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Old 01-24-2012, 11:31 PM   #1
OrcaPotter
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5 Years in the Making: A DREAM Came True! (COMPLETE!)

Let me take you back ... back in time ...

The year was 2007. My family was boarding Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas at Port Canaveral. Gazing from our verandah, I spied the Disney Magic to our left. The Mariner dwarfed her, but she was still stunning. My parents and I proceeded to take far too many photos of her sitting behind us in port. We pretended not to be jealous. I tried not to think about how much more fun it would be to sail with Disney. We went on to have an amazing cruise--our second at that point--but I told my parents that the next one would be on Disney.

It took a long time, but that Dream finally came true last week!

My name is Kimberly--or as I'm known online, Orca. I've been going to Disney World pretty much my entire life, having always had it in my backyard. My first cruise was back in 2003 aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's S.S Norway. It was definitely an adventure, for the Norway was a retrofitted ocean liner with a long history prior to sailing the Caribbean. Our "oceanview" stateroom was literally only big enough for 2 adults to stand in at one time. Getting dressed for the day was so much of a challenge, one evening before dinner my mother and I were unknowingly struggling to zip my father into a pair of her dress pants! We were horrified that somehow the saltwater had made him swell or that we truly had eaten too much food. How things managed to get mixed up and lost in this stateroom that was no bigger than a broom closet was a mystery.

Observe these cats in a box to give you an idea of how spacious our oceanview stateroom was:


Fun Fact: The Norway was launched in 1962 as the S.S. France and then purchased by NCL in 1979 and renamed the Norway. She was sold in 2006 for scrap, a fact that still makes my father sad to this day as he loved her old-fashioned design. I was right in thinking my father would be impressed with the design of the Disney ships compared to the "floating malls" typical of modern cruise ships.

Despite the less-than-wonderful stateroom and a ship-load of college students on spring break (I witnessed my first drunk people the first night of the cruise and how ill-equipped the staff was at handling them), we had an amazing time. It was our first "real" vacation as a family and we were hooked. Unfortunately, we can't afford to go as often as we would like.

So, in 2005, we talked about taking another cruise. And I wanted it to be on Disney. Hence my appearance on the DIS Boards. I learned all I could, tried to persuade my parents' wallets into believing it could afford the premium cost, and then the rest of the family of how the lack of a casino was not at all a bad thing. But alas, it would be another 2 years before we sailed, and it was aboard the Mariner. A wonderful ship in her own right and we had another amazing vacation. But I was looking forward to the day I could satisfy my love of cruising with my deep love of Disney.

Fast forward to 2011. The Dream reignited our wish to take a Disney cruise, and our family was celebrating a lot of milestones to warrant such an expense. My best friends and I were determined to at least go by ourselves, and with one of my best friends being a CM at Magic Kingdom, we prayed for a CM discount to make the "Dream" come true. Alas, such a discount would not come in time, and we opted to take a fantastic first trip out to Disneyland to see where the magic started instead. You can read about that epic adventure via the banner in my signature.


My best friends and me at the place where the magic began.

I thought Disneyland would dislodge the notion of a Disney cruise out of my mind.

But I kept trolling the DIS, reading countless trip reports, etc etc. And it soon became clear I could not rest until I could experience it as soon as possible. It would take a miracle ... a last minute miracle ... I monitored the DCL site rates like a dog staring at cupcakes but denied access to the magical goodness held within its spongey wonderfullness ...


Then, one day in early December, I noticed the GTY rates for January Dream cruises. I casually drew my mother's attention to this information, not really expecting much since the cost was still more than what we paid for our 7 night on the Mariner. I've been stuck in the mire of post-graduation unemployment and trapped by the red tape of getting a job in the Florida education system; therefore, my schedule was open until late January when I will finally begin working again. I told my mother I wanted nothing for Christmas and my birthday for however long if we could take a Disney cruise.

