I have had a few people ask me about the trip report I said I was writing! Well truth is I simply have not had time to write it as planned! But, I thought maybe I could share a few highlights/observations and basic things from each day regarding ports, Disney transportation, embarkation, food, etc… I was on the Jan 10-17 Western Caribbean. We stayed in a cat 11 (5131). It was myself and my daughter, who is a mature 12. This was our very first Disney Cruise (and first long cruise ever – we did a 4 night carnival once that was terrible). We always go into vacations with the mindset ‘We are on vacation, things WILL go wrong, don’t sweat the small stuff and HEY! WE ARE NOT AT HOME IN THE SNOW!’. As for food, we are not ‘froo froo food’ people. I like food I can pronounce and am basically a meat and potatoes girl. That’s not saying I won’t try new things, but I am a picky eater and prefer more bland to spicey. I don’t like pork and not huge on some seafood. My daughter is very picky and does not eat beef or pork and not a seafood eater. Hopefully that info helps you with my review. I am not going into details of what we did all day every day – so many people have talked about the activities, etc.. but if you have any specific questions please ask! Day One – Jan 10 – Embarkation Day Disney Bus Service We used Disney transportation from Port Orleans French Quarter. We had to be in the lobby at noon and the bus was set to leave at 12:15pm. We arrived about 11:55 and checked in at the cruise desk. They give everyone in your party a laminated ticket that you turn back into them when you get on the bus. There were about 12 people from our resort waiting. We saw the bus pull up right on time, but they only had room for 8 people, and they put families of 4 on the bus. They told us another would be along in a minute. We waited until almost 12:45 (note: standing in the hot sun!) for another bus. They didn’t want us to go back inside and needed all of us out there. It was a bit frustrating to know the first bus was well on its way and we were left behind. I just wanted to get to the ship! Finally we boarded the bus and after one stop at Caribbean Beach Resort we were on our way. I would estimate our bus hit the road at about 1:10pm. Arrival at Port and Embarkation We arrived at the port and went through security quickly. The only line was people from our bus and a few from a bus just ahead of ours. We checked in with a minimal wait and then had our photos taken for security (this was apparently a new thing they were doing starting with our cruise). We didn’t really have time to look around the terminal. We didn’t actually get on the ship until about 2:45pm. I hated that we were so late getting on the ship. We were starving, but first checked out our room and our luggage was waiting for us. We hauled it in and took a quick peek at our room (more on the room later) and ran to topsiders to eat before it closed. Food was ok, but I think we got the tail end of the buffet and not the best selection. I can’t really remember what we ate, as it seems an eternity ago. I only remember thinking it reminded a bit of old country buffet. We then ran to our 3pm DIS meet. This was a great opportunity to meet some people and have some friendly faces on the ship that we knew. We ran into many of them over and over again and it was nice to be able to say “Hi! How is the trip going?”. We went back to our room around 3:30 and unpacked a few things and got aquainted with our ‘little room’ as we called it. I have to admit the room looks MUCH bigger in the photos, but we LOVED our room. It was so cute and so much room for everything and we were really happy with it. The big bed was super comfy (the couch bed not so much!) and our room steward (or ‘room dude’ as my daughter called him) did an excellent job. At 4pm we did the drill and it was quick and efficient. Our drill location was Animators Palate. All we had to do was sit there looking like orange blimps for about 10 minutes and then we were released. Very quick and easy. We went to the sail-away party for about 4:20 and got a spot near the front. Since this was our first time, we wanted to be up close. First, David, the staff member that led all the parties came out and did dances and stuff with the crowd, then finally we did a countdown to leaving and we heard the horn for the first time! Tears welled up in my eyes and I looked over and my daughter had some too! We squeezed each others hands and knew our dream cruise was coming true! The party continued on until about 5pm and it was fun. They had given all the kids streamers on a stick to wave around and they get to keep them. We went and got dressed for dinner. Our first night was Lumieres (We had LAPPLAP 5:45 seating – I think that was the rotation). Our dining team was terrible throughout the cruise. I honestly don’t even know their names! The first night I didn’t think too much of it, as I figured it was because we were a new batch. I had told the asst. server that my daughter and I drink skim milk with our dinner every night and to please bring this out at some point before the main course. I had ordered a coke and my daughter ordered a sprite. Our milk NEVER arrived. Even after asking a 2nd time during the main course, it never arrived. Again, I don’t sweat the small stuff so didn’t worry. I had a steak and my daughter had kids chicken strips and fries I believe. Dessert was ice cream sundaes for both of us. I would give the food a B+. I am not going to start reviewing all of the shows, as so many people have written about them in the past and