Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 1 - Lunch & Dreamy Cabins

We left off on Monday's installment of the trip report with my family learning "how lucky we [were]" since the Enchanted Garden had just opened for lunch. This installment will cover lunch (yummy!), cabins, and tips for what to do as you board the ship and wait to sail away.  Oh, and I have one question for you: are you ready to see some pictures??

Since our cabins wouldn't be ready for a while, we took the quickest route we could find to lunch.  We weren't disappointed!  We were almost immediately seated at a large table by the windows.  The buffet was well stocked with favorites everyone could enjoy: deli meats and cheeses, salad fixin's, all the breads you could ever want, a carving station, fresh fruits, seafood, and desserts that made me want to skip straight to them.  It was the typical Disney buffet but kicked up a notch.  Unlike meals in Disney Parks where you want to hurry and get back to the fun, meals on the ship proved to be relaxed and longer.  We took our time trying a bit of everything and savoring our food.
Booths in the Enchanted Garden - never got to sit here
since our group was so big, but don't they look neat?
We had a nice big table! That's me taking photos nonstop!
Yum! I'm drooling just remembering this lunch! The beef was amazing, and
that little round roll in the back was my favorite bread the entire trip!
Granddaddy offered to shell Katelyn's crab legs. She was ecstatic!
Joshua was loving everything about the meal!

After lunch we discovered that our cabins were just down the hall from the Enchanted Garden.  Oh, how lucky we were!  Our cabins, #2013 & 2015, were also very close to the elevators and stairs.  When we went to check out our cabins, our luggage had not yet arrived, but we could see where it all was:
Bottom left, pink with white polka dots, is my carry-on!
Guest Services counter had
a map marking all the Parks & ships
around the world!
Queen LaRae
Princess Joanna

Midship Detective Agency
Instead of staying and waiting for our luggage, we took time to explore the ship.  LaRae & I visited Guest Services to put our VISA DisneyRewards on our room accounts.  Then we joined Randy and the kids to find The Midship Detective Agency.  It reminded me of Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom or Agent P's World Showcase Adventure in that it's a game the whole family can play where the objective is to use clues to go around the ship to solve a mystery.  They carry cards that have something similar to a QR Code that interacts with the artwork aboard the ship.  I didn't really play, but the kids greatly enjoyed it.

A message from Goofy
Station right outside of Kid's Club made it quick to get set up!

One of my favorite things about the sailing day on the ship was that the kids' clubs were all open for families to walk through.  This helped the kids feel more comfortable about going to play without us since they went through the entire area with us.  Katelyn and Joshua were in the same age group.  Instead of trying to explain everything in their club area, I'm just going to share a ton of photos here!

Katelyn washing her hands in the automated hand wash station
Katelyn and LaRae cutting a rug on the dance floor
One area of the club was a Pixie Hollow play area
Another area had a Nemo theme - here's LaRae with a drive-by smile!
Andy's room was by far my favorite!  It was like walking into Toy Story as a toy! 
So many fun touches in here!
LaRae helped the Monsters, Inc monsters by filling a canister with laughter! 
Joshua going through Mike's Laugh Machine
With late dinners and long days, kids can get tired and just want to rest. There
were MANY places for them to watch a Disney movie in the
comfort of an area that felt like home. This wasn't the only such spot!
Here's another movie area more in the middle of things

We somehow lost Mom and Dad (poor communication on our part), and the kids really wanted to visit Goofy's Sports Deck to play miniature golf.  The wind was so strong that Katelyn and I had a hard time keeping our hair out of our faces, but we had a great time playing together!
Picking the right sized clubs
Have long hair? Bring a hair clip for once you go on deck! I never left
without one after this moment! 
I love the lines on the greens to help line up the perfect shot. There was a
starting spot for Goofy and for Max. Nice touch!
I'm a math teacher, and there was an entire hole devoted to the math of mini-golf!
I love this photo of Katelyn... look what a good wind model she is!
Family golf time
Way too cold to go for a slide down the AquaDuck! Look how crowded the deck
was already!  The pool deck was not the place to hang out at port...
The wind was so high that they would not allow single riders on the AquaDuck!

