DCL for the non-Disney crowd: Eastern Carib. Fantasy Jan 26 - Feb 3 2013 - all done!

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by Conorama, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Printing on board - or, one more thing I forgot to mention

    Before I get us off the ship, I should mention one thing we learned on the cruise, thanks to the FE business.

    I had meant to print out some short notes to include with our FE gifts (in the baggies) at home, but I totally forgot ... until Tuesday night on board. I did what any wise woman would do - I dispatched DH to guests services to see what options were open to me. He even went!

    They told him if I emailed the file to a certain email address, they would print it for me - and they did. I made sure it fit on one 8.5 * 11 page, so I don't know what they would do if you needed to print something else, but I was quite relieved, because, trust me, my handwriting is just plain AWFUL. I sent it to them on Tuesday night, and we got it back on Wednesday before supper (I told them I needed it by Thursday a.m. at the latest).

    So, we got over that hurdle.

    If I've forgotten anything anything else, we'll all just have to cope with the disappointment.
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  3. MomToPrincePhillip

    MomToPrincePhillip Mouseketeer

    Jul 4, 2012

    Thank you! I'll look forward to it.
  4. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Reflections on Day 7

    We enjoyed Day 7 particularly since (all together now), it wasn't really scheduled. It was nice to just hang on the beach until we were done hanging on the beach, and then head back to hang on the ship. It certainly facilitated packing, etc. - perhaps by design? Who knows.

    The animation thing at AP is really neat, and was a nice way to end our dinners. I was relieved we weren't pressured to attend the next morning - I'd read about that - but maybe that's because we handed over tip envelopes early?

    We did have one frustrating experience that highlights the frustrations of everyone being in one place. In the middle of supper, Conor announced he really needed to pee - DH and I had each thought the other had engaged in the usual argument earlier, but it was clear that this hadn't happened, and we had to get moving.

    I dashed out with him to the washrooms right outside AP, and there was a short-line up. Conor started to really do the pee dance, and I was getting worried. Now, when I see parents in this situation when I'm not with a kid (or even if I AM with a kid who isn't in dire need to pee), I generally allow the more desperate folks to go ahead of me. Nope. There was a very obvious lack of eye contact, and I sensed (perhaps wrongly, I'll grant you) that no one was going to budge - and, no, the people ahead of us in line - 2 of them, had no kids. So, yes, I know - maybe they also REALLY had to go, but I just got a very unfriendly vibe, so we left.

    Fortunately, we were the experts on the ship having done a gagillion mysteries, so I knew we could just run upstairs (and I mean RUN) into the cool bathrooms in the bars with the rounded doors. We just made it into the stall, and Conor, once he starts, announces to all who are around: "AHHHHH - that feels MUCH better!" - upon which I heard some giggles outside the stall. :rotfl:

    At this point, I realized I was truly ready to get away from the throngs, because that's how it was feeling. I will note that we never had to wait otherwise in bathrooms, so this was not a common thing - it was more that the number of people was finally getting to me, anyway.

    As for CC? Well, it's quite lovely. It was not, however, the best place in the world for us (more on that at the end). We had no complaints (they can't help how cold the water was that day), but we didn't get the WOW that many others seem to get. It was, however, a beach, so Conor was happy.

    I was glad we hit up the pools after CC, though -Conor truly had a spectacular time on his 40 trips down the Mickey slide, which was only possible since so many other people were down on CC, so it served its purpose. I'm surprised his bum didn't hurt!

    Long story short - it was a good day, but I knew we were ready to head home.

    Next - we once again experience more transportation methods in one day that most people do in a week on our way home.
  5. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Day 8 - AKA Disembarking/Debarking/Getting off the ship

    (If you're wondering how I did this one so quickly - I wrote it out of order and just saved it to post. I am just getting cooler by the minute, don't you think? ;) )

    I think even I slept in on Saturday morning- you know, to about 6:30. I went up to cash in on one more free latté, and to bid adieu to Robert - he was great the whole week. :)

    (In case folks were looking for other caffeine venues, there is also another coffee place- Vista café, on Deck 4. The coffee is the same, the ambiance is not - it's kind of in a hallway, near a bunch of desks and, more often than not, line-ups for characters. There is also a distinct Robert shortage there.)

    I roused the men for about 7:15, and they finally got moving at about 7:30. We had a nice, quiet, peaceful breakfast on the balcony watching all the luggage come off the ship, and were grateful we hadn't tried to make it to our MDR.

    There was then the usual last-minute stuff - getting Conor dressed, putting all our PJs and stuff into one of our bags, triple checking our documents, and doing a final sweep of the room - much of which was accomplished by parking Conor in front of the TV while we got things in order. Most of this even happened without DH and I panicking or disagreeing! (Most, but not all...)

    We then practiced our now-perfected sheep impressions, to prepare for the day.

