Here is my journal for our week so far. DISNEY MAGIC Cruise 2012 October Back to Back Western Caribbean- Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel Who are we? Extended family of 7. myself and DS x3 (5yr, 5yr and 9yr) plus Grandma's x2. We have cruised nearing 20 times (DCL, HAL, Princess, Carnival). This will be our 2nd Disney Cruise (both on the Magic). Myself, DS x3 and Gma x1 will be on a back to back next week as well- the other 2 have to get back to work. I usually write a journal each cruise, so what is to follow was not initially intended to be a review, I just decided it includes a few details that might be helpful for fellow cruiser but reader BEWARE there will be some boring portions as well, so proceed with caution, it wasn't intended to be a review, just my thought to jog my memory in years to come about our family vacation Not sure if I will keep up with the journal next week..... possibly more to follow, if it isn't terribly boring!! Pre Cruise Day 1 Weather: sunny in SD low 80's. Flight from San Diego to Houston Hobby via Las Vegas. Sadly unable to book the Nonstop flight for personal reasons. We would have had to pull the kids out from school early and this was the last school day prior to fall break with many festivities going on- Pumpkin Patch Field trip, class party, school assembly, etc. So we booked the later flight that traveled thru Las Vegas but no plane change. Flight on Southwest was excellent. On-time, great service and we were comfortable. Not much more to ask for..... Grandma #1 landed in Hobby 6 hours prior to us and was able to retrieve her luggage, call for free shuttle and transfer to Sheraton Four Points on her own. We arrived at 10:15pm, and were driving away from Enterprise Rental Car in our Minivan with the 6 of us & 10 pieces of luggage by 11:15pm. Quick stop by McDonalds (on Broadway near the airport) for a midnight snack- since we didn't realize we were not going to be allowed off the plane in Vegas to get dinner...... So needless to say the kids were hungry). The Four Points location was convenient. Right off I-45 just south of the airport. Check in was easy and we were in our room by midnight. The room was clean and nicely furnished. We had read reviews of recommendations to not stay in the area near Hobby but we were satisfied with the condition of the hotel, parking lot cleanliness, and friendly staff. It is not a five star resort property but an excellent place for us to spend the night. We only needed one of our bags in the hotel but opted to bring all of them inside since we didn't need to encourage a car break in. We used SPG points and booked 2 rooms for the 7 of us, which was adequate & comfortable for just a nights rest. Cruise Day 1 Weather: partly cloudy, low 80'sSunrise 6:24am, Sunset 5:43pm Seas: calm (they don't give us the foot measurements of the seas on DCL as they do other lines- so I will give a 5 scale rating. 1 is calm Cruise Casual Early morning rise- well for some of us.We all woke up between 6am & 8am. No one was really hungry so we opted to just check out & start on our way to Port Galveston. TO DO list: buy alcohol, case of water, juice boxes for shore excursions & possibly a stop at McDonald's if anyone became hungry. We turned right from the hotel parking lot and stayed on the frontage road of the freeway. We opted to not get on the freeway as there was a Walmart within a few miles of the hotel. So we drove along side the freeway until we reached the WalMart on Rowlett (just past Spec's Liquor which was closed- >didn't open til 10am). Hhhmm I wanted a bottle of tequila or rum but no hard liquor sold at Wal-Mart. I found 2 bottles of red wine & premixed Margarita's. Case of water - check, juice boxes- check, and walked by fresh donuts-- what more could the kids want for breakfast than a sugar filled donut!! There was also a McDonald's in the store so 2 of the 7 decided to buy breakfast. It was a 10 minute pit-stop & we were on our way again. Did I forget to mention that this was cheapest case of water I have purchased since probably the 1980's?? $2.49 really meant $2.49- no CRV tax- I guess good but possibly bad- not sure how Texas is doing on recycling initiatives..... On our way, no traffic. Galveston Island->. We opted to forego exiting at 1C and drove to the end of I-45 where it turns into Broadway. The Enterprise Rental Car Co was immediately on the right after the bridge and a gas station was on the left for DH to fill up before returning the car. DH drove the 7 of us to the cruise terminal. We turned down 22nd street and then left near waterside, then a right on 23rd and then left again. The signage turning at 22nd was present but not visible to DH (on the street signs/corners), the signage once we turned on 23rd was big and easy to follow- stay left, go past terminal 1 and then terminal 2 was on the right. We took care of the luggage and DH drove the rental car back to