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Taking A Family Easter Cruise Was One of Our Best Vacations Ideas Ever

Updated on June 3, 2018
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I've been writing for about 10 years, primarily about internet safety and mobile technology like iPads, at vsatips my main site.

A Cruise Was Never An Option We Considered

We are a family that loves to travel, yet we rejected the whole concept of 'cruise' vacations because of the negative connotations commonly associated with them. We were forced to reconsider our bias due to a series of events that led to our deciding to try a cruise vacation. In this instance, it was our kid's spring break, which encompassed the Easter holiday weekend in 2002. That vacation was perhaps, the best family vacation we ever enjoyed. It culminated in positive, long term consequences for each individual family member, providing a unique bonding experience for us all, and it remains a cherished chapter in our family's collective history.

Photo Credit: Print Artist Clip Art

Photo I took of Costa Cruise ship
Photo I took of Costa Cruise ship

Why we never took a cruise

Each member of our small family had their own unique challenges as we embarked on our adventure. We all possessed predisposed negative expectations, which varied only by degree.

Therefore, we all entered into the adventure with a slight chip on our shoulder. No one had high expectations for the trip, and we all secretly anticipated strife and discord amongst the ranks. Little by little, this mindset evolved, from being mainly negative to neutral, and then slowly moving towards the belief that this was, perhaps the best family vacation we had experienced to date.

In future years, as we continued to travel, I believe that we’ve all come around to the opinion that cruises in general have a lot to offer families who like to travel, and that mode of travel can stand proudly amongst the travel options available to families, couples and individuals.

A SONY stylized image.
A SONY stylized image.

Let's Start from the Beginning

The year was 2002, and the scenario was gloom and doom. By late February in Wisconsin we were generally experiencing days that were still too short, cold, and gloomy, with old grey - crusted snow, and the majority of school's spring semester still to come (in reality the spring semester for most schools is actually longer than the fall semester, however at the time, I hadn't stopped to actually think about this, it just seemed much longer to me and my family). The doom part has to do with the annual, eagerly anticipated, groundhog prediction for an early or late spring. Our local ground hog's prediction wasn't in our favor that year, so spring seemed very far away and we were all feeling a little sad about that. The excitement and happy mental state brought about by Christmas, New Years, the Super Bowl, and even Valentine's Day, were distant, (or not so distant) memories, and the novelty of snow and ice, and even fun outdoor winter activities had worn off, and was replaced by the doldrums.

Easter was early in 2002, and our kid's spring break was long, almost 2 weeks long, and happily coincided with Easter which was a rare occasion for us! So we were presented with an opportunity, through a combination of events, which would not have so readily presented itself to us, had things happened in a slightly different way or in a different chronological sequence.

So.....We Needed a Spring Break Vacation Idea! And We Needed it Immediately!!!

Do you find that parents today seem to be more time-challenged than ever? That's how we felt in 2002 when our kids were in primary and middle school, and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that there was more than one instance of spring break sneaking up on us so fast, that we realized it literally, just a few weeks before it occurred. We had reached a point in our lives where we didn't believe that our traditional Easter egg hunt and Easter baskets brimming with candy were in the best interests of our kids, or even us for that matter. Furthermore, we had made no vacation plans of any kind, and both parents and kids in our family felt a very strong desire to leave our cold climate for a brief respite.

Photo Credit: Art Explosion

Picture Credit:  Art Explosion
Picture Credit: Art Explosion

Where did February Go and How Did Easter Sneak up on us so Quickly?

In retrospect it's easy to see how it happened. Parent's today have the usual home pressures of the holidays, oftentimes with the added complications of schools governed by politically correct, religiously 'neutral' celebrations, which at our kid's school translated into celebrating St Nicks day, Kwanza, and Hanukkah, in addition to the usual Christmas celebrations. And each of these holidays required a modicum of parental forethought and planning, while said parents were attempting to simultaneously plan and orchestrate not just their own families' holidays, but often their extended families as well. Then of course there are Christmas cards, family pictures, and newsletters to produce (or Kwanza cards, Hanukkah cards, etc., you get the idea. Followed of course by New Year's Eve, New Years Day, all of the bowl games (and parties), the Super Bowl, closely followed by Valentine's Day, which any mom knows requires a lot more thought and effort for kid's today who need to create handmade Valentines which are accompanied with homemade treats.

Most of the mom's we saw frequently back then were still trying to get their house back together following the Christmas frenzy, when Valentine's Day snuck up on them. And then lo and behold, they get the Valentines doily mess just about cleaned up and when they realize that spring break is in just a few short weeks, immediately followed by or encompassing the Easter holiday as well.

This was the exact scenario that occurred at our house more than once, and the fact that we had 5 family members' birthdays to celebrate in January and February as well, and winter sports and all the gear that entails to contend with too, just made the desire to get out of here that much stronger.

