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Old 03-26-2010, 07:49 PM   #1
papertraveller
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The Magic of the Sea Day - March 13/10 Eastern

Meet the Travellers

We are a family of three from Toronto. We take two or three trips a year, choosing Disney and Marriott as our brands of choice because of consistent records of superb customer service. Last summer was one week at the Marriott in Delray Beach, followed by a week at the Poly.

That’s when we became new Disney Vacation Club members, and suddenly found ourselves with a few more points than we needed via the sign-up bonus. Flush with the still-fresh memories of our time at WDW, I gained family approval to sign ourselves up for the March Break eastern cruise. Nothing fancy, mind. Just a Category 9 stateroom (outside, with porthole).

Then I discovered the DIS boards and lived vicariously through its trip report writers, dragging the family to the laptop every time I found some fabulous photos of the Magic or the food in Palo. This was no small obsession, and soon it worried me. My hopes and dreams and expectations for this vacation were getting so high that I feared everything would be a letdown. My emotional investment was considerable, and I’d begun infecting DH and DD with the same vacation virus!

The trip finally took shape: we would travel down two days before the cruise and sample Cocoa Beach. After our return, we would head to Orlando for a few days to shop and make a trip to Universal.

I’m a planner, and so I reverted to my comfort zone: list making. I started lists of what to take, what to pack, where to stay in Cocoa Beach, what to do onboard, what to order from room service … The buffet in the living room became covered in a pile of papers that only I could dissect. And this was early December! How would I get through the cold winter months?
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2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-26-2010, 07:52 PM   #2
papertraveller
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Getting Crafty

I decided that if we were going to make the most of our first cruise vacation, we’d be joiners. And in the DIS world, this means becoming familiar with the delightful but peculiarly named Fish Extender. It’s essentially a ‘Secret Santa’ sort of gift sharing with your fellow travellers, delivered to a special pocketed panel that you have carefully selected from eBay (or spent hundreds of dollars and hours making yourself). The kids love it. Adults do too.

I read all of the directions on the DIS on how to make one, then decided I could improvise a bit. I was inspired by a Mickey Mouse appliqué I found in a craft shop just before Christmas. I used a stiff interfacing for the backing, and found some navy Mickey related fabric for the main panel and the pockets. I bound the entire package in red tape, and used some Stitch Witchery to seal Mickey to the top, since I couldn’t face doing the handstitching. I found appliqués for the first letters of our names, and a few ironing sessions later we were done.

Emboldened by the results, I forged on. Now that we had our Fish Extender, our door would also of course need a bit of embellishment. This was easy. I found some great Mickey and Pluto images online, downloaded the Disney font, and printed a couple of sheets commemorating our cruise date. I had them laminated at a shop near work, glued on a couple of strips of magnet, et voila!

Time to stop? But no! Now it was time to tackle the pillow case. I looked all over our end of town for inexpensive plain white pillowcases. Then I picked up some t-shirt transfer paper at Staples, and selected my design. This also would commemorate the date of the cruise, with DD’s favourite character. We don’t have an inkjet printer, so I imposed on a crafty friend at work to print the image as a favour. One night while DD was out, I hastily got everything out, fired up the iron and made a spectacularly poor job of the transfer. One new rag for the bin!

Back to my friend, this time with a gift in hand to beg her forgiveness and ask her to print again. She happily complied, and this time I wasn’t so rushed. Everything worked out nicely! I had bought two fabric pens and tucked them into a Ziploc bag with the pillowcase, and slipped the whole package into a suitcase in the basement.

I surprised DD with the pillowcase and the magnets the night before we sailed. She was thrilled, gave me a hug, then I think went back to watching Wizards or Suite Life or some other more interesting show on the Disney Channel.

Sigh.

But for me, the craft projects were a most enjoyable way to pass the time and create some mementos of the trip. For the next trip I would definitely create some new magnets. It was great to walk down the ship’s corridors and see how people had decorated their doors, for St. Patrick’s day, anniversaries, birthdays, and just for fun. (It also makes it easier to spot your room!)

Up next: The Budget
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2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:32 PM   #3
papertraveller
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The Budget

There have been numerous posts from people asking how others can afford to cruise. I wondered this too, particularly for those on the upper decks with suites, balconies, gas fireplaces, hot tubs … you get the idea!
We tried to do this trip on points as much as possible.

We paid for DH and myself with DVC points, and we paid cash for DD. We booked a Category 9 room.

We used Aeroplan points to pay for our airfare … booked in September, and used a ridiculously high number of points to get to MCO and back. We had to use DD’s account for one way, and mine for the return. This helped seal our dissatisfaction with the plan – the points have become so diluted that it becomes almost impossible to book.