the rental company. We arrived to the port at 10am. It appeared that there were about 50 people already there. No one had really started to form a line. If you happen to pull up right in front of luggage drop off you dont need a porter. The drop off is steps away. DH left me with 3 kids, 2 grandmas, 15 pieces of luggage(3 backpacks, 1 small duffle, 1 large duffle, 4 carryons, 6 medium suitcases- AND dropped us off at the east side of the terminal (the area we drove up to first at the edge of the building). So I paid for some help! I think the first part of the building was luggage pick up for exiting passengers, next part was luggage drop off, then the entrance to the port and check in. They were not allowing anyone inside the building except to use the restroom and vending machines. Once inside the doors- restrooms were to the right and vending machines straight ahead. to the left: Security lines on both sides of the disney sign hanging. Once thru security- check in desks were easily visible across the room. The check in desk start at #1 on the left and then the very far right. If turned facing the check in desks--> at the far right is where you pass thru the disney flags once boarding starts. If you turn 180 degrees from the check in desk-> far right is where you passed thru security, straight ahead is the room for youth activities registration and to the left are restrooms and water fountains. Just outside of the restroom, to the right along the wall, is where boarding begins once your group is called. 10am Back to arriving at the port. We dropped off luggage and then proceeded to get our place in line. The majority of the 50 people at port had not started to form a line- they were scattered sitting on benches. Grandma took one of the last spaces at a bench and the rest of hopped in the line que (far right of the building- enter on the left and the line wrapped around along the building. We were about 40th in line but some sitting on the benches didn't get up when check in opening was called- they might have been waiting for others to arrive?? 10:30 check in started and we were allowed in the building. We ended up being ~#20-25 thru security. We already had our check in forms signed, filled out the health questionairre and only needed one picture since the rest of us were CC members. We have 2 4A cabins & a 1br suite (last minute change of plans). 11am off to Youth activities registration. this was easy- we had completed the online portion- so the kids just needed to get their wristbands. By the time we finished upgrading- the line had gone from 4 people to about 40. It took about 25 minutes. A very sweet CM who was trying to save us wait time in line ques had told Grandmas to take the kids over to get banded while I was working on the room checkins but Gma's said no thank you (at that point- there were no families in line)-- grandmas didnt realize they could have taken them without me to get wristbands ~11:45 boarding started- they had said that boarding had started at 11:30 the weeks prior but it was a few minutes later today- but no big deal. The morning had gone very smoothly all things considering. We were group 1 and on the ship within 3-5 minutes (concierge now- YIPPEE)- the 4A's (Gma's) were group 6 but they were allowed to board with us(we had signed up online for 1130 check in timeslot). The usual once we arrived on board, tea with alice, wine tasting and then off to lunch- we chose topsiders for the kids options available. After lunch we toured through kids club/lab to refresh their memories. Then off to sessions to check in with the concierge team- they were offering complimentary drinks and very appetizing snacks but we had just finished lunch- so declined the food snacks and just introduced ourselves to Alice & Danny. From this point on & about every 10 minutes I was asked "when can we go back to club, when can we go back to club?" Our bags arrived between 2-2:45-- all 10 of them between the 3 cabins(there were zero bags prior to 2pm). We unpacked quick prior to 3pm disboards/FE meet up. Keeping most of our items on hangers when we pack makes unpacking very quick. Fish Extender meet up was brief. We tried to learn as many names as possible. There were 5 cabin changes for the 16 cabins. Next was muster drill-- very chaotic in AP-- noisy- difficult to hear anything. THis should really be addressed if they seriously want people to hear the instructions. We have cruised many times before and understood but for those new to cruising (and really for us) this muster drill was inappropriate...... 