Disney Wonder Nov 16-23: To Galveston and Beyond!
Second time cruiser, first time reporter! We just got back last week from the Disney Wonder's Western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston. During our long wait I obsessed over trip reports so thought I'd try my hand at it. Not to mention I'm so not ready for the experience to be over so this will be my attempt to hang on to that vacation bliss for as long as possible.
This vacation was a long time in the planning and there were several times that it looked like it might never happen. So imagine my delight when the alarm went off at 3 am and it was finally time to head to the airport.
Okay, it was 3 am.
Maybe delight isn't the right term.
<insert dreamy flashback music / visual effects here>
Two years ago we took our first cruise - a 5 night repositioning cruise from Vancouver to LA on the Disney Wonder. As we live close to Vancouver this seemed a good intro to test the waters and see if we'd even like cruising. We were barely on board when my (then) 10 year old declared it the best vacation ever! Now in all fairness we hadn't been on many vacations that didn't involve visiting relatives so it wasn't like there was a lot to compare it to. But point taken and we booked a dummy date on that cruise, intending to move it to a spring break 2013 Mexican Riviera cruise. We really wanted to do the Mexican Riviera and couldn't wait for the new itineraries to come out.
What? Wait? They stopped doing the Mexican Riviera? Well <insert swear words here>, now what do we do? For a while we had a reservation on the May 2013 LA to Vancouver repo cruise. But it wasn't filling our hearts with joy. We wanted something more exciting. Then DCL announced Galveston as a new home port and that piqued my curiousity, perhaps because I had no clue where Galveston was. After I checked a map, then I also checked our airmiles and discovered it would cost us the same amount of points to fly to Houston as it would to fly to LA. Hmm...this was getting interesting. And we could sail to the Caribbean. The Caribbean! We could have a Pirates in the Caribbean party IN THE CARIBBEAN! This idea now held our full attention. The only downside would be an extra six months wait. But what the heck. We'd been waiting this long - what's another few months. And the kids didn't even know we had a cruise booked, so really it was just DH and I that would go nuts. And we were mostly there already...
So in September 2012 we emailed our long suffering TA again and moved our reservation to the Nov 9 cruise out of Galveston. There. That's it. Done. We nodded confidently to each other, no more moving our reservations. We had made our decision.
That lasted two months and then Disney changed our cruise to a Bahamas itinerary. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! Castaway Cay was intriguing but it wasn't the CARIBBEAN. We wanted the Caribbean (in case you hadn't noticed). So once more unto ... the TA for another change and another week added to our countdown.
So still almost a year away and I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe we weren't meant to take this cruise. But we proceeded to make plans: booked our flights the first day they were released, booked a hotel about seven months out. Obsessed over the Magic Navigators and jumped from excursion plans to excursion plans.
The summer was flying by and then crisis! An emergency vet bill put the whole trip into doubt. I was glad we hadn't told the kids about the cruise yet because then we wouldn't have to tell them about cancelling it. Mostly happy ending: old dog survived his surgery and bounced back with flying colours and the final bill came in at the lower end of the estimate (still more than the cost of the cruise!). So we held on to our holiday money and instead paid the bill with the money saved for Dh's dental work. I'm so grateful for the sacrifices my wonderful husband accepts that I make on his behalf. Oh, and our other dog now has medical insurance, you know, just in case.
So time plodded on. We joined the Facebook group, FEs were discussed, countdowns were started, money was put aside...and DH and I struggled with that age old question: When do we tell the kids? Now we didn't intend to surprise them. We hadn't actually intended on keeping it a secret but apparently my kids were oblivious to the fact that we had made a future booking so we decided not to bring it to their attention as two years is a long time for a kid to wait. I wanted to share the planning and excitement with them so they needed to have a bit of advance notice. We settled on telling them at the end of August, just before school went in. Now, how to tell them? Oh, we threw all sorts of ideas around, from the boring to the ridiculous! Some days we just wanted to scream it out just to distract them from fighting/whining/annoying us. But we didn't. And DH was having too much fun throwing out obscure hints that went right over their heads (Girls, did you know that allspice in French is poivre de Jamaïque?)