We are now not only abandoning Aeroplan, but also looking to make our next trips out of Buffalo instead. The cheaper tickets, not to mention the tax savings, easily offset the 90 minutes it takes to drive to the border, as well as the hotel charge in order to get free parking once we’re there.

We were also able to use a credit card travel plan to offset our car rental costs. I found a great discount code for Budget on the DIS Transportation forum, which ended up saving us more than $100. Thank you!

Bills left to be paid? Hotels, food and entertainment in Cocoa and Orlando; onboard charges, excursions, and tips.

There’s no question, it does mount up. You can’t be too careful in minding your pennies these days. But planners can also be savers so there isn’t too much shock in the household when the credit card bill arrives.
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2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-28-2010, 01:34 PM   #4
papertraveller
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The Disney Magic welcomes …

Thanks to other trip reports, my expectations were high. Even two days of torrential rain in Cocoa Beach couldn’t dampen my spirits. On the Thursday we arrived in town, we found our way through the portlands to a lonely, empty parking lot to see the Wonder depart. I pulled DD out of the car into the rain to wave goodbye to everyone onboard ship. The horn blew, and I swear that you could have seen the tears in my eyes. If I hadn’t been standing in the blinding wind and rain, that is. (I secretly like to think the captain saw us out there and took pity, and blew the horn as a special salute.)

We stayed at the Courtyard, which is further away from the terminal than many people stay. We enjoyed the hotel – large room, very funky lobby with happy hour and free internet access. Too bad we couldn’t see much beyond the raindrops!

We did manage to find the mall for a bit of last-minute shopping, and wandered around Ron Jon, pretty much just because you have to!
This is all to say that by the time we reached the terminal ourselves two days later, I was excited. Thrilled. We had topped up our fish extender gifts with chocolate, bought wine and beer to provision the stateroom, picked up some packages of popcorn for DD to enjoy during the shows. We were swiftly checked in, had our photos taken with Minnie, and checked DD into the kid’s club. We were in boarding group 5. We were ready to go!

That personal welcome when you first step onboard is truly Magical. Sure, everyone gets it. Sure, they just met you at that moment. But you feel special and welcome, and it makes all the difference. The atrium is so lovely and elegant that when you see it for the first time you feel like you are in a stately hotel.

Then your DH and DD grab you by the hand and take you down the corridor for lunch in Parrot Cay, and the vacation begins!
__________________
2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-28-2010, 10:46 PM   #5
pumpkin21
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Loving your report! It was so great to meet you and have your DD and my DD turn out to be such good friends for the week. Looking forward to reading more!
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Old 03-29-2010, 03:38 PM   #6
Señor DonDuck
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Joining in. Nice pre-trip details!
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Old 03-29-2010, 03:58 PM   #7
2littlegirls
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can't wait to hear if it was everything you dreamed about.....I am having the same problem. I have over a year to wait and I can't stop thinking about our "soon to be" Dream vacation
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Old 03-29-2010, 06:27 PM   #8
pumpkin21
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Originally Posted by 2littlegirls View Post
can't wait to hear if it was everything you dreamed about.....I am having the same problem. I have over a year to wait and I can't stop thinking about our "soon to be" Dream vacation
Just wait until you get home - all you can think about is planning the next vacation.
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Old 03-29-2010, 06:57 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by 2littlegirls View Post
can't wait to hear if it was everything you dreamed about.....I am having the same problem. I have over a year to wait and I can't stop thinking about our "soon to be" Dream vacation
I echo this....mine is over a year for the same Magic cruise! I'm looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:43 PM   #10
papertraveller
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Originally Posted by pumpkin21 View Post
Loving your report! It was so great to meet you and have your DD and my DD turn out to be such good friends for the week. Looking forward to reading more!
Thanks, we had such a good time thanks to the fact that the kids were so happy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Señor DonDuck View Post
Joining in. Nice pre-trip details!
Thanks. Hope you enjoy what's to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2littlegirls View Post
can't wait to hear if it was everything you dreamed about.....I am having the same problem. I have over a year to wait and I can't stop thinking about our "soon to be" Dream vacation
Quote:
Originally Posted by canabrits2 View Post
I echo this....mine is over a year for the same Magic cruise! I'm looking forward to the rest of your report.
A study released in late February/early March examined the happiness that we experience when planning a vacation, compared with the reality of the vacation itself. It found that the planning process gives us great joy -- we have great ideas, immerse ourselves in research and savour what is to come. The reality doesn't always live up to this ... from missed travel connections to rainy weather to accommodations that aren't what the website promised.

