thing I noticed was that visibility was amazing! Nothing at all like the 5-10 feet in front of you like you get at Monterrey. I could see... 30 feet? 50 feet? seemed like forever! We saw beautiful colorful fish and brightly colored and interestingly patterned corals in every direction!

For this dive, I liked having a dive master I could just follow around and not have to worry about navigating. Despite the clarity of the water, I did find it hard to keep track of the boat (I've never had a very strong sense of direction...).  We saw lobsters, rock crab, Moray eel, and one dive master catching lion fish, and then feeding said fish to the Moray eel! The dive was LONG--about 50 minutes! My cert dives were only about 25-30 minutes. I savored every moment of feeling weightless and mermaid-esque (yes, I did just make that word up)!--Every moment, that is, after I figured out how to clear my ears... the first few minutes were monumentally uncomfortable, but the dive was long enough that I got a pretty reliable method down to relieve the squeeze in my left ear.

After the dive, we relaxed on the boat for about an hour. The staff on the dive boat was great! They helped us put gear on, loaded weight pouches, and replaced the tanks between dives. After the first dive, they had cookies, pineapple, chips and salsa, and one of the dive masters chopped up the lion fish and served it as ceviche. I tried some... just tasted like raw fish with salsa... but I was glad to do my part to reduce the invasive species population!

 Our Second dive site was called Arena. Much of the same animals and plants were seen as in the first site.  I had one panicky moment when, somehow, first mist, then water filled my regulator and I breathed in ocean water instead of air.  It was gross... and kind of freaked me out (remember, I am still a rookie diver...) At that point, I probably could have just done a normal regulator clear and everything would have been fine.  I probably could have reached up to my shoulder and got my secondary, cleared it, and everything would have been fine.  But I am still a rookie diver and calm was not a word that described my outlook at that moment... "probably fine" was just not good enough with only one breath of air and 50 feet of water above me.  I almost kicked up to the surface...which would have been bad at best and lethal at worst... my instinct said, "AIR IS UP!" but thankfully, I had my training to override instinct.

 At that moment of unnecessary panic, the words of my instructor came clearly to my head: "If you got no regulator in your mouth, I wanna see little bubbles. Just show me little bubbles..."  Little bubbles... that's right: never hold your breath... That small, probably Spirit-inspired moment was just enough for me to get a grip on myself and not make a dangerous mistake. Then I remembered there was air a lot closer and safer than at the surface, so I kicked over to my buddy--Jon, who as promised was right by my side-- and grabbed his secondary regulator for a few calming and cleansing breaths. Turns out, everything was still working fine. I cleared out my primary and switched back and then continued diving on. I haven't a clue how water got into my regulator in the first place, and I did breath mist a couple more times on the dive, but I was still able to finish the dive safely and still have a good time... HOWEVER, my next SCUBA purchase is my own regulator!

Aaaannnyyway..... On the second dive we saw another moray eel and lobster, piper fish, lots of little bright guys. Just beautiful and amazing! I love being under water! Jon got a little cold towards the end, even in the warm Caribbean water. Overall, I felt like it was much easier to establish buoyancy here than it was in Monterrey. Might be because I didn't have 7-11 mm. of neoprene covering my body...

After the second dive, we headed back to the dive shop to return things, walked through an old decrepit, nearly abandoned manatee museum, then back onto the Island Hopper dive boat and back to the sun. 

 We Had to wait for a tender boat to unload when we got back and saw a jellyfish in the water. Yay.  Upon reboarding, we went to eat at the Garden Cafe.  I got teased by a middle aged lady who thought it was terribly funny that I was eating French Fries and whipped cream.  Ok, so I admit that's a little weird, but come on, we're on a cruise! I can eat what I want!!! She also asked if we were honeymooning... GO US! We still look that young and in love!

We wandered about the boat and found a game of Harry Potter trivia going on. I totally rocked it! Got 46/50! Then there was a game of regular  trivia. We totally sucked at that...needed my dad and/or Lynn.  Jon and I together got 4/30... I guess we're not cut out for Jeopardy... we'll have to make our money like normal people... All well! On to Day 5!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cruise Day 3: Roatan, Honduras

Jon got up and went for a run, Deeb slept in. Jon shaved off his beard in preparation for SCUBA tomorrow. Got breakfast at the Garden Cafe and packed up day packs to head out to our first port of call! Our room faces the side of the ship that got pulled into the port, so it was fun to watch the ship slowly ease its way into the dock and get tied off onto four small docks around the harbor. The ship stayed remarkably still after being tied tightly in.  I suppose the crew are experienced with these things...
 After breakfast, we headed down to deck three where we could go ashore! Deeb had no trouble getting off the boat, but the security officer stopped Jon.  Before getting on the ship, everyone takes a picture.  When you use your room key (to board or disembark, to buy anything on board, etc) your picture shows up.  But, since Jon had shaved off the beard he had in his original picture and was wearing a hat, the security officer didn't think he looked enough like his "welcome aboard" head shot. He was advised to get a new picture upon return. We had a good laugh at that... Our steward Jericho had no trouble recognizing us...
 Got onto Roatan with no plans at all besides "explore the island." We were stopped in the town center by all who wanted to immediately cash in on tourists. That strategy paid off for one rental car company that day. We rented a black Toyota Corolla for the day and got a (pretty terrible) map of the small island. Deeb was the main driver. Made Jon nervous as she was figuring out how to navigate the Honduras traffic/ dogs/ gazillion taxis in a hurry, not to mention the frequent and deep pot holes that peppered the highway.