I had previously compiled our first cruise videos into one home movie. I then made up a second video, with photos and music representing the three ports we'd visit: Jamaica, Grand Cayman & Cozumel - and then added it at the end of the original video. We got Grandma involved in our little conspiracy and managed to get the kids to sit down while we played our cruise video on the TV because Grandma hasn't seen it yet.
We were pleased with the response!
So there, now everyone knew about the trip. All that was left was the packing. Well, and making FEs, and organizing for the housesitter, and trying to get caught up at work, and...and...and...and...yes, at one point I told the kids that we were never taking another holiday because it was just so much WORK! Fortunately, they didn't believe me.
Ah yes, so back to 3am on departure day! Our flight left at 6am so we were aiming to be at the airport by 4:30am. DH didn't think we needed to get there quite that early but I get very antsy on travel days and can't relax until we're at the airport so 4:30 it was! We let the kids sleep in their clothes so they didn't even have to get dressed. I did insist they brush their hair & teeth. I do have some standards! They were reasonably easy to get out of bed, even as tired as they were. Much easier to get them up at 3am to go to the airport than at 7am to go to school. Heh, go figure!
My mom lives in a condo just five minutes from the airport so we drove there and left our car in the underground parking lot. We had phoned to arrange a cab to meet us there to take us to the airport. As we pulled up to the condo, the cab was sitting waiting for us! The first of many connections that went perfectly over the course of the trip!
Then to the airport, got bags checked (Score! The big suitcase was 2 lbs over the weight limit but the check-in person just shrugged and sent it through!). Lined up for security. It wasn't extremely busy but there were more people there than I would have expected at that gawd awful time. My 8 year old was having an attack of nerves by this point so now she was getting teary about missing Angelo (our cat), scared of going through security, worried about flying on a plane. Now I'm nervous about flying as well but I put on my best confident, reassuring mommy voice as we went through the security check. Then there was a beep and wow, we got picked as the family of the day. Well, not quite. You haven't lived till you get asked "body scan or pat down?". For the record, DH chose the body scanner, I took the pat down (I appreciate the personal touch!). Luckily they just took a hand swab from the kids. I tried to figure out what we did to get picked but DH said it was 'totes random'.
So to our gate to sit and begin the first of many hurry-up-and-waits of the day. I think it was about an hour before we heard the boarding announcement. Finally, onto the plane for our long, international flight of ... 25 minutes. Basically 12 minutes up and 12 minutes down...and then we were in Seattle! For some reason they made us pick up our suitcases, carry them about 20 feet, and put them on another belt - all this while inside of security. We kept the faith that our bags would meet us in Houston (spoiler alert: they did!) and got into the long line to clear customs. We entertained ourselves for a few minutes listening to two security guards trying to explain to an (obviously non-English speaking) passenger that no, she couldn't just skip the customs line-up. Our big excitement was finally getting a stamp in our passports! Our previous cross border trips were by car/ship so our passports had remained depressingly blank.
SeaTac is a large airport so we stopped for directions to our departure gate. It involved three trains. Three. Surprisingly quickly and efficiently we got to our correct terminal.
We had an almost 4 hour wait until our flight to Houston so we grabbed a table at the restaurant, ordered something to pick at and experimented with our phones in flight mode and free wi-fi.
Still not a lot of conversation happening....
Then we walked around a bit, checked out the stores and stuff -- whatever it takes to kill time.
"Some day my plane will come..."
We so wanted to fly on the fish plane
Sticking with the fish theme, this was the most gorgeous salmon I've ever seen. Of course, we don't usually see them made out of glass!
Eventually it was onto the plane. Girls were happy because we paid for the movie players. One each because we didn't want to listen to squabbling. K fell asleep at one point so I hooked her player and had just started watching a movie when she woke up and reclaimed it. Darn. Kids have all the fun.
