Monday, October 12, 2009

Disney Cruise Line 7 nights of Magic!

by Angel

September 5-12, 2009 Disney Magic Western Caribbean

In September, my mom, my two daughters, and I set out for our magical adventure. The trip was a birthday celebration for my oldest daughter, who turned 12 on the 12th and my 18th anniversary celebration on the 7th (my husband didn’t want to go on a 7night cruise, so we did a 3 night Wonder in July as a family. Our trip began when we arrived at The Radisson Resort at the Port at about 10:00pm. I had read so many bad reviews of this place, and told how bad it was by my previous travel agent, that I had everyone scared to death that it would be horrible. The hotel’s rate was $110 or so, including taxes, and they offered a free shuttle and cruise parking. To park at the terminal of Port Canaveral, the cost is $15 per day, so this would have been $105. So, basically our hotel stay the night before only cost us $5. The room we were in had been updated recently and had sleep number beds…I never found my number and had a bad nights sleep, but the room was overall very nice.

The shuttle process was very annoying, and at the time NOT worth the savings. We did not arrive at port until about 10:30!! The doors open at 10:00, and that is when I wanted to arrive. We received a boarding pass #6, and so we would have to wait until almost 12:00 until we could board. We used the time in the terminal to pass out the glow in the dark wristbands that I had custom ordered for my Dis-group. I ordered 100 wristbands (a mix of adult and child size) with the following inscriptions on either side: ‘LABORless Magical Meanderers’ ‘September 5-12, 2009’. This added a bit of excitement to our cruise because we could identify our ‘friends’ by the wristbands…and a nice easily storable souvenier. We watched and waited until they finally called our magic number…Time to jump on the ship!

We proceeded to Parrot Cay for an amazing buffet and then off to see the stateroom….You are not allowed to enter your stateroom until 1:30, but ours was right by the elevators, so we snuck a peak. We took mom to the upper decks to give her a tour. When we finally got to our stateroom, it was unbelievable! This was our first time to experience a Category 6 (Verandah Deluxe). Having the extra room, which is basically what the balcony gives you, was ideal since I always wake up early. I was able to wake up and see the sunrise, feel the breeze every morning, and watch us pull into Castaway Cay!!! At 3pm we went with our Dis-group up in the Promenade Lounge for a group picture and I distributed the rest of the wristbands. The wristbands cost each person $1.50 each and were a great souvenir.

Saturday night we were able to meet our dining staff, Mladen, Francois, and Anna. This group of servers was indescribably amazing! Mladen was such a dream. He made every night great. On the front of our Key to the World card (which is your room key and unlocks unlimited spending ability) was our dining rotation, LAPPLAP. This meant the first night we would dine in Lumeire’s, then Animator’s Palate, Parrot Cay, Parrot Cay…and so on. We were on the early dining rotation which was good for us because we are always ready to eat! Let me just say that the food was so good and plentiful that by the time we got off the ship I was seriously tired of eating. I have discovered that I eat more fresh fruit on this boat than anywhere else. It is so easy to get and already peeled and sliced. I had Mickey waffles and chocolate croissants almost every morning.

On Sunday morning, I headed straight to the Vista Spa Fitness Center and hopped on a treadmill.What a view!
I plugged in my headphones and watched a movie. Later, I attended the interdenominational church service, which was led by a Jamaican Christian, can’t remember his name, but it was very enjoyable to hear a preachin’ from such a beautiful accent! I asked GOD for a blessed trip, and please let us make it home safely especially since me and the DD’s were only travelling with birth certificates and not passports!

I met up with mom and the DD’s after the church service and we got ready to head off to Key West. We had called ahead to book a ‘funny’ car. We basically cruised the strip most of the time, and also headed down to the ‘Southernmost Point’. The line to take a picture there was ridiculous, so we just snapped some happy couple so that we got the picture. We then toured the Butterfly Museum. It was so beautiful. It was incredibly hot that day, but it was nice to sit and enjoy the butterflies, birds, and tropical forest. We stopped for frozen key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate….OMGoodness…those are so yummy…a bit rich…but oh so yummy! We returned our funky car and headed back to the ship.