I'm happy to say that in this case, not only was the planning fun (though truthfully, just a tad obsessive!) but the experience exceeded the dreams. That may be because we just let it happen. We didn't overplan our days, and if DD wanted to spend more time in the Oceaneer's Lab, then fine, we'd adapt.
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2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:45 PM   #11
papertraveller
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The Room

We were on Deck 2 mid-ship starboard, and have to say that we loved it. The location was just off the centre elevator lobby, one easy flight of stairs from the atrium. A good run up three flights to the kid’s clubs. And yes, even occasionally, a huff and a puff all the way to Deck 9 for some pool time.
We felt minimal motion being in the centre of the ship.

Our room came with the steamer trunk, which was a great help in keeping our stuff more or less sorted and out of the way. We found the closet and bathroom storage ample for our needs. Loved the split bathroom concept.
We hadn’t packed an over-the-door organizer as some have suggested, and really didn’t need it. We kept a pool/beach bag packed with all the required elements (sunscreen, books, hats, etc.). We also did not bring an extension cord, and found that we could recharge our electronic gear without any inconveniences.

We did heed warnings about an illuminated clock – this is essential. If you’re planning to keep all the paperwork that comes in (Navigators etc.) then a file folder or large size envelope is also very handy. We also brought a small air freshener for the bathroom, and some wipes, both worthwhile additions.
__________________
2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:51 PM   #12
papertraveller
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Service

Our room attendant was Efren, who very discreetly went about his work to keep our quarters clean. He was friendly, and once he knew our preferences immediately made sure that they were met. When we returned to the room once when he was still at work putting the finishing touches on his towel animal, he took the time to show us how to make several others. We had been saving the animals through the week and had quite a menagerie on display when we departed, all lined up in our porthole window.

Our dining room server was Rexson, of whom we became quite fond by the end of the week. He’s a most interesting and intelligent man, with nine years experience onboard. It was a pleasure to get to know him. He would stop us whenever he saw us on the ship, whether it was as he delivered food to the Beat Street buffet late at night or on pool deck duty. He gave us invaluable advice on where to eat (Parrot Cay for breakfast on port days, where to get the best sushi, etc.) and what to do. We highly recommend him, and will be asking to be seated in his section again.

The assistant server was Joseph, who proved to have a very mischievous sense of humour. The head server was Yolande. Since we had late seating, and DD availed herself of the kid’s club ‘dine and play’ offering, we would frequently linger and chat. It made for a most enjoyable way to ease into the rest of the evening.

Disney’s decision to rotate the staff along with the customers I think is a stroke of genius. It strengthens the bond between the two, and makes the cruise experience that much more meaningful.

But that experience does go beyond the regulars. We slipped into Sessions one night, and not knowing which wine to select our waitress (Claudia?) suggested one from her native Chile. The wine was excellent, and we let her know. The next day on the pool deck she stopped us to inquire if we were coming back. I’m ashamed to admit we hadn’t even recognized her there, but she knew us. This personal touch makes a huge difference in what can be a sadly indifferent world.

I’ll slip a word in here about tips. Do it. You can read threads elsewhere on the boards about how little these workers are paid and how reliant they are on tips. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with people about what is a rather peculiar business model: pay key workers next to nothing, and expect them to deliver exemplary service in exchange from payment directly from the customer. True, it does exist throughout the hospitality industry.

But in this case, they earn it. It’s best to recognize going in that the tip package is a key part of your cruise budget. Plan on the basic amount as your starting point, and if you get that exceptional service, be prepared to reward them for it.
__________________
2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:27 PM   #13
Señor DonDuck
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Great to hear about all the fantastic staff.
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:50 PM   #14
MagicMe
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Enjoying your report! I love hearing the impressions of first time Disney cruisers!!
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:00 PM   #15
papertraveller
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Señor DonDuck View Post
Great to hear about all the fantastic staff.
Yes, and more to come. Because of course there is so many people making the experience so rich.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MagicMe View Post
Enjoying your report! I love hearing the impressions of first time Disney cruisers!!
Thanks, and I'm sure you can tell, more cruising to come!
__________________
2005 @ Disneyland, Offsite;
2008
WDW @ Poly;
2009 WDW @ Poly;
2010 Aboard the Disney Magic (Eastern); August first trip home @ BLT; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2011 AKL Kidani; Vero Beach; Disney Magic (Western); BLT ; MNSSHP @ BLT; Marriott's Royal Palms;
2012 Beach Club Villas; Wilderness Lodge; Disney Magic (Eastern); Vero Beach; BLT; Marriott's Grande Vista;
2013 BLT; Disney Fantasy (Eastern); Wilderness Lodge; OKW-BLT; December Marriott's Cypress Harbor;
2014 OKW; Marriott's Lakeshore Reserve; BLT; Wilderness Lodge; Boardwalk; Saratoga Springs; DVC Member Cruise
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