Part 1 : Sea Cruise “So be my guest, you’ve got nothing to lose…won’t you let me take you on a sea cruise?” First, an introduction. I’m sure many a Disney Cruise Line adventure begins, as ours did…with the Travel Channel. It was a hot, lazy holiday…Labor Day in fact. On TV was one of the “ten best” shows, the ten best water parks in the US or something like that. It was on in the background -on our back patio set- as we lounged in the pool . At the top of the hour a feature on the Disney Cruise Line came on. First my husband noticed it and made his way from the grill to check it out. Then the kids swam up to the side where they could see. Before I knew it I was up off the float and under the lanai. None of us had ever been on a cruise before, or had even really thought about taking one. But the show was only a few minutes in before we knew what our next vacation would be. Being from central Florida, Disney is part of growing up around here. Both my husband, Ron (32), the kids (son Brendan, 7; daughter Savannah, 6) and I have been lucky enough to be frequently spoiled by the magic of the Disney Parks since we were little. (Me in my mouseketeer days, and in the pic on the right that’s me (far right) at about 2 years old pondering whether or not I really wanted to go up to that huge mouse!) Some of my most vivid childhood (and adult!) memories are of my frequent visits to the Magic Kingdom. We go every year, usually in March for my birthday if for no other reason than it’s a good time of the year to go (weather-wise, not crowd-wise). Here are the kids, Brendan & Savannah in our March 2006 trip: In 2005, we decided to make our annual trip a mini-vacation. Instead of going for one day, we stayed for several – at the UnContemporary. (we have a long running joke between us about the 70’s architecture at WDW- in particular the Contemporary and “Yesterdayland” which is what we called the pre-renovation Tomorrowland.) From the 2005 trip: Anyway, we had a fantastic time at the resort and realized it couldn’t be too long before we did a Disney vacation again. So fast forward to Labor Day ‘06, we are out on the patio with the laptop checking stateroom availability. (I think that was before the show even ended). We actually didn’t end up booking until a week or two later. We had selected March to sail, again usually a good weather gamble. Also, having two kids who hate to miss school we decided it would have to be during spring break. And it didn’t coincide with a possible Jimmy Buffett concert in our area, and those always take precedence and have to be scheduled around. (Though it came close to this one in February at Florida State University in Tallahassee) You can see we are serious about our Parrothead pre-show parties: Okay, back on topic. So now it was time for research. The rates during March (which is, of course “season”) were very high, so a 7–day was soon out of the question. We were admittedly pretty obsessed with the restaurants and the rotational dining concept. We didn’t want to miss a single thing, especially not a restaurant. We absolutely HAD to do Palo, and besides those 3 night cruises just seem too darn short! A 4-night it was. And so that left only one departure date, March 18, 2007. Only 3 days after my 33rd birthday – PERFECT! It was to be a “very merry unbirthday” for me! On to the logistics. Admittedly I am an obsessive pre-planner. I want to know absolutely everything about everything. I want to have everything I might possibly need. Some might call me a control freak. I call it prepared (in fact the motto of my Brownie Troop 454 was “Be Prepared”). But please do not confuse prepared with organized. There IS a difference. I began my research by trolling first DCL websites, then the DISboards. I became addicted to trip reports and bought both Birnbaum’s Guide to DCL and also the Passporter. I was sure I knew everything there pretty much was to know about DCL. The selection of our stateroom was where I first planned to implement my new found knowledge. Money was an issue, as even the cheapest staterooms were pricey (spring break- ugh). We weighed the whole verandah/porthole vs place to crash issue and decided since we are would be out and about the ship or in port most of the time that we didn’t need a more luxurious stateroom. Since there didn’t seem to be too much difference in square footage among the higher categories (i.e. our price range) we decided to choose a higher category. I would have taken a Cat. 12, but they were all on deck 2 and I had read deck 2 was noisy. I chose a centrally located (deck 7 midship) Cat. 11, and decided to forgo any hope of an upgrade by selecting a specific cabin. 