    We guessed, accurately, that the elevators would be very busy today, so we wrangled our bags down the stairs 6 flights to Deck 3, which was surprisingly, not painful.

    There were what appeared to be many long lines in the lobby, so we found one to park in. Meanwhile, DH found a home for the comment card, in which we had, as per Disboard suggestions, made sure we named special CMs by name - so Roque, Robert (of course), Rosa (cabin attendant, whose tip we also bumped up, since she respected our privacy very nicely), and Milos in Palo. DH also mentioned Fletcher in Meridian, who had done a number of the tastings earlier in the trip.

    And then, we prepared to wait.


    Fortunately, the line started to move shortly after we arrived. This went so smoothly, I honestly can't remember all the details - I think we did our usual thing of showing our KTTW cards at at least one point, if not more. We kept moving along - there were absolutely no points where we stood around.

    I remember emerging in the port with all the baggage. We found the Mickey section, and then DH and Conor went on a hunt for the bags. I, being smarter, went on a hunt for a CM, and found Flip, who had checked us in initially, helping others find their luggage... because they organize it by the last digit of your cabin #, I think. Flip and I pointed the men at the bags, and then Conor took credit for finding the bags.

    I was looking at the next line with something approaching despair, and noted Flip getting porters for others, so I asked him to get us one, and we piled our bags on his cart, and off we went.

    This was one LONG snaky line to go through US customs. It did move along at a good clip, but it was still 10-15 minutes for us. Fortunately, we had Conor's i-pod touch handy, so he wasn't whining... I just needed to shepherd him along like the little sheep he was. (Get it? Shepherd? ... yes, sad, I know.)

    During this time, I had my mandatory day-of-departure anxiety moment- I had, in my cleaning fit, thrown out our cruise documents (I'm not sentimental about these things), so I didn't know how we could show that we had booked DCL ground transportation, so, once again, I did what I usually do in these situations - asked DH to ask someone.

    (Don't judge! I am a strong person normally - I have a job where I make decisions all the time, and act all grown up and everything - but I have some very specific social anxieties, and it comes out in situations like this. To this day, after being together for 17 years, DH is still amazed that I don't flinch at public speaking - and in fact, enjoy it - but I die a thousand deaths before I can order pizza by phone.)

    Anyhow ... KTTW to the rescue! Our cards had 2 letters on them - PA, I think - anyhow -that indicates that we had airport to port, and port to airport transportation.

    We had filled out our customs card too the night before, so that was ready to go, so we zipped through customs, with our very nice porter. I LIKE this system.

    Our porter took us out to the DCL buses, and found us the next bus - CM guy there asked us our airline, and then told us we needed to get off at the first airport stop. The porter helped stash our main bags under the bus, and we happily tipped him for all his help - he was a nice young guy.

    We boarded, and within about 15 minutes, we were on our way. One hour, many Disney promotional videos, and a bunch of robot-making games later, we were at the MCO, at the first stop.

    Next up ... nope, not flying yet ... exploring MCO.
  6. Ensusieasm

    Ensusieasm Mouseketeer

    Feb 14, 2013
    Still enjoying your trip report, and hoping for more! That is really nice that Disney was able to print your FE paper! They always seem to try and spread a little pixie dust :wizard: whenever they can! I'm a little nervous to hear about the "throngs". I am already trying to think of some ways around it. Luckily we will have a Palo brunch and a Palo dinner on two of the sea days. We are also going to do breakfast and lunch at the alternative dining room of the day every day. I am a very early bird so I will take advantage of quiet mornings though I don't even drink coffee.....AND......drumroll please......unbelievably......I snagged a last minute cabana at Serenity Bay today! :banana: It's outrageously expensive but I want to pretend I own a beach house on a Caribbean island! I figure if I have this to look forward to I will be able to better handle the masses of humanity on the ship. Now I'll sneak in one little question....Were you also able to get your airline boarding passes printed by the CMs at the front desk?
    Thanks again for your top notch reporting. Sorry no one let your little pirate ahead of them in line when he had a full tank. I sure would have!
  7. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    I'll comment more about this at the end, but the throngs really weren't bad - I was just getting tired by then. Then again, I don't think the ship was full - once you figure out the patterns, you can avoid them. Princesses in the lobby? AVOID. Pools on at-sea days? (mostly) AVOID. Atrium on the last night? AVOID. I think if you're just adults, it will be much easier- the adults-only sections generally seemed calm when I wandered through. Cabanas was not crazy busy if you went a bit early or a bit later - we never had to scramble for a table, and, if the mood struck us, we just took it down to our room.

    Congrats on the Cabana! We looked, and no-go. We would have paid, too.

    We didn't inquire about the boarding passes, since we always have to line up to check in anyway for mysterious reasons we don't understand. I'm sure someone on here will know, though.

