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Old 05-16-2013, 04:50 PM   #1
Simply Stated
Earning My Ears
 
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Detailed Disney Dream Trip Report (4/28/13-5/2/13)

It was on these boards that I found the answers to so many questions I had before our Disney cruise. So, I thought it would be appropriate to return the favor by posting a full trip report loaded with details. The cruise was a 4-night Caribbean cruise (4/28/13-5/2/13) aboard the Disney Dream with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay. My fellow cruisers were my husband and my 2-year-old son. I hope you find this helpful and please feel free to post any additional questions you may have.

Day 1 – Southwest Flight/Dollar Rental Car/Sheraton Suites
We chose to fly out to Port Canaveral the day before the cruise. We were flying from Albany, NY so this gave us the ability to leave a little later in the day than if we had flown Sunday. It was nice to not have to rush. We booked our own flights through Southwest since it was considerably cheaper than booking through Disney. I also opted to pay for Early Bird Check-In to alleviate the stress of getting a good boarding group. We boarded in the A20’s, which was great.

This was our son’s first plane ride so we were a bit nervous. Security was a breeze – they allowed our son to keep his shoes on and didn’t give us any trouble with the snacks and baby food pouches we had in our bag. He was overly excited at the airport to see planes, trucks and tractors. We bought a Cosco carseat from Walmart that was very easy to install and even allowed us to put the plane armrests down. The only mistake we made was letting him fall asleep. The pilot’s announcement woke him up and he was inconsolable for about 3 minutes but quickly calmed down when we turned on the iPad. (As a side note, make sure you have alternate ways to entertain kids during take-off and landing since electronic devices have to be off). Concerning the pressure change, it seemed to only bother him during landing but was easily alleviated by drinking juice.

We decided to rent a car rather than use the Disney shuttles. I wasn’t comfortable with my son being on my lap for an hour bus ride and the car gave us much more flexibility with our boarding time. Dollar was, by far, the cheapest chain rental car. I signed up for Dollar Express, which made it very quick to get in the car and go. We didn’t have to wait at any counters and simply proceeded to our car located in the parking garage.

We struggled with the decision to stay in a Disney resort. In the end, the cost wasn’t justified by the limited amount of time we’d be spending there. We also didn’t want to spend another 20 minutes in the car after a 3-hour flight. Instead, we stayed at the Sheraton Suites at the Orlando airport. There are many hotels, with and without suites, to choose from and all are located in exactly the same area. We chose the Sheraton Suites because the bedroom was separated from the living area with a door. This allowed our son to sleep in a separate room while we watched tv in bed. The staff was friendly, the breakfast was good and there was a Starbucks in the lobby. I would recommend staying on a higher floor to avoid the noise of the parking lot and the lunch/dinner menu seemed overpriced.

Day 2 – Dollar Rental Car/Embarkation
We woke up, got ready, ate breakfast and were out the door by 10:15am. We drove 45 minutes to the Dollar Rental Car location in Cape Canaveral. Even though we thought the tank was nearly full, the Dollar agent informed us that it would cost $9.49/gallon, compared to the $3.50/gallon across the street to fill it (we only needed 2 /12 gallons). While my husband went to fill up the tank, I needed to change our son. The bathroom was out of order but the very friendly agent let us use their breakroom to change him. Within minutes of my husband returning the car we were on their shuttle bus to the cruise line.

We arrived at the cruise line at exactly 12:00pm (our pre-selected boarding time). We went through about four lines, including a document check, security and check-in within minutes. After stopping to see Mickey (but not waiting in the long line for a picture) we immediately boarded the ship. They announced our family and asked if we were hungry. Although they directed us down to Enchanted Garden for a buffet lunch, we opted to go to Cabanas instead. There was a huge selection and it was a great first dining experience on the ship.

After lunch, we decided to go check out our room and drop off our carry-on luggage. We stayed in a Family Oceanview Room. It was even larger than we expected. More than enough room for the three of us and probably would’ve been comfortable with one more. The sit-in porthole window was a big hit with our son. The pack and play was already in the room and was set up for us later that day while we were at dinner.

