Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Disney Cruisin' on The Dream!

Between preparing for our 2,000 mile move, prepping William for a new school, and putting our house on the market, Dada, William and I took a Disney Cruise!  I've had every intention of blogging about our vacation, but we've been a little busy around here.  It might be a month late, but the excitement has yet to wear off!

When I was pregnant with Adeline, I told Dan that I wanted to take William on a special trip after her arrival.  I knew William was excited to be a big brother and without hesitation, he transitioned into a family of 4 seamlessly.  But I anticipated loosing so much one on one time with the little boy who held my full attention for 4 years.  So I guess in a way, this trip was more about me needing a dose of time with just my boy.
That said, we had heard the Disney cruises are lots of fun for children as well as adults and having cruised before, I knew this would be a really relaxing trip for everyone.  So, when I was around 5 months pregnant, we booked our trip for Oct. 23rd aboard Disney's newest ship, The Disney Dream.  Of course at the moment of booking we had no idea we'd be moving 5 days post vacation.
We arrived in Orlando the day before The Dream's departure and stayed in the airport's hotel.  I bought the Disney transfer package which allowed us to hand over our luggage to the hotel and not see it again until 4pm the day we boarded the ship.  It also secured us a reservation aboard the Disney buses to and from the Port of Call.  YIKES!  But, Disney does EVERYTHING TOP NOTCH and we had absolutely no trouble.  I highly recommend the luggage transfers and bus transportation.

On Sunday the 23rd, the three of us boarded the "Goofey" bus and headed to Port Canaveral, FL where the Disney Dream was waiting....and A DREAM IT WAS.  This boat is AMAZing!  It's 14 stories tall and as magnificant as you can imagine.  Like I said, Disney does it right!  William was pretty stunned and kept looking at the boat and asking me, "how are we going to float on that huge boat?"  I don't think he really "got it" until we were on the ship and exploring The Dream's incredible facilities.  He was SO EXCITED for this trip!
We went through the check in process quickly and William got his GPS wristband for the kid camp aboard the ship.  The kid camp is awesome.  It's about half a deck and FULL of activities for children ages 3 and up.  The kids can come and go freely and parent's can pick up and drop off the kids for as long as they want.  The GPS band is a safety procaution which enables staff members to find your child and pinpoint their location in seconds.  TOTALLY GREAT.
And so we boarded the boat and headed to our stateroom to check out our digs.  Our room was plenty big for 3 people and William's bed was a pull out couch.  We had a veranda with an oceanview and I highly recommend this too.  It gave us a nice breeze and sunshine when we were in our room.  Each day our steward would make different animals for William using the bath towels.

  He made a monkey one night and gave him my sunglasses for a cool look.  William got such a kick out of it.

Dinners - We signed up for the late dinner - 8pm, and the early show - 6:15pm.  I did this on purpose for a few reasons.  First, I knew William would care more about seeing the Disney show (stage shows with characters and songs) than sitting for a long meal.  Second, at the 8pm dinner, the restrauants have "dine and play" where the kids eat first before the parent's food comes out and then the camp counselors pick up the kids and take them to the kid camp while the parents have a nice, leisurely meal.  Third, you can eat anywhere on the boat at anytime of the day.  So, I knew we could feed William at 5pm on the pool deck and he'd be satisfied as to not wait until 8pm to eat dinner.  So, it worked for us and turned out to be the right choice for our family.  William is a night owl anyways, so he doesn't have any trouble going the distance.
Day One (arrival on the ship) - We spent most of the afternoon exploring the boat and watching William full of great anticipation for EVERYTHING you can do aboard the Dream.  We hit the swimming pool (SO CROWDED) and William took about 30 turns on the Mickey water slide.  We signed up for the mystery detective game that you can play at your convienence throughout the boat, and we got the lay of the land - where to eat, where to find ice cream, where the kid camp was located and how to operate the boat issued cell phones.....you know, the important stuff.  We went up to deck 14 around 4pm for the big send off party where the characters sing and dance and kids wave streamers.  William was confused at first and burst into tears because he didn't want to leave and say good-bye to his friends.  My heart broke for him because he thought the boat was leaving for good and he didn't really understand the cruising concept.  I assured  him we would be coming back and explained that instead of a hotel, we were on a boat like a floating hotel.  He seemed to get the idea after awhile and perked up.

We took William to the 6:15pm show which was called "The Golden Mickeys" and all the characters came out on stage.  William loved seeing them in person (on the stage, not next to him of course) and really liked the song and dance.  We went to dinner at The Enchanted Garden where we learned that we'd spend our dinners with another family who have one child, Marcus.  Marcus is William's age and they had a great time every night at dinner.  Marcus' parents are lovely and Dan and I had fun catching up on the events of the day with them. 