    Thx again!
  8. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Quality Time at MCO

    Once at MCO, we took a bit of time to rearrange the luggage and check the weights - just a bit of game of musical clothing was needed, and the bags were all between 47 and 48 lbs, which pleased me beyond what is reasonable.

    There were some very nice undergraduate students there doing an assignment - this is at about 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday a.m., and since I know the pain of student life, I participated. They wanted to know why were there, where we were from, etc., and then they wanted to know if we would ever be interested in an app about Orlando for tourists, and how much I would pay for it, and would I buy it if I was told about it when I was renting a car. I really felt for them, so I just gently explained that I research everything 20 times over BEFORE I go anywhere, so being offered an app upon arrival would not likely tempt me - I need REVIEWS. I need BLOGS. I need technical analysis! I was nicer than that, though.

    DH trundled off during this process to find a luggage cart, and when I finished with the students, we made our way to check in with our friends at Air Canada. After standing in line for about 10 minutes, a manager came out to ask if anyone was going on the Montreal flight - and then he asked those people to get out of line, as they weren't ready to check that flight in yet. After about 5 minutes, it finally occurred to me that our flight was due to leave AFTER the Montreal flight, so we were not likely to be able to check in either. We confirmed, and got out of line, bummed out that we would have to truck our bags around for at least another hour.

    When the going gets tough, the tough head to Starbucks, which is what we did. Newly caffeinated (adults only) and victualed, we then took turns exploring MCO with Conor while the other adult babysat the luggage. Fortunately, MCO, like most airports is an excellent place for people watching, so time went by pretty quickly.

    Space boy

    Conor's memory is problematic in that he never forgets what we hope he will forget. So, he remembered the "Cool Space Store" that he had glimpsed when we arrived at MCO a week before, and he really wanted to go. DH braved the store with Conor, and, not surprisingly, they two of them succumbed to temptation, to get this:


    At this point, I dragged them off to check in, already, before they bought more stuff I would have to get through security.

    More MCO

    Check-in once again required lining up - about 15 minutes this time ...or longer, and I've just blocked it out. We had a great debate at this point about Conor peeing, because it looked like the lines for security were long.

    Adults prevailed, barely, and Conor was thrilled to see a built-in, folding down step stool in the bathroom at the sinks - brilliant, actually. Hey- I'll take whatever it takes for him to pee!

    We organized ourselves to go through security, and braved the lines. They were, however, much better than the last time we were in Florida - 5 years before we flew home out of Miami on Superbowl Sunday. Let us assure you that the that was a trip - heightened security in a US airport is not something we felt like trying twice - we are simple Canadians from small-town Ontario. I think we were in line for 2 hours there before getting through security. It was definitely over an hour, and I was pregnant, so not fun.

    Surprisingly, the lines moved fairly quickly - 2 lines - first, to get your passport (or photo ID, I guess) and boarding card checked, then, to clear security.

    In the security line, I noted the scary body scanners, and dreaded taking Conor through, as I knew that would get ugly. When it was our turn, we filled our multiple bins with my laptop, other random electronics, Sockie, small bags, coats/hoodie, and other stuff. DH and I were taking our shoes off when a very nice TSA guy told me that Conor and I could go through the "normal" scanner, since Conor was too short for the big one. Yippee!

    At this point, we noticed that Conor had taken off his shoes (despite having just been told he didn't need to - he was genuinely trying to help), and was trying to find a bin for them - nice TSA guy got him a little bin just for his shoes, and this totally made my morning. I'm sure that job isn't fun, but this small act of kindness actually improved his day too, because he didn't have to listen to me wrestle a weeping child through security. Yeah, TSA guy! :flower3:

    Lunch, and other people's children - in a good way

    Having emerged unscathed on the other end of security, we assembled our gear and headed to the shuttle-train-thing. This time, the ride was in daylight, so it was even more exciting, in that one could see PLANES!!!! Imagine that at an airport. :)

    We got to our terminal and found a Mexican place for lunch - something sorely lacking in small town Ontario. While we were waiting for our food, Conor asked nicely if he could play with his Space Shuttle, so I got it out for him.

    He was almost instantly joined by Ben, who, in short order, reported that he was 5, had been to Disney, was flying home to New Hampshire on Jet Blue, and that he knew all this stuff because he was in Kindergarten. In short, we met Conor's kindred spirit. Ben's Dad was watching luggage and a younger sibling, and he was trying to get Ben back to the table, but we assured him that we didn't mind, and heck, we had a version of Ben. The two of them investigated the shuttle, the rockets, the astronauts, and exchanged views about school, flying, and space shuttles, but did not talk about Disney, interestingly. As Ben was persuaded to leave with his family, he and Conor agreed to speak again. :)

    After lunch, we meandered off to our gate, while DH stopped at duty free to buy some old bottle of scotch or other, to join the collection of old bottles of scotch that live in my house. It came in a nifty container, that shall reappear later in this tale.

