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Distant Shores: A 4-Night Dream Report--COMPLETE with boatload of photos

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by Narnia_girl, Aug 8, 2014.

  1. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Distant Shores: A Midwestern Family Vacation to Florida & the Bahamas


    This is my second Disney Trip Report. I have learned a lot about Disney trip planning from reading other reports and discovered that writing one after our cruises makes a nice family keepsake—a sort of digital scrapbook.

    This post includes introductions and background story. The second post includes an index.

    *****************************************************


    This cruise includes my husband, Rick, and our kids Andrew (Sunshine) and Christian and Caroline.


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    In 2009 we sailed on the Disney Wonder to celebrate Sunshine's high school graduation. This year Christian graduated, so we are sailing on the Dream, a 4-nighter out of Port Canaveral. We will visit with friends (and Disney fans) before we sail and spend one day with other friends after our cruise.

    I ‘gave’ Christian the cruise on Christmas night (2013) but I actually booked in June, 2013, more than a year before we sailed. And that is a funny story by itself.

    (cue the "I remember it like it was yesterday" flashback sequence….)

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    In 2009 we took our first (and only) cruise--a 3-day DCL to celebrate our son's high school graduation and our 20th anniversary. It was a wonderful, magical vacation for the most part. The exception being a series of unfortunate events on Castaway Cay day. :sad2:

    That evening I found the documents for booking another cruise in the trash can of our stateroom.It seems my husband had visited the Onboard Booking desk and was planning to rebook; before he got a chance to we got into an argument. It was a stressful afternoon and combined with the other events of the day (one kid sick, one kid lost) caused him to dump the materials and forget the idea.:headache:


    Here we are all happy!

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    Well, it was actually a wonderful trip and we still talk about it all these years later. So naturally, my thoughts have turned to another cruise. Now my husband loved our last one, and he'd love to take another one, but he has a hard time spending that much money. I knew if we did another cruise, I'd have to plan it and then tell him.

    I discussed the idea with my two sisters and invited them to cruise too. I was convinced they would absolutely love a Disney cruise. :dance3: We had a pow-wow and for about five minutes considered Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. But in the end we had to go with DCL. ::MinnieMo We settled on a July, 2014 date.

    It occurred to me that my husband would be more enchanted by the idea of another cruise if he read the report from our last one (except that part about the argument). Well I went to reread my trip report and found I had never finished it! :rolleyes1 So I fished out my old notebook and added the final touches to the TR. Plus I added a post script indicating that the only way to top the last cruise was to do another one.

    2009 Trip report

    On June 20, 2013 I was scheduled for shoulder surgery. He had a long wait at the hospital, so I strategically packed my laptop and had the browser opened up my old trip report. Just before I was put to sleep I told him to read it all. I think I was more nervous about him reading my scheme than having my arm cut open. But I was unconscious and I knew I'd have the sympathy edge when I woke up! :charac2:

    This is how I ended the 2009 trip report:
    So almost four years later, this is the end of my cruise report. It was the most magical vacation we could have imagined and a perfect way to celebrate our son’s graduation and our 20th anniversary.

    The only thing better would be…. Oh Yes! Booking another Disney Cruise to celebrate Christian’s graduation and our 25th anniversary--and this time sharing it with extended family.

    July 2014 here we come!
    :cool1:

    So I waited a few days after surgery, and I was too sick to discuss much anyway. When I did pull Rick aside to ask his thoughts I realized that he didn’t take my “July 2014 here we come!” as fact, but more as a wish. :wizard:
    He actually said, “have you already booked a cruise?” Well, yes I had. :littleangel: So he shrugged his shoulders and said, “okay I guess we’re going on another cruise.” :love1:

    Unfortunately, in the fall we realized that other family members would not be able to go with us this time. I was sad for this and since we spend Christmas day with all of them I decided to not tell our kids about the cruise until Christmas night after all the festivities were winding down.