Day Two (Nassau) - The boat arrived at Nassau and we did not get off.  Most of the passengers did exit the boat for the day, but we didn't sign up for any excursions.  And, we knew that less people aboard the boat meant more space on the pool deck.

So, we spent our day bouncing back and forth from the pool to the kid camp to the dining room to the kid camp to bingo to water slides to kid camp...and well, you get the idea.  William LOVED the kid camp and wanted to spend so much time there.  That was fine with us because we knew he was having fun, we could check on him and Dada and I could hang out on the adult only pool deck and experience our own little quiet vacation too.  Dinner was in the Castle Dining room that paid tribute to the Disney Princesses.  As usual, William and Marcus took off for kid camp after their meal and the adults got to hang out.
Later that night, I went to the movies.  We also made time to hit the pool deck around 11pm for a dance party and the HUGE fireworks display.  The fireworks were incredible and it was really cool to be on a cruise ship and watch a fireworks show that could rival The 4th of July.  William was a little hesitant at first because fireworks are so loud, but he held his hands over his ears and hollered out with a great "wooo whoooo" anytime there was a big rocket firework to hit the skies.  VERY cool part of the vacation.
Day Three (at sea) - Because we were at sea, William only swam for a few hours (pool is very crowded on sea days) before he wanted to explore other areas of the ship.  So, we did the Mickey Detective game.  You register at a kiosk and get a playing card that has a puzzle piece on it as well as a treasure map.  You hold your piece up to framed pictures all over the ship (14 decks worth) and watch the pictures come to life.  Each picture tells you a short story and provides a clue that helps you try and solve a mystery.  William LOVED this game we played two versions of it while on vacation.  You play at your leasure, so we'd do a few pictures and find something else to do and then do a few more.  William also went to kid camp and timed his arrival for the face painting party.  He was first in line and told the staffer, "I like airplanes a lot but I want to be painted like an army guy in camoflauge."
He was so proud of the results and paraded all over the boat in his face paint.  The show that night was "Villians" and this was our least favorite show.  Could have skipped it.  We had dinner in Animator's Palace which is a dining room devoted to animation.  There are big screens on every wall which come to live with classic Disney animation.  The chairs at each table look like Mickey's red shorts with white buttons and the feet of the chairs are Mickey's yellow shoes.  VERY cute.  Each night for dessert, William ordered a Mickey ice cream on a stick. This was also "Mickey's Pirates of the Carribean" theme and everyone was encouraged to wear their pirate gear.  William was ready to roll and loved watching the characters act out the pirate sing along on the top deck. 
Day Four (Disney Island) - The last day of the trip was spent on Castaway Cove, the private island owned by Disney and used exclusively for their cruise ships.  It was FANTASTIC.  Done the complete Disney way! You board trams upon exiting the boat and they drive you over to the resort part of the island.  We had no trouble finding lounge chairs in the shade and William was REALLY eager to try out the water slide.  We rented a life jacket for him and then I showed him how far away the water slide was from land.  He wasn't worried a bit and made the LONG swim all the way over to the ladder where he climbed right up and got in line for the water slide.  I will admit that I was so nervous watching him swim out to the ladder.  It was far, I am not kidding. 
It was a tiny moment where I felt like William was officially a big kid and not just my timid little guy anymore.  I was so proud as I watched him kick and paddle his way out into the distance.  alone.  The water slide was really fast and William bobbed under and of course, he wasn't ready for salt water.  He was brave and swam right back to me, but when he got in my arms he told me he was not interested in going down that big ol' fast slide anymore.  I assured him it was ok to pass it up a second time but to be so proud of himself for trying something new and above all, for being so brave as to swim that far and go alone.  We spent a few more hours on the island and had lunch, watched a crab race and played at the spray park before calling it a day.  Once we were back on the ship, we finished up our detective game, hit the kid camp and enjoyed dinner and a show. The final show was "Believe" and it was by far the best of the best.  It paid tribute to all of Disney's most classic movies and highlighted the most beloved songs.  Mary Poppins and Peter Pan flew through the air, Beauty and The Beast sang "Be Our Guest," and there were tributes from Lion King, Snow White and other shows.
Last Day - We wrapped up our trip with an early breakfast and said good-bye to our fabulous servers - Marie and Pong.  They were just lovely and made every effort to go above and beyond our needs.  They loved William and taught him magic tricks too.
  We departed the boat around 10am and made our way through customs pretty fast.  We took the Disney transportation back to the airport and had plenty of time to make our flight back to DC.

I am so thankful that we were able to take such a special trip with only William.  We both needed the one on one time together and I really needed to relish my time with my first born.  He's my DREAM.


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