The staff on the ship were always very helpful and friendly. Royal Caribbean has an Autism Friendly program (this includes any child with disabilities). This meant Zoe could attend the play programs by herself and we were given a phone in case the staff had any concerns. Zoe, being 12, should have been with the teen program but given her needs, we requested that she be in the same play group as Ailsa and the younger children. They had no problem accommodating this request. The staff in the play rooms were not the best staff ever. Overall Gavin and I were not impressed with the programming (the toddlers mostly watched TV!). And we were not happy that staff did not make more efforts to include Zoe in activities but we did recognize that there were sometimes over 20 kids with two adults! So I don't think they were specifically neglecting Zoe, I think they just did not have enough staff or training. It was nice to be able to get small breaks from the children so we could have some time to ourselves. And Zoe was excited to go to the playroom even if she just sat in her chair and played with her own toys most of the time.
We all really enjoyed the balcony. All that fresh air and sunshine was amazing.
A nice Canadian offered to take our picture while we were on a tour bus trip to see the island of St Maarten before going on our submersible boat trip.
Of course an exciting trip is an excuse for mommy to buy matching dresses! The girls loved dressing up for dinner.
Another great part of the cruise was the day we spent at the beach. It happened to be Ailsa's birthday and it was a perfect day. The weather was awesome, the beach was beautiful, everyone was healthy and we had such an amazing time. We walked the extra distance to get to the beach that was less popular so it was not so crowded. We ate lunch right there at the beach. Ailsa really enjoyed her special day. I'm not sure we will ever be able to top that birthday!
So what's our next adventure? In July we are camping for a week near Niagara Falls New York with two of my brothers, my sister and my cousin and their families. It is going to be busy and loud so Zoe is very excited about that. She loves how much noise my family makes!
After that, Zoe is having surgery on July 15th. She will be in hospital at least a week and will take most of the summer to fully recover. That is one of the reasons we really wanted to take a trip like the cruise. Zoe's health is becoming a bit more complicated and unstable these days. She has bowel issues which cause her a lot of pain and despite spending almost two hours every day giving Zoe enemas, she continues to have serious constipation to the point she has debilitating pain and she has not been gaining weight. We think/ hope the surgery will solve the constipation which will get rid of her pain and hopefully make her able to better digest her food. We also hope that solving her bowel issues will help decrease these persistent bladder infections Zoe is getting. She has had four since March and one of them made her have a prolonged seizure which then caused other problems and necessitated a hospital stay. Every time Zoe gets sick there is a cascade response in her body and sometimes the result is literally life threatening. Her doctors were very supportive, encouraged our trip and gave us emergency medications to travel with. We researched the ship and knew it had an excellent health care facility and could handle an emergency but we were happy not to experience it for ourselves. Although, I did get to see the doctor on board with Ailsa who ended up with a throat and ear infection. As always, I was grateful for our travel insurance!
It was really nice seeing the girls have fun and just be kids. Sometimes when Zoe is crying with pain, Ailsa sits beside her, reads to her and rubs her head (a habit she has continued since last year in the ICU). Willow will frequently gather toys to give to Zoe in hopes that it will distract her. Sometimes Willow crouches besides Zoe and pats her back while saying, "Zoe-oe-oe-oe." It is such a sweet scene but it breaks my heart. I loved seeing the girls playing at the beach or on the ship. They are amazing sisters and I am glad they have these memories and photos to enjoy.