Then she said it. "Let's do it." To which I responded:


I was literally shaking as I booked us for a VGT on the January 15th 4-night sailing on the new Disney Dream. It was surreal. Kinda silly, but it was the equivalent of being told you're going to a Disney park for the first time. I already knew cruising was epic in and of itself, but to add Disney on top of it? How could it not be awesome? Early last year, I had had a dream that my friends and I were on our way to the port to board a Disney ship, and I turned to my friend and said, "I'm so excited my cells are vibrating!"

And oh, they were.

I can't tell you how many dreams I've had of going on a Disney cruise, let alone cruising in general. The short time until our cruise went by in a flash and I was almost sad about it, since the faster the time came, the faster the cruise would go and be in the past. I was worried the 4-night cruise would be too short (and man, it was) but it was a DISNEY cruise, and so, worth it. Or, at least I imagined it would be.

Despite being a big Disney geek, would the family-centered atmosphere be too "kiddy" for my Disney-loving parents and I to enjoy?

Would there be enough "adult things" to do to keep us occupied?

My mother's concern: "But you won't be able to meet anyone your age without kids!"
My response: "I want to have fun, not man-shop."

Despite any trepidation, my parents and I grew increasingly excited as our cruise approached. It would be the first cruise with just the three of us. Being Disney experts, our expectations were high. So, how was it, you ask? Time for another epic trip report!

There will be
... Tragedy!
... Efficiency!
... Upgrades!
... Awe!
... Rabbis!
... Freezing temperatures!
... Chicken!
... Excitement!
... and a lot more

Click the links to get to:
- Day 1, Part 1: First Impressions
- Day 1, Part 2: Exploring the Ship!
- Day 1, Part 3: Sailing Away, Dinner, & Rabbi Jeff
- Day 2, Part 1: "Where are we?"
- Day 2, Part 2: "And we're WALKING!"
- Day 2, Part 3: Rock n' Roll
- Day 3, Part 1: Castaway Cay!
- Day 3, Part 2: Polar Bear Swim
- Day 3, Part 3: Yo Ho Yo Ho A Pirate's Night for Me
- Day 4, Part 1: Will Power at Sea
- Day 4, Part 2: The Power of Pixie Dust
- Day 5: And Now It's Time to Say Goodbye

Last edited by OrcaPotter; 04-19-2012 at 08:37 PM.
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Old 01-25-2012, 12:53 AM   #2
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Can't wait to hear about it.
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Old 01-25-2012, 09:56 PM   #3
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Day 1, Part 1: First Impressions

So, your cruise is coming up in less than a week. What better way to celebrate than with a cold?

By an ironic twist of fate, one of my good friends had fallen ill over the course of her cruise over Christmas. She did not share this fact until after I spent an entire evening with her less than 10 days before I was to set sail. By the next day, I knew I had to take preemptive measures to ensure I would not suffer the same. After all, it was a reoccurring nightmare of mine that some reason or another would prevent me from boarding the ship before it left! I began to take Airborne regularly. However, with exactly 1 week to go, there was no helping it. Bad cough, sore throat, and just an overall feeling of being knocked around a construction site a la Goofy. It was not acceptable, so I rushed to the doctor the next day. It was announced as an upper respiratory infection and he put me on the Z-pack and Claritin. I was cleared to board the Dream by Sunday!

It was a rough week, but knowing how close I was to what I had been literally dreaming about for years kept me going. By Sunday (the 15th) morning, all that remained of my cold was a persistent cough. To add insult to injury, I had a bad skin reaction Saturday night to some cream I used which was painful. It didn't matter, though; I could have lost all my limbs ... I was delirious with excitement!

My family and I live less than an hour away from Port Canaveral. Our check-in time was 12-12:30, so we had plenty of time in the morning to pack last minute items. Excitement woke me up around 5 AM. We did not need to leave until 11 AM at the earliest, so somehow I fell back asleep until my alarm went off at 8:30. Now, for us Floridians, any temperature lower than 70 is classified as "cold" in our book. When you're used to 80+ degrees year-round with over 50% humidity for half a year, you're sensitive to temperature drops! The 15th dawned as pretty darn chilly (around 62 by the time we reached the port), so we were wearing our hoodies and long sleeves. It was hard to imagine we were packing bathing suits for beach weather!


