Christmas has always been a really important time for me. I love preparing for and celebrating the birth of my Savior, giving and receiving gifts, singing Christmas carols, and spending time with family and friends. So, it was’t easy for me to agree to taking a family vacation over the Christmas holiday, knowing I would be leaving behind traditions I’ve always cherished. However, Steve’s time off this year for the holidays was limited, and this was one of our rare opportunities to get away for more than a few days at a time, so we decided to just go.

We did our best to incorporate as many of our Christmas traditions as I could, and we enjoyed a wonderful vacation, along with our daughter, Meghan, and my mom, Carol.

We boarded the Celebrity Summit on Christmas Eve and awoke Christmas morning to sunny skies and the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. We started our day with a lovely breakfast in Luminae where we were reunited with Gustavo — one of our favorite servers from a cruise we’d taken earlier this year on another ship. We loved his smile and bubbly personality, his strong work ethic, and all the ways he went above and beyond to make our last cruise so enjoyable.

Gustavo is one of the many incredible crew members on the Celebrity Summit whom we've had the privilege to meet.

Gustavo is one of the many incredible crew members on the Celebrity Summit whom we’ve had the privilege to meet.

He had mentioned when we met him this summer  that he was going to be working on the Summit next, so we were anticipating seeing him onboard and wanted to do something special for him for Christmas. I remembered he was from Mexico and since the town where we live has several Mexican bakeries and grocery stores, I picked up a few treats that I hoped would be familiar to Gustavo and packed them in my suitcase, along with a Postcard Jar t-shirt.

We packed a Postcard Jar t-shirt as well as some snacks from Mexico for one of our favorite crew members for Christmas.

We packed a Postcard Jar t-shirt as well as some snacks from Mexico for one of our favorite crew members for Christmas.

Christmas morning, I wrapped them up and brought the gift bag for him at breakfast. I know it must have been difficult for Gustavo to be so far away from home (and working) on such a special day, and we wanted him to know he was loved by God and by us. The smile it brought to his face was such a blessing!

After breakfast, we took a short walk around the ship’s deck, just soaking in the sun (which we hadn’t seen in a while) and enjoying the spectacular views.

It didn’t seem quite like Christmas to be surrounded by the sea and the sun, but we enjoyed every minute of it.

After that, we went by the grand foyer where Santa Claus was making an appearance and greeting all of the ship’s children with gifts.

Celebrity Cruises had the Grand Foyer beautifully decorated for Christmas and Santa was there to give gifts to all of the children on board. From what we saw, the older kids received beach towels and the younger ones got plush toys.

Celebrity Cruises had the Grand Foyer beautifully decorated for Christmas and Santa was there to give gifts to all of the children on board. From what we saw, the older kids received beach towels and the younger ones got plush toys.

We got a kick out of the kids who were so excited to see Santa and we especially enjoyed watching the woman in this video who was concerned about someone not waiting their turn, only to find out he was the Captain of the ship. (oops)

Next, we returned to our cabin to exchange a few gifts and I surprised the rest of group with personalized stockings. While I wasn’t able to display them on a fireplace mantel or under a Christmas tree, I made do with a small chair in our room and we had a great time opening presents and celebrating Christmas together.

I chose gifts this year that were very small in size and packed wrapping paper and bows ahead of time.

I chose gifts this year that were very small in size and packed wrapping paper and bows ahead of time.

Mom loved her Nebraska volleyball t-shirt we got her for Christmas.

Mom loved the Nebraska volleyball t-shirt we got her for Christmas.

To read more about how I was able to pack nine gifts, stockings, stuffers, and wrapping supplies in my suitcase and still keep it under 50 pounds, CLICK HERE.

We relaxed much of the afternoon and met up at the Martini Bar for a cocktail before dinner. We enjoyed another wonderful meal at Luminae, which even included traditional Christmas favorites like turkey and dressing.

Gustavo and Steve at dinner in Luminae on Christmas Day.

Gustavo and Steve at dinner in Luminae on Christmas Day.

After dinner, we gathered in the foyer with other passengers and crew to sing Christmas carols while fake snow was blown in.

Fake snow fell for three decks as crew and passengers joined in the singing of traditional Christmas carols.

Fake snow fell for three decks as crew and passengers joined in the singing of traditional Christmas carols.

We ended the evening in the Celebrity Theater with a holiday show and then retreated to our rooms. There, I found this lovely ornament and message, which will both be nice reminders of our Christmas at sea.

This Christmas tree ornament was a nice gift from Celebrity and will be a great reminder of our Christmas at sea.

This Christmas tree ornament was a nice gift from Celebrity and will be a great reminder of our Christmas at sea.

note

This Christmas was different than most we’ve shared. I missed our church service, the snow-covered landscape of our backyard, and watching the lights twinkle on our Christmas tree. But I cherished the time with family, the opportunity to travel someplace new, and the joy of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ — no matter where we are.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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