in short, they were incredible! We are musical theater buffs and enjoyed the entertainment every single night. The price of the cruise was worth it in quality entertainment each night. Overall thoughts on Day 1 – I would use a town car service to get to the port instead of the DCL bus next time. The extra $40 is worth getting on the ship a bit earlier. I felt like we lost a lot of the first day when comparing notes with what other cruisers did that day. I also would have liked some time in the terminal to look at the ship in the middle (take photos) and maybe catch Mickey coming in. We were very rushed and didn’t get to enjoy the embarkation as much as we could have. I also would go to Animators Palate for lunch, as I heard it is more relaxed and had better food. We had trouble finding a spot to sit in Topsiders it was so busy. Day 2 – Jan 11 – Key West Breakfast We did breakfast at Topsiders. We still felt a little like deer in the headlights on the ship and just went where we knew we could get a quick breakfast. It was PACKED. Barely a table to be had (this was about 9am I think). Hot food quality was a D. Eggs were rubbery, waffles and pancakes were inedible (hard or just gross). Hashbrowns are the rectangle ‘McDonalds’ type and were good but a bit greasy. I don’t eat bacon/sausage. Just the very basic breakfast offerings. There were other basics like muffins, bagels, cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc…. and there is definitely enough to start your day, but nothing completely outstanding. Lunch We grabbed a quick bite before leaving the ship for Key West, to avoid paying for food while we were out. The ‘fast food’ places on deck 9 were very crowded and lined up, so we opted to go into Topsiders again. We didn’t notice right away, but when you go in, the left side is adult items and the right side has more kid friendly stuff. We went down the left and my daughter didn’t find much she wanted. I found a few things and also got some new things to try. I believe they had salmon and mashed potatoes and other stuff. We ended up getting some stuff from the kids side as well. Again, I give this food a C. It just all tasted like school cafeteria food with the exception of a couple of items. There was a good array of desserts. Again, there was enough there to fill us up, but nothing outstanding. Key West I was really looking forward to Key West. We have been to Catalina Island, and in my mind, this is how I pictured KW would be. Wow I was wrong! Catalina is very quaint and cutesy, and KW was very very touristy. We walked down the pier from the ship (btw there is a place to rent electric cars right there for $99 for 4 hours), and then into a few of the shops you see right away. Most of them are clothing stores with brands such as Billabong and Roxy. There is an ice cream place there and a few other things. If you keep left and then turn right onto the first street, there are many more shops. There is a funky hat shop there that is fun, and then tons of tourist trap stores. When that street ends you kind of naturally go to the left and there are MORE stores, and then you see the conch fritter truck, the aquarium and pirate museum (among other things). This is also where the Trolley leaves from for the 1st stop. There is a little market there and a public washroom, but I advise you that unless you are desperate, don’t use it! We went there and it was pretty skanky! Apparently there is a nicer one inside the little mall near there. We decided to do the hop on/off trolley. It cost about $42 for the 2 of us (and they do take credit cards). The trolley leaves every half hour from that location. We went and got on a trolley and waited. We looked at the map they provided so we could see where we wanted to get off. We decided stop #3 would be good as it seemed to be near shopping and the Coach Outlet. The tour is good – the tour guide driving was funny and have some great info. We hopped off at stop 3 and there was a store that caught our eye! It was all PINK – pink pink pink as far as you could see into it, specializing in Pink Flamingos! We had to go in, as we both are pink fanatics. I walked out $50 poorer in merchandise. I found the perfect ‘tropical tacky tourist gift’ in there for my best friend, whose only request from my trip was to find her something tropical and tacky! The prices in here were actually quite reasonable. We walked up to the Coach Outlet. I was expecting great deals, but not so much. Some stuff was on sale, but I didn’t find it to be like a typical outlet mall outlet for prices. I didn’t buy anything. On our way back to the trolley stop we saw a booth where a guy was selling seashells with names on them. For $8 my daughter got to pick one out and it was a ‘must have’ treasure for her. We continued on the tour and found the 2nd tour guide not quite as funny as the first guy. We were feeling a bit tired and hot and decided just to stay on the trolley and finish up the tour. The total tour is 90 mins from beginning to end. I would say we did the last hour at that point. It was a good way to see the town, the southernmost point, etc…, but my daughter did get a bit bored with all the history talk. It is something great to do your first time in Key West, but I probably would do something different if I returned. I think that unless you got off frequently, small kids would have trouble sitting through the tour, or maybe just fall asleep. Our tablemates did the Pirate Museum and said it was awful (their words, not mine), so just passing it along. We got off the tour at the end and wandered back