    And, with that, dear readers, I shall retire for the night.
  9. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Planes and a cautionary tale from a previous trip

    Our plane left on time. I think we were in the air for about 5 minutes, when I wondered why Conor wasn't talking, and I looked down and saw this:


    Conor *never* naps anymore in the afternoons, so this was a sign that he was really tired - which, I think just reflects the over-excitement of the last few days, since he went to sleep at his usual time, and wasn't up early.

    He slept for about 90 minutes. I knew we would pay for it later, but clearly he needed it. DH also promptly fell asleep, so Kobo and I had some quality time together. :cloud9:

    When he woke up, I showed him the photo - he stated he was not having a nap - I had just caught him in a "long blink". :rolleyes:

    A cautionary tale- beware parents of small children - this is nightmare-inducing - but it turns out OK in the end .. just like a Disney story

    Next to Conor is the now-famous Sockie. Sockie has been his sleeping friend (his words) since he was about 6 months old. He has been on just about every trip we've taken, and he should have his own frequent flyer points. He is truly awesome - he's big, soft, (so-far) indestructible, and he's basically somewhat like sock-monkey, except he's a sock-dog (his other name). He was a gift from close friends - purchased lovingly at a specialty baby store - all organic and all.

    Back when Conor was 2, we flew back to St. John's to visit family. Conor insisted on carrying Sockie with him in the stroller, as usual. We boarded our flight, and he and DH fell asleep once we were in the air - about 15 minutes in, I had a horrifying revelation - we didn't have Sockie. :scared1:

    I smacked DH, who awoke instantly (funny, that), and immediately got a look of terror in his eyes when I hissed: "Where is Sockie????". We both just knew it - Sockie was back at YYZ.

    When Conor woke up, I instituted a plan - I hyped up the fact that as soon as we got to St. John's, we would go to the toy store to pick out a super-special Newfoundland sleeping friend that Conor could pick out himself. Fortunately, he bought in to this plan, which we implemented. Thus - we acquired a stuffed dog (not organic - more synthetic). Fortunately, Conor is a great sleeper, and was totally fine sleeping with his new friend (now called Spots, but he was called "Doggie" back then).

    Meanwhile, back in parent-land- we still need to solve the Sockie problem - no Sockie in Newfoundland? Not a problem. No Sockie back in Ontario? PROBLEM.

    I found the contact info for lost and found at Pearson and composed a somewhat frantic email. To help out our cause, I looked for a photo of Sockie I could use and, the best one was this one:


    Yep - that is Sockie eating a banana. Was I embarrassed? Nope. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    In the meantime, I went on-line to find another Sockie - DH and I agreed that back-up was required in the future, and I found another Sockie ... to the tune of $70. Yep - my kid's favourite sleeping toy costs $70 once taxes and shipping were factored in. However, continuing good sleep is certainly worth $70, so out came the credit card - we hoped we would have our new Sockie by the time we got home.

    Oh, the happy dances that followed when YYZ Lost and Found notified us they had Sockie, and we are ever-grateful to whomever turned him in. :yay:

    At that time, we were still using the short hop flights to local small airport to get from Toronto home - so we had a longish layover in Toronto. As soon as we got off the plane and found a spot for DH and Conor to hang, I nabbed my passport, wallet, and boarding pass, and set off to find lost and found - which is somewhat ironic, really.

    It was (and still is, I imagine) in the bowels of YYZ. I'm pretty sure it could not have been further from our gate. I hightailed it down there, with the photo of Sockie ready to display on my phone, and the details of the email I received ready to pull up. I meet up with an extremely tall and big and intimidating security guard. "Hi, I'm here to pick up my son's toy, um, dog... but it kind of looks like a monkey ... I mean, it looks like this ... *thrusts phone under security guard's nose*, and the reference number is this ..." Security guard was not having a happy day, it seems, so, without expression he ambled off to locate Sockie, which he did, and I nearly hugged him.

    Next, as a grown woman, I had to walk across the entire length of the airport, holding Sockie. I stood in line at security, holding Sockie. I had Sockie go through the scanner. I then reunited Sockie with Conor, and the world was a happier place.

    Now -... is the story done? Oh no.

    At home, our other delivery had arrived, but we thought we would be clever parents (just abandon this thought we know now, but back then, we were still green), and just use the 2 Sockies in rotation, so that we would always have a back-up. At the very least, it would help when Sockie needed washing, since he can't go in the dryer, he's out of commission for a day or so.

    For about 6 months, we sneak about surreptitiously, keeping the 2 Sockies separate, like some absurdist film from the 60s. We have some close calls, but we manage it. Sockie 1 and Sockie 2 are in rotation - Conor noted the difference a few times but wasn't bothered by it: "Look Mommy! Sockie is MUCH more fluffy today!" Yep, sure bud.

