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Old 04-21-2013, 03:53 PM   #1
Stinkerbell1973
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Another Cruise or Aulani??

Next year is a big year in our house. DH and I will celebrate our 15 year anniversary and DD turns 10. We want a BIG celebration, and started saving money about 6 months ago for such an occasion.

Until we got back from our Fantasy cruise last weekend, we were 100% dedicated to going to Aulani in July 2014. We had originally planned to do Hawaii for our 10 year anniversary, but that year, both of the companies we work for were cutting back/laying off so we decided it was not the best time to plan a vacation like that. Plus, DD was almost 5 at the time and we were planning to take her with us. Probably would not have been a very memorable trip for her.

Well....fast forward to last weekend and now we're conflicted!! We started talking about the DCL Panama Canal 14 night Eastbound cruise from San Diego to Port Canaveral, sailing September 2014.

I'd like to hear from folks who have done the Panama Canal cruise...and, where possible, those that have cruised that itinerary and done Aulani. OR, those that have cruised AND done Aulani.
Which do you prefer & why? Knowing these would be "once in a lifetime" types of trips for us, how should that factor into our decision?
I'm not looking for discussion around cost. The money is going to be spent either way. I'm simply looking for good discussion around the interesting things you and your family have done on either (or both) of these trips.

Another point of consideration, not necessarily a good one, but would like some constructive feedback. The PC cruise happens during the school year (September 12-26). DD would miss 6 days of school about a month and a half into her 3rd grade year. Our county gets a fall break, so she will be out of school the second week of this 14 night cruise. I'm not interested in being flamed for considering keeping her out of school for a week. Truthfully, if I didn't think she could handle it I wouldn't even consider it. But again, it's ~6 weeks into the school year and it's not like she's in 6, 8, or 11th grade.

Thanks in advance!
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Oct 08, Oct 09, Sept 10, Feb 11, Sept 13 - Ft. Wilderness | Mar 11 - All Star Sports | Sept 11 - Pop Century
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Last edited by Stinkerbell1973; 04-21-2013 at 03:56 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:18 PM   #2
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Well we love to cruise so we would pick the PC cruise. This cruise also lines up with your child's fall break. I interpret that as a sign. Take the cruise.
Hawaii should still be there the following year, who knows if the PC cruise will.

A week out of elementary school is what we do every year to sail.
A month and a 1/2 from the start of school is my minimum though.
I say sail away.
We can't afford summer rates with DCL.

That's my 2 cents.
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Old 04-21-2013, 04:42 PM   #3
iadizfans
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stinkerbell1973 View Post
Next year is a big year in our house. DH and I will celebrate our 15 year anniversary and DD turns 10. We want a BIG celebration, and started saving money about 6 months ago for such an occasion.

Until we got back from our Fantasy cruise last weekend, we were 100% dedicated to going to Aulani in July 2014. We had originally planned to do Hawaii for our 10 year anniversary, but that year, both of the companies we work for were cutting back/laying off so we decided it was not the best time to plan a vacation like that. Plus, DD was almost 5 at the time and we were planning to take her with us. Probably would not have been a very memorable trip for her.

Well....fast forward to last weekend and now we're conflicted!! We started talking about the DCL Panama Canal 14 night Eastbound cruise from San Diego to Port Canaveral, sailing September 2014.

I'd like to hear from folks who have done the Panama Canal cruise...and, where possible, those that have cruised that itinerary and done Aulani. OR, those that have cruised AND done Aulani.
Which do you prefer & why? Knowing these would be "once in a lifetime" types of trips for us, how should that factor into our decision?
I'm not looking for discussion around cost. The money is going to be spent either way. I'm simply looking for good discussion around the interesting things you and your family have done on either (or both) of these trips.

Another point of consideration, not necessarily a good one, but would like some constructive feedback. The PC cruise happens during the school year (September 12-26). DD would miss 6 days of school about a month and a half into her 3rd grade year. Our county gets a fall break, so she will be out of school the second week of this 14 night cruise. I'm not interested in being flamed for considering keeping her out of school for a week. Truthfully, if I didn't think she could handle it I wouldn't even consider it. But again, it's ~6 weeks into the school year and it's not like she's in 6, 8, or 11th grade.

Thanks in advance!
We have not done the PC itinerary but have both cruised (7 day western Caribbean) and spent 4 nights at Aulani. I also want to mention that DW and I did both these trips sans kids (our children are all grown).

You have a tough choice to make. Both DCL and Aulani make for fantastic vacations. Cruises are great because they take you to numerous exotic locations all in the span of a week or two. Hawaii is attractive because it truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Since I'm not sure what your travel preferences are, I will tell you what I liked and disliked about both trips with the hope that will steer you in the right direction.

