Saturday, June 23, 2012

Conclusion of Disney Dream Trip Report

Music Videos:
Part 1 (WDW)
Part 2 (Cruise)

Trip Report Links:
Day 1 Getting There
Day 2:  EPCOT (Part 1)
Day 2:  EPCOT (Part 2)
Alternative Day 2:  Hollywood Studios
Day 3:  Magic Kingdom
Day 4:  Embarking the Disney Dream (Part 1)
Day 4:  (Part 2)
Day 4:  (Part 3)
Day 5:   Castaway Cay
Day 6:  Nassau
Day 7:  Day at Sea
Day 8:  Revisiting Castaway Cay

I'm not going to write much about our last morning on the ship.  It was short.  We had breakfast at 6:45 a.m. in Animator's Palette.  And it was still a lot of food. Muffins/donuts came around on a tray, plus we could order various types of main entree plates.  We said a last farewell to our serving team.

While we were eating, there was an announcement that the ship had cleared customs and we could leave.  So we did leave after breakfast.

We first had to find our luggage (that we had put outside our door the night before).  A Disney porter got it for us and wheeled it through customs for us.  There were only about 3 people in line ahead of us at customs.  It was a breeze.  Then we called our shuttle company and they picked us up within 5 minutes.  And we were gone by 8:30 a.m.!

About our flights home...I will just say they were difficult.  We had 3 tired kids with us.  Enough said.

We didn't buy too many souvenirs on board.  The gift shops sold some of the same merchandise that was available in the parks.  And not much DCL clothing for kids.

But we got this Disney Dream model:

A DCL picture frame:

A DCL Christmas ornament and a mug:

A DCL Tervis cup:

A DCL bath toy set (Goofy was in the set, too):

A DCL tote bag:
And a bath towel (not pictured).

Family member favorites:

Brian--The day at sea.  No place to go, lots to do right at our fingertips.

Nancy--The day at sea, and the second day at Castaway Cay.  Renting bikes. Date dinners. Mango soup!

Nathan--both Disney World and the cruise equally!  Especially Star Wars Weekend and Space Mountain.

Joshua--meeting the characters, both at the parks and on the ship.  The Mickey slide, pool and hot tub.  The Caribbean Beach Resort pool.

Alyssa--dancing with the characters on Castaway Cay.

Things we would do again:

*  The DIS board meet-up and the Fish Extender.  It was great sharing information with people online before our cruise, we learned so much.  And the kids especially loved the Fish Extender gift exchange!

*  Dinner at Palo

*  Bike rentals at Castaway Cay

Things we would do differently:

*  Not stress about getting on the Aqua Duck the first day.  There were plenty of other opportunities when the line was short.

*  Have more professional pictures taken of our family each night.

*  Not make our kids sit through the Pirate Night dinner.  Especially the younger ones.  Next time we would either ask for their food to be brought out right away, then take them to the kids' clubs in between our courses.  Or feed them before our dinner time and then take them to the clubs.

*  Make sure we see the sunset on more nights.  Relax more with a book on Deck 4, the Vista Cafe, or the Cove Cafe.

Things we would make sure we try next time:

*  Dinner @ Cabanas instead of our rotational dining room each night.  Even if just for the view alone.

*  Goofy's miniature golf.  Yes, it's just miniature golf, but the view can't be beat!

*  Midship Detective Agency interactive game

*  The family games or family/adult classes (trivia, cooking classes, etc.)

*  A comedy show (adult version) late night at the adult night clubs

*  Pelican plunge water slide on Castaway Cay (just Nancy, the boys all made it there)

*  Take a longer cruise!

We had a really great vacation.  This was our first vacation that we've ever had some "couple" time in addition to time with our kids, and time with each child separately.  The cruise was completely different from any of our previous trips to Disney World.  The service we received from the Disney crew members was outstanding.  The nursery and the kids' clubs were amazing.  Brian said that the cruise was the first vacation that he wishes would have lasted longer (because usually at the end of a vacation, we are all ready to go home).

We hope to go on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean (Virgin Islands, St. Martin) cruise in 2014.  The timing will be right around our 10-year wedding anniversary.

If you have any questions about our trip, feel free to ask!  It's my favorite subject right now.

Also, a special thanks to our travel agent, Tracy Whipple at Travel on a Dream.  She's been helping us plan this cruise for almost 2 years!


Dream Trip Report Day 8: Revisiting Castaway Cay

Here is the daily navigator: June 14, 2012

The kids slept in until 7 a.m.  Yippee!  Of course they were up much later the night before, like until 11:30 or so...but I'll take it.

We all went to Cabanas for breakfast.  A crew member taught the boys a neat trick with water, pepper and dish detergent.