to the ship, going in a few shops along the way. Its about a 10-15 min slow walk from the trolley to the ship. We decided we just wanted to go back on the ship, get a snack and go swimming. Dinner: Dinner was Animator’s. We had been looking forward to the show dinner here. Our servers were not much better. I found that the kids at the table were getting their main entrée while the parents ate appetizers (or sometimes before!) and were done, sitting there bored with nothing to do but stare at adults eating. They can only watch walls change color for so long. The younger kids were playing Nintendo ds during dinner or taking off early to go to the kids club. Dinners (not just this one – I am speaking in general) were soooooooo dragged out. I am talking a good 30 minutes between courses, up to 45 minutes one time. I had to ask for the milk THREE times the 2nd night before she brought it. The one server couldn’t answer much about some of the menu items and the asst server we barely saw. Our head server would pop around, say a quick hello, rub my daughters back (which creeped her out a bit, but that’s another story), and ask how the food was and then disappeared. I kept wondering where all this ‘special service’ was that I had heard so much about? Maybe I was expecting too much? So I talked to other people at our table and found out that everyone felt the same way – our service sucked. 2 of the people at our table were veteran cruisers on many lines, and said our service was ridiculously slow and they felt the food was not up to par. By the 3rd night, when I ordered a beef dish for the 3rd night in a row, she was still asking me how I liked it cooked. Shouldn’t she had known by then? Again, I don’t sweat the small stuff and it didn’t ‘ruin my vacation’, but definitely fell below what I expected. I didn’t go and complain or anything. I had the filet mignon and it was really good, but not the best filet I have ever had. But I do remember it came with the WORST mashed potatoes I have ever eaten in my life. I don’t even think they were real, but the powdered kind from the box. They were chewy and like rubber. I did have mashed potatoes 2 other times on the cruise and they were terrible – the exact same. Food was not memorable at all. In fact, I found my room service food more memorable than the dining room! Final thoughts: I would only get off the ship for an hour or so in Key West and then just enjoy an emptier ship. Maybe see a movie that day and enjoy the pools while they were empty. The goofy pool was extremely crowded around 4pm when we used it. The hot tubs were full and no one was getting out anytime soon. I would take advantage earlier and use these things then. Day 3 – Jan 12 - Day at Sea/Golden Mickeys/Formal Night Breakfast We slept in and missed it! OOPS! Lunch Deck 9 – we both had chicken fingers and fries from Plutos and they were really good. Dinner Parrot Cay and formal night. Formal night ranged from nice dress pants/top to full length gowns and tuxes. No one should really feel out of place if they don’t want to go all out, but wear something nice. I remember this dinner well because it was absolutely disgusting! Again, it was a long drawn out dinner with kids eating before we even had appetizers. I ordered the beef Wellington and it was so gross. It tasted like a giant slab of liver. Now let me say, I HATE liver. I hate the taste of it. I cut into it, thinking it was going to be a nice filet type cut of meat (and that is what it looked like), but it tasted EXACTLY like liver. Gross! There is also some sort of mushroom paste around the outside that turned my stomach. I had ordered a baked potato and got mashed. I could not eaten the beef Wellington and told the server I didn’t like it. I asked for a steak and baked potato. 25 minutes later they finally brought it – we were actually seriously thinking of getting up and leaving, as no one in our party had even looked at a dessert menu at this point either. The only thing that kept us there was that my daughter really wanted that special golden mickey chocolate dessert. They brought me a steak and potato AND a dessert menu at the same time. At this point it was getting late and I felt pressured to order dessert right then, as they were probably getting close to the 2nd seating. Many tables were cleared and gone, and our table was just getting dessert. We ordered the chocolate dessert and ate it QUICKLY, with my steak and potato going to waste. We went to the golden mickeys and by the time they were done, I was starving. Thank goodness for room service. I ordered a turkey sandwich and mac n’ cheese and ate the whole works, and topped it off with one of the famous big cookies and milk! Yep – I was starving! Final thoughts – we had a LOT of fun that day –I believe we saw a movie, did some game show stuff, lounged by the pool, etc…. We had a nice relaxing day! Day 4 – Jan 13 – Grand Cayman Breakfast – We went to Parrot Cay – Finally a good breakfast! THIS is what I was expecting from Disney. Lots of food, omelet bar, and the best part – no searching for a seat while walking around with a tray! It is buffet style, but they seat you, and you can sit alone or with others. It was so quiet and we had a server bringing coffee and juice! I loved breakfast here. Now, I will say the eggs were much better here, but still the same rectangle hash browns (EVERY morning!). I would like to have seen different breakfast potato offerings. Also, Disney cruise just can’t make a good pancake or waffle when it is on the buffet (I have since learned Lumieres is the place to go for