We decided to visit the open houses for the kids programs. First was the nursery. It was very clean and the staff was really pleasant. There were two staff members taking reservations at the desk and one staff member in the nursery to interact with the kids and answer any questions. Next we visited the Oceaneer Club & Lab. It was extremely overcrowded and over stimulating. Our son had a blast exploring the area but it was hard to keep an eye on him with all of the people.

Next up was the assembly drill. Although it was very well organized, it’s not an ideal situation for little ones. Luckily, our son fell asleep on dad’s shoulder about half way through. He also managed to sleep through most of the Sail Away party. The party is definitely a ‘can’t miss’ event. It really gets you pumped up for the cruise and brings a great energy level. This was also the first time we tried the ice cream – amazing!!

First night’s dinner was at Animator’s Palate. We were running late, but it didn’t seem to bother anyone. Our tablemates were so nice and a perfect match for us. They were also a family of three with a 3-year-old son. The menu didn’t seem overwhelmingly creative or intriguing but when the food arrived, it was delicious. The kid’s menu featured the usual kid fare (mac & cheese, hot dog, chicken fingers) served with french fries and veggie or a kid-friendly version of some of the adult plates. Although dinner was generally our son’s least favorite activity during the cruise, he did love the Mickey ice cream bar he ate almost every night. The timing of the courses couldn’t have been better. I wish I could learn that skill to use at home. The turtle that was featured on the screens in the dining room was entertaining and funny but hard to see from where we were sitting.

There’s about an hour between dinner and the show each night. This night, my husband took our son to meet Mickey for the first time while I went back to the room to unpack. I highly recommend this idea. I was able to get 90% of the unpacking done without my son causing havoc. While unpacking, I asked our room attendant for some kid-sized hangers for our son’s clothes and he happily obliged.

The show was Golden Mickeys. It was ok, but not great for younger kids. The characters weren’t prominently featured and the actors weren’t keeping his attention. We left early and my husband and I watched the rest of the show on the in-room tv later that night.

The curtain that splits the room in half worked wonders. It made it pitch dark where our son was sleeping and allowed us to have the lights on on our side of the room. The night light on his side was a little bright and we didn’t use it but would probably be ok if your little one is used to having a light on at bedtime.

Day 3 - Nassau
Our fist stop on the cruise was Nassau (75/cloudy). We booked the Blue Lagoon Beach Day port adventure and had to meet in the theater at 9:30am. We decided to have room service deliver breakfast instead of trying to rush through Cabanas. The donuts were delicious, coffee is served in a full carafe and we ordered a carton of whole milk.

The journey to Blue Lagoon seemed to take forever. After meeting in the theater, we waited about an hour while everyone checked in and received stickers/wristbands. Then, it took about another hour to walk to the ferry, board and shuttle over. By the time we arrived at Blue Lagoon it was 11:30am.

The beach was beautiful with crystal clear waters. The water was a little chilly but we braved it for a bit anyway. Our son was perfectly happy to dig in the sand with some toys we brought along. There were plenty of beach chairs available with some in the shade with tables. The included lunch was mediocre, but good.

The big appeal of the island is that they do Dolphin & Sea Lion Encounters. Our son was too young for that but I was under the impression that we would be able to see the animals even if we didn’t do the encounter. The dolphins are visible as soon as you get off the ferry. They swim right along the docks. However, if you take the time to look at a map or ask an employee, you can walk along the beach, down to where they keep the sea lions, as well as an iguana exhibit and some showers and changing rooms. We did this right before we left and it worked out perfectly. You could choose from three return ferries – 1:00, 2:00 or 4:00. We chose the 2:00 departure along with the rest of the island. Overall, I don’t think it was worth the effort or expense. My family, as well as our tablemates who did the same excurion, thought that if we could do the cruise over again, we would stay on the ship in Nassau or explore on our own for an hour or so. There was a nice marketplace that we were forced to walk through on the way back to the ship that would have sufficed for a short shopping trip.