Our first view of the Dream from the highway! I couldn't believe it. I had dreamed of this moment for ages and it was finally a reality!


My brother drove us to the port and we arrived with no issue at the gate. Within minutes we had unloaded the car and waved our good-byes. It was a little awkward, as my 5 year-old niece had insisted on coming along, and I felt bad that she wasn't going with us. They're expecting a new baby in a few months, though, so they weren't able to join us. We handed our bags over to a porter and filed into a short line at the security booth between the drop-off and the terminal. We were asked for our passports and stateroom number before being waved through. I was beside myself with excitement! We had to step off to the side in front of the terminal for photos:




To which I kept pinching myself to make sure this was reality:


We walked right through security, after Dad was briefly inspected closer since some piece of metal was beeping. Compared to the last cruise, it was a breeze. We were upstairs right away, filled out the health form (I felt relief that we could answer "no" to all questions), and were directed to a desk to check in. There was no wait and we immediately were having our security photo snapped after our passports were swiped in. After being handed our Key To the World cards, we were given a boarding number of 14. However, they were already boarding up to group 25 ... and it was 12:05. After a quick photo next to the model of the Magic ...


Minnie was out for photos, but she had a long line and I knew there would be opportunities on board later ...


We were working our way through the Mickey funnel doors! We barely waited a few minutes to check in with our KTTW cards and then took our welcome aboard photo (also with no wait):


Me with my parents

Quietly, I was a little disappointed that the background wasn't more ... Disney. The previous cruises we were on at least had a photo of the ship, but there were plenty of opportunities for that shot--we liked how the boarding photo came out, regardless. Then it was the short walk on to the ship and as I knew to expect, a CM asked for our family name and announced us. Now, I have had a long time of reading trip reports and such to know DCL did this. So, naturally expectations were high. I imagined a more dramatic announcement as we were ushered on board. However, we were practically in the middle of the lobby before we heard our name and already talking with a CM about lunch. Cabana's was strongly encouraged and honestly, I was way too in awe and excited to think too much about suggesting the Enchanted Garden instead. We oogled around the atrium a bit, and here's another consequence of looking at so many photos and reading so many reports:


... I expected the atrium to be ... bigger. It was beautiful and breathtaking and I was pinging around looking pretty much like this the whole time:

Yet somehow all the photos make it all look bigger? Pssh, I didn't care at that point. It was down the hallway to the aft elevators for lunch we go!




Looking out a porthole, you can see the new terminal under construction. I don't see how it'll fit the biggest cruise ships, and I doubt a Disney ship can be in port at the same time if it really will. They still have a lot to finish by this summer.

We stopped for a brief bathroom break, during which we remarked at how Disney has certainly lived up to expectations as far as efficiency. My parents were blown away at how easy it was, and I must urge everyone to really stick to their boarding time. Avoiding crowds and lines to board the ship is worth missing an extra 30 minutes to run around. We didn't observe any of the crowds or lines I had read about. Which leads us to Cabana's ...

I knew ahead of time about the aft elevators, however, I had pictured it differently in my head. There are 2 sides to Cabana's, which wraps around the whole aft section of deck 11. Once off the elevators, you can go left or right and find the same food stations. Yes, it was busy, and walking around required weaving your way around ... but it was far from the complaining nightmare many on the DIS go on about. In fact, my only real complaint was how little space there is around the drink stations and all of the tables. After a few minutes of searching, we scoured a table by the windows. I reminded my parents that there is no buffet line; you can just go up to whatever station and help yourself. Mom stayed behind while Dad and I got our food first, and yes, there were some eyes in my direction as I politely moved into position at the stations I was interested in. I was surprised that there was only a weak and mildly suggestive announcement by one CM that there was no line. However, this was the only time that people didn't realize they didn't have to wait in line. Would it be too hard to have a sign up on the first day explaining how Cabana's worked for those not in the know?




