Buddy Cruise Blog

The official Blog for Buddy Cruise. We are a non profit, dedicated to the advancements of individuals with Down syndrome.

Happy New Year!

clock January 21, 2013 16:52 by author Holly
Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were decking the halls and ringing in the new year. I have been chosen to be this years Buddy Blogger for Buddy Cruise Inc. so thought I'd better get something posted before the month slips away.
I am sure there are those reading this who are asking themselves who is this Holly person and how did she get selected for such a prestigious postion.
About Me: I am a special education teacher with over 30 years experience. In Nov. of 2012 I came out of retirement to work as a 1-1 notetaker for a High School student who recently lost his hearing. I also work as a life coach for a 22 year old young man and a 55+ yr. old woman with DS.  When I was in the classroom fulltime I was known for my diagnostic/prescriptive teaching and use of low to high tech forms of augmentative and alternative communication. I also earned the esteemed title of Latrine Queen for my prowess in toilet training the hard to reach/hard to teach child.
I like reading, computing and hanging out on FB. I LOVE technology and have a zillion iPad apps downloaded and ready to use with whomever will play with me. I've sailed on 4/5 Buddy Cruises and work hard throughout the year collecting donations for the onboard raffles and silent auctions.
As to how I got this job... just lucky I guess :-)
Looking forward to getting to know each of you better as we count down the days 'til Buddy Cruise 2013!
Holly aka Buddy Blogger!

1week until paradise!

clock October 13, 2012 10:27 by author Shannon
A week from tomorrow we will be joining our friends on the wonderful Freedom of the Seas! This has been a super long wait for us since we missed last year and now it is finally almost here. So I say to myself...oh my goodness I need to start getting ready. If you have not done your check in on royal Caribbean you really need to do it soon. Get all your documents together and just in case you didn't know...we get luggage tags at the boat. Today I am going to go get some final shopping done....laundry...and pack pack pack! As I go through the day and think of ideas I will post again. First tip....sunblock (for those of us that live in colder regions) is on clearance. It is good for a long time so stock up and you can have enough for the cruise and next summer. I got Peyton's for $1.79 and it is usually $10! Ok off I go to get it done...hope you all have a great day!

I am daydreaming about sun, beaches, and a drink in my hand!

clock September 24, 2012 18:40 by author Shannon
Hi everyone! I hope you all are getting as excited as I am. Anthony is driving me crazy about the cruise. We so need this vacation...time to spend with family and friends. Since it is getting a little chilly here I started packing on Saturday...crazy I know but I figured why should I put it all away just to turn around in 3 weeks and have to find it to pack it. So I have started packing myself and then I will start the kids. My husband on the other hand will pack the night before we leave. Anthony is sitting here saying he cannot wait to play basketball on the back of the boat...see his friends...swim in the pool...and the food. Dan says he cannot wait to see all our friends and get out of Illinois. I on the other hand just cannot wait for the quite of the ocean. To let you know what we are up to...I have to go out of town (only 2 hours away) for work to do inventory and Dan is staying home with both kids overnight for the first time. This should be interesting. Anthony has home coming on Saturday for his first dance with a girl from school. So much going on I am sure to forget to do or bring something for the cruise. If anyone reading this has tips or wants me to discusss a specific topic for the cruise please leave a comment and I will work on it this weekend. Happy evening and look forward to seeing you all soon. Oh I almost forgot...go to buddycruise.org for details on buddy cruise 2013...there are special deals if you reserve a cabin while on Buddy Cruise 2012!!!!

Only 5 weeks to go!

clock September 13, 2012 22:45 by author Shannon
I cannot believe it! It is almost time! Today my baby Peyton turned 1! Does time fly...I cannot believe it! I was the happiest mommy in the world a year ago and I am still happy because I am blessed with 2 wonderful children. Tonight Anthony had an awards ceremony at school for academic excellence! He achieved honor roll last year so he received his letter for his highschool jacket as an award! For all those people out there that state our kids cannot do...well mine just proved tonight that they are all wrong. I have been looking forward to many different things this summer and Peyton's birthday was a big one and my next is BUDDY CRUISE! I love Buddy Cruise because this is a great place for people to meet our kids and see that the are not just "special" but AWESOME! So I have been doing my favorite thing the last couple of nights...shopping!!! I am finding some great deals out there! Sundresses for under $20...clothes for the kids and money for the cruise staying in my pocket! I keep thinking about what I should pack...that is a hard one. Remember to bring attire for hot hot weather but do not forget the boat can be cooler in the evening and the early mornings. Also MJ had a wonderful idea she shared last year...when packing the kids clothing buy dollar store zipper plastic bags and place daily outfits in each one...this makes organizing and dressing the kids much easier. Those cabins can get a little tight with more than 2 people (for those of us without suites). Also another tip...in your carryon pack you clothing and needed items for day 1 of the cruise so that you do not have to repack at the hotel. I also like to bring an extra bag...this year a laundry bag so that when the clothes are dirty they can be organized away from the luggage. For those of you bringing small children like me...I am also going to pack what diapers, food and miscellanous items I need for the first day in my luggage but when I get to Florida I am going to run to the nearest store to pick up the weeks stuff so I do not have to carry it on the plane. Items that are great to buy at this time...of course summer clothing if you want something new....swimsuits...SUNBLOCK!!!...sandals. Remember do not wait to long or your specific size may be gone before you know it. Also if you have not yet please do your preboard check in and book your transportation. There will be vouchers for the shuttle from the hotel to the port avaliable when you arrive at the hotel. However if you are using Travelynx to get to the hotel you can also pay for your transfer then. Sometime this weekend I will be working on a list of DO NOT FORGET ITEMS for everyone. Hope this helps and I hope everyone is as excited as I am!

