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Old 12-15-2011, 11:09 PM   #1
Maddies Mama
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12/4/11: A Very Merry Dream Come True, updated 1/10 WDW highlights, NOW COMPLETE!!

Greetings! I thought I'd try my hand at writing a TR since I browsed through so many of them before we went on our trip and learned a lot about Disney cruising.



That's us in our family pictures this year. Let me start with an introduction. I'm Tonya, mom to 3yo Madalyn aka Maddie who has since had a major haircut and wife to Stephen. I'm the last person I ever thought would end up loving all things Disney and in fact, until I met my husband, I'd never had an interest in going to "that place for kids in Florida...Disneyland or whatever it's called." He convinced me to take our first trip a year after we were married and I have had nothing but absolute love and adoration for Disney ever since and we have been fortunate enough to take our daughter yearly since she was an infant.

My love of cruising started in 2003 when I took my first cruise, a 7-day trek through the western Caribbean on the Carnival Conquest. I know a lot of people here aren't fans of Carnival, but I have 7 cruises under my belt with them and I really like sailing with them. I've never once encountered the party atmosphere that the line has a reputation for as all of the cruises I have taken with them have been family friendly and plenty of fun. Plus it helps that we live fairly close to a port from which they sail.

My husband went on a 5-month deployment this year and we decided that when he got back, we wanted to take an amazing, epic vacation for our anniversary on December 3rd. We toyed around with a few ideas and finally settled on the 4-night Dream leaving December 4th followed by a few days in Disney World. We'd always dreamed of taking a Disney land & sea vacation but never thought we'd be ever be able to afford it. As hard as it is to go through a deployment as a family, it allowed us to take this amazing Dream vacation.

We are normally balcony people, but I am not wild about my 3yo having access to the balcony, so we went with the inside room with the virtual porthole. I was really excited about it and it proved to be really cool, though we only saw the bulk of the animations on the sea day, probably because we were in our room a bit more that day.

I'm usually a Type A personality who plans, plans, plans for these things, but truthfully? I was so busy while my husband was gone all summer taking care of my daughter, then busy with him once he got home, then busy preparing to host Thanksgiving that I didn't plan much of anything for this trip. I really winged this one which could have ended in a disaster, but it was oddly liberating. It was hands down the most fun, relaxing vacation we've ever taken and I wonder if some of that was because I wasn't in crazy over-planning mode so for the first time, I slowed down and smelled the roses, so to speak.

Well, that's a little bit about us. I hope you'll pull up a chair and join me as I relive our cruise a little bit through a review and some pictures. I won't claim to be as great of a storyteller as many others here, I don't have a knack for writing and I don't have the best memory so I may forget a lot of details, but I still hope you'll allow me to attempt to entertain you with retelling the tale of our 4 days in paradise. If you have questions along the journey, please feel free to ask!


Jump to the updates here:

Pre-cruise here

Embarkation Part 1 here
Embarkation Part 2 here
Embarkation Part 3 here

First night at sea here

Nassau Part 1 here
Nassau Part 2 here

Castaway Cay Part 1 here
Castaway Cay Part 2 here

Pirate Night here

Sea Day here

WDW Part 1 here
WDW Part 2 here
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Disney World trips: 12/06, 01/09, 03/10, 02/11, 12/11, 02/13, 10/13, 01/14, 04/14, 5/14

Disney Cruises: Dream 12/11

Run Disney: 12/11 Castaway Cay 5k, 02/13 Princess 1/2 Marathon

Coming soon: Star Wars Rebel Challenge, Disneyland 01/15


Last edited by Maddies Mama; 01-10-2012 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:17 PM   #2
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HI CANT WAIT TO SEE YOUR PICTURES,WE JUST GOT BACK FROM FLORIDA AFTER OUR 4 DAY CRUISE ON THE DREAM DEC 4th to 8th. BY THE WAY WE DROVE TO LAUDERDALE AFTER A COUPLE DAYS AT OKW. IT WAS WINDY EVERY DAY.
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Old 12-15-2011, 11:41 PM   #3
Maddies Mama
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Our journey to the Dream started on December 3rd, our 6-year anniversary. What a way to celebrate the day, spending 9.5 hours in a car with a potty-training 3yo. Right?!