4:15 deck party was alot of fun and then we went back to the suite to watch sailaway from the back of the ship. There were many bottlenose dolphin playing in the surf both inside the bay and just outside. The kids went to club from 5-5:45 First seating dinner in Parrot's Cay- we have PLAPLAP assignment. Our DR server is fabulous. Our server's anonymous counterpart is much less than fabulous but sweet- maybe she is earning her ears?. The MaitreD has been outstanding. We met him after check in and he stopped by again tonight. He was chatty with genuine appearing interactions with us and our children. Dinner was great. The kids requested to skip dessert and go back to club. We loved our Disney Cruise before and there were not many children on board but it was still noticeably different from our other cruises on HAL & Princess. Yes we have witnessed ill mannered children on the other cruises but we have found generally speaking that parents react to their children much less or more slowly on DCL than the others. I honestly cannot recall many instances on other lines of children SCREAMING in the dining rooms and then the parents remaining seated at the table. If our children ever started crying, acting out, etc- we would immediately remove them from the table- go outside of the restaurant- and then sometimes return and other times forego return. There had to have been nearly a dozen children tonight crying, screaming, yelling at their parents (eek)..... running around their table- and it spread from a variety of ages-- babies to ~10yr olds running through the restaurant (twice I might add for the same 2 `10 yo girls). I think I saw one parent leave with a misbehaved child. One other parent left a screaming child at the table and exited the restaurant (returned minutes later with a stuffed animal for the screaming kid. I seriously wondered through dinner if we were going to be able to return for dinner each night. Concierge in room dining was appearing to be an easy solution to the torture and a very possible option. Sure are kids are not angels 100% of the time- but we have not had a cruise to date that we haven't had multiple people come up to us and our children and let them know what excellently behaved children they were. Some come over to our table and acknowledge the boys and other fellow cruise guests just tell us as we are walking past their tables- your boys are wonderful, etc. It has been a lot of progress over the years. It was much work initially, teaching them they had to stay seated, bringing multiple briery items: sticker books, picture books, color books/crayons, etc. but over time it became less work and easier and we always dine in the MDR on cruises & the kids can politely sit through a 2+ hour meal. This cruise we left the sticker books, etc behind- they are all old enough now to know the rules. The welcome show was great. The kids stayed in club til 10p and then we had to call it a night. We haven't decided yet if we will let the 9 yr old check in/out independently- we signed ok at registration but he knows for now it isn't allowed. Great start on day #1 of our DCL vacation, minus less than desireable parents and children in the DR-- but still an excellent day!! Funnest event of the day for the kids: Adventures Away & Mickey Mania; for me: the cruise starting & unpacking in our concierge 1 bedroom suite! Adventures Away party was also fun! Cruise Day #2 (Sea Day #1) Partly cloudy low 80's. Sunrise 6:47am. Sunset 6:13pm Formal Night Sea Condition: 1. Seas 1-2 ft 9yr old woke up at 7am. Topsiders is about 40 steps away (one cabin away, small hallway and up the stairs-- Whalaah- we are in topsiders. 9 yr old wanted breakfast ASAP so he could be at Oceaneers Lab by 8:55. The twins needed some encouragement to get up by 8:30. Breakfast in Lemieres for the rest of us. Upon walking in at 9:20am we were advised the galley was backed up significantly. We said that's Ok and we still wanted to dine. I am wondering if it was a ploy to get us to go to topsiders or if a genuine FYI for our benefit. We were done with breakfast by 9:45 (so obviously the galley was not backed up any longer if they had been at all. French toast was great the pancakes could have been used to pound nails into a wall. Typically we never experience this with sit down breakfast dining but it seems to be a theme for DCL and our prior DCL cruise. The sit down dining doesn't seem to be freshly cooked- more like grabbing some pancakes from a warming tray that have been cooked much earlier. Whatever the case, I don't find breakfast to be the most healthiest for me on cruises. I choose options like french toast, pancakes and waffles and then regret it afterwards. DCL helps me as if I am going to eat these items- they need to be piping hot & fresh off the griddle or waffle iron. This doesn't seem possible on DCL, and I completely understand-- you can only do so much trying to feed 2000+ people. So no complaints form me, just the facts (the pancakes truly were hard as rocks and maybe they would have softened up had they been submerged in syrup but we declined and left them on our plate. So fresh fruit and oatmeal are my alternate options or a hard boiled egg. I can still mark the excellent box on my comment card. HAHA!! The kids went to club and