Getting closer!!! All I have on my mind is the boat, beach and friends.

clock August 30, 2012 19:54 by author Shannon
Hi everyone! We are getting so close that it is everyday that one of my fellow cruisers tells me how excited they are for the cruise and how we all cannot wait to get pampered. How nice to go somewhere we do not have to cook, clean and can have others take care of us. As family members and caretakers of people with special needs we sometimes forget about ourselves. The cruise is a great opportunity to relax and gain back strength both physically and mentally to allow us as caretakers to do a better job. Helpful hint...if you do not like what the main dining room is serving you can always as for something else...if you are still hungry you can ask for more. If you have special requests to make your vacation more enjoyable and relaxing do not hesitate to ask. They are there to make your trip memorable. So I did the precruise check in and I have to say it takes no time at all! Make sure to do that no later than 3 days before the cruise....why not get it done now? While your at it, electronically sign you activity waivers. Have you signed up for excursions? They fill up fast so do it as soon as you can! Ok so what we are doing to get ready...well as many of you already know I am alway running so I keep thinking of things I need to do. I am a very forgetful person so I downloaded a list app for my phone so that when I remember something I need to do for the cruise or something I need to bring I can add it to my list. Some things you need to make sure you do ASAP if you have not already done it...book your hotel, Make sure you have your travel documents, Book a car or transfer service from the airport to the hotel. Also make sure to reserve your entertainment...spots are filling up and some times have already been shut down for reservations. Lastly...if you have not sent in your registration payment please do so. I finally remembered mine today!!! Lastly, Tomorrow I will be starting a countdown to cruise time since Anthony keep asking when we are going. I suggest this if you have a child who is driving you crazy!

2 months and counting

clock August 22, 2012 22:42 by author Shannon
Like many of you we are counting down the days until we are sailing on the beautiful Freedom of the Seas! We have had so much going on that i have not had time to think about vacation. Last week i got salmonella...it sucked! Well now it is time to start thinking about all the little things we have to do before we go. First off I would like to remind you all to sign up on Royal Caribbean's website for the precruise planner. Here you can reserve show times and dininge as well as book excursions and so much more. You will also need to complete the Online check in and don't forget to fill out your waivers for the Rock climbing wall, Flow riders and zip line! So on a personal note we have been slowly shopping for the cruise. I have been able to find some great deals on sun dresses and other summer attire. Do not wait too long or those deals can pass you by. Don't forget everyone should bring a more formal attire for the captains dinner. Don't miss it...it is full of great dining and entertainment. For those of you that have not ever cruised before, don't be worried it is just like a town on water. There is everything you need all in one place and you are taken care of by superb staff. Your biggest worry is which events and entertainment to attend and what to eat from the millions of choices. My favorite part of the trip (many moms favorite part) is that I AM TAKEN CARE OF. I do not have to clean or cook and I have time to relax with my friends and family. So everyone plan to see me act silly and relax....which I never do. The cruise brings the best out in all of us just like our special DS family. So let's all plan to relax, sit back and enjoy our wonderful getaway. Reminders...like me I have forgotten to mail in my buddy cruise registration...if you have not done so please mail it immediately. Book your hotel if you have not done so. Don't forget to email your arrival time at the airport if you are looking to transfer with fellow buddy cruisers from the airport to the hotel. My family is looking at being at the hotel quite early to enjoy the beach...feel free to join us. We have 8 people coming into the airport around 9-10 am so if you are interested in traveling with us email me. Ok off to bed I go. I will be back in a week or less with some more ideas. If you want me to discuss a specific subject email me at frog 78@comcast.net and I will address on a future blog.

107 days to go - many important deadlines!!!!

clock July 5, 2012 18:44 by author Shannon

Hey everyone! It is crazy to think that in a little over 3 months we will all get together again for some fun in the sun! Here are a few things that we need from you with upcoming deadlines...