We landed at 4:15 pm at IAH (aka George Bush Intercontinental), a few minutes early. I had reserved a car service to pick us up at 5pm, thinking that would give us time to pick up our luggage and use the bathrooms, etc. (I refuse to pee in those tiny little cupboards on the plane unless it’s a dire emergency!). But as we rode down the escalator to the baggage claim, K was the first to spot him: our smartly dressed driver standing there waiting for us! Score: no waiting! José helped carry our luggage the …oh…30 second walk to our ride. Double-score: a Cadillac Escalade - stretch! Now that was a comfy ride. Add a bathroom and a minibar and they would have had a hard time getting me out of there!
It was a long drive to Galveston, landing as we did in the middle of rush hour. José took us past the new baseball field and football field. I remember watching a baseball game in the Astrodome last time I was in Houston. That was… oh, I dunno…close to 40 years ago! Man, I feel old.
We made good time on the drive, mostly because José could stay in the HOV lane as long as it lasted. Once past Houston I started recognizing the names on the exit signs from my two years of obsessing: League City, Webster, Texas City, Clear Lake….We pointed out the NASA exit to the girls as we were planning on stopping there on the return trip. Not that we wanted to think about the return trip quite yet.
It was dark before we reached Galveston but we could see the lights of the Island. And then suddenly we were over the bridge and IN GALVESTON!
We had a reservation at the Harbor House hotel but our driver wasn’t sure where the entrance to the hotel was. There’s a parking lot beside it but it’s gated and we didn’t think we could get in (the next day we realized there’s an intercom button at the gate to ask the front desk to let you in. Heh, would have been good to know) so José pulled up at the curb as close as he could to let us out. Kids and I ran ahead to figure out where the lobby was while DH dealt with the suitcases.
The lobby is quite small – our suitcases pretty much took up all the free room! Check in was quick and painless and we hopped into the elevator to check out room 206! I was ecstatic. We had exactly the view I was hoping for: right out to the harbour where the cruise ships dock.
Our room was more spacious than I expected and clean and comfortable. The bathroom was a little cramped. If our girls had been older there might have been conflicts with mirror time but fortunately they’re not teenagers. Yet.
Sorry, I never manage to get photos before we mess up the place.
After a minimal unpack/organize we went in search of sustenance. A wonderful thing about this hotel is you do not need to go far! There are at least three good restaurants within a stone’s throw of the lobby. And I throw like a girl so you know that has to be close!
We checked out the menus at Willie G’s and Nonno Tony’s. Dh got very excited at the ‘happy hour until 7pm’ menus. We decided on Nonno Tony’s and there was still 10 minutes to order a $3 martini! We had a lovely meal here, I believe I had the tilapia (or I could have the grouper for an upcharge….a $32 upcharge…so I had the tilapia) and a green apple martini. Yes, I like girly martinis. Deal with it. I confused our server (who was awesome by the way and I’m so sorry I didn’t get his name) by asking for vinegar for my fries. Apparently in Texas this is an unusual request. He offered to go into the kitchen and get me a dish of vinegar but I told him not to worry about it because I didn’t want him cursing the damn tourists.
As we finished dinner, the long day caught up so us so it was back to the hotel to call it a day. We slept well that night, finally feeling like we were really on vacation.
Great TR so far! Can't wait to read more!
Cant wait to hear more, we will be on the Wonder soon
Welcome aboard! I've done nothing but mope since we got home. Hopefully this will help me get it out of my system, or at least keep me busy until we can book the next cruise! :thumbsup2
Thanks for the report. We got on the Wonder the day you got off and just got home yesterday. I'm still drawn to trip reports even though I just lived our own. I cannot wait to read more.
Off to a great start...love the reveal video!
Jill in CO
C'mon, sing it with me…”Galveston, oh Galveston…” !!!
Yep, my kids now know all the words to a Glen Campbell song. They so hip!
Once I had looked at a map to see where Galveston was, I had done a lot of reading and research and over the waiting period was getting just as excited about Galveston as I was about the cruise. Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed. Too bad Disney is leaving as we did not have nearly enough time to see and do everything we would have liked! We would happily come back to Galveston to do another cruise. In fact, we might have to come back just to visit!