the 4 adults went to Disney's art of entertaining. and then cove pool for a relaxing quiet morning. Studios sea appetizer was a seafood martini- we enjoyed watching the cooking show but Princess and HAL are many years ahead of Disney with this (like going to the local state fair vs going to Disneyland--> DCL hardly seems to even be in the competition, but nonetheless it was fun. Wish list: DCL please have a hands on culinary class similar to HAL-- they are so much fun, and love the chefs that participate with this program). Back to Cove pool, we took the last 4 lounge chairs available, Many towels and bags on chairs without people but a good 60% were occupied. ICK!!! what is that smell and where is it coming from? UGH- I thought I got lucky finding chairs but I was one chair over from smoking zone. WAAAAHH!!! I guess where else can they put the smoking zone but what a bummer to have it in the nice cove area and under a covered area that forces people to inhale second hand smoke without adequate ventilation. I positioned my chair mostly out of down wind zone. We had a nice morning by the pool. The kids were hungry at 1p and I was excited it was italian buffet day. ok hold back the excitement- italian buffet consisted of 2 different rissoto's, penne with alfredo sauce and fuseli with a red sauce I think. That would be it! Lunch was still wonderful but I had been thinking about yummy italian food for several hours. I hadn't mentioned my disappointment to G-ma and she brought up her disappointment as well(she dined in parrots- we went to topsiders)- "it was supposed to be italian buffet but they didn't really have many Italian food dishes". we vote they should just call it lunch. The italian buffet is somewhat false advertising for us . We spent the afternoon at Mickey's slide & pool. 9yo stayed in club. Family went to Ratatouille cooking school. Then back to the cabins to get formal wear on in 15 minutes!!! Needless to say no one was thrilled with mom that they were having to get dressed up but not alot of whining and complaining, after nearly 20 cruises they are used to the drill and are along for the ride and know better. our MaitreD had his work cut out for him tonight..... yesterday we asked if the 9yo could have the Mickey shaped ravioli each night if available. (he had these on the transatlantic for probably 12 of the 14 nights and it was only 12 because it took us 2 nights to know that they were available. They were served at Topsiders for dinner but the MaitreD on the transatlantic was able to have them sent down each night. 9yo would eat other things but he loved these and the dining room staff torture us each night with the excellence speech so just figured that if they are going to tell us over and over that they want us to have an excellent time and the service to be outstanding and nothing less, I figure why not- ask for what the little munchkin really wants vs what he was will settle for . Our MaitreD promised the night prior we could have them each night. OOOPS! he thought we meant the mickey shaped pasta that none of the kids would eat last night. No- Mickey shaped Ravioli-cheese filled. So come to find out they are no longer serving these little mickey shaped heads BUT they have a few left over. He said that we might have enough for the rest of this weeks cruise but probably not for next week. I told him that the 9yo would also eat circle cheese raviolis if those were available. MaitreD said not to worry- there were a few mickey raviolis that would hopefully last for awhile. 9yo meal was a little delayed due to the confusion. MaitreD arrived to the table shortly after it's arrival to ensure all was ok. As he was standing talking with us for a brief minute or 2 he was re assessing his availability of mickey raviolis for the week. Maybe just 2 days worth!! HAHA. the 9yo had inhaled every single one of the raviolis. So at least now he could go back and inform the chef a kind thank you from us and that the 9yo loved them!! Dessert time! So this cruise was planned for the little ones birthday but we decided to cruise a few weeks after their actual birth date. Tonight the DR staff sang Happy Birthday to them. While eating their cake Twin 1 turns to me and says "Mom am I six now". HAHA. They have just turned 5. No you arent 6 now they were just singing Happy Birthday to you since you werent on the cruise on your real birthday day. You didn't just have another birthday. So this is a good rational/argument for those that think you should only be celebrating events on board the ship that the cruise dates actually fall within!! HAHA! our head servers counterpart really needs to stop saying yes when she doesn't understand what we have said. She says yes to pretty much everything we say- even when yes is the inappropriate/incorrect answer- there seems to be a language barrier. Have I mentioned that she is very sweet though!! she certainly is trying and still