7/20/12 is the last day for entries for the Buddy Book. Please make sure to send these in. They make great keepsakes for everyone.

8/1/12 is the cut off for the Buddy Walk fundraiser to count for incentives. Of course everyone can continue to raise money but after 8/1 it will not count towards the incentives on the cruise.

8/7/12 is the date we need the registration completed along with the payment and individual pictures.

Please also be sure to watch out for the monthly newsletter emails that contain important updates and information.

So as many of you know we were not on the cruise last year due to my bedrest with the lovely Peyton Marie. So this will be the first vacation we have had in 2 years by the time our cruise comes. It is amazing how much we forget in that time. So I have been trying to remember what I need to do. First of all if anyone needs to get a passport this is the time to do it. During the summer months it can take a little longer to get them. Something else that I find to be important is depending on where you live many places are starting to clearance out summer attire. As you all know we will all need this since it can get really hot in October on the cruise. www.kohls.com is doing some great clearance prices on summer dress attire. Some of my other favorites are www.target.com www.jcpenny.com and www.macy.com However, do not get too carried away when packing since most of the time many of us will be in swimsuits. Also depending on what you plan to wear during the day it is ok to bring simple dresses or a shirt and pants to wear to dinner more than once since you are only there a short time. Remember to buy/pack more than 1 swimsuit since many times yo may just want a dry one to change into. oh yeah and SUNBLOCK SUNBLOCK AND MORE SUNBLOCK. Many stores like Walgreens have been doing buy one get one free deals. If you have small children you may want to do the Baby program. However this can be pricy. So what we have decided to do is pack just what we need to travel to Florida and then stop at a store to pick up Peytons diapers, food and water when we get there the night before. This way we do not have to take it on the plane with all the other bulky stuff like the carseat.

well sorry this blog is going to be so short but the Princess has woke from her nap. Have a great night!




Royal Caribbean website and other great tips!

clock June 14, 2012 19:13 by author Shannon

HI everyone! I know I promised some shopping tips for this post but I found some much useful information on the Royal Caribbean website last night and some other helpful tips so I decided to share that with you today. So we have 129 days until our cruise! We are all starting to get excited. So last night we were exploring the website and I found some cool things that will help make planning the cruise and the cruise so much easier. Ok first of all...if you have a little one and have never sailed before...just know you have to reserve a crib if you need one. This is much easier than trying to lug around a pack and play. I suggest everyone sign up for the Crown and Anchor Society. This membership is free and allows you to receive point for each cruise you take. Each family member has to be signed up...it is easy and fast. Some benefits include: invitations to welcome back parties, sea pass recognition card, Exculsive triva, priority check in, Meets the Stars. As you tier up additional benefits include robes to use on board, signature lapel pin, welcome gift, mile stone regonition, and so much more...check it out!

Please sign up on the webpage under my cruises. You will need your confirmation # to do this. This allows you to see:

Itineraries: Basic details about the cruise

Precruise planner: Here you can currently order some gifts and gear including adventure gear, babies to go items, celebrations, treats, flowers, and romance packages. You can also currently presign onboard activity waivers for the Flow Rider, Ice Skating, and Rock Climbing wall. In August (maybe sooner) we will be able to use the food and drink reservations to buy those awesome soda and wine and schedule MY TIME dining, purchase EXCURSIONS!, and Sports and spa reservations to make sure you get on the FlowRider etc.

Cruise documentation: This is where you go to sign the activity waivers, get your guest vacation documents which are the tickets and the documentation you will need to board the ship and where you will complete your online check in. PLEASE READ THE "IMPORTANT INFORMATION YOU MUST READ BEFORE YOUR DEPARTURE" section. This explains the travel requirements. Believe it or not people have booked cruises without knowing they needed a passport and were not allowed on the ship. To outline this briefly... each United States citizen must have a US passport or WHTI or trusted travel documents. There is an exception noted that if the cruise begins and ends at the same port you can use an government issued ID and birth certificate. I would not suggest this because if you missed the boat for some reason it will be very hard to get on a plane. Please check all details on the website and with www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.