But first things first. Our hotel in daylight:
That's actually the view from the parking lot - that we couldn't get into the night before. So if you enter via the parking lot, the lobby is actually quite easy to find! There is a ramp to the right so no, you don't have to drag your heavy suitcases us the stairs. Unless you want to. It's your back. :rolleyes1
Harbor House offers a free continental breakfast. It’s not much if you’re a hearty breakfast eater. We’re not, so it was perfect for us. All we wanted was COFFEE and something to hold us until lunch time. The breakfast room is on the second floor, just down the hall from our room. We ran down and brought back danishes, cinnamon rolls and the all important COFFEE! Well, there was juice and tea for the girls. Breakfast choices also included a large bowl of fresh apples & oranges, bread, bagels and instant oatmeal, which I would have tried if the weather hadn’t been so warm. Oatmeal is a winter breakfast for me. Yeah, it was November but sure didn’t feel like winter. There’s also a toaster & jam, butters, etc. provided.
We watched the action out of our window while we ate. We had a hard time tearing ourselves away from our hotel room. The action just outside our window was way better than any tv show.
Pelicans! I couldn't get enough pelicans!
If we opened our window, these guys would flock to the ledge outside. Apparently expecting us to feed them. We didn’t, figuring the hotel management probably wouldn’t appreciate it. They didn’t look like they were wasting away so I didn’t feel guilty.
At 9:30 we caught a taxi to Enterprise to pick up our rental car. We ended up with a Kia Soul. The woman referred to it as ‘the hamster car’ and the kids thought that was a riot! (It wasn’t until we got home and I googled the ads that I figured out why it’s called the Hamster Car.)
We also rented a GPS, just to be sure we didn’t waste half the day trying to find our way around! The woman at Enterprise didn't think we'd need one if we were just staying in Galveston but y'know the stress when you're trying to find your way around a strange place...?? Yeah, we wanted to avoid that. Fortunately we turned on the GPS before we left the parking lot because I then had to run back in to get them to reset it to English. GPS instructions in Spanish wouldn't have been very helpful. Dora only taught me to count to ten.
That hurdle solved, it was off to Moody Gardens. The weather was getting quite warm by now and we stood out in our jeans & long sleeve shirts amongst the crowds wearing shorts & t-shirts! We only visited the Aquarium pyramid. Don't worry, this isn't how you get in!
We would have loved to have seen more but so much to do and so little time!
More fish art. Never seen it made out of plastic water bottles though!
DH and I were looking forward to seeing some of these in the main dining room on Captain’s Gala Night (although it seemed heartless to discuss it right in front of him!):
After Moody Gardens, we were starting to get hungry but still had a supplies stop to make. WalMart was closest so ran in to pick up sunscreen and stuff. Somehow we also came out with two pairs of fleece footy pyjamas. Not really what we needed for the trip but the kids have wanted them for ages so I agreed to buy them as long as they pretended to forget about them until Christmas morning. There, Christmas shopping done!
Oh yeah, we also found a little bit of heaven called Nutella to Go - individual servings of nutella & cookie sticks! O.M.G. We don't have these at home. Probably a good thing really. We bought about 10 of them and the kids ate most of them over the course of the cruise. They left me one that I took to work as an emergency chocolate fix. It was gone by day 2. It tasted a little salty, what with my tears dripping into it and all...
But back to Galveston! By now there were cries of starvation so food became a top priority! We headed down to the Seawall and caught our first glimpse of the Gulf of Mexico!
So of course we had to play tourist and stop for photos.
Now can we eat?!
Kids said they were so hungry they were going to faint (I've told them a million times not to exaggerate!) so back into the Hamstermobile and down to Nick's for lunch.
We didn't feel fancy enough for Gaido's so thought we'd try Nick's, because we'd heard wonderful things about their seafood and pecan pecan pie. And I love pecan pie!
DH started with the gumbo and then we both had the shrimp po'boys. Oh my, so good!
V waxed poetic over her burger and K chowed down on her homemade chicken nuggets, while DH eavesdropped on the table behind us talking about their fishing trip that morning. As they got up to leave he had to chat for a bit - any excuse to talk about fishing :)
Oh yes, and then I had the pecan pie. Yep, I went there. It was delicious but I will confess that I miss the crust. I LOVE pie crust so it did kind of feel like something was missing.