    This is the gift I gave Christian on Christmas night to let him know we were celebrating his graduation with a Disney Cruise:


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    (end the flashback portion of this trip report)

    _________________________________________________

    So we are going on another cruise, and this is the place I'll document all the fun, food and distant shores. Like my last trip report, this time I'll add

    Something I Learned

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    It can be tough to plan a trip like this with other families, just the scheduling alone is a big obstacle. :grouphug:

    Edited to add something else I learned--the whole year I thought I had been secretive with the kids and not telling them about the cruise.... well Caroline had decided to read our old trip report over the summer--the one where I end by announcing a new cruise. So she knew the secret all those months and didn't say a word. She even let me surprise them on Christmas! :littleangel:

    Next Up:
    1. Flying from a regional airport
    2. Our visit with some of the biggest Disney fans we know.
     
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  3. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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  4. DMMarla07860

    DMMarla07860 DIS Veteran

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    can't wait to read more. I can remember reading your other trip report, can't wait to see how you guys enjoyed this trip
     
  5. Cheryl726

    Cheryl726 DIS Veteran

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    Looking forward to reading your TR, as I believe we were on this one also! It was great, too short, and I'm ready for another one! I know what you mean about being with other families, it was great to have others with us, but challenging to get everyone together!
     
  6. DisneyDreamerMN

    DisneyDreamerMN DIS Veteran

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    Great start! Excited to read more.
     
  7. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

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    So happy that you decided to plan another cruise! I remember reading your last TR - really enjoyed the part about your Segway tour :)

    Hope you have a wonderful trip this time!
     
  8. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    You have a good memory--five years ago!

    Yes, it was too short, but that one sea day made it feel so much longer than a 3-nighter.

    Thanks!

    Wow, great memory! Yep, our guys loved that Segway Tour.
     
  9. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Before we left on this vacation we had a family meeting to discuss expectations with the kids. They were
    1. : We want to spend time together as a family
      2: If I want to take a photo of you, then smile! (One child in particular likes to scowl at the camera.)
      3: You can sleep late at home, we want to see as much as we can during daylight hours; and
      4: everything in moderation (too much junk made one child throw up on our last cruise).

    So how did we do with our expectations?
    Did anyone puke this time? Get in an argument? Did we rebook? (And just how many soups can one woman eat?)
    We shall see…..



    Day One (July 18)

    We are flying out today, but we had a leisurely morning doing some last-minute packing and errands.
    We left home right at noon after eating a small lunch.
    The drive was quick and easy, and the first photo I took of the trip was this:


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    So what you say? It might look like something on the back of a truck to you, but to me they look like dollar signs. My husband designs these for a living, so I thought it appropriate to get a pic of them on the highway. These truck bodies pay for our vacations. :teacher:


    Normally we would drive to St. Louis and fly Southwest into MCO, but this trip we got a great rate on Allegiant, flying out of Springfield, IL. It is a little closer to our home, and has free parking. The cost was unbeatable, about $65 each way, but there are some adjustments that come with cheap flights, including paring down our luggage since we only paid for two checked bags. This created some stress later in the trip. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our flight and were excited to be on our way.

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    [screech...those are the brakes being applied to our excitement]


    The Springfield airport was not very well organized so it was hard to figure out where we needed to be (after we had been in line about 15 minutes we finally reached the point where we could read the tiny signs telling us which line we needed). We had a long wait to check our bags, then through security; then we found out our flight was delayed by 1.5 hours. Since we were past security our food options were a vending machine and Subway. None of us were really hungry so we didn’t buy any real food, just a bag of Cheetos and a bottle of water.

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    Smart phones and WiFi--such a change from the crayons, coloring books and BrainQuests that have been our vacation staple for 2 decades!

    This photo shows our boys parked near the outlets, a map so you can see where your delayed plane is, and a line of people getting their dinner at a vending machine.

