We’ve been back a few days, the bags are all unpacked, the laundry is all done, the kids are back in school…
Time to write the blog post! (WARNING:::VERY LONG POSTAHEAD!!)
I’m going to skip over the first two days of vacation. They included bad flights and a worse hotel. We pretty much sat around and did nothing.
But if you ever find yourself in Miami, I recommend avoiding the La Quinta by the airport and the Bennigan’s next door. They were horrible.
We got up Saturday and hopped on the shuttle to the port. There’s not much to tell about the whole check in process. We waited in a line that moved really quickly, got all checked in, then waited around for about an hour until it was our turn to get on the ship. The kids were so excited…hell, we were all excited.
Dave and I have been on several other cruises, but the reception they give you on the Disney Wonder is by far the best welcome we’ve ever had on a ship. Once you walk through the door, there is a line of crew members lining the deck. A man with a microphone asked our last name and then he announced “We’d like to welcome aboard the Rudland family!” and then the line of crew members started clapping and cheering.
I have decided I should be greeted like that whenever I walk into a room.
We headed straight to lunch and so began Jacob’s 5 day love affair with the buffet line. His little eyes lit up at all the choices. The rest of the first day was spent exploring the ship, checking out the Oceaneer’s Lab and Oceaneer’s Club (the kids’ clubs) and just generally reveling in the awesomeness of the ship. We saw a few characters, but we were pleasantly surprised at how understated the whole Disney-ness of the cruise was. There was a party on deck as we sailed away and we snapped a family pic as we left port.
Back to the Oceaneer’s Lab… this is the second cruise we’ve taken the kids on and let me just tell you that the kids’ area on the Carnival ship doesn’t even come close to holding a candle to the Oceaneer’s Lab. The space was huge and full of video games and board games and computer games and crew led activities and the kids LOVED being there. They didn’t spend any time in the Oceaneer’s Club, but the fact that they had two whole huge spaces just for them was amazing. The size and scope of the kids’ activities was itself worth the higher cost of the Disney cruise.
Dave was up bright and early to go to the gym every day, but other than that we didn’t set a single alarm the whole trip. Sunday was spent at sea and it’s one of the best days I remember having in a long time. After we were all up and showered we headed down to a huge breakfast buffet and then headed off to our planned activities for the day. We filled the day with trivia and drawing classes and kids club and the pool and the gym and an ice carving demonstration and ice cream and more amazing food. I love sea days.
We arrived on Cozumel on Monday to the most ridiculous sunrise…
We had an excursion all planned to go visit some dolphins, but we hadn’t told the kids. As we waited for our group and they announced what we were doing, Emma may have gotten a little excited. It was awesome.
There was a little misunderstanding as to the excursion and we thought the kids would be able to go by themselves. Thankfully Dave had packed his swimsuit and headed down to the dolphin area with the kids (after a lot of standing around and waiting).
I watched from an observation deck as Dave, the kids, and about 10 or 15 other groups headed down to the dolphin area. Dave said it was kind of boring to sit and wait as each kid had their turn with the dolphin, and the water was cold, but it was otherwise pretty cool. It was pretty standard fare: they kissed the dolphin, “shook hands”, fed them, and learned the commands to make them do some “skills”. Then we were treated to a few jumps from the dolphins.
The rest of Cozumel was spent having lunch, walking around a bit, testing my rudimentary Spanish skills, and buying some souvenirs. It was heating up, the kids were getting cranky, and we didn’t have much time to do anything else so we headed back to the ship for the night.
Tuesday was another sea day, spent much like the first. I would have to say the highlight of Tuesday was dinner. I had been looking forward to it since I found out our dinner rotation on Saturday.
Let me back up. Disney does their dinner dining (alliteration, FTW) a little bit differently. Other cruises we’ve been on has been on dining room that you go to every night. But on Disney you actually have three dining rooms that you rotate through during the cruise. Your server and assistant server travel with you to each dining room so you get continuity of service (and frankly, continuity of fun…we loved our servers, Sam and Sheldon) through the cruise.
The dining rooms are Parrot Cay (tropical theme), Triton’s (Little Mermaid theme with an awesome mosaic scene from the movie covering the back wall) and Animator’s Palate (B&W restaurant with character sketches on the wall). I was most excited about Animator’s Palate because I knew that there was a bit of a show included. We ended up eating in Animator’s on Tuesday night.
When you walk into Animator’s everything is black and white: walls, pictures, tables, chairs, floor, even the servers vests were black and white. Over the course of the dinner, everything lights up into color. And I mean everything. The entire room is completely transformed right before dessert is served, then the servers come out and wave and walk around and all of their vests were now really brightly colored. It was a sight to see and the pictures hardly do it justice.
(The picture on the left is what the walls look like when you come in…all B&W (and our server Sheldon with his “after” vest), the top right is with the walls B&W and the pictures in color, and the bottom right is when all the color is added in)
Wednesday found us in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. The weather was a little cool that day but we made the best of it. We had a stingray excursion first thing in the morning where we got to feed the rays and then snorkel with them. Emma was too cold to go too far out in the water, so she stood in the shallows and stuck her face in the water with her snorkel mask. Dave and Jake ventured a little further out and actually snorkeled.
The kids did try swimming a little bit but the water was really cold. They managed to go down the water slide a few times before they decided they were done with the water. We spent the rest of the day eating lunch, hanging out by the ping pong tables and I was able to sneak off for a few pictures while Dave played chess with the kids.
One of the last things we did was finally, FINALLY get a family picture taken by someone else. : )
The last night of the cruise was bittersweet. We had a wonderful time but we really didn’t want it to end. The kids cried at the end of the final show and both said they didn’t want to go home. We got up bright and early on Thursday, had our last breakfast on the ship and then headed off to wait for them to call our group for disembarkation. The kids faces pretty much sum up how we were all feeling.
I can very honestly say that this cruise was the best vacation we’ve ever taken. Without a doubt, we will be headed off on another Disney Cruise…
…sooner rather than later I hope!