I'll make this quick, because from the outside, I'm sure these seem repetitive as this was our seventh sailing. The important points this time around include the fact that we joined my friend Catherine and her lovely family, and also that it was Halloween. Oh, and also, this was just the second sailing for the ship since its drydock enhancements.
I've said this before, but it's definitely more fun to cruise with other people you know. Part of it is that you of course have the company of good people, but for us they also remind us of how awesome the experience is when some of it feels somewhat routine.
The Halloween theme around the ship was super fun. They had a tree in the lobby atrium that sprouted jack-o-lanterns after the first night. They had trick-or-treating, characters in costume and various themed events throughout the weekend. It wasn't quite as all-out as their Christmas effort last year, but still a fantastic time. My only criticism was that they had very loud club-thumping music in the atrium during the treat rounds, which Simon could not handle.
On a related note, this was the first time since our first cruise that we went to see all three of the stage shows. We tend to skip Villains Tonight, but it was pretty solid. Believe is still their best show, and this time in particular it was pretty amazing. I was able to see Bridge of Spies in the movie theater, and we ended up seeing Inside Out again, too.
We again struggled with Simon a bit in terms of his separation anxiety, and couldn't really get him to hang out in the Oceaneer's Club. He did decide to go when we explained there was some cupcake decorating, and he spent a good 20 minutes in there (with Diana waiting outside, just in case). Then there was some kind of misunderstanding, where he apparently thought he wouldn't get a cupcake, and that led to tears. When we got him calmed down enough back in our room to decipher what may have happened, he was able to go back, and ended up spending a bit more time there. It's a struggle, but it's progress.
Our beach day had Simon being quite the fish again, which is fantastic. You get a lifejacket on that kid and he's reasonably confident to go out to the platform. Unfortunately, the sunscreen we were using must have been old and completely ineffective, because the poor kid got quite the burn on his arms. He was tired and spent by noon, and he crashed for a 90-minute nap back in the room. I think it was the reason he also barfed, for seemingly no other reason, after dinner. It's not a cruise without him spewing.
The improvements to the ship were often subtle, but others were obvious. The official blog has the highlights, but it was the little things for me that shows they were paying attention. There were new shade areas in several places on deck, including a new family wading pool in front of the forward funnel on deck 11. They even covered much of the stairs for the Aquaduck queue, and added more glass wind repelling walls on deck. The mini-golf course was refurbished, too. You could find new carpet and paint all over the place. I think they may have been replaced the railings outside of our room. The concierge area has a new hot tub (can't believe they didn't have that already) and some new shaded areas. It looks like much of the hull got fresh paint, too. It's such a beautiful ship.
Overall, another successful weekend. We still didn't get to do everything we would have liked, but I'll take that when it means not having to plan stuff or think too much.