    And then, the inevitable happens - Conor finds the other Sockie. I will never forget the moment - 2.5 year old Conor, running down the hall "Mommy! Look! 2 Sockies! 2 Sockies! I have 2 Sockies!"

    Yeah - you just can't turn the clock back.

    So, evermore, he sleeps with 2 Sockies - or, as they are know known, Sockie and Sock-dog. I can't tell the difference, but Conor seems to know. Fortunately, we have evolved to the point where we only have to bring one on a trip (it's a major deal to decide who is going on which trip), but until last year, we had to bring both. They're not, as you can see, small, either.

    And so, parents, if and when your child starts to become attached to a particular stuffy, go and buy another one immediately, and try not to curse the well-meaning but child-free friends who bought your kid a truly wonderful but expensive toy that then becomes essential.

    I will say, though, that Sockie and his doppelganger have stood the test of time. If you're interested, they're called "Bla Bla Dolls" and I, now, buy one for new babies (yep - I've turned into that friend) for that reason. They are perfect for really little ones to hold on to, and Conor still derives huge comfort from stroking Sockie (and Sock-Dog's) ears when he's stressed. Most mornings, he comes downstairs with Sockie and/or Sock-dog in the crook of his arm, and the 3 of us have a cuddle together.

    And... we've never left him at an airport again. We've developed a sixth sense for Sockie - and Conor carries him right up until the moment when we go through security, and Sockie is lovingly placed in a bin, usually with Conor's hoodie for company, to go for a ride. Conor then dash through the scanner to get to the other side (this is good, as the scanner used to freak him out) to watch Sockie come through, and usually he (Conor, not Sockie) provides sound effects "Wheeee!"

    Now, Sockie and his master are bound to get up shortly, so I need to get breakfast and school lunch organized.
  10. pirateluv

    pirateluv Mouseketeer

    Jun 27, 2010
    Thank you, what an amazing trip report! Love that last Sockie story. So sad to see the report is coming to an end.
    Honestly, this is one of the funniest and heartfelt reports that I have ever read. Great job. Best wishes for your next holiday, wherever it may be!!!
  11. Ensusieasm

    Ensusieasm Mouseketeer

    Feb 14, 2013
    Loved your latest chapters! I have an idea about how you can keep this blog going........Just keep reporting about the sock pals and what they are up to!.....With photos of course......And your followers will all stay tuned :happytv: popcorn::......right up until they get packed up for the trip to college! The photo of Conor asleep on the plane is so adorable! It's thousand words tell a tale of one very happy boy who just had a great vacation!
  12. KarenMP59

    KarenMP59 DVC Member

    Mar 29, 2012
    I can totally relate to the sockie story. When our daughter was little, she had a Teddy Rupskin that she HAD to listen to every night while she was falling asleep. In case you don't know, Teddy Rupskin was a teddy bear with a cassette player in his back and when he told you a story, his mouth and eyes would move. Kind of creepy sounding in retrospect but she loved that thing. Anyways, one night his face literally fell off. My husband and I freaked because we knew she would be traumatized if she saw Teddy with his face off. We managed to keep him in the dark where she couldn't see him and my husband raced to Toys R Us to get a replacement. When he got home we crept into her room to swap the Teddys. We were making all kinds of inappropriate comments to each other (whispering so as to not wake her) mostly about slipping the dead Teddy into the black garbage bag which my husband kept calling the body bag. We did manage to make the swap without her knowing but we still laugh about that night decades later (our daughter is 28 now lol). Love your TR!!! You are a gifted story teller :flower3:
  13. Mrs Green

    Mrs Green Mouseketeer

    Dec 9, 2012
    I can't agree more that having two of the favorite sleep aids is of utmost importance. For my dd it is an organic blankie. Luckily she is happy as long as she has one. I don't know what my ds, soon to be born, will attach to but whatever it is will be purchased in duplicate.

    Also agree with pp that you are an amazing story teller and we will miss read your tr!
  14. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Thanks so much - I suffer a bit from "in head, out mouth" when I'm typing, anyway, so I'm glad it's enjoyable.

    Thanks again - Sockie (and Sockdog, not to mention Baby Sockie) move around quite a bit, for sure.

    Oh, and Conor is not asleep, remember ... that is a long blink. :)

    That is totally awesome. We did have to retire "flashlight Pooh", because his light bulb burnt out and they don't make him anymore (everything new makes horrible noise - who is the genius that thought that sleeping aids for kids should sound so awful? Flashlight Pooh was mute, which is why we liked him). Fortunately, Star Turtle knows how to keep his mouth shut, and he was a decent replacement for Flashlight Pooh, so no harm done here ... so long as we have Sockie and co.

    Thanks for reading!