excellent HAHA-- Our head server stays on top of things and is doing an excellent job guiding her through her journey of gaining experience. The kids went to club after a quick change out of tuxedos for about an hour then we picked them up to watch the show. Twice Charmed was fabulous- the little ones loved it and the 9yo asked why he had to go again- "I have already seen it last year". Too bad "F" is for- it is a family event- not necessarily a fun event. You get to come! Back to kids club right after the show and then they stayed until 1130. Gaga ball was a huge hit for all 3 of them- rolling the ball on the ground and trying to hit people like bowling pins- if you dont hit the ball with your hand and the ball touches you- you are out. They I guess are having Ninja camp this week- all 3 kids are learning Ninja moves. I don't think I will be saying thank you for this upon disembarkation but the kids are enjoying it. We might have to have Ninja detoxification after we get home. Peter our cruise director looks about 10 years younger than last year (we sailed with him on the transatlantic last May). I can't tell if he is just thinner or is it is haircut? We enjoyed him last cruise and I am sure we will again. Out of nearly 20 cruises there are probably 2 (non DCL) that we did not care for whatsoever and cringed when they started announcements. Would actually prefer to never sail with them again and since we are flexible with travel dates would avoid booking if that worked best for us. Another fabulous end of a fun filled day- we need a 36-48 hour day to get everything done-- too much to choose from. All of the CM's have been absolutely wonderful. Every CM seems to treat EVERY guest as if they are kings, Queens, princesses, and princes!! Excellent work! THe ship is beautiful. Clean & shiny. Yes some things show signs of wear-- ie the cabinets in our cabin leave much room for improvements. Crooked doors, drawers that don't easily pull out, one drawer that the face fell off of and screws x6 poking out. However, the ship is in excellent condition and we are just as please as we were in May 2011 for the Disney Magic transatlantic as we are this week. We like all the variety of sizes of ships- they all have their pluses and minuses. Funnest event of the day for the kids: Gaga Ball; for me: Dinner & mom am I 6 now? Cruise Day #3 (Sea Day #2) Partly cloudy mid 80's. High 86. Sunrise 6:47 am; Sunset 6:07pm Sea Conditions: 1-2 (still calm but movement can be felt)- my guess ~1-3ft Cruise Casual The 9yo woke up 1st again at 6:30. The little brothers instructed him the night prior to wake them up as they were a bit bothered the prior am that he went to lab before them. So today we all had Topsiders for breakfast. We took the side stairs and again was so convenient. The staff even offered to help carry the trays down to our cabin but we declined- it was easy enough on our own. Our kids were obsessed with getting to club at 9am. Very interesting.... school mornings it is a constant: finish your breakfast, get dressed, get your shoes on, brush your teeth, brush your teeth......blah,blah, blah. Now it is like magic. POOF! breakfast is done, dressed, teeth brushed and they are at the door "can we go yet, can we go yet". Maybe if school started off in the Oceaneer lab things would go this easily at home. The adults opted for Cove Pool again. We made a mad dash for the port side today to avoid the secondhand smoke. No major plans today except Tea with Alice and Disney's Art of entertaining. I would like to watch Brave but thus far no one else interested in going with me- will watch it solo next week on B2B if I can't round someone up this week! That is it for now 10am and time to read my book. Sorry no pictures to upload- they are on my camera and no cable to transfer What is coming up next for us? Grand Cayman- private charter boat B2B #2 turtle farm Boatswains Costa Maya- Tropicante, B2B #2 DCL Ruin excursion- Chacchoban (?sp) Cozumel- Xel Ha we are looking forward to the Halloween festivities and pirate nights x2 Cruise Day #3 (Say Day #2 continued) I am writing 4 days later so my memory might not be perfect...... The adults had a nice quiet morning at the pool. No Art of entertaining today. I happened to go back to the cabin for a book & noticed the line for the princess gathering. Called DH and asked him to retrieve the kids. I waited in line. The gals behind had 2 little ones in princess outfits. After about 10 minutes in line one of them says- can you imagine waiting in line with little boys- not wanting to be here (referencing that all of the little girls waiting were so excited to be meeting the princesses). I said nothing. A few minutes later there is one family ahead of me in line. My boys walk around the corner (DH didn't tell them why he drug them out of lab so they were still in quite the pleasant mood. First thing they said once around the corner: aahh mom! we don't