Wednesday, September 24, 2014

disney dream cruise

Just where do I begin??

It took me over a week to sort through all the pictures from our trip and attempt to narrow it down to just some highlights for this blog post. I failed. I procrastinated for a while, knocking other things off my to-do list because the task seemed daunting. And then I started choosing pictures, making collages, thinking I could upload 20 or so. Nah... Eventually I decided to just walk away from my computer and let the pictures upload (over our dial-up speed internet) and then get on with the post.

So, grab a cup of coffee (wine?) and settle in because here is the story of our Disney Dream cruise.

It was awesome!!! We had a really good time. As I've told some friends, it was not very relaxing (what vacation with two little ones ever is?), but it was very fun. We (I) decided over a year ago that I wanted to take a Disney cruise for Hannah's 5th birthday. We have not done anything Disney up to this point and Joe and I really wanted to wait until the kids got a little older before doing Disney World. We liked the idea of a cruise (I've been on many with my family) and have always heard that Disney did it best. And they do! Meme joined us and boy did we make some great memories…

Setting Sail

First thing we did when we got onboard was change into bathing suits and hit the pool and slides. Hannah made several trips down the Mickey (yellow) slide, while Joseph wanted to check out the "little pool" - aka, the hot tub.

Hannah took her first two rides down the AquaDuck, a water coaster, first with Joe then with me. So much fun; she was beside herself.

We ate lunch and explored a little. It was Hannah and Joseph's first cruise and to say they were overwhelmed is an understatement. The sheer size of the boat is incredible. Then, of course, there's all the stuff to see and do on the boat. {Joseph asked me two days into the cruise, "Momma, when we gonna leave the hotel and get on the boat?"}

Hannah fell asleep during the lifeboat drill and took a little nap on her daddy's lap. When she woke up it was time for the sail away celebration. But first, one more time down Mickey's Slide.

In the late afternoon, we left Port Canaveral and sailed off towards the Bahamas.

We really liked the bathrooms. That might sound weird, but I mean - how cute is this?

Joseph loved that in every bathroom, there was a sink just his size. He could reach the soap and towels all by himself! The restaurants are also really neat, all with different themes and cuisines. Our first night we ate in Enchanted Garden. Hannah met a friend everywhere we went. Joseph is our explorer/engineer and just wanted to know how everything worked.

Our first princess encounter was Sunday night. One of the things we heard a lot was how the characters are everywhere onboard and you have the opportunity to meet as many as you want. Occasionally you can catch a character walking around the ship (we saw Goofy sleep-walking one morning!), but for the most part they are set up at little photo ops throughout. The lines weren't too bad and totally worth it to our little girl. Cinderella and Tiana - amazing!! {To Tiana: "I liked you first…you were my first princess." She also asked what her shoes looked like - classic Hannah question.}

On the way to the show, we got to meet this guy:

Big smiles for Mickey Mouse!

Another thing we heard and totally agree with is how good the shows are - the best of any cruise I've been on for sure. The first night's show was "The Golden Mickeys". Joseph fell asleep, but Hannah said it was the "Awesome-est thing ever!!!"

Day Two: Nassau

Joseph, as he did (does) every morning, woke up at the crack of dawn. He and Meme spent the early morning having milk and coffee waiting for us to join them for breakfast. We made the decision to stay on the boat instead of getting off in Nassau. It was definitely the right move for us, and we had a ball playing around the ship with a smaller crowd. Hannah started her day in a big way: princess meet and greet! She wore her Belle dress, of course. She saw Tiana and Cinderella again and met Rapunzel.

She was delighted to meet all of the princesses, but getting to talk to Belle was the highlight of her trip.

When Joe and I asked her what she and Belle talked about, she couldn't remember! She was so excited and starstruck, it was precious. Ariel had the best personality. Hannah loved her, too.

Joseph, on the other hand, was all grins, smitten by Snow White. It was hysterical.

While Hannah was on cloud nine meeting princesses, Joseph was most-intrigued with the glass elevators in the atrium. Seriously. Throughout the cruise, Joseph was fascinated by all the working parts. He liked meeting characters but the autograph he would've wanted the most belonged to the elevator repairman (who he saw working on top of the elevator). Meme tried to find him later, asking guest services, but alas - it was not meant to be.

A dance with Daddy, a picture in the throne chair, and Tinker Bell! And then off to have some fun in the sun. Joseph played in Nemo's Reef, a water/splash area just for the little ones…

…while Hannah put on her goggles and didn't take them off for the rest of the day. She had a blast swimming and flipping around the pools.