Cruise: we stopped at 4 ports. Key West - we've been to Florida outside of WDW many times so this stop was just ok. Grand Cayman - my favorite port, had the most unbelievable water I have ever seen. Snorkeling with visibility @ 100 ft (not exaggerating) was like swimming in an aquarium. Cozumel - we did a Mayan ruins (Tulum). Very interesting. Castaway Cay - DW's favorite and a great place for the whole family. Food on the ship was above average but not great. IMHO. Plenty of time to relax and enjoy your vacation while the ship is at sea.

Aulani - I've stayed at dozens of hotels and resorts both for business and pleasure and can say without a doubt this resort is the finest I've been to. Everywhere you look there's something to admire. Solid wood appointments, local flora, and wonderful views. The location is fantastic since its on the same island as the main airport (Oahu) but is well away from the very congested city of Honolulu. The resort also boasts both a private water park and lagoon access. There is also plenty to do off resort as it is Hawaii. You will need to rent a car (Disney offers no shuttle service from HNL). The long flight is really the only drawback.

Hope this helps a little...

Let us know what you decide... Either way you're guaranteed a great trip!!
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Old 04-21-2013, 05:34 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bear3412
Well we love to cruise so we would pick the PC cruise. This cruise also lines up with your child's fall break. I interpret that as a sign. Take the cruise.
Hawaii should still be there the following year, who knows if the PC cruise will.

A week out of elementary school is what we do every year to sail.
A month and a 1/2 from the start of school is my minimum though.
I say sail away.
We can't afford summer rates with DCL.

That's my 2 cents.
You bring an excellent point in not knowing if DCL will continue the PC cruise. Hmmmm...makes things even more interesting!
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Oct 08, Oct 09, Sept 10, Feb 11, Sept 13 - Ft. Wilderness | Mar 11 - All Star Sports | Sept 11 - Pop Century
Dec 11 - Christmas at Fort Wilderness | Feb 12 - Coronado Springs | Oct 12 - Paradise Pier (Disneyland) | Dec 12 - Port Orleans French Quarter | Dec 13 - Caribbean Beach

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Old 04-21-2013, 05:35 PM   #5
Stinkerbell1973
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iadizfans

We have not done the PC itinerary but have both cruised (7 day western Caribbean) and spent 4 nights at Aulani. I also want to mention that DW and I did both these trips sans kids (our children are all grown).

You have a tough choice to make. Both DCL and Aulani make for fantastic vacations. Cruises are great because they take you to numerous exotic locations all in the span of a week or two. Hawaii is attractive because it truly is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Since I'm not sure what your travel preferences are, I will tell you what I liked and disliked about both trips with the hope that will steer you in the right direction.

Cruise: we stopped at 4 ports. Key West - we've been to Florida outside of WDW many times so this stop was just ok. Grand Cayman - my favorite port, had the most unbelievable water I have ever seen. Snorkeling with visibility @ 100 ft (not exaggerating) was like swimming in an aquarium. Cozumel - we did a Mayan ruins (Tulum). Very interesting. Castaway Cay - DW's favorite and a great place for the whole family. Food on the ship was above average but not great. IMHO. Plenty of time to relax and enjoy your vacation while the ship is at sea.

Aulani - I've stayed at dozens of hotels and resorts both for business and pleasure and can say without a doubt this resort is the finest I've been to. Everywhere you look there's something to admire. Solid wood appointments, local flora, and wonderful views. The location is fantastic since its on the same island as the main airport (Oahu) but is well away from the very congested city of Honolulu. The resort also boasts both a private water park and lagoon access. There is also plenty to do off resort as it is Hawaii. You will need to rent a car (Disney offers no shuttle service from HNL). The long flight is really the only drawback.

Hope this helps a little...

Let us know what you decide... Either way you're guaranteed a great trip!!
Thanks for your comments!! Your perspective certainly helps. :-)
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Oct 08, Oct 09, Sept 10, Feb 11, Sept 13 - Ft. Wilderness | Mar 11 - All Star Sports | Sept 11 - Pop Century
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Old 04-21-2013, 05:37 PM   #6
Stinkerbell1973
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So I am clearly not thinking right.

In 2014 DD will be in 4th grade, not 3rd. Guess I want to keep her little forever. :-)
Not sure if that changes anyone's perspective over missing a week of 3rd grade.
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Oct 08, Oct 09, Sept 10, Feb 11, Sept 13 - Ft. Wilderness | Mar 11 - All Star Sports | Sept 11 - Pop Century
Dec 11 - Christmas at Fort Wilderness | Feb 12 - Coronado Springs | Oct 12 - Paradise Pier (Disneyland) | Dec 12 - Port Orleans French Quarter | Dec 13 - Caribbean Beach

Disney Fantasy - Apr 2013 (Eastern Caribbean)
May 14 - Disney Magic, Mediterranean
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:06 PM   #7
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We took our first trip to Hawaii and stayed at Aulani last month. We are also avid Disney cruisers, but we've never done a PC. We took our DD10 with us to Aulani, and we also cruise with her. In my mind, it comes down to what kind of experience do you want and how would you spend your time on Oahu (exploring or relaxing at the resort). I look at our Disney cruises as pure relaxation. For our trip to Oahu, we wanted to actually 'see/do' Hawaii (since we live on the east coast, it was quite a plane ride to get there...not something that will happen every year), so we didn't plan on just lounging at the resort all day/every day.