After lunch we realized we'd forgotten one of the most important supply stops! SPEC'S! Thank heavens we remembered - so back along the seawall, got a bit lost, or rather we think the GPS was trying to lose us, found it and picked up our necessities: two bottles of wine, 6 pack of beer, small bottle of Baileys and a mickey of rum. Y'know, just the basics.
The girls wanted to get their sand so back along the Seawall so that we could enjoy some beachtime. We pulled over close to Paradise Pier. Really, who looks at a pier and decides to put a roller coaster on it?
We could have spent all day along the beach. How beautiful!
They said the water was too cold for swimming so I had to wade in to check it out for myself. Pfft...you call that cold? Come up to our beaches in the summertime and I'll show you cold!
Not that I wanted to go swimming there anyway..the waves were a little on the strong side for my wimpy swimming skills.
So after we'd waded, and run and cartwheeled...
...it was back to the hotel to park the car, drop off our supplies and catch a boat for a dolphin watching tour. That was a hit with the girls. Well, we enjoyed it too.
The dolphins put on a good show for us.
This one was just a fluke
Really? Am I the only one that finds that funny? :lmao:
And the Cap'n even let them drive the boat. A dangerous move but what did he know.
By the time we came back in, it was too late to visit the seaport museum, which had been on my to-do list. But we lucked out and caught the last showing of the Great Storm. Or as my DH asked "So, not a comedy, eh?" We needed a drink to cheer us up so to Willie G's to sample their happy hour cosmos ('Two thumbs up' rave the critics!).
How beautiful to sit out on the patio in the warm air and watch the sunset over the harbor! Life is good!
It was at this point that we used the free wi-fi to check our email. And discovered one of our co-workers had just won $25 million on the lotto. Yeah. $25 million. I'd like to say we were all happy for our coworker and toasted him and his family and all that. I'd like to say that. But really, what we were thinking was Damn! Why wasn't it us?!?!?! We soothed our disappointment with more drinks. It was a lot of disappointment ;)
Then we had to order some food off the happy hour menu so that we wouldn't look like completely irresponsible parents. Apparently feeding your kids is one of the clauses in the contract.
Although this kid didn't spend a lot of time the right way up:
That was too much excitement for us small town folk. We called it a day a little after 7pm. Time for the loooooooooong walk back to the hotel to repack in prep for TOMORROW! Get it?! That's our hotel in the background...long way <giggle>.
Day 3 Embarkation Day!
So we had been so busy with travelling and then sightseeing around Galveston that I kind of forgot to be excited about the cruise. Can you imagine that? That all ended when I woke up at 1:20 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep!
Look what my phone says!
Actually it was just too hot to sleep so ended up getting up and checking emails, playing games. At just after 2am I figured it was safe to post the 'no more sleeps' graphic to our FB group:
Finally went back to sleep only to wake up again at 5:30am. Yeah, I wasn't excited or anything. It's like Christmas morning when you're a kid except instead of leaping out of bed to check under the tree, I ran to the window but alas, no ship in sight. I even went down the hall of the hotel to look out the window facing the other way. Hope nobody saw me in my pjs! Back to the room to play on the Internet and sulk. Dh eventually got out of bed (probably woken up by the heavy sighs coming from his spouse). I opened our window to lean out for a look and OMG THE SHIP IS COMING THE SHIP IS COMING! I got so flustered that I couldn't find our video camera so had to use my phone instead. Now that was the view I booked the hotel for!
The girls were still in bed, but we called out that their ship was here and they did the zombie stumble over to the window to see for themselves. Then crawled back into bed. Smart girls. DH and I watched her through her entire glide in and slow pivot to her berth. It's so eerie to watch as for all her size, she's soooo quiet.
By the time she was berthed, the sun was up and DH and I were ready to go. Well, not quite. Kids were still in bed, we were still in pjs, so yeah, not quite ready to go. The hotel hadn't even put out the coffee & breakfast yet. By the time I showered, the girls were dressed so a quick breakfast then down to the pier to gaze lovingly at our ship and to take pictures while the girls blew off some excess excitement.
