Salt water sprayed my face and a three-year-old wiggled in my lap as the tender brought us closer and closer to shore.
An older woman sitting next to us looked at me with sympathy in her eyes.
“Are you a single mother?” she asked.
I tried to make my laugh light-hearted as I replied.
“No, just brave or crazy. I can’t decide which.”
I soon learned that you have to be a little of both to travel alone with a three-year-old on a seven-day cruise. I cannot count the number of meltdowns that we endured during our trip.
I was the mom holding a screaming toddler during the mandatory safety briefing while others looked on with judgement in their eyes.
I was the mom laughing at her son passed out in his chair at dinner because he had played so hard, he couldn’t last another minute.
I was the mom who brought an iPad to entertain said toddler at the fancy steakhouse onboard so that she could enjoy a quiet meal with friends.
But those few instances paled in comparison to the memories that we made.
Like the look on his face when he held a starfish for the first time and it sucked on his hand.
Or how every morning he would wake up as soon as the sun rose and ask to go back to Camp Ocean.
And when he begged to go on stage and sing a song so he could win a trophy — even though he didn’t know the words.
How he delighted in the towel animal creations left in our room each night.
His sense of wonder at waking up to a new view out our balcony every morning.
The gusto with which he chanted, “Dr. Seuss is on the loose!” during the #SeussatSea parade.
Even now, he won’t let me remove his “adventure bracelets” because they remind him of all the fun we had.
And how he’s begging me to take him back again.
I’ll be honest — it was probably the hardest seven days of my life. But Carnival Cruise Lines helped make it super-special for me and my boy.
The staff at Camp Ocean was amazing — Andrew would have spent every waking minute there if I let him. And the times he did go were a wonderful break for me. I knew I could trust them with his safety and happiness, and that took such a burden off of this momma!
The crew of the ship worked hard to ensure our vacation was relaxing and fun. They took care of our every need, and even went above and beyond to make a sometimes-cranky toddler happy again.
I am so grateful for this time that we spent together. Isn’t it funny how the hardest things can sometimes turn out to be the best?
Disclosure: Carnival Cruise Lines hosted our family for this trip and provided accommodations and other perks. All opinions and photos are my own.