those). Grand Cayman – We got off the ship around 10am. We had to go to the theater for tender tickets. Very quick. We all sat in a certain row they assigned us in the theater, then they called our row and brought us down to the tender boat. You can walk down the stairs to deck 1 or take the elevator. An elevator was just opening as we were going by, so we hopped on. We ended up getting down there faster and got on a boat right away. The ride to the dock is not long at all. Getting in and out of the boat was easy. The dock has a mini-market right there and as soon as we were there we saw tons of signs saying $4 or $5 to the beach! We had decided earlier that all we wanted was to find a nice beach and swim/sunbath. My daughter has never swam in the actual real ocean. She has dipped her toes in, but that is it. This is something we were so excited for, and Grand Cayman did not disappoint. We found one of the people with the signs and they told us to follow them. There is a big parking lot full of these taxi vans. The guy asked us (and other families) what type of beach we wanted. I told him we wanted somewhere family friendly where we could rent chairs and floats, and have some food/drink nearby. He said the best thing for us was the public beach. They put us on a little mini-bus/van taxi that they CRAMMED full of ship passengers. Just when I thought the van was full, they opened up seats in the middle that folded down and crammed 4 more people in. It was quite funny and we got a kick out of it. He then went on to explain that it was $4 each to go to the bad beach and $5 to go to the good beach. LOL!! Everyone on our bus opted for the ‘good beach’ (although the bad one was probably fine, but I am guessing Carlos has a friend who owns the bar/restaurant or something where the good beach is! LOL). The drive up to the beach was longer than I thought, maybe 15 minutes? It also shocked me how Americanized it was there. I was expecting it to be more like Mexico – maybe a bit run down, but everywhere we looked there were shiny new strip malls! I felt like we were driving through Miami or something! We arrived at the beach and paid him $10 for the 2 of us. We found a place renting chairs for $10 each and floats were $5 each. We rented 2 chairs and 1 float and they set it all up for us. We didn’t stray too far from that area. There were washrooms, an open-air restaurant/bar and a couple of souvenir stands. There were also places to rent jet-skis, boats, etc, go parasailing, and banana boat rides. There is a roped off swimming section that was a decent size. The water was beautiful. At first it felt a bit cool, but not COLD – and then once you are in, its like heaven. I am quite sensitive to swimming in cold water, but this was just like soup after being in for 30 seconds. We swam and played and floated for a long time. We would sunbathe, then go back in. Around 2pm we grabbed some chicken fingers to share and cokes at the restaurant (It is expensive there! Cost me about $20 for one order of chicken fingers/fries and 2 cokes). The food was delicious. The washrooms there are clean. Overall it was a great beach. There were a few aspects that showed it was a public beach, and that was the sand didn’t seem ‘clean’, if that makes sense. We found a few cig butts in the sand as we walked along. The water here was not good for snorkeling unless you swim quite a ways out. The water near the shore was a bit murky and not ‘see to the bottom’ like you expect the Caribbean ocean. There was also a good picnic area and some playground equipment there. This is a good spot for families. We felt safe. There were enough people around that I felt ok leaving our small bag under a towel on our chair while we swam. The people next to us were sunbathing only and from our ship and said they would keep an eye on it. Maybe I am just overly trusting, but all worked out ok. The taxi vans were lining up waiting for people to go back. We went back around 245pm (I think) and walked around a couple of the little toursity shops on the pier area. Prices are quite high here for souvies compared to other places. They had ice cold lemonade and water set up for DCL passengers too, which was much needed and yummy! We tendered back to the ship with no line up at all. Dinner: We had gone for a nap after grand cayman and woke up at 5:40, and if we had hustled we could have made dinner being a titch late, but we honestly were so sick of the dining room. We loved our tablemates and chatting to them, but the service was so bad. I couldn’t do another 2.5 hour dinner. We decided to go to Topsiders. I thought it was going to be a buffet. I didn’t realize they turned into table service. My daughter rolled her eyes when she saw this – she just wanted something quick and easy, and I admit I did too. We decided to just try it out and see. It was pretty empty. Only one other family in there. It was nice not having to dress for dinner – we went in our shots and hoodies. Dinner menu is VERY limited here. About 4 set options and 2 options for the kids. The options for kids were corn dogs and fries or some sort of pasta. Neither one appealed to my daughter’s taste buds that night and she just wanted a plate of fries. She didn’t like anything on the adult menu. I don’t remember it all, but there was a bunch of ‘froo froo food’ and also a porterhouse steak. So I thought ‘Do I order beef for the 4th night in a row?’