My family and I do not have very discriminating palates. We enjoyed our lunch and the selection very much. After some texts and relaxation ... and disbelief that I was actually on the Disney Dream ...

... we decided to drop our stuff off in our stateroom. We booked a VGT and ended up in a 4C on deck 7, number 7614 smack mid-ship on the starboard side. We were never far from anything and it was relatively quiet. Having this stateroom sure spoiled us!














Our room had a murphy bed--which was good, because the sofa bed was not comfortable for an adult. The murphy wasn't too much better but I always defer the main bed for my parents. We had plenty of space for the three of us, and we were very impressed with the quality of everything. Especially my father. He's a fan of fine quality. The veranda had a support beam on the left side--so I guess technically it was sorta an obstruction? It didn't hamper our view in the least, though. After inspecting everything and settling in a bit, we left Dad to a nap and Mom and I went to explore the ship. But not before I decorated our stateroom door!


I got the Pluto cut-outs from here on the DIS boards. Be aware, though, that if you want to use the peep hole, the bottom portion of the graphic will cover it despite what I was told in the thread I got it from. Also, I printed it out as the full size, and it ended up slightly larger than the room number plaque. Later on, I moved up the mouth to cover the peep hole when I realized we never needed it. Finances was one reason why I did not join my sailing's fish exchange; I was also a little worried my parents would not have liked it and it's more a cute thing just for kids, anyway. In fact, I wasn't sure how my parents would react to the magnets I made and just having the door decorated at all--but they loved it! Came in handy to help them find the room, because they get lost easily on cruises. There were several other doors with decorations, but we were stopped often with compliments.

Now it was time to go run around the ship! Day 1, Part 2 coming soon!

Last edited by OrcaPotter; 01-25-2012 at 11:22 PM.
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Old 01-25-2012, 10:49 PM   #4
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Really enjoying your TR! Sailing on the Dream is so well worth the wait and I can't wait to sail her again this year and the Fantasy next year.
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Old 01-25-2012, 11:58 PM   #5
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Can't wait to read more, sounds fun so far.
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:37 AM   #6
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Ok I am in and will be reading along. I will be on the DREAM in Dec. 2013. Believe it or not I am about to start a pre TR
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Old 01-26-2012, 11:40 AM   #7
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I am also excited to read your trip report. I thought of myself often as I was reading what you have done so far. My kids are 22 and 14 and we are leaving for the Fantasy in 78 day and I would just as soon go without them if I had the chance, lol.

Can't wait to read more!
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Old 01-26-2012, 05:09 PM   #8
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Loving your report so far! I was actually lurking around the Disneyland trip reports to try to find Floridians\WDW vets going to Disneyland since I'm going to Disneyland for the first time in 5days.Well I came across yours and its super helpful. Then I saw in your signature that you were taking a Disney cruise and decided to pop in and take a look. I can't wait to read more!
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Old 01-28-2012, 04:03 PM   #9
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Following along! Sailing for the first time ever in Feb, and I am really excited!
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Old 01-28-2012, 09:39 PM   #10
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Great report, we will be cruising on the Dream in a couple of months...can't wait!!!
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Old 01-29-2012, 11:02 AM   #11
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The cats......in the BOX...!!!!!

Hilarious TR! Can't wait to hear the rest!
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Old 01-30-2012, 12:33 AM   #12
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Thank you for the comments so far! I spent the weekend at the parks, so I shall hopefully have the next part up tomorrow or so. Just letting you know I have not abandoned ship!
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:08 AM   #13
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Day 1, Part 2: Exploring the Ship!

I left off at the point my mother and I were leaving our stateroom to go explore the ship. Camera in hand, we first explored the most important area of the ship (according to my mother): the SHOPS!






Despite telling my mother that they would remain closed until we reached open water, she still wanted to peek in the windows. Also despite telling my mother I knew approximately where they were located, she asked a CM who looked a little bemused at my mother's enthusiasm when she repeated this information. If it's not already obvious, my mother's passion is shopping. That is her hobby, and her talent is finding sales. When she saw the 40% off Dooney bags, she got really excited and anxious to look at them closer later on. I didn't tell her that at regular price, they are well beyond what we would begin dreaming of paying for a purse.

