Monday, February 6, 2012

Family Fun in New Orleans Before the Cruise

Our New Orleans adventure started out Friday morning at 3 am when we loaded up 4 minivans with 12 adults and 13 kids and headed out of Central Illinois. We found a great deal on a nice hotel in Gretna, Louisiana just across the Mississippi River from the heart of New Orleans. There is a free ferry that crosses the river just 1/2 mile down. Here is a pic of the Holiday Inn Westbank we stayed at:

We picked this place cause it was $100 per night cheaper than all the New Orleans hotels, plus it offered free parking for us while there and while at the cruise. Parking at New Orleans hotels is $25-$40 per night and parking at the Port for the cruise is $80 per vehicle. The Holiday Inn Westbank Tower is the way to go if cruising out of New Orleans!!

We are cruising on Carnivals Elation and heading out Monday and getting back on Saturday morning. Cruising (and New Orleans) is a first for all of us in this group but my mom and dad. We are super excited for a week of nothing but eating, sleeping, and having fun!!

So anyhow we arrived at the Hotel about 4 pm Friday afternoon and ate dinner at the RoundHouse Grill connected to the hotel. Just an average dinner there, nothing to write home about, but the convenience was well worth it!

Saturday morning us guys went out deep sea fishing down in Venice with Captain Josh Howard of Deep South Charters. You can see the pics and read about that adventure here at Nate's Fishing Blog

While the guys were out deep sea fishing in Venice, the gals and the kids had a fun day at the Hotel pool and the Oak something shopping center just 3/4 mile away!
Here is a pic that got texted to me while I was out in the boat fishing:

Anyhow we got back late Saturday night and crashed! The women stayed up and played some games or something but Sunday is when our downtown family fun New Orleans adventure began! Most people would think we are crazy for taking 13 kids under 10 years old for a day of exploring the heart of New Orleans, but while it may be true that we are indeed crazy, New Orleans was surprisingly accomodating for our group!!

First we all boarded the Ferry to cross the Mississippi. It was free and the kids absolutely loved that boat ride!!

Then we walked 2 blocks to the Audobon Aquarium and Imax theater! We bought a combo pass that also included the Insectarium and Zoo! That costed $35 per adult and $19 per child. Was well worth the price! The aquarium was AWESOME and the kids absolutely loved the hour long Imax 3D movie about African Lions!

Drake is two and he was glued to the screen for the whole thing!

The aquarium had a bird exhibit that the kids loved! For $1 you could feed the birds with a bird seed stick:

Drake loved the aquarium. I have much better pics of the sharks, etc but I am on the cruise ship right now and using the last bit of wireless internet signal from my Iphone before I have to buy Carnival internet. I actually downloaded these photos from the hotel room early this morning so I wouldnt have to do that on the cruise ship!

So from the Aquarium we started walking down Canal Street in the heart of New Orleans on our way to the St Charles trolley. En route we stopped at an Arbys! About 6 blocks later and we were at the trolley. It costed $27.50 for our group to board and it was again well worth it! The kids loved that few mile ride down to the zoo.

The Zoo was again surprisingly awesome and we ended up staying a bit too late. Only one pic of Drake eating a corn dog in front of the flamingos. The girls took hundreds of pictures though...

Anyhow it was about 5 pm before we got back on the Trolley and here we are in New Orleans after dark with 13 kids ages 6 months to 10 years old! We eventually made it back to the Ferry which runs from 6 am to 12 am daily. We made it back to the Hotel about 7 pm and ordered pizza and watched the Super Bowl.

The pizza we actually ordered from the Hotel restaurant and believe it or not it was actually awesome pizza. They hand make it or home make it or whatever you want to call it, but there is a meal worth writing home about!!

We made it to the Port of New Orleans about 10 am this morning to load up on the cruise. We dropped off all the gear and kids and then a couple of us guys drove our vehicles the 5 miles back to the hotel and took a $22 taxi back to meet up with the rest of the group.

We boarded the cruise and have been having a ball ever since getting on! The kids have already had the adventure of their lifetime and the fun has just begun!! We ate the buffet for lunch, the kids swam and then we explored the ship and ate our 6 pm 5 course meal. From there the kids went to orientation at Camp Carnival and they have been playing games there ever since!

Drake and I finally went back to the room about 9 pm and he conked out immediately. I am writing while I am waiting for the kids to come back and tell me all about it! I stayed with them for about an hour and they were right at home dancing and playing games. I cant believe they are still out partying, its already 2 hours past their normal bedtime! Maybe, hopefully, lets just pray they sleep in tomorrow morning!

Guys, this vacation is a must do, especially with kids and the entire family! It is far different than anything we have ever done before. Normally we are camping or staying near a body of water for our vacations. This is the first time we really are tourists.....

Oh yeah, instead of shipping all our fish meat back home, I found a company in New Orleans called Louisiana Dry Ice and Shipping. An awesome small company who is going to flash freeze and prep our fish meat for us to pick up and transport home ourselves on Saturday. The quality of the meat is going to be so much better than me just UPS shipping home the fish on ice. Also we saved a ton of money!! Anyhow I am also going to load up on sweet potato pies and poor boy spicy sausages from them before heading out on Saturday!!!

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