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Old 01-20-2014, 10:49 AM   #1
disneygirl319
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Disney Dream 16 Jan 14 3 Night Pre-Planning Report

PART 1 (BACKGROUND/PRE-PLANNING)

Background=
As for some personal background info, my husband and I are in our mid 40’s and our son is 12 years old. My DH and I have cruised on Carnival (Inspiration) and Royal Caribbean (Freedom of the Seas); and I have also been on another Royal Caribbean cruise (Jewel). Those were taken without our son but we have all been on the Disney Dream before (Nov 2011), deck 6, verandah cabin.

I am an avid Disney fan, have been to WDW too many times to count (to include staying at every hotel on WDW property). For the previous cruise, I was thrilled to go on a Disney cruise. But, to be honest, I was NOT impressed with the Disney Dream the first time we went on it. For the cost (full, regular price) and the food/service that we received I swore I would never go on the Dream again. In fact we had already booked a Spring Break cruise with Royal Caribbean on the Liberty of the Seas (sister ship to Freedom). But I was concerned about our DS being able to go all over the ship and minimal kid’s activities (though their swimming pools and kid pool area is pretty amazing). But what really swayed us back to Disney was the military rate that became available mid-December. The price was too good to pass up. It was half of what we were paying for the other cruise so I checked with DH and decided to switch. I would have to take less leave from work as well so that made a difference too.

This is a surprise cruise for our DS. We didn’t tell him about the other cruise so we didn’t have to worry about disappointing him by switching cruises. But while contemplating the price and wanting to make it a FAMILY cruise I decided to surprise my (older, mid-20’s) DD and her husband with a last-minute Christmas and Birthday present. So I paid for them to go on the same cruise as well. Not a surprise for them but a surprise for my DH as he doesn’t know that I paid for them to go too! Even including paying for them as well (they were able to get Florida Resident Rates which wasn’t much more than the military rates) it was about the same price as the 5 night cruise for 3 passengers on Royal. Since I had already budgeted for the other cruise, it wasn’t a major financial issue to add the additional 2 passengers.

We use a (cruise) travel agent every time we cruise. It is a local company that is a branch of a bigger franchise. I really like the personal service and the ability to ask questions at any time via email or phone and get a prompt response. We don’t always get ‘perks’ like we would booking with a bigger travel agency but I have been completely satisfied with my service. In fact, I had booked through a bigger, very well known, major travel agency (known for their road side assistance, if that you give you any hint!) at one point and received a bunch of additional benefits through them but ended up canceling and had to pay $30 for a cancellation fee. This was for their ‘services’ which only consisted of us sitting down with them at a travel expo for about 15 minutes while we selected our cruise and then me emailing me the TA with a couple of questions and not receiving any response. And I had to pay $30 for that ‘service’….never again. Whereas my regular TA responds within 24 hours (unless she is on a cruise too, then her managers replies instead) and I have booked and cancelled so many times I’ve lost count. With no charge. I have also sent numerous “hey, I’m just thinking about going on a cruise, can you price xxx for me?” and then I see that it is too expensive or won’t work with my budget and I don’t book. But she doesn’t mind. We’ve booked quite a few cruises and I’ve ‘recruited’ quite a few other family and friends to use her service too. Again, it is the personalized service that I really like and it doesn’t cost me a dime.

Pre-Planning/Cabin Selection=
Under the military rate, we initially booked a category 5C (Cabin 7160), Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah. We booked on 19 Dec 13 for a sailing of 16 Jan 14 (3 night Bahama cruise/Nassau & Castaway Cay). Though upon looking at the different categories available for the same price (pretty much all of the category ‘5’ cabins) I decided to go for a category 5E, which is the extended verandah all the way at the back/aft of the ship. But for the 5E category, I had to do a GTY which meant it would be category 5E or higher. On Thursday, 27 Dec 13, 3 weeks out until sailing I checked our reservation on-line and it showed that we had been assigned a cabin, 5032 which was actually a category 4E (Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (extended verandah)). So it ended up being a higher category but not at the far back of the ship like I had hoped. Though it was still an extended verandah. I’ve read some reviews that the cabin itself is smaller due to the longer verandah but the verandah itself is supposed to have a covered as well as open area. So we’ll see how this goes.

