Disney Land and Sea – Trip Recap (Part 2)

DCL-Bus (2)When I left off in Part One, I’d finished the Glass Slipper Challenge and enjoyed Sunday afternoon at Disney Springs.  Raymond and I had decided weeks earlier that it would be best to have a quiet dinner near our Bay Lake Tower studio and make an early evening of it on Sunday.  We could sleep in, pack up, and be ready to board our Disney Cruise Line bus by 11:30 am.

Disney Land and Sea – Trip Recap (Part 2)

Disney's-Wave-Entrance

We chose The Wave in the Contemporary Resort for its proximity to our room and the fact that while we’d enjoyed wine and lunch in The Wave’s lounge, we’d never eaten in the dining room proper.  Our dinner was very nice and the service was notably excellent.  I felt so drowsy by the end of the meal, I ordered coffee and determined to stay awake long enough to watch at least a little of The Wonderful World of Disney: Disneyland 60 that was airing on ABC that evening.  I managed to stay awake for about 3 minutes.

Monday morning felt glorious!  No early alarm!  No running!  We’d gotten nine hours of sleep and felt like new people.  Plus, we still had the entire second half of our vacation ahead – four nights on the Disney Dream!  We packed in record time and decided to hit Kona Café for breakfast before shopping the resort loop boutiques.  Polynesian's-Bou-tikiWe ended up back at the Contemporary when I realized that I’d forgotten to pack any stateroom door decorations.  I couldn’t stand the thought of a plain white door, so Raymond helped me find some magnets, a magnetic clip and Minnie and Mickey postcards we could use to set our door apart from our neighbors’.  Total rookie mistake, but I think our door turned out alright in the end.Disney-Dream-Door-Decor

We knew we were going to miss our kids like crazy on this trip.  This would be our seventh Disney cruise, but the first one without Megan and Joseph.  We’d had such a spectacular time on the Disney Magic on the Norwegian Fjords cruise in 2015, it was hard to imagine what it would be like for Raymond and I to be all alone.  We decided to do things on this cruise much differently than we had on any cruise in the past with the hope that it would make sailing without them easier.  And it did…a little tiny bit…maybe.Disney-Dream-Sail-Away

First of all this cruise was short!  In 2010 we sailed on a Castaway Cay 5-night double dip and the next three cruises after that were all 7-nights.  We couldn’t believe how fast the trip went by even though we packed in a lot of activities while still making time to relax.  The ship was new (to us) and much larger than we were used to, so everything was different and a little bit foreign (but absolutely beautiful!).Disney-Dream-Royal-Seating

We’d booked dinner and brunch at Remy as well as a dinner at Palo.  This meant we planned to eat in our regular, rotational dining restaurants only twice and we wouldn’t be getting off the ship at all in Nassau.

Mostly our plan worked well.  Very uncharacteristically, we skipped all the evening shows on this cruise in favor of either special dining experiences, exploring the ship, or relaxing.  If you’ve never been on a Disney cruise before, I DO NOT recommend missing the shows!  They’re excellent, spectacular, amazing (and many other glowing adjectives as well)!Disney-Dream-Sail-Away-Selfie

After we attended the lifeboat drill and Sail Away Party, we ate the first night at Animator’s Palate with our assigned tablemates – a couple from Pennsylvania celebrating their 25th anniversary.  DCL-Server-OldairOur servers, Oldair (from Colombia) and Merrick (from Jamaica) were excellent and, except for the butternut squash soup I ordered (after Oldair told me not to), our food was good.  The special effects in Animator’s were completely different from what we were used to on the Magic and the Wonder, but still fun.  That meal ended up being the only time we saw our tablemates, Oldair, or Merrick (except on the last night when we stopped by to leave tips).

Here’s how the rest of our cruise went…

Tuesday was Nassau day.  We started with breakfast in Cabanas before hitting the fitness center where we intended to spend about an hour, but actually spent two.  We ran on treadmills (with awesome views!), worked out with weights, I had a foot/posture consultation (yes, I did buy the shoe inserts they were selling) and then it was time for spin class, so we stayed around to participate.  Disney-Dream-Fitness-Center-Spin-ClassSophie was her name, I think, the spin class instructor, and she was a pretty young lady from Australia – very deceptive!  Sophie was a devil in disguise!  I thought I was going to die.  The only thing that kept me going was thinking about the calories I was burning and the food I would be eating later.  After all that, we found a couple of deck chairs and drank recovery beverages called beer.  Feeling much better, we decided to get cleaned up and see about some food.Disney-Dream-Royal-PalaceDisney-Dream-Key-Lime-Pie

We had a nice lunch in a gorgeous restaurant called the Royal Palace (delicious key lime pie!!!) and then decided to solve a mystery with the Midship Detective Agency (an interactive ship-wide adventure that deserves its own post later).  This was lots of fun (to me…not sure Raymond would agree).  After successfully executing our super-sleuth assignment, we reported to the Senses Spa for our 4:30 appointment – the massage for two.  Very relaxing and tranquil, but we had to hustle once the appointment was over to get ready for our dinner at Remy.  Disney-Dream-RemyAgain, this experience deserves its own article, so I’ll just say we enjoyed our meal very much.  After six courses ordered from the menu, a cheese course, and at least three “surprises” from the chef, we were done for the day.  So full and sleepy, we headed to bed looking forward to spending the next day on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay!  Raymond and I had registered for the Castaway Cay 5K, so we got up, ate at Cabanas, and met in the assigned location (Evolution lounge).  The Cast Member issuing race bibs and instructions was overwhelmed with the number of participants (over 300) and declared it to be the biggest turnout for the race EVER.  Raymond and I had a great time!  I even made a friend along the way.  Her name’s Julie and she’s from Cape Canaveral…Hi Julie!Castaway-Cay-5K-Finish

After the run, we headed for Serenity Bay (first time for us at the gown-ups-only beach!) and found it to be indeed quite serene (and a bit surreal with the complete absence of children).  The weather at the beginning of the day was very windy with occasional sprinkles.  When we arrived at the beach, the wind had calmed and the sun was shining.  We found lounge chairs and ordered fancy drinks before settling in for some serious relaxing…at least I tried to relax.Castaway-Cay-RelaxingI’m not good at sitting still, so I made friends with Tammy and Stan (sitting near us) and spend most of the time wading around in the water until lunchtime.  Tammy, Stan, Raymond and I hit the beach-side buffet before heading back to the bay for more wading and “relaxing”.  Castaway-Cay-BeachThat didn’t last long…I was getting sunburned and was ready to go back to the ship.  Raymond and I  stopped at the Conched Out Bar for a few minutes and enjoyed a Guinness to break up the walk back.  We were supposed to go to the Royal Palace for dinner that night but opted instead for room service and called it a day.

Last Day – Sea Day!  To start the day, we grabbed a quick bite at Cabanas before letting Sophie torture us again in spin class.  We then enjoyed a champagne brunch at Remy for which I will write a complete review, but let me say now that this was an especially excellent experience.  Disney-Dream-Sea-Treasures-ShopAfter brunch we browsed the ship’s gift shops and watched a cooking demonstration for lobster ravioli.  Disney-Dream-Cooking-DemoThen we attended a reception for gold and platinum Castaway Club members (Disney Cruise Line’s repeat guest rewards program).  Disney-Dream-Castaway-Club-ReceptionSomewhere during all that we also visited the future cruise desk to book a placeholder cruise (to keep the onboard booking discount without selecting a specific sail date) and we also bought the only pictures taken of us by a Disney photographer – our post-Castaway Cay 5K photos.  We ate dinner at Palo that night and were very pleased to find the restaurant exactly the way we wanted it to be.  Disney-Dream-Palo-Place-settingWe’d enjoyed Palo on both the Disney Magic and Wonder and hoped Palo on the Dream would be just as good – it was perfect.DCL-Goodbye-Sign

Watch for more reviews on the restaurants, the running events, activities, and the Disney Dream itself coming up in the near future.  If you have any questions about a Disney land and sea adventure, I’d be happy to help.