When I told Joseph swim diapers weren't allowed in the pool, he asked me to take his off. {"Pwomise I'll tell you when I need to go."} So off it went, and we had no problems. Wish I knew it was going to be that easy!

Hannah met the captain, and enjoyed watching the Disney movies playing nonstop on the big screen. We all did!

We rested in our stateroom and recharged for a full night of fun. DCL celebrates "Halloween on the High Seas" during September and October. Kids, adults and characters were in costume and there were special Halloween-themed events and a dance party in the atrium.

We were the Clancy family from, you guessed it, Fancy Nancy. You already know the fancy one in our family, but here she is as Nancy.

Our signs read "Mr. Clancy (plain)", "Jo Jo Clancy (plain)", etc.

Now, let me tell you about this little boy. He is quite the photographer. He begs to use my camera and when he says "Please I may have you camera" I find it hard to say no. A sampling of his talent:

…But when I do take the camera back, he pouts for a bit.

Dinner on nights two and three were at Royal Palace - a fancy dining room, and perfect for the birthday girl. After dinner, we walked to the shops for Hannah to pick out some things with her birthday spending money she got from her aunts and uncles. On the way, we stopped to meet Minnie!

…And Goofy and Donald!

One of the decisions we made while planning our trip was to book an interior stateroom. There is no window or balcony, so no natural light, which is perfect for nap times and sleeping later after late nights (unless you're Joseph). Plus, we weren't in the room a whole lot anyway, so we saved some money there. We were located on deck 8, midship, which was perfect. I think when we do this again, we might ask for the same two connecting rooms. The location was ideal.

There is a "magic porthole" in the rooms that show a real-time view from the back of the boat. Characters pop up now and then and the kids loved it. You can also switch it off. Staterooms are spacious (in comparison to other cruise lines) and very nice.

Besides the magic porthole, the kids loved finding goodies in the fish extender outside our door. {If you have no clue what I'm talking about, this is an optional activity where you can leave small, fun things at other people's doors inside the pockets of an "extender" hanging from the little fish/seahorse that is mounted outside of every stateroom door. There is a lot more info about this if you do a search.} Meme bought our extender (I believe from Etsy) as well as our magnetic door decorations. The door magnets are another optional thing, but one that is definitely fun for children. We had Elsa on one door and Olaf on the other. Forgot to get a picture…darn it!

To address the motion sickness topic, I did bring children's chewable Dramamine onboard as well as Zofran. Both of my kids have a tendency to get car sick. Other than one instance where Hannah said she had a tummy-ache and I gave her one tablet, there were no problems. I have a history of motion sickness, and while you can occasionally feel the boat move, it's really not bad. I took a children's dose one night at dinner but otherwise was fine. This was by far the smoothest ride of any cruise ship I've been on.

Our stateroom attendant was awesome. She made Meme and Hannah's bed with princess sheets for her birthday and Joseph's with Cars sheets. As per usual, we got to see some cute animals made from towels and other things laying around the room.

That night Joe and I took Hannah to the theatre while Meme put Joseph to bed. The show was "Villains Tonight" and, while we thought it might be a little too scary for her, it was a somewhat comedic plot and she loved it.

Day Three: Castaway Cay (and Hannah's 5th birthday!)

Not to let a vacation get in the way of some exercise, Joe and I ran the Castaway Cay 5K on Tuesday morning.

It was an interesting race for several reasons. To start, I wore a new pair of running shoes for the first time. I had to switch out my old newish pair in Savannah the day before we left because of toe holes. They were a 1/2 size smaller than I've ever worn because of a change in the style. (I stick to the same brand/model.) So I ran in shoes I'd never worn. But everything was fine.

Also, Joe and I missed the pre-race course-instruction meeting before we left the ship to walk to the start on the island. We actually made it to the meeting in time, but we found out when we got there we needed our photo IDs (not just our cruise cards as stated). I ran back to our stateroom a mile away and Joe had to take the kids to the bathroom.

We figured the course would be obvious (and there would be runners in front of us) and didn't worry. Well. Joe was out in front, not sure of where to go a couple of times when turns along the course were not marked. While he would have been the first to cross the finish, he ended up taking a wrong turn and running almost a half a mile further. I think he placed third overall after all that. Ha!

As for me, I thought I had enough time beforehand to run to the bathroom before the race start, but ended up being the last to take off. No big deal, I passed a bunch of people and settled in. But, about a half-mile in, I reached a fork in the road. Literally. Runners in front of me went one way while a guy next to me shouted we were suppose to go the other way. He seemed to know what he was talking about, so I took his advice. Just a minute later, I was totally off on my own. Nothing like running a 5K by yourself for half of it! I started passing runners going the opposite direction, seriously wondering who was right. I ended up being in the right, but it was entertaining to say the least! I did run the 3.1 miles and finished good.

