Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dreams DO Come True!

Oh hello there.  Have I mentioned yet how extremely depressed I am to be back from vacation?  I mean it's on par with planning a wedding.  This vacation has been in the making since before any of us had kids.  It is also the first real vacation Andy and I have had since we had the girls.  Truth is as much as I love my family, going to visit them doesn't really count for "vacation".  At least not the kind I like to dream of.  Sorry guys.  So yeah, now I'm home and having to do the daily grind again and discovering I really should have been a Real Housewife of Orange County, with lots of money, full time maids, expensive cars and fancy vacations.  Instead here I am.  A Real Housewife of Burbank complete with mini van and visits to Florida just to see family.  Not quite the same.  Oh well.  I did, however, get to swim with a dolphin on my real vacation.  A memory that will get me through the long days of breaking up fights and sorting through laundry. 

The cruise we took went to the Western Caribbean.  We stopped at Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Disney's Island, Castaway Cay.  Castaway Cay was easily my favorite place we went on the trip.  It was a perfect island on a perfect summer day with white sand beaches and crystal clear water.  We snorkeled, swam, ate and of course, drank.  It was the perfect beach day and I loved it.  However, in Cozumel we got the chance to swim with a dolphin.  Even though Castaway Cay was my favorite day on land, as far as favorite experience of the trip, it was dolphins all the way. 

 For those of you who don't know me, I love dolphins.  They are my favorite animal and yes, I have a tattoo of one.  I know-how cliche.   I don't care, they are such amazing creatures.  For years I've been looking forward to taking this trip for so many reasons, but especially because I could go on this particular excursion.  It was a bucket list item of mine.   I signed Andy, Sonya and I up to swim with the dolphins and the two little girls to do a "dolphin experience" with my parents.  They were to little to do the swim.  Plus they can't really swim still, sooo there's that.  Sonya just learned to swim last summer, but she insisted that she wanted to do it and she would have a life jacket so I figured it should be fine right?  At least I always hope for the best.

We arrived at the place where we were going to swim with the dolphins and it was a huge area of ocean surrounded by a chain link fence to close off the rest of the ocean, so the dolphins couldn't get out.  Or bigger animals couldn't get in. (Yes the theme song to Jaws quickly went through my head, but I pushed it out.)  Regular little old fish could get in, but who cares about those?  Apparently my daughter.  

First they gave us a little orientation on what to expect and how we were going to swim with the dolphins.  We were separated into groups, since there was a big group of us from the ship.  Fortunately, our swim group ended up being small with  Andy, Sonya, me,  my sister Beth and her two older kids, Zach and Grace.  Beth's youngest, Ben, wasn't old enough to do anything but observe, so her husband, Kevin stayed with him on the dock and took awesome pictures for us.  (Thanks again Kevin!)  Another father and daughter were added to our group to make it a bit bigger but  still smaller than the rest.  

We walked to our area and met the trainer than got in the water to meet our dolphin Porrrrrtos. (roll those R's as you say it)  I took his name as a good sign because Portos just happens to be my favorite bakery/cafe here in Burbank.  Oh the cheese rolls!  I digress.  We all walked into the water and waited on a platform against the chain link fence separating us from the rest of the ocean. (Da nun, da nun-Stop it!) That's when Sonya's anxiety started.  First she couldn't really touch the platform.  No matter Sonya, you have a life jacket.  Then, since it's the OCEAN, it was a little wavy.  Calm down, you're fine.  Then there was the fish.  OH MY GOD! THERE WERE FISH!!  Yes, Sonya, this is the ocean and the chain link fence will not keep them out.  You are fine.  Ignore the Jaws theme playing in my head.  Good thing SHE'S never seen the movie.

Then I had a flashback of me about her age on vacation at a water park in Florida.  The slides were mostly in the ocean if I recall.  I was about to go down a small water slide and my dad was at the bottom to catch me, but I refused to go because there were FISH in the water.  I completely freaked out and refused to slide, which resulted in my Dad becoming frustrated and me dissolving to tears.  I tried to empathize with her and help take her mind off of them.  It helped that there was this awesome mammal swimming around, doing tricks and giving us kisses.  But she was even a little hesitant to do anything with the dolphin.  

Instead she took her time and watched the rest of us.  Andy was one of the first to go and he was a pro.

Andy's ride

Then my seven year old nephew, who is on the swim team at home, was told to swim out a bit.  This way the dolphin could have enough room to pull him back in.  So my sister said to him,

"Swim out Zach.   Like you do on swim team."

She might as well have said, "Swim Forrest, Swim!"  Because that is all Zach did.  He started swimming and didn't stop.  I think he was trying to swim back to the other side.  We all tried yelling his name to get him to stop, but with the noise of the ocean he didn't hear us at all.  Eventually Andy had to swim out to get his attention.  Well, my sister told him to swim like on the swim team.  He was really only doing what he was told.  

Zach also had a little trouble staying on the board.
After Zach was pulled in by Porrrrtos, it was my turn.  I was so excited and a tiny bit nervous.  I had already gotten to know Portos a bit through a kiss and I got to hold him, but now he was going to swim me into the platform. 

He was like a big puppy dog

He loved me

Gracie and my sister, Beth
 I waited out in the open water and he was given the signal by the trainer.  He swam out and around me and flipped over on his back.  I grabbed both his flippers and his strong body pulled me quickly through the water.  It was AWESOME!  I loved every second of it.  I also went out on a boggie board and he pushed me back in by my feet.  Also fun, but I liked the first swim better.  

Swimming with Portos

Going for a ride

Finally, Sonya was the only one left to go.  She was still anxious.  I think she was more afraid of the deep water and the fish, but also nervous about the dolphin.  He was a huge ocean creature that we all were totally trusting.  To be honest though, I never once felt scared of the dolphin in any way.  He was like a Golden Retriever.   I told Sonya I would swim out with her and she agreed.  I talked to her the whole way, telling her it was fun and she could do this.  Not sure she believe me because this was her expression as she waited for Portos to arrive.  

Nervously waiting-can you tell?

Okay, she may have been a tiny bit scared, but turns out she loved it.  

She loved it enough to go back and be pushed in on the boogie board, which resulted in my favorite picture of the entire vacation.  

It's a little blurry, but the look on her face is absolutely priceless.  


We all ended up having a fantastic time.  My little ones were only a few feet over in one of the smaller sections with  my parents and my sister Megan and her family.  They were able to get up close to touch and see a different dolphin and her BABY!  They got to be in with a baby dolphin!!  Okay, I was a little jealous when I found out, but I did get to SWIM with a dolphin, so I got over it.  They all had a great time, although according to my mom, Lana almost bailed when she saw she was going to be IN the water with them.  Luckily, my mom is a first grade teacher and doesn't back down in the face of a stubborn six year old.   She talked Lana into it and in the end she loved it. They also told me that Georgia was fearless from the beginning and would probably have done the swim if we let her.  She does seem to be the most adventurous of my three.    

So yes, one item on my bucket list now checked off on the best vacation ever.  Not really sure what the other items on my list are though.  This was pretty much it.  Well, that along with meeting Jon Bon Jovi someday.  I know, I have high aspirations don't I?  

No comments: