site updates and random thoughts
About Us Blog Books Games Movies Music Photos Trips

The Sunday Somethings, 12oct14

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Something that makes me happy: Fall! We didn’t have the best weather, but we did one of my favorite fall activities with the kids today – the pumpkin patch. I’m thinking about doing another pumpkin patch this year to make up for our not-so-great weather today.

Something I’m thinking: Gabe and I are thinking about where to eat for our 8th anniversary coming up soon. That’s another reason to love the fall.

Something I’m hoping: I hope to get the motivation to finally finish my 2014 WWDC book. I worked on it this weekend with the crafty day with Michelle and Paula.

Something happening around the house: Our dishwasher is still broken.

Something I’m reading: I read Attachments, Fly Away (book 2 of Firefly Lane), Necessary Lies (for October book club), and When You Reach Me (also for book club). I’m now reading Goldfinch.

Something Gabe is reading: Gabe finished Ghost Brigades, and he is now reading Red Seas Under Red Skies.

Something I’m watching: Fall TV is starting up! We have been watching Amazing Race. Gabe has watched Gotham, Sleepy Hollow, and Arrow and I pay some attention to those. The Walking Dead starts tonight! I also watched a marathon of Gilmore Girls (season 2) during our crafty day.

Something I’m playing: Gabe is starting to play with some friends in a regular games night a couple nights a month. He played Caverna the first time, and they are playing Terra Mystica next time. We had a games night recently, and I played Splendor, Lords of Waterdeep and Russian Railroads. Gabe played Splendor, Concordia, and Castles of Burgundy that night.

Something I’m creating: I’m working on the 2014 WWDC photobook. It’s much longer than last year’s. We had quite a few photos, and the bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge takes up about half the book!

Something tasty: Funnel cakes and ribbon fries from the farm fun today. Ooh, and pumpkin pancakes on Gabe’s birthday at our favorite breakfast place.

Something about the grownups: We got our flu shots. I barely felt the shot, but my arm was sore for the rest of the day. Fingers crossed that it keeps us healthy this year! The flu was no joke when I had it last winter. Gabe and I have both enjoyed volunteering some in Maddie’s classroom, and we watched Cullen at bike day at his school. I had my September book club meeting. Gabe started a regular board gaming group. We are quite excited that we are planning a bonus trip to DISNEY! We are trying to decide when to tell the kids or whether we just want to surprise them on the day that we leave. Melissa, Jason, and my parents are joining us. It went from a vague idea to a planned trip within a week. Now that we have it planned, I’m so glad that we’re not waiting another 2 years to go to Disney (as we had originally planned). It has been 2 years since our last trip. The kids are going to love it! We celebrated Gabe’s birthday on the 5th, and the kids and I surprised him with a tiger striped Bengals cake. Unfortunately, it didn’t help the Bengals win their game on that day.

Something about both kiddos: Both kids are doing swimming and music lessons. Maddie continues with swimming twice a week and piano. Cullen is doing swimming once a week and loves his Kindermusik classes. I’m excited about both kids doing music classes, and they both seem to love it. Both kids went to their friend Elizabeth’s birthday party where they had a great time playing in their awesome backyard. The highlight of the party was the confetti eggs (who says these are just for Easter?). Today, we went to the pumpkin patch! As I said, the weather wasn’t great. It was misty and cool, but we still had fun. The kids played in the colorful maze, the hay bale maze, the cornbox, the giant slide (well, Maddie), the hay jump, bounce houses, and hay ride. We all watched the hilarious pig races. We each picked out a pumpkin. Maddie and Cullen also recently got their flu shots, and neither of them cried a bit. The nurse said they were her easiest patients of the day.

Something Maddie is doing (6.5 years old): I volunteered to read as part of the Outstanding Otter Literacy program where we read about a character trait. I read about loyalty last year as well, and both times some kids thought that we were going to be talking about “royalty.” I’m always impressed by what some of the kids can express (and have greater respect for the teachers every time I visit the classroom!). Gabe read to a smaller group in Maddie’s classroom for Literacy Lunch. That program is weekly, so we will probably both be reading for that here and there. I also volunteered for Apple Day, which was a fun time in Maddie’s class. I was able to run the science experiment station where the kids predicted which liquid would slow browning of the apple slices. We were all surprised that milk worked better than lemon juice (though I’m not sure how that would taste!). Maddie loves having us come to her classroom! She’s very into getting her hair put into a ponytail lately. She requests that almost every day. Today she asked for “Anna braids” and continues to grow her hair so that one day she can have an “Elsa braid.” We haven’t gotten into a good routine with piano practice, but Maddie does seem to enjoy her lessons. We don’t want to push her too hard this young as we want her to enjoy it. Her class has been working on “how to” writing, and Maddie wrote about how to be a grandparent: “First, you have to be old. Next, you have to have kids. Last, you have to have a name.” My parents thought that was amusing! We had our first quarter conference with Maddie’s teacher, and she seems to be doing well. She’s been doing some pull out enrichment/AG classes for math. I was surprised that they weren’t doing the same thing for reading, but they don’t have any kids in the class at a high enough reading level. She is doing well with her reading and still has been enjoying the Arthur chapter books. Her spelling has been improving, and she does well on her weekly spelling tests. Maddie’s favorite thing to do outside at our house right now is to climb one of the trees in the front yard. The other day, Maddie very sternly pointed at herself in the mirror and said, “Hey! You’re a copycat!” Maddie still loves her Daddy, but she has shown some preferences towards me again lately. I think she’s evening out her parent preferences a bit. Both kids fight over who gets Mommy at bedtime these days.

Something Cullen is doing (4.5 years old): Cullen had bike day, and we realized that we really need to get him a bigger bike. He did great at bike day and loved having us cheer him on. Cullen is doing very well with his music lessons. He is demonstrating good rhythm and demonstrates his singing voice well. I’m so proud of him. He has always been very musical, so I’ve been excited to see where this adventure takes him. I hope that he enjoys music for a long time! Recently at school, Cullen said to one of his teachers, “I smell chicken nuggets.” The teacher said that they weren’t having chicken nuggets, but they were having a different type of nuggets. Cullen said, “Fish nuggets?” The teacher said, “yes, what kind?” Cullen replied, “Dead fish.” Cullen is doing a Lego class during the preschool day once a week, and he had his first one this week. He said that it was fun, and they learned about camels and made a little camel. A few days after a fire drill at school, Cullen woke up in the morning and said, “Last night, I dreamed that there was a fire on the playground at school. That was NOT a good dream. That is a dream that I think I’ll delete.” Cullen has been very sweet and loving with me lately. He also wants to be very tightly tucked into his bed where he looks like a mummy. Cullen is now able to operate the Wii U on his own, as we discovered one morning. He had taken out Gabe’s game and put in his own. He was playing on the game pad without the TV. He’s getting better and better at video games.

Something I’m looking forward to: For the rest of the month, we have…more swim lessons and music lessons, Gabe’s game night, a movie night with my book club friends, Cullen’s Lego class, our neighborhood block party, a chocolate 5k for Maddie and me, our 8th anniversary, some kid birthday parties, my book club, Halloween, pumpkin day at Maddie’s class, the fall parade at Cullen’s class.

Something captured: They really do love each other.

Cullen is 4.5!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

It’s time for Cullen’s next letter…he turned 4 and a half on July 22nd. (more…)

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 5, part 2, back on the ship

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Since we already had on our swimsuits, we headed straight for the pool deck. We started with lunch at Cabanas. At Cabanas, we ran into the guy that we all called “the squeaky guy.” He entertained the kids by touching their finger and making a squeaky sound at the same time (you know, like a squeaky toy?). I think maybe he had something that he squeezed in his other hand, maybe? It was a little bit of Disney magic for the kids (and apparently even stumped us adults).

After lunch, Maddie and I went to ride the Aquaduck. We took advantage of the crowds being on shore, and we enjoyed the relatively uncrowded pool area. We had almost no wait for the Aquaduck. Maddie rode it twice with me.

One of Cullen’s favorite things is playing in Nemo’s Reef. He splashed and had a great time while Maddie was riding the Aquaduck. He claims that he will ride the Aquaduck again when he is a grown up.

Maddie rode it again with Daddy.

We spent some time in the family hot tub, and we nearly had it to ourselves. It was much better than the middle of the day at sea when it has been crowded. The tub was a bit too hot for everyone, so we didn’t stay in it too long. Maddie loved trying to get photos underwater!

We returned to the cabin to shower. Gabe’s parents had stayed in port to do some shopping after returning from the excursion. They got a pirate shirt for Cullen, and a pretty purple dress for Maddie. The kids loved their gifts. Once we were all dressed, we headed to Disney trivia. We didn’t do quite as well this time, at least not for the first 10 questions or so. We did much better in the second half, and the bonus question got us an additional 10 points when we were asked to list all of the Incredibles and their super powers. Around this time, I realized how well sunscreen works and that I had missed quite a bit of the back of my arm and a small section on my back. Ooops!

Cullen fell asleep in an odd position while we were playing trivia, so I stayed with him and wrote some in my trip journal while Gabe, Debbie, and Maddie left for a little while.

They went back to our room where Maddie decided she wanted to wear her purple dress for princess night and the tiara. This night was supposed to be princess night, so we were trying to encourage her to wear her Sofia dress again. They came back after a while, and Maddie and I went to meet Tinkerbell. Cullen kept snoozing.

Maddie and I were both excited to meet Tinkerbell. Nearly all of the characters who are allowed to talk have excellent interaction and do a great job of staying in character. We were first in line for Tinkerbell.

We then met Mickey. Maddie wanted to meet Mickey when she saw that he was greeting people. I think she had it in her head that she had to meet Mickey each night so she could get a Mickey bar. We joked about that, and maybe she took it seriously? Or maybe she just really liked Mickey this trip.

I couldn’t talk Maddie into meeting Pinocchio, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to meet a rare character like him. Since just Maddie and I were hanging out, I met him by myself. I thought I might be able to talk her into the photo once we got there, but I had no such luck.

At some point, Maddie decided that she did want to wear her Sofia dress. We went back to the cabin to get changed. Cullen was still sleeping, and at some point Gabe carried Cullen to the Deck 4 balcony lounge area where he continued to sleep. After Maddie changed into her dress, we browsed the shops and then got in line to meet Stitch. Cullen showed up just in time, and they were excited about meeting Stitch!

After meeting Stitch, we headed to dinner. On the way, we saw Bruno and thanked him again for all of his little surprises. Cullen wanted to take a photo with him.

When we got to dinner, we were given a placemat and instructions. I was so excited about tonight’s dinner! We all drew our characters, and we waited eagerly to see the animation show.

Following is a clip of some of the animation show (follow this link if the embedded video doesn’t show). It was awesome! Pardon my terrible videographer skills. I put the camera on the back of the chair and hoped for the best! Oh, and maybe you should just ignore the sound entirely. Yeah. That would be good, too. I labeled most of ours in the video, but I didn’t get all of them. They go by so fast!

To me, this was one of the absolute highlights of the trip. It’s not something to be missed! I was also glad to get a photo of our waitstaff that night.

I left a little bit early from dinner to get in line for Snow White and Dopey. After not being able to meeting the seven dwarfs at the Halloween party in 2012, I was excited to at least have the chance to meet one of them! Cullen agreed to pose with me with Snow White and Dopey.

And then he even met Aladdin and Genie by himself, though he didn’t want to get too close to the genie!

Of course, I had to get a photo with them as well. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet some of these rarer characters.

When Cullen and I got back to the room, Maddie was telling Grandma all about Frozen and playing the songs for her. They had also discovered that Bruno had left us a tray of chocolate covered strawberries and another note.

Maddie was beyond excited about this discovery, and when we wrote a note to Bruno, Maddie wanted to be sure to say, “Thank you for the chocolate covered strawberries. I have always wanted to try one of those!” Who knew that we were depriving her of such awesomeness?

We talked about our day (and favorites), and we put the kids to bed. Grandma came back to lay in the room so that we could go to play Pop Trivia and 80s Music Trivia.

We headed over to The Tube and learned that Pop Trivia was more of a full audience participation game show where the audience was divided into two teams. Our friends Aaron and Karen joined us. It was a combination memory game with trivia questions on a grid. It was fun enough, but we were really looking forward to the 80s Name That Tune trivia! It was one of the bigger trivias in terms of participation, and Karen knew just about every one. We got a point for artist and a point for the song name. I think Aaron, Gabe, and I contributed to a few of the answers, but we were mostly there for confirmation purposes. This was the most fun trivia on the ship, and the reveal of the answers was highly entertaining! The activities director did Pop Trivia and 80s Name That Tune, and she is hilarious. I took a lot of video clips of her revealing the answers (and perhaps I’ll get to some of those sooner or later). Our 80s trivia team ended up with 49 out of 50 points. We missed one artist, Rob Bass, and Karen kicked herself afterwards for not getting it. I think that the activities director was surprised when she started with, “Did anyone get 50? 49?” I think then she probably was planning to do the usual, “Ok, ok, who got 10? 20?” and keep counting until all but one team dropped out. I think she also may have said that we needed to get a life. We won the usual cruise line cheap swag, this time tote bags filled with DCL calendars. I’m glad we got a photo of our team.

We then returned to our room, set our clocks back and hour, and went to sleep in preparation for another day at sea!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 5, part 1, St. Thomas

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Wednesday, February 26th was our second port day, this time at St. Thomas. Once again, I’m breaking up the post into two parts: shore and ship. This was our best port day of the cruise. I suspect that Castaway would have been our favorite day if we had not had such crummy weather! The excursion was perfect for us, and we all had a wonderful time on the beach. As usual, these are our favorites from the whole day, and our top top top favorites are starred.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • *** chocolate covered strawberry ***

  • Mickey bar
  • being on the top floor of the Kon Tiki
  • making a sandcastle
  • digging a hole
  • swimming with Grandma
  • Aquaduck
  • meeting Stitch

Cullen’s Favorites

  • the book Daddy is reading to us [the second book in The Penderwicks]

  • *** the animator show ***
  • building a sandcastle
  • going in the water with Mommy
  • the glass bottom on the boat
  • swimming with Grandma
  • meeting Stitch
  • meeting Snow White and Dopey
  • Aladdin and Genie

Gabe’s Favorites

  • *** the beach on the excursion ***

  • Aquaduck
  • animator show
  • Snow White [just snow white - she wasn't with Dopey]
  • 80s music trivia
  • the excursion / St. Thomas in general
  • Maddie retelling Frozen to Grandma

Kerry’s Favorites

  • Kon Tiki boat

  • seeing how happy the kids were at the beach
  • the relaxing, beautiful beach
  • seeing the “squeaky guy” at lunch
  • getting Cullen’s picture with Bruno and the strawberries he left us
  • getting photos with characters (especially rarer ones) – Aladdin and Genie, Snow White and Dopey, Tinkerbell, and Stitch
  • *** Animator’s Palette animation show! ***
  • riding the Aquaduck after getting back on the boat
  • 80s music trivia

Day 5 Summary and Photos

We woke up shortly before 7am, and we all tried to snooze a bit. Well, the kids slept in a little later than we did. We let Cullen sleep as long as we possibly could. I knew after our late night, they needed all the sleep they could get! We did the room service breakfast again this morning since we had a morning excursion. We got ourselves all ready and went to our excursion meeting spot in The Tube. Once again, they had towels for us to pick up and take to the beach.

The Kon Tiki boat ride was really nice.

We all enjoyed it. They had a steel drum band and some games.

They had a glass bottom that they lowered to view some fish and a reef. Cullen really loved that part. The top deck was a nice place to view the scenery and catch a breeze.

We all spent some time on that upper deck!

St. Thomas and the surrounding islands are beautiful. We all loved this excursion and agreed it was much better than the St. Maarten excursion!

We stopped for a bit at Honeymoon Beach at St. John. That was fantastic. It wasn’t too crowded, the water was crystal clear and perfectly calm, and the sand was awesome. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. Watching the kids on this beach was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. They built sandcastles.

They played in the water.

The kids were so, so happy.

We built sandcastles and sandmen while folks back home were experiencing more winter weather.

How can you not be happy with this beautiful scenery (and these smiling faces?).

We were glad that neither kid seemed to mind going out in the water. I’m not sure if they will feel the same at a beach with real waves, but this is definitely better than the last time we were at the ocean!

We buried our son in the sand.

Grandma had a wonderful time taking both kids out for spinning in the water and swimming.

We had just the right amount of time on the beach, though I’m sure we wouldn’t have complained to have more time. We had a nice boat ride back to the ship. The kids spent most of the time on the top deck, though we heard that there was dancing and a limbo contest down below. The kids made some new friends and had fun running around with them. They were all so cute together.

We returned to the ship…and our afternoon and evening will be covered in the next post! What a wonderful day at the US Virgin Isles!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 4, part 2, pirate night

Monday, April 14th, 2014

As I have said, one of the highlights of the cruise for all of us was pirate night! We had planned all along for the kids to wear their Jake and Izzy costumes to the party, but we didn’t realize how dressed up everyone gets on the cruise! We saw many adults with serious costumes, and we quickly felt a little out of place in our bright Caribbean wear!

After the movie, we met Captain Hook and Smee. The kids were excited and told Captain Hook that he was a smelly codfish.

For almost all of our photo opportunities throughout the trip, we had pictures taken with just the kids and then with us. There were a few exceptions where just the kids posed (like Sofia and Jake) and rarely when the kids wouldn’t meet the characters without us.

We saw that Chip and Dale were meeting upstairs, so we went up there to meet them. I thought they were so cute in their pirate outfits! Maddie passed on that opportunity.

We came back downstairs hoping to meet Peter Pan, but he was running late for his meet and greet. Instead, Cullen went with me to meet Captain Jack Sparrow while Maddie went to meet Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Maddie was very excited to meet Jake in her Izzy costume!

While we were waiting in line for Captain Jack Sparrow, Maddie and Gabe joined us for a few minutes. We had been talking to someone else in line about how we had wanted to meet Peter Pan, but he was running late for his meet and greet. After they finished getting their picture with Jack Sparrow, they ran into Peter Pan wandering around the ship. I assume that they told him to come and meet us, because he came by and said, “I heard that Jake and Izzy were looking for me!” We had some great interaction with him and the kids. I just love Peter Pan. He’s one of the best characters for interactions.

Captain Jack Sparrow was also great for interaction. Disney does such an awesome job with casting (and with consistency). It’s always impressive to me. Captain Jack Sparrow seemed rather impressed with Cullen’s hair.

When I posed with him, he had me put my arm around his and afterward he said that he’d never forget me. Funny enough, when we returned later in different outfits, he really did remember us (even without Cullen’s crazy Jake hair)!

We tried to catch Jake before he was finished, but we were too late to meet him with both kids. We were glad that Maddie posed with him in her Izzy costume, though! We met Pirate Minnie next.

I just love the pirate outfits on all the characters! This was a really fun evening with meeting all the various characters.

We met Pirate Mickey, too.

After we met Pirate Mickey, it was time for dinner in Royal Court. When we got there, Gabe’s parents weren’t there, so we tried to call them on the wave phone. They had been taking a nap. Gabe’s mom showed up after a bit, but Mick skipped dinner this evening. He missed one of the best nights on the ship! He even missed the pot stickers.

The waitstaff were dressed as pirates, and the menus were themed appropriately as well. I really should have gotten a photo of us with our waitstaff this night! The official photographers came around and took our photos at dinner. Debbie had gotten a pirate themed shirt for the evening while in St. Maarten.

Maddie agreed to get her photo with us, but she was a grump about getting one on her own. The pictures of her with us turned out quite cute.

Shortly after we arrived for dinner, Cullen had had enough of the Jake hair and the shirt. Fortunately, the shirt he had underneath was his cute Mickey pirate shirt, so he remained in the theme.

During dinner, Gabe and I decided to each go back to the room between courses and change into more piratey clothing. We felt quite bright in a sea of dark pirates! It made for some cute photos before dinner, but we wanted to fit in more with the rest of the ship. Next time we cruise with Disney, I think we’ll be much more prepared for pirate night!

When I returned, I saw that someone had left us an eye patch as a gift. I love the culture of Disney cruisers! Lots of people leave little surprises for other cruisers. I’ll have to think about whether we want to bring little gifts for fellow cruisers next time! We had fun with the eye patch at dinner (and the bandanas).

Gabe went back and changed and tried out a bandana and the eye patch.

We made silly faces.

Debbie didn’t prefer the bandana on her head, but she was a good sport for our silly photos.

The Mickey bars were even pirate themed tonight!

Dinners were crazy on the ship with lots of potty breaks. I know it’s a long meal, but good grief kids. Each kid usually had more than one potty break during each dinner. That was frustrating!

After dinner, we headed to see Mickey’s Pirates IN the Caribbean. Mickey and friends taught us how to be pirates, and the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Maddie was especially cute as she wore her Izzy costume all night.

The pool deck was full of pirates, pirates, and more pirates!

Gabe and I felt we fit in much better after changing into our black shirts and bandanas. It was a fun show full of the classic Mickey characters, singing, dancing, and pirates!

Afterward, we had quite a bit of time before the big fireworks show at 10:30pm. This was the one night on the ship that we let the kids stay up super late! In between, we had more opportunities for meeting pirate characters. Debbie really wanted to meet Captain Jack Sparrow. She had some photos taken by herself, and then we took some with all of us and with just our family.

I was amused that he remembered Cullen and me from earlier.

We did some wandering around the ship and happened across the pirate backdrop with no wait. I was so glad that we stopped here. I loved our photos from this little session, and we weren’t rushed with few people waiting. We started out with our family.

Including some “act like pirates” shots.

Then, they wanted to take a few with just the kids.

I love these!

And I thought Grandma might like a few with the grandkids.

Those turned out cute as well!

We went back to the room for a chocolate coin break and spent a few minutes in our cabins. It was such a beautiful night! The balcony in Gabe’s parents room was very nice. We tried to convince Mick to join us for the fireworks, but he didn’t join us for the fun. Next, we headed to meet Pirate Daisy.

Daisy was one of their favorites on our Disney trip in 2012. They still liked her, but I don’t think she was one of their top favorites this time.

We managed to meet Pirate Goofy as well. We met all of the pirate characters except for Stitch (who only met once, while we were at dinner) and Donald. I was surprised that Maddie would have anything at all to do with Goofy. She wouldn’t go anywhere near him on our last trip! She still looks unsure, but at least she posed for the photo!

The four of us posed as well. The kids were a little happier to not have to stand right next to Goofy. He’s quite tall and intimidating!

Finally, we were ready to go up to the 11th deck and wait for the show. They covered the pools to make more floor space for everyone, and we scouted out a spot to view the fireworks. We grabbed some soft serve ice cream as a treat and to pass the time before the show started. Maddie was right about having a lot of desserts and treats today! We had about 20 minutes or so to wait for the show which was just long enough for us to act like goofballs and for Cullen to fall asleep.

The Buccaneer Blast Fireworks show is great! I love how they incorporate the fireworks into the theme, and it was neat when the pirates were running through the crowd looking for Captain Jack Sparrow.

He appeared!

And they started firing canons on the other ships.

Cullen slept through the whole thing. He woke up when we got back to the room and was confused about why we took him back to the cabin before the fireworks. He was upset about missing the fireworks, but he still claims it was his favorite part of the day. Funny little boy. We all went to bed and got ready for our second port day in St. Thomas!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 4, part 1, St. Maarten

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 was our first port day. We had a decent time in St. Maarten, but the best part of the day was pirate night back on the ship. I decided to split this day into two posts – pirate night deserves its own post! Here are our favorites from the whole day (with our top top top favorites starred).

Maddie’s Favorites

  • seeing Frozen

  • breakfast in the room
  • the carousel
  • ice cream [the gelato in St. Maarten]
  • seeing Minnie and Jake
  • chocolate coins
  • Mickey Bar
  • fireworks [she picked this favorite before they even started]
  • cornbread at dinner
  • her new turtle
  • *** having 4 desserts *** [gelato, chocolate coins, Mickey Bar, and ice cream at the fireworks]

Cullen’s Favorites

  • getting a Mickey Bar

  • his new lizard
  • the carousel
  • ice cream [the gelato in St. Maarten]
  • Pirate Minnie
  • Captain Jack Sparrow
  • Peter Pan
  • Captain Hook
  • seeing Frozen
  • Chip ‘n’ Dale
  • cornbread at dinner
  • chocolate coins
  • the Mickey pirate show
  • *** seeing the fireworks *** [which he claims is his favorite, but he totally missed the fireworks since he fell asleep in my lap]

Gabe’s Favorites

  • gelato

  • getting pictures with pirate characters, especially the kids with Captain Hook
  • seeing people around the ship dressed as pirates
  • seeing Peter Pan interact with the kids
  • Frozen Sing-a-long
  • Mickey pirate show
  • Meeting Jack Sparrow
  • *** pirate fireworks show ***

Kerry’s Favorites

  • gelato

  • getting pictures with the pirate characters
  • seeing people dressed up as pirates
  • seeing the kids with Peter Pan
  • Frozen Sing-a-long
  • Bruno leaving a note and the chocolate coins
  • getting more pics with our pirate garb
  • *** pirate fireworks show ***

Day 4 Summary and Photos

We woke up in time to get our breakfast delivery just before 7am, and then we snoozed a bit until the kids woke us up at about 7:30am (they had not adjusted fully to the time change, so we got to “sleep in” a little). The kids got a kick out of eating breakfast in the room. The breakfast room service is comparable to other cruises that we have done. We weren’t too impressed, but it was adequate. It’s certainly convenient on days when you have an early excursion!

We met up with Mick and Debbie after eating breakfast and went with them down to the Buena Vista Theater to meet for our Under Two Flags tour. I liked how we met somewhere on the ship and then were escorted to our tour versus trying to find where the tour is meeting after getting off the ship. That was pretty convenient.

We thought that the bus would make more stops than it did. That seems to often be the case for excursions. I expect more photo opportunities than they usually offer. Our first stop was in Marigot, and we had time to walk around the market. We bought a little stone turtle for Maddie, a wooden lizard for Cullen, a Caribbean dress for me, and a Caribbean shirt for Gabe. The dress and shirt may have been impulse buys, but we’ll be able to wear them again on future cruises, right? We thought that we might fit into pirate night, but um, no. Caribbean wear is a bit too colorful and cheery for pirate night. Next time, we’ll know…and we’ll be ready for beach or Caribbean wear day, at any rate.

We wandered around the various stalls. The pressure to buy wasn’t too great unless you lingered at a stall for too long. We were able to barter a little since we bought most of our stuff at one stall. They all had about the same stuff.

We got back onto the bus to head to the next stop. We sat almost in the very back of the bus, and it was a little uncomfortable. The guide did tell us about the island, but it was hard to keep the kids from going stir crazy. They were a bit restless.

The next stop was at the carousel at Simpson Bay. The tour included a ride on the carousel. I swear, I have had enough carousel rides to last the rest of my life in these first few years with kids. I happily passed up my free ride and watched Gabe, his mom, and the kids go round and round.

The kids always love the carousel, of course.

The best part of this stop was the Carousel Gelateria Bar. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as a Gelateria Bar, but it was fabulous. We each opted for different flavors, and they were all fantastic. I especially thought that Debbie’s choice of passion fruit gelato was unique and wonderful. I believe that the gelato here at the carousel is probably the best thing in St. Maarten.

We had one more scenic stop at an overlook. I was the only one to get off the bus as we certainly didn’t want to bother with taking the kids off and on the bus! It was a pretty enough scene.

Many people opted to get off the bus at Phillipsburg, including Gabe’s parents. We headed back to the ship. Mick and Debbie ended up spending a little time in a casino (though they were not impressed with it!).

We took a few photos, including the same sign we posed next to last time.

I also like the opportunity to get photos of our ship!

We headed back to the ship for lunch at Cabanas. After lunch, the kids put on their pirate costumes in preparation for pirate night, and we wore our new Caribbean wear. When we got to our room, we found another surprise from Bruno and our pirate bandanas for the evening’s festivities. Bruno left us a small treasure chest of gold coins.

It’s cute when the cabin attendant lines up the kids’ buddies.

We had planned to see the Frozen Sing-a-long this afternoon since it was only showing a few times during the cruise. This was the only showing that worked with our schedule.

Seeing Frozen turned out to be one of the best decisions that we had made on the cruise. It was nice downtime for the kids, and they love the movie. Maddie wanted to bring her Anna and Elsa dolls to act out parts of the show. They enjoyed a popcorn snack. This downtime was good as we had a late, late night ahead of us with pirate night!

…and after the movie, we started our fun with meeting all the pirate characters. I’ll save all the pirate fun for my next post! Pirate night was one of my top favorite times of the whole cruise!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 3, at sea

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Day 3 was another wonderful day, and we all wore our matching Mickey tie dyed shirts. Monday, February 24, 2014 was also spent at sea. Our favorites were as follows with the top top top favorites starred.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • *** Aquaduck at night ***

  • Kid’s Club (“all of it”)
  • mickey waffles with strawberry sauce
  • Mickey bar
  • strawberry ice cream
  • Midship Detective
  • Enchanted Forest [she means Enchanted Garden]
  • swimming in the warm pool [what we all called the family hot tub]

Cullen’s Favorites

  • Mickey waffle

  • *** Aquaduck ***
  • Kid’s Club
  • strawberry ice cream
  • swimming in the warm pool
  • meeting Mickey and Peter Pan
  • that the Aquaduck “didn’t really hurt me. I got on it and slid down and nothing spiked me.”

Gabe’s Favorites

  • *** Aquaduck ***

  • strawberry ice cream at lunch
  • playing Disney trivia with Kerry and his mom
  • playing 70s music trivia with his parents
  • the compliments from everyone about our shirts
  • our picture with everyone and Mickey
  • getting to play trivia in general
  • the comedy/ventriloquist show

Kerry’s Favorites

  • *** Aquaduck at night with Cullen ***

  • Disney trivia!
  • getting to play trivia 3 times
  • how everyone around the ship reacted to our shirts
  • getting the picture of everyone with Mickey
  • Midship Detective and getting Gabe’s parents to play
  • Enchanted Garden
  • the comedy/ventriloquist show

Day 3 Summary and Photos

We debated what to do after waking up since we thought about taking the kids to the party with Jake (from Jake and the Neverland Pirates). The kids didn’t sound all that excited about it, so we just went to breakfast before heading to Mickey’s Puzzle Time at the club. We chose to eat at the breakfast buffet at Cabanas which the kids enjoyed. They were especially happy with their Mickey waffles.

I had toured the kid’s club with the kids at some point during Day 2. The kids seemed interested in going to try it out for Mickey’s Puzzle Time. We didn’t realize that it was an open house. We decided to give it a try, and that gave Gabe an opportunity to see the Oceaneer Club.

The Oceaneer Club has several themed rooms, and I had somehow missed Andy’s Room on our first visit. It was my favorite room.

The kids didn’t quite cooperate with my photo opportunity, but they were happy.

I also love the Monster’s Academy room.

The kids and I showed Gabe all the rooms in the club, and the kids played a little on the computers in the submarine before Mickey’s Puzzle Time started.

We had a difficult time getting our kids to participate in the organized activity. They didn’t want to interact with the characters including parading or doing the hokey pokey. Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey all came out to play and dance with the kids. Our kids just wanted to sit there (and take it in, I guess?). They just didn’t want to participate actively, but then they both said that they loved the club.

We had an even more difficult time convincing the kids to stay at the club. It was clear that they wanted to do it, but they were also nervous about it. They threw a few fits and had a few meltdowns. We also took a tour of the Oceaneer Lab. Both the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab are for 3-12 year olds. The club is geared more towards the younger end of the age range, while the lab appeals to the older kids. After seeing the lab, I really thought that the kids would prefer to go in there. They had video games and craft centers in addition to organized activities. Cullen really wanted to go into the lab, mostly so that he could play MarioKart. For their first time in the club, we wanted them to stay together. We needed them to agree on which club to enter, and we told them that they could always ask to go to the other side (there’s a passage between the two). We finally convinced them to both go into the Oceaneer Club for an hour. I felt like we had the only two kids on the ship who didn’t want to play in the club! Most kids exclaimed that it was their favorite part of the cruise.

We ended up going to play Movie Quotes trivia while they were in the club. We teamed up with another couple, Aaron and Karen. We played trivia with them several more times while on the cruise. None of us did particularly well at the movie quotes, unfortunately!

We met up with Gabe’s mom and went to get the kids from the club. We were going to take the kids to the character dance party in the atrium. We did a few paintings from Midship Detective before the party, and we got Gabe’s mom started with Midship Detective.

We went to the dance party, but the kids were not in the mood. It was a bit too overwhelming and crowded for them, and they didn’t care about dancing and mingling with the characters. We went upstairs where we could watch some of the dance party and wait in line to meet Peter Pan. I remembered how fun it was to meet Peter Pan at Disney World, and he was able to engage the kids a little. Cullen posed with Peter Pan, but Maddie wasn’t in the mood for a picture.

We headed to Cabanas for lunch, and we decided we needed some downtime afterwards. We took the kids back to the room to rest, and I tried to get them to nap in the bed with me while Gabe was playing 70s Name that Tune trivia with his parents. Unfortunately, I put the “Service Please” side of the sign on the door instead of the “Do Not Disturb” side. Oops. Our room attendant knocked on the door, and any chances of napping were destroyed. Of course, it wasn’t likely that they were going to sleep, anyway! At least they got a little rest. Gabe came back to tag me into Know It All trivia with his parents. We apparently do NOT know it all, but it was fun to play. Disney trivia was next, and Gabe and the kids joined us for that one. I got most of the questions right, so that one was a lot of fun!

After the trivia, we did some more Midship Detective clues and headed to meet Gabe’s parents for our group photo in our shirts! They showed up late, and we weren’t sure if they were coming, so we went ahead and got our photo taken. They showed up about 5 minutes later, and Mick waited in line for Mickey while we did a few more Midship Detective clues. When we got back, it was time for our picture!

I was so glad that we did it! We headed over to meet Aladdin next.

We went scouting for more Midship Detective clues before heading to dinner.

The kids acted silly, as usual.

Sometimes Cullen requests for us to take his photo at various locations. This was a good choice (though the photo itself ended up a little subpar).

Dinner this night was at Enchanted Garden, which I thought was the prettiest dinner venue on the ship! I love the Animator’s Palate experience, but I thought that Enchanted Garden had the best decor.

Maddie enjoyed it and wanted her photo taken in several places. She posed by the fountain.

And she posed by the gate.

And by the “terrace.”

I love the rotational dining! It was one of the nights where they took our photo at the table as well.

After dinner, we headed back to get on our swimsuits. When we returned to our cabin, we saw that Bruno had left us another surprise! He left us some tasty sparkling cider.

We guessed that there would be almost no line at this time for the Aquaduck, and we were right! We couldn’t convince Mick, so we had to take turns riding. It seems like most of the time that the ship is at sea, the Aquaduck requires two riders due to “high winds.” The facial recognition worked out on the photos this time! First I rode with Cullen and Gabe rode with Maddie. Cullen barely made the height check as he recently measured exactly 42″ at his 4 year check up. Cullen claims that he loved the Aquaduck and that it was one of his favorite parts of the cruise, but he never wanted to do it again. The look on his face here indicates that perhaps it was a bit scary for him!

Maddie may have loved the Aquaduck more than any of us. She rode with Daddy and then rode again with Grandma. Cullen wasn’t willing to ride again, so we weren’t able to go more.

Riding at night was pretty cool! We were excited to have the opportunity, and it was great to have no lines.

It was fun at night, but it is a bit cold when you get off of it! Those of us waiting at the end of the ride had towels waiting to wrap up the riders. We then all headed to the family hot tub.

One of the best parts of the day was the Aquaduck and hot tub. It was a great idea to go after dinner, and I wish we had done this more (of course, it wasn’t always possible with show plans or just being worn out from the day).

We went back to the room and got everyone showered and put the kids to bed. Debbie came by to stay in the room a bit while the kids slept, and Gabe and I went to more Disney Trivia (we didn’t do as well at this one), Family Fusion (a family game show where they tried to guess what their family members thought they would answer), and the evening adult show with Michael Harrison (the comedian and ventriloquist). We ended up sitting next to Aaron and Karen at the show. We had a good time and are thankful that Debbie was willing to let us have some time out and about!

We returned after the show and organized what we needed to have for our excursion, ordered our room service breakfast, and went to bed.

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 2, at sea

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Our first full day on the Disney Fantasy was at sea. These are our favorites for Day 2 (Sunday, February 23, 2014), with our top top top favorites starred.

Maddie’s Favorites

  • swimming

  • ice cream
  • eating jello
  • *** Aquaduck *** (first top top top favorite)
  • meeting Sofia
  • meeting princesses
  • *** meeting Anna *** (second top top top favorite)
  • meeting Princess Minnie
  • Mickey Bar
  • Midship Detective
  • meeting Minnie and Mickey in her Minnie dress
  • apple juice

Cullen’s Favorites

  • meeting Cinderella

  • swimming
  • Aladdin show
  • meeting Belle
  • meeting Pluto, Mickey, and Minnie
  • apple juice
  • Midship Detective
  • *** stopping by the place where we got the bracelet *** [he means the kids club open house, and he didn't list it with his favorites but said it was his top top top favorite]

Gabe’s Favorites

  • when Crush came to our table

  • seeing how excited Cullen was at the pool
  • when Maddie and Cullen got pictures with the princesses
  • *** Aladdin show ***
  • Midship Detective

Kerry’s Favorites

  • *** Aquaduck with Maddie ***

  • seeing Maddie with Anna and that interaction
  • Maddie meeting Sofia while wearing her Sofia dress
  • seeing Princess Minnie and Formal Minnie
  • Cullen seeing all the princesses and Maddie deciding to meet them at the last minute
  • Midship Detective
  • The waitstaff bending over backwards for Maddie and her pickiness
  • seeing Crush at dinner

Day 2 Photos and Summaries

We woke around 7am and decided to give the breakfast at Royal Court a try. We knew we needed to get to Royal Court at about 8am in order to have plenty of time to make it to meet Princess Anna of Arendelle at 9:15am. Meeting Princess Anna was one of our top priorities on the trip. Maddie was very excited to meet her! Maddie wanted to wear her Sofia dress to meet the characters in the morning. She had to be very careful during breakfast to avoid getting anything on her dress! We had breakfast with Grandma. Maddie and I left a few minutes before the rest of the family to go get in line for Anna at about 9am. I’m glad that we did as there was already a good sized line forming for her! Anna was one of the most popular characters on the ship. Her lines were longer than any single character. The only line that was longer was the one where you could meet four princesses at once.

Cullen decided he didn’t care about meeting Anna but he wanted to meet the princesses at 10am. Gabe, Cullen, and Grandma explored a bit and met Daisy.

They looked around a little more before Gabe and Cullen got in line for the princesses at about 9:30am. This meant that they would be in line for 45 minutes!

The interaction with Anna was awesome! She spent a good bit of time with each kid, and Maddie was excited to show her the Anna and Elsa dolls (which you can see in her photo!).

After we met Anna, we headed to find Gabe and Cullen in line. Cullen wasn’t interested in meeting Sofia, so Maddie and I went up to wait for her. Maddie wanted me to take photos of her on the grand staircase.

We were second in line for Sofia which started at 10:15am. We got there well before 10am, so we were quite early. The princesses paraded out to the balcony and down the grand staircase at about 10am. The balcony is where Sofia would be meeting, so we were right next to them when the announcements were being made. A little later, we spotted Aladdin from above walking through the princess line. I went down to see if I could get a photo of Aladdin and Cullen. Cullen wasn’t too sure about Aladdin, so I met him instead. Grandma was waiting with Maddie for Sofia while I got my photo.

I went back up with plenty of time to meet Sofia. Sofia showed up a little after 10:15am, and by then Gabe let a few people in front of him in line so we could catch up. Maddie loved meeting Sofia in her matching dress!

We rushed downstairs to see the princesses, and we got there just in time for Maddie to meet all four of them. The princess interaction was decent, but it felt a tad rushed (especially since we rushed to get down there!). I was surprised that Maddie changed her mind and wanted to meet the princesses since she is usually quite anti-princesses (except for Anna and Sofia).

They met Cinderella.

And Tiana (we should really see her movie).

And Belle.

And Snow White.

We walked around afterwards before deciding to meet Princess Minnie at 11am. I believe we may have done several clues for our Midship Detective in between meeting the characters. We were glad to get a lot of our big characters out of the way on this day since we knew that some of them only meet on the sea days.

After meeting Princess Minnie, we went back to the cabin to change into our swimsuits and head to the pool! We had the buffet lunch at Cabanas with Gabe’s parents. Gabe’s mom then joined us at the pool. Of course, an afternoon at sea is the busiest time for the pool, but we still had a wonderful time. Maddie and I got in line for the Aquaduck right away, and we had to wait about 40 minutes to ride. This was the only time during the cruise that we had a significant wait for the Aquaduck. All the other times, we waited less than 10 minutes. It was worth it, though, as we were both excited! We had an awesome first ride. Unfortunately, our photo never showed up in our portfolio. The Aquaduck photos only show up if the facial recognition works. They didn’t let me take the waterproof camera on the ride, so I didn’t get the video that I wanted of us going down the Aquaduck (this time!). We did take a few photos before we got to that part of the line.

Then we signaled to Gabe and Cullen below to come up and get the camera.

Maddie and I had so much fun on the Aquaduck!!! It was definitely a highlight for Maddie on the trip. It can be a little cold and windy when you get off of the Aquaduck, so we headed directly to the family hot tub. Maddie enjoyed playing with the underwater camera.

Both kids were thrilled to be in the pools. We were especially glad that Cullen was so happy in the water. He wasn’t too thrilled the last time he was in a pool (which was sadly, longer ago than I care to admit!).

The kids were so happy! They also loved the Nemo splash area for kids under 7. Cullen spent a lot of time in that area throughout the cruise.

On the sea days, they had special matinee performances of the night’s entertainment. We went to the 3pm showing of Aladdin, and it was my favorite show of the cruise. Gabe’s mom came to see it with us as well, and we all enjoyed it. It was an abbreviated version of the movie with some updated references as well as a few changes.

After some more midship detective clues, we went back to get dressed for “formal night” (our family was not quite formal, but we still looked nice!). We had enough time to meeting Minnie, Pluto, and Mickey. I loved that we were getting to see the characters in so many outfits. I especially liked Minnie’s formal wear!

Cullen wanted to meet Pluto, but Maddie opted to sit out.

We all met formal Captain Mickey. Maddie wanted to get a photo of just her with Mickey since she was wearing her Minnie dress for formal night.

Of course, it was another excellent opportunity for a family shot.

After meeting Mickey, we headed to my favorite of the rotational restaurants, Animator’s Palate. On the 7-day cruise, the first night at the Animator’s Palate is the Crush show.

The only downside of the Animator’s Palate is that it’s quite distracting for the kids! The dining room is full of video screens. Before the Crush show, the various Nemo characters and other animated fish will swim by the screens that are staged like aquariums. They also do a guessing game with the fish (like in the movie where they tell Dory how to get to Sydney). The kids enjoyed the guessing game!

Cullen was particularly distracted by the video screens!

On that night, the waitstaff really bent over backwards for our picky child. She didn’t see anything on the menu that she wanted, so we asked if they could bring just plain pasta and meatballs, if they could. She was interested in the Mickey pasta, but I think it came with a cream sauce. They ended up bringing meatloaf (and no pasta). She actually tasted the meatloaf after we convinced her it was the same as the meatballs, but in a different, flatter shape. She even liked it! But when she made a face at the meatloaf, the waiters were already working on bringing her more options. They brought her the Mickey pasta and managed to get meatballs from one of the other dining rooms that night (and marinara that she could pour in just the right amount). I couldn’t believe how accommodating they were despite our protests that she’ll manage just fine. Maddie loved getting the Mickey ketchup each night. Look at all of Maddie’s food!

We were also a big fan of the fact that they cut the kids’ food for us each evening. That was awesome!

Between the entree and dessert, Crush visited with every table in the room. He visited with a group of tables at a time, and I’m pretty sure he addressed every kid in the dining room. We’ve seen Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, and this is very similar. Our kids weren’t too responsive to Crush, but they still loved it.

Maddie even participated in the “swimming” dance after Crush left the dining room.

After dinner, Gabe’s parents went to see some live music. We took the kids to the arcade to use the tickets that Bruno left for us. He had called us earlier in the day to see if we needed more arcade tickets, and he said we could just ask any time if we wanted more. The arcade is really small, but it was a fun diversion for the kids. They each played one of those big racing games a few times. We never did ask for more arcade tickets, since we didn’t want to spend all that much time in the arcade. We had too many other fun things to do!

We then went around the ship collecting more clues for our Lost Puppies mission. The kids were having a blast with the Midship Detective. Throughout the cruise, we saw many groups of older kids who were able to roam the ship by themselves.