It was a casual fun-run and, though Joe was mad at himself for messing up, we had a good time doing it. It was super hot. After the race (and after Hannah and Joseph dumped cold water on me) we headed to the beach. The island is beautiful and we had a ball swimming, building sand castles, collecting shells and playing on the shore.

We played for a few hours and had lunch at picnic tables set up near a BBQ buffet. The food was delicious, and we followed it up with ice cream cones. Afterwards, we slowly made our way back to the boat.

The kids rested while Joe and I went to the adults-only pool and relaxed a little. We also enjoyed the views of Castaway from the ship…

Meme brought decorations to surprise Hannah when she woke up that morning. She loved her Frozen birthday banner.

Wednesday night was Pirate night. We had one little pirate…and Belle.

Hannah got birthday wishes from cast members and guests all over the boat and loved every minute of it. When we finished dinner, the pirate deck party had already started. We found somewhere to stand, and the kids ended up having a great view when a cast member let them perch on the stairs when the characters weren't going on or off the stage.

To fill some time before the late-night celebration, we went to the theatre and watched a ventriloquist perform. She was hilarious and very talented. When she got some of the audience onstage and did their voices, Hannah thought it was hysterical.

It began raining just as the crew started getting read for the fireworks, so we took the kids into the arcade to play for a little bit. Everyone else was trying to find a spot to watch the show, so we had the room to ourselves.

I grabbed some towels and we stood in the rain (only sprinkling at this point) and watched the fireworks display. Joseph did not like the noise, but he did like the flashing Mickey light saber he got. The show itself was awesome. It was a very late night for these little ones, the fireworks not starting until 10:45.

Day Four: at Sea

On the way to breakfast, I took these pictures of the atrium:

Afterwards, we caught a glimpse of a gorgeous double rainbow! {You can sort of see it in the second picture below.}

Just a reminder of God's grace in the middle of our vacation in the midst of His glorious creation! How thankful I am for all of my blessings, but especially two of them in that sweet photo.

Thursday morning we attended the Disney Junior meet and greet. Since Disney Jr. shows are what we watch the most of (namely Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins) the kids were super excited.

Onboard there is a kids club we heard a lot about. Hannah and Joseph went one night while the adults finished dinner, but not to much success. Hannah was fine, but I got a text on my Wave Phone (phone you get to use while cruising) that "Joseph is ready to be picked up." But both kids enjoyed themselves at the "open house" with Meme. I, in particular, love the hand-washing stations!

I mean, you stick your hands in there and they get sprayed by water and soap. It's like a carwash for your hands. Minimal mess to boot.

The rest of the day we played in the pools.

One thing I quickly learned is that, while on a Disney cruise, there is a TON of stuff to do. There is always something going on, and your time can be booked solid if you try to do it all. Really, you can't do it all. {Pretty much like everything Disney.} The first day we tried to do everything. We were going from here to there and then there… and it was just too much. Joseph was fine, a 3-yr-old in his own world. Hannah was ok, although a little overstimulated. But it was a lot for these Disney first-timers. We wanted the kids to enjoy themselves, while taking advantage of all the Disney fun. We slowed our pace going forward and factored in some downtime.

{Adorable princess shirt courtesy of Meme.}

The day at sea was great. We played on the pool deck, had lunch, and played some more after nap. {Another thing we loved: you can watch any Disney movie in your stateroom. So while Joseph napped each day, Hannah watched a few she'd never seen before.}

Hannah and Daddy wanted one final ride on the AquaDuck before cleaning up for dinner. Meme filmed while I took pictures.

Our final night we ate dinner at Nemo-inspired Animator's Palate. It was our favorite of the restaurants and a perfect way to end our trip.

Above: Hannah capturing a beautiful sunset with her new camera from Granddaddy.

The show on the last night was Disney's "Believe". We had good seats and it was fabulous!! The entertainment onboard Disney cruises is second to none. The costumes and performances are incredible. Afterwards, Hannah got to see Goofy again. Didn't have my camera out for the hug, but at least have this:


We wrapped up the night with some impromptu dancing in the atrium, followed by the Detective Agency mystery game that takes you around the ship, collecting clues from interactive artwork. Finally, we turned in deciding to skip the "See Ya Real Soon" send-off party. It was late and the kids were exhausted. We certainly had our fill of entertainment, so no complaints here.

It was a wonderful and exciting week and we would certainly do it again. Hannah is already planning it! So thankful for the opportunity and all the memories we made. Our first Disney adventure was a success!