I road trip commando style. I just hate being in the car longer than I have to be, so we have a system down for traveling by car. Pack a lunch in a small cooler with enough drinks and snacks to last the trip and then only stop every 2 hours for bathroom breaks & gassing up, unless DD tells us if she has to potty. But, that's never happened in the car before as she doesn't tend to communicate her potty needs to anyone in general, but she doesn't tend to have accidents on long trips either, so the system works for us.

The drive was long, boring and uneventful. At some point around the 7 hour mark, DD started getting antsy, so we broke out the DVD player and let her watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse the rest of the way to Cocoa Beach.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn. I didn't have a good feeling when we pulled up and the place was crawling with LOUD LOUD LOUD kids dressed in football uniforms shouting to each other from the parking lot up onto the balconies. To my relief, they had an early curfew and I never heard another peep out of them after they were called in for the night.

We got out of the car and stretched and stretched and stretched. As soon as I unbuckled my daughter's car seat harness, she leaped out of it, grabbed her suitcase and made a mad dash for the door. Excited much?? I'm not sure she even had an idea of what was about to come in the next few days, I think she was excited to get out of the car LOL!



We checked in and headed to the room. After a quick bed bug check (told you I was a Type A), we left our bags and headed out to the beach. We weren't staying out there long, we just wanted a quick minute for a quiet getaway out there - after all, it was the same beach we'd gotten married on exactly 6 years to the day previously. It's sort of something we do every time we're in Cocoa Beach, we go to the beach and remember our wedding day...the sun, the sand, the warm, salty ocean breeze.

Well, our getaway was anything but quiet! Right at the exact time we decided to go out there, so did a huge hoard of the football players. What are you going to do? We laughed at our luck and watched them play in the water. We didn't care that they were out there, as after all, it's a public beach, it's just funny to us that they went out there at the exact same time we did. They sure were having a great time. DD, being her usual hyper, happy self gleefully broke out into a run when she saw the ocean. She loves the water.



The sun was rapidly setting and it was time to head to grab a bite to eat. But, not before DD excitedly constructed a couple of sand castles, aka mounds of sand that princesses live in.



Where did we want to spend our anniversary dinner? Well, we didn't know. We decided to just drive until something struck our fancy. This is normally something I'd have preplanned right down to the time we would arrive at the restaurant. But, not this trip! We winged it and stumbled upon a mexican restaurant, La Fiesta and decided mexican food would really hit the spot, so we had enchiladas and nachos for our anniversary dinner. Yummy!

After dinner, I texted my friend who lives in the area to see if she wanted to meet us for coffee and our kids could play a little bit. We went to Dunkin Donuts for about an hour to hang out with her and her son. After that, we headed back to the hotel where we would shower and retire for the evening. I had a heck of a time with the bed there, it was so soft that my back ached all night long. I tossed and turned most of the night, but I don't know if it was from cruise anxiety or from the backache. Probably a little bit of both.
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Disney World trips: 12/06, 01/09, 03/10, 02/11, 12/11, 02/13, 10/13, 01/14, 04/14, 5/14

Disney Cruises: Dream 12/11

Run Disney: 12/11 Castaway Cay 5k, 02/13 Princess 1/2 Marathon

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Old 12-15-2011, 11:43 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by dvc deernut View Post
HI CANT WAIT TO SEE YOUR PICTURES,WE JUST GOT BACK FROM FLORIDA AFTER OUR 4 DAY CRUISE ON THE DREAM DEC 4th to 8th. BY THE WAY WE DROVE TO LAUDERDALE AFTER A COUPLE DAYS AT OKW. IT WAS WINDY EVERY DAY.
I know I only met you very briefly on board, but it was nice to meet you at the D lounge! We went to WDW after the cruise as well and I thought one day we were going to blow away. It was pretty chilly that night, too, but it seemed to get better after that. But, it was humid, ick! Hope y'all had a safe trip back and enjoyed your time on board! I know we sure did!
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Run Disney: 12/11 Castaway Cay 5k, 02/13 Princess 1/2 Marathon

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Old 12-16-2011, 12:31 AM   #5
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12/4 Day 1 Embarkation

So, there I was, tossing and turning in that way-too-soft bed and then my nose started to run. Ahhhh the dreaded Florida allergies strike again. I laid there sniffling and sniffling and finally decided to see what time it was. Surely I would be getting up soon anyway, right?