want to see princesses! Me "listen: do you want to spend the rest of the day with me or do you want to smile for 5 minutes take some pictures and go back to lab. Me or lab? Let me see your smiles. All 3 of them like clockwork put on their fake smiles and off we were to see the princesses." The ladies behind me started laughing. The kids took beautiful pictures and within 5-10 minutes they were checked back in to lab. I like to buy(rent) owners timeshare weeks form them so I went to the DVC presentation- helps me know the point options and a little more info. I have thought about purchasing on occasion but have never taken the plunge. Next: Brave (UGH in 3D- I do not like 3D). Loved the movie, ended up going with DH & Gma #2. WIll still have to see if the kids want to go next week. Gma #1 has enjoyed attending the Animation classes. She draws well and these are fun for her. Not much else happened today. THe kids spent the majority of the day at lab. We watched football briefly. Tried to make it an early night as we had a long day planned in Grand Cayman Funnest event of the day for the kids: Gaga Ball & Toy Story mania; for me: Brave (minus the 3D) Cruise Day #4 Grand Cayman Mostly cloudy mid 80's.Sunrise 6:23 am; Sunset 6:05pm- call was for chance of showers. There were patchy clouds, some white & fluffy, others dark dark grey, and then patches of sunlight. Sea Conditions: 1-2 (stil calm but movement can be felt)- my guess ~3-5ft Pirate or cruise casual Early morning rise at 6:15 for all. Breakfast from Topsiders but in our room. We were scolded by one of the managers upstairs to not do this again. We are able to get full service breakfast room service- so just call them and they will bring it to you! "but we like our food hot and worst case warm and breakfast via room service sometimes doesn't come very warm" "it is easy enough for us to just walk upstairs" --please don;t do this again- at least give us one try to "ok, maybe we will try tomorrow" . He helped me carry our trays to our cabin and also made 2 Hot chocolates for us and brought them down. So sweet!!! and he genuinely wants me to let them bring us breakfast in the am!! We were on the first tender to shore. Concierge was great with assisting. It was a 5 minute walk to our meeting point for our private Charter. Well lets just start off with the inclimate weather, our trip probably should have been cancelled. We had booked certain places we wanted to visit and a portion were unable to be visited (stingray city, great barrier reef, one other snorkel stop). We didn't realize the sea & weather conditions and rely on the companies we are booking with. We had a nice brief city tour on our way to the charter boat. We headed out to Stingray City and needless to say it was not conditions that our children could get into the water with. There was a current and heavy winds and swells. We saw the sting rays from the boat and then went to RUm Point. Here our captain made a chum line. It took about 30 minutes but soon we had ~6 stingrays at our feet eating squid. He brought one out of the water for us to hold, and feel. He then took us just in front of the rum point pier so that we could snorkel. The current flowing through the channel was the worst/strongest I have ever been in. When he told us on the boat- I am going to put out a tow line and you can grab onto this while out snorkeling. I thought- yeah great, that's nice but we will be fine without it, we won't get lost. HAHA. He didn't say he was putting it out so we wouldn't end up in Cuba. The snorkeling was awesome, despite the weather on top of the water. The water was crystal clear and the fish were everywhere. DH scraped his abdomen on some coral OUCH!! and I held on for dear life to the tow line. There was no swimming involved and pretty much no kicking. I just moved myself up and down the tow rope to see the fish. Next stop was a brief Rum Point Beach break. A few of us ordered lunch. Great food and drinks! The kids played in the sand and enjoyed the hammocks and then off we were to Starfish Point. This was the kids favorite stop. The water was calm. They loved hunting for Starfish. Well it was actually DH hunting for starfish at the break of the shallow water to deeper water. The most he brought up at one time was 5 starfish. He would place them at the edge of the shallow line so the kids could "find" them. They were so excited when they found one. They were quite proud to show us that the starfish had 5 eyes and enjoyed seeing all the different colors each of them were. We also had a crab run up to our feet that was eating a stingray embryo. The kids enjoyed seeing the dead stingray half eaten by the crab . Funniest moment of the cruise thus far happened today. Sorry Twin #1 your "mom am I 6 now?" was just superseded. We had a one person raft that the kids had been playing in. It was probably 2x4 ft and had a 6 ft rope attached. twin #2 had started