Have you sailed on the Disney Dream?  How was your experience?

 

 

 

 

Disney Planning – Disney Dream 4-Night Cruise

IMG_1069I am so stoked about our upcoming Disney Cruise.  Sure, I have a little weekend at Walt Disney World first during which I need to run 19.3 miles, but hey! Once that’s behind me, Raymond and I are off to Port Canaveral to catch our ride…uhm boat…I mean SHIP for our first cruise aboard the Disney Dream.

This will be our 7th Disney Cruise, but the first one sailing from Florida since 2010.  We’ve missed the Disney land-and-sea combo!  We’ve missed Castaway Cay!  I’m admittedly feeling a teeny bit apprehensive about sailing on one of Disney Cruise Lines newer, larger ships.  All of our previous cruises have been on either the Magic or the Wonder.  Will the Dream seem foreign?  Will I get lost?  Will I like it as well as our two favorite ships?  We shall see.  I am, however, really excited about our plans.  So today I’d like to share with you the five things I’m most looking forward to!

Disney Planning – Disney Dream 4-Night CruiseCastaway Cay's Mt. Rustmore

  1. Dining at Remy!  If you’ve read any of my previous cruise trip reports then you already know that we are HUGE fans of the adults-only dining aboard Disney Cruise Line.  We always have at least one meal at Palo (this cruise is no different).  Since this will be our first opportunity to check out Remy, we decided we should have both brunch and dinner there.  In the interest of research.  For you.  We are totally doing it for you. (Seems awesome now that we have Remy in our kitchen in the form of cruise art we purchased a few years back on another Disney Cruise.)RM-Remy-Print
  2. Nassau.  We are looking forward to this port of call because we are staying on the ship!  We have no excursion plans.  We are hoping all our fellow cruisers will get up and go…right off the ship so we can have the place to ourselves.  We’ve booked dining and spa treatments and personally, I’m planning to rest my feet with this in mind…Family Beach on Castaway Cay
  3. The Castaway Cay 5k.  I’m a little disappointed that there’s no runDisney, post-Glass Slipper Challenge, official Castaway Cay 5k the way there was last year.  It meant an extra medal and was a very cool deal.  In fact, if I remember correctly, Raymond thought we should book this very cruise just so I could take advantage of the opportunity should it again be offered.  Oh, well,  the regular 5k on Castaway Cay (Disney’s private tropical island paradise) should still be available and I bet Raymond will run it with me to keep me company…which will be excellent. (Love you, Honey!)View of Castaway Cay
  4. Senses Spa – We’re spoiled.  We love the Senses Spa and also the on-board exercise facility.  This cruise, we’ve once again booked a couples massage.  After the Glass Slipper Challenge and the Castaway Cay 5k, this will be such a welcome treat!IMG_1449
  5. All the rest – the special, unique, magical Disney Cruise components that keep us coming back for more.  The adults-only areas of the ship, the shows, the roomy stateroom, the rotational dining – all of it!  This will be our first cruise alone.  I know we’ll miss our kids – especially since we had such an incredible time last year on the Disney Magic as she made her inaugural trip through the fjords of Norway.  In contrast to that epic, action-packed, fun-filled, super busy vacation, this one will be more low-key, but with new and exciting elements for us to experience for the first time.
Have you sailed on the Disney Dream?  Any there tips or tricks we need to know?

Disney’s Flying Dutchman – Gone but not Forgotten

Sign for the Flying Dutchman on Castaway CayDisney’s Flying Dutchman – Gone but not Forgotten

For a few years, from 2006-2010, guests on Disney Cruise Line visiting Castaway Cay (Disney’s very own private tropical island) would be greeted by an amazing sight!  Next to the main docking area, moored in a quiet cove, was none other than Davey Jones’ ship, the Flying Dutchman.  She sat in ghostly stillness and appeared to be constructed from intricately carved driftwood – the perfect subject (and backdrop) for amazing vacation pictures.  This very special treat was a breathtaking addition to the already spectacular scenery on Castaway Cay.Flying Dutchman Stern

Highly detailed and exactly as she appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, the Dutchman’s spooky weathered gray exterior, three soaring masts, and ragged, toothy bow delighted visitors – as did the appearance of Captain Jack Sparrow – in a perfect spot on the beach to create the perfect meet and greet.  You and Jack Sparrow – with the Flying Dutchman in the Bow of Disney's Flying Dutchmanbackground!  Jack Sparrow – arrogant, eccentric, and perfectly dressed, down to the smallest detail – would take a few minutes to visit with each guest, ask questions, make hilarious comments and create some wonderful memories (and photo ops)!