From there, we poked around Shutters, poked around the atrium with no crowd, wandered around deck 4 outside, and then made our way up to deck 11. Now, until this point, the ship didn't feel crowded or anything like it at all. It became clear that this was where everyone was.
















We were impressed and relieved that there were plenty of elevators, they were big, and easily accessible from most anywhere on the ship. The only times that were hard in getting an elevator with room to spare were at meal hours. We also had many experiences being stuffed shoulder to shoulder like sardines, but not too often. As a veteran of fan conventions, being stuffed in an elevator is all part of the experience. And only once during the whole cruise did we have a problem with a child getting on and pressing ALL the buttons.




OK, so, perhaps the #1 complaint about the Dream concerns the pools. Not only was I prepared to see the small sizes, but I was also not concerned because my family has a pool at home ... and we also have our choice of water parks or beaches to choose from at any time. So, swimming, with the exception of the Aquaduck and a dip in a hot tub, was not very high at all on our to-do list. And even if we had wanted to swim, it was way too windy (and therefore, cold) on deck for us to even consider the notion. This did not stop more than half the ship to congregate around the pools and the decks in the immediate area. How anyone can "swim" in such close quarters is a mystery. Clearly, the design of the Dream's pool areas was with deck parties in mind, and not actual swimming. Considering how far along other cruise lines are as far as pools and outdoor recreation, it's amazing how Disney chose not to take advantage of what imagineering they could come up with. The Aquaduck is amazing for being on a cruise ship, despite its more thrilling relative at Typhoon Lagoon (Crush n' Gusher), but really--the Dream is less than inspiring for her pools. The enormous Dumbo-tron screen, however, is impressive ... and it was rather nice later on to be able to watch movies and such while snacking around the pool.

Anyway, pools and swimming are not a priority or a big draw for my family since it's not a novelty. After my mother and I looked for a few minutes, I saw Mickey and Minnie doing a meet n' greet under tents by the family pool, so we got in a very short line to meet them both.




I had made photo cut-outs of my best friends and taped them to straws and promised I would take "their" photo around the ship since they could not come with us. Mickey saw them in my hand and got all excited and curious, so when I told him they were my friends who could not come, he got excited and kissed them both and insisted they be in the photo. So cute!

From there, we wandered into the Quiet Cove. There was almost no one in this area, save for families and other people walking through. I agree at how crazy it is that this area was poorly designed. Although I'm inclined to encourage people to take up less sun since Florida is a capital for skin cancer and I am not a sun bather, I can see the complaint about so little sun around the pool itself. However, there were plenty of chairs on deck 12 right above it. Everything looked very comfortable and inviting, though. The hot tub was amazing! But again, why was the design of this area so poor when families can and have to travel through it to get to the forward part of deck 13 and the forward elevators? For the most part, people seemed to keep children moving through. Only a few times did I see children hanging out in the area over the course of the cruise--usually late at night with no one else around, or otherwise asked to leave.

We peeked into the Cove Cafe, for my mother's other passion is COFFEE. I was nervous about how she would like the coffee on the ship, knowing it was Nescafe. I expected her to use the Cove Cafe often and spend the money on their good brews. Ironically, she never did, and this was the only time we were in there. There just was not enough time over the 3 1/2 days!








And then ... I SPOTTED HIM.


I scared the wits out of my mother as I squealed out, "PLUTO!", in the middle of the cafe. Like the 28-going-on-5 year-old that I was, I excitedly asked her if we could follow him and have our picture with him. Bemused, she obliged my request, and after a few minute's wait, I had my photo with him!


Horray!

From there, we continued to explore the ship until returning to our room to fetch Dad for the safety drill. Time for a photo montage!