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    We had boarding group 2 for the flight but so many people choked the area that I stood behind them assuming they were No. 2 also (they weren’t). So when they called 3s and 4s (those folks blocking the area) we actually got to board. Not that it really mattered of course, we still had the whole pre-flight wait which seems to last forever. The flight was fine and we arrived at Orlando Sanford International Airport after 8 p.m. local time. Our friends were waiting to welcome us in style!

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    It was another hour drive to our friend’s house so it was well after 9 p.m. when we arrived. We had not eaten since 11:30 a.m. Thankfully, our generous friends had homemade pizzas ready. They were so good, especially to starving travelers! For dessert they made delicious apple pizza.

    Our friends are Disney lovers and had a cute Mickey guest bedroom waiting for us.

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    This rack holds towels, bathrobes and other guest supplies as well as a Guest Book.

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    We were so tired by now that I went to bed soon after dinner. My husband and some of the guys stayed up to play a few hands of Euchre.



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    Something I Learned:
    Try to eat or at least buy a snack when we have the chance. The friends we visited had a good tip: find out if the plane is delayed before you go through security—often there are more food options then.
    Small regional airports may offer big savings (factoring in the free parking and the extra bag fees). We saved several hundred dollars so it was worth the inconvenience (and there are long lines and delays at big airports too). Our kids were less thrilled with Allegiant but they weren't the ones paying for it. In reference to the inconveniences our son said, "that's the price you pay for the price you pay." Too true! :rolleyes:

     
  10. DMMarla07860

    DMMarla07860 DIS Veteran

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    well you were on a few weeks before me so I was reading to see who had been on lol. But I have a good memory for stuff not related to work or school. Disney, music, tv shows, etc though great memory
     
  11. maggonz9

    maggonz9 Earning My Ears

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    Enjoying your trip report! Thanks for sharing!
     
  12. Kim1964

    Kim1964 <font color=teal>Was intimidated by her bug, but d

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    Great start to your report. Looking forward to the next installment.
     
  13. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for reading!

    Thank you... here we go...
     
  14. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Day Two.

    Our wonderful hosts made sausages and blueberry pancakes (old family recipe) for our breakfast. It really felt like vacation, being treated to such good food and having them take care of us. We basically had this one day in Orlando and knew we didn't want to do a park for just a day. We asked them to consider some things that visitors might miss if they only went to the parks. This is where having friends to drive us around and show us the sights was invaluable. We would have spent much longer finding our way around if we had to drive ourselves.

    Our sons went with our friend’s boys and played mini golf. [​IMG]

    They had a good time, but of course, it was very hot. From what they explained the Disney mini golf is more elaborate than your average course and takes longer to play.
    ~
    We started the day by walking around Celebration, FL. This is a Walt Disney master-planned community, that looks like a perfect little town. It has beautiful buildings, and well kept streets.

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    We walked around the lake and visited a few shops.

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    Most of the businesses are expensive boutique-style shops catering to tourists.

    After this we drove to the Art of Animation Resort.

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    We loved this creative (huge) resort with its themed areas.
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    I noticed the creative landscaping in each area; Radiator Springs had dry desert type plants; I have no idea what plants were in the Nemo area but they really did look like seaweed growing up from the ground. The Lion King area was lush jungle foliage. Just another detail that Disney Imagineers consider.

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    I’m in an elephant graveyard!

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    I didn't take any photos of the pool area but it was very nice and restricted to guests only. Castmembers were organizing a game with the kids when we passed by. We continued our stroll around the grounds until we got to the bridge that connects Pop Century. It was very hot to be out walking around and we stopped back inside Landscapes of Flavor (the on-site dining) where we were given cups for cold water.



    By this time we were hot, tired and ready for a break. We returned to our friends’ home for a delicious lunch of grilled burgers and salads. After lunch I repacked our bags and took a brief nap while the guys played cards again.

