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Old 06-30-2013, 01:24 PM   #1
souls on vacation
Earning My Ears
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Disney Dream - Extended Family Vacation at warp speed - 6/27-6/30

Bear with me, as I believe this is the place we are to compose our trip summaries, but, as a newbie, I am still learning the ropes!

We found out about this cruise as a gift from my mother-in-law. She wanted to bring all of her children and their families on a Disney cruise (wonderful gift!!) She also invited my parents. They happily accepted, as they had not been on a cruise in 20 years(!)

First things first, I am a terribly OCD planner, and have found the DIS boards invaluable in planning our cruise. I felt very well prepared, and by using your collective tips, I truly believe we got a lot more than we would have gotten, had we come aboard unprepared. So thank you!!

Pre-trip, we decided to participate in the FE exchange. Being completely uncreative, without an artsy-craftsy bone in my body, I did the best I could, but the final result was rather bulky! I had to carry on a huge back packed only with FE gifts! Before getting on board, we were thinking this was going to be our first and last FE exchange! More on that later...

We drove down from Jacksonville the Wednesday before the cruise and checked into the Country Inn and Suites. We arrived just around 3 o'clock, and were able to check right in. We shared a one bedroom suite with my parents and our 2 children, girl 9, boy 5. We could actually see the port from our 3rd floor room. The hotel was clean, the staff was very efficient, and, admittedly, it isn't the Four Seasons, but for a pre-cruise accommodations, it fit the bill.

We ate dinner at the Backwoods Steak house, which was just 2 miles down the road (A1A) on the left.

The cocktails were delicious, the appetizers were plentiful, steaks were beautifully cooked, and the prices were was the wait. We were there early (5 o'clock) and got right in, not bad for a party of 6. After dinner we went back to the hotel and just relaxed and chatted. We all went to bed relatively early, but I dare say none of us slept very well...can't tell if it was excitement or the very, very soft beds!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 12:23 PM. Reason: photos
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Old 06-30-2013, 01:55 PM   #2
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When we awakened early on Thursday morning (6:30 am), we peeked out of our windows to see that the DREAM had arrived in port! It was beautiful! And Gigantic! It dwarved the other Carnival cruises flanking it. Our kids were psyched!

We had breakfast downstairs at the Country Inn and Suites buffet, and let me tell you, that place was *happening*! There were TONS of people there. There was a decent selection of food, and there appeared to be sufficient seating although we did have to pull over a couple of chairs to one table so we could all sit together. They had eggs, sausage, potatoes, ready-pour waffle irons, fruit, cereals, bagels, toast, assorted muffins, pastries, etc. Their orange juice was really good, too! Once everyone had enough to eat, we loaded up the car and headed to the port at about 9:30-9:45 am. We decided against the shuttle service due to bad experiences on prior issues with different cruise lines. I have to say, it was nice not to have to wait around for someone else's schedule!

We pulled into the port and were directed to the parking garage (which confused us, because, from these boards, we knew we were supposed to drop luggage first), my parents, who were right behind us, were directed to drop their luggage first, then park. GO FIGURE, right?

We parked right on the front row of the first level of the parking garage, where we met up with the rest of our family. Luckily, a porter came and took our checked baggage off of our hands, and we all headed up to the 3rd floor to wait to be let into the terminal. At that point it was about 10 am and I'd say we were about the 10th family in line (give or take). We took a few pictures in front of the ship from the front of the garage, and it wasn't long (about 10:30) before we were led into the terminal.

Check-in went smoothly and quickly, we had our photos taken for the photo recognition software, got our KTTW cards, and got our boarding number (Number 4). After check in, my husband and I headed straight over to the kids' registration desk to get the bands for the kids' club (we had already pre-registered online, one less thing to do once on the ship, right?) We were first in line, but unfortunately their computers were down, so we had to stand there for quite some time.

After the computers re-booted, we got the Mickey bands on the kids, passed out lanyards for everyone's KTTW cards, and got out our Ziploc bags with pillowcases/fabric pens to drop off at Guest Services. Before we knew it, it was time to board!

We were having our picture snapped, our family name announced, (followed by my brother in law, who had to do one better by calling them selves the *real* Smith family when they boarded immediately after us!) We turned the corner around the elevators and right up to Guest Services. NO LINE! (Love you guys, really, mean it!)