. I ordered it and it was ok, but tough. It came with those wonderful chewy mashed potatoes and I simply couldn’t eat it. I felt badly for some reason and told a white lie. I told the server my daughter wasn’t feeling good and we were going to leave. We were going to go grab something at Plutos but it was CLOSED! I quickly learned that DCL really wants people in the dining rooms at dinner time. Options are scarce at dinner. We went back to the room and ordered room service! Final Thoughts: I loved that beach and would go back in a heartbeat. We really enjoyed our day there and it was one of the highlights of the cruise for us. Dinners were getting worse and worse for us, and I thought maybe we were just picky, but after talking with other passengers, it seems it wasn’t just us – the food was bad-terrible for most. Day 5 – Jan 14 –Cozumel Breakfast – Parrot Cay again! Cozumel – UGH it was pouring rain when we got up! We had sooooooo been looking forward to going to Paradise Beach. It was something we were very excited about. We had a leisurely breakfast and then went and did a few things around the ship, like look for photos at shutters, etc.. and the rain seemed to let up. We had decided it would be silly to go out in the pouring rain, and just wait it out. Finally it was just spitting, so we decided to go see what we could see. My daughter had her swimsuit on under her clothes in case the sun came out, but otherwise I didn’t really pack for the beach the way I did the day before. The skies were grey, it was chilly out, and just not the day we had hoped for. But, making the best out of a situation way beyond our control is what we planned to do. We took the elevator down to deck one and so glad we did. The line was winding up around the stairs to the next deck. We were able to slip off the elevator and forced right into the front of the line (shhhhhhhhh now you know the secret way of budging in the line without making it look like you are budging!). We were off the ship and onto a large dock where another ship was as well. It is a long walk down the dock. There are guys with bikes with big seats on the back that will give you a ride up or down it for tips. We walked down, but I promised my daughter a ride back up, as it looked like fun to her. At the end you end up going up escalators and into a big open air mall FULL of stores. You can get maracas for $1 each here and they make for great souvies to bring home for your kid’s friends. We bought a whole bunch and they were a total hit! The sun started to come out and we decided we wanted to go to Paradise Beach anyway! We didn’t care, we had to go there and try and swim. We got a cab easily and it was $15 to go to PB. It was about 15 minutes to get there. We had the cabbie from the race track I think! It was a wild ride and I wondered if we were going to make it there alive! As soon as we were out of the cab we had someone in our face to buy a $10 bracelet to let us use all the non-motorized water stuff. It was pushy and I felt almost obligated to buy one. I bought one for my daughter and said I would maybe get one for me. We went to the beach and found chairs, but they were soaking wet from the rain. Of course, I hadn’t planned on going to the beach really and had no towels with me. I asked someone who worked there if they had something we could wipe the chairs with and they said no, go buy a towel! Okkkkkkk……so we laughed it off and I went to the gift shop and found towels. Well these will make fun souvies right??? $32 later for 2 towels that look like they were from the $2.99 section at kmart (yes I paid that much!) and we were all set. There was hardly anyone there, maybe 4-5 families? There were about 8 kids out in the water playing on the iceberg and trampoline. I didn’t feel like swimming right away, but my daughter did, so she went in and I could tell from her face it was FREEZING. She went in for about 5 minutes and came out and was almost in tears. “I’m so sorry mom, you just spent 10 bucks for me to go have fun out there and its too cold, I don’t know how those other kids are doing it….I feel so bad….and I WANT to go out to the iceberg so bad…..I have been looking at this place on line all week and I was so excited…but I just can’t do it.”. I felt her legs and besides being a shade of bluish purple from the cold, they were covered in goose bumps and she was shivering. Her legs were like ice! I wrapped her up in a towel and gave her a cuddle. They are never too old for a cuddle to get warmed up. She started to cry a bit “I wanna go out there and play so badly, and this weather just sucks”. Then it started to rain again. Fairly heavy rain. All the kids came running in from the water, shivering and BLUE. Their lips were blue and these kids were COLD. I felt so bad for everyone and their day at Cozumel being so terrible. I got my daughter laughing saying ‘Hey something goes wrong on every trip, and of course it is our luck to have the thing we looked the most forward to go wrong!’ (and really it is –we are not known for having great luck with things!). We laughed and decided to go eat. They have an open air bar and we ordered some nachos and cheese and a cheese quesadilla. YUMMMY! Very good food here. They also have a big red parrot that thinks he owns the place! He is a pet there and is a riot. He will pose with you for photos if HE feels like it! Or if the people working there don’t pay attention to him for a minute, he goes up and bites their ankles. Its quite funny and he is very entertaining. There is also a little gift shop there with some neat things. The bathrooms are spotless and the place is beautiful, but would have been more beautiful with sunshine and warmer water. So this is how we break down our trip to Paradise Beach. Cab ride return - $30 Bracelet for water - $10 Towels - $32 Food - $20 What happened when we returned to the mall…PRICELESS!!!!! And what happened?? Well you see, we got out of the cab and walked in and there was a man with SPIDER MONKEYS!!!!! He had one on a leash and as we approached it ran up my daughter, sat on her shoulder and started playing with her hair. The next thing we knew it was sitting on her head!!!! Now I am sure these monkeys are trained to do this with the tourists. I grabbed my camera and the guy grabbed the monkey and said “$5 for photos”. Ahhhh that’s the catch here! I couldn’t dig into my wallet fast enough. My daughter’s dream has always been to hold and play with monkeys. She LOVES them. She could be put in a room full of them and she would stay there for hours. All I had left after our expensive day was 3 $1 bills. I showed the guy I had no more and bartered with him. He took the $3 and plunked the monkey back on her head. Then he let her hold him and we pet him for a while. We didn’t want to leave that monkey behind. We wanted to put him in our bag and smuggle him onto the ship (think they would notice?). This was THE best and most memorable moment of the whole trip for us. My daughter was crying happy tears after – this was a dream come true for her! When people ask us about our trip the first thing she says is ‘A monkey sat on my head!’. All I can think is if we hadn’t gone to Paradise Beach, and just gone back to this ship, we would have missed what turned out to be a highlight of our trip! Rebooking On-board: The night before, we had received a document to fill out if we wanted to re-book. It saved waiting in line at the desk. I had already booked a ‘dummy date’ for Jan 2010 so I could secure the half price deposit (didn’t know how long the promotion would last). I simply filled out the form and noted the ressie number and the date I wanted it moved to. The next day, I had a confirmed reservation for the cruise I really wanted with 10% off and the OBC left in my room. I never once had to visit the desk and stand in lines. They had all my info from the dummy date reservation and it was a quick transfer. Dinner: We were tired from our day and decided to order burgers and fries from room service. They were really good. Pirate Night: We had a lot of fun. It is very similar to the sail away party. The fireworks were fun to watch and made it really magical. It was a very windy night. We did the buffet - and a hint for those newbies like us – we only saw the dessert buffet that was up near the goofy pool. We grabbed some desserts and a lounge chair and got all set to watch Pirates on the big screen. Then I started noticing some hot food – people with turkey legs and other good stuff. I realized there was a 2nd buffet down near the Mickey pool. I went down but they were pretty much closing down when I got there. I grabbed a few things, but totally missed out on the good stuff – but now I know for next time! We only watched the movie for a little bit. The wind was picking up and blowing desserts right off our plates and then we started to freeze! Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend paradise beach for a nice weather day. I think it would be a really fun place to visit if it was sunny and nice out. If I went to Cozumel again and it was raining, I would just go over to the mall, shop around a bit and go back to the ship. We also had a great time just hanging out in our room, in our pjs, having cheeseburgers. Was a nice break after our horrible dining room experiences! We got dressed again later and went to the shows and pirate night. As for Pirate Night, next time I think I would try to get a spot on deck 10 overlooking all of it. It was crowded near the goofy pool and we couldn’t see a whole lot of what was going on. Also, I plan to bring a couple of blankets so we can wrap up and watch the movie without freezing! I also recommend booking your next cruise at home before you go and then just doing all the transfer to the 10% off and OBC via the dropping off the form system to save time! Day 6 – Jan 15 – Day at Sea Breakfast – slept in and missed it again! We did manage to go to goofy’s and they had 4 chocolate croissants left and let us have them! They are so yummy! Hair Braiding – My daughter got half braids done on the ship. You have to book an appointment fairly early in the cruise. It takes about 30 mins and is $2 per braid. She had 9 put in, so it was only $18 plus a $5 tip. Very reasonable and very cute! Lunch – I went to the buffet alone and I remember it being not too bad. Still very ‘old country buffet’ type food, but not terrible. Dinner – We skipped dining rotation again. I can’t remember what we did, but I believe it was room service again. We just loved relaxing at the end of the day with room service and watching some Disney Channel, and not being in the dining room for 2.5 hours! Later on, this is the night my daughter got injured. I won’t go into long boring details, but basically what happened was we went to the Pirates Game Show in Studio Sea. All week we had been trying to be picked to play on one of the team games – we would jump up and down and make fools of ourselves – being very outgoing, hoping to be picked, but somehow we were always skipped over. We arrived about 2 mins into this show and sat down. They were about to do another game and said they needed 10 people from the audience. My daughter got up and was screaming and she got picked! She was so excited to get a chance to play. The game was called Tower of Treasure, and there were 2 teams that had