Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anchor's Away

The second week my mom was here, we went our first cruise.  I tried to explain the significance of this trip to the girls.  I had to wait 31 years before I went on my first cruise and my girls were going at the ages of 2 1/2 and 5 years, but I think my lecture was lost on them.  When I told some other expats about our upcoming cruise, they would politely ask if we were taking a Yangtze River river cruise (a famous and near-by river), but when I said it was an American cruise line, their eyes would light up.  Ohhh, American standards of service!  
We departed from the downtown Shanghai cruise terminal, which is right along The Bund.  We boarded in the middle of the afternoon and set sail during dinner.  The cost of the cruise was almost worth it just for the cruise out to sea while we watched downtown Shanghai go by.  It was a stunning view of lighted skyline and we could have literally just sat there and looked out the window for hours.  As we got closer and closer to sea we could see the workers in the dry docks welding and building some enormous ships.  For this land-locked girl, it was fascinating to watch.
Getting ready to check-in for the cruise

Looking at The Bund & the Oriental Pearl Tower

Apparently our children were not happy
to take a family picture

Starting to light up

Our first towel animal

A dry dock; can you make out the hulls of the two cargo ships?

Since we had my mom with us, we had a family suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area with a fold-out bed.  It was enough room for everyone to have their own sleeping area and the girls could run around a bit too.  I loved looking out the balcony windows and watching the sea, it was so relaxing.
We spent one day at sea before we docked in Okinawa, Japan, early on a Monday morning.  The day started with a traditional Japanese performance on the dock.  The girls were not completely won over with the traditional drums at 6:00 a.m., but it was a fun for the adults.  We boarded a tour bus and headed north of the island to the aquarium.  The Okinawa aquarium is one of the largest in the world and it is beautiful.  I really, really wished we had more time there.  By the time the bus arrived we only had about 1 1/2 hours to run through the aquarium.  Our first stop was the touching pond, where we were able touch a starfish and a sea cucumber.  We walked by the tank with the whale sharks and watched the dolphin show.  EBean requested to see the sea turtles and she really enjoyed looking at the baby turtles.  

Walking down to the aquarium

Getting ready to go into the aquarium 

EBean looking at the fish

Two happy little girls

LBean collecting information cards at all the stations

We got to touch a starfish and a sea cucumber

Watching the dolphin show

Some amazing tricks

EBean's request, to see the sea turtles

Baby sea turtles

We really loved the baby sea turtles
We got back on the bus and went to a restaurant for a traditional Japanese meal.  I’m not big sea-food fan, but I did really enjoy the noodles, carrots, and broth!

Our last stop was a re-built castle.  I need to brush up on my South China Sea history, but I do know that Okinawa was heavily bombed during WORLD WAR II.  Much of the island was reduced to rubble and therefor many historical sites were lost, but there is an effort to rebuild the lost buildings.  I was talking to a friend about our trip and I said that the physical beauty of the island is wonderful, but the architecture was not wonderful.  Everything was rebuilt after the war and most buildings are made of concrete because Okinawa has a termite problem.

The castle was really interesting.  Okinawa was actually under the protection of China for many, many years.  It wasn’t until recently that Japan claimed Okinawa.  For that reason, the castle was built in a traditional Chinese manner.  The gardens around the castle were very Japanese.  LBean and I had great discussions about how this castle was different than what she had been expecting (she was thinking of an English castle or Cinderella’s castle at Disney) and what parts of the castle were similar (throne rooms, crowns, etc.)

What I enjoyed about the cruise was after spending a day of being tourists, it was great coming back on the boat and having a wonderful meal.  In China I miss the taste of grain-feed beef, fountain pop, and cheese, so I made up for lost time while on the boat!  

I'll post more about the cruise and the rest of our trip in some upcoming posts.  Stay tuned!

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