Cast Me (Kim) 43yo Michael (husband) 49yo Mikey almost 15yo Andrew newly 13yo Alex(andra) 11yo Background We live in Venice, CA and visited WDW for the first time in 1997. We stayed at OKW, loved it, and bought into DVC at that time. Since then, weve been back to OKW every summer. Id say were Disney fans but not fanatics. Although were within an hours drive of DL and DCA, we usually only visit once per yearmore than that makes it less magical to me. I really cant remember exactly what gave me the notion to want to cruise this yearno doubt something I read on the Internet None of us have ever cruisedI used to want to when I was single, and in fact asked my travel agent to book one for me at one time, back in the 70s when Love Boat was on TV. But she talked me into Club Med instead, and it was on that fateful trip to Martinique in 78 that I met Michael and the cruise never happened. Until now hehehe Pre-planning When I suggested a DCL cruise to Michael back in April 2000, he didnt give it any thought and just said something like sure, whatever. Hes pretty easy that way So I contacted Beci Mahnken from The Cruising Co. since I know her from the DVCtalk and disneycruise Yahoogroups lists, and requested quotes for a variety of cabin categories in August, 2001. We already had our annual OKW trip planned for 8/00, and while we never plan that far in advance, I guess I must have read that its a good idea to book a cruise as early as possible. Beci priced out a variety of options, from 2 adjoining category 10 cabins up through a category 2, 2-bedroom suite. When I showed Michael the cabin sizes, amenities and prices he didnt want to consider anything but the biggest and the best. He even asked if we could get a category 1 royal suite, but unfortunately they were booked for our dates and in fact were booked for the entire summer. Michael is very prone to seasickness, so he figured if hes going to spend this vacation feeling miserable, he may as well at least be miserable in luxurious accommodations. So, we put our deposit on the 2-bedroom suite and let the waiting begin There are several great sources of DCL info available on the Net. One of the best is The Magical Disney Cruise Guide at http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/entropym/pages/index.htm which includes links to many other DCL-related pages, and you can easily find a years worth of reading and research. I think I scanned the Net just about every day for the past 16 months and by the time our cruise date drew near, I felt very well informed. Were not big on pre-planningwhen we visit WDW we seldom schedule any priority seatings or plan in advance which parks well visit on which day we just play it by ear, and we NEVER get up early in the morning. Well, I do but thats just my nature and I enjoy the quiet time alone with my coffee before everyone else gets up. Since were from the left coast and our body clocks are on Pacific Time, its not unusual for the kids to be knocked out till noon. Thats OK, were not in any hurry and its their vacation too they get up at the crack odawn throughout the school year and often have activities scheduled into the night, so I dont feel theres any need to be pressured to do anything at any particular time on vacation. So, we did a minimum of pre-planning for the cruise. Of course we needed flights, so I kept my eyes open for airfare deals and checked www.lowestfare.com (where Ive often had good luck in the past) and Southwest Airlines (which usually offers $99 each way deals) regularly. Things were looking grim until finally in April Southwest came through with the $99 deal through August, so I snapped up our flight from LAX to MCO. I didnt book a return flight because we were unsure of our plansboth Michael and I have brothers in FL (his near Tampa, mine in Ft. Lauderdale) and we wanted to visit them, plus Michael wanted to try to see the Keys after the cruise. While we were sitting on the fence, the $99 special sold out Even though were pulling out all the stops and spending a fortune on this cruise, theres a part of me that just refuses to pay full price when I know I could have paid much less, so it was about to kill me to have to spend an extra $1000 on airfare. Finally in June, Southwest came through again with another $99 offer and this time I didnt hesitate and quickly booked our return flight on 8/18 out of Ft. Lauderdale. So, at this point the plan is to fly into MCO on 8/3, rent a minivan from Avis at the airport ($80), spend the night at the Radisson Resort at the Port in Cape Canaveral ($120 for a 1br suite), where theres an Avis office to return the car, and take either the Avis or Radisson shuttle to the cruise terminal on Saturday morning. Upon our return a week later, well rent another minivan from Budget at the port for a week ($300). First stop will be Port St. Lucie, where Ill visit a friend of mine overnightMichael and the kids will probably stay at a hotel. Then on to Ft. Lauderdale where well spend a couple days with my brother Dan and also rendezvous with Michaels brother Wayne and family from Tampa, his brother Tim and family from Virginia, and his sister Lisa from here in CA who decided to join us. From there all of us except Dan (hes very ill, on chemotherapy and cant leave town) will head down to the Keys for the rest of the week, before returning to fly home from Ft. Lauderdale. When I booked the cruise, I requested through Beci that we have a table for 5 rather than be seated with other guests. I just felt wed all (especially the kids) be more relaxed this way. We requested late seating because of the time zone difference8:30 p.m. feels like 5:30 p.m. to us, and thats plenty early enough! Also, about 2 weeks prior to sailing I called the DCL concierge phone number to request a particular dining rotationI wanted PLAPLAP (P=Parrot Cay, L=Lumieres, A=Animators Palate). I was happy to be told that this was no problem. That would put us in Parrot Cay, a tropical themed, more casual setting, on the first and last nights when were likely to be a little frazzled, and also on Tuesday which is Tropical Night throughout the ship. Wed be at Lumieres, the most formal venue, on Formal Night, and Animators Palate for the other 2 nights, one of which is semi-formal. I was also assured by DCL that a table for 5 was a done deal. Perfect! I was offered the opportunity to pre-book Palo reservations for dinner, brunch and/or high tea and also any shore excursions, but I passed on those.