to unload a bunch of treasure from a big chest, then stack it into a tower. Team with the highest tower in 30 seconds wins the game. So off they go – and I see them stacking and my daughter is kneeling beside the tower holding the bottom when it collapses, right at the last second. The things that they were stacking were big metal and brass objects. When it collapsed, one (or 2?) of the pieces came crashing down and sliced both her knees open. Long story short – blood gushing everywhere and I get the one cast member on the ship who can’t handle a minor emergency. She went into full blown panic mode and walked us down to the promenade lounge to her boyfriend instead of medical. You would have thought the ship was sinking – she didn’t know what to do (and YES, I talked about this with guest services). Eventually we ended up in medical where she was treated, had a tetnus shot and we were sent on our way. Poor kid spent the next 4 days with a painful arm from the shot. Not to mention how bad her knees hurt for the rest of the cruise! I have spoken to DCL since and written a letter. We also had to do a formal report on the ship since it was at the fault of the ship (why are they using sharp metal objects in this game????). But here is the worst part – we got NOTHING from DCL. Let me say first that by nature I am not a complainer (I didn’t go to guest services and complain about the dining room situation – I found a solution that worked for us). I don’t like to be that person at the customer service desk saying “I want this” or “I want that”. You know the types. I might complain a bit about a few things here in my trip report, but in person I am not the type to start demanding things. I am an easy going, go with the flow kind of person. BUT…my child was injured at the fault of the cruise line. I honestly thought we were going to come back to the room after castaway the next day to find a big stuffed Mickey and some balloons on the bed. Or maybe a message saying they gave us $50 OBC so she could go to the gift shop and get something. Or a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries – SOMETHING! But NOTHING! Disney is known for its renowned customer service, a child was injured during one of their game shows by THEIR prop (its not like she was running and fell down and cut her knees open), and they did NOTHING for us. I wasn’t expecting a check in my room for the cost of the cruise or anything – but a stuffed mickey or tshirt might have been nice! One of my tablemates had a drunk at her door one night at 1am or 2am trying to get into the wrong room and it woke them up. She called security so they could deal with him, and the next day they got chocolate strawberries and an apology letter in their room! Anyway I digress on the subject (and here I said I would keep it short! LOL). Final thoughts – We didn’t miss going to the dining room for the 3rd time at all. The whole injury thing (the way it was handled) really put a damper on my feeling about DCL. I went into ‘I will never sail DCL mode’ for a while. I think that is a natural reaction. I had already rebooked for Feb 2010 onboard and after I got home I started researching other cruise lines. I will say though, 2 weeks later, I still loved my DCL experience and still very much interested in cruising with them again. I did write a long 2 page letter to DCL about the bad experience and how it was handled. Day 6 – Jan 16th – Castaway Cay Breakfast – slept in again and missed it! Darn they need a breakfast that goes until 11am! Lunch – Castaway Cay Cookies – I had a bunch of stuff here. It was all good except the chicken was very tough. The apple spice cake is to die for! I hate to admit I ate 3 pieces! Later on they were cooking pizza in the big stove and it was some of the best pizza I have ever had! Castaway Cay – The water was way too cold for our liking, so we found 2 lounge chairs under a palm tree and relaxed. We could hear the crab races and the music and we just mellowed out. We found lots of shells and went for a long walk. I loved it there! It was warm and sunny. I wish the water had been warmer. There were a handful of brave people in the water, but not many – maybe 30 total?? We stayed out until about 4pm. We had such a fun time there and want to go back desperately! Dinner – we decided to go back to the dining room so we could see our tablemates and say goodbye – BIG MISTAKE! This only reminded me why we skipped it for 3 nights prior. We arrived at 5:45 and they took our order around 6:05. We waited, and waited, and finally around 6:30 they brought my daughter’s meal. She sat and ate and they brought appetizers out. At 6:40 my server came back over and said ‘Sorry what did you order again?’. Seriously – shouldn’t it be in cooking right now? Meanwhile my daughter is DONE her food and staring at the ceiling and mine is not even ordered! I just went with the safe steak/potato thing again. My meal finally came out at about 7:05, about 10 minutes after the rest of the table. We were ‘this close’ to leaving, but my daughter wanted a fancy dessert on the last night. I ate and then we finally got dessert at 7:30, which was some chocolate lovers delight. I love chocolate and desserts, but this was terrible. First there was a tall sundae glass filled with what we thought was ice cream and chocolate sauce, but turned out to be a glass filled with whipped cream and some choc sauce. Ick! I think they had a whipped cream surplus that night! I looked around and they were sitting uneaten all over the place. The other thing was some sort of chocolate cake/cheesecake/I