We returned to the room to get the kids to bed, and Gabe’s mom came by shortly afterward so that we could go to do some things without the kids. We walked around a bit, checked out our photos and bought the digital package, looked around the shops, and took a “formal” photo in our even less formal clothes.

We ended up in the adult club area and watched the juggler perform. We didn’t get there early enough to get a good seat, so we were way in the back. It was difficult to see everything that he was doing, but we were still entertained. We did some planning for our next day before the show started.

We returned to the room to relieve Grandma and to move our clocks forward an hour. We came up with our overall plan for the next day and went to bed!

Disney Cruise 2014: Day 1, departing Port Canaveral

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

We have made it a tradition to discuss our favorite things at the end of each day, so I’ll start with our favorites from Day 1 (Saturday, February 22, 2014). The starred items are the top top top favorites.

Cullen’s Favorites

  • licking his fingers [while eating a Mickey Bar]

  • *** eating his Mickey Bar ***
  • taking the first bite of his Mickey Bar before Maddie
  • getting his picture taken with Mickey
  • meeting Minnie
  • meeting Cinderella
  • the bunk beds
  • “and the lamps because I like the lamps” [in the cabin]

Maddie’s Favorites

  • the Mickey Bar at dessert

  • *** the birthday song at dinner ***
  • meeting Mickey
  • meeting Minnie
  • dancing in the room (and with Mommy and Daddy at the sail away party)
  • bunk beds
  • being on the top bunk and seeing the constellations on the ceiling

Gabe’s Favorites

  • meeting up with his parents

  • *** dancing with Maddie ***
  • getting the picture with Minnie right when his parents arrived
  • being on his first Disney cruise
  • taking a tour of the ship with his mom
  • the sail away party
  • that it was cute when Cullen suddenly wanted to see Cinderella
  • Cullen falling asleep at the show

Kerry’s Favorites

  • finally getting on the ship

  • *** seeing Minnie and the timing with Gabe’s parents ***
  • seeing Maddie and Cullen dancing
  • Maddie’s crazy pole acrobatics in our cabin
  • meeting Mickey, Cinderella, and Stitch
  • getting nice pictures of the family
  • being a magical family [though I wasn't quite sure what it meant yet!]
  • when Cullen told Bruno that he wanted his signature

Day 1 photos and summary

I love how Disney announces each family when you get onto the ship! As you get ready to walk onto the ship, they ask for how you want to be announced. As you walk into the atrium, they say, “The Disney Fantasy welcomes The _____ Family!” Crew members are on both sides clapping and cheering for you. It’s a pretty cool entrance! The first thing that we did is to find Guest Services and ask whether they had any Castaway Cay cabanas held (since they were sold out before we were able to even see the reservations) and whether the sailing had a special tea party. I had heard that some cruises have a free tea party, but now they are doing the super fancy and expensive Royal Tea. Oh well. We inquired about Palo and Remy, and they told us that we could get reservations for those in the Royal Court at 1pm. We weren’t sure if we were going to want to make reservations yet. It was still before noon, so we headed up to Cabanas, the buffet restaurant on the same deck as the pool.

Gabe’s parents bypassed the boarding photo, and they made it onto the ship shortly after we did. They met us in Cabanas, and we all had lunch together. Right away, we felt like the buffet at Cabanas was better than the Windjammer buffets that we have experienced on Royal Caribbean. We didn’t mind eating at the Cabanas for lunches (or breakfast) throughout the cruise. Now some people rave about cruise food, and I’m not one of those people. The food is plentiful and tasty, but it’s not one of the highlights for me. I enjoy it well enough, don’t get me wrong.

During our meal, we realized that while we had linked our reservation with Gabe’s parents’ reservation, somehow we didn’t have the same table seating. We headed down to Royal Court where we had to wait in a slow moving line to attempt to get seated at the same table. We were put on a waiting list, and they said they would call us later if they were able to accommodate us. Thankfully, they did call in the afternoon, and we had seating together at Table 100 for the whole cruise. It was fun getting a sneak peek of Royal Court where we would be dining for three dinners.

Disney has a rotational style dinner where you eat in a different restaurant each night. Our rotation was RAERAER for the seven nights. R stands for Royal Court, A stands for Animator’s Palate (my favorite!), and E stands for Enchanted Garden.

At this point, we decided to see if we could get into our cabins yet. When we got to our deck, they still had the ropes blocking the hallways to the cabins. In our previous experience, we’ve been able to go to our cabin before it was officially ready. Fortunately, they let us into the hallway within 5 minutes, and we got our first glimpses of our cabins. Gabe’s parents were just down the hall in 6016, a 203 square foot category 5D cabin with a 43 square foot verandah. We were in cabin 6026, which is a 241 square foot 8A category cabin with two large porthole windows.

The biggest deal with the 8A cabins are that they are square! I can’t tell you how much difference that makes on a cruise ship as far as your perception of the space is concerned. It felt MUCH bigger than any cabin we have ever experienced. It was fantastic! I highly recommend this cabin, and I will warn you that you have to book well in advance to get it. We booked over a year in advance, and we booked the last available one. I’m guessing that this is often the case as there are only 12 of them on board.

I wasn’t sure how we would like the location since they are near the front of the ship. We typically prefer midship cabins. I didn’t notice differences in motion or noise, and we felt like our room was convenient to everything on the ship. If we sail on the Disney Fantasy again, I’m pretty sure we’ll be booking another 8A! The kids loved the large porthole windows (both in the room and around the ship). The bunk beds worked out quite well for the kids. The top bunk pulls out from the ceiling and the couch converts into the bottom bed. Some of the 8A cabins have a half wall separating the main bed and the bunk beds, but we were happy to have the open layout (with a support pole in the middle). Gabe and his mom went to do a little exploring around the ship while the kids discovered that the TV had every Disney movie ever on demand. The first movie they watched (part of) was one that they hadn’t seen before, Bolt.

We didn’t have our luggage yet, but we were happy to leave our carry on bags in the room and set out to do some more exploring. We stopped by Gabe’s parents’ cabin which was quite similar to most other cabins we’ve seen on other ships. The long, skinny rectangular room seems so much smaller than the square one! Their balcony was tiny as it wasn’t a special hump room this time, but it is definitely nice to have a balcony!

We loved access to the Disney Cruise Line app! We were able to see the Daily Navigator which shows you the schedule of activities as well as deck plans, hours of operation for restaurants and shops, and other useful things. It definitely came in handy throughout the cruise! We consulted the day’s schedule and headed to the muster drill. The kids did much better at this one than the one on the Allure where Cullen had a huge meltdown. I’m glad that they no longer require you to carry life jackets to muster drills.

After that was over, we stopped by Guest Services to drop off our markers and pillowcases. Disney has a nice feature where you can leave items to be signed by all the characters. You just drop them off at Guest Services, and they will deliver your signed items by the end of the cruise. We debated whether to do this, and it ended up being one of the best decisions on the trip. I went to do this with Cullen, and we had Cullen decide who he wanted to sign his pillowcase. Cullen decided that he wanted both Mickey and Bruno to sign his pillowcase. Bruno to the side asked if that was OK with me, and I was certainly fine with it! I believe that this lead to him selecting us as the Magical Family of the Week!!! I didn’t know what that meant when he sent us a letter and arcade tickets the first night. He left us gifts and personal notes for every night of the cruise. It was such an amazing experience. I think I’ll have to dedicate a post to all the surprises that Bruno left for us as the Magical Family.

Since it was raining, they moved the Sail Away party to the Deck 3 atrium, just next to Guest Services. Maddie had so much fun dancing with Daddy before and during the party. She also sat on my shoulders for a lot of the party.

The main characters made an appearance for the sail away party with singing and dancing. After the party, we headed to meet Mickey. We were second in line, so that was nice!

