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.

  • Strawberry fields forever...⁣
⁣
While traveling, we adore stopping in farmers markets and checking out the fresh produce available for sale. When we saw these strawberries in Tallinn, Estonia, we just had to take a picture.⁣
⁣
The vibrant color of the berries tells us they were ripened naturally on the vine. You just don't get that color trucked in to a supermarket. And that natural ripening means, of course, that these are some of the sweetest strawberries you'll ever taste. Yum! #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #celebritycruises #cruising #seastheday #cruise #sea #beyondborders #humansatsea #cruiseaddict #cruisecritic #tallinn #lifeisbeautiful #cruiseship #cruiselife #estonia #strawberries #farmersmarket #lifeisshort #visitestonia #adventuregirls #tallinngram #berries
  • On our Baltic Sea cruise, we stopped in Stockholm, Sweden. To get there, we had to sail through the Stockholm Archipelago. ⁣
⁣
For days leading up to our arrival in Stockholm, the captain of the ship kept telling us that we should plan to be up early so we could take in the scenery as we passed through the archipelago. After enough repetitions, we resolved to get up early to see what he was so excited about.⁣
⁣
We are so glad we set the alarm. That morning, we sat on our balcony and had breakfast watching some of the most beautiful scenery we'd ever seen pass by our cabins. We had an up-close view of land that we've rarely had from a cruise ship unless it was docked. ⁣
⁣
Sure, we travel to see specific things. Who doesn't? But we really love it when we find something like this that we didn't know existed, but it is so amazing it enriches our lives and makes us want to go back again and again.
  • In the @visitmasoncityiowa airport, is a new restaurant called CAVU American Kitchen & Cocktail Lounge. Offering chef-crafted foods and incredible cocktails, this restaurant has the best airport food we've ever eaten. In fact, we'll call this airport a destination.⁣
⁣
Pictured here is Chef Cassie's fried potato salad. This was her elimination dish from the show, "Master Chef." Apparently, Wolfgang Puck didn't think much of it. After trying it, we don't think much of Wolfgang Puck's taste.⁣
⁣
This dish, which is served warm, is composed of crispy fried potato chunks covered in delicious potato salad dressing. The combination of flavors and textures had us going back for more. #postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #midwestliving #midwestlivingmag  #midwestmoment #igersmidwest #midwestisbest #masoncity #clearlake @masoncity
  • In Rochester, Minnesota, in the shadow of the famed Mayo Clinic, is a beautiful pedestrian area called the Peace Plaza. Because of its location, it's often the last area a person walks through as they go to the clinic hoping for help. And, it's the first place people pass as they leave the clinic sometimes with good news, other times to confront their own mortality.⁣
⁣
The designers of the plaza seemed to understand the huge role the space would play in the lives of the people coming through. They designed it as a calming, meditative space filled with tranquility. It's a place you can refocus a little, and take some time to transition from the clinic to the world. And, it's just one more example of the ways that @minnesotas_rochester demonstrates humanity to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come each year to the clinic.
  • Are these salt and pepper shakers not the cutest?? Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is a magical place at Christmastime. We stopped by the @pwmercantile this morning and snapped a few new pics. Getting excited for the Holiday Lights Parade tonight!
  • We have four holiday gift guides up on the blog for the traveler, home cook, cruise lover, and road tripper on your shopping list! Just click on the link in our bio to check out our blog. ⁣
⁣
One of our all-time favorite items (it made two of our lists) are these @EagleCreek packing items. This starter set goes with us on every single trip. Last year, Steve packed 16 size XXL shirts in on of them. They are super lightweight, safe space in your suitcase, and help you stay organized as your travel. ⁣
⁣
What are your favorite gift ideas for travelers this year? ⁣
⁣
#postcardjar #midlifetravel #emptynesttravel #goplaces #emptynest #emptynesters #midlife #couplestravel #couplestrip #giftideas #giftsfortravelers #traveler #travelgifts #giftguide #roadtrippin #packingtips #packingbags #howtopack #packlight #eaglecreek #celebritycruises #travelblogger #packing #packinghack #giftsph #holidayshopping #giftidea #travelgram #packing101
  • Who's ready for some pumpkin pie??⁣
⁣
The thought of digging in to a piece of pumpkin pie (served with a cup of coffee with pumpkin spice creamer) takes us back to a small town festival we love. ⁣
⁣
A few years ago, our town of Crete, Nebraska, began holding the Great Pumpkin Festival during the first weekend of October.⁣
⁣
From spring to fall, local volunteers tend gardens filled with pumpkin vines so that folks who come to the festival can take home a reasonably priced, locally-grown pumpkin. ⁣
⁣
The festival is full of games, food, performances and fun. It's a wholesome day where the town turns out to celebrate another year together in a relaxed, calm atmosphere.⁣
⁣
Does your town have a festival? Tell us about it in the comments below.
  • ***NEW BLOG POST *** Today is exactly 8 months since we started our weight loss journey using the @noom app. See how we’ve lost 126.3 pounds while traveling. Just click on the link to our blog that’s in our bio to read our answers to your most asked questions about weight loss. And click to the second photo here to see our “before” pic.

Second most popular blog in Pawhuska