dunno what it was cake thing, and it was sooooooo rich it made my teeth hurt, and I like rich desserts. We were about to leave when all of a sudden (night before tips were due) our servers came by and were all lovey dovey with us and the table and saying it was a pleasure, etc….and remind us of our breakfast time, then start hugging us all! My daughter started laughing – she just couldn’t help it. First she had this awkward look on her face as a server was trying to hug her, and then she started to giggle. The server is then trying to hug me and it was just….well…AWKWARD! I had not built any sort of relationship with these people. In fact, I didn’t even want to tip them, and they come around the last night and start hugging us????? It just was awkward and weird. Now, I know that some of you become good friends with your servers and that is all cool – but we didn’t! We missed 3 dinners and the rest of it was a mess! Why on earth do I want to hug them?!?! We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. In our daily passporter journal, we keep track of the funniest moments and that is actually in there…”The servers hugging us for tips”. LOL The last show was wonderful and then it was time to leave the next day. We had our luggage out at 10:45pm and ordered one last room service. Day 7 - Jan 17 - Going home We had a 6:45am seating for breakfast, but that is way too early for us. We got up at 6:45am, got showered and packed up and went to Topsiders around 7:45am. It was very busy. I think most people did the same thing as us. We ate and then went for one last look and a couple of photos. We decided to disembark before it got really crowded, and at about 8:10 we were able to walk right off the ship with no lines. We had no trouble finding a porter for our bags, who walked us right through customs and to the bus easily. We got on the bus and waited for them to fill it, which took about 10-15 minutes, and then we were on our way to the airport. I would definately use the bus service back to the airport again. One word of caution is if you are flying southwest (like we were), they drop you quite far from where you need to be. It is quite a hike to SW (ie: get a luggage car). I imagine if you had a towncar it would drop you curbside and you could do curbside check in. Final Overall Thoughts on the Cruise: I hope this whole thing didn’t come off too negative. I was basically reviewing the food and service, and what we did in port, as people like to read about that. Overall I give the cruise an A-. Despite the crappy food, crappy dining room experience, and the injury situation, the rest of our cruise was incredible. The rest of the cruise experience was excellent enough to outweigh the negatives. The staff was friendly, our ‘room dude’ left funny towel animals every night and did a great job with our room, the entertainment was worth the money spent on the cruise (ever seen the dancers on Carnival? Not so great….), we loved the hypnotist they brought on board, the movie theater was fun (we saw Bolt 3D, Bedtime Stories, Bev Hills Chihuahua and caught t he last hour of HSM 3), the activities were fun that we participated in, etc… We have so many memories we will never ever forget. Right now I am looking at the 14 day eastern repo, but still researching and deciding. The kids club my daughter was in was the ocean quest ages 11-13. My daughter is a mature 12, and honestly would have been better off in the stack. She is not a ‘sexually mature’ type girl, but just mentally more mature. Things kids were laughing hysterically at in Ocean Quest just made my daughter raise an eyebrow and go ‘ummmmmmm yah….ok’. She did find another girl and a boy who had the same maturity level and tended to hang with them. The club also had a lot of 10 (almost 11) year olds in it, and that can be a big difference in some groups of kids to have a 10 yr old in with a 12.5 yr old. Ocean Quest was fun, but not everything she expected. It was very geared towards boys. Lots of sports games and physical challenge stuff, but nothing really for the girls. No arts and crafts (my daughter would have loved to make friendship bracelets and stuff like that). Tons of video games. It seemed like one activity for 30 mins, then 2 hours of free time. The free time was basically ‘video games’. Who spends $2500 on a cruise to have their kid play guitar hero all week? I know I don’t! I briefly speak with someone in the kids club, and not ‘complain’, but just told them they needed more girl stuff – more stuff to do on the free time than video games, and they actually agreed and were thankful for the feedback. They asked for suggestions and I gave them a ton, including a spa party (could they get someone from the spa down to do facials? Even at an extra cost, most parents would pay it), manicure party, arts/crafts, t-shirt making, etc…etc… and they said they liked those ideas and were going to work on making it better. They said it was recently they split the age groups and needed feedback. The cabin (5131): This location is WONDERFUL! So close to the elevators and stairs and at the aft for easy access to deck nine drinks/pool. The room was comfy and cozy and we didn't miss having a window or balcony. I thought we would be wanting one, but we were fine! Its a great size for 2 people or 2 people and a small child, but I wouldn't really want 3 adults in there! Too cramped! That is all I can think of right now! 90% of our cruise was magnificent!! And as I said at the beginning, no vacation is perfect and things are bound to go wrong! Any questions? Feel free to ask me!