I have reached the 25 image limit ::shakes fist:: so I shall conclude day 1 in my next post. Until then!
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Old 01-31-2012, 03:53 PM   #14
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Thanks for all the pictures! I love the one of you, your mom & Minnie. So cute!
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Old 02-01-2012, 12:44 AM   #15
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Day 1, Part 3: Sailing Away, Dinner, and Rabbi Jeff

@ JoshAndEvsMom: Thank you!

My Dream-turned-reality continues with the ever-important safety drill! As fate would have it, the Costa Cruise Incident had happened a few days prior. This did not worry us at all; we knew that at least all the American port cruises had strict safety drill procedures. In the years since our last cruise, regulations dropped the need for guests to bring their life vests to the drill. While this was very convenient, I did miss the usual "life vest photo" ... I meant to take one for ol' time's sake, but never got around to it. Add it to the list of "Not Enough Time!"

I was a little surprised to find that our muster station was out on deck 4 like all our previous cruises on other lines before rules changed. My brother and his family have always had the drill sitting comfortably in a lounge on their recent cruises, and almost all of the trip reports I have read for DCL were the same. Then, recent events considered, I kinda like knowing exactly where my life boat is! For our stateroom, we had muster station L. We got into our line and proceeded to stand there for ... 40 minutes?


People were still casually walking around, "looking" for their muster station, well after 4:00. This was the first of only very few occasions where guests were acting stupid. (As a WDW vet and overall theme park vet, Stupid Guests are tourists I observe and sometimes have to interact with often. And by this definition, I don't mean guests who genuinely just don't know things, etc. I mean guests who act entitled, rude, and choose to ignore rules and other information even when they're being told things to their faces.) Despite crew CMs telling these people they need to hurry and that they are in the completely wrong place, a few of these wandering guests just blinked at them and strolled on. I think this is why the drill took longer than normal. We were on the starboard side, facing west, so despite the chill, we had the full frontal of the sun blazing on us. Not only was I blind, but getting sweaty. The Freedom of the Seas next door concluded their drill about 10 minutes before we did, despite starting at the same time.

When the drill finally concluded, in typical Disney fashion, we herded toward elevators to get to the pool decks to watch the Sail Away Party--which was now in 15 minutes. I was expecting a long wait for the elevators, but somehow, and to our pleasure, we were able to squeeze into one quickly.

By the time we made it to deck 12 (I didn't even bother with deck 11), almost all the good spots were taken. The alcohol was flowing ...

Oh yeah ... I forgot to mention that the only other annoying thing about lunch at Cabanas other than the tight squeeze around the drink stations and just getting around the tables in general, was the drink servers constantly offering alcohol every 5 minutes at our table. Say what you will about other lines, but Disney is not innocent at all in the alcohol department. We were constantly being offered alcohol at literally all hours--even 10 AM by the wandering waiters. This got a little old; I do not remember them being so numerous and hovering on our RCCL trip. While I did not observe anyone drunk, my father said he had walked past many people who reeked of alcohol so bad he felt ill! For him to say that is saying something. I'm sure this is where the ship makes up for the lack of casino in on-board profits.

Anyway, I *did* want to treat myself to a grown-up drink, but in all honesty, I still wasn't 100% in health and strangely just wasn't up for it. We managed to squeeze into a small space at the end of the railing just before a stack of deck chairs and a plexiglass wall. After a few minutes, I saw a CM handing out streamers, and I grabbed 2 for myself and Mom. Dad staked out an uncrowded spot catercorner to us and stared out at the turning basin.












Then, the next thing I knew, a man with an enormous backpack on and carrying his toddler squeezed into the 2 inches next to me facing toward the stage. While my mother did not care (she was just enjoying herself in general and there because I wanted to be), I resigned myself to a less-than-perfect view since he had a child. However, as the show began, he progressively kept moving closer to me--to the point where I was literally pinned between his backpack and the stack of chairs.

Really?