I liked when they had special backdrops for the photos.

We did some more exploring. We were going to get the kids their kids club bands, but while we were waiting, Cullen spotted Cinderella. He really wanted to meet her after that! The wait was a little too long for the bands, and we knew we could get them later.

Cullen was so sweet with Cinderella. Maddie didn’t care to meet her this time.

By the time we finished with that, it was time for dinner!

We had a great first dinner, and we were so glad to be seated with Gabe’s parents. We had a nice table next to another porthole window.

I had forgotten that I had specified that we’d be celebrating both Cullen and Maddie’s birthdays. It was a surprise when they came out with special desserts for both kids and sang happy birthday. Maddie particularly enjoyed that surprise! Both kids had their first of many Mickey bars after dinner.

After dinner, there was some dancing in the lobby. We did a little dancing, and then we spied Stitch up on the Deck 4 balcony. The kids were excited, and we rushed up there to meet him. We had several impromptu opportunities with characters on the ship. It’s so much easier to meet characters in this setting than it is in the parks! Cullen didn’t want to pose for the photo, but he hugged Stitch afterward. For whatever reason, the kids are nuts about “Stitchie” (as they affectionately called him).

We took our first peek at the photos in Shutters, grabbed our first Midship Detective Agency case, and perused the shops on the way to see the night’s welcome aboard show. The beginning of the show was fun for everyone with appearances from the main characters, but a lot of the rest of the show was just OK for the kids. It was your basic “welcome to the ship” show with information about all the fun things that you’ll get to do on board. Cullen fell asleep during the show after a long day without a nap!

He woke up on the way back to the room, and it took a little while to get the kids to settle as they were excited about the bunk beds!

The stateroom attendant leaves the next day’s schedule, chocolates, and a “towel” animal and fixes the bunk bed while you’re at dinner. I was glad to see that we had “towel” creations on every day of the cruise instead of the every other day that we’ve been seeing with Royal Caribbean on our last few cruises.

What a great first day! Gabe and I planned out a little bit of the next day and went to bed, excited about the next day’s first full day at sea!

Disney Cruise 2014: Getting to the Ship

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

We decided due to airfare and schedules that we would drive to Port Canaveral. The drive is less than 9 hours, which isn’t much different than our drive to Kentucky. Maddie wasn’t too thrilled when she learned that we would be driving on her birthday, but she got over it. We made sure to emphasize how special it was for her to be on her way to a Disney cruise on her birthday!

Maddie and I spent most of the day together as she had two different appointments. In between her appointments, we went to the toy store so that she could pick out something for her birthday. She decided on a Frozen set with younger Anna and Elsa ice skating figures. We had only started to realize how much Frozen had influenced Maddie by this point! She got a special balloon for her birthday, and we headed to breakfast at her favorite place (where she always gets chocolate chip pancakes).

We ran back to the house to put all the luggage in the car, and then headed to her next appointment. After that appointment, we picked up Cullen. The cleaners were scheduled for that day. I liked the idea of coming back to a clean house, so this was fine with us! They were finishing up when we got back home, ready to pick up Daddy and hit the road.

We had a few last minute errands to run, so we didn’t get going quite as early as we had hoped. We picked up an adorable cake for Maddie to celebrate her birthday on the road. We were driving about halfway to Savannah, and we had very little traffic for most of the ride. We stopped for dinner which was subpar, but we enjoyed the cute cake! Maddie loved it.

We had a very easy time until about 30 miles from our hotel when we witnessed an accident that was a bit scary! Two 18-wheeler trucks smashed a small car between them right in front of us. Bits and pieces of debris from the car were flying everywhere. Thankfully, the smashed car didn’t lose control and ended up pulling over after pulling ahead of one of the trucks. We were shocked that neither truck stopped to be sure that they were ok. They had to have known that they smashed the car! That was crazy. We called the highway patrol to report the incident with all the information that we had. That left me shaking with adrenaline until we got to the hotel.

We stayed at the Savannah Airport Embassy Suites, and we were impressed. The suites were similar to another Embassy that we’ve stayed at that is tailored more to business travelers. It worked out fine for us, and the kids settled pretty quickly. They had both slept in the car a little bit.

In the morning, we had breakfast at the hotel. We were less than impressed with the breakfast, but it was “free” and adequate. We ran into more traffic issues on Friday between Savannah and Port Canaveral. We also encountered heavy downpours quite a few times, and the kids needed to stop for the potty numerous times. We arrived at The DoubleTree Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront around 5pm. We chose this one because it was the most expensive option that we could pick for the same number of HHonors points. We weren’t impressed, but it was fine for one night. We didn’t take advantage of the location on the beach since it was rainy and overcast during our short stay (not to mention that we were exhausted from the drive).

We decided to get dinner in the hotel. The kids were definitely getting restless from all the driving in the car. They were pretty good on the drive down, but they were really trying our patience in the evening! We had two double beds. I shared a bed with Cullen while Gabe shared a bed with Maddie. I don’t know how often we would want to repeat this tactic! I didn’t sleep particularly well, though I’m not sure it was all Cullen’s fault. He was snoring, talking in his sleep, grinding his teeth, and taking up most of the bed, so that was certainly part of it! I had forgotten to put my phone in “do not disturb” mode, so I think some notifications kept waking me up, too. And I think I was just generally excited about the trip! I ended up being awake for the day and unable to go back to sleep by 4am.

Once everyone was awake and ready, we went downstairs for a free breakfast that we had been comped when our room wasn’t quite ready upon arrival. The “free” breakfast was pretty pathetic. Some fruit, cereal, pastries, and toast. The options were quite limited. I’m glad we didn’t end up paying for that breakfast! We knew we’d have plenty of food once we got onto the ship!

It was a dreary, drizzly morning, but we were all excited. We repacked some of our bags as we decided we probably wouldn’t be taking advantage of the swimsuits before getting the rest of our luggage later in the afternoon. It was good to lighten our load a little with our carry on bags.

We weren’t sure exactly where we needed to go and took a little longer to get there due to some wrong turns, but we made our way to the terminal right on time for the earliest check in time. It was exciting to get glimpses of our ship as we neared the terminals. We parked right across from the terminal in a spot that was less than 50 yards to the entrance. We were very pleased with the convenience, and parking was $120 for the week.

We registered up as early as we could, so we could board as early as possible. We were able to get the first boarding time. We always like to take advantage of the lunch on the ship as well as give ourselves a chance to get to know the ship a bit before departing. We had some lines to wait in to get through security, and some more lines to check in and get our boarding number. We had some time to wait until they started calling the boarding numbers, and the kids were antsy. Just as we experienced when waiting to get into the parks, the kids were bickering and fighting a bit. We wandered around, snapped a photo with Olaf (from Frozen, of course), and tried to keep the kids from driving us crazy.

We were excited when Minnie Mouse showed up in the terminal, and we made our way to her and got in line to meet her. This meant we were in another line, but it helped the wait for the ship go by quicker. While we were waiting for Minnie, Gabe’s parents showed up and were able to hop in line and get their picture, too. The timing was perfect as they showed up just as we were about to be next!

I like how the photographers are nice about suggesting different group shots (kids only, grandparents with kids, parents with kids, whole group) rather than making us feel guilty about doing multiple shots.

Gabe’s parents went to get checked in and get their cards. While they were in that line, they started calling boarding numbers. Ours was #2, and they go through the numbers very quickly. We went through the ears and had to wait in another line to get our boarding photo.

I’m a fan of these types of pictures, and we already knew we were going to buy the photo CD at the end of the cruise. Our boarding pictures turned out pretty well, too!

After our photo, we were able to board the ship…and I’ll save the rest of the official parts of Day 1 for the next post!