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    In the late afternoon we traveled to Winter Garden to visit Mosaic Church. Our friends attend here and are involved in several ministries. Mosaic has three Orlando locations and was created specifically to reach out to Disney employees. It is not Disney exclusive however, and has grown significantly over the last 10 years. The lead pastor had been praying for two years that God would provide an assistant with a Disney connection. When a young man, who’s wife just happens to be a ‘princess’, showed up asking for a internship, the pastor believed his prayers had been answered. We got to hear that young man (now on staff) give the sermon and it was perfect for a family on vacation. He entered the stage dressed as a typical tourist holding a map and gave a message on maps/GPS—and what happens when we get off track.

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    They also have a location in a hotel across from Downtown Disney. Many Disney employees, including performers and retirees worship at Mosaic Church. The church tries to serve their unique needs and has a neat “thank you” outreach to castmembers. Our sons were hoping to spot some Disney princesses at church but as we saw no one in ball gowns or talking to animals we can’t say for sure if they were there. :squirrel:
    ~

    After church we drove to Downtown Disney where it was a challenge just to get in the parking lot. The area was very crowded for some reason? At this point I was texting my travel agent and she said she had just attempted to visit DTD but couldn’t find a parking space. Our goal was to buy some Minnie ears for Caroline. Not the sparkly, frilly style, but basic Minnie. We did quite a bit of searching all over The World of Disney before we found them.

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    Our friend (and driver) is an expert pin collector and trader. He gave Caroline a few to start her out and then walked her through her first pin trade with a castmember.

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    We also stopped by Starbucks for a cold drink.

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    Peace-out Dad!

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    Visited several shops before dinner at The Earl of Sandwich (tip: use your AAA card for a discount). It was also very crowded.

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    After dinner we walked around a bit and visited a few stores.

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    We also took a quick tour Splitsville. The last time we were at DTD was during New Year’s Eve week and this time felt just as crowded. When we got back to our vehicle, a line of anxious drivers were waiting to take our parking spot.


    It was close to 10 p.m. by now so we hurried to watch Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks from the bridge between the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Towers. This was a great spot to see the show and they pipe in the music from the park.

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    Our wonderful, sweet friends.

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    After Wishes we finished the night with ice cream at the Contempo Café.


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    (I think someone is forgetting the “smile” rule!)


    UPDATE: I thought the above photo was during our ice cream break. Turns out it's from the Earl of Sandwich. Here is the last photo of the night:
    [​IMG]

    Something I Learned:
    There is so much to do just visiting the resorts. We could have spent several days doing this.

     
  15. bbn1122

    bbn1122 DIS Veteran

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    Love your busy non park day!

    We will be at OKW for 2 days prior to 4 days at VB and then our 3 day cruise.
    We also have so many non park activities planned. We will be there this Friday.

    Can not wait for the rest of your report!:cheer2:
     
  16. Mama Mouse

    Mama Mouse DIS Veteran

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    Wonderful start! I can't wait to read the rest!
     
  17. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Thanks! Hope you have a great vacation!

    :wave2: howdy stranger!
     
  18. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    Day 3

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    Today’s the Day! We slept well and got up around 7 a.m. Our friends treated us to a delicious breakfast of Mickey waffles and breakfast biscuits. Then we repacked and hit the road about 9:10 a.m. The drive to Port Canaveral took a little over an hour.


    First glimpse:

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    An attendant directed us where to pull-in for drop off. We gave our big luggage to the porter, snapped a quick photo and said goodbye to our wonderful hosts. Their knowledge of the area and generosity really made our trip special.

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    We had a port arrival time of 10:30-10:45 and it was just about that time when we arrived (maybe a few minutes early), so I was surprised that we were directed to go upstairs to level 3 of the parking garage rather than straight into the terminal. When we got up to that level, there was a long line snaking through the garage. We were glad we had given our heavy bags to a porter as we saw lots of people struggling with theirs at that point. It was hot, but at least there was a cool breeze blowing through.

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    (I’m still not sure why we were directed to the parking garage, a friend from my cruise meet arrived at about the same time and was sent to the front door of the terminal. She said they didn’t want a line forming out front.)