He slowly turned around and looked at me, gave a little smile as if "Ha ha sor-ry about that!" and gave me a generous centimeter so that I could start breathing again. Meanwhile, the show was in full swing. Now, I'm a huge Disney geek and fan. However ... and Mickey forgive me for saying this, but the castle-type stage shows tend to be primarily aimed at kids. The Sail Away show did a great job of getting us excited about the cruise (as if we needed more encouragement!) But it was not worth being squeezed and pinned by a backpack for. If my niece were with us, I would have been down there jumping and dancing with the rest of them. However, after 10 minutes, I was satisfied. It was definitely one of those, "you've seen it once, you don't need to see it again" type of things.

We left our spot and went to the very front of the ship to watch us sail away and wave to the web cam, which we had alerted our family and friends to watch. There were a lot of people up there, but we had no problems getting the dead center of the ship to watch us charge out of the port. When I finally heard the horn ... the first time in person ... yes ... I may have gotten all teary ...

OMG I'M REALLY HERE AND IT'S JUST SO BEAUTIFUL AND ALL MY EMOTIONS I JUST CAN'T AND HOLY NEMO IT'S SO LOUD ...








Then suddenly ... we were moving. Not like, slowly here we go ... but we just start booking it out of port. The wind was so cold we were getting red in the face and pale in the extremities. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law is on the phone with us, trying to see us in the web cam, and I'm texting everybody ... which then began a crab scramble along the starboard side while waving in our attempt to be seen. The horn blew again, and what seemed right next to our ears, which promptly scared the bananas out of all three of us. By the time we decided to head back to our room and get ready for dinner, we saw a couple with a boy around 7 years old rushing past us while he sobbed about how the ship was going to sink because the wind meant we were going into a storm. Hopefully the child quickly calmed down after that; it's understandable for a kid who has never been on a cruise to be anxious--or even scared. I didn't observe any other anxious kids after that.

I had packed enough tops that were suitable for dinner--but I was still cold and ultimately decided hey, I'll just go as I am. Except for dress-up night, I wore clean, dark jeans to dinner the whole time. With my flat shoes, I did not feel out of place one bit--and there were plenty of other guests dressed the same. I was very happy with our dining rotation: Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, Animator's Palate, Animator's Palate. We were in RP for dress-up night and AP for pirate night without having to ask.

Naturally, when we booked, main seating was already full. My father is diabetic, so he has to eat on a somewhat normal schedule. Plus, I have a sensitive stomach, so eating past 9 PM tends to wreck havoc with me. We've always had 1st seating on all our cruises ... however, I think the dining rooms were bigger on the Mariner, because I don't remember 1st seating being so early. I can definitely see the negatives and positives about each dining time. Nevertheless, I had waitlisted us for main seating and by the time we had gotten our room assignment, we our request was granted.

Here's a tip we took to heart (which wasn't hard for us because we're rarely early/on time on cruises): We arrived at dinner around 5:50 each night--5 minutes late. By then, there was no wait to be seated. We avoided the rush and crush I had read about on the DIS by people who got there early.

The dining rooms were really the only places where we got less than outstanding service. It was nothing to put a blemish on our vacation at all, but it just stood out against the rest of the crew going out of their way to be Just Plain Awesome. Firstly, once in the Enchanted Garden (which is the most beautiful, I think) we were handed off to a waiter to find our table. He looked very uncertain, and led us through the frenzied hustle-and-bustle around tables, stopping to ask directions. This reminded me of what I had read about the Dream's earliest sailings when the waiters didn't know where any of the tables were. Uh oh! He then finds us a table for 6 (or 8, I can't remember) in the middle of the dining room where a family of 4 was already seated. We stopped, though, when we saw that the empty chairs were occupied by kid menus and kid drinks with names written on the lids!

The family peers up at us, we peer at them and the kid settings, and we all just awkwardly look at each other for several seconds:


The waiter just sort of hung in mid-escape, wondering why we weren't sitting down, when my mother pointed out to him that it would appear another party was at our table. The other family just shrugged, not knowing who it was that were supposed to be sitting there, and then the waiter ran to the manager to figure out the problem. After a few minutes, he came running back, apologizing, that we had been moved and that our dining team was "excellent" and not to worry ... we were to ignore the table number on our cards and sit at #29 instead. We were led to our own 4 top table close to the windows. Only we were in a corner up against a wall ... so we missed much of the effects of what the EG had to offer. Poo.