Some people were swimming, but it was super cold on deck, so we chose to go to our rooms to get ready for the the sailing away party and the evening's activities.  Once there we found our luggage had arrived, so we took some time to unpack.  I'll leave you with a photographic tour of the kids' and my cabin. LaRae & Randy's was the exact same with a door connecting it to our cabin.  Mom & Dad's cabin was on another floor and pretty much the same as our room but with a bigger bathroom.  I also took some photos in the cabin of some "tips" to share with you all.  Enjoy!
Remember me talking about DISigns on  LaRae made door
magnets for us with both my designs and some from the DIS. Made
our doors easy for the kids to find and fun for those passing by!
LaRae's family also had a fish extender (to the right of the door)
to do a sort of "secret santa" gift exchange with other families
on the ship.  I'm hoping she'll share more details on this
in a guest post some time. 
My bed was HEAVEN! Seriously, if I didn't want to be up and around on
my vacation, I could have slept in this bed the entire trip! The space under
the bed left plenty for room for all of the luggage.  Make sure you bring a small
flashlight if you have an interior cabin. It gets dark! See the Magical Porthole?
You're going to want to turn it off at night... it glows dimly but enough to
feel like the entire room is lit.  Curtains separated this bed from the rest of the room.
Our cabin steward left the beds down for the kids the entire cruise at our request
so they could come in for nap during the day.  Joshua's bed came out of the ceiling
and Katelyn's was the couch. The ottoman was hollow inside, so the
kids stored their toys there to keep them out of the way. No having a couch
made things a bit cramped, but it wasn't a big deal since we weren't in the room much.
The desk and closet area had plenty of room for all of us.  You can see the hooks
on the wall came in handy, and we used the small safe in the closet
daily.  Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because it's Disney.
People will be in and out of your room when you're not there.
Keeping the room tidy made it feel less cramped.  
There was even a place for my Vinylmation traders! I loved how all the
shelves had bars to stop things from falling off. 
The doors in the room are metal, so magnets are a great help for saving space.
My makeup all has magnets on it because I keep it on a magnetic board in my
bathroom at home. On the ship I put them on the bathroom door & did my makeup
in the cabin leaving the bathroom free for someone else and the counter
space available for other, heavier items. This is my favorite "make the cabin feel
less tiny" tip!
Join me every Monday & Thursday for a new installment of the Thanksgiving Trip Report!  Next installment we'll head to the Golden Mickey's (evening show) and dinner in the Enchanted Garden.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thanksgiving at Disney: A Trip Report - Day 1 - Getting There

Thanksgiving November 2010
2010 was the last time I visited Walt Disney World with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew, and while I loved my two adults only trips with my travel buddy, Kyle, I sorely missed my family being with me in our happy place.  Back in 2010, my sister and I decided that Thanksgiving week, a peak season full of high crowds, would be a good time to get away for a family trip, and while we were a little apprehensive about the reported crowds, we decided to go for it.  One of the best parts about that trip was that we didn't really notice the crowds, so this Thanksgiving we decided to head back to Walt Disney World AND take a Disney Cruise all in the same week!  (Read about our Thanksgiving adventures from 2010 here!)

We booked our Disney Cruise back in June of 2011 when I was on my 1st trip with Kyle.  That meant we had over a year to wait for our family trip.  We spent the time waiting with my sister, LaRae, researching and planning, while I refused to talk about the cruise until closer to time for it!  Somehow along the way we picked up Mom & Dad, and they booked a room on our cruise too.  

