Monday, March 20, 2017

Our Disney Cruise

Guys.  We went on a Disney cruise in February!  Two of Jack's brothers and their families were going and Jack started to really want to go.  I wasn't all about it.  Three young kids on a long flight and then all sleeping in a tight room together for 5 nights?  Meh.  I will never not do something that Jack is stoked about though unless I'm strongly against it, so I jumped on board (eh? eh? :) )  and started what was actually a very difficult (for me) process of planning and packing.  I'm not naturally a very organized, plan-ahead, type A kind of person, but Jack is and I love that about him, and I have learned to be that way more as a mom because it makes life so much easier.  So I read all the blogs about Disney cruises, made lots of packing lists, and had to get lots of new things since we were currently holed in in the middle of a Utah valley winter heading into the middle of the warm, wet Caribbean.  Olivia needed to move up a size in summer goods (swimsuit, sandals), and I had to unpack some seasonal bins and really look ahead and be efficient with packing each person just a carry-on bag and backpack (we hate checking bags on an airline so we try to only do carry-ons). Whew!  So with all of that done, we boarded a plane on a snowy, freezing evening and headed to Florida.  Liv called it Floribelle because she has a book called that and it was so cute :) The flight with a one-year-old was less than ideal, but it was cool to be on the same flight with so much family, and we made it there without much drama with Little Miss Asher. We got to Miami at 12:45am and our hotel's shuttle picked us up curbside and took us straight to our hotel, where we crashed.  Jack and I in a king bed, Asher in a portable crib, Liv and Berlin on some folded blankets on the floor.

In the morning I put the girls' swimsuits on under their clothes since I'd read that our room may not be ready for a few hours after we boarded the ship and we wouldn't have our luggage brought to our room right away.  I also had a backpack packed to keep with us that had some essentials in (diapers, snacks, valuables and travel documents, sunscreen, etc.)  We ate the hotel's continental breakfast, and then took their shuttle to where all of the cruise ships were docked at Miami's port.  We checked all of our luggage with the cruise line (except our backpack we wanted to keep), and went inside to stand in line.  Even though our check-in time wasn't until 1:30, we got there right when things opened at 11:00 and were able to get on earlier.  We still had to wait a bit, got our "key to the world" cards, which would be our room keys and IDs on the ship, and registered our girls for the Oceaneer's Club onboard.  Once on board, we walked around a bit to see the ship, the Disney Magic, and swam a bit.  Once the rest of the family boarded we went to the ship's buffet, Cabanas.  All of the kids were so stoked on the amount of food available to them and that they could pick anything they wanted.  We told our girls that we weren't going to make them eat ANYTHING they didn't want to on the cruise so that was also pretty neat to them haha.  It made my mama heart happy though to see them pick a bunch of fruit and healthy options most of the trip because that's what they were used to eating at home...although Olivia got mac and cheese every chance she got :) Our room was ready by about 1:30, and our luggage arrived around 4:00.  Our room was really amazing.  We had two bathrooms, one with a toilet and vanity, and the other with a bath tub (yes, a tub in a stateroom!  Everything was so child-friendly!) A King bed that could be separated from the rest of the room by a large curtain, a twin bed with another bed that pulled down from the ceiling right above it to look like bunkbeds, a murphy bed that pulled down from the wall, a desk, a TV, a mini refrigerator, and lots of storage cupboards and a closet. Our girls slept on the bunkbeds and Asher was in a portable crib.  We also had a large glass door that opened onto a veranda with lounge chairs and a table and looked straight out onto the ocean. I really, really loved our room.  We had the same housekeeper our entire stay, a lady named Pa.  She made our blanket and towel animals each night and left us chocolate coins :) There were lots of places to hang wet swimsuits, and each room had something called Wave Phones since we wouldn't have service on board.  Disney also has a cruise app that you can use on your phones the entire time you're on the ship to text each other within the app without needing service.

We saw so many fun characters on board and were excited to see some that we hadn't been able to see at Disneyland before, like the Disney Jr characters (Doc McStuffins, Sophia, Jake).  There were lots of princesses all in the atrium together (Belle, Cinderella, Tiana, and Repunzel), Anna, Elsa, and Olaf doing meet and greets together, all of the clubhouse characters (Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy) in multiple outfits, Thor, Spiderman, Jack Sparrow..that's all I can think of without going through pictures :) They were all so great with all of the kids, but I thought Rapunzel was the absolute cutest with our girls.  She danced and twirled with them and spent so much time squatted down talking to them and making them laugh. There were a few dance parties on board where the characters would be right in with the kids dancing with them.  Up on deck was a HUGE movie screen that played movies and music all the time and we could watch from the pool or deck chairs.  During the pirate party every dressed up like pirates, danced on deck, they had a special show where Olivia was picked to go up and help defeat Captain Hook and his pirates, and then they shot fireworks off of the deck.  Disney is the only cruise line authorized to light fireworks from their deck.  It was pretty amazing!  Asher did something called the "Diaper Dash" that was a race just for crawling babies.  She happened to be the only baby around who was crawling, not walking, so it didn't really pan out and also the pressure got to her when she was at the starting line and she put her head down and cried haha.  She got over it thought and made her way down her lane to me.

