Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Project Life Week 41

Eeek!!  I completely thought I had posted these pages a couple weeks ago - that's how long ago they were done.  They really were.

I'm trying to kick myself back into gear and figure out a new schedule for myself to get and stay caught up.  Final push through the end of the year!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Disney Days

Way back in April we decided that over MEA we would be taking a family trip.  After consulting with the kids on some options, Mike and I decided this would be the year of a Disney Cruise.  One reason, in particular was because it would be the only year for the next four years where they would be able to be in the same "kids club" because of their ages.  We thought they would prefer that.

About a month ago our trip finally became reality.  We pulled the kids out of school on a Friday and headed down to sunny Florida.  We arrived a day early to avoid any flight delay problems and tension.  The kids were thrilled to be missing an extra day of school.  On Friday over dinner Jake said, "I'm not sure if this is going to be a fun cruise, or just the most intense table manner test."

Saturday morning we headed to Port Canaveral to board our ship at 10:45am.  This was about the earliest we could board and it was already packed.

We were sailing on the Disney Fantasy.  I believe it's about two years old..

On board, we took a "quick" tour around to see the different areas.  We didn't have access to our stateroom until a few hours later.  

We discovered on this tour that there was tons to do outside if you didn't feel like lounging by the pools.  I don't even think we scratched the surface on what all we could do while on board.

After our walk-around we found some lounging chairs with easy access to the main pool as well as the water slide, yet was out of the way of most people walking around.

Mike plopped down and took this picture.  He was officially on vacation...

We tested out the water slide right away.  It's a big glass tube that doesn't have you going crazy fast - but faster than a lazy river.  Jake and Maddie said it's fun at night because it lights up and's dark out.

Our first full day was spent at sea.  Mike and I found an area that wasn't in all the hustle and bustle so it was a little quieter.  There was a separate "adults only" area we probably would have preferred but the kids would not have been able to find us if needed.  We pretty much sat in that one area every day and completely relaxed.  Heaven.

Maddie and Jake came and went.  The ship provides two phones in each room that you can use to walk around and still be in contact with everyone easily.  We rented an extra one so that each kid had one, and Mike and I shared one.  This was a HUGE convenience!

We had been concerned with the possibility of sea-sickness.  The first 24 hours for Maddie weren't great.  She was fairly dizzy and we were a little nervous.  However, after the first night of sleep, she was great and thankfully we didn't have any problems after that.

Our second night was the formal night so we all gussied up.  The picture below was obviously NOT taken by me, but by Disney.  I know I shouldn't have scanned it in here, but it's the only decent picture I have of all of us together.

You'll probably see it on our Christmas cards.

Maddie and Jake found out that they love shuffleboard.  We managed a few rounds of this throughout the week and they found some time to play on their own.  Shuffleboard: not just for old people anymore.

The first port was Grand Cayman.  Getting ready we had been watching the ship's t.v. channel where a couple were announcing the many different places to shop for special jewelry and how great a bargain you would get buying things here as opposed to in the U.S.  We went ashore and discovered that was about all there was to  Mike and I enjoyed looking, but the kids were bored to tears, practically.

We did see some wildlife.

We saw those lizards scramble across a parking lot and hop onto the tree next to us.  Maddie followed them up the tree and realized the tree's branches were right above us.  She announced, "I'm outta here.  Those things and their friends are going to land on our heads in a couple minutes."

Our second stop was Costa Maya.  There was a tiny little tourist shopping area that we walked around.  Jake worked on his bargaining skills.  Mike and I stood on the sidelines while he handled everything.

Vendor:  You like the sunglasses?  Only $38, amigo.
Jake:  That's too much.
Vendor: Too much??  These are REAL Oakleys! [massive eye rolling by me behind Jake]  How much you wanna pay?
Jake: [shrugs his shoulders] 10 bucks.
Vendor: What?!?  How about $25.
Jake:  Nah...I'm good. [starts looking at other things in the booth]
Vendor:  How about 20 dollars?
Jake:'s alright.  I have sunglasses [points to the pair on top of his head].
[at this point Jake starts walking away and Mike and I are a little ahead of him...]
Vendor:  Okay!  Amigo...come back!  Okay!  10 dollars - you can have them.
Jake:  [looks at us, then the glasses]  Actually...I'm really okay.  I have the pair on my head.  I don't need them.