Wrong. It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3:50-something. I briefly contemplated getting up to take my daily dose of Claritin 4 hours earlier than normal, but decided to just roll over and try to keep sleeping.

I dozed off and on for the next 2 and a half hours, alternating between tossing, turning and sniffling and catching a few zzzzz's. We had our alarm set for 7:03am - OK another quirk of mine, I always set my alarms for odd times. I finally just sat up in bed around 6:30 and played with apps on my phone. DH woke up a little bit after that and shortly after 7, we went and attacked DD in her bed, waking her up with snuggles and tickles, to which she gleefully giggled at after giving us a dirty look for waking her up. Then she informed us "Sshhhhh. Maddie is SLEEPING." and flipped over in her bed and buried her face in her pillow. I swear some days she's 3 going on teenager.

Around 7:30, we headed down to the hot breakfast that was included as part of our stay at the hotel. People were already sitting down there with all of their luggage ready to cruise. Woohoo, my kind of people! My daughter's stomach is normally a bottomless pit and this morning would prove no different - she chowed down 2 plates of food. She's 3 and she out-eats me in restaurants where you can serve yourself. Yet, she never gains weight and remains a constant 35 pounds. I don't know where she got her metabolism from, clearly not from her father nor I.

After breakfast, DH had to hit the gym. He had a PT test looming over him as soon as he would return to work (which he actually took this morning and passed with no problems ) so he wanted to exercise as much as he could. I hadn't gotten a chance to wash my hair the night before, so I hopped back in the shower and got ready while he was doing that.

DH and I finally became the family that wears the matching shirts. Sadly I could not find this shirt in youth size so DD didn't have one, but we thought the shirt was entirely appropriate to wear on this day



By the time we were all showered up and ready to roll, it was about 9:30. We headed downstairs with all of our luggage and hung out waiting to get our number for the shuttle to the cruise terminal. We tried to get on the 1st bus out to make our 11am check-in time, but the guy at the front of the line reserved something like 30 seats on the bus for his group he was traveling with, so that pushed us back to the 2nd bus.

While we were waiting to board, we found a Sid the Science kid memory game in the lobby of the hotel, so we entertained the wee one with that. She doesn't really do well waiting around for stuff. I mean she's 3 so she naturally doesn't have the ability to patiently wait for things due to her age, but on top of that she has autism (high functioning) and a sensory processing disorder, so keeping her entertained is a challenge at times. She is one of those kids who has to be actively doing something all the time or she will immediately go into a meltdown. At home we work on the meltdowns since she will always have to wait for something as part of every day life as she gets older, but when we're traveling and she's out of her comfort zone, we try to keep her meltdowns at bay for her sanity and the sanity of everyone around us!

It was finally time to board our bus and DD was THRILLED! Beaming!



She loves any form of transportation and she thinks it's so neat to be in a car, an airplane, a train, whatever - though I think the ship was so big that she didn't quite realize she was on a moving vessel.

The Freedom of the Seas was blocking our view of the Dream as we rolled up to the port area. FoS is such a massive ship, wow! Our bus had to wait for quite a while for a spot to open up where they could unload the RCL passengers. DH took DD to the bathroom on board the bus because after seeing the line at RCL's terminal, I was quite confident she wouldn't get a chance to go once we got inside Disney's terminal. Right while they were doing that, the bus was able to unload the RCL passengers and we headed on our way over to the Disney terminal.

We unloaded from the bus, left our bags with the porters and went in with just our stroller, day bag and DD's bag of essentials. Having never done an embarkation with any line other than Carnival, I didn't really know what to expect. We got our ID's checked right by the bus drop-off and the gentleman asked our room number. It was....ummmm....?