    Yeah- the trick is to hope your kid attaches to something that is readily replaceable - friends of ours had to buy a bear on e-bay in the UK .... and other friends got a replacement lamb, only to have it arrive 3 sizes too small, but they persuaded their daughter that Lambie had just been on a diet. :)

    Thanks again for reading!
  15. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Back at YYZ

    We exited from the plane after the masses, so as to ensure we retrieved our CARES harness. (Yep, we had left our first one on a plane years ago - to be fair, I was a bit distracted, since Conor had just puked all over me.... Air Canada claimed they never found it... but maybe we didn't want it back after that episode anyway.)

    Despite hanging back, when Conor and I got off the plane, the strollers still weren't out - so we nominated DH to stay behind. Conor and I headed out through the halls, etc. towards customs. In the middle of nowhere at YGK, I hear the dreaded words....

    "Mommy! I REALLY need to pee AND poop!"

    Great- I'm in an unfamiliar part of the airport, and DH is off waiting for the %## stroller, and my kid is about to explode. There are no public washrooms in sight. I've got way too many carry-on bags, and guess who is not willing to even pull his own little rolling suitcase (probably because he is about to explode).

    Oh, and, during this trip, Conor developed a bit of a phobia about escalators - GREAT TIMING, bud - and we had to go down one to get to a washroom. We made a scene (except no one was around - if you have a meltdown in a public place but no one hears ... is it still a meltdown? ... YES) but it was quick and we got on the escalator.

    Fortunately, DH saw us head down the escalator from way back .. and I caught his eye and announced loudly we were heading to a washroom to save HIM from freaking out when he couldn't find us - someone in the family needed to have a normal blood pressure at this point.

    Finally, I found the family bathroom, and it was empty - oh joy, oh bliss! :woohoo:

    After that, things settled down.

    Customs and Immigration or whatever it's called

    By hanging about until the end, you can often miss the line-ups. We advanced to the booth, and the guy read our card - he asked about what the "miscellaneous souvenirs" was, and, while I was explaining, Conor dug out his Space Shuttle from his suitcase, and asked to be lifted up to show the guy.

    Nice customs/immigration guy was cool - he oohed and aahed appropriately. Then, he REALLY got interested in DH's camera - initially, I was worried this was some red flag or something, but, nope, he was just a camera fanatic like DH. After their conversation that was technically in English but made no sense to me, we were through to get our bags.

    Baggage claim

    Now, gentle readers, you will recall that getting off the plane is only the very beginning of the end of your journey. The worst part of traveling with children is yet to come ... waiting for bags.

    Fortunately, thanks to the FE, I had stashed some novel items in Conor's bag, ready for such emergencies. Conor and I parked our butts in a corner with the carry-on stuff, while DH went and stood amongst other impatient and tired and cold Canadians.

    He (Conor, not DH) worked on his Cars colouring/sticker book for a good 15 minutes- I was impressed. 15 minutes in tired 4 year old land might as well be 3 days. It's golden.


    Finally, all 3 bags appeared, and we loaded up the luggage cart to head to the Sheraton.

    Our main delay was the fact that the Royal Ontario Museum has a display of dinosaur bones in Terminal 1, and it is physically impossible for Conor to pass these without intense inspection and 30,256 questions. It didn't help that they had a big dinosaur trying to eat a little dinosaur - this precipitated another 800 dozen or so questions.

    OK, so THEN, we finally made our way to the Sheraton.
  16. Nicki828

    Nicki828 Mouseketeer

    Aug 3, 2008
  17. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    To be honest, he might have come every meal, but it was for about 30 seconds most of the time, so I don't remember. I don't blame him in anyway - we are quite low-maintenance - no special food needs, no real concerns about anything, and no real need for a head waiter. I am sure he was doing a lot behind the scenes, and we did tip him extra too. I definitely never saw him helping get the food out, though, and I was generally positioned so I would have seen (I'm a "back to the wall" person!)

    He did check in in more detail for sure about mid-way through. We were happy, so there was nothing for him to do. He mostly just told us the stuff that Roque had already mentioned (where the meal would be the next night, etc.)
  18. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    Sheraton Gateway YYZ

    In case you were wondering, I haven't forgotten that I need to post about whether we'll be going back on DCL - that will be the last post. You can't make these decisions in haste!

    Back to the Sheraton Gateway. We have stayed here on some part of 3 trips with Conor - this one, and two others when he was 1.5 and 2.5, plus one trip pre-Conor (when I was pregnant, actually). Obviously, we keep going back, so there must be a reason!

    As I've said before - the main purpose of airport hotels is to get you a good sleep before or after a flight (or in between, I suppose - we've done that too). It has a particularly important role for us, though, on our winter vacations - helping with the transition back to cold reality.

    While I like the convenience of the Sheraton before a flight (not having to go outside in minus-frigid weather to get to our gate the morning of our trip has huge benefits to my frame of mind), I love the Sheraton on the way home, for its ability to help me gradually transform - I feel like I go to bed still (mostly) in summer mode, and wake up in winter mode. It also means not driving 300+ winter km while tired, which is huge.