A Brilliant Idea

Just One of the Many Reasons I Married Him!!!

So, one year when that occurred, and we were frantically searching for a place to go that wasn't Florida, and would be interesting and stimulating for parent's as well as kids, we happened upon the idea of taking a cruise. Let me just say at the front end, that it was actually my husband who came up with the idea. I was just wanting to curl up into a little ball and pretend that 2 weeks of the kids being off school and driving me nuts wasn't about to happen. The reason I feel so compelled to give him the credit for the idea was because it was a brilliant idea!!!

Our Short List of Warm Places to go for Spring Break and Easter Vacations

My older son, who at the time was 10, took this photo with his new Canon digital camera. One of the most awesome benefits realized as a result of this Easter cruise, was that he began to develop a keen interest in photography, and began building a good foundation for advancing his skills and techniques upon.

In fact, that was one aspect of cruises that we had never considered previously. The photo ops which presented themselves to us on this cruise, were vastly more abundant than in any of the previous journeys we'd made, and we'd taken several 'road less traveled' types of excursions prior to this first cruise.

The Celebrity Cruise Line's Millennium Ship
The Celebrity Cruise Line's Millennium Ship

We were so not the typical 'cruise' type of people. That's what we told ourselves.

I Can't for the Life of Me, Fathom How that Typical 'Cruise' Persona Evolved

More importantly, why did it evolve to have these negative connotations? Logic does not support the belief, nor does experience, since most people who hold this slightly skewed impression, base it purely on assumptions, and NOT experience.

We had never ever considered taking a cruise before, because our impression was that the experience entailed being cooped up in a tiny little cabin, possibly getting seasick, (a lot in my case), and if not, certainly being really bored and eating way too much, for approximately 10-14 days. The whole concept really did not appeal to us, and in my husband's case, it actually repulsed him a bit.

But the idea of going somewhere warm was extremely appealing. We had already tried some somewhat unconventional trips (with varied levels of success), to satisfy the diverse needs of our family. Those included a trip to India, which, while it was probably one of the most physically and mentally challenging trips we'd ever taken, was also one of the most rewarding. Another spring break and Easter vacation was spent in Australia, which was also an amazing but tough trip. The primary reason in that case was the length of the flights involved. They are just so darned long! And during our 7 hour layover in LA my husband apparently ate some tainted food, because he was massively ill for the entire 20 hour flight (I could be wrong about the length of the flight, but I don't think I'm too far off)!

We Hadn't Even Finished our Valentines Candy Yet!

At that time we believed that we'd reached a point in our lives where we didn't think that our traditional Easter egg and Easter candy basket hunt, was in the best interests of our kids, or even us for that matter. Our younger son had entered an awkward period in his life that many of his friends were in too. He wasn't old enough for 'real' sports yet, but didn't find the few sports that were available to him of any interest. He was on the verge of outgrowing the well intended label affectionately applied to him regarding his 'baby fat', and he was just entering that age where boys begin to scrutinize their own and their friend's appearances. But there weren't any obvious lifestyle changes that he could readily incorporate at that point.

We'd been to Florida many times over the years, and tried several different islands in the Caribbean as well, but one place we had never been to, and which met our main criteria of 'warm' was South America. We didn't feel our travel 'savviness' was developed enough to attempt a vacation there with children, both from a safety standpoint, as well as from the standpoint of feeling comfortable renting a car and roaming around from country to country the way we had on some of our other international trips (especially without getting completely lost!) So fear was our biggest deterrent, but we had discussed it over and over again through the years, because South America has so many amazing places to go and people to meet. When my husband broached the idea of taking a cruise, in the context of getting a chance to see some of South America in a way that we felt competent enough to handle, it was to me an exceedingly brilliant idea!

A favorite shot taken on the cruise.
A favorite shot taken on the cruise.

Booking our First Cruise Last Minute was a Huge Cost Savings

Using the Cruise Line to Book our Air Saved Money too!

So, it was discussed in depth, and ultimately agreed upon by all. We would forgo our traditional Easter plans (and gifts, not any easy decision for 2 kids to make) and we'd fly to Chile to embark upon our first cruise.

In our particular situation, our lack of early planning really paid off for us. When we did a little research of cruise lines, reputations, and current rates, we discovered that booking extremely late is one of the best ways to get a real bargain in cruise prices. Our research at the time led us to look more closely at Celebrity and Holland Cruise lines. They both had extremely good ratings and reviews, and they both offered several cruises to South America. The one we chose, primarily because it fit into our boy's spring break school schedules the best was with Celebrity.

We looked at the ship's deck plans online, and discussed cabin types, and decided that our primary needs were for a cabin with a balcony, that provided beds for 4, with an additional room that wasn't the bedroom for people to hang out in if someone wanted to take a nap, or read, or just needed alone time. We initially were attempting to get two interconnecting cabins, because we didn't feel that our boys were old enough to be entirely on their own without adult supervision for long periods of time. And because we were finding it somewhat difficult to meet the 'interconnecting' requirement', we decided to look at some of the more expensive suites as well.

