"Once Upon A Time in Carribean" - On the Wonder Feb 16-21, 2014 (WRAPUP! 7/09)
Hey everyone, and welcome to the TR our first-ever DINSEY CRUISE. For those friends that have been following me for a while, you can skip this first paragraph below.
For those that haven’t followed along before, I am a 44-year old husband and dad to a 10-year old daughter. I used to go to Disney World each summer as a child back in the seventies, and my wife and I have become the typical DIS Disney addicts. DW is probably a bigger trip addict than me, but I am the primary planner and the DIS social director (as in making friends on the DIS), which is the opposite of real life where I don’t really like other people all that much. (Har har! That’s a joke.)
We have TEN trips to WDW under our belts (eight with DD), two trips to DL (one on an ABD adventure with the DIS back in June of 2013). This is the THIRD trip of a 9 month self-titled “Disney Trifecta”. In addition, we are in the process of buying into DVC and using some “freebie” points we are getting to plan a getaway weekend this fall. But that’s for another report!
So, you MAY be thinking that my TR title has something to do with Disney Magic, or the TV show “Once Upon a Time” which I have never seen. But no, it is a reference to the great Sergio Leone – director of many a Spaghetti Western in the sixties and seventies. Since my previous two trips were titled. “A Fistful of Fastpasses” and “For a Few Fastpasses More”, and I summarized each day in those TRs with “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”. That left me with his Leone’s Magnum Opus - “Once Upon a Time in the West” and that’s where the title of this TR comes from! Well, that and we have never been to the actual Carribean before!
A little more background regarding the motivation for this trip. This was really DDs trip. I think she was getting a little bit tired of WDW trips (how is that possible?), and we watched a special on the Disney Cruise Line and she wanted so much to try it out. Now, neither DW nor I are really “cruisers” as neither of us had ever done one before. In fact, I sort of hated the idea, as I do not really like the water, but in particular I have a phobia of being ON the water (not IN the water, which I am OK with), or more specifically falling into the water. While I have it mostly under control – by not going on the water – I will admit I was a little trepidatious at the idea of this trip. But, we all agreed it was worth a try. Heck, it’s Disney!
So, I researched available dates that we didn’t have to take DD out of school. The first thing I discovered – Disney cruises are FREAKIN’ expensive! I couldn’t believe how much some of them cost. It looked like our main choices were narrowed down to
A) 5-night cruise out of Miami President’s Week
B) 7-night cruise out of Port Canaveral President’s Week
C) 7-night cruise out of Port Canaveral end of August
Well, I rapidly nixed the August one. I didn’t want our first ever cruise to possibly be in a hurricane. Feburary seemed good, but as I priced it out, I noticed that the 7-day cruise was TWICE the cost of the 5-day. An extra $2000 for two more days? I don’t think so! Plus, the shorter cruise sort of appealed to me. If I was really hating it, it wouldn’t last so long. Then we could spend a couple days afterwards at the beach relaxing. This, alas, was not to be.
As I was trying to get airfare, I discovered something – flying from Buffalo to Florida for President’s Week does not provide for favorable airfares. While I was lucky (mostly thanks to a DISer on the cruise) to get a flight down on Saturday the day before the cruise, we were never able to get a reasonable fare rate other than on the day we returned to port. So the vacation ended up being a Saturday to Friday trip, with the cruise being Sunday to Friday.
The final addition was a whole ‘nother family. Last summer we were having dinner with some friends and were talking vacations and they mentioned they were thinking of taking a Disney cruise, so we said we had already booked on such-and-such a date. Well, they asked if they could join along, and after a little discussion we said SURE! So, our special guests in this trip report are – and though I have permission to post their pictures, these are not they’re real names – Tom, Duchess and the triplets: Berloiz, Toulouse, and Marie. Duchess and DW are long-time friends from college, and we are currently neighbors in the same town/school system.
Table of Contents
Day 1 & 2 - The trip to the ship
Onto the actual trip! We had plans to fly out around 3:30 PM on Saturday afternoon. We had decided to stop and get some lunch near the airport, and in the meantime, the flight was delayed, the times were changed several times, including once while we were at the restaurant. So, we weren’t rushing through the meal to get to the airport, when suddenly I got a text from SWA saying the flight was actually moved UP 20 minutes. At that point, we only had about an hour and 15 minutes to get on our flight, so we rushed through our meals, and rushed through the airport. We basically got to the gate as they were loading the plane, and were able to board in our designated boaring spots (B1,2,3). Our friends had paid for pre-board, so they had seats for us. The flights to Fort Lauderdale was uneventful.
We left the airport and waited for the free shuttle to our hotel. This took about 20 minutes. I had picked this hotel because they also had a “day rate” where you could come back to the hotel and stay for the day while waiting for our flight, so I wanted to check it out. By the time we got checked in, it was pretty late –around 8:30 PM, so the girls took the kids to get some dinner, while the boys went on a booze run.
