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Old 04-24-2012, 09:20 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Central PA
Posts: 2,635

"Wonder"ing through the Panama Canal Dec 2012 - updated 7/1/12

Disney Wonder
Panama Canal Cruise
Dec 9 to 23, 2012

Here we go

April 27, 2012

Welcome to our trip report. I’m starting early to journal our journey to this cruise, more so for myself to help pass the time. I know some people don’t like pre-trip reports and if you are one of them, please feel free to come back later and read all about our trip. If you are one of those people who can feel my pain of waiting 7 months til our cruise, thank you for reading on.

Let me introduce myself and my traveling family – me, Tammy, planner of all great things (and not so great as well), my DH of 23 years, Doug and our youngest DD, Brenna who will be 14 and in 9th grade at time of the cruise. We do have two older DD’s who are both in college and could not make the trip with us.

This will be our 6th Disney Cruise. We also took one cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, but we didn’t care for it, so we came back to Disney. Our last cruise was a B2B on the Disney Dream in November 2011. We did the 4-night followed by the 3-night. While on board we booked a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on the Fantasy for November 10, 2012.

While reading the DIS boards at the end of February a particular thread caught my attention “Price drop on the Eastern Bound Panama Canal Cruise.” We have talked in the past about wanting to do a PC cruise, but the logistics of such a cruise and the price have always been out of reach. Well, just for kicks, I logged onto the Disney Cruise Line website and checked the prices. You can only imagine my amazement when I saw that we could book a 14-night PC cruise in an inside cabin for the three of us for almost the exact same price that we were paying for the 7-night Fantasy cruise. I will say though that we would be trading a 5C verandah cabin on the Fantasy for an inside cabin on the Wonder, but seriously we didn’t care. That got the wheels in my head moving – could we really do this???

After coming down of the ceiling and bouncing all around in excitement, we figured there were three things that we needed to consider before making the switch.

The first major decision was could we take Brenna out of school for 10 days. Brenna is a straight A student and has never had a problem missing school previously. Our school does a block schedule, so the students only have 4 main classes each semester. Brenna was comfortable with missing school. So we decided to speak with her teachers right after school starts in the Fall and hopefully they will work with us. Our school policy is that a student may miss up to 10 days of school for educational trips. If not, there’s always homeschooling, right???

Our second step was to make sure that both Doug and I could take two weeks off from work. Both employers gave the go ahead, so we were set with that.

Our Third Consideration - Could we afford the added expenses of a 14-night cruise? Even though the cost of the cruise is the same, we would have additional expenses added due to the length and logistics of this cruise. We would have to fly to Los Angeles instead of flying roundtrip to Orlando, and then we would have to fly home from Miami. I did some research using Expedia and found out that we can fly cheaper to LAX from PHL then I can fly to Orlando. The flight home would cost us about the same. We would have needed transportation to the port and a hotel for one night in Florida so that wasn’t an added expense. We would like to tour Hollywood on Saturday when we get there, so I budgeted in some additional money for a tour. I had planned for travel day meals for both days, so that wasn’t any extra. I had already budgeted for incidentals on the cruise like hair braiding, drinks, excursions, bingo, photos and such for the cruise so that didn’t add much to our budget. The biggest added expense would be the tips – they would double. We decided we could handle the additional expenses – I had nine months to save, plus we had OBC from Dreams Unlimited and from Castaway Club for booking while onboard.

Once we decided to make the change I contacted DU to make the switch. I was a nervous wreck – what were getting into – 14 nights on a ship??? We love cruising, but is this too much? NO WAY – we are going!!! Marla, our Dreams agent, was great and got us switched over – we booked an 11B inside statement, room 6601, which was a perfect location for us – closer to the back of the ship, close to the stairs and the elevators, and only one flight up to the secret deck on deck 7 (while I plan to spend a lot of time).

I joined in the meet thread on the DIS boards. We have a great group of people, who luckily for me share my excitement of planning for the cruise. A facebook group has been set up and I am organizing our FE Exchange. We have a group Palo Brunch in the work as well as some group excursions being planned. It has been fun getting to know my fellow cruisers.

The next thing I did was to purchase our airline tickets. After much research we decided to fly from Philadelphia (PHL) to Los Angeles (LAX) on Saturday, December 8th. We found a great non-stop flight on United leaving at 7:52am and arriving at 10:41 am. Well, guess I was to excited about that flight, because just last week I received notification that our flight has been cancelled and we have been switched to a flight that leaves at 8:30am and arrives at LAX at 2:29pm, after an ninety minute layover in San Francisco. I was upset about the change, but what can I do – we’ll just go with the flow. We want to fly home on Southwest, so I am waiting patiently for June 4th for them to open booking for December. I will update you once I purchase my tickets.

I did some research on shuttles and car rentals in the LA area and at this point our plan is to take a shuttle from the Airport to our hotel in the Hollywood area, than take a shuttle from the hotel to the port on Sunday. I booked a room at the Best Western Hollywood Plaza for Saturday night, and we plan to tour the Hollywood area Saturday and Sunday morning.

I am in the planning stages of our FE exchange gifts. Not sure yet what I will be doing – I have some ideas, but nothing firm. Since we have to pay baggage fees, I need to keep the size in mind.

Pretty much everything I can do at this point has been done. I am working on paying off the cruise balance – keep chipping away at it week by week. I would like to have it paid off by June (that’s when college tuition payments for both girls start)

Thanks for reading along – I will check back in periodically to update you on any changes.

July 1, 2012 - 23 weeks til we set sail.

A few updates:

United has changed our flight once again We are now leaving Philadelphia at 7:45am instead of 8:30am. That would have been great if it meant we would arrive at LAX earlier, but no, it just added 45 minutes to our layover in San Francisco.

Excursion updates:

We booked the Mayan Ruins tours with Native Way for our Costa Maya day. We will be touring the ruins then having lunch with a Mayan Family. We will be touring with another DIS family that has a DD the same age as Brenna.

We also booked a Segway tour for our Cartagena, Columbia day. We will have a 90 minute tour of the history followed by lunch, then a private tour of La Popa and the Fort. We will be touring again with the same family. My DH is so excited about the Segway tour part. I've never been on a segway before, but it looks like fun.

We are patiently waiting Disney to release the excursions for our other stops so we can start planning them.

I have my FE gifts completed for those who have signed up - they are packed and in the suitcase ready to go.

We are also doing a ornament exchange on the cruise, so I have to work on them, I have the materials to make them, I just have to put them together and finish them.

My DH and I booked the Magic out of NYC to Canada on September 7th last week, so I have been busy planning that trip. Once we get home that cruise, I will be able to focus more on this one!

Thanks again for reading along!

Last edited by dthogue; 07-01-2012 at 08:10 PM.
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