Our Dream Double Dip Interrupted
My DW and I have been a long time follower of this forum and have gotten lots of good information and insights for our past Disney cruises. Our family (DW, 2 DS 11 & 9, and me) loves the whole Disney experience from movies, parks, and especially cruises. Before 2012 we had taken 3 cruises on both the Wonder and Magic, two 3-day Bahamas and a 7 day Western Caribbean. When the Dream was launched we couldnít wait to take it for a spin so we signed up for the 5-day Double Dip the week of May 27th. This trip was certainly needed for our family, we had a bittersweet year so far, my DW completed her Masterís of Nursing in mid-May but also lost her Grandmother to cancer in earlier that same month. So we had been going through a lot to say the least and really needed a getaway.
The Port is an easy dayís drive from our home in Georgia so we decided to go down early on Saturday in order to enjoy the beach that afternoon. We stayed at the Dayís Inn Cocoa Beach that night, the beach was ok but the hotel and surrounding area was borderline out of control. I guess thatís what we get for Memorial Day weekend but really that place was a zoo, lots of inconsiderate folks at the hotel. We couldnít wait to get on the Dream and soak in the usual awesome Disney experience.
The next morning after about 5 hours of sleep for me (because of all the surrounding ruckus) we awoke to overcast skies and headed to the port. In past trips the excitement between my DW and I was pretty high but this morning we were a little on edge. We couldnít tell if it was lack of sleep but something didnít feel quite right. Regardless of how we felt both of our DSís were pumped about the trip. We made it to the port and check-in was uneventful, everything progressed smoothly. I did notice the crowd in the terminal was larger than past cruises but the crew there kept everything moving.
Walking onto the ship for the first time was neat. The exterior and interior of the ship was amazing and the usual Disney attention to detail was everywhere. Our DSís couldnít wait to get on the Aqua Duck so after a quick lunch at Enchanted Garden we headed up to the top deck. After a couple of laps on the Duck it started raining and we headed inside to get settled in our stateroom and check out the rest of the ship. The rain moved out in time for the sail away party so we checked that out and let the boys swim some more before supper. Dinner that night for DW and I was at Palo, we figured that would be a good way to get the cruise off to a good start. When I booked Palo I tried to schedule it around sunset, on our 7 day when we dined there that happened by accident and dining while watching the sunset was awesome. This night was way different; the ship was in the middle of a thunderstorm while we dined. We couldnít feel the ship moving much from it though so we enjoyed our meal and finally started to unwind some and get into cruise mode. After dinner we picked up the boys from the club and did their favorite cruise activity, wandering the ship, until bedtime. They wanted to do the Mickey Detective Agency that evening but it was getting late so we postponed it to later. My boys like nothing more than to check out every nook and cranny of the ship and riding the elevators in the Atrium. We went to bed looking forward to spending the next day at our first stop Castaway Cay.
The next morning I awoke a little before 7:00 a.m. and just lay in bed listening to the sounds of the ship (which was quiet) and my family asleep. I could tell by the light around the curtain that it was sunny outside so I was planning for a great day at the beach. While I was laying there our stateroom telephone rang, I couldnít figure who/what would be calling that early in the morning. I figured it was a wrong number but the voice on the other end was an operator stating that this was a call from stateside; I knew then that something was wrong. It was my mother-in-law calling to tell me that my DWís father had tragically passed away during the night. That was by far the worst phone call I had ever received in my life, at that point our vacation was over and I needed to get my family home.
I went down to the front desk to speak with guest services and this is where the Disney difference came through. Every CM on past trips has always been friendly, helpful, and cheerful and this is one of the things that keep bringing our family back. During this time we were able to experience the Disney difference coupled with genuine caring and compassion from the staff. I explained our situation to the front desk clerk and she immediately put me in contact with a manager who helped me figure out our options to get back home. The gentleman assigned to my family was an angel. He helped us make phone calls, watch our DSís while my wife and I made plans, and followed up with us for the rest of our time on the ship to make sure things were ok. Since we were at Castaway Cay that day arranging transportation off the ship to Nassau was going to be difficult. Our options were to have a boat sent from Nassau to the island to pick us up or wait till we were there at port the following day. The timing and logistics of getting to Nassau that day was going to be costly and would still require us to overnight in Nassau. We opted to disembark at Nassau the following day. Once travel arrangements and multiple calls were made back home it was around noon. My wife and I felt we should at least take the boys off the ship to spend some time at Castaway Cay. It was tough spending time there on such a beautiful sunny day on a perfect beach given the turmoil our family was experiencing with our recent loss. To be honest we were numb for the rest of our time on board.
The next morning we packed our things and met at guest services to disembark. The staff had made all of the arrangements at the port so our paperwork was in order. They provided us an escort off the ship and had a golf cart available to carry us and our things through customs. For future cruisers, if you ever see a family disembarking away from home port be sure to keep them in your thoughts, itís a sad experience. A CM escorted us through customs and to a taxi that took us to the airport. Given the trauma our family was experiencing, the whole disembarking experience could not have gone smoother. Our travel back was un-eventful, although that Tuesday we took almost every form of transportation (boat, plane, train, car) back to Port Canaveral.
There are a couple of main things that we learned for this whole experience. First, leave the phone number to the ship with someone in case emergencies arise. Second, when booking flights over the phone, be sure to ask if there is a fee for phone booking. I was charged $100 for the ďconvenienceĒ of using an agent on the phone. Finally, buy trip insurance. We always do and this time it saved us from having to incur lots of expenses related to emergency travel home. The plan that we purchased not only covered return travel for the family (close to $2000) but also reimbursed us for the unused portion of the trip (3 days of the 5 day trip, the day at CC counted even though we definitely did not enjoy it). Before filing on insurance I did ask DCL for a full refund on our cruise since the incident happened less than 24 hours after the trip started but they would not do anything. They politely explained their cancellation policy and recommended that all travelers purchase trip insurance. I guess I can see their point, trip insurance saved us from a huge loss.
I feel that given the circumstances, being on a Disney cruise was the best and worst thing to happen. The worst obviously being having such tragedy occur while enjoying part of ďthe happiest place on earthĒ. The best being that we experienced such care and compassion from the CMís and my family was insulated from the turmoil going on back home. Words cannot fully express how well we were treated and looked after during this time. I donít think you can just train people to respond like the CMís did with my family, they have to have strong character and a genuine compassion for people at their core. This was felt not only from those at the front desk, but from our room steward and dining staff as well.
Since this incident happened our family has dealt with a lot. The rest of the summer was spent dealing with the aftermath of our loss and our boys missed having a normal summer vacation. The silver lining is that when the trip insurance plan paid out we had enough to cover a repeat, 4 day cruise over Labor Day weekend on the Dream. We booked it and had a great time although it did take awhile for the memories from the early trip to fade (luckily the phone did not ring).
I'm so sorry for your loss and am sending your family lots of love.
And your story is why I love Disney so much.....the compassion and true caring of the cast members for the guests. Even as a WDWCP alum I can't help but love it.
Oh I am so sorry for your family's loss!!! That is so sad :-(
I guess the Disney magic occurs in many ways.....shame it had to be under such terrible circumstances for you guys.
Glad you were able to take your boys back on the ship at a later stage.
All the best to your family!
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