Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our Relaxing Vacation...

Goodness, where do I begin....*Caution: This is a LONG posting*

Last Tues evening we started our trek to FL to start our vacation. It had snowed Tues so were extra cautious and PTL the roads were dry!! When we got to Tampa (at 7am) we still had snow on our truck bed cover and people were asking where did we find such a was only 29 degrees in Tampa!! This wasn't FL weather we were used to!! We spent Wed and Thurs morning at Cherie's house (one of my mom's best friends) with my mom, who flew to FL on Tues evening, and prep'ed them for watching Winnie over the next few days. On Thursday morning we left for our cruise ship that awaited...
We couldn't believe that the day was finally here that we've been waiting for since this past May....we were going on the Klove Friends & Family Cruise, the one (if you listen to Klove) they talk about for months!! In May we decided this cruise would be our 5th Anniversary gift after the birthdays and holidays were finished for the year.

This cruise was unlike most, as we entered the terminal we were handed devotionals and a newspaper with all the events for the week. Some of our favorite bands were playing during the week too....Third Day, Matthew West, Sanctus Real, Mandisa, Nicole C. Mullen, Rush of Fools, Building 429, etc etc....and we saw a lot of them while we boarded the ship (and throughout our whole trip). This was our first cruise so we weren't sure what to expect with our room/balcony but made it like home in no time, well as soon as we received our luggage. The trip started with everyone standing up on the Lido deck (top of ship, open to the sky) looking over Miami, and our ship doing a 180 turn before we headed out to sea (seriously on a dime!).

Everyday there were 2 concerts in the afternoon while we sunned ourselves on the Lido Deck. Then in the evening the late dinner (LD) folks went to the 5:45pm show which was usually the big names (Mandisa/Third Day/etc) and then off to dinner at 8pm. It was always a rush to get from the last afternoon show to shower then off to the pre-dinner show, especially if you wanted a good seat. The only night we stood in line for the 5:45 show was the night Phil Wickham and Third Day played...we sat in the 3rd row...that night was special too as I caught Mark Lee's (TD guitarist) guitar pic!! Every other night we sat to the left of the stage, very close. After dinner there were concert"s"/shows at 10pm and 11pm, each hour had about 3 choices, and it was usually very difficult for us to pick which one we wanted to see. On Friday night 3 bands got together (without their leads) and decided to do a "jam session" at midnight. We were blown away at how them all came together without ever practicing and playing so well together. They played a lot of worship music and gave each other turns in the spotlight. Everyone enjoyed it so much that they decided to play again on Saturday needless to say we were up really late both nights and LOVED it!

Other than watching the concerts/shows we did eat quite a bit (about time to go back on that diet!!). Of course food was everywhere and we hit up our favs everyday. On Sunday while I waited for chinese we stood in line with Nicole C. Mullen...what a down to earth gal! Funny story about Nicole....while we were watching a concert on the deck a group of kids kind of stood in front of our seats, my first instinct was to ask them to move and let them know what they had done (youth leader coming out) but for some reason the Lord held my tongue...well thank heavens he did, as the "kids" were Nicole C. Mullen's daughter and other dancers (pic below)!!!When we first boarded the ship and went to get lunch we talked with Lisa Williams (Klove personality) and her family...she and her husband were awesome, laughing and truly enjoying life. They had the sweetest boys who were toted all over the cruise ship in their double stroller, and I don't think they ever made a peep (amazing!). The one night Lisa laughed that she had brought too many diapers and was going to have a craft night of "Diaper Origami" if anyone wanted to join in, haha! Our dinner each night was the highlight of our meals though.... on the first evening we met 2 other families (Bill/Audrey from Chicago and Karen/Lauren from Kansas City) and kicked it off right away. By the second night we had another family join us (Lesha/Michael from New Orleans) and we could've moved tables but we were all sticking together!! Gosh we really came to love these families and think of them as lifetime friends....sad to think we may not see them again on this side of Heaven...but a trip to any of their cities does sound appetizing! Our server Wincy from the Philipines was awesome too and made us laugh....he loved to stop us right before we ate our main course to say "Excuse me everyone....(break)...Enjoy your dinner". During some dinners the servers would sing/dance and Wincy was always serving us desert so he could be the last one to make his grand appearance with all the other servers. The last evening we surprised Lauren with a birthday treat, including a bow on top of her head (made of a napkin), haha.

The last highlight of our trip was our time in Grand Turk, Bahamas. We started off the visit in GT with a catamaran ride out to sea, then spent some time snorkling next to the boat. The reef we snorkled by was where it drops from 25ft to 6000ft....its crazy as you can see things very closely and then all of a sudden nothing... Tom & I tried to stay close together and more on the reef, just being overy "nothing" was scary, who knows what was down there!! After snorkling we went swimming in the amazing turquoise waters and relaxed. Our crew and videographer were so fun and took great care of us....can't wait to get our video in the mail (in a few weeks!). We headed back to the dock then, and after lunch we shopped and laid out a bit before heading back out to sea on the cruise ship.

Our favorite thing about the entire cruise that we were surrounded by people who loved our Lord Jesus Christ!! You could feel the Lord surrounding us each day and showing us His glory through the worship music, discussions with others and daily time with Him.

*Phew* that was a LOT to remember...and of course not everything but I'll end with some photo highlights of our trip.... and some videos...

Phil & Evan Wickham...


On Monday we headed back to Naples to see our sweet girl and spend some time with my mom and Cherie. On our way we got to have lunch with my cousin Kelly in Miami.Holding sweet Winnie was the best on Monday afternoon, I got her up from her nap and she just melted in my arms with her head on my shoulder. That evening we all went out to see the sunset in was breathtaking....

These 3 had a blast together (and Pop Pop too!)

Tuesday morning we started our long 14hr drive home....and were excited for a lunch break to see my friend Jaime Dixon in Tampa. Weird thing is that we stopped at her work exit on our way down, when everyone noticed snow on our car..and I thought then that we were close to her (and had no idea we actually were)!

Its all about food with the Jones' as we stopped at my fav childhood stopping place.... The Georgia Pig in Brunswick, Georgia!! I have pictures of this place from the 80s, and its been in business for 40 years!!! What sweet memories I have of eating here with my family on our treks to FL.

We finally arrived home at 12:30am !!


Amy said...

What can I say except WOW, WOW, WOW!!! That vacation sounds like the perfect blend of spiritual, emotional & physical needs all being met. The fact that they handed out devotionals speaks volumes. It's amazing to think you were snorkeling only a week ago! It's so cute that you made great friends on the cruise - that is awesome. I'm sure you'll do a good job keeping in touch. And, the concerts - WOW!! I mean it sounds like a little bit of heaven seeing/hearing those bands and praising Jesus with fellow Christians. The view and pics you posted were incredible too - again, WOW! You guys work so hard and deserve an outstanding vacation more than just about anyone!

Toni Rivera said...

Hi Merritt! I was the lucky gal that drew your name for the Blog Swap and just wanted to let you know that I sent it in the mail yesterday!
I also put a little something in there for your precious baby girl!
(just in case you were wondering "what is this for??!"


The Jones' said...

Thanks Amy- you were too sweet!! We had such a blast and would go back in a heartbeat!!

Toni- Thank you so much, I'm excited to receive my Vday gift ;-) Your little one is adorable, love the hair on the top of you blog!!