As we fine-tuned some of the details of finding the right accommodations, we realized that the rates were working more in our favor, the longer we took to decide. At the same time I was trying to find good prices on flights, with connections that would work, when I decided to try my luck at using the cruise lines flight options. In the end, we ended up saving so significantly on both the flights and the cruise costs that we were able to afford the penthouse suite, which met all of our criteria and then some (it was offered at a really steep discount because it was still vacant very close to cruise time). When we calculated the cost of the one penthouse suite compared to that of two lesser suites or cabins in close proximity, it was really a wash, and the added amenities of the penthouse suite were so significant, that it didn't make financial sense not to book it! Below I've included a photo gallery of our trip. The penthouse suite was by far, the most luxurious accommodations that we had ever experienced, so I've included a lot of photos of that, as well as random pictures on board the ship, which was beautiful at every turn.

Some of the more fabulous views within the Millennium

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The living room (and boy's bedroom) of our penthouse suiteAnother view of the living room looking out unto the balconyOur balcony from the exterior, which took up half of the front end of the ship.An exterior shot of the opposite or back end of the shipSome of the elaborate food displays for one of the 2 formal eveningsSome of the crew members performed a funny skit as a pre-ceremony to going through the Panama CanalSitting out on the balconyA cocktail party our neighbors arranged before one of the formal dinners.More pretty foodThe outdoor pool deck on the Millennium
The living room (and boy's bedroom) of our penthouse suite
The living room (and boy's bedroom) of our penthouse suite
Another view of the living room looking out unto the balcony
Another view of the living room looking out unto the balcony
Our balcony from the exterior, which took up half of the front end of the ship.
Our balcony from the exterior, which took up half of the front end of the ship.
An exterior shot of the opposite or back end of the ship
An exterior shot of the opposite or back end of the ship
Some of the elaborate food displays for one of the 2 formal evenings
Some of the elaborate food displays for one of the 2 formal evenings
Some of the crew members performed a funny skit as a pre-ceremony to going through the Panama Canal
Some of the crew members performed a funny skit as a pre-ceremony to going through the Panama Canal
Sitting out on the balcony
Sitting out on the balcony
A cocktail party our neighbors arranged before one of the formal dinners.
A cocktail party our neighbors arranged before one of the formal dinners.
More pretty food
More pretty food
The outdoor pool deck on the Millennium
The outdoor pool deck on the Millennium

What We Learned the Hard Way

Shore Excursion 101

We felt that once we'd booked the cruise and flights that there was nothing more to do but look forward to our trip. In general that was true, but we did discover one aspect that we could have done in advance that would have made our trip even more enjoyable. We knew nothing of the shore excursion process, other than that it existed, and there was a listing on the website of the excursions that would be available for our cruise. We were encouraged to preregister online, to provide our preboarding information, but I started that process, and it was a lot of work, and I basically decided just to let our travel agent do the bare minimum and accomplish whatever else needed to be done when we arrived. That was all well and good, and everything went smoothly for our embarkation, but when we got to our amazing suite, we didn't really notice the little stack of papers and brochures that were stacked up on an end table, and everyone wanted to vacate, so we didn't bother to read thru what appeared to be about a books worth of papers. Included amongst the stack was a fairly thick pamphlet of all of the times, and types of shore excursions, including pricing.

Shore excursions aren't exactly cheap, but not outrageously expensive either. And there were just so many options, that when we finally did get around to looking at the stack, it took hours and hours to cull through the options, discuss them with everyone, and agree on what we wanted to reserve. When we called to place our reservations, we were disappointed to discover that many of the excursions that we wanted to join were already completely booked. Since we had our own private butler, (he came with the suite and we really didn't know what to do with him other than just chat), we decided to ask him if he had any pull with the excursion department. He didn't. He felt really bad and explained to us how the excursions that are most popular get filled up really fast and people are encouraged to preregister online and prebook those if they really want to do them.

They allow you to do this up to 6 months prior to sailing! I generally don't even know what I'm going to do next week, so this concept was a tough one to grasp. But we ultimately did find some excursions that were suitable alternatives to our original choices, and there was one or two of the original ones that were available, so all in all everything was just fine. But a few years later, when we decided to take another cruise, under similar circumstances, we didn't entirely learn this lesson either. We did at least quickly scan through the the vast offerings in advance that second time, and did preregister for a really fabulous one that looked like it would get sold out fast, but that was the only one we chose to preserve.