We picked up quite a bit of alcohol to take with us, four bottles of different alcohols, plus four 1.5 L bottles of wine and two 750 ml bottles for Palo night, all told we spent about $190, which sounds like a lot, but I bet we saved close to $1000 doing so! We were stuck waiting for the shuttle to pick us up for over an hour. They claimed that they came to get us and we weren’t there, but this was not true, we were standing outside waiting for them the whole time.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was 10 PM. Tom and I went down to the restaurant to get some dinner, while the ladies got the kids to bed.
On Day 2, we got up ready to really start our adventure!
First some pictures:
Toulouse and Marie goofing around
Berloiz and DD in the same spot
DW and Myself
DD and Marie
More boring stuff today – we had found a transport company to drive us to the Port of Miami.
They picked us up simply enough and got us to the port in time for our boarding time, which was around 12:30 PM. Our first view of the ship.
The boarding process was somewhat lengthy, with first a long line for security, then a second long line for check-in, then a wait until they called your boarding time, then a photo op, and finally a disinfecting station. (More on this later.)
Then, FINALLY, they let us on board. The welcome from the crew of the “XXX Family” that some rave about, I more found amusing that these poor crew members (cast members?) had to stand there for hours applauding all 2,500 people boarding the ship like they are something special.
This was our first exposure to the main lobby, and I have to say, it was actually smaller than I was expecting it to be. It was very nicely decorated, went up about 4 stories but was sort of narrow stem to stern. Considering how premium space on a ship must be, it was still pretty impressive.
Because we boarded close to noon, we weren’t allowed to enter our rooms until after 1 PM, so we opted –like most people – to start on our eating. The herded us towards Parrot Cay, one of the three main dining rooms.
They had a Buffet set up with lots of different food selections, but before we even entered, we again had to use a sanitary wipe. This was a big thing on the ship. I wondered if it was really used to combat germs, or more as a placebo effect. I kept thinking of the person wiping their hands, then immediately sneezing all over them. (I’m a real optimist, huh?)
I was in for my first surprise with this meal. The food was really, really good. Sure it was a buffet, and as such wasn’t gourmet, but the quality was high and we all enjoyed the selection very much. In particular, the veal schnitzel and roast beef were both excellent.
It was also here that we realized how much we were going to save buying our own wine. The table showed a list of the wine “deal”. A mere $149 per person for 5 nights. That’s $600 for wine. We ended up spending about $100 on the wine itself, and another $120 for corking fees, so saved about $380 on wine alone!
Look what happens when you click on links and head over to complete the trifecta.
Love the food porn. :thumbsup2
Yhea. Cruise Report!! Just in time to get me excited for mine in 50 days!!!
I do have to say- I think you missed some of the 'magic' of embarkation by not going out of the Disney Terminal in Port Canveral (it's minor- really- but their terminal is pretty awesome compared to the standard terminals for cruise ships). And I think the flow for checking in works better at the main terminal.
I am a pusher about getting to the terminal early & getting the early boarding times. To me, I LOVE walking up to the empty Lido Deck, finding chairs and having my kids be first in the pools (I do this even on non-Disney lines). It's our 'boarding' tradition! Plus, I pay a LOT for the cruises- I want as much 'on board' time as I can get!!
I always found the food to be FANTASTIC on Disney cruises. Better than the other line I've been on (which is Carnival..but then again, I pay half the cost for Carnival..so...it's all relative!).
Great start! Can't wait to hear more!
It seems like the general level of quality on Disney seems to be higher than most other cruise lines. A bit spoilery, but based on this cruise, while I would probably do another Disney Cruise sometime in the future, I don't think I'd even consider any other cruise line, especially in the Carribean. I'm not even all that hyped for the cruises themselves. My only cruising interest is really either Alaska OR a Med cruise, though we may still do another one of these cruises in the future. It won't be often though!
The quality is all relative. Really.
Truth is - especially with new Disney pricing- you are paying close to 50-65% more cruise with them vs. other lines like Carnival.
Do you still get a great Cruise vacation (IMHO) out of Carnival- yup.
Is Disney BETTER? Of course . But for 50-65% more- they darn well better be!!!
But my favorite part of a cruise is sitting on my balcony looking out at the big blue with NOWHERE to be. And that's the same on Disney or Carnival.
I do think Disney has officially priced us out of Cruises BECAUSE we like to cruise (and are not only doing a cruise to get a Disney fix). I think this might be our last with the kids being older combined with the price. In the future, we will probably stick to Carnval and hope we don't get stranded on sea (hahahahahaha!!!).
I would rather save that extra money to go back to the parks or eventually try the ABD tour somewhere..... (which actually is also probalby priced out of our range).
We did Alaska in 2009. Highly recommend it. We LOVED it. It was breathtaking (not on Disney though- we did Carnival). There is something so amazing about watching a humpack whale breech right in front of you while orcas glide by.. .with mountains in the background and otters frolicking right next to the boat......
We will def. be back in the future. AFTER we get to Hawaii!! Which is (Hopefully) on our list for 2015!
So excited to see a familiar "face" doing a DCL trip report!!