Why could I not remember our room number????

6683! Finally, it came to me. Sheesh.

Moved on from that line through the gate, into the doors and into a tiny line that formed to go up the escalator. This was where I thought a meltdown was going to ensue - I didn't quite see what happened because I was bent down folding up the stroller. DH had DD by the hand as they got on the escalator and then she somehow ended up with her head on the escalator step and her feet in the air, doing a sort of accidental somersault. She freaked out and wanted nothing to do with the rest of the escalator ride up. I thought "Oh boy and we're going to have a long line up here and she's going to be freaking out and people are going to stare, aye aye aye!"

But she was able to calm down some as we stood in the line of about 10-12 people at the security checkpoint. She was really interested in the conveyor belts they have there because she likes things that move and spin like that, so she became fixated on it and forgot about her escalator snafu. By the time we got through security, she was back to her normal self. Phew, crisis averted.

We stepped into the check-in area and was directed where to go to do our check-in and we walked straight to the check-in CM. No line at all. We got our boarding number, 5, and they were already on 15, so we breezed right on into the photo area, then onto the ship. I knew they would announce our family as we walked onto the ship from the boards here, but DH had no idea and I think it embarrassed him a little initially! Later he said it was pretty cool

We agreed that was the absolute easiest embarkation ever. The bus dropped us off around 11:50 and we were on board by 12:05, eating by 12:10. Amazing. Efficient.

We went straight up to Cabanas for lunch and there were hardly any lines up there either. A CM was standing at the door with a hand wipe for each of us and DH was amazed by that. We love how clean everything was around the ship and loved the hand wipes being handed out. Even my daughter would go right up to the CM for a wipe and scrub her little hands with it.

This is where I'm going to be bad about remembering things. I have no idea what I ate on most days. If I went and looked up a menu for that restaurant, I could probably tell you what I ate, but in Cabanas, I have no idea. Except for the cereal. The epic, epic morning cereal I had every day. The cereal that was so amazing I had to recreate it when I got home and it's now my everyday morning staple. But I'll get to that later.

After I ate, I wandered up to the dessert area but didn't see anything sugar free or no sugar added. I try to avoid a lot of carbs, so I eat reduced sugar treats whenever I can for the most part, so I asked if they had any available and they reached down into a refrigerator underneath the dessert area and produced a no-sugar-added raspberry cheesecake for me. It was delicious. That's one thing I do remember about my lunch in Cabanas that day, the cheesecake was great! DH was excited about the scooped ice cream & toppings that were available and DD loved her jello. After all, it jiggles and she thinks that is funny.

Stay tuned for next time where I'll have more pictures to share as we explore the ship and get to our room.
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Disney World trips: 12/06, 01/09, 03/10, 02/11, 12/11, 02/13, 10/13, 01/14, 04/14, 5/14

Disney Cruises: Dream 12/11

Run Disney: 12/11 Castaway Cay 5k, 02/13 Princess 1/2 Marathon

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Old 12-16-2011, 09:16 AM   #6
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What a great start to your cruise! Sounds like your embarkation morning went absolutely smooooooooth!
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Old 12-16-2011, 11:40 AM   #7
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What a great start to your cruise! Sounds like your embarkation morning went absolutely smooooooooth!
It really did, it was incredible! Since this is our first Disney cruise, I'm not sure if it's normally like that or not, but we are still talking about how incredibly fast it went!
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Old 12-16-2011, 01:40 PM   #8
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Great start!

Looking forward to the rest
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Old 12-16-2011, 03:56 PM   #9
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Following along! I'm sailing on the Dream in Feb
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Aug 1998- POR March 2003- HS band trip (offsite) Aug 2003- POR Jan 12-Aug 5, 2005: CP Jan 1-5, 2006: AS Sports (solo) May 24, 2006- Jan 5, 2007: CP Jan 31-Feb 3, 2007: Solo (offsite) March 1-3, 2007: Dad+me (offsite) May 16-Aug 10, 2007: CP Aug 10-12, 2007: GF May 21-Aug 15, 2008: CP Aug 15-18, 2008: AKL March 25-29, 2009 (offsite) Aug 10, 2009-Jan 2, 2010: CP Jan 3-May 14, 2010: CP May 16, 2010~ FT Dream: Feb 12-16, 2012 Fantasy: Oct 20-27, 2012 (East) Dream: Sept 8-12, 2013 Magic: Jan 20-24, 2014 Dream: 3-6, 2014 (for now)
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Old 12-16-2011, 05:13 PM   #10
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Great start!

