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.

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
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What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
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if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

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