David got home from his two year church mission on June 10th and is off to BYU-Idaho in the fall. Abbey has graduated high school is embarking on her life journey.

Hunter is off on his mission next year after he graduates. Lydia will still be home for a few more years.

We figured this would possibly be our last chance as a nuclear family to go vacation together. So I surprised everyone with a few months ago by announcing that we're taking a 2 week Mediterranean cruise.

First of all travel.

The St. Louis airport is kind of rat hole. Very old and drab.

We flew out of STL to Toronto on a small plane via Air Canada. The plane was cramped and uncomfortable. On top of that, it was hot. VERY HOT. They kept turning the air vents off. Not a very good flight except I sat next to a nice women (the family was not able to sit together for this part of the journey).

We arrived in Toronto late Friday evening and it was like stepping into another dimension. The airport was modern and comfortable and looked alive. I was very impressed. The only down side was the bathrooms. They were not very clean. But outside of that, it was a delight to wait in the Toronto airport.

We then boarded the Air Canada flight to London Healthrow. It was a big plan, but not huge. seats were 3 3 3 in coach. I was going to upgrade to business class, but with a family of 6, it was a bit pricey for my lower middle class frugal south St. Louis upbringing to swallow.

So I settled for upgrading to exit row seats for the boys (the girls got regular seats and did just fine).

I have to say it was nice being able to stretch my legs out. Also, having the head rests that have the sides that close in and hold your head stable were nice too. The seats were a bit hard and the only thing that kept me from getting more sleep on flight was the fact that my butt kept waking me up from the hard seat.

The stewardesses were really nice and a bit more international than we're used to in the states. But it was pretty interesting talking to people of such diverse backgrounds.

I managed to get around 3 - 4 hours of broken sleep on the plane, so I felt pretty good when we arrived in London.

A few observations about the flights.

1. The bathing habits of some passengers left a lot to be desired.

2. The parenting habits of some passengers left a lot to be desired. There was this one baby that cried and fussed all night on the plane. It turns out, he wasn't a baby, but a toddler. The reason that I learned this is because the crying would get closer and closer, then further and further away as the parents let the screaming crying fussing child run around the plane while they did NOTHING to stop the child.

Luckily, the child was far enough away so that it never got too bad for me where I was sitting. If I had been sitting closer to the child, I'm sure I would have done something or said something to the parents. I can guarantee you that I would I have made sure the parents were awake the whole time if they insisted on letting their kid run around screaming and fussing. Yes, believe it or not, the parents were actually sleeping most of the time all this was going on. (I went back and checked as I was looking to give the parents either assistance or a very dirty look…or even a few words of "encouragement").

Once we landed in Heathrow, we disembarked into a modern looking airport and friendly staff.

The wait for customs was a bit longer than I expected. But it wasn't bad.

Once out, we found our cruise line and loaded up. They said it was an hour to 90 minutes to get to South Hampton. It was a bit over 2 hours and it was, by far, the worst part of the travel day..sitting on a cramped bus with a bunch of exhausted people who hadn't bathed or brushed their teeth in at least 24 hours wasn't too terribly bad. The worst part was the fact that the exhaustion of not getting enough sleep in the last 24 hours was really setting in.

However, even through all of that, nothing was going to take away from the excitement of taking my family on this wonderful trip.

Once on the ship, we decided as a family that we were going to stay awake till a normal time, get a good nights sleep and be on local time to fight off jet lag. We were pretty successful in our endeavor to stay awake….until we ate dinner. As we sat there eating, we made plans for what we were going to do all evening. The kids wanted to do the flowrider, Gwen and I talked about a show…a few of the wanted to "yonder" (a family word for exploring the ship and wandering around)…all good ideas…until we got our belly's full.

As dinner progressed and our belly's got full, all we could think of was the blissful release of sleep.

By the end of dinner, Gwen and I gave up on the plans to go out that evening, and headed back to our stateroom. We figured we'd sit on the balcony and watch the stars and waves go by. The kids decided to "yonder" a bit, but only lasted about an hour (at least that's what Gwen told me…because I didn't even make it onto the balcony.

I slept from 9 pm till 7 pm the next morning…the most I've slept since college…and it felt great. One more good nights sleep and I think I'll be good to go.

In the meantime, I'm gonna relax, get a massage and maybe take in a show with the wife.

One more day at sea and then we hit Gibraltar.

We hit ports in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and England. I think two ports in each country. I'll update the list as to observations as I am able.

Bon Voyage for now, I'll check back later!

 Day 1:

We left Southhampton, went through the English Channel and then into the Sea of Biscayne.

Made friends with random people at meals. Sat with a couple from Wales. He works in IT with Unilever, I don't recall what she did. They talked about how Brits get much more "Holiday" than we American's do…at least 6 weeks.

They also gave me a breakdown of the UK and what was ok to call someone from the UK. Being from Wales, it was perfectly ok to call them English or even British (though they preferred English). Apparently, the Scot's and the Irish do not think of themselves as English and can be offended if you refer to them as such. They are, apparently, a fiercely independent lot.

We met a small group from the Isle of Wight at our Muster Station. Very pleasant group who went out of their way show a little kindness to us (letting us out ahead of the crowd as they were in wheel chairs and/or blind…so they got first shot at the exit area…and let us go ahead).

For dinner, we met a couple from Manchester who were very talkative and interesting. She was a retired postal worker and he was a semi-retired "weight station operator" who had his own business verifying the scales at weigh stations on the highways.

The couple from Manchester were very interested in asking us questions about our children and America. They wanted to understand the gun culture of America. They had both grown up in the day's prior to the prohibition on guns and remember having guns in their household.

Their impression of America from the MSM was that it was a semi-wild west with shootings all the time. Of course they suspected that it wasn't that way at all as they had been to America a few times and never saw a single gun while they were here.

The variety of people on this ship is amazing. One might expect such multiculturalism from the crew (and they are), but the passengers are from all over the world. And the best news is that most of them seem to speak at least a little English. We've no problems communicating with anyone…well…almost…

It takes a while to pick up on the accents. Even when speaking with someone we share a common language with, I'm finding that it really takes concentration on my part to sift through some of the thicker accents. Couple that with strange phrasing and colloquial words, and it can be a bit of a task at times picking up on the message that is being communicated.

Makes me wish I had watched more Monty Python or Fawlty Towers when I was younger.

Well, it's after 1 am here, so I'm gonna call it night and try and report more tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll be able to have some financial conversations about local economies to report on soon.

Chris Tucker writes: 

One reason youngsters tend to scream aboard aircraft is failure of their inner ears to equalize to the pressure change. Typically, when cruising in an aircraft above 28,000 ft, the cabin is pressurized to about 10,000 ft. above MSL. This is why your ears pop when climbing or descending. If you have a cold or any inflammation in the sinuses or inner ear, then some cavity within might have some air from sea level pressure that can't escape, creating blinding pain in the skull. An old trick to remedy this, quite effective, is "hot cups". Many older flight attendants will instantly know what you mean if you ask. They will take two small paper or foam coffee cups, stuff a napkin in the bottom, soak it with boiling water and then place them over each ear. It will frequently (not always), provide some relief.





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