The Pros and Cons of Cruises - First the Pros

  • It's a 1 Stop Vacation - and by that I mean, not moving around every few days to a new destination. This ended up being a huge benefit for me personally, since I pack a lot of 'stuff' and I really slow down the whole family by the time it takes me to pack, unpack and get settled, repack, and schlep our luggage along everywhere we go. The 1 step concept allows you to really relax and 'vacate'. Our typical travel scenario involved selecting a cluster of destinations on our wish list of places to visit, and the daily drudgery of constantly packing and unpacking, and planning detailed 'real time' driving routes since the general routes we preplanned oftentimes had to be reworked due to variance in local conditions. Then the daily stress of navigating, getting lost a lot, and arguing when everyone is stressed and can't even read the road signs and instant decisions need to be made, invariably leading us to chose the wrong alternative and putting us a few hours off course for the day. And if we hadn't prearranged lodging, (which can become burdensome too because if you prebook it you better try to make it there or lose your deposit, but if you haven't, there may be nothing available, or you may spend hours trying to find somewhere to sleep for a night or two), but regardless of your choice I think it's obvious that the time spent doing these things can take away from the time you have available for more pleasurable activities.
  • More Sociable - Everyone in our family had opportunities to make some friends during the cruise, which was not something we even thought about in advance, but definitely added to the 'enjoyment' quotient.
  • Visits to Many Places you'd Otherwise Never See - Unbeknownst to us, cruises are actually extremely 'action packed', especially if you choose shore excursions for each port of call, and even if you don't, but decide to explore each port independently, your time just seems to evaporate. My approach is that this is a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity to experience something that I may never have a chance to experience again, therefore it's difficult for me to pass on getting off the ship at each port and exploring. Since you have a limited amount of time there, usually one day, except for major ports where the ship may anchor for 2 or 3 days, if you want to get a good overview of the destination, you need to use your shore time wisely. The well thought out itineraries for the shore excursions really allow you to maximize the limited time you do have in each port, and the variety offered doesn't leave anyone out, little kids, less mobile grandparents, and even tours conducted in languages other than English are included in the offerings!
  • A Few Relaxing Days - There are generally a few days sprinkled into the itinerary which are 'cruising' days only. These definitely helped me to 'recharge' and organize myself and my thoughts, and helped to balance out the hectic days. We are leaving for a Mediterranean Cruise in April, and I'm already concerned that there aren't enough 'sailing' days, and trying to figure out which of the 8 or 9 ports we'll be stopping at that I should skip or just explore independently (with my husband though).
  • Numerous On Board Daily Activities (unlike the shore excursions, which are usually contracted out to local businesses, the on board activities are almost always free, plentiful, cater to widely diverse interests, and are hard to chose between because there are some many interesting choices. And we were worried we'd be bored!

Sunrise pulling into port

Sunrise pulling into port
Sunrise pulling into port

A Few More Pros

There were so many pros I was advised to break up the list with the picture. So now...back to the pros.

  • Opportunity to Learn About Ship Living - We discovered that cruise ships are basically 'traveling cities', which offer everything from the traditional activities that people associate with cruises, to meeting every lifestyle need necessary to a serve an extremely diversified international population, which include a huge crew. The infrastructure is simply amazing, and we took advantage of our free days to explore and learn from everything and everyone around us.
  • Opportunity to Learn about the Economic and Business Aspects of this Unique Culture - My husband, who's an entrepreneur, and who was apparently overlooked when they were pacing out the genes that allow one to relax, found countless opportunities to learn about the many complex layers of business interactions, and inner workings of the 'ship' economics. It was definitely one of the aspects that won him over, and allowed him to view cruise types of vacations more favorably.
  • Pre-Scope Destinations for Future Travel - This really should be at the top of this list, but my main goal with this lens is to help out other moms who are racing to figure out what to do with their family's Easter or Spring Break holiday. I can't emphasize enough how much this has repeatedly helped us to choose future destinations for more focused, or in-depth vacations. In addition, as I touched on briefly in the introduction, this is a great way to visit places that you just would not be able to visit any other way, or learn about isolated destinations that you never would have considered before.
  • Opportunities to Learn and Incorporate Healthy Lifestyle Habits - In addition to the vast Spa and Dining options on board, there are also well trained, oftentimes self employed, personnel specializing in a plethora of ancillary fields. Everything from acupuncture, to nutritionists and personal trainers, who offer free group training, or (usually fee based) individual 'counseling' to help you address any annoying aspect of yourself that you've been avoiding working on. The workout facilities were huge and unbelievably gorgeous. The Millennium's Fitness Center took up one level of the entire front end of the ship, and was surrounded by floor to ceiling glass on three sides. The 'vibe' of the facility was alluring, even to a self ascribed couch potato like me, and I actually wanted to work out! They do have age limits for kids to be there without their parents, but these are flexible, and we found with our younger son, who loved all the offerings, that through booking a few sessions with a personal trainer for him, they got to know him, and subsequently overlooked the age limits. This was for him personally, a huge turning point in his life. Those sessions with the trainer really sank in, he worked out religiously every day, and actually began a physical transformation that quite literally defines a part of who he is today as a young man.

