Anyone else hear Tyrese singing "Lately"? Just me? Ok... time for another photo dump catch up. We celebrated Mother's Day weekend with a trip to a local winery for a tasting and enjoyed the live music and corn hole before heading to Universal for the rest of the day. 

This past weekend, Lil' Miss had her gymnastics Olympics where she had a routine on all 4 apparatus - balance beam, vault, floor and uneven bars. Her favorite has always been the bars, and she rocked it!

We also spent the day at our favorite hidden gem in the Orlando area - Wekiva Island. If you're in Central Florida for vacation, this is the perfect spot to take a break from the theme parks and tourist attractions and enjoy a day by the water. They have an on-site bar, food truck, cabana rentals, beach volleyball court and canoe, kayak and stand up paddle board rentals. We always bring our own floats, and before you know it we're jumping in to cool off too. It's only $2 to enter the park and enjoy what the locals call the real part of Florida. 

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Recent Favs

I am in disbelief that Lil' Miss only has 1 week left of Kindergarten and we are celebrating my husband's 40th birthday. We are excited to check out a new-to-us destination in celebration of his milestone birthday, and I can't wait to recap all the fun. 

As we are preparing for our next trip and summer in general, I thought I'd round up some of my recent favorites. And can we talk about how I was annoyed that the Bentgo box that I picked up for Lil' Miss to take to school when she's not purchasing a hot lunch did not fit in her lunch box? I had to buy another lunch bag specifically made for those amazing Bentgo boxes (that I so wish we had when I was growing up!) Well she is obsessed with the mermaid print, and I have to admit I kind of love it. She'll be taking it to camp too over the summer. Win win!

I picked up this beach bag for our cruise in March and promised to report back on it being water resistant and won't get as dirty considering it's mostly white. This thing is a beast you guys! Not only did it carry everything when we got off on each island to explore, but it performed really well in the sand, at the pool and everywhere else. There are minimal marks on it and it still looks new! 

I had been drooling over these glitter pumps with the cutest pom poms for a while, and finally decided to scoop them up. On sale of course! 

With our frequent trips to Universal I needed a fun backpack, and was looking for the PERFECT one. It took a while, and then I saw this Hedwig backpack carrying a letter from Hogwarts and fell in love. She goes with me to each trip to the parks. 

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Spring Catch Up

*Tap tap* Is this thing on? A LOT has been going on - grab a cup of coffee and let's catch up. Last time I showed up in this space I recapped our amazing Southern Caribbean Cruise and then posted my Cruising Tips. Since then, we have visited Universal 4 times (we're annual passholders), celebrated Easter, went car shopping, celebrated birthdays, had a beach day, upgraded Lil' Miss to a bunk bed and celebrated her spirit week at school. 

We kicked off April with the perfect day at Volcano Bay and Islands of Adventure. The weather was perfect for the water park and then we ventured over to Islands of Adventure for dinner and rollercoasters. Lil' Miss was ecstatic that she is finally tall enough to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts Castle and Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure. 

After the evening show at Hogwarts Castle we did child swap for one last ride on Velocicoaster to finish the night. When it was my turn they were closing down, and I got to ride it by myself. The amazing part was being in the front row and riding it at night - the weird part was being by myself and looking around the empty park. It was kind of eerie yet super cool. There is something strange riding a rollercoaster without the energy of other people or hearing everyone scream. I could hear the empty seats rattling and it just wasn't the same. It was an amazing experience, but I would rather ride with other people if that makes sense. 

The day before Easter, we met up with friends for a beach day before coming home to dye Easter eggs.

The flagship Barnies Coffee and Tea location recently went through a renovation so we finally went to check it out and of course pick up some cold brew on tap - always delish! A stroll down Park Ave. in the sunshine makes it even better before relaxing over brunch. 

Someone also had their big wish come true of getting her bunk bed with a slide. She now has the perfect spot for friends and cousins to sleep over. I always joke with her that I always brought a sleeping bag and slept on the floor at sleepovers. 

Speaking of Lil' Miss she had a spirit week at school, and one night we celebrated at the roller rink. I hadn't been to one since I was a kid and they haven't changed a bit! After a wobbly start I got my bearings back, and it was fun seeing her on skates for the first time.

Insta vs. Reality - always have a cutie photo bomber! She was trying to pet a cat that went to hide under the deck. 