If you're a "food porn" fan, I'm sorry to disappoint you. Unless my plate looks so visually impressive, I don't take photos of what I eat. But I did take a lot of photos of the menu and other details. You'll have to forgive my camera; it hates low light and unfortunately a lot of the Dream features low light! As result, a lot of my photos are fuzzy and dark.










Our main server was Craig, from Jamaica, and our beverage server was Darmika, from Indonesia. The dining room was loud, and with their accents, it was especially difficult to hear them this first night. They were also a little bit slow--especially this first night. Over the course of the cruise, Craig was a little bit interesting to interact with. He'd joke with you, and you'd joke back, but then he'd just stare at you as if he didn't quite understand. o_O Darkmika was a sweetheart, if not a little bit slow and lacking at some points. For example, on our past cruises, our servers would appear the moment we sat down and place our napkins in our lap--even have our drinks out already on the table by night 2. This was never the case with our dining team; though on dress-up night, they did the napkin thing, and then they made an attempt on pirate night but never got to me. They were also constantly cleaning our table on our past cruises, using the little sweeper to clean off the crumbs. Darmika didn't start doing that until night 2.

We didn't dislike them, and they took good care of us otherwise, but they didn't blow us away like other crew members did or like how many on the DIS tend to experience.

The food was good; I had the pork as my main entree, but I felt bad because I was SO FULL before I could finish the second half of it. To my great relief, my mother declared the coffee "very good" and so I didn't tell her it was Nescafe and just breathed a sigh of relief that her vacation would not be ruined as result of bad coffee. People who describe it as "swill" and really bad must drink pretty high-grade stuff! Mom's happy with Dunkin Donuts or Maxwell House! I then ordered the bananas foster sundae, but then ALL the servers came out and sang "happy birthday" to both my dad and me. The cruise as not only a Christmas gift, but our birthday gifts as well. Dad's Bday was on the 26th of January and mine is on February 3rd, so I noted both on the reservation. We got both the dessert we ordered and the happy birthday cheesecakes, complete with cruise birthday buttons!






I felt bad, but I couldn't finish both the desserts. We rolled ourselves out of the dining room and to guest services to apply a ton of gift cards we were given to our account--which took care of the Nassau excursion we had booked. Then we did our first exploration of the gift shops before getting our seats for the Golden Mickeys show.

Prior to the show, they did mock interviews outside of the theatre with a bunch of kids. All of them had quite a few DCL cruises under their belts, so the ship was fairly full off CC members. Hilarity resulted from one boy around 8, whom, when asked who he was looking forward to seeing during the show, looked excitedly at the camera and exclaimed, "I'm looking for Rabbi Jeff. HI RABBI JEFF!!"

The look on the CM's face was priceless. We were DYING of laughter, and every actor/actress from then on during the show would rip off Rabbi Jeff.

The show itself was great. My mother was still getting used to the Dramamine, as she gets motion sickness badly and so doses herself up well before the ship leaves. She counteracts the effects with coffee and thus, never has any problem unless the weather gets really rough. But she ended up falling asleep during the show. I also had my second Are You Kidding Me? guest moment with the people sitting behind us in the theatre. While I agree that our cruise director spent quite a long time reminding us about how fantastic a time we were going to have prior to the show, there was no reason to complain LOUDLY about how bored they were and whining about how the show needed to start NOW and that he needed to SHUT UP. And these were adults! Not a child in sight!

After the show, we dropped our first coin in the shops ... Mom lost her mind over the sale prices of the Dooney bags and the number of people snatching them up as if they were Black Friday specials. We admired the awesome lighting under the water from the ship along deck 4, then decided to turn in for the night after an exciting first day on the ship!




I will touch upon our stateroom and the nightly arrangements in my next installment!
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