We dropped off our pillowcases (complete with candy treats) and signed up for the mixology class and the martini tasting. Easy peasy. We then headed up to the pool and the Aqua Duck! We had our pick of seats, and best of all, practically no line for the Aqua Duck! I will double and triple vouch for the hot, hot, hot pool deck. I did not wear water shoes (I made my kids and husband, but they didn't match my outfit!!) and basically got third degree burns the first time I stood on line for the Aqua Duck. We rode several times, to our hearts content. I wish some one would have given me a heads up about the picture they take of you while riding the slide, because, YIKES!

After the Aqua Duck, Mickey Slide, pool time, lounging, and a couple of poolside "drinks of the day," it was lunch and ice cream time. The food at Cabanas was plentiful and very good. I think I ate my weight in shrimp cocktail! Love that stuff! (They won't let the guys in without a shirt though, my husband found out the hard way, oops!) By then, it was after 1:30 and time to check out the cabin!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 01:22 PM. Reason: photos
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Old 06-30-2013, 02:43 PM   #3
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We were traveling with a very large group: Myself, my husband, our 2 children, my parents, my husband's mother, his aunt, his brother, brother's wife, and their 2 children, his sister, sister's husband, and their 3 children, and his step-sister, her husband, and their 2 children! Whew! It was a big crew to keep track of all of the time, for certain. All of our cabins were on deck 8, and 3 of our cabins connected and had connecting verandas, which was so cool!

We were in 8102, and the cabin was gorgeous! It truly felt more like a hotel room than a cruise ship cabin. It had the split bathroom with the toilet and sink and shower/bath and sink. This was fantastic. I found there was more than enough storage space in bathrooms, the closet. and shelves for a three day cruise. We may have needed more room for a 7 day, but storage, in general, was no issue. No need for an over the door or closet hanging organizer. We unpacked right away, hung out our fish extender, showered, and dressed for dinner prior to the muster drill.

We are not huge on crowds or being hot, so we skipped the "Sailaway" party in favor of our own private sailaway party on our balcony. The kids were loving it! We saw sea turtles and stingrays swimming alongside the boat, and mixed our own cocktails in the room. We probably missed out a little on the "magic," but we didn't feel like it!

Our first MDR was the Enchanted Garden. It was beautiful! I think it was the prettiest of the three restaurants, in retrospect. Our head and assistant servers were great (head server was Pogi, the assistant's name has already escaped me!) My husband and I did get stuck at one end of a passel of children, though, so we requested that next dinner that the kids (age range 13-4) all be seated together at a "kid's table."

I had the Ahi tuna/Avocado tower (fab), the baby spinach salad (delectable), and the grilled NY strip (standard, potato was a bit dry). For dessert, I could not decide, everything looked delicious, so I had the "Sweet Temptations" with a little bit of everything!

After dinner we distributed our FE gifts, wandered around, took some pictures, and got in line early for the "Golden Mickeys."

We were rewarded with second row seats, and felt like we were part of the show at times (my husband swears Cruella DeVille was making eyes at him!!) I will admit I bawled like a baby during a good portion of the show (not a 38 year old woman), and loved seeing the look of wonder on my babies faces. True magic. Then, my son lost his first tooth! Right toward the end of the show! He was so excited. We swung by guest services, and they gave him a chocolate gold coin and a Cheshire Cat (my fave) pin stating "I lost a tooth!" They really do think of everything, don't they?

As much as there was going on after the show, my kids were clearly whipped, so we headed back to the cabin to fun surprises in our FE, much to the delight of our kiddos!

We tucked them into bed with some Disney cartoons playing softly for company, visions of tooth fairies dancing in their heads, and headed back out to relax on the balcony with a few cocktails and our ipod player. My husband even went out to the buffet later on a cocktail run and picked up some coconut shrimp, fries, and jalepeno poppers. What a guy! We watched a blood red moon rise, as well. Kind of creepy, but neat.