Pre-Planning/Previous Dream Cruise=
Having been on the Dream before I know what expect and started looking back at my notes regarding what I did like (cabin/bed/verandah) and didn’t like (food/service in the MDRs) so I could better prepare this time. Last time I didn’t listen to the reviews on the food being either horrible or just ‘ok’, only to find out they were exactly right. I now know to eat my main meals at breakfast and lunch and not to expect much for dinner and to supplement either before or after with room service. My diet has greatly changed since the last time I cruised so I may only eat soup and salad for supper and that would be just fine for me. I just have to accept the fact there is no buffet during dinner.

When we were on the Dream before, we participate in the FE exchange. That time we ended up with close to 30 cabins, which I felt was too much for such a short cruise and should have been split up. So I was stressed even before the cruise started. I wanted to give an AMAZING gift so I went all out and got a bunch of pirate backpacks (cheap ones, but still nice) and filled them based on the ages and gender of the fellow Disboarders in the cabins. I was able to find what I thought was great individual gifts for each of them but then to put them all together prior to the cruise was a nightmare and took up two entire weekends. It was not the enjoyable ‘family’ experience I thought it would be. I ended up needing an extra suitcase just to carry all of the FE’s on board too. Then once we got on board it was really difficult (and time consuming) finding all of the cabins on the ship. On top of that, some of the members had moved cabins and we had to track down their new cabin. Obviously some of the other FE participants didn’t get the update that some had moved cabins so some ‘lucky’ passengers received FE gifts, not knowing why they were magically appearing at their door! So, bottom line, we didn’t participate this cruise. LOL. Having said that, I would probably participate again if it were a 5 or 7 night cruise. I honestly think a 3 night cruise is just too short of a time prior to the cruise spending the money and time as well as the time spent on the ship dropping off the gifts.

I had really bad motion sickness on the previous cruise so I only went to see the Villains show so I’m excited to be able to catch the other two. I didn’t bother seeing any movies the last time as there wasn’t anything new but this time there will be Frozen and Saving Mr. Banks. Both on my ‘to do’ list! I also made sure I got a motion sickness PATCH this time so I don’t have to worry about it. I have found that, for the most part, Bonine works for me but I wanted to have a prescription strength patch just to be 100% sure (with Bonine as a back up).

Pre-Planning/Excursions=
I am looking forward to Castaway Cay the most but trying to control my anticipation as Jan/Feb timeframe can be cool enough to hinder or prevent swimming or winds high enough to prevent docking. If that happens I have a back up plan to utilize the rainforest spa again (if day passes are available) or enjoy the cabin and read my book. For Castaway Cay I am currently planning on going kayaking (something new I’ve been wanting to learn/try!). My DH and DS are planning on running the Castaway Cay 5k as well. They did this last time but it was a lot more unofficial so it will be nice to get a medal (though it is plastic) and hopefully a TSHIRT as well (if they are available for purchase). For Nassau I had originally booked a shore excursion (See and Sea) only to cancel it so I can spend the entire day in the rainforest spa (I already have a day pass for myself and my DH that day). The Jewel of the Seas had a thermal suite which his similar to the Rainforest Spa so I’m hoping I will enjoy it as much as I did on the Jewel. I will be sure to share my notes/thoughts on my experience there.