Our family was lucky enough to see the Flying Dutchman (and Captain Sparrow) on several occasions during the ship’s time on Castaway Cay.  While weather, time and the elements took their toll on the Dutchman through the years, the magic of those Disney details from bow to stern never ceased to amaze us.  The shore-facing side of the ship was the one we Captain Jack Sparrow Photo Op on Castaway Cayremember from the movies.  The outward-facing side of the Dutchman that could be seen from the deck of the Disney Cruise ship was open and incomplete – like the movie prop the Dutchman actually was.

In November, 2010, the Flying Dutchman was removed from Castaway Cay (rumored to have been dismantled and destroyed), but the incredible wonder of seeing her there, in the Caribbean – straight out of Pirates of the Disney's Flying Dutchman DetailsCaribbean will never be forgotten.

Did you get the opportunity to see the Flying Dutchman at Castaway Cay?  What do you remember most about the experience?

The Flying Dutchman's Open SideDisney's Flying Dutchman on Castaway Cay Captain Jack Sparrow Posing With The Flying Dutchman The Flying Dutchman's Open Side Three Masts on Disney's Flying Dutchman Captain Jack Sparrow and The Flying Dutchman

Ten Reasons to Sail on Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line  Ten Reasons to Sail on Disney Cruise Line:

  1. Beautiful ships full of Disney magic and extraordinary service.
  2. The evening shows – excellent Broadway-style entertainment for the whole family.
  3. Designated well-themed areas for children (and teens) with incredibly creative activities and lots of FUN (and safety!).
  4. Designated adults-only areas with adult entertainment, refreshments, separate pools, restaurants, and more.
  5. Castaway Cay – Disney’s Private Island is one of the ports of call on manDisney's Castaway Cayy Disney cruises and it is truly a paradise with something for everyone.  Want to run a 5k?  Ride a bicycle? Snorkel, parasail, swim, eat, dance, drink, play in the sand, lay in a hammock and do nothing at all – in an absolutely gorgeous setting!  Adults-only, teens-only and family beaches ensure everyone can have the time of their life.  Even a massage in a cabana on the beach is available!  (Full review here.)
  6. Castaway Club – once you’ve taken that first cruise, you’re automatically a member with perks for repeat cruisers.  This article gives more details.
  7. Excursions – Disney offers a tremendous number of family-friendly, adults-only and teen-only port excursions and they take good care of you!  We’ve had incredible family adventures (like zip-lining in Alaska, swimming with stingrays in the Bahamas, and exploring the ruins of Pompeii) we will remember for the rest of our lives.
  8. Fish Extender groups and Door decorating!  You can pre-arrange to take part in a gift exchange (like secret Santa) with other cruisers.  You can (and should) bring fun magnetic decorations for your stateroom door. See Fish Extender deets here and Door Décor here.
  9. Characters – They seem to be everywhere and much easier to meet than in the parks.  Drop off a pillowcase or a photo mat and some markers at Guest Services and the characters will autograph your items…which will then be returned to your stateroom.
  10. Parties and First-run Movies –  The Sail Away and pirate-themed parties are both bunches of Meeting Formal Minnie on Disney Cruise Linefun (especially for children).  Each ship’s movie theater shows the latest releases (and favorite Disney movies).
  11. BONUS – Rotational Dining and Room Service.  You keep the same restaurant servers at dinner each evening (unless you dine at an adults-only restaurant) for the duration of your cruise – you get to know them and they cater to (and often anticipate) your every need.  The room service menu items (with a few exceptions) are included in the price of your cruise.  Order appetizers while getting ready for dinner or a show, order cookies and milk for a bedtime snack!  Too tired to leave your stateroom?  Order dinner!