Dress {40% off} | Sneakers {40% off} | Camera Bag in Marine Blue

Another birthday party for our sweet girl to attend. She had fun jumping on the trampolines, riding the zip line, playing laser tag and of course having pizza and cake. Yum!

After the party, I needed a pick-me-up before we met up with friends at Universal for the evening to test out their express passes. Not waiting in lines? Don't mind if I do...

New passholder magnets were picked up in the passholder lounge - these are themed after Jurassic Park or as I would like to say my favorite rollercoaster (Velocicoaster). I still have the Mardi Gras themed magnet on my car and look forward to seeing what they release next.

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My Cruising Tips

I have a lot of catching up to do in this space, as I haven't shown up since recapping our Southern Caribbean cruise we took last month while Lil' Miss was on spring break. The week after we returned someone at her school brought back the worst souvenir from their trip - a stomach virus that spread through the whole school. Thankfully, my neurotic cleaning and hand washing prevented H and I from catching it, but it was still hard watching our sweet girl feel so awful. And all the laundry. Woof! Thankfully, we have been healthy ever since *knocks on wood* and have been having lots of local fun at Universal Studios and their water park Volcano Bay, the beach with friends and checking out new to us brunch spots. Hoping to recap the fun next week. 

Today, I wanted to share some of my cruising tips for anyone who has never been on a cruise or are thinking about taking one soon. 

1. Always choose the itinerary over the cruise line or even the ship. For a while we were stuck on wanting to be on the biggest/newest ships, and we have found we have the best time on the cruises where we chose them based on the itinerary (the stops). Our most recent cruise stopped in Half Moon Cay Bahamas, Grand Turk, Aruba and Bonaire. We chose this itinerary because 3 out of the 4 stops were new to us, and we ended up on a Carnival ship when we prefer Royal Caribbean or Norwegian. It ended up being our favorite vacation so far! 

2. Spring for the balcony room! The one time we booked an inside room to save money on a 3 night birthday cruise for our friend to the Bahamas we regretted it. The room was SO small, we could barely walk around our stuff and the bed to get to the bathroom. Plus not having a view of the outside was hard. We love having a cup of coffee or breakfast out on the balcony as we pull into a new island (hint room service is usually free), or a night cap while listening to the waves. 

3. You can bring 1 bottle of wine per adult per stateroom. You also used to be able to bring a pack of water bottles, but too many people smuggled alcohol in with them that it's no longer a thing. Boo! But yay for a bottle of wine or bubbles in the room while getting ready for dinner or out on the balcony as a night cap. Just ask your room steward for a wine key and 2 glasses. 

4. Bring koozies and/or stainless steel bottles to keep water and bar drinks cold. I always forget to bring them, and finally remembered on this past trip. Game changer! 

5. Bring workout clothes and a pair of sneakers. Popping into the gym a few times during a 7+ night cruise is a good idea. You're over indulging in all the food and drinks while relaxing a lot more than usual so a quick sweat sesh keeps me on track. 

6. Bring the fancy clothes for Cruise Elegant dinners. We had 2 elegant evenings on our 8 night cruise so I brought the dress I wore to my cousin's wedding last fall and another new dress which will definitely be re-purposed for our next wedding. 

7. You can order multiple appetizers, entrees or desserts at dinner. Can't make up your mind? Why not order both?! Hence my comment about making it to the gym a few points above. 

8. Sign up for the loyalty programs. Even if you sail on a different cruise line every few vacations - the perks add up, and they love to take care of their past guests. Priority boarding, welcome drinks, free water bottles in the room, laundry service etc... are all added bonuses once you build up points/status. 

9. If you are flying to the cruise port - I highly suggest flying in a day early and spending the night in the departure port. Friends of ours missed their cruise after an unexpected flight delay on their layover several years ago. We usually cruise out of Florida and just drive to the port, but we have cruised out of New Jersey to go to Bermuda in 2016, out of San Juan for a Southern Caribbean cruise back in 2009 and out of Barcelona for a Mediterranean cruise in 2014 and always always always fly in a day early to make sure we are there and to enjoy the city where we leave from. 

What are some of your cruise must-haves or tips?

