19-year old Valen and I were the nannies to a 2-year old boy and a 4-year old girl. The children loved Valen, who is also their preschool teacher and babysitter in their home. They were not excited about me, a total stranger. The little girl would tell me how much she hated me and would instigate her little brother to scream and take my eyeglasses. It was astonishing that the parents didn't correct their bad behavior. The mommy was so interested in being the children's friend, that she was afraid to be parent. The father could have been a good parent, but mommy undermined him constantly. I had to remind myself quite often that I didn't have to re-train them and I didn't have to live with them once the cruise was over.
Besides misbehavior, the biggest challenge was the 4-year old girl's diet. She had milk, nut, and shellfish allergies. That doesn't leave much on the kid's dinner menu for eating. Chicken nuggets and french fries may have been fried in the same oil as the shrimp, so that wasn't an option. Grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese are made from milk and what's pizza without the cheese? The little boy isn't ready foro being potty trained yet, and each stinky diaper was like someone poured a cup of rancid chili in it. I'm guessing it was all the fruit and sweets he ate. The parents bought so many packets of gummie bears and suckers and sweets...I suppose they thought because it was all organic, the kids could eat as much as they wanted whenever they wanted. This brought an additional challenge in feeding as they were never really hungry at mealtimes.
Valen wanted to dance all night and I preferred the children when they were asleep, so I babysat most nights. The drawback was, I missed a lot of dinners with friends and all but one of the floor shows. We traded off time during the day, and one night I was free until 10:30. I found that the children liked it when I sang, and would request two songs especailly, "A Smile and A Ribbon in My Hair" and "Little Goldie Goldfish", which I would sing only if heads remained on pillows. It worked. The parents stayed out until 2-2:30 every night, I crawled into bed and was awoken around 5 by Valen, who had a habit of losing her room key. Oh to be young and drunk! During the day Valen swam in the pool with the kids and fed them lunch. I threw myself under the train, blinded with this wonderful opportunity. I should have realized that if the parents couldn't find anybody they knew to watch the children (beside a 19-year old) it was because their friends and relatives KNEW what the week would be like. That said, I did enjoy my time without children on the islands and will refrain from further complaints.
Samana is in Dominican Republic, sharing the small island with Haiti, but less dangerous. Now that Samana has a cruise port, they are less poor than Haiti, albiet still very poor. The excursion a friend organized was a 40-minute truck ride to a school, where we donated school supplies, then we went by horse-back for a half-hour to the top of a huge waterfall. We hiked by foot to the base of the mountain and swam in the chilly turquoise water under the waterfall and into a hidden cave. Each of us had a guide that not only led our horses, but also helped on our climb down and back up the many steep steps, made of roots, and rocks, and back up to our horses. I loved this trip!
Childcare is not provided while in port, so Valen watched the children until my return at 2:30. She had plenty of time to go on the island, but without any cash, it was a useless visit and so she stayed onboard and pouted. Not my problem. St. Thomas is one of the US Virgin Islands, and I have been there many times. The parents and Valen took the morning to shop while I watched the children until 1PM, then they picked up the kids and took them to a beach and I got to leave the ship and shop a little. Perfume and cologne is much less expensive there and I bought some Christmas gifts for my family. I'm not saying what.... Back on the ship by 5:30. My favorite excursion in St. Thomas is to snorkel an underwater national park on St. John's island. The water was rough and water taxi's were cancelled to that island. I might have done this instead of walking around shopping.
Tortola is a British Virgin Island. It was another mountainous island and I took a taxi tour of the island for $20 with another couple. It was beautiful. We stopped in a distillery and tasted some of the rum made from local sugar cane. The distillery was basically in an old garage, a dripping still, lots of giant bottles of rum in different stages of aging. I tasted five, and only the 10-year rum was any good. The rest tasted like hair tonic. Ewww. I bought a small bottle of the good stuff. We stopped in several scenic spots and took pictures from way above the gorgeous turquoise ocean surrounding the island.
The weather became rougher, with strong breezes and high waves, so our final island visit was cancelled. This was a private island, which would have included swimming in the ocean, snorkeling, floating, and lazing in beach lounge chairs and hammocks under the palm trees. A barbeque cookout was planned, and of course, expensive alcoholic beverages. Too bad, I was looking forward to a relaxing day of hiking to a long-retired lighthouse and avoiding the sun and children. Instead, we were stuck on the ship, where Valen and I took turns watching children. I packed my suitcase while the children were in daycare until 10 when the teachers called telling me they were falling asleep. I took them to their cabin, brushed teeth. Once the babies were asleep, I watched TV or read a book, typical of most nights. I got to my cabin by midnight and put my suitcase in the hallway to be taken away until we disembark the ship.
The final morning was in the Port of Miami, where we went through customs, claimed our luggage from a huge room full of lines and lines of suitcases. I was lucky enough to ride with the nicest couple to and from Miami to home. Dee Dee and Mike had a roomy SUV and were sweet enough to allow me, a total stranger, to join them in the long ride. I think it takes five hours... Yesterday, after we disembarked the ship, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast, then we drove to a suburb of Miami for their grandson's 1st birthday party. I really liked Dee Dee alot and enjoyed Mike's corny humor. He loved making plays on words. We were home by 8PM.