Looking forward to the rest
Thank you! Busy weekend this weekend - you know how crazy this time of year can get, but I hope to get the next installment out on Sunday. I'm afraid if I wait too long, I'm going to REALLY start forgetting stuff!

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Following along! I'm sailing on the Dream in Feb
I'm jealous, I want to go back! You will have such an amazing time!
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Old 12-16-2011, 05:22 PM   #11
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I'm jealous, I want to go back! You will have such an amazing time!
I'm really excited! This will be my first cruise ever, and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully you will get to go again soon
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Aug 1998- POR March 2003- HS band trip (offsite) Aug 2003- POR Jan 12-Aug 5, 2005: CP Jan 1-5, 2006: AS Sports (solo) May 24, 2006- Jan 5, 2007: CP Jan 31-Feb 3, 2007: Solo (offsite) March 1-3, 2007: Dad+me (offsite) May 16-Aug 10, 2007: CP Aug 10-12, 2007: GF May 21-Aug 15, 2008: CP Aug 15-18, 2008: AKL March 25-29, 2009 (offsite) Aug 10, 2009-Jan 2, 2010: CP Jan 3-May 14, 2010: CP May 16, 2010~ FT Dream: Feb 12-16, 2012 Fantasy: Oct 20-27, 2012 (East) Dream: Sept 8-12, 2013 Magic: Jan 20-24, 2014 Dream: 3-6, 2014 (for now)
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Old 12-16-2011, 08:30 PM   #13
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Great start chickie!! I'm going to try again this weekend to get my TR started. Did I tell you I spent 2 hours on one a few days ago and when I went to post, it timed me out??? Argh, matey! I lost the whole thing! Did you do yours in Word and copy it? Can't wait for the rest!!
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DREAM 12/4/2011~ FANTASY 11/30/13~ AOA 11/28/13~POP 12/1/2011~WDW too many times to count as a child!
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Old 12-16-2011, 09:07 PM   #14
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I'm really excited! This will be my first cruise ever, and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully you will get to go again soon
I hope so too! I'm going on a Carnival cruise next month, but it in no way compares to how amazing a Disney cruise is. Still, cruising is cruising and I love it regardless of the line With Disney being your first cruise, you are going to be so spoiled off the bat that you may never want to cruise with any other line!

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Great start. Your DD has gorgeous hair! I want it!
Thank you! I love my little redhead!

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Originally Posted by tessasmom View Post
Great start chickie!! I'm going to try again this weekend to get my TR started. Did I tell you I spent 2 hours on one a few days ago and when I went to post, it timed me out??? Argh, matey! I lost the whole thing! Did you do yours in Word and copy it? Can't wait for the rest!!
I did see that! That's crummy I just type it into the reply box, but before I hit the submit button, I copy it in case it times out. I've never used Word and copied it here from there on this forum, but I have on the Cruise Critic site and the formatting always ends up going wonky. So it's just easier for me to do it this way so the format stays right. Send me the link if you do one again, I'd love to follow your adventure!
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Old 12-18-2011, 10:12 AM   #15
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After we ate lunch, we had about 1 hour before rooms were slated to open up, so we went off to explore the ship. DH was in charge of making sure DD didn't stray too far away from us and since she was out of her stroller, I was in charge of making sure the bags we had in it didn't fall out.

A note about the bags in the stroller. This was my 8th cruise and one of the things I don't like about embarkation day is that we're usually on board before the rooms are open and have to lug a couple of bags around. Well, never again! The stroller was like our own personal bag bellhop. Sure I still had to push it around, but it was so much easier than carrying the bags. The only reason I even brought the stroller was specifically for embarkation and debarkation. I know lines can get long at both and it's just easier to have my DD strapped to her chair playing a puzzle game on my phone than carrying her or making sure she's not running away (she's a runner and won't hesitate to take off from you without looking back! ).