back to the boat in the 3 ft water. All of us a sudden he starts screaming like a limb is being chopped off. Aaahh something is after me. Aaahh something is chasing me. he screamed this probably 10 times. I had already started to run towards him but I couldn't catch up with him because he started running the opposite direction from all of us. I tried yelling for him to run towards me and not away from me but he didn't turn but I finally caught up to him. Then I realized what was happening. "what is after you?" "A stingray" . Let's just back this story up a few months....... He had watched the videos of what we were going to do today and insisted that he had no desire to swim with stingrays. We had told him that he didn't have to get in. They could get in if they wanted or they could watch the rays form the boat. It was up to them. He had brought it up again this am that he didnt want to swim with them and he was afraid of being stung. Back to present time and the screaming "Aaahh something is after me". "You are not being chased by a stingray. Turn around and look what is after you. You are being chased by your SHADOW!!!!!" LOL HAHAHA. THe mini raft was creating a big shadow to the side of it and when he got back close to the boat he noticed the dark spot that looked just like the rays he had just seen at the prior stop (which he did get into the water with but was right next to us the entire time and had a great time. I think the shadow spooked him and he was 20 feet away from us. We all enjoyed ourselves the next few minutes after this screaming "help my shadow is after me, aaahh my shadow, my shadow" Next stop the Mangroves. Our captain dove for some Sea Urchins and the kids enjoyed playing with the live urchins as well as the empty shells he had brought up too. Next back to the dock and then back to town. We could see that a dark grey cloud was moving in fast and we had about 5 minutes at best to get back to the ship if we wanted to stay dry but I wanted to shop and we were in bathing suits- so if the rain wanted to come- it could come!!. Shopping list: Diamonds International Charms (turtle & stingray), shot glass, rum, postcards and Twin #2 wanted a key chain. The rain did come!! Back to the ship and to our cabin at 3:30- showered and pirate costumes. The kids each earned $10 but cooperating extensively with picture taking. Mickey, Chip & Dale, Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Peter Pan, Stitch, Minnie, Jack Sparrow-- all in a 45 minute time period!! They really wanted to go to lab so they did deserve a thank you for cooperating!! Off to dinner. I promised the kids if they figured out what they wanted to eat quick and finished their meal - we would walk them to club in the middle of dinner. One wanted to go, the other 2 stayed with us. Pirate show in the DR- the kids enjoyed- a little too noisy for me when I would much prefer a quiet dinner. All of the rotational DCL DR are a disappointment to me. They are too noisy and really should invest in some noise proofing in the ceilings and walls next dry dock. It doesn't make for relaxing conversation.... yelling across the table, what did you say, what was that, etc, etc. Yes I can still score excellent but just my dreamlist of things I would like changed. MaitreD showed up with the largest plate to date of raviolis. He had his stopwatch out this time. 2 minutes for DS to inhale the raviolis. He ate his chicken much more slowly but ate those raviolis like someone slurping down oysters. Twin #1 begged during the last 15 min in the DR for us to take him back to the cabin "I want to go back to the cabin, I need to go to sleep!!, no screaming or whining involved just politely begging I need to rest!!! (poor little friend- mom is running him down, we are going to need a vacation after our cruise). so 2 of them now at club and one napping til 9:30 pirate party. The pirate party was fun and the fireworks were great. No rain. A brief stop at the late night buffet and then off to sleep. Another fun filled day. our private charter wasn't as planned but we still made the best of it and enjoyed plan B activities since the weather was suboptimal. All of the DCL staff continue to be wonderful. Today was the most we have used concierge services to date. I had reservation changes and cancellations I wanted. A few items for the characters to sign and I just left a note on our dining room table in the cabin and my errands were all magically completed for me upon our return from port. Cruise Day #5 Costa Maya Partly cloudy 90's. WINDY!! Sunrise 6:48 am; Sunset 6:22pm. Sea Conditions: 1-2 (stil calm but movement can be felt)- my guess ~3-5ft Pirate or cruise casual Carnival Valor diverted to costa Maya-They have crashed our party in Costa Maya- we wanted the town to ourselves and didn't need to share it with 2500 other passengers!! LOL, but at least they are safe and not in the middle of a hurricane building up