When we got back to the ship, we headed to our room to drop off our beach bags and get out of our wet clothes. I had noticed the night before the alarm clock wasn’t charging my iPhone like I thought it should so I asked our room attendant if he could help. He came in our room to check it out and found a replacement clock from an empty room within minutes. We quickly went to see Mickey and friends in the lobby, dressed in Bahamian clothes. This line was particularly long.

This night’s dinner was the dress-up optional in Enchanted Garden. We were one of very few families dressed in more formal wear. But we had to look good for our picture with Minnie in her gown. We also took some professional photos in our formal wear that came out great.
The food in Enchanted Garden was my favorite. I’m a big seafood lover so I ordered the lobster ravioli, spinach salad, scallops and strawberry cheesecake and ate every last bite. We even ordered the meatloaf for our son and he loved it.

Based on some other reviews/trip reports we decided to skip the Villians show. I had read that it was scary for little ones. This meant that we were back in our room and in bed by 9:00, which felt good after a long day at the beach. I took this time each night to look at the Navigator and put anything we might be interested in into my iPhone calendar. Although you don’t get free wi-fi on the ship, you can put your device into airplane mode and use some apps.

Day 4 - Castaway Cay
We spent Day 4 docked at Castaway Cay (75/cloudy). Without any excursions planned, we were able to take our time getting ready. I decided to try the Wake Up & Stretch class while my husband got showered and took our son for a walk on the decks. The class was amazing! I’ve taken pilates and yoga classes at a few different gyms and this was the best stretch I’ve ever had (the deck 12 location and cute Australian instructor didn’t hurt either). I met my family for breakfast at Cabanas. We thought the selection was really good for a breakfast buffet and our son loved the Mickey shaped waffles.

All of this taking our time meant that we didn’t get on the island until 11:00am. The trams that take you from the ship to a few stops on the island are super fast and convenient. Our first stop was the Crab Races. Do yourself a favor and skip this activity unless you plan on participating. The crabs are actually hermit crabs and you can’t really see anything unless you’re one of the competing teams. The character dance party looked like it would be immediately after the races on the schedule but there was actually about 30 minutes between the two. We passed the time with some more yummy ice cream while others opted to eat lunch. The dance party was really cute and gave the kids an opportunity to dance up close and personal with all of their favorite characters.

Next, we decided to walk over to the splash playground. Our son generally loves these areas and this one was no different. There was adequate shade and bench seating for parents but the area was lacking in creativity. It basically consisted of some different sized pop jets but no slides, squirters or rainfalls like Nemo’s Reef. I was underwhelmed.

We finally decided to get some lunch around 1:00. Since we were closer to Cookies, Too, we ate there. It was decent barbeque, but having lived in San Antonio for a few years, my expectations for barbeque are high and this did little to meet them. One thing that I saw another family do and wished I had thought of myself was take their jumbo chocolate chip cookie and bring it over to the ice cream machine to make an ice cream cookie sandwich. Yum!

The one thing my husband and I really wanted to do on the island was take a bike ride. We thought it would be a nice relaxing way to see the island. We were wrong. It wasn’t horrible but we had to wait for a bike with a seat for our son and the airstrip that you ride on to get to the observation tower is scorching hot. However, the view of the ship from the tower was nice.

We hadn’t gone on the beach or in the water yet because our son had developed a bit of a sand diaper rash from our beach day in Nassau. But on the way back to the ship, I thought it seemed silly to be in the Caribbean and not go swimming. So we stopped at the beach and my husband and I took turns going in the water while our son played in the sand. The water was warm, clear and the tropical fish were swimming next to you as soon as you entered the water.

