by Betty Jo Riggs /
Betty Jo Riggs's picture
Feb 25, 2010 / 0 comments

It was a Christmas to remember.  In the fall, our son and his wife decided they wanted to share the fun and excitement of a cruise with Emma, 10, and Rose, 8.  Both sets of grandparents were invited to take part in the surprise.

It took some monumental zipping of lips to pull it off, but we persevered.  Mom and Dad had the task of packing and loading the car while circumnavigating around the girls' curious eyes. Who could have guessed this would have to be accomplished while the girls were at home due to the first snow days of the season in Baltimore?

Mom explained they would all pick up Dad from work near Washington and then go to a mall to finish Christmas shopping.  Dad took over the steering wheel, but he bypassed the first mall.  Too crowded.  So was the next.  And the next.  They stopped in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for dinner where Emma noticed the interstate sign signaled "South."

"Turn around, Dad!  We're going the wrong way!"

"Oh, let's just go on down the road and explore a little.  Maybe we'll even stay overnight in a motel."

"But, but. . .we don't have any clothes or toothbrushes,"
piped up Rosie.  This was definitely not the usual day of careful planning and laid out schedules in their family.  No wonder the girls were confused and disoriented.

By the time they crossed the Florida border, Emma and Rose now were confident that their Christmas surprise would be a visit to the set of grandparents wintering in that state.  But, no.  Not to be.  Dad kept driving towards Miami.  Mom explained it would be much too late to see Grandmom and Grandpop that night.  Maybe tomorrow.

But since they were already in the Miami area, how about a bit of sightseeing?  And what a sight they saw.  Little eyes nearly popped when they viewed the gigantic cruise ship from Biscayne Boulevard.  And then, when Dad pulled in to the cruise line.  Well, excitement reigned, and hearts beat in a rapid duet.

Inside the terminal, the Florida Grandmom and Grandpop waited.  Hugs and kisses all around and all agreeing that this was definitely going to be the very best Christmas ever.  That's when Rosie glanced out the window and saw a woman with an outfit "just like Grandma's.  And she's got a purse like that, too.  Wait a minute, that's Grandma Riggs!"

But the surprises of arrival couldn't match the enchantment of exploring the big ship.  Elevators and long, long hallways.  A mini golf on deck.  Buffets where you could pick out just about anything you wanted to eat.  There was mini golf on deck, and a complete water park on top. 


Carnival Cruise Waterpark

Carnival Cruise Waterpark



Then, just like the grown-ups, you dressed in party clothes for dinner where the server treated you like princesses.  You could order from the adult menu and taste new treats like strawberry soup or enjoy picture perfect fruit plates.  Even the grandmas could order molten chocolate delights at every dinner, and no one ever cautioned about eating healthy.


Carnival Cruise Dinner



Then after dinner, you could stay up late and watch singers and dancers entertain.  Emma even got to be on stage for a Christmas Eve special show. You could join the kids' club, but it was more fun being together with family.


Carnival Cruise



Exploring on shore was thrilling, too.  Strolling through Key West hanging tight on to grandfathers' hands and spending your own vacation money for tee shirts or magnets was much fun. It was certainly a different Christmas Day.


red flowers



And then, Mexico?  A foreign country?  What wonders to view Cozumel's coral reef and glimpse scuba divers and snorkelers from underneath as you sat in the bottom of a glass-sided boat. And look at that Christmas tree under the palm trees!


 Christmas Tree



Oh, Santa found us all this Christmas and delivered up very special memories to store.


Betty Jo Riggs is the Co-Editor of Retiree Travel for Wandering Educators