Our Tour of the Kitchen

Our Tour of the Kitchen
Our Tour of the Kitchen

Next the Cons

  • Motion Sickness or Seasickness Potential - If you've ever experienced motion sickness, than you know you need to plan in advance how to handle this. This is easy to do, and I have a section below dedicated to just this subject, because I'm prone to severe motion sickness, and in fact it was one of the main reasons that we never seriously considered taking a cruise previously. But if you have this knowledge in advance, and even if you don't (i.e. no one in your family has experienced motion sickness in the past), it's still a good idea to pre-plan for the possibility and pack a few alternatives 'just in case'.
  • Too Little Time at Ports - This is a double-edged sword with the pros being listed in the previous section, but the 'con' is you are sometimes left feeling that you didn't have enough time to explore and learn about a place. My best way of coping with this feeling is by reading. I like to read at least one travel guide for the 1st and the last ports because adding a few days onto each end of the cruise, for me at least, is what makes cruise so extremely get to have the 'best of both worlds, so to speak. In addition, you can learn an amazing amount about each port with just the cruise company's website and excursion literature. You miss a lot of the historical information, but in today's mobile society, that's really easy to acquire en-route.
  • Too Little Time to Relax - Really! It's exactly the opposite of what I thought, and why we considered ourselves, 'Non-Cruise People'.
  • The Experience Raises the Bar for Future Vacations - OK, that was partly because of the amazing suite we had (and the accompanying level of service), but for us at least, it did change in some intangible way that I can't explain well yet, our perceptions of everything from 'luxury' and dining, to 'productivity quotient' (for lack of a better phrase), that has an impact on how we go about planning and executing our travel vacations now.

Going Through the Panama Canal

Going Through the Panama Canal
Going Through the Panama Canal
Pilot boat in the canal
Pilot boat in the canal

Going Through The Panama Canel was Amazing!

The experience was an unanticipated side benefit to our first cruise experience.

We didn't know anything about the process of going through the Panama Canal beforehand, and really didn't think much about it at the time. But it ended up being one of the best things about that first cruise for several reasons.

The first was that going through the canal actually takes the better part of a day. Ships line up, 2x2, in front of the canal, and there is some sort of queuing process that we didn't entirely understand, but our ship was kind of 'paired up' with a container vessel from northern Europe. And as we made our way through the lock system (that may not be the correct term, but you get the idea), everyone from our ship and the crew of that ship stood outside to watch the progress. There were parties on peoples balconies, a big party sponsored by the ship personnel on one of the upper decks by the pool, and a smaller party on our balcony attended by some of the travelers staying in cabins around ours.

The crew of our sister ship tried to communicate with us, but it was not clear what language they were speaking, and our attempts to communicate seemed futile. We had set out snacks, beverages and a bowl of fruit, and the sailors from our sister ship manged to use sign language to tell us that they were hungry too. So both of our boys grabbed a piece of fruit from the bowl and attempted to throw it across to them. The first tries were fell short, and landed in the ocean, but one finally made it across, and everyone close by on both ships cheered. We hadn't even been aware that so many viewers were watching the activity. But the cheering was enough to egg on the crew member to try to toss it back. What ensued was a ship wide game of catch, with fruit, that occupied many of the cruise customers, as well as much of the container crew. It was a a lot of fun until a supervisor of the container crew realized that most of his crew was goofing off, and came out and yelled at everyone to get back to work!

The other thing that made it so fascinating was the webcams that they have positioned at three points along the canal. This was before cell phones were widely used, but we did have access to a very expensive internet connection that we used as little as possible. We were able to email our family members back in the states of our position, and they were able to actually spot us throwing fruit, and that was pretty cool!

A few of the pictures which we took during our shore excursions - Several photos are just pretty shots of the countryside, mostly in Ecuador

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is the only shot that I know for sure was in Chile
This is the only shot that I know for sure was in Chile
This is the only shot that I know for sure was in Chile image and information Transderm Scop Patch image and information Transderm Scop Patch

There are Many Different ways to Address Motion Sickness

Some of the motion sickness methods I tried on our South American Cruise

As I’ve matured, my sensitivity to motion sickness has become more pronounced, so much so that sometimes even bumpy, longer landings on airplanes bother me. I’ve tried most remedies available in the US, from homeopathic to prescription patches. I had tried Sea Bands, a low tech acupressure device, and found that they never worked for me. I never travel without carrying two types of Dramamine in my purse, the Original Formula, for long flights when I want to sleep, and the Less Drowsy Formula (sometimes called Non-Drowsy) for when I don’t. The Non- Drowsy formula does still make you drowsy, it just doesn’t knock you out the way the Original Formula does. But for longer term events like a cruise, I don’t like taking medication every day…especially medication that makes me drowsy!