The reasons I’ve just listed are solely based on my own family’s experiences.  We are not people who generally suffer from seasickness – it would be rare for one of us to have an Disney Cruise Line Shipepisode, but not unheard of.  We are a family that loves Disney vacations above all others.  (I believe if Disney had its own ski resort, we would never stray from Disney property or cruise ship.)

The difference between a Walt Disney World vacation and a Disney Cruise Line vacation is, for us, purely a relaxation factor.  All the things we love about Walt Disney World like good food, great service by friendly Cast Members, wonderful resort accommodations, Disney’s magical details (even hidden Mickeys!), meeting Disney characters, awesome entertainment – are all there on a Disney cruise.  What is NOT on a Disney cruise?  Walking ten miles a day, rope-drop frenzy, waiting for transportation in the blazing sun (or late at night), or favorite thrill rides and attractions (but there ARE plenty of View of Castaway Cayadventures to be found on a cruise).  We go home much more relaxed, but completely satisfied that we did and saw a bunch of amazing things!

HOW did we become such big Disney Cruise Line fans?  What made us opt to turn away from Walt Disney World and take that very first cruise?  I’ll tell you – it was our children.  After we got home from a spring break trip to WDW one year (2006), Megan started asking when we would be going back, but  Joseph said,  “WAIT – I want to go to the beach.  I want to see the ocean.  Last time we went to the shore, I was so little I can’t remember what it was like.  We need to go back to the beach!”  And a months’ long argument began between the two of them Grand Cayman Excursionfrom that day forward.

As for me, that’s when an idea began to form – I knew my plan wouldn’t be an easy one to pull off since I was certain Raymond would not initially be on board with it (YES!  score a pun point for me!).  Why not give both children what they want as a Christmas gift?  Land and sea vacation package!  Knowing Raymond would be adverse to the cruise portion of the trip, I talked him into it with 4 days at WDW followed by a 3-day cruise.  He was picturing the cruise being rather like a hostage crisis – he’d be stuck on a ship with nothing to do!  I was determined to show him the joys Disney Cruise Line had to offer.  The happy ending to this tale is that when we walked off the ship, Raymond announced that he’d had a wonderful time and would gladly take a 7-day Disney Castaway Cay's Mt. Rustmorecruise in the future!  (The story of the Christmas gift reveal is here.)

Our baby steps from that first short Bahamian trip to a Disney cruise European adventure went like this:

  • December 2006, Land and Sea (4-days at WDW followed by 3-days in the Bahamas which consisted of stops at Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island)
  • December 2007/January 2008 – New Year’s Eve 7-day Western Caribbean (for Megan’s senior trip), followed by a couple of days at WDW (Orlando to Key West to Grand Cayman to Cozumel to Castaway Cay and back to Orlando)
  • Disney Mediterranean Cruise, Excursion to Florence, ItalyMay 2010 – 5-night Castaway Cay double-dip (+ 2 days at WDW.  Orlando to Castaway Cay to Nassau to Castaway Cay to Orlando)
  • May 2011 – 7-night Alaskan cruise (from Vancouver, visited Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Tracy Arm Fjord, back to Vancouver)
  • August 2013 – 7-night Mediterranean (from Barcelona to Ville Franche, France and then to La Spezia, Civitavecchia, and Naples in Italy, then back to Barcelona) (Trip report starts here.)

Our bravery increased over time – the more fun and adventure we had, the more we wanted to see and do!  The price of airfare was, is and always will be the big holdup for doing more cruisesPirate Party on Disney Cruise Line that leave from distant ports, but we have always had as much fun (or more, gasp!) on a Disney cruise as we have had at each of our 12+ trips to Walt Disney World.  Next up?  Disney’s cruise through the fjords of Norway, summer 2015.

Have you taken a Disney cruise?  If not, have you been considering one?  What do you or don’t you like about the idea?