Cruise details: This is a breakdown of the ports, ship, stateroom and image gallery

Tips and Reminders: Suggestions from Royal Caribbean on what you need to do before you cruise. Online check-in, Excursion details, First day of cruise details, reservations, tipping, and more. It also has a timeline reminder which I am going to breakdown here for you


7/12/12 - Book hotel

8/1/12 - be sure to review your tracel documents and passport requirements

8/11-12 Plan your ground transportation

9/5/12-reserve excursions

10/6/12 Last chance to reserve online using pre-cruise planner

10/15/12-complete check-in

10/19/12 - Last chance to purchase GIFTS & GEAR online


Another useful tip to close today...We reserved our car yesterday with Enterprise and i was able to get a mini van that fits 7 people and 5 pieces of luggage for $111!!! This does not include a car seat for Peyton because the car is being picked up at Orlando and dropped off near the hotel. This is a much cheaper option then the transfers from the airport to Cape Canaveral which can get very pricey and we have a car for the evening. Ok well I am going to go explore some more and I will be back soon to post some more helpful tips. If anyone has specific information they need please comment and I will let you know what i know:-)



Cruise details:

It has been so long and we have such a short time before we embark

clock May 30, 2012 21:34 by author Shannon

Hi everyone! I am so sorry I have been gone for so long. As many of you know I have been fighting my own battles with my health. So I have had my time to mourn what is happening and now I am back and more excited then ever to tell you so more about Buddy Cruise events. There is not only 1 cruise coming up but 3!!! For the 2 additional cruises in 2013 they have partnered up with Best Buddies in February and the authors of “Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid” in March. Both of these additions will take place on the Jewel of the Sea. This boat has many of the same amenities that we have all come to love from Royal Caribbean. The boat has 3 pools, 3 whirlpools, 100+ spa treatments, Rock-climbing wall, mini-golf course, basketball court, jogging track, video game arcade, the same restruants that we love to fill ourselves at, casino, 16 bars and lounges, kids pool, teen lounge, and the Ocean Adventure and Royal Babies programs. Both cruises leave from Tampa, FL and are headed to beautiful Cozumel Mexico where there is so much to do. I highly recommend the Chankanaab National Marine Park where you can swim with the dolphins. It was an amazing experience for Anthony and I in 2009! Some other activities include Playa Mia Beach, Jeep safari, golf, and of course SHOPPING! Of course there is also the exciting activities scheduled on board. Ok now moving back to October!! Only 143 days left to go!!! If you have not started thinking about what excursions you want to do while at port this is the perfect time. Royal Caribbean has finally posted the excursions for our cruise. Some of the excursions have age requirements so make sure to check out what they are before booking with the kids. My next blog will be coming very soon and we will focus on some shopping tips for the cruise.

Weather is getting warmer and I am starting to think about the cruise again!!

clock April 6, 2012 22:15 by author Shannon
Hello friends! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. The baby has been taking up a ton of time getting her first 2 teeth!! So today I started thinking...what do I need to start doing to prepare for the cruise? I know it seems so far away...but it is only 28 weeks away!!! I would suggest that everyone starts watching airfare rates. Southwest and other airlines will credit you if you book and then there is a lower rate...be careful though since you have to use that credit within a year of your original purchase date. Also if you can you may want to book a room at the Hampton Cocoa Beach - $109 for each room. Another thing I have been thinking about is excursions!!! If you are fortunate enough to leave the cruise I highly recommend trying something new. Currently Royal Caribbean is not listing the excursions for our cruise date but you can look at other cruise dates to see what options there are. I am keeping a close eye on it and I will advise when they are allowing for booking. Once they are listed the good ones go fast. I suggest everyone book through the cruise line since many of the other excursion companies will not refund your money if the excursion is cancelled due to weather (mine was cancelled my first year and Royal gave me a refund) Ok so some of you may be thinking...I have so much to save for on the cruise. Here are some money saving tips I found searching online... 1. Bring your own camera (those photos on the cruise are expensive) also we love sharing our photos after everyone returns home. 2. Eat all your meals in the main dining room and at the Wind Jammer because the food is free and GOOD! Other places on the boat charge you for food. Daniel said it wants to eat at Johnny Rockets and I told him why would I pay to eat on the boat when I can eat that at home. 3. Do not buy bottled water...the water on the boat is free. However if you like soda BUY THE PACKAGE!!! It is much cheaper than individual sodas. 4. If you want to buy something in the ships shops wait until the last day of the cruise or one of the cruises sale days so you do not have to pay as much...unless it is something you cannot live without. 5. Drink a TON of orange juice before the cruise so you do no crave it while on the cruise...it is costly. Until next time everyone be safe and take care. P.S. I had to share this quote with everyone "I don't think the worst thing that can happen to me is raising a child with special needs.I think the worst thing is to raise a child that is cruel to those with special needs" We need to remind our world that being cruel to one another should not be tolerated.


Buddy Cruise Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit founded in 2008 by 2 siblings in honor of their brother who has Down syndrome. Their events are a forum for prominent educational speakers who present on a wide range of special needs related topics.  Their programs are not only supportive of families touched by Down syndrome but other disabilities as well. 


The mission of Buddy Cruise is to provide educational opportunities for families, while promoting awareness, acceptance & inclusion for individuals with Down syndrome.


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