You have reached our vacation journal.  I spent a lot of time reading cruise message boards and newsgroups, and learned many great tips.  One of the best things to pack (besides your passport and cruise documents!) is your journal, in which every night you write about your vacation.  Mark and I are grateful to have this record.  We decided to cruise for our 10th anniversary at about the time of our 5th anniversary.  We enjoyed cruising very much, and plan to take another one in about 3 years with all the kids, to celebrate our 10 year anniversary of going to the LDS temple to be sealed (more information about the LDS church can be found at LDS.org or Mormon.org)


(Jen says...)
Well, we made it to New Orleans, and as I speak, we are in our stateroom, sitting in front of our floor to ceiling picture window.  The drive down went well.  We left at about 9:30 p.m., on Friday the 12th.  It was very hard to say goodbye to the kids.  Both Mark and I were in tears as we headed out to Glencoe.  Mostly, I think, because Zachary was broken up- scared, nervous, without Mom and Dad for the first time in a long time. I climbed into bed with him, and we prayed. I joked with him, but he was still crying as I shut the door.  My heart broke, and I was fearful for Alisa...how would she react?

Our driving time was great.  Mark drove for 2.5 hours, then I drove for 3.5 hours, then Mark drove for about 3 hours, and before we knew it, it was 6 in the morning and we were only 1.5 hours away from St. Louis- half way there!  We had breakfast at McDondalds, and then I drove for 2.5 hours.  After St. Louis the trip gets LONG.  Half of Missouri, 1.5 hours in Arkansas (which has BAD roads and BAD drivers) with cotton fields, pickers, and bales-cool!) and then Memphis Tennessee.  We went to Graceland (Elvis' house) to take a picture (not the tour, that's $18 per person!) and supper at a place called Corky's BBQ (yum-yum...I had ribs, Mark had a pork sandwich.)  I called the kids, who were doing great.  I hate to leave with Ethan and Alisa having colds. But otherwise, no problems.  Apparently Alisa asked for us, but took it well when told we would be home "Soon, soon".  We drove to Brookhaven, Mississippi, and got a hotel room and slept, due to being ahead of schedule.  We slept until 6:00 AM, and then took off for New Orleans, about 2.5 hours away.  Mississippi has great roads, Louisiana, not so much!  But we saw palm trees! And we went across Lake Ponchetrain, which is a causeway that is around 17 miles long. It was neat to be on a 17 mile long bridge across a lake.  We saw some brown pelicans through the gloom, and the New Orleans came into view, at first very fuzzy due to the haze.  At that point it started getting real to me.  Well, it's time to Embark, and there is a sail-away party, so I will write more about NOLA and checking in on the ship next.

It is around midnight after a busy day.  The first thing we did in NOLA was park the car.  We then went to the Aquarium of the America's.  Mostly to waste time before registering on the ship.  But as we walked to the aquarium, I caught my first glance of the Dream.  My reaction was one of surprise.  The Dream is an older, smaller ship, but she looked HUGE to me.  I was ready to get going. All of a sudden seeing penguins (cute) and jellyfish (cool) and the Gulf of Mexico exhibit (awesome) wasn't as important.  We must have finished the whole tour in less than an hour, and Mark didn't even lag behind...I think he was excited too!

So we went back to the car, grabbed our luggage, and walked to the cruise terminal.  Checking in was fast...maybe 20 minutes.  First you check your baggage, then wait in a line.  Then you get out your passports, your tickets, get your picture taken, and you are off.  Our stateroom was ready, so we went and looked at it.  It was so cute, with a big picture window.   There was a complimentary bottle of wine, which we appreciate but eventually exchanged for a six pack of Sprite.  It was hard for the staff to understand that we didn't want to have something with alcohol in it.  Oh well, it was a kind gesture.  We went to the buffet, which was just OK-I grabbed some pizza instead, and then toured the ship for the next 3 hours at which point we needed to go to our practice muster (life jacket drill) which was quick and painless.  I also fell asleep, maybe the bonine (sea sickness medication)?  We then went to the sail-away party, a BBQ on the sport deck in high winds.  With no warning, the ship began to move very smoothly, and we were doing a 180º turn to get down the river.  The people at the Riverwalk cheered, the ship's horn blasted, and I was emotional. I LOVED it.  The captain announced a 5 hour trip to the ocean, so we relaxed.  The BBQ was good, especially the chicken.  And we had supper at the 4 seasons.  I had roast beef and Mark had Pasta- we sat with a nice older couple from Biloxi Mississippi.  and now I sit here, caught up, and wondering if we are on the ocean yet.  It's been 6 hours, but I still see lights (other boats?) and I don't remember stopping to let the river pilot disembark.  But who knows?  Anyway, night night for me!

(Mark Says)
I'll put my 2cents in about the trip down.  It went really well. I didn't like Arkansas, mainly due to the fact that the car acted up a little.  After we put gas in, the check engine light came on.  It did that once before, so I figured it would be ok. and it was.  The light went out after we got through Memphis.  The tire pressure light also went on.  FOund out one of the tires was low, so had to keep putting air in that one, only twice though.  We are at Corkey's BBQ in Memphis.
Some authentic Memphis bar-be-que.  It was great! Lots of pictures of famous people on the wall. I had the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on it and Jen had the ribs. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, except for a couple of deer we saw while driving at night. One in MN, and one in Missouri.  That's enough to keep you on the edge for a while.  I think it was the deer hunting opener in Missouri.  Lots of trucks parked on the side of the road.  So we are now heading across the Gulf of Mexico.  As we make our way our of the Mississippi River the only boat movement we had was when it tippled a little when it turned.  That was a little weird.  Nothing compared to the waves we have out at sea.  It's a lot rougher than the waves we have on the ones in MN.  Not sure how this compares to a normal day, but it looks kind of rough to me.  The food on the ship is really good.  Had pasta with smoked salmon, and a saffron and dill sauce.  I took that over the prime rib.  Glad I did, I think I will try to taste lots of different foods.  Better get going for now.