My doctor prescribed a patch for me to wear during our first cruise that was intended to manage my motion sickness. It was called the Transderm Scop patch. It’s only available by prescription, and it looks like a flesh colored disk about the size of a nickel. The patch, for me, work very well! I put it behind my ear where my hair hid it fairly well, even though my hair at that time was quite short. One patch lasts for about 72 hours. I wore it during the first days of the cruise and I had no feelings of queasiness, but we also didn’t experience any rough seas.

After several days, when it was time to change the patch, I decided to try going without it, and I’m glad I did. I was completely fine, until we hit bad weather several days later. We were pre-warned that bad weather was imminent, so I prepared for it by putting on a new patch. It's beneficial with most motion sickness remedies to start using them before you actually become ‘seasick’. In this instance, because I was prepared, the stormy seas had no negative effect on me.

What I realized after removing the patch, was that the patches had been making me extremely thirsty. I obviously knew I was extra thirsty…I just didn’t know why, and other family members weren’t giving me a good sense of whether or not they were also thirstier than usual. I wasn't sure if the air onboard the ship was particularly dry, or if the food may have contained more salt than I was used to. But I discovered during my first patch-free period, that it was the patch that was making me so thirsty. This side effect didn't render the patches unusable for me. After all, being excessively thirsty is better than being seasick. But it did make the patches less desirable for my purposes. Because of the old, what goes in must come out adage, drinking a lot of water meant that I was constantly looking for 'facilities'. These were easily found on board, but during the many shore excursions off board, that was not the case. It's a little surprising how one minor side effect could impact my opinion so greatly.

Link to additional information about the prescription patch I used is a popular, comprehensive and up-to-date source of drug information online. Providing free, peer-reviewed, accurate and independent data on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines & natural products.

The Features of my Relief Band
The Features of my Relief Band

I Exhaustively Researched Alternative Methods to Address Motion Sickness Prior to This Cruise

I Was Intrigued with One Possible Solution Called the "Relief Band' So I Ordered One to Bring Along

The section following this provides much more information on the science behind the Relief Band, as well as some of the history regarding the product. My aim in this section is to describe how I originally learned about the Relief Band, and how I approached using it initially.

On that first cruise, I over-cautiously planned and used a mutli-pronged approach whenever bad weather was anticipated. My previous encounters with seasickness, were in a word, awful, and I wanted no part in revisiting that nightmare! As our cruise progressed, and my (somewhat debilitating) fear of motion sickness resolved some, I decided to try out the new Relief Band I'd brought along. My previous experience with Sea Bands had not been great, so I was somewhat concerned that the Relief Band would offer similar results, because it operates in a somewhat similar fashion. By that I mean that there are accu-pressure points in your wrist, that can theoretically help manage to manage your sensitivity to motion sickness. The Sea Bands just apply pressure on these points, but the Relief Band goes a step further and sends little electronic pulses to these accu-pressure points.

Following up my multi-pronged approach, I decided to test out the Relief Band all alone. I chose a time where the weather forecast predicted some slight turbulence. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I experienced no ill effects from the slight rolling motion brought about by this weather. In a separate incident, encouraged by my earlier success, (but still somewhat skeptical overall), I relied on just the Relief Band when more severe weather was encountered one night while we were sleeping. I was ultimately thrilled to determine that all of my tests, confirmed for me at least, that the Relief Band I had purchased for this cruise was the obvious winner amongst all of the possible solutions I tried. From that point on, I never needed to resort to using any of the other aids I'd armed myself with at the outset.

Pictures of my old Relief Band and New Reletex Band

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The original Relief Band which cost around $100My new Reletex Band which cost $225Literature from the new band about the company that makes it (they also make the original Relief Band)
The original Relief Band which cost around $100
The original Relief Band which cost around $100
My new Reletex Band which cost $225
My new Reletex Band which cost $225
Literature from the new band about the company that makes it (they also make the original Relief Band)
Literature from the new band about the company that makes it (they also make the original Relief Band)

Reletex Anti-Nausea Neuromodulating Device - This is the predecessor to the Relief Band

The Relief Band and the newer Reletex Band both work the same way. They are similar to Sea Bands in that they are placed on the same acupressure point on the inside of your wrist. Unlike the Sea Band, which relies just on pressure, these two devices emit an electronic signal similar to a TENS Unit, that you can vary the strength of. They are kind of weird feeling at first, and I learned about these before I learned about TENS Units and how amazing they can be for relieving sciatic pain, but the sensation is very similar (probably because the technology is the same type of electronic stimulation). I don't know much more about the technology, but I do know that this actually works, and works so well that it's FDA approved and used in medical settings to treat post surgical nausea.

Because this new device was developed for medical use, it requires a prescription to purchase it (apparently it's electronic signals are stronger than the earlier model which needed no prescription). But Aeromedixrx has a Doctor on staff that writes the prescription for you, and I don't think that's a 'warning signal' about possible illegalities, because I don't think there is anything inherently dangerous about using this type of device.