7539 would be our home away from home. Only much smaller. Much, much smaller. Just how much smaller would not be evident for six months yet. I worried that come 75 days prior to sail, (when us first timers get to make our excursion, Palo, and spa selections and reservations) everything we wanted would be booked up. I made sure to go on the website after midnight on day 75, but it was still telling me it was not time yet. Now I know they let you do it sometime around 3am. But thankfully getting up in the middle of the night was not necessary. In the morning around 10 am, I got right on and was able to make our Nassau Dolphin Discovery Excursion booking, our Palo dinner reservation, and our Banana Boat ride reservation. We even changed Palo the next evening and had no problem getting what we wanted. I did check back a couple of weeks prior to departure and discovered all of the excursions in Nassau were booked, as were all Palo slots! I was pretty surprised at that seeing as we what we wanted so easily. I was hoping to book a Palo brunch but discovered if we wanted that, we would have to do the ressie scramble on the boat. Another of my cruise obsessions was our dinner rotation and all that entails. Knowing a night at Palo was a must, we knew we would be missing a regular rotation restaurant menu. (On the 4 night cruise, you repeat one restaurant but the repeated night is Pirate Night, which has its own special menu). We tried as hard as we could to plan which night would be the best to miss for Palo, but it was really hard finding out which night was the repeat. The guides and literature I had indicated the repeated restaurant was the last night of the cruise, but I had read on DIS some cruises repeated the 2nd night, some the 3rd. Calling Disney didn’t clarify that, as again they could not confirm which night would be Pirate night as cruise itineraries are subject to change (aaaarrrgh). So we made an educated guess that Pirate Night would likely be the 3rd night and we didn’t want to miss that. We selected Monday (2nd night- Nassau) for our Palo ressies and hoped for the best. Compound all that with the claim that “they don’t do the show in Animators the 2nd night” and we were really way too stressed out about this dinner issue. A few weeks out I was able to find copies of some recent Navigators online and was happy to see that Pirate Night was in fact night 3. Whew. So we called Disney to see if they could tell us what our rotation was, to make sure we didn’t have Animator’s Palate on night 2, since we didn’t want to miss the “show”. And of course…..we did. So we put in a request to have our rotation changed. They said they would put in the “request” but could make no promises. We would find out for sure when we checked in, and could try to reassign on the boat. Before we knew it fall had arrived , Halloween passed….then Thanksgiving…Christmas…Valentines Day….Buffett Show (YES, those ARE Holidays!), March was here. Sail date was approaching…time to shop! Because as you may or may not know, if you are going on a cruise you have to buy things for said cruise. Like clothes. Shoes. And jewelry. More luggage to hold all the other crap you are buying. Stuff like that. I am pretty sure we spent more money actually buying things we needed for the cruise than we spent on the cruise itself. Then all that stuff has to find its’ way into the luggage..?!? I’m up to a challenge though. Two weeks to go and our cruise documents arrive. Departure day is creeping up on us quick. Then a week to go, still a few things to buy and a dining room full of stuff to cram in less than 8 suitcases. Panic began to set in on Tuesday the 13th, only a few days to get all this done. Oh the stress! Somehow I managed to get a decent amount of prep done Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, my birthday, was going to be spent ironing. You see, I never saw ironing discussed on the boards or in any of the books. I This bothered me because you aeren’t supposed to bring travel irons on board or use them in your room. Ironing boards would be provided in the laundry rooms on the ship. I knew two things for sure. I did not want to do any laundry on that ship nor did I want to stand in a line in my drawers in the laundry room ironing dress clothes when I could be up on Deck 9 with a Bahama Mama. So I spent literally ALL DAY Thursday ironing every stitch of clothing that was going with us on that ship. Ron came in from work shaking his head at the futility of it all, though I swore it would make a difference later. (I WAS RIGHT, btw). But just in case I was going to smuggle on the travel iron. The worst they could do was confiscate it, right? And that is IF they could find it in the mountains of toiletries and styling tools crammed in that gigantic duffel. Friday was spent doing last minute shopping, and packing. Emergency trips to Wal Mart for wire coat hangers, silly me not realizing the fat plastic ones won’t fit in the garment bag! Oh and did I mention the packing? Yeah. We ended up with what I thought was five full size suitcases, a duffel bag, and a garment bag…which should add up to seven. Inside one of the suitcases was an empty duffel bag to fill with souvenirs and such, which means we would come back with eight bags (note: foreshadowing). The rest of Friday and Saturday went smooth, and before I knew it, it was after midnight on Saturday and I could not sleep. But of course I couldn’t! The day we had been awaiting for six long months had arrived! It was departure day!!!!