    Since we've been there when Conor was little, I can tell you they do provide cribs (not sure about Pack'n'Plays), and they're the usual hotel kind - non-adjustable, but safe and on the small side. We used to have a trick with Conor in hotel rooms when he was in a crib - pictures are worth a 1000 words, so....


    (Nearly got to the finals of Canada's Best Parent competition with this one!)

    Yep - to facilitate napping and bedtime, while he was falling asleep, we would drape a sheet over the side so he couldn't see us - it was always open at the top and one side, and we took it off once he was asleep. It was a bit of a sad day when we couldn't use this trick anymore. However, I then got very good at planning for some quality time in the dark in a hotel room - hello, Kobo, with a tiny book light, and please join us, i-phone with apps.

    The trek to our room

    Once we cleared the dinosaurs, we (finally) found the signs for Terminal 3 (Hyatt MCO has better signage for sure) and got to the tram - yet again, thrills for Conor. Our luggage cart came with us too, this time. When DH checked in, he noted the signs saying no luggage carts in the rooms (or on the elevators anyway), so he asked if a porter could help us - his sherpa arms/back were tired out, not surprisingly. The Desk clerk grinned and said sure, or you can use your cart... so, not being dense, we did.

    One last night before home.

    Most of the Sheraton Gateway standard rooms are not huge, but bigger than the room we had at MCO Hyatt. However, DH and I finally remembered to indicate our Starwood status on the reservation, so we got a huge room this time, which, given that we had our friend luggage cart with us, was a welcome thing.

    After the usual tour of the room "Wow Mom! This is cool! I can fit in the closet!", we decided on the restaurant for supper, based on not wanting to risk room-service delays. This is always a risk after a long flight - Conor can get a bit wild when he's tired, but hotel restaurants are low-risk in that there is always a lobby (tip I learned on another on-line forum) - so there is a place to go to run around.

    The food was OK and overpriced, as anticipated. :) This was followed by the now-boring bathroom, bath, books, and bed process, which also meant me sitting in the dark, since we no longer had Disney's brilliant curtain, and I can't put a sheet over my kid anymore. He now sleeps mostly on a nifty inflate-a-bed (a Tuckaire bed), which has the distinct advantage of taking up much less room than a cot, and we don't have to rig up bedrails since it's so close to the ground - it just wasn't worth bringing on our flight to MCO initially for one night.

    We did pay for someone's "long blink", as expected, so we didn't have the best night, but happily, we could sleep in as we weren't in a rush to get anywhere the next day.


    In my careful packing back on the Fantasy (remember that post?) I had ensured I had packed our swim stuff in an accessible place, since our goal was to wear out the kid in the pool before our drive home. In all our stays at the hotel, we'd never quite managed the pool before.

    It's lovely! We had it to ourselves for the better part of an hour. I adjusted to winter by using the hot-tub while the men swam about. I got to check out the change rooms after another "Mom!!! I really need to pee!!!" (I am guessing he swallowed a lot of pool water ... YUCK), and they were really nice too.

    And with that... we dried off, went back to the room, changed and gathered our gear (and luggage cart!), and left the room. DH fetched the car which was no worse for wear after its week inside, and we shivered, packed up, and hit the road.

    So, we're nearly done. I'm planning one more post on the trip home and the aftermath, and then a final reveal about our overall thoughts about DCL... will we return? :scratchin
  19. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    The Aftermath - or - how you feel after the vacation is over

    Conor was in an après-swim zen state, and we loaded up with electronics in the back seat, so the trip home was peaceful on that end, except for the mandatory sneaky pee argument wen we stopped at an OnRoute place. I also got ignored by the people at Tim Horton's, which was just bizarre. I persevered though, and obtained our supply of 10 old-fashion plain Timbits - yep, we're just wild.

    We had great weather (for February, in that it was not frigid, and it was dry - that's the best you can say) for the boring drive home on the 401, until about 20 minutes from home, where we suddenly hit this:


    Yep - snow squalls - yippee! So much fun while driving. Our last 20 minutes took closer to 40 minutes. On the upside, we were glad we had paid for the driveway plowing service to cover us on Sunday too.

    Home at last

    We arrived home to a fair bit of snow - so Conor was thrilled. Ah, to be 4.5 again!

    After that, it's just boring - unpacking, laundry, unpacking, laundry, find the cat puke, laundry, sort through mail, laundry, go get groceries, laundry.

    However, all this scintillating activity allows one to reflect on one's vacation, actually...

    Next up: The (next-to) last post.
  20. Conorama

    Conorama Mouseketeer

    Jul 18, 2012
    The Verdict

    I'll not keep you in suspense.

    We did not book again while on-board. :eek:

    We did not, however, rule out returning to DCL at some point in the future, but probably not for another few years, and probably not for a 7-day cruise. :duck:

    So - why not?