I hadn’t planned on making any big purchases while on the ship to include bringing our own alcohol (though I don’t really drink anyway). But I have constantly been wanting the Dooney & Burke Disney purses and when I remembered that they have a cruise line specific one I was thinking on possibly getting one for those. Then when I found out they had a brand-new design, I made up my mind 100% that I was going to get one! So I added that to my on board budget. ;-)

Pre-Planning/On-Line Check in & “Tickets”=
Since we booked so late we had to, of course, make full payment right away which also allowed us to immediately do on-line check in (we booked less than a month prior to the sailing). Of course knowing about the Port Arrival Time (PAT) I went and did the on-line check in right away. However, the earliest available PAT was 11:30-11:45am, I believe there were 3 or 4 earlier times for the PAT which were unavailable to select. On-line check in is easy and quick and thankfully we had received our son’s updated passport in time.
Our cruise “tickets” were mailed 4 Jan 17 to our Travel Agent. We received them on Wednesday, 8 Jan 14 (almost a week out from the cruise). The tickets aren’t a necessity but do include your LUGGAGE TAGS (though you can get generic/replacement ones at the port if needed). There is a pre-planning booklet that you get as well but there wasn’t anything in there that was really needed for the sailing.

Pre-Planning/Cruise Family Shirts=
We had done matching family shirts for our cruise on R/C Jewel but wasn’t really planning on doing one for this cruise until my DH and DD both mentioned it. After that I decided to go ahead and order some. We wanted them customized on both the front and the back which made it difficult to order from just any t-shirt company (plus my SIL is plus size so we needed a company that also had his larger size). We had some additional special requirements that made it difficult to order from just anyone (to include local facilities) but finally found a company that met all of our requirements. They were on sale but then we needed immediately as the cruise was a mere 2 weeks away we had to pay for expedited shipping. That of course was an outrageous amount but given that the shirts were on sale it all evened out.

Pre-Planning/Day Before & Morning Of=
Since we live in Tampa we decided to just drive from Tampa to the port the day of the cruise. Obviously the cruise that I took out of Tampa was local so those weren’t an issue but when we took the 2 previous cruises out of Port Canaveral we stayed overnight both times. This time we decided to save money and just really early that morning. We know a couple of alternate back routes if needed. We also have to pick up my DD in the Orlando area. I am contemplating staying at a hotel in the Orlando area nearer to my DD, it will just be getting my DH to agree. At least this way we have a place to hang out and can get a light breakfast.

We have decided to park at the port. We did this last time and liked the easy of driving in, dropping off the luggage, parking close by and then walking a few short feet to port without hassle or wait. This time we pre-paid for parking at the terminal, not like it really matter but it was just easier to pay for it ahead of time and not have to worry about it afterwards.

Pre-Planning/Port Arrival Times=
Just in case you were interested in what PAT times there are, here is a list I copied from the Disney check in web site:

Choose a Port Arrival Time.
10:30 AM - 10:45 AM
10:45 AM - 11:00 AM
11:00 AM - 11:15 AM
11:15 AM - 11:30 AM
11:30 AM - 11:45 AM
11:45 AM - 12:00 PM
12:00 PM - 12:15 PM
12:15 PM - 12:30 PM
12:30 PM - 12:45 PM
12:45 PM - 01:00 PM
01:00 PM - 01:15 PM
01:15 PM - 01:30 PM
01:30 PM - 01:45 PM
01:45 PM - 02:00 PM
02:00 PM - 02:15 PM
02:15 PM - 02:30 PM
02:30 PM - 02:45 PM
02:45 PM - 03:00 PM
03:00 PM - 03:15 PM

NEXT UP….the cruise itself!
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Michelle

CRUISED:
Jan 2014, Disney Dream
Nov 2011, Disney Dream

Been to Walt Disney World too many times now to count! Have stayed at every single DisneyWorld Resort. Now we're moving on to CRUISING!

Other cruises:
Dec 2012, Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas
Feb 2011, Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas
Mar 2010, Carnival Inspiration
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Old 01-21-2014, 11:24 AM   #2
Reagan&Co.
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Yay! Can't wait to hear more! I have a DS11 so I am anxious to hear how your DD enjoyed the kids activities.
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Old 02-16-2014, 08:12 PM   #3
pepe3penelope
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Following along!
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