We started off on the pool deck. We headed fore on the port side from Cabanas and checked out the splash pad area, the Mickey & Donald pools and took note of the massive movie screen. Then DH discovered the ice cream station and helped himself to a cone. We then continued wandering fore and I'm a bit mortified to admit this, but we went right on into the adult only area - I swear, I did NOT see the sign that said ages 18 and up. I commented that it looked really nice back there and the hot tubs were cool how they went right up to the window for an awesome view. Then we started looking around and realized it might be in the adult only area, so we got the heck out of there and took the elevator down to deck 4.

We wanted to check out the running deck since DH would have to go running every day, so we headed straight outside to it and walked the length of the ship aft on it. We agreed it's not really suitable for running and could not figure out why the imagineers placed it there! When the deck gets wet, which it inevitably does from the spray of the ocean waves, it's slick as all heck. He didn't want to risk running and slipping, so he decided to stick to the treadmills in the spa gym.

We headed in the door at the aft elevators on Deck 4 and decided to head back fore to explore the inside of the ship. We walked in and again headed port side and started in Pink. Lovely lounge! Wish we'd have had some time to spend there. Sadly, we never made it back, just went through in passing.



We continued port side down the hallway to the D Lounge. I wanted to scope the place out since I'd later in the day go to a DIS meet from our roll call thread there. My daughter loved the hallway. Every time the camera flashbulbs in the wall would sparkle, she'd start hamming it up and would holler out CHEEEEEEEEEEEESE!



I missed some pictures after this because my camera battery started dying off since it hadn't been charged in a couple of days. We wandered into the Vista Gallery and checked out the animated pictures and the artwork in general. Beautiful stuff.

Coming out of the Vista Gallery was a beautiful sight with the ship decorated so nicely for Christmas and the giant chandelier hanging in the atrium.



We moved to the starboard side, continuing fore and through the Vista Cafe and drooled over the sweet yummies in the case there.

We then headed down to Deck 2 to scope out where we would go for lunch that night at the Enchanted Garden. Beautiful! Though I did take this photo later in the trip when there weren't people around. You just don't get the full beauty of the place until there is no one in there. It was my favorite restaurant, decor-wise. So elegant and beautiful.



We checked out more animated artwork by the elevators there and then headed up to Deck 3 to check out the shopping areas, drooling over some stuff through the window. We would definitely be back later that night when they were open.

From there we had about 20 more minutes before we could go to our room and DD was getting very antsy from waking up early and having a big day, so she was in desperate need of a nap and we were in desperate need for the rooms to open! We decided to head to the nursery and maybe that would stave off her antsy attitude a little longer with toys to play with while we checked it out.

She's not fully potty trained and her social development skills are that of about a 24 month old child, so we felt more comfortable with her in the nursery and they had room for her and since she was 3 years old they told us we could pick between the nursery or the Oceaneer's Club but once we chose, we couldn't change our mind. We definitely preferred having her in the nursery both for the potty training aspect and her social development. We didn't mind the $6/hr charge at all.

We met one of the nursery workers and for the life of me, I can't recall her name, but she was so wonderful. We explained to her about DD's autism and potty training and she gave us some helpful advice about what to bring in her bag and we went over food allergies with them.

That killed about 10 minutes of time and when we left, DD had a full and complete nuclear meltdown, so we decided to just head up to our deck and wait at the elevators for the doors to open. We headed to the aft elevator and were pleased to find that the rooms on Deck 5 were already open so hopefully they would be on Deck 6 as well.
__________________
Disney World trips: 12/06, 01/09, 03/10, 02/11, 12/11, 02/13, 10/13, 01/14, 04/14, 5/14

Disney Cruises: Dream 12/11

Run Disney: 12/11 Castaway Cay 5k, 02/13 Princess 1/2 Marathon

Coming soon: Star Wars Rebel Challenge, Disneyland 01/15

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