After wearing it for about 5 minutes you really forget that you have it on. This current model is expensive and comes 2 ways: either with a 60 or a 150 hour battery, which is self contained and cannot be replaced. The prices are $150 and $225 respectively. I purchased mine using the link below, and was happy to do so because until this product came out, there was nothing like this on the market for maybe 5 to 7 years.

It's unclear why the original Relief Band was taken off the of the market. It used two large button cell batteries that could be replaced. The one I purchased for our South American Cruise was poorly constructed. It worked great, but it kept coming apart on one side, and although that didn't keep it from working, it just bugged me because it looked even weirder this way! I was so thrilled with it that I started using it for every occasion that could cause motion sickness for me, and it worked well for anything that I tried it with. At one point I decided to try and replace it in the hopes that a new one would keep opening up on one side, and that was when I discovered that they were no longer available.

On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I had a lot of motion sickness issues in little planes, and even driving on winding mountainous roads, and discovered this newer device on line while I was there. I hadn't thought to bring the Relief Band with me for that trip. When we got home I found my mobile bookmark and talked to a physician friend who was going to write a prescription for me to get the new one, but ultimately I didn't need him to do that since they do that for you at their site. I don't have any affiliation with them or with the product, (I kind of wish I did because it's amazing!) I'm a new Squidoo member and don't know a lot about affiliating yet, and maybe in time I'll learn how to do that.

Upon Googling 'Relief Band' I discovered another product on Amazon which I'll provide a link to below this using the Amazon module. It's a lot less expensive, roughly $36, but there are mixed review for it.

Also below, I'm posting a link to a You Tube Video that I found that describes the technology behind the original Relief Band.

YouTube Video About How the Relief Band Works

The Crystal Serenity was the ship we were on
The Crystal Serenity was the ship we were on

We recently returned from our first cruise as an empty-nesting couple.

We celebrated 25 years of marriage together this year as well.

My husband and I never wanted to go on vacations without our kids. In today's hectic world, we felt that any time we could share together, as a family, was an opportunity to strengthen the bonds that all too soon would be tested by the turmoils of teen angst, generational differences, and ultimately the challenges of time and distance. So it was with some trepidation that we embarked upon our first solo vacation together as a couple. We chose a cruise for many of the reasons I discussed above, but also for some new ones we hadn't considered before. We also chose a cruise line that we felt catered more to our demographic, and that quite frankly we didn't feel was affordable for a family.

Our cruise was to the Mediterranean. Beginning in Barcelona, and ending up in Venice. It was the gift he gave me for our anniversary that I mentioned above. Since I don't want to bore you with more vacation photos and details, I'll forgo doing a slideshow. But what I wanted to share was how beneficial we found it to be on a solo vacation together sans kids. And how exhausted we were trying to keep up with the hectic daily schedule of arriving to a new port each morning, spending the day learning about a new place we would never have had the opportunity to visit on our own, and then the luxury of coming back to our cozy room, resting up for a few hours, and later joining out table-mates (selected by the ship's staff) and spending the evening enjoying amazing food, wine and company. Often followed by attending an evening performance, which, even though we were tired and would have preferred go to sleep, we always were really happy that we chose to go to instead of sleeping!

The experience confirmed in our minds how wrong we were with our initial assumptions about cruising, and how fortunate we were to be able to learn this while we could still enjoy many of the more strenuous aspects that cruises offer as opportunities.

Binoculars are Really Really Great to Bring - yes I meant to type 2 reallys

On our first cruise, there was a pair of binoculars provided in our cabin for us to use, and we also brought a small pair along. The day that we went through the Panama Canal, everyone on board was out on balconies watching our passage because it was so interesting. In all it took about half a day to navigate through the canal and we went through these channels where there was another ship right next to us going through a parallel channel at the same rate as us. Since there were several 'channel' events like this, we had different ships alongside us at different points. Most of them were huge container barges with crews from various countries, but not usually English speaking ones. One of the boys came out onto our balcony eating a banana, and one of the crew members from the ship 'next door' motioned that he'd like one too. My son went and got a banana for him as well as some other fruit and they started to play catch, from ship to ship, with fruit as balls.

Because literally everyone onboard our ship was out on a balcony that day, the game caught on, and soon there were lots of cruise passengers playing catch with, in this case German crew members from our neighboring container ship! It was really cool.

Another thing that was cool was being able to see Panama, the country, from onboard the ship with binoculars, because the channels are very narrow, and we were very close to land for the better part of a day. It was almost like we got to visit Panama too!

But what was the absolute coolest thing that day was this.We brought a laptop for the family to share on the trip, but didn't use it all that much because Internet usage fees were really high. But we did research the canal passage a bit the day before, and learned that there were several webcams setup long the canal. We emailed all of our relatives with approximate times of when we'd be passing by them, and then as we got close, emailed everyone again with links to the webcams. We had our own problems spotting the webcams themselves, because they were tiny. But at one point we received an email from my sister saying they could see a ship that looked like the German container barge on the webcam, but they couldn't see our ship.