Today was our 2nd stop at Castaway Cay!  (also known as the "double-dip").  We asked the kids what they wanted to do today.  Joshua wanted to stay on the ship and go to the pool and Mickey slide.  Nathan wanted to go snorkeling.  I had a nursery reservation for Alyssa from 9-11 a.m. this morning so that we could do some of those other things with the boys.

Nathan and I got off the ship some time before 9:00 a.m. 
We took a tram to the first beach stop.

And found the snorkel rental spot.  Ok, I don't know if it was due to the late Pirate night the night before, or because it was the 2nd day at Castaway Cay, but it seemed like there was NOBODY on this island!

We got our snorkel equipment and surveyed the snorkel bay.  It was roped off and had lifeguards stationed way out.  There were buoys where interesting stuff was located beneath the water.

There were only 2 other people in the snorkel lagoon when we entered the water.  It took us a little while to get into our groove--this was the first time Nathan had used a snorkel outside of the bath tub and the pool.

We saw lots of these things on the bottom of the ocean:

And then we saw this sunken boat.

I didn't realize until we were far out there just how big the snorkel lagoon was.  It went out into the ocean, and then it curved around the top of the family beach.  We had only made it to 2 of the buoys.  Nathan was cold, I could see his lips were starting to turn blue, so we decided to head back to shore.

I'm glad we did it, it was a new experience for Nathan.  But I'm not sure I'd do it again unless one of my other kids wants to.  We really didn't see a lot of fish down there.

So for the next 1 1/2 hours, Nathan played on the beach and I relaxed by the water.

Seriously, where is everyone?  Still sleeping, I guess.

Brian was going to pick up Alyssa from the nursery at 11 a.m. and then we would all meet on the island for lunch at Cookie's BBQ.  So I wasn't there to witness this, but as they were walking down the gangway off the ship, Joshua fell down and scraped his knee slightly.  He started crying and all these crew members rushed over to him.  Brian said it was incredible how nice they were.  After they got him all set with a bandaid, two of the crew members asked where they were going and offered to give them a ride on a golf cart.  They hopped on, and were taken to the backstage, crew part of the island.  Brian said they went over rocks and drove on sand and it was kind of a rough, fun ride!  Eventually they made it to meet us for lunch.
While we were eating lunch, Joshua dropped his drink.  An crew member rushed over and asked what it was and got him a new one.  I love this place!

Later while we were still eating lunch, we could hear them announce in the nearby gazebo that they were about to start the crab races. We missed that, but we did make it to one of the character dance party!  Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck were there shaking it up.

Alyssa was really into this dance party.  See the crew member dressed all in white to the right of this picture?  She was one of the ones in the golf cart.  She recognized Alyssa and said, "Hey Mickey, look, it's Alyssa!"  So it turns out that Brian, Joshua and Alyssa were riding in the golf cart with Mickey Mouse and his handler.

After Daisy Duck left the dance party, Alyssa started running after her.  It was at this moment I realized just how fast my little girl could run!

After the dance party, we dropped the boys off at Scuttles Cove (the kids' club on the island).  Brian and I wanted to take another ride on those rental bikes and see more of the bike trail.

Here we are with Alyssa at the top of the observation tower:

We rode the same loop as the other day, but also added in the loop behind the adult beach.  It ended near the shore at another lookout point.  The water was so green!  While we were at this lookout point, we chatted with another couple who were on their 3rd or 4th cruise.  (I can't remember exactly).  Their kids are older but told us they had just as much fun in the Tween and Teen clubs on the ship.  They also told us about their 7-Day Eastern Caribbean cruise they had taken on Disney, which was their favorite.

After our bike ride, we decided to check on the boys in Scuttles Cove and see what they wanted to do next.  It was about 2:30 and they had been there for almost 2 hours.  I had wanted to catch the matinee show of the Broadway show called "Believe" that was playing at 4 p.m., but the kids had other plans.  Nathan said he wanted to go back to our room and watch a movie.  Joshua wanted to stay in Scuttles Cove more.  So I took Nathan and Alyssa back to the ship while Brian waited on the island for Josh to finish playing.

I took this picture as we were walking back:

And another one with Nathan:

And the sign as we neared the ship:

When we got to our room, I put Alyssa down for a nap.  Nathan and I ordered Mickey ice cream bars through room service.  Nathan decided to watch the movie Hercules.

Joshua and Brian got back a while later, and Joshua also feel asleep for a little while.
On our Fish Extender was an envelope from the nursery.  They had taken a picture of Alyssa while she was there and sent it to us!

We took showers, and around 5 p.m. I headed to Shutters to see what photos we wanted to purchase.  The navigator said that Shutters opened at 5 p.m., but I was there slightly before and it was already bustling.  I bought a 10-picture package.