Monday was an ‘at sea’ day and our scheduled character breakfast.
It was a nice ‘sit-down’ breakfast with all of our favorites (food and characters). We were able to get some pics with Mickey, Goofy, and the gang. Mom and I tried to eat light, because our Palo brunch was at 10:30. We were celebrating my anniversary that day, after all! Mladen didn’t let me leave breakfast without taking a cake with me that had a chocolate banner of the ship that read ‘Happy Anniversary’. Palo brunch is a must-do. Other than just because the restaurant being so unbelievable, the service is impeccable, and the food is scrumptious! Xena was our server, a true Palo princess! Palo has a spread for brunch that could keep me happy for days. My mother was most impressed with the split crab legs—no cracking required.
Monday was also Formal night, so we all got dressed up for dinner, which was nice. Oh, and in between the morning meals we delivered our Fish Extender (FE) gifts. The gifts are small but really make the cruise fun. We had gifts waiting outside our stateroom door in our FE more than once a day. I made a CD titled ‘Caribbean Beats’ that included some of our favorite music from Castaway Cay, Bob Marley, and Jimmy Buffet. This was the ‘adult’ gift, and I ordered candy tins from Oriental Trading that had a cute girly pirate picture with our cruise dates on it for the kids. Small gifts add up while packing, and most people had an extra suitcase just to lug around the loot! I highly recommend this for the cruise. Not only was it fun for the kids to share the gifts, and receive them, but our door was so cute. I got comments from fellow cruisers passing by thanking me for having such a great door. It is easy to get turned around on the ship, but my door was a landmark! Our beautiful fish extender that I pressed by hand (all no sew) could easily be seen from the stairwell.

This afternoon the girls and I (and each girl’s friend) went to Tea with Alice and The Mad Hatter, which was really cute. We all celebrated our ‘un’birthdays, and had ‘tea’ and cookies. This is an especially cute event for the little girls, and is free, but very limited, so go to Guest Services early to get your tickets.
Since today was my anniversary, I pampered myself with a trip to Treasure Ketch, DCL’s shop for fine jewelry, among many other goodies. I got a ‘bling’ Mickey watch and an afghan with a beautiful picture of the Magic on it.

On Tuesday we visited Grand Cayman. We took a cab to Seven Mile Beach. The piece of beach where we were dropped off was very congested and small. We tried to sign up for the banana boats, as we watched it throw others off as it flipped. About that time, the message got back that a ‘rope’ on the banana boat had broken and the boat was now inoperable. So, we signed up for a triple parasail! The boat taxi took us out to the parasail boat and I parasailed over GC with my daughters on either side of me, with mom taking pictures from the boat.

When we got back to the ship, my mom and I joined Shawna and her husband, Walter, for dinner at Palo, which is another must-do, incredible dinner. We were lucky enough to have Xena again for our server. She is so wonderful.

Wednesday was Cozumel and I had booked earlier in the year with Dolphin Discovery for half price on their website. I had the Royal Swim with the dolphins for $75 per person! Me, mom, the girls, and Austin (Shawna’s DD) took off on our adventure. We met up at Dolphin Discovery with other Dis-friends and had our swim. My mom still can’t believe that I made her do the foot push. It was priceless for all of us. The dolphins are so cute. Be ready to spend a little when you get here, though. The video is so awesome that you just have to buy it. DD12 bargained with them and got them to give us the DVD and 5-4x6 pics for $110. She is very savvy with money. There published prices are much higher, so it never hurts to ask. After the dolphin swim, we met up with a man that worked at Chakkanaab Park who promised us a tour of the ruins after our swim. There was no charge for this very educational and interesting tour (but we tipped). He shared about the history and culture of Cozumel, while stopping along the way to take pictures of us at the best spots. At the end of the tour, we had lunch at the restaurant at the park. The lunch was not so great, and way overpriced, so I will do some research before eating on the island again. Pirate night followed on the ship and we dressed for the part! The party was great and included dancing on deck with characters, fireworks, a dessert buffet, and a showing of Pirates of the Caribbean on the AerialView under the stars. I couldn’t ask for a better night.