Just Cruising

....and just like that we're back! From the trip we had been looking forward to for so long that almost didn't happen. Woof. Two nights before we were leaving for the cruise Lil' Miss had a high fever, and was complaining of pain in her right side and abdomen to the point where she couldn't stand up. We freaked, and brought her to the emergency room where they ran every test and everything came up negative. Her pain subsided while we were there, and the doctor reassured us that it wasn't appendicitis. I was still a nervous wreck the next day, and kept her home from school. She was bouncing off the walls, the fever was gone and she said she wasn't in pain so we continued packing and getting ready to drive to Miami the next morning for the cruise.

We prefer sailing out of Port Canaveral since it's about an hour away, but we chose itinerary over cruise line, ship and departure port this time and we are so glad we did. Remember when I said I never wanted to sail with Carnival again? Well, time heals all wounds and we switched right before booking from an itinerary on Princess to an 8 night itinerary on Carnival out of Miami so we could stop in Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk, Aruba and Bonaire. WORTH it! Our favorite cruise yet, and we've been on some beautiful ships on Disney, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. I'll take an older Carnival ship any day when the itinerary is that fantastic. 

Cutout Midi Dress {available in 28 color combos} | Camera Bag in Marine Blue | Sandals

On our first morning, we were docked in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Before we got off the ship we surprised Lil' Miss with a trip to the on-board salon to get her first ever haircut. My original plan years ago was to get it in Magic Kingdom, but the hair places were closed for so long during the pandemic that those plans were foiled. I'm more excited that her first haircut was in the Bahamas than Disney World anyway. Ha!

Then it was time for some relaxation, and playing in the waves on a new-to-us island in the Bahamas. I loved the pirate ship bar, and Lil' Miss loved the splash pad area.

The view as we pulled away from Half Moon Cay

On our second morning, we were docked in Grand Turk. This is the stop we sailed away from back in 2015 due to wind which truly upset me, so I was thankful for the re-do. We explored the shops, and settled in at the Margaritaville pool for lunch before hitting the beach. There was another ship in port filled with college spring breakers (their cruise was only 5 nights which drew in more college kids while our ship had more families). I was wondering why all of a sudden I saw mostly thong bathing suits, and the swim up bar was jam packed before chatting with some of the kids from that ship. I officially feel old. 

For our 1st day at sea, I started out with a workout in the gym before hitting the pool. Some trips down the water slide were in order of course! 

The adults only area of the ship we enjoyed while Lil' Miss was at kids club

Crochet Coverup {SO comfy!} | Lounge Shorts {available in 8 colors} | Flip Flops

That night was our 1st cruise elegant evening, so I broke back out this dress I wore to my cousin's wedding in Cape Cod last fall. 

Morning coffee on the balcony as we arrived in Aruba. It was H and I's second time in Aruba (we cruised there in 2009 - again I feel old), but the first time for Lil' Miss. We booked a resort pass for the day at the Riu Palace, and enjoyed the all-inclusive benefits of their food, drinks, pools and beach area. Lil' Miss brought her beach buckets to play in the sand, we swam in the waves before making our way to the pools. 

That evening we ventured off the resort for dinner and some shopping before heading back to the ship. We were in port for 13 hours, so we got to really enjoy the island and watch the sunset before leaving at 9:30 p.m.

The towel animal obsession was REAL for Lil' Miss. She lost her mind each day seeing what new animal would appear in the room. So when we saw a towel animal making class for later in the week, we saved it in the cruise planner.

Our last stop was in Bonaire which is close to Aruba and Curacao and completes the Dutch "ABC" islands off the coast of South America. The diving and snorkeling is supposed to be the best in the world (perhaps only behind the Great Barrier Reef) so we booked a snorkeling excursion for the afternoon which was incredible. The water was the most beautiful I've ever seen and has beaten out the title (in my head) from Bermuda and Fiji. 

We explored in town, did some souvenir shopping and had a drink before heading to our snorkeling excursion. 

The next two days were "at sea" days before arriving back in Miami to disembark. Another cruise elegant night was an excuse to break out the fancy clothes again.

Lace Midi Dress {available in 3 colors} | Sandals

Her Dress {available in 3 color patterns}

We enjoyed our last day at sea with all the food, a towel animal making class, mini golf, and H and I went to the gym and steam room while Lil' Miss went to kids club. That night, we had one last date night on the ship while she was at kids club (her favorite!) where we listened to live music, saw the comedian and enjoyed a martini. I even broke out the sequin shorts that I never wore for NYE after suffering from food poisoning. 
Why does vacation have to end?