We ordered room service again for the kids for dinner, dropped the kids off at the nursery and kids' club, and Brian and I headed back to Animator's Palette for our last date dinner.  I had to take a picture of this pear-looking thing--it was actually a potato!

At some point Brian said, "Oh no!  We have to book our next cruise so that we can get a discount!"  I was like, "Um, yeah, I already took care of that." :)

The last dinner had a "Til We Meet Again" special menu.  We both ordered the chocolate decadence for dessert. 

I guess Vijay thought we looked hungry or something, so he brought us each a piece of their signature dessert, Baked Alaska.  And a piece of a "celebration cake".  So just the two of us at dinner had 5 desserts sitting in front of us!  No wonder we gained weight!

After dinner, we had some time by ourselves before we had to pick up Alyssa so we walked up on deck.  Nobody at the pool during dinner.

And another beautiful sunset:

We picked up Alyssa around 8:00 and found this weiner towell dog on our bed:

We kept the boys in the kids' club while we packed.  We had to have our big suitcases out in the hallway by 10:30 p.m. and it was much easier to pack with them not there.

I went to pick up the boys around 9:30 p.m.  They had been in the club for 4 hours straight!  I think they could have stayed longer, but we knew our trip home the next day would be more miserable with less sleep.

The atrium was buzzing on the last night.  They had a couple of last-minute character greetings.

And by now, Shutters the photo store was really busy. 

After we picked up the boys, we took them back to the room and I went by myself one more time around the ship.  I picked up a few small things in the gift shop and went to the top deck again.  It seemed like everyone was trying to cram in some more activities on the last night on the ship.

But, we had to get to bed because we were assigned a breakfast time at 6:45 a.m. the next morning!

Dream Trip Report Day 7: Day at Sea

Here is the navigator: June 13, 2012

The kids woke up at 6:30 a.m. again.  The blackout curtain in our room is really good--but even with a dark room they still woke up at the same time.

Today was our day at sea!  No place to go.

At 7:45 a.m. we all headed to Cabanas for breakfast.

We asked the kids what they wanted to do.  The boys wanted to go to the pool/slide.  I wanted to take Alyssa to an open house at the Oceaneer Club to give her a chance to play there for a little bit.  She hadn't been there since our first afternoon on the ship.  At 9:00 a.m. the navigator listed something called "Big Top Fun Fest" in the club.  We were a little too early for that, so I took Alyssa to Deck 4 to walk around. 

At 9:00 we headed to the Oceaneer Club.  It wasn't full at all--during our whole time there I'd say there were maybe 5-10 other kids with their parents max.

They did have a circus program, where a crew member brought out various games to play.  Toss the balloon like a seal, jump through the hoop like a tiger, spin plates, etc.  But Alyssa (and most of the kids) weren't interested in that.  They mainly just wanted to play.  Since this was the open house, most of the kids seemed to be the kids that were not old enough to be there on their own (a lot of 2-year-olds).  But it was open to all ages.

Alyssa spent a lot of time playing in the Toy Story themed Andy's Room.  They had a giant Mr. Potato Head there and the cast member was very interactive with Alyssa.

Meanwhile, the boys were at the pool.  It really wasn't too crowded on the morning of our sea day.  This is the only pic of Joshua going down the Mickey slide.

Joshua (and all the other kids) really enjoyed the hot tubs.  They were always packed with kids.  (The hot tubs have a glass floor--kinda neat).
When Alyssa and I were done with the Oceaneer Club, we came and met the boys near the pool area.  On all cruise lines, children who are not potty trained are not allowed in the pool (I think it's an international law or something).  So Alyssa was only allowed to go in Nemo's Reef splash area.  Although she tried real hard to make it in that Mickey pool!

Nathan was lounging on deck watching Lilo & Stitch on the big funnelvision screen.

I had made a reservation for Alyssa at the nursery from 11-1 today.  I took her back to the room to get changed and dropped her off.  Then I decided that Brian should have some alone time to read or explore the ship, so we let him go and I took the boys to lunch at the fast food places.  There was no line (it was about 11:30 or so).  We were able to get seats right by the window.  Josh and I had pizza, Nathan had chicken strips.  The pizza was pretty good!

Our dinner server Vijay was working in another role that morning but he made sure to come up to us and ask how we were enjoying our sea day.

One of the fast food places had the healthy food!  I didn't notice this until after lunch.  They had lots of fruit, salads, wraps.  This is what I had been missing the whole cruise!  Now I know.
On the other side of the deck is the Eye Scream ice cream spot.  So we all got ourselves a cone.  They had chocolate, vanilla, banana, and strawberry flavors.

The boys wanted to go to the character dance party in the atrium, and we were still a few minutes early, so we took some pictures out on Deck 4.