Once we got back to the ship, we showered and changed for dinner. Since we missed Captain Hook on the island, we stopped to take a picture with him before dinner. We spent Pirate Night in the Royal Palace dining room. There were definitely more people dressed up for pirate night than there were for formal night. The menu was just mediocre and, although a Disney travel agent mentioned a parade in the dining room, we didn’t see one. Then again, we left before dessert because our son was having no part of dinner that night.

The pirate show on deck was good but didn’t keep our son’s attention. The older kids seemed to enjoy it most. We got a specialty drink in a Toy Story cup with a light-up Buzz toy for our son while we were watching the show. It was expensive ($8) but delicious juice.

We left the pirate show early to drop off our son in the nursery. We could tell he was really tired so there was no doubt he would fall right to sleep in their quiet crib area. The reason we decided to put him in the nursery this night was because recent Personal Navigator’s showed a magic show happening. However, there was no magic show this cruise! I was really disappointed. Instead, they were showing Oz in 3D in the big theater. Since we had already seen that movie, we decided to explore the adult area and get a drink before the fireworks. We’ve seen a lot of firework displays and this was one of the better ones. When we picked up our son, he was out cold and the nursery didn’t offer any report on how he did. Unfortunately, the long walk through the noisy hallways on the way back to our room woke him up and he had a lot of trouble falling back to sleep.

Day 5 – At Sea
After a long night with the little guy, I decided to cancel our 10:30am Palo brunch reservations. While we were looking forward to an adult-only meal, I was in no rush to get out of bed and get all dolled up. I snuck out of the room around 7:30am and used the phone in the hallway to leave messages for both Palo and the nursery to cancel. Both called me back when they opened to confirm my cancellation and there was no charge for either.

With that out of the way, we were free to take our time getting ready. I took our son to Wake Up with Disney Jr. while my husband showered. It was essentially another dance party with Disney Jr. theme songs and a special appearance by Pluto. We planned on staying for craft time afterwards but I saw some scissors and decided it was probably too advanced for him.

Instead, we headed down to the shops to pick up diapers. I didn’t have high hopes that they would have any diapers left, especially in his size. Once I found the right store, I was pleasantly surprised that they had plenty of diapers available in two sizes – 3 and 4. There were also lots of other items available in case you don’t want to overpack your toiletry bag. The diapers I bought were Huggies size 4 and there were 8 in the pack for $9 - expensive but convenient in a pinch.

We met my husband for a late breakfast at Cabanas around 10:30am. The buffet was just starting to change over to lunch but still had a large selection of breakfast food. And with the crowds gone, we were able to get a table outside.

Next, we headed back to our room to change into bathing suits. Nemo’s Reef is the only water play option for toddlers still in diapers. Our son had a blast. There were tons of different water features to play with, including a slide, a waterfall, floor jets and fish that squirt water. I do wish there was a maximum age or height for the area. It was a bit overcrowded, mostly with older kids.

As dark clouds rolled in, we decided to get out and dry off a little. We were lucky to find some empty seats on the pool deck in front of the movie screen. As it began to rain, we made a run for some chairs that were under cover just a few feet away. We also spotted our dinnermates and grabbed them a dry seat next to us. After about 15 minutes, the rain stopped and there were plenty of empty seats in the sun. We decided to stick with our tablemates and have lunch in our lounge chairs from Cabanas and Flo’s. I preferred the lighter fare at Cabana’s while my husband tried a burger from Flo’s.

Before we headed back to the room for naptime I wanted to take a trip on the Aquaduck and thanks to the rain, the line was short. My husband had tried it earlier and described it as a fast lazy river. My experience was much different. Probably because of my petite size, I found it to be as fast as any rollercoaster I’d ever been on. I’d highly recommend trying it out for yourself.

After naptime, we made our way to the See Ya Real Soon party. We rushed to get there in time only to find out that it was actually a 20-minute final meet and greet with all of the characters followed by a 5-minute show on the staircase. We were able to get a final picture with Mickey and Goofy in their cruise uniforms.

Dinner was at Royal Palace again. Much like Pirate Night, I was expecting some sort of show in the dining room, but there wasn’t one. We bid farewell to our tablemates and servers at the end of dinner, knowing that we wouldn’t be at breakfast the next morning.