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    It’s a boat—you are supposed to wear boat shoes!


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    We gradually move ahead through the line and go through security. When we enter the terminal we are surprised to find it very busy and we have to stand in another line to check in.

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    At this point I’m wondering why I scheduled an early port-arrival time if we are just going from one line to another? This one moves pretty fast though and a castmember checks us in, takes our security photo and tells us they will begin boarding around 11:30 a.m. Then he gives us our Key to the World (KTTW) cards, silver lanyards and this nice little ‘gift’. GROUP 2!! :cool1:

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    So maybe that early port-arrival-time did help? I need to use the restroom so I head over there and find...another long line. It is nearly 11:30 and I do not want to miss boarding because I’m in a restroom line so I go right back to my family, passing Minnie on the way.

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    Caroline has decorated her lanyard with her new trading pins.

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    Only minutes later they introduce the family of the day and first boarders….then Magical No. 2! We push through a few people blocking the area, but there weren't too many. No way I’m going to get stuck several numbers back like I did at the airport a few days before!

    Our KTTW cards are scanned and we are onboard. We bypass the photo area which is clogged with people and just like that they are announcing our family on the Disney Dream!


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    ______________________________

    We take the elevators to Deck 11.

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    (It will never be this empty again!)


    We go up to Cabanas for lunch and decide to sit outside. No one else is out there because it’s so hot. I drift off to finally find a restroom while my family chats with a brand-new castmember. He tells them he was on Royal Caribbean for many years, but his dream was to work for Disney. He’s very friendly.

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    Bathroom photo:
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    When I return we go to get our food and decide it’s nicer sitting in the air conditioning. Lunch is very good and relaxing.

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    Busy already
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    Next we stroll down to Deck 3 for the 1 p.m. ship’s tour. We meet up with Chip and Dale right outside the Walt Disney Theatre so we get a great picture there.

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    The tour has good information, but is pretty short. It ends right about 1:30 so we head down to Deck 2 to see if our staterooms are ready. The ropes are still up but drop soon after. Our staterooms are two connecting rooms very close to the Enchanted Garden—there are a couple of ’hidden’ hallways to the right and that is where our cabins were located.

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    These are Category 9B. I’ve been told the portholes in this category are not the kind you sit in, and while it’s true they don’t have padding, our daughter spent hours sitting in it. If you are wondering about the size of them, she’s about 5’7” tall.

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    Such a happy girl—she is home!

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    [​IMG]

    At 2:15 we go to the Vista Lounge for our cruise meet. We had an active group conversing online for many months so it was nice to meet some of these folks. One of my goals was to introduce Caroline ahead of time to some of the other girls her age who would be sailing with us. I thought if she knew them prior to boarding it would make it easier for her to go to the Edge Club. This didn’t exactly turn out the way I planned but that was okay.

    Next we toured the Edge Club during open hours so we could all see what it was like.

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    We spent about 10 minutes here, and that turned out to be the only time Caroline ever went there. Honestly it didn’t seem that interesting, and she was just a few months shy of being too old for it.

    But the main reason she didn’t go there was she spent all her time with us. Remember Rule No. 1 from our family pow-wow? (We want to spend time together.) That is exactly what we got and it was perfect. So while it would have been nice if Caroline could have spent time with some of the other girls I can’t complain because we were all together. :grouphug:


    Next Up: Sail Away Part II
     
  19. heaven2dc

    heaven2dc DIS Veteran

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    Yay! You're onboard the ship :goodvibes Your DD looks so content sitting in the porthole. Sounds like your room was in a perfect location.
     
  20. iloverags2

    iloverags2 DIS Veteran

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    Enjoying your report and the great photos you took! Looking forward to more!
     
  21. Narnia_girl

    Narnia_girl DIS Veteran

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    She loved that porthole--and the room didn't turn out to be a perfect location later on--but I'd still take it any time if it meant I was on a Disney cruise!

    Thanks for reading along! It's fun to go back over it all!
     

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