That being said, we did spend two days and an afternoon here and there at the resort. The rest of the time, we were checking out the island. We went up to the North Shore several times, took a surfing lesson with Hawaiian Fire, went to Pearl Harbor, strolled through the Waiamea Valley and swam in the waterfall, saw the pineapple plantation and had a Dole Whip, snorkled with sea turtles, scrambled down the rocks to Eternity Beach, drove around Diamond Head, drove through the amazing mountains, ate at the shrimp trucks, ...well, you get the picture. I know that sounds like a lot of activity, but it really wasn't tiring. (Not as tiring as running around the Disney parks for a week, IMHO!)

I guess what I'm saying is that, since you have experienced the Fantasy, you understand the pure relaxation of a Disney cruise with your family. However, if you want to see and experience something new and exciting (and I'm assuming that you've never been to Oahu), then try Aulani. We had a blast and hope to get back there some day. As much as we experienced, there are still things that we didn't get a chance to do.

Both are awesome vacations and fabulous memories for our family! You really can't go wrong either way! HTH!
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Old 04-21-2013, 06:57 PM   #8
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As far as missing school for the Panama Canal, seeing the Panama Canal and going through the locks is a lot more educational than reading about it. I assume your daughter could make up her school assignments. When we went through the Canal two years ago in January, students were studying up on deck, and taking notes during the lectures about the Canal. There's enough time on sea days to do an hour or two of homework in between all the activities.

DCL seems to be doing well with Alaskan cruises during the summer, but needs somewhere else to cruise during the winter. So, every spring and fall, DCL needs a repositioning cruise through the Canal. I would love to see a DCL ship permanently stationed on the west coast, but the Mexican drug cartels have scared the tourists away from the Mexican Riviera.

Meanwhile, Hawaii is far more beautiful than any of the ports visited on the Panama Canal cruises. There's a lot goin on in Hawaii, on all the islands. So much to do and see. Pearl Harbor is every bit as educational as the Panama Canal, in a totally different way, of course.

Both the cruise and Aulani are such wonderful vacations, you won't go wrong with either. Your DD is still young enough to enjoy the Disney characters, and missing school at that age isn't as critical as it would be when she's in high school. I would do the PC cruise in 2014, and when you celebrate your 20th or 25th anniversary, go to Hawaii during Christmas break -- the weather isn't as hot/sticky then.

I suspect DCL will get back to cruising to Hawaii one of these years. At that point, I would choose the Hawaiian cruise over either the PC or Aulani.
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:00 PM   #9
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Either option sounds great! You cannot go wrong with either. As for your daughter missing school, go for it!!! As a teacher, I always tell parents they will learn more abroad than a week in school. I just wish the teacher could travel when the rates are more reasonable too!
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:05 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjgarv
We took our first trip to Hawaii and stayed at Aulani last month. We are also avid Disney cruisers, but we've never done a PC. We took our DD10 with us to Aulani, and we also cruise with her. In my mind, it comes down to what kind of experience do you want and how would you spend your time on Oahu (exploring or relaxing at the resort). I look at our Disney cruises as pure relaxation. For our trip to Oahu, we wanted to actually 'see/do' Hawaii (since we live on the east coast, it was quite a plane ride to get there...not something that will happen every year), so we didn't plan on just lounging at the resort all day/every day.

That being said, we did spend two days and an afternoon here and there at the resort. The rest of the time, we were checking out the island. We went up to the North Shore several times, took a surfing lesson with Hawaiian Fire, went to Pearl Harbor, strolled through the Waiamea Valley and swam in the waterfall, saw the pineapple plantation and had a Dole Whip, snorkled with sea turtles, scrambled down the rocks to Eternity Beach, drove around Diamond Head, drove through the amazing mountains, ate at the shrimp trucks, ...well, you get the picture. I know that sounds like a lot of activity, but it really wasn't tiring. (Not as tiring as running around the Disney parks for a week, IMHO!)

I guess what I'm saying is that, since you have experienced the Fantasy, you understand the pure relaxation of a Disney cruise with your family. However, if you want to see and experience something new and exciting (and I'm assuming that you've never been to Oahu), then try Aulani. We had a blast and hope to get back there some day. As much as we experienced, there are still things that we didn't get a chance to do.