 We drove and we drove and we drove all the way through every tourist trap and beyond. The scenery was beautiful.

We finally turned off onto a dirt road with a sign saying there was a resort or two at the end. After a few minutes of driving down this road, it was hard to believe ANYTHING was at the end besides the end of the island, which we could see was fast approaching... a very nervous making road:  Small Corolla + deeper pot holes + dirt road = wheel clutching Deeb + teeth sucking Jon + one wheel well cover busted off (whoops...) = One crazy adventure!

 Finally, after asking for directions, driving around a tree, and parking in mud, we found a local giving tours from his front yard in his little motor boat. We got a private tour the mangrove tree groves (which interestingly grow directly out of salty ocean water). They are filled with all kinds of life and provide protection for the shoreline from storms. Plus they are simply beautiful!

 Then we motor-boated out to see a tiny rock island with many many beautiful shells and coral.  It was fun to stand there with just Jon and I and think, of the two thousand something people that were aboard the Norwegian Sun, we were the only two people to visit this tiny remote rock island off the coast of Roatan... Well, us and this little crab:

 Then we buzzed around the end of Alligator Point (so named for the shape of the bluff that extends out into the ocean there) in the motor boat to finish the tour.
Returning to his little dock, we climbed around the mangroves for a bit. They are nature's most interesting jungle gym! Then we began the long trek back across the island (we had gone almost from one end, where the Sun was docked, to the opposite end)... 

 ...stopping at a high vista point and little table shops with little ladies, old and young.  We bought a wooden alligator for mom, hematite necklace and bracelet sets for Mandy and Becca, and a coconut shell bracelet. Took pictures of the beautiful blue green waters and verdant plantlife, and continued on down the road. Looked unsuccessfully for a place to snorkel, stopped on the side of the road to get our feet wet in the carribbean waters... Ahhhh... Then a few hundred potholes later, returned the car and re-boarded the ship.  Jon got on board without incident :)

We were welcomed back to Stateroom 9019 by a cute little elephant made from two bath towels and a hand towel!
 Now we are watching Roatan fade away as we drift out to open water, on our way to our next day of adventure!
 Note for future cruises: take little packs of gum or something for the few special local little ones you meet.  (These cute girls were the daughters of our guide.  It was fun to watch them play around the mangroves and help their dad with the boat)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cruise Days 1 & 2: the LONG version...

December 14:
Went to the temple terrace ward in Tampa this morning for sacrament meeting.  Took the bus from Ginny's (our Air B&B host) and walked from the bus stop. After sacrament meeting, we wanted to explore Lettuce Lake park.  Unfortunately, the entrance to the park was WAY farther away than we thought. I got too nervous about time to continue the pursuit after an hour, so we headed back to Ginny's (funny moment note: some guy getting on the bus accidentally tried to put a $100 bill in the fare counter.  He and the bus driver had a heck of a time trying to pull it out), packed up, and called for an Uber driver.  He arrived in less than 10 min and we had no trouble finding the port. 
Turns out we had plenty of time, even got to our room and settled in with 5 minutes to spare before the two hour boarding cutoff. Got our luggage checked, went through security, and got on the huge, beautiful 12 level Norwegian Sun! We explored the ship, ate a burger and fries, did the emergency drill where we were packed in like sardines underneath our would-be life boat.

Then ate at the poolside BBQ and ate ice cream, watched the ship go under the bridge (we watched from the Observation Lounge on the front of the ship and we were happy to get one last phone call from the bridge from our kids), and tried to go hot tubbing.  Unfortunately, it should have been called tepid tubbing because they were not at all hot! Freezing, we scampered back into our room after meeting a "19-year-old" third grader named "IDontKnow" and his hilarious mom...Then we ate more at the garden cafe (prime rib, green olives, great salads!) then watched the intro show. Production cast is awesome. Comedian not that funny... Now relaxing and reading in stateroom 9019. 
Note for future cruise: bring a lanyard to hang your key card on... I don't have pockets in most of the clothes I brought... 

December 15:
Slept well and woke to the gentle lapping of the cruise ship heading 23 land miles per hour through the Gulf of Mexico. I went to a Zumba class by the pool, then came back and Jon and I went running/jogging respectively around the deck 6 track. 3.5 laps around equals one mile. Jon ran about 4 miles, I ran one.