Then he walked away for good.  But was INTENSELY proud of that moment.

Aside from that, Costa Maya was extremely disappointing and we were not ashore long.  The actual town was a ghost town.  One small pyramid (we don't know why...) at the end of the one street that was lined with deserted buildings.  Really, kind of sad.

The next day we were in Cozumel.  The water here was BEAUTIFUL.  Seriously - I could have just watched the water for hours, the colors were amazing.

We had our one excursion here.  We went swimming with a dolphin.  There were about nine of us in our group.  The trainers had the dolphins do several tricks with us and as a finale, each person got to ride on the belly of the dolphin about 30 feet.  It was fun and we all enjoyed ourselves.  The area below is where we were.  We didn't have any pictures of us because the pictures they took were horrible and none of us wanted to spend $30 on pictures that were horrible in color and barely in focus.  

We also had a stop in Cozumel.  Maddie and Jake were done with ports at this point and opted to stay on ship while Mike and I went out for a bit.  When we got back Jake asked if we'd found anything.  I told him I had found a lovely necklace but that I had passed on it when the guy told me it was $760.

Jake shrugged and said, "Eh...I probably could have gotten it down to about a hundred bucks for you."

We spent another day at sea which was awesome.  The kids decided that they preferred at sea days rather than days we went ashore.  There didn't seem much to do at most of the ports other than shop.

The food was great.  The kids LOVED the free ice cream section and we generally had a breakfast at a restaurant, then lunch via buffet.  We decided dinners had fantastic appetizers and desserts.  While the main dishes were delicious, we thought the beginning and end of meals the best.  Each night after dinner we walked around a bit then headed to the theater for a live show.  They were all very good.  Afterward we each headed in our own directions; the kids usually walked around and Mike and I ended up at one of the adult bar areas inside or sitting out on a quiet deck area.  

On board we had a great stateroom.  We had a huge port-hole that both kids enjoyed sitting in and relaxing.  We had tried to upgrade to a room with a deck when boarding, but none were available.  Although that would have been really nice some mornings, I don't think we felt crowded or unhappy with our room.

We did have a special towel surprise each night.

Friday we arrived in Castaway Cay which is Disney's private island.  It was beautiful.  We got off the ship a little later than we probably should have but still managed to find a decent spot on the beach.  There's TONS to do here and the water was perfect!

Maddie is NOT a fan of fish at all.  She barely wanted to get in the water.  Just when we had convinced her that things were safe, along comes a couple white fish that were about the size of my forearm.  Still, everyone had a great time in the sand along the shore and I managed to swim quite a ways out away from all the hustle and bustle.  Later in the afternoon we went kayaking and all had a great time.

We really only took two pictures with characters the entire trip.  They were available all over, we just never wanted to all stand in line for them.

Throughout the cruise, Disney had a couple parties for everyone on board and the ship was a party place!  I think I overheard a crew member say that Disney ships have 3-4 times the amount of outdoor lighting than most ships the same size.  They know theater and they play up things with lighting.  It works.

One of the nights there was even a fireworks show over the water.  Our waiter had given us some instructions on where to stand and we had a GREAT view of the show exploding right over us.

Soon, we were back in Port Canaveral and our trip was ending.  

We stayed an extra day so we could head to NASA since we didn't see ourselves in this neck of the woods in the near future.

To be honest, I had been sort-of dreading this adventure.  I remembered seeing it back when I was a kid.  While my dad was hugely enthralled by it all, the other four of us were bored out of our minds.

I am happy to report that it isn't at all like it was when I was a kid.  And it wasn't just me being the age my dad was back then (read: old).  The kids and Mike all thought it was interesting too.

Our last night we ended up eating dinner at a restaurant on the ocean.  Jake had been wanting to get to the ocean (despite having been ON it for a week) and was thrilled when dinner was over and we had some time to just walk in the waves.

The water was nice and the sand was so so soft.  The sun was setting and it was a really nice ending to such a relaxing week!

A few people have asked what we thought of the Disney cruise.  Mike and I mention that while Disney World five years ago was was exactly what our family needed then.  Our kids were the perfect age to experience the "magic" that Disney does so well.  This vacation was entirely different.  We were all at different places in life, and recently Mike and I have been incredibly busy.  He and I needed a vacation not an itinerary.  The kids were old enough to want some independence.  It was a really fantastic week that was rejuvenating for us all and wonderful to just be together!