So we felt, with boarding as early as possible, that we got an extra day on the ship, which was good, because this felt like the fastest vacation of our lives! The only thing I think I may have done differently was at least peeked in on the Sailaway celebration, just for the kids to see all the hullaballoo, otherwise, I think we pulled off day number one perfectly!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 01:26 PM. Reason: content forgotten, photos
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Old 06-30-2013, 03:20 PM   #4
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Where, pray tell, was there a late night buffet that served coconut shrimp ?? I could bankrupt Disney eating on those little critters.
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Old 06-30-2013, 03:33 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by kittymamma View Post
Where, pray tell, was there a late night buffet that served coconut shrimp ?? I could bankrupt Disney eating on those little critters.
I believe it was outside one of the District bars, between 687 and Pink. It was Yum-o. This was at about 11:30-ish at night. My husband had a hell of a time bringing up a plate of food and two cocktails, he is multi-talented!
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Old 06-30-2013, 04:11 PM   #6
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Day 2

Day 2 began at 6:30 am. My son takes after me in that he does not want to miss *anything.* I was awake in bed, awaiting the ring of the 7:15 wake-up call, when my son crawled to the bottom of his bunk bed and whispered, "Mom, let's go out on the balcony!"

Well, who am I to resist a sweet invitation like that??? We went out on the balcony, to the sunrise over blue waters, no land to be seen for miles. A sight to which my son instantly furrowed his brow and worriedly swiveled his head back and forth and declared with much consternation, "WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Are we LOST?" Such anxiety for a 5 (almost 6, year old boy!) After a few minutes of reassurance, all was right with the world, and we enjoyed having the balcony, the sun, the wind, and the sea to ourselves. This is probably one of my more favorite cruise memories, for certain.

I had spa appointments starting at 8 am, so after a time, we went back inside to get ready for the day. It was a Nassau port day, but we had, 1) recently been in Nassau in January, 2) were not overly impressed with Nassau, and 3) wanted some more of the ship to ourselves! I headed to the spa for a pedicure and facial. The timing of my pedicure was perfect! I got to watch from the large spa windows as we pulled into port, and I had a fantastic view of it all. High points of the pedicure was the view and the hot stone massage (ahhhhhh!); low points were the upselling ($18 extra dollars for a scoop of bath salts in the foot bath? No, thanks!) and the attitude of my attendant when it became obvious I was no upsell mark, she was borderline rude. Next was the facial, which was my first facial ever, and the one I picked (apparently) was for old wrinkly people, so surprise, I got upsold to the oxydermy facial. However, I have to admit, it was sooooooooo worth it. The most relaxed I was the whole cruise! I made it clear I was not buying any cleansers, oils, capsules, etc., and she did not even try after that, which was nice!

I met my mother in the lounge after her facial and together we met my father and husband just outside the spa in the adults only pool area. My husband had taken the kids to breakfast, gone to the gym, and was soaking in the pool when we arrived. We joined them and enjoyed the kid-free pool in blessed silence! We also met a few nice, friendly people whilst soaking in the pool. Everyone we met was very pleasant (for the most part, any way!)

After enjoying the pool and some cocktails poolside, we headed down to shower (at this point, I still had not eaten and was feeling really fine!) Right out of the shower we got a text that the kids were ready to be picked up, so we picked them up and met my parents at the Royal Palace for a sit down lunch. The kids had the Mickey Pasta, and I had the vegetable quesadillas and the Fusilli Pasta. All very good, but I had not eaten for over 12 hours at this point, so I was not being terribly picky!!

Back up to the room for a bit to dig through our FE loot, then the kids went back to the Oceaneer's Club, and we met the majority of our family in the Skyline lounge for the much anticipated Mixology Class! In the class all but 4 people were in our immediate family, so that was pretty fun. The other 2 couples were super cool and fun about it, though! Two of our family members bailed early when they found out they had to get behind the bar to mix one of the drinks (chickens!) So we kindly took over their first drinks for them!

We made mojitos (plain, melon, and raspberry), "Fun" (because on Disney, they aren't allowed to say certain words, LOL!) on the beach, a real vodka martini (ewww) or a Mae West (more palatable), and a layered shot with Kahlua, Baileys, and Grand Marnier (rough!) We were feeling no pain by the end of the class. It certainly lived up to billing, and we would definitely do it again!

Last edited by souls on vacation; 07-01-2013 at 12:58 PM. Reason: photos
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