At 12:15 we went to the character dance party.  First Chip & Dale came out to dance,then Lilo and Stitch.  It was a lot of fun for the kids!  And not too crowded. (I have footage in my video).

At 12:45, we met back up with Brian.  He and Nathan wanted to go see The Avengers, which was playing in the big theatre.  It was almost time to pick up Alyssa, so Josh and I went to get her.

I asked Joshua what he wanted to do, and he said he wanted to meet some more characters.  So we got in line to see Woody and Jessie.  I found out that the characters are much more popular on the sea day, as we waited in line 30 minutes to see those two!  I kept asking Joshua if he was sure he wanted to wait, and he did.  At least he had these fun portholes to play in while we waited.

While we were waiting, Alyssa fell asleep in my arms.
We then waited for a picture with The Incredibles.
And then a quick picture with Remy from Ratatouille.  (Remy had a much shorter line than all the rest).
Then we went back to the room and I ordered Alyssa some room service, since they told he she wasn't hungry at the nursery.
And Josh had a Mickey ice cream bar.  The kids watched a movie while I showered.
Brian and Nathan came back from the movie theater.  They loved The Avengers.  And it was time to get into our pirate gear for Pirate Night!  Our stateroom host had left us all pirate bandanas on our bed earlier.  And we had brought a few things from home, and we had gotten more pirate stuff in our Fish Extender.

Alyssa only kept her bandana on for a few minutes, then she was done with it.
We wanted to eat dinner with our kids on pirate night because we heard there was a special menu and the servers dressed up in pirate gear.  We thought it would be fun for the kids.

But first we wanted some pictures of us as pirates.  We tried the line for Jack Sparrow, but it was too long and we'd miss dinner.  So we settled for the white background.  Somehow, the photographer got these 2 pictures to work out:

I'm not sure how, because Alyssa was crabby and screaming and the boys were fighting with eachother.  I'm sure we were quite a sight.

At dinner, photographers came around and took this picture of Nathan and Brian:

Dinner did not go well for us.  It was in the Royal Palace restaurant and yes, there was a special pirate menu and yes, the servers dressed up. But my kids were just tired and dinner was still 90 minutes and it was just too long.  The servers tried to help entertain our kids, and even the head server came over, but our kids (at least the 2 younger ones) were just done.  I didn't have nursery time scheduled for Alyssa until 7:30, so we had to wait for that.  Next time, we will know not to force our kids to eat with us on pirate night.  Totally not worth it.

Ok, finally it was 7:30 and I dropped Alyssa off at the nursery.  Then the rest of us headed up on deck to see the Mickey pirate show.

And it seemed fun and got the kids involved with dancing, but I couldn't help but notice over my shoulder THIS:

The sunset was gorgeous!  How could I have missed this all week?

After the show, we dropped the kids off at the kids' club.  Brian and I wanted to catch the comedy show by Alfred and Seymore.  Ahhhhh, we needed few moments to ourselves and some good laughs.  I thought the show was really good.  The first 15 minutes of it they spent making fun of all the people who walked in late.  So if you don't want to be called out in that show, arrive on time.

When we got back to the room, we found this towel monkey:

Soon it was time to pick up all the kids and head to the Buccaneer Blast fireworks show, which was at 10:30 p.m..  We had debated about whether we should keep Alyssa in the nursery, or if one of us should stay back in the room with her because it was so late.  But in the end we took her in her stroller up to the top deck.  We didn't want to miss anything!

The boys had lots of glow necklaces from our Fish Extender gifts.

Alyssa fell asleep before the fireworks started.
We stood on Deck 12 below the Currents Bar and had a great view of the fireworks with little crowds!
The fireworks show was very short, maybe 5 minutes?  Not nearly as long as the fireworks in the park, but there are only 4000 people on board here vs. like 75,000 in the parks.  So I'm sure that played into the equation.

After the fireworks, the pirate show continued with some sort of Jack Sparrow show.  I was hoping that we could take the 2 younger kids back to the room for bed, but Joshua didn't want to miss a thing.  And then after the show was a dance party on the pool deck!  So Brian went back to the room with Alyssa while I kept the boys out.  Joshua lasted maybe another 10 minutes before he started to melt down.  He was just so tired!  I dropped him back off at the room.  Then it was just me and Nathan.  Nathan didn't last too much longer--I think he just wanted to be the last one up!

Brian and I were talking that night--the sea day was our favorite day of this cruise so far!  I think we just felt more relaxed, there was nowhere we had to be, we let the kids decide what they wanted to do.  And now we understood why people liked the days at sea!  (We had a hard time understanding that before our cruise).

Tomorrow: Our 2nd day at Castaway Cay!