Again, we saw dolphins, seagulls, fish (wow! Fish in the ocean? Who knew?!) and our dolphin watch Captain (Shark attack!) heading down to his craft.
By 9:25 were we all dressed, repacked and ready and raring to go! We had an 11am PAT and I know, I know...it's just more waiting in line but heck, I wanted to be waiting in line AT THE TERMINAL. But first we had a hamster car to get rid of.
The front desk clerk let us store our bags behind the desk and we drove back along the seawall to get back to the car rental. We know that wasn't the most direct route but we wanted to have another look at the beach before heading out! It was already a hot, clear, gorgeous day.
Another place we wanted to eat but didn't get a chance:
Back at the rental place, we saw another family there with DCL shirts and figured they were going to be on the ship as well. Turned out they had just gotten off the ship, which explained why they looked so relaxed. It was busy at the rental place so it was probably a good half hour or so before we got out of there. DH had called our cabbie from the day before and he whisked us back to the hotel, waited while we checked out and retrieved our suitcases. Then he took DH and K to the cruise terminal while V and I walked over. I wanted a little more time to enjoy the sights. It was such a beautiful morning I couldn't resist the walk. It only takes a few minutes. Although I bet it would feel a lot farther if you've got loads of luggage!
By the time we reunited with DH and K at the terminal, the suitcases had disappeared. I trusted DH when he said he had given them to a porter. There were a fair amount of people already there and more arriving. We walked down to the other side of the doors where people in white Mickey hands were trying to organize everyone into a nice, straight line. Within minutes we were through the door and in the warehouse...oh sorry, in the TERMINAL!
The line up was already kind of long but in true Disney style, was moving quickly. We went through the security check and lined up to check in. At some point, we had been given our health form and I filled that out with a clear conscience! They used our previous photo which surprised me, as it was over two years old. We were almost done when the CM turned around and passed us...lanyards!
Our very own lanyards!
I hate lanyards. We're supposed to wear ID on a lanyard at work and I always hide it in my pocket instead.
But this was a Disney lanyard!
So it immediately came out of the package and stayed around my neck for the next seven days!
Somebody likes her Key to the World card!
All the fun stuff over, we found some seats and dumped our stuff. Yeah, it was great that we'd checked the suitcases but we still had carryons, knapsacks, purses, shoulder bags, etc., etc. It gets tiresome after a while. We were sitting right by the room with the kids club check-in so K and I went over and lined up. If we had to wait anyway, might as well make it productive. That was probably our longest, boringest wait. But they weren't boarding the ship yet so it wasn't like we were going anywhere. Sadly, they were still the old, clunky bands for the kids club. K took it well and put out her wrist to be tagged and released.
Waiting, waiting, waiting...
Done there we went back to sit with Dh and V. V was bummed because they'd picked the family sitting right next to her as the family of the day! Oooh...missed it by *that* much!
And then more sitting and waiting. There is something to be said for arriving after the first rush! Ah well, time to have a look at the Navigator. Look, look - Chocolate and beverage pairings! Mixology! Martini Tasting! Okay, time to strategize. We debated our options and settled on kids and I would go straight to deck 9 and grab a table, DH would go to Studio Sea to book our nominals. (Nominals is our code name for the beverage tastings as they are offered for a nominal fee. It took the kids a while to figure that out.)
Finally, just before noon, they boarded the family of the day then started calling the boarding groups. We were group 5.
There's not a lot of lag time between groups so DH was already moving towards the line before they even got out the 5 LOL!
Is it just me or is that the best walk in the world, down the hall and up the escalator until you can see the ramp itself and the outside of the ship!!!! DH was making a beeline straight to the gangway, while I wanted to just take it all in for a few moments. Nope, he wasnt to be stopped.
We set sail on December 14. I am loving your trip report and all of your pictures. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. We want more...we want more!! :worship:
Subscribing! :thumbsup2 I love Galveston trip reports. :goodvibes Great start and glad that you enjoyed your stay in Galveston.
Loving the trip report. We depart this Saturday and this is really driving the excitement higher :cool1:
Cant wait to hear more! We leave on the Wonder Saturday and the weather forecast is a high of 45 with showers
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