The food on board was sooo much better than food on any other cruise and at most restaurants!  They had a buffet open for every meal called Cabanas that had a large variety of different food every day.  On deck were lots of soda machines, ice cream machines, Daisy's Deli had sandwiches and fruit, Pinnochio's pizza, a burger joint, and gyros.  Each night we were signed up for one of the restaurants on board and had a serving duo that was assigned to us for the entire cruise.  Since we had them for every restaurant meal they knew what our preferences were and what drinks we liked.  They'd have them waiting for us when we got to dinner each time and the kids' cups were labeled with their names.  My favorite restaurant was Animator's Palate.  The entire restaurant was black and white (including the server's uniforms) and there were big screens all over the walls that showed artists sketching Disney characters.  As each course of the meal came out the sketches gained more detail and color until eventually as dessert was served all the screens, walls, and servers uniforms were filled with color.  At the end Mickey came out in his sorcerer's robes and put on a show for us, walking among the tables!  We loved it so much that we went back for a second night.  Lumiere's was  our fancy night restaurant and our girls dressed in their princess dresses, Berlin as Belle since we were in her restaurant ;)  One night all of the adults in our group ate at Palo.  In Palo you can pay $30 a person extra (whereas all other food on board is included in the initial cost of the cruise), to have a really high-class french inspired meal.  It was AMAZING.  At all meals it was so fun to try as many appetizers, desserts, soups, and even entrees as we wanted!

One of my favorite things about the cruise was the Oceaneer's Club and Lab.  It's a club for kids ages 3-12 and each child has a wrist band to check in and out and keeps track of them.  They can go in as many times or for as long as they want each day and all of the employees in there have fun activities, games, and crafts planned at all times of the day!  Our girls made lanterns, bracelets, baked cookies, played in "Andy's Room" on the slides and toys, had story time with characters, played games on the tablets there, watched movies, and put on plays.  They also feed all of the kids at meals. Liv and Berlin absolutely loved it.  To check your kids in they simply scan their wristbands at the front desk, and wash their hands in high-powered washers, and to check out a parent or approved guardian has to go in and scan their key card, then the employee verifies your picture on their screen and asks for your secret word that is also associated with your picture and key card.  They could then track which room they were in by a gps in the kids' wrist band. It made my anxious Mama heart feel so assured that they were safe in there.  For kids 6 months to 3 years there is It's a Small World Nursery with toys, snack, and cribs in it.  The nursery spots can be reserved or you can check them in on the spot when there is room and costs $8 per hour.  It was so nice to be able to take Asher there for naps so we didn't have to sit in the room with her and during the nice dinner and the shows on board that she wouldn't have enjoyed.  The staff of both the Oceaneer's Club and the nursery can text you via the Disney app to let you know if your child is having any trouble or needs anything.  It was so cool to use these when we wanted to do adult things like Family Feud, Karaoke, and movie trivia.

The cruise had two stops, one in Cozumel and one at Disney's own island, Castaway Cay.  At our stop in Cozumel we got on a ferry over to Playa del Carmen.  Jack's brother had arranged an LDS tour guide to take us out on a Mercedes Sprinter to Tulum.  Tulum is an ancient abandoned city and it was absolutely amazing. Once we got there we got on a rickety trailer filled with bolted down park benches and pulled by a tractor :) we walked through a stone tunnel arch that opened up to the ancient city and honestly not many things take my breath away with as much traveling as we do, but this did.  I brought my bjorn with me to carry Asher around on my back and I was SO glad I did.  It was very hot and humid and the paths and stair were so uneven that it would have been a nightmare to carry her or push her in a stroller.  I plopped a big sunhat on her and she fell asleep on me.  The reason we wanted an LDS tour guide (a member of our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints) was because this was a city where many things from our scriptures, the Book of Mormon, take place and where Nephites and Lamanites lived.  Archeologists from BYU even think that this is probably where Lehi's family lived.  I would give anything to see what that city was like back in its glory days.  Right next to it and down a staircase was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen!

After touring Tulum we went to a place that lets you swim with dolphins!  Honestly I wasn't overly thrilled about this, thinking most of us would wait on the side and watch one person at a time get in and it would be hot and my kids would be too scared to get in.  But we all waded in and were able to touch the dolphins as they swam by, get kisses, hugs, and then be pulled around!  My girls got to ride on my back as the dolphin pulled us!  Even Asher, by the end, had gotten brave enough to extend her hand and touch the dolphin's back.  It really was an incredible experience.

The day we were supposed to dock at Castaway Cay, Asher woke up at 5:30.  I rushed her out of the room and we spent the morning topside, watching the sunrise.  I could see the Cay.  Shortly thereafter though, an announcement was made that there was a cold front blowing in and the under tides in the water made it too dangerous to dock.  We spent an extra day at sea and were pretty disappointed to miss out on Disney's own island.  We still had lots of fun on board though.  Throughout the trip we had so much fun playing games with family; family feud, where Dave and Britton participated onstage; karaoke, where the 3-D's encored their performance from our Mexican cruise a few years ago; trivia, challenges, board games, ping pong on the top deck, etc.

Our ship had three different musical plays and I loved two of the three.  The Rapunzel one was absolutely amazing, we sat on the front row and interacted with the actors during the play.  Lanterns floated from the ceiling, and it was just so great!  Another was a Cinderella play about what would happen if things had gotten twisted, and the third was about a girl in her bedroom visited by Disney characters (it was my least favorite).

We had a pirate party on board and all dressed up for pirate dinner.  At the dance party, Olivia was chosen out of the crown as one of the kids to help defeat Captain Hook and then fireworks were shot off from the deck!

It really was such a magical, bonding experience for our family.  I would definitely recommend it, and we will go again once our youngest is old enough to go to the Oceaneer's Club :)

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