After doing some packing back in the room, we headed to the Believe show. It was amazing! It was lively with lots of songs and dancing to keep our son engaged. The interesting storyline and adult humor scattered about kept the parents happy, too.

We headed back to the room and rushed to pack and have our bags in the hallway by 10:30pm.

Day 6 – Disembarkation/Kennedy Space Center/Southwest Flight
Having to be out of the room by 8:00am was a challenge for us. Our son decided to sleep in that day and the last thing we wanted to do was wake him. However, we managed to get out the door around 8:15am. Now you can understand why the 6:45am breakfast wasn’t going to work for us. Instead, we decided to snack on breakfast bars and fruit in our room that morning.

We headed over to Shutters to pick up the CD that we ordered the night before. There were absolutely no lines at this particular time. We opted to buy all of the digital images from our trip for $240. There weren’t a lot of images and they weren’t all great, but enough that it wasn’t worth the time or trouble to sort through them on the ship. You could get 10 images for $150 but that seemed absurd. Considering we didn’t spend a lot of extra cash while on the cruise, it was worth the splurge.

The disembarkation process was quick and seamless. There were no lines whatsoever. We walked off the ship, through security and into the port where there were tons of porters offering to help with your bags. Unfortunately, our porter had no idea where he was going and lead us to the wrong place. Make sure you read the signs yourself. Customs took about 30 seconds. He simply looked at our paper, smiled and waved us through.

We had the same friendly shuttle driver to take us back to the Dollar Rental Car location. When we arrived, we noticed a sign for Dollar Express members in front of the closed Alamo counter (they share a building) and a separate line with 5-6 families at the Dollar counter. We asked an employee passing by if we should stand at the Dollar Express line and he said it looked like it was closed so we got in the other line. When my husband finally reached the counter, that employee told him he should have waited next to the Dollar Express sign because is paperwork was all ready and he just needed to sign. Live and learn.

Since our flight wasn’t until 5:40pm, we decided to spend the day at The Kennedy Space Center. A good friend of ours works there and was able to get us complimentary tickets. The Space Center is about a 20-30 minute drive from the port. The weather was rainy with thunderstorms possible so we were glad we didn’t have to pay for admission. The rain seemed to keep the crowds away, though. We were able to get through almost all of the exhibits very quickly, plus grab lunch at one of their many cafeterias. When the storm rolled in, we kept shelter in a large playground area suitable for both toddlers and older kids.

We headed back to the airport around 2:00pm and were lucky to have our son take a nap on the way. The rental car drop-off was, once again, seamless. We simply pulled up and unloaded.

My son and I headed to the Disney store for some last-minute souvenirs while my husband picked up our boarding passes and checked our luggage. Then we were off through security. The lines were mostly painless but the employees were extremely unpleasant. Once again, we boarded the monorail to our terminal where we grabbed some dinner before heading to our gate. The food and retail options at the airport were great. There was a retail store for every major Orlando attraction as well as McDonald’s, Fresh Express, Pizza and Starbucks for food.

Early Bird Check-In had us boarding in the A30’s group again. Although we had a later flight returning home, we opted to keep our son awake rather than have to wake him up to switch planes and get in the car. The first leg of our flight arrived late, but, luckily, our connecting flight was also delayed. This gave me just enough time to change a diaper. The second leg of our trip was much shorter so we opted to not use the iPad and, instead, brought out some Disney cruise character figurines that he hadn’t seen yet. We landed, put our son in pajamas and headed home.