    2 reasons, really...

    The first reason - in photos, mainly

    First, this:


    (Conor on his first birthday)

    then, this:


    (Conor at 18 months)

    then, this:


    (Still 18 months, but I love this photo - so totally Conor)

    then, this:


    (Conor at 2.5)

    and, this:


    (Conor at 3.5)

    I think you've figured out the theme. :)

    Seriously, though - we take 1 vacation South a year, so we want to enjoy ourselves as much as possible, and we want to relax as much as possible. This, we find, at this stage in our lives, is best accomplished by having very little schedule, complimented by a lot of sand and pools.

    To be blunt, I don't WANT to have to read a navigator every day to make decisions about the next day. My job is such that I make a gagillion decisions a day, and I just don't want to on vacation - other than the "do I go to the juice bar now, or later?" By its very nature, a cruise (any cruise) has schedules that must be respected. I get it. I just don't want it on vacation.

    Last year, we had our best family vacation ever (so no, it wasn't this year) - we hit the perfect resort for us, and our week went like this:

    Day 1 - arrive by mid-afternoon, beach.
    Day 2 - beach in a.m., pool in p.m.
    Day 3 - beach in a.m., boat ride, pool in p.m.
    Day 4 - beach in a.m., pool in p.m.
    Day 5 - beach in a.m., submarine boat, pool in p.m.
    Day 6 - beach in a.m., lazy river and pool in p.m.
    Day 7 - beach in a.m., pool in p.m.
    Day 8 - pool in a.m., leave

    Now, I exaggerate a bit, but really, it was awesome - we could just decide on a whim to go to the beach, or not. (Clearly, we always went.) One of us could skip the beach (the adult part of the family) and do something else for an hour and then catch up with the family. We could take food from breakfast and bring it to the beach, and not risk a $50,000 fine. Had we had a bad weather day (we didn't, but that was a fluke) - no biggie, there was inside stuff to do, and, no worries, the beach WILL be there tomorrow. There was a playground too, which served as a break from beach/pool once in a while. It was nowhere near as full of people as the ship, and it was really easy to get away from people.

    We could also use in-room babysitting, which we did once (all we need), so Conor can mellow out in the room as opposed to getting all riled up with other kids.

    All in all, we just prefer all-inclusive laziness of an all-inclusive resort. So, that's not Disney's fault.

    The second reason

    OK - this is probably where I get kicked off Disboards. We just don't love Disney. We respect Disney's smarts, and we appreciated Disney's thoughtful design, and how Big Mouse treats kids and parents. The service was great. Loved our room. Clearly, Conor thought the mystery game was the next best thing to chocolate.

    However, we still have a kid that hates characters, doesn't like shows, and finds noise bothersome. Disney seems to always involve characters, shows, and noise. The thought of the parks makes me break out in a cold sweat at this point.

    And, um, we are somewhat not impressed by Disney's over-the-top commercialism, and, as a very non-princessey woman, I am often bothered by the princess thing. (My turn to duck!)

    Now, I'm not naive - I don't pretend that the companies that own the AI resorts we've been to are going to win any corporate citizenship awards, but, let's be honest, they don't have anything like the influence of Disney. If Big Mouse wasn't doing the princess schtick, someone else would. There are equally bad things out there for boys (over-the-top violence, anyone?), I know.

    I am sure Disney does good things, and they seem to have done great things for many families, and I'm delighted that Disney brings so much joy to so many - it just really doesn't for us. We all had a great time, but that was, to some extent, despite some of the Disney stuff.

    However, I will give full credit where it's due - it's a very smart deal, the DCL experience. The trip was essentially problem-free (despite my carryings-on on this board), and much of that credit goes to Disney. I'm glad we went. Conor would go back in a heart-beat. However, he would equally go back to our beach from last year in a heart-beat.

    Honestly, though, it's the cruise issue that is the bigger issue for us. We're spoiled, and probably lazy, but we're heading back to our beach next year.

    But... who knows, you might get see us on a DCL cruise again sometime! Time will tell. ;)

    Thanks sooo much for reading this. It's been fun. I promised myself I would get this done in 2 weeks, and I seem to have managed that.

    I'll stick around to answer questions and comments (that don't annoy me!) and then, believe it or not, I'll be done with Disboards for now. My good friend will keep me caught up, though - right now, she's enjoying the tightly moderated "refillable mug" debate on the non-cruise threads.

    And with that... Good night!

    ETA - Of course, after I posted this - I remembered I had to post at least once more about a few loose ends (loose ends drive me bonkers) - so I'll do an epilogue.
  21. silence

    silence <font color=red>Missin' Mickey<br><font color=roya

    Aug 1, 2002
    Just loved your trip report! I have been stalking it for updates daily.

    Just one question, where was your trip to last year? We are considering not doing a cruise in 2014, looking for other options.

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