Here's how we decided to spend Thanksgiving week: I teach high school, and Katelyn is in 3rd grade and Joshua in kindergarten, so we needed to try to not miss school.  We decided to fly into Orlando on Saturday, November 17th, drive to Cocoa Beach, stay the night, and get on the ship on Sunday, November 18th, in time to enjoy lunch on board.  The 3-night cruise would be going to the Bahamas making stops in Nassau and Disney's private island: Castaway Cay.  We'd get back to Port Canaveral on Wednesday, November 21st, disembark early, head to Orlando to enjoy Disney's Hollywood Studios, check in to Wydham Bonnet Creek Resort, and maybe enjoy a park that night too. Thanksgiving Day would be at Universal's Islands of Adventure (ohmygoodness! Yes I just admitted that we spent a day not at Disney!), and the rest of the week would be at Disney World. At some point we realized that Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party would be the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, and we extended our trip to stay one more day to attend the party and then return home on Monday!  Whew!  What a week, right?!  So let's get there already!!

The kids took turns rolling my carry-on.
They were good-natured travelers
thanks to the later flight.
One of the best parts about getting to the cruise was that we needed to get to Orlando the night before, but we didn't have to fly out super early in the morning.  I'm so used to flying out at the crack of dawn that getting to finish packing, drop off Sprinkles at the PetsHotel, and have lunch before boarding the plane felt luxurious!  Our room in Cocoa Beach was small for 5 people, but we enjoyed getting to see an area of Florida that we weren't used to.  Sunday morning Mom & Dad met up with us, we shopped a bit, and took a shuttle to the port. 
Fun shopping in Cocoa Beach

Once at the port, we got our first view of the Disney Dream. It was gorgeous! I never ceased being amazed at how ginormous and well run it was.  In the port I'd describe the atmosphere as hectically organized.  There were people everywhere: checking in, meeting characters, aimlessly wandering... but everything was easy to figure out, and there were plenty of cast members around to help anyone with questions.  The second you got there, you were in Disney's hands, and it showed.

Characters were on hand to greet you before you even got on the boat!

Boarding was a quick affair with a quick family photo before you were announced as you walked onto the ship!  Once on you were quickly handed off to a cast member who would guide you toward where to head for lunch and how to find your rooms.  She even took a photo for us in the atrium.  After taking our photo, our British cast member exclaimed, "oh how lucky you are! The Enchanted Garden is now open for lunch, and my friend has called to tell me there is no wait!"  Her opening line became our family joke the entire trip (good natured of course)!

This chandelier hung in the Atrium on the ship.
Chandelier from another angle - isn't it amazing?
Our cast of characters for this trip report (L to R):
Grandaddy/Dad, my bro-in-law Randy, my sister LaRae, my nephew Joshua,
my niece Katelyn, me (Joanna), and Grammer/Mom
Admiral Donald greets guests as they board the Disney Dream
Join me again on Thursday for the next installment of the trip report as we visit the Enchanted Garden and take a look around in the cabins.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My Disney Resolutions

When I was asked what my Disney Resolution was, I immediately thought of my blog.  I went on an incredible Disney vacation in November, and I have 35+ posts planned to write on here.  My sister was kind enough to let me borrow their amazing DSLR camera, and I got some really beautiful shots on the trip.  I'm so eager to share the trip with all of you because this trip was so different from the rest: we stayed off property, didn't take Disney Transportation, and we went on a Disney Cruise before we got to the Parks!  So my #1 Disney Resolution is to start my Trip Report some time this month.

Here's a preview of what you'll see in this trip report:

You aren't going to believe what this chandelier looks like from another angle! 
You're going to have to come back for the story behind this one. :)

Apparently Beast is not impressed by the Christmas Parade. Heehee!
Oh dear! Did I just sneak in a non-Disney Castle??
Japan in Epcot
That's barely even the tip of the iceberg too!

When I told my sister the topic for this month she immediately said "pay off your Disney Visa before you go to Disney World again!"  That is definitely my 2nd Disney Resolution.  While I'd love to go back to the World in 2013, I do believe this is the 1st year I will skip a trip since 2009.  It's time to get serious about paying off my credit card again.  Don't get me wrong, the Disney Reward Dollars were AWESOME on my last trip, but I need to work at being debt free again.

What are your Disney Resolutions?  Tell me in the comments!