We leave on our first DCL cruise in 43 days!! :goodvibes
Off to a great start....looks like a good embarkation lunch! Can't wait for more!!
Can't wait to read about your cruise, we are also doing a western Caribbean out of Miami. Can I ask what transportation company you used out of Fort Lauderdale? We are flying in the night before, but have yet to make hotel and transportation reservations. I would love to hear about your experience!
The cruises are really expensive. But there's very little of the non-Disney part of it that appealed to me at all, so I just think we will stick with very rarely going on the cruises. As for Alaska, that wouldn't necessarily be a Disney Cruise if we did it.
Love your trip reports! Been reading them since the first one on ABD-BSM which you told me I wasn't supposed to read before I went....Ha! BTW......will be going on my second one in July (podcast, this time).
Anyway. I agree with a lot of your opinions and experiences......
I've been on one DCL cruise and the experience was really fun.....though, like you said really expensive (and even more so paying the single supplement). It was worth having the experience, though......And, I would have never experienced Castaway Cay without it (awesome!).
For Alaska cruises (and I know this isn't what your TR is about so I don't want to sway it that way), we had an awesome experience on Norwegian CL about 15 years ago. Don't know if it's similar now, but I would take another cruise there in a heartbeat! Would also love to do one of the new DCL cruises to Norway, Denmark, etc, but I'm sure I don't want to look at the price list!!!
Day 1 - Exploring the ship
A short update while I have the time.
After we ate lunch we did a small amount of exploring of the ship, including registering the kids at the kids club. It was interesting that though they described both kids clubs as age 5-12, there was a pretty clear difference between the two, and the one was definitely to young for DD, and even for the triplets, who were only 8.
Then we wanted to check into the rooms. Our room was an inside cabin on the 7th deck. While it was definitely small, it wasn’t actually as cramped as I was picturing it. Probably about 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, the bed was sizable, and the shower wasn’t as small as I expected. The worst part was probably the lack of drawer space. Much like at Disney World, I didn’t much give a darn about the size of the room, as we were hardly ever in there for much more than sleeping or changing our clothes.
My favorite thing in the room, the Marc Davis PotC art! It takes a true Disney geek to know the artist without looking at the name!
DD wanted to go to the pool, but there was a ship tour scheduled for in the afternoon that DW and I wanted to take (since we were completely unfamiliar with the ship). DD sulked through it, but it was about a 45 minute tour and really showed us where everything was. It was led by CM Sophie who was from England and her parents were on the ship visiting. For whatever reason, we clicked in on recognizing Sophie and saw her many times throughout the trip.
After the tour, DW wanted to go and sign up for a raffle at the spa, while I had planned a meet up with some DISers on the 7th deck AFT, this kind of private deck area. Unfortunately, DD continued to pout about not going swimming, so she wouldn’t even come out on the deck and instead chose to pout in the hall. So even though I met some DISers, I didn’t really get to talk long enough to get to know them, or really even see them later on the trip. (We weren’t in on the Fish Extender exchange either.)
We FINALLY got out to the deck to let DD swim. Since the main pool was closed for the Bon Voyage party she went to the kiddie pool area. DW and I were more interested in the deck party, so we let her hang out at the pool and kept half an eye on her.
She met a couple kids her age and seemed to be having a great time with them. Unfortunately, she didn’t really get their names. She saw one of them one other time but didn’t really make an effort to make plans with them. (Our DD, she is constantly complaining that she doesn’t have many friends, but makes no effort to make friends either. Frustrating for us, but I’m sure tougher on her. It’s only child syndrome at its worst.)
Anyways, some more shots from around the deck.
The big Bon Voyage deck party
DW and I both have almost our entire representation of cruising based on watching episodes of “The Love Boat” as a kid. Well, of course the most important part of leaving port is when you go on deck as you’re pulling out and wave to the people on shore. Of course, in reality, there are NO people on shore. But we still wanted to do it, so instead we waved at another ship.
Next time, Dinner on the dining rotation!
Disney staterooms are on average larger than other lines- even the insides. Want to see small? Book an inside on Carnival. Hahahahaha!!!
We were 'insiders' for years till one year we splurged on a balcony 'just because'. We never went back. We loved it so much... having the door open at night & hearing the waves- to heading out there just to sit & stare at the big blue!
I'm already dreaming about my balcony on the Fantasy.
Your DD was right where my kids always want to be- IN THE POOL! And glad she got to make a few friends here & there.
My kids LOVE the Oceanner Lab/Club. Even when Becca was 10 and went there, she loved it. But the Lab/Club is different on Fantasy/Dream (what we were on) so maybe that makes the difference.
We did Magic once back in 2007 & I can remember the club. But Becca was only 6 so she probably loved it regardless......
Gosh, seeing these pictures make me so excited for my cruise.....
I'm really lapping up the pictures. I get seasick just looking at waves so it's highly unlikely that I'd do a cruise like this one. An Alaskan one...maybe.
Thanks for letting me cruise vicariously.
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