Then we took a picture or two... or a lot... around the ship at the request of Larry.  We got separated for a bit while trying to take pictures in the panoramic elevator. 

 Luckily, we ran into each other on level 11 and proceeded to the garden cafe for a small spot of 11am. Then we played shuffleboard with a cute little Russian family; two little boys and their dad. Then we went to one of the more formal dining rooms: Seven Seas, and had a sit down lunch. Then we wandered around more looking for the marketplace.  Didn't find it, but ended up sea watching and finding flying fish!! 

Schools of them jumping out of the water as the ship went past! At first, I thought they were birds, but upon further observation, realized they were not coming back out of the water after diving in... Plus we are way too far from land to have birds hanging around. Jon got a couple good pictures. 

We got a towel in the shape of a crab left on our bed. 

Sunbathed, took a dip in the pool, read, went in the hot tub that was actually hot this time--hooray-- had dinner at the Garden Cafe after finding the upstairs one closed for a private event... I finally found the marketplace and bought sunglasses. Caught the end of the newlywed show and watched the pure variety show. I give it 3.5/5. Played a game of ping pong (Jon won, just barely) and got some snacks and hot chocolate. While walking back to our room, we noticed the pools were being emptied.  Where does the water come from? Then we watched the presentation on Mayan people from earlier in the day. The TV in the room plays the stuff that happened on the boat all day...We are ready to explore Routan... and get off the boat!!!


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

How was our cruise?

I've gotten a lot of questions recently regarding the quality of our recent vacation to the Carribean. In response, I thought I'd post this short video representation of our amazing week aboard the Norwegian Sun! 

I know this video has already been posted to Google+ and YouTube, but it also merits posting here as well... Jon did an amazing job with this video, putting together the best photos and videos!  We also learned some interesting things... for example, did you know that Norwegian Cruise Line has an official theme song?? It's catchy, watch at your own risk!

As per Brooke's recommendation, we spent some time each night on the cruise writing down our memories of the day in as much detail as we could remember. Those more lengthy posts will be coming soon... but if you prefer just the "reader's digest" version, this is the post for you :)

Thank you, Jon, for making this video, and for making the last ten years so full of love and memories, and for making me look forward with nothing but excitement and anticipation and love to see what the next ten (and more) will bring to us!

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

A Little Christmas and Beyond!

 School starts again tomorrow... back to the old grind...
So let's take a moment and review the few pictures I got from Christmastime...

Grandma and Grandpa Koberstein's traditional Christmas gift to the grandkids is a science present. It's amazing that they kept up with the tradition even while on their mission in Japan...
Xochitl was the thrilled recipient of an indoor gardening kit.  She could not wait to put it all together and plant the seeds, which I am happy to report are sprouting beautifully in the dining room window.
Dawna received a solar power robot, which also got put together right on Christmas Day, which fortunately had enough sunshine to make our little dinosaur walk outside.

Larry got a Crazy Flippy car, which runs into walls and flips over to keep on going! Many happy giggly children chased this around the house, but mostly back and forth in the hallway, where it kept flipping over and returning back where it came from
Our kids were surprised on Christmas Morning by a beautiful new sandbox in the backyard, complete with digging trucks! It's been a little chilly since Christmas (you know, CALIFORNIA chilly, all the way down to 45...) but the kids have still loved playing around in their new sandbox :)
December 29, our actual 10th anniversary, previously celebrated with the aforementioned, to be posted about soon Caribbean cruise, we enjoyed lunch at Jon's work together. We thought it inappropriate to be alone, so Emily came along as a chaperone. After lunch we enjoyed a biking tour around the campus. Note Emily's cute skinny jeans and sweater :)

SO much more happened over Christmas Break that is not pictured here, including, by not limited to: Lynn, Weston, and Myra joining us for Christmas day, Christmas caroling around Lansing court with half my siblings and nieces and nephews, my oldest nephew getting a drivers license, surprise baby announcement from Joe and Cami, shopping and shopping and shopping with Emily, and countless hours of fun with cousins! What a year!

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Fix-it Buddies

Gwen and Mike et al have been hangin' out at our house this week.

 Uncle Mike got Larry an AMAZING tool set for his birthday!! It's over 100 pieces of small REAL tools! It came in a chest with 4 drawers and a place for each tool! Very handy... Mike and Gwen spent a long time labeling each piece so we can learn the REAL names and uses of all the tools! 

Then Larry received his first assignment with his new tools: replace the batteries on his orange toy Jeep...

 Step 1: Identify the tools needed; in this case, a precision phillips head screwdriver. 
Step 2: Open the battery cover (which had an exceptionally LONG screw...) and replace the batteries
Step 3: TEST your work! (Mike says it's very important NOT to skip this step...especially when working on involved car part replacements...) If it works, put it all back together!
As you can see, Larry was having such a good time, he couldn't take a minute to look at the camera... Xochitl was also very excited about the tools (and hung very close through the entire repair process).

We're all excited about Larry learning to fix things! Thank you, Uncle Mike!

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