General Observations
Here are some observations that I either didn’t mention above or needed repeating. Let’s call it the Cliffnotes of the trip report.
• If we had to do it again, we wouldn’t take an excursion in Nassau, maybe just get off boat for a little bit, plenty to do onboard
• Would’ve liked to do more adult activities (i.e. magic show, Palo, animation class, yoga, stretch, 5K)
• All employees were genuinely nice and great with kids of all ages
• Not enough professional pictures to justify cost of package ($240 for all, $150 for 10)
• Although we didn’t do this, I wouldn’t want to combine a theme park trip with a cruise, too exhausting for little ones
• We may try the Disney shuttle bus in the future but liked the flexibility of having our own car
• Day at Sea was the best, by far – most relaxing and felt like “vacation”
• Wouldn’t do dining rooms every night, would do more casual dinner (Cabanas/Flo’s) one or two nights
• Loved the size of the room, perfect for 3, probably even 4, curtain worked really well, very dark, bathrooms were a good size, rain shower was a nice unexpected surprise

Overall, we definitely plan on taking another Disney cruise in the future – most likely another 4 or 5-night. However, the Royal Caribbean cruises out of Florida had comparable offerings at a more reasonable price. So, we may try that out too.
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:25 AM   #2
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Excellent report! Thank you for taking the time to type all that out. We were actually on the 4 day right before you!! Then headed to Disney for 10 more days. A fantastic trip. Anyway, thanks for helping me to re live a great cruise, nice job.
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Old 05-18-2013, 12:32 AM   #3
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Great report. We were on the same sailing as you and on the same dining rotation.
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Old 05-18-2013, 01:56 PM   #4
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Do you have to sign up for the Wake Up & Stretch class or do you just show up?

Enjoyed reading your report. We leave next Sunday on the same cruise.
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Old 05-20-2013, 08:24 AM   #5
Simply Stated
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glfnjoe View Post
Do you have to sign up for the Wake Up & Stretch class or do you just show up?
You just show up for this class. No sign up or fee is required. You meet in the spa lobby and go up to Deck 12/13.
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Old 05-21-2013, 01:21 AM   #6
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Car rentals and fuel level

My trip last week we picked our car up at MCO and didn't pay attention to the fuel level because they told me it had a full tank. A couple miles down the road I discovered it had a quarter of a tank. Of course there was no way of getting a hold of the Avis agency at MCO so I thought the mileage on the odometer would be fine since they gave me an option of a $13 flat rate but upon arrival the next day they gave me the option of going to fill the car up or being charged $13 plus a gallon even though the paper work and odometer showed 61 miles driven. I was then given the option to call the corporate number and they did correct it and didn't even charge me for what I drove. Upon return I picked up at Dollar and the car was at 3/4 but it reflected it in the paperwork and the rep told me. I have no complaints but just wanted to say check because I'd never rented a car that wasn't full before.
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Old 06-09-2013, 09:47 AM   #7
Goldberry
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Thank you for this! Good info. We will be on the Dream sailing next week, also using Dollar, as there are six of us, too expensive to use the Disney bus. Good to know they have shuttles.
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Old 06-09-2013, 11:30 AM   #8
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Thanks for posting your TR! We're doing the Blue Lagoon excursion too (coming up in September) so it was very interesting (and informative!) to read your take on that. I wonder if we will feel the same way. Do you remember if there was the option to sign up for a seal encounter while on the Island? We just signed up for the beach day, but I'm hoping I could add that on once on the island (so that I know the weather is cooperative).
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:30 AM   #9
jmoz23
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Excellent review! My family and I are going in Nov. and your tips are noted!
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:08 AM   #10
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Thanks for the informative trip report! We're doing this trip over Thanksgiving and are doing the Dolphin Encounter for the older kids in our party.
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Old 10-01-2013, 11:12 AM   #11
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Great TR!
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Old 10-01-2013, 01:18 PM   #12
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Thank you so much for taking the time to post your TR. Lots of good information for newbies --- we are taking the same cruise in Feb 2014. Cannot Wait.

Question - what location were you in to view the fireworks display??

We will have a 5-year-old (a fireworks-loving 5-year-old) with us, and I want to be sure we're in an optimum spot.

Thanks again for the report.
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Old 12-12-2013, 01:18 AM   #13
jenjen2013
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thank you for the report. this was most helpful
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