Both are awesome vacations and fabulous memories for our family! You really can't go wrong either way! HTH!
Hmm. I haven't done Hawaii as a resort (RCCL 10 yrs ago) and I have only done 3 day DCL, but there was nothing relaxing about my DCL in that it was very go gogo. Maybe because it was 3 days no sea day. It was a blast! But not slow paced or relaxing... Which is still great..
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:10 PM   #11
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Either option sounds great! You cannot go wrong with either. As for your daughter missing school, go for it!!! As a teacher, I always tell parents they will learn more abroad than a week in school. I just wish the teacher could travel when the rates are more reasonable too!
Here! Here!

I will say that my district seems to be a little more lenient towards teachers so long as we are upfront with them as early as possible. We have to get permission to take off before days off (like Thanksgiving week, etc) and I have only asked twice and gotten it because I am not one to ask every year.

OP,
We love the cruises although we haven't been on the Fantasy yet. However, next year, DH and I both turn 40 and it's our 5th anniversary, so I was hoping for two weeks in Europe. However, since I'm finishing up chemo and DH has had to miss work for all my appointments, I'm thinking maybe Aulani for a week.
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:12 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by TwinPrincessMermaids View Post
Hmm. I haven't done Hawaii as a resort (RCCL 10 yrs ago) and I have only done 3 day DCL, but there was nothing relaxing about my DCL in that it was very go gogo. Maybe because it was 3 days no sea day. It was a blast! But not slow paced or relaxing... Which is still great..
Our first Disney cruise was a 4-night on the Magic as part of our honeymoon in 2000, and we've done one other 4-night, and one B2B on the Dream. We've found the shorter cruises to definitely feel more 'rushed' as folks are trying to do everything. The majority of our Disney cruises have been 7 nights, which leaves plenty of time to just kick back.
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Old 04-21-2013, 07:44 PM   #13
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We've been on two Disney cruises (Mexican Riviera and Alaska) and will be doing the Panama Canal cruise this year. We spent 10 nights at the Aulani last year.

Maybe you should ping me in June after the PC cruise and see if I've changed my mind, but overall I found Aulani to be better. I love Hawaii, and have been many, many times. Oahu is not my favorite island (only Maui ranks lower for me), so I was skeptical about our trip to Aulani. It was awesome. We really didn't want to leave the resort much. The only reason we did was to shop for groceries because we found the food to be lacking. Overall, we found the kids club to be much more engaging and the opportunities for 'adult' time to be more interesting. (The kids club was a whole different class above what we've experienced on the ships, which btw was also just fine... it's just the Aulani took much more interest in making sure our kids were engaged and getting the most out of the place. They seemed truly interested in ensuring our kids had a fantastic time.) The spa was first rate (with absolutely no pressure or mention of buying other products) and the activities for families absolutely wonderful. We loved the Starlit Hui and the movies under the stars. The pool area is beyond compare, even considering the FL Disney parks we've stayed at. Combine that with the laid back island attitude (no stress over dress codes, for example... and friendly people everywhere) and it was a truly fabulous vacation.

I was truly bothered by the dining options and food quality at Aulani, especially after driving around one day and discovering all of the wonderful farms, farmers markets, and other wonderful restaurants that abound now on the west side of the island. (There was really no excuse for the lack of vegetables offered throughout the resort) and was SO GLAD we'd sprung for a 1 bedroom DVC room with a full kitchen so that we could do our own thing on some days. I also wished they had more options for zip car type rentals at the resort so that we could have just taken a car out for a couple of hours to do some shopping, etc. and not had to pay for a rental car plus $35/night parking fee.

Plusses and minuses on both sides, so I suppose it depends on what your travel pet peeves are. I haven't been on a two week Disney cruise yet, though. So maybe my opinion will change after our PC cruise.
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Old 04-21-2013, 09:54 PM   #14
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Panama Canal in dec and then Aulani in feb..

Hello, let me answer! We did the Panama Canal Cruise n Dec with DCL and then went to Aulani in February. If we were to choose again it would be a Panama Canal cruise hands down!

We loooved Aulani but there were not as many activities, food options and prices became a big chore and it took much more coordinating to have a good vacation. To use cruises just make it so easy and relaxing.

Aulani is beautiful and we will go again but to use the Panama Canal cruise could not be beat.
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Old 04-21-2013, 11:02 PM   #15
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Have not stayed at Aulani, but having visited all of the major Hawaiian islands I feel compelled to point out that it is built upon what most would consider the least desirable part of the least desirable Hawaiian island (there's a reason Disney was still able to acquire the land at this late date), and is one of the most expensive properties in all of Hawaii on top of that.
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