Because our balcony was so large, and the camera so small, we were frustrated trying to find it, until one of our neighbors in the cabin next door (the same ones that had the cocktail party), came over to check things out from our balcony, which had the prime view on the ship (purely my speculation here). They were cruise experts compared to us, and told us to try their binoculars, which looked to be about the same size as ours. But the difference on what we could see was astounding, and through the use of their binoculars, we were able to find the webcam, and wave in the right direction. We got emails from our relatives saying they could see us and telling us what we were wearing!!!! It was the coolest experience ever!

I vowed to learn more about binoculars and get a good pair if we ever went on another cruise. I even wrote down all the technical jargon our neighbors provided us with, telling us what features to look for in a good pair of binoculars. about then I lost the information before I actually purchased any. So now that we are going on another cruise, and there's a birthday coming up, I decided to research binoculars and find the right kind before we go.

Who knew there were so many kinds of binoculars and how expensive they could be? The links I'm providing below are from my initial research on Amazon. But as I narrow in on understanding all of the technical jargon, I will be changing theses links, to define a subset in each price range that I think are the best. Initially I'm including the pairs that received the highest customer reviews in three price categories.

Bushnell Falcon 10x50 Wide Angle Binoculars (Black)
Bushnell Falcon 10x50 Wide Angle Binoculars (Black)
Most great reviews for a really inexpensive pair.
Bushnell H2O 10x42 Waterproof/Fogproof Binocular w/Roof Prism
Bushnell H2O 10x42 Waterproof/Fogproof Binocular w/Roof Prism
A step up in price with similar great review.
Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization II Binoculars w/Case, Neck Strap & Batteries
Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization II Binoculars w/Case, Neck Strap & Batteries
Best pair I found in the mid price category (but really the high end category because I can't imagine spending thousands of dollars on a pair of binos for the occasional cruise...even with my lousy eyesight.
amarey Optik 10x42 EL Range Water Proof Roof Prism Binocular with 6.3 Degree Angle of View & Laser Rangefinder, USA
amarey Optik 10x42 EL Range Water Proof Roof Prism Binocular with 6.3 Degree Angle of View & Laser Rangefinder, USA
This is the most expensive pair of binos (see I'm learning the jargon?) that Amazon sells that has received a lot of great written reviews.
ZEISS 20x60 Classic S Image Stabilization Binoculars
ZEISS 20x60 Classic S Image Stabilization Binoculars
This is the most expensive pair of 'regular' binos I found on Amazon (and by regular, I mean actually binoculars, and not monoculars!)

Give a Cruise as a Gift - I received cruise as a Christmas Gift from my Husband this Year

He printed out some of the literature about the cruise, including a deck plan showing our cabin and the shore excursion book (which was 64 pages long!) He also included travel books on the two main ports that we'd be spending a few additional days at. He put everything in one box and wrapped it up, thus saving himself from unnecessary wrapping. But another way to do it, since cruises aren't cheap and there's a good chance that it's the only present you'll be giving if you gift someone a cruise, is to get a few small items related to it, and wrap each individually.

Below I've given links for various books on cruises and for binoculars, which is another great gift to give anyone who will be taking a cruise.

Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2013
Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2013
This is a newer edition of a book that we really like.
15 Tips for Saving Money on Your Disney Cruise Line Vacation (Building Blocks For A Great Disney Vacation Book 2)
15 Tips for Saving Money on Your Disney Cruise Line Vacation (Building Blocks For A Great Disney Vacation Book 2)
An in expensive ebook specifically for Disney Cruises, which we never experienced. But friends of ours did, and Disney Cruise Line has a huge following and great reputation.
The Truth About Cruise Ships: A Cruise Ship Officer Survives the Work, Adventure, Alcohol, and Sex of Ship Life
The Truth About Cruise Ships: A Cruise Ship Officer Survives the Work, Adventure, Alcohol, and Sex of Ship Life
This book is kindof trashy, but it's a true story written by an ex-ship officer, and has a ton of controversial reviews, but a lot seems to be true. Plus the kindle version is $3, so I might pic it up for myself when we go on our Mediterranean cruise.
Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship
Permanent Passenger: My Life on a Cruise Ship
I found this book at another site then searched for it in Amazon because it looks really good and it was hardcover at the other site.

A few links to help save time in planning a family vacation on short notice

I've also included the link to the great lens on Motion Sickness products here.

If you've taken a cruise I'd love to know more about it. We have taken one other family cruise since this one, and it was about 2 years later, to the Baltic Sea, also with Celebrity. All of it was awesome, but my favorite destinations were St. Petersburg and Moscow (we flew to Moscow from St. Petersburg on a very long shore excursion. It was amazing!


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