On Thursday, we enjoyed another ‘at sea’ day. I took this day to enjoy Disney’s Behind the Scenes: Stageworks in the Walt Disney Theatre. This was an adults only event where it was possible to try on the princess dresses (or Cruella’s cape), whichever you prefer This provided an opportunity to see the inner workings of the Walt Disney Theatre. Then, I went to see Disney Innovations: Animation, which was another adult only event that showed the ‘Top 10’ greatest innoventions that the Walt Disney Company has introduced in the field of animation. I spent a lot of time this afternoon enjoying the Quiet Cove Pool, which was packed! I was so amazed to see so many young singles on the cruise. In the early evening, I took the ‘Art of the Theme Ship Tour’ another adult only tour. Have I mentioned that I didn’t see much of my children today? Or for a lot of the week for that matter! I felt a little guilty at first, but then saw how many friends they had made, the fun they had, and the experiences they enjoyed, and got over that quickly! DD9 had a new BFF for the week, and DD12 enjoyed some new freedom. DD12 was in OceanQuest, which has no check-in/out procedure and they come and go as they please. So parents must provide their own rules for their child. The counselors are great and the kids are always chaperoned, but are allowed to come and go at will. DD9 was in the Oceaneer’s Lab where self check-in/out is a special privilege that has to be given by a parent. Overall, I think 9 yrs old is old enough for this privilege, but the ground rules must be laid down early. There were several times that I had no idea where DD9 was on the ship. This was very unsettling, but she was always safe.
The ship is a very safe place, but I still wanted to know her location at all times. So after a few days of confusion, she finally learned how to use the dry erase board on the inside of our stateroom door, and all was well. Later that night I went to see the 10:30 showing of ‘The Proposal’. DCL’s Buena Vista Theatre provides first run Disney movies throughout the cruise. If it is in your local theatre, more than likely it is showing on DCL. You can call one week prior to your sailing day to get a list of movies showing during your cruise.

Waking up Friday morning to see Castaway Cay from our verandah was worth that extra expense. The island is so beautiful, and there is so much to do…and eat. We started off with a nice breakfast at Topsider’s buffet and then walked off the ship into paradise. We took the tram to save some energy. Be aware, that if you take the tram to the beach instead of walk the short distance, you will miss several must-do photo opportunities with characters, including the one and only Jack Sparrow. Shawna had packed snorkel gear, so they let us share with them. I enjoyed sitting in a beach chair at water’s edge and just basking in the glory of the sun. Mom and I took the tram over to the adult beach, and came right back. I really enjoy the family beach more, because half of the fun on a beach to me is watching the kids play. DD12 decided she would get her hair ‘corn-rowed’, so she took a friend with her to say ‘braid mine just like this’. The lady explained to her that she didn’t have the same rubber bands as the ship and that her braids would be smaller. This didn’t sound like much of a big deal, until she got 18 braids and was only half-way finished. The other girl had 11. At $2 per braid, to complete the job would have been over $60! DD12 is pretty savvy remember, and stopped the process. We later spoke with guest services about this on the ship, and showed them the same rubber bands that are used by the ship braiders. They agreed to rebraid her hair at no cost. I highly recommend having the braids done by the ladies on the ship.

Mom and I booked a 4pm appointment for a ‘Spa Taster’ at the Vista Spa. We waited throughout the week until we had the best deal for the salon. For $89 each, we could choose 5 from the following; foot and ankle massage (which I gladly took after running barefoot on CC to get my camera for a photo-op with Goofy!), neck and shoulder massage (also couldn’t pass up), a mini-European facial (my very first facial), a collagen eye treatment (got this), and a scalp massage (as the horn went off while we were leaving CC). We were very happy with the choices we made We passed up on the hand treatment and the Sunglow makeover.
Another thing that is a must-do for the ladies early in the trip is to have a shower in the Vista Spa, just outside of the gym. If you ask the ladies, they will lead the way. The showers here are wonderful and I HIGHLY recommend doing them early in the trip because you will surely do it more than once!
Somehow throughout this review, I have neglected to mention that the kids stayed out until 12am-1am almost every night, so mom and I had to find something to do.
We spent a lot of time alone together (which is also a great bonus for couples) in the Rockin’ Bar D watching various entertainers, and even fellow cruisers during karaoke night! DCL really knows how to entertain every age. The entertainers were top notch. There was a juggler, a ventriloquist, a singer/songwriter, and a hypnotist. Each entertainer did a family show and an adult show. It was amazing to me to see how they tailored each show for their audience while completely entertaining each time. I am still laughing about some of things I saw in that club! The cruise staff did a skit on the last night that was so great that it was etched in my mind for days! The people on the ship love what they do and they show it.

We got off the ship at about 8am with little trouble on Saturday, which was DD12’s birthday and went straight to the Magic Kingdom. Our cruise was ‘Magical’ in every way and we all can’t wait to go again!

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