Our new-to-cruising family includes myself, my DH Rick and our children, Andrew (DS18), Christian (DS14) and Caroline, (DD8). We generally take family car trips; a cruise is a big departure from what we are used to doing. This first post is about planning so if you are more interested in actual trip details skip ahead. Also, all the pictures on these first couple of posts will be public domain images. That's because on day two of our trip I asked my son to check out something on the camera and he deleted all our pictures from that day and the first day. ugh! 2008 Its early October and Im trying to think of a family trip that we can enjoy to celebrate our upcoming 20th Anniversary. Maybe a cruise or trip to Walt Disney World during the kids school break in January? I have been asking my friends for advice and have contacted my neighbors granddaughter who is a Disney travel agent. Oct. 17 Been communicating back and forth with travel agent. Trying to fit in the dates and times and not completely keel over at the cost. Thinking how awesome it would be to give them this gift on Christmas morning and then be able to leave 3 weeks later during a school break (extra long weekend). Oct. 21 Going back and forth with the idea of two staterooms in a lower category rather than one bigger stateroom. It is our anniversary after all. Cant the kids stay in their own room? Oct. 23 Maybe we should do Walt Disney World instead of a cruise? Nov. 5 Seriously concerned about Christian missing any more school. If we go in January, he would have to miss a least two more days of school. Hes missed 7 or 8 days already due to illness. Need to look into going in June instead. No one in the family knows about the trip yet . Nov. 8 Had a June trip all picked out when Andrew mentions CIY camp. Scrap the date and move into July. July is more expensive than June! Nov. 9 BOOKED!!! Wow, I did it! I booked a cruise on my own, without telling Rick. Hell probably freak out! We sail July 9. I have to get reading and planning a way to surprise them with this. What a great Christmas present this will be! Dec. Planning my presentation to the family on Christmas morning. Dec. 25, 2008 We opened all the family gifts at home like normal. It was a nice morning. Since we usually get a family gift the kids were happy to get a new computer monitor and figured that was their big gift. Suddenly I found a big box at the very back of the tree. It was labeled To Rick. He opened the box while the kids looked on. Inside was a calendar page for the month of July 2009. The day, July 9 was circled in red. Hmmm, he figured we were doing something in July. Also inside were three silver wrapped boxes. Each had a number on it and one of the childrens names. *Caroline got #1 and opened it. It was an ornament of a starfish. Hmmm, a beach vacation? *Christian opened box #2. It was a glass ornament of a ship inside a life buoy and had the words Bon Voyage written on it. I dont think they quite got it yet, but I didnt want them to ponder for too long so I had *Andrew open his box, #3. Since the trip had morphed into a graduation present for him, too, I thought he should have the honor of opening the final information source. It was a long box with a Disney Cruise brochure inside. There was general disbelief and looks of surprise. "WE'RE GOING ON A CRUISE?" Caroline was whooping and hollering. Rick looked seasick. Just kidding, he was probably in shock. The kids immediately put on the DVD and watched all about the cruise. That day Caroline told everyone at the family Christmas dinner about our big gift! May 1, 2009. Ordered passports for everyone. Early May. Discovered DIS boards; joined May 11 June 1, 2009. Passports arrived. May: Explore options to do after the cruise to help with the post-cruise let down. Decide on two days at Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure. After getting much advice from the DIS boards we decide to stay on-site to utilize the Front of the Line perk reserved for resort guests. Both Rick and Andrews birthdays are at the end of May. Christians is at the end of June. I give them their combined gift on Christians birthday...just two weeks before the trip: a stay at the Royal Pacific Resort, two days at Universal Studios/IOA and they will all be taking the Nassau Segway Tour excursion! One thing I learned: Our travel agent was very nice and easy to work with. But she had no experience with DCL. We basically paid rack rate and got no onboard credit; not much in the way of suggestions or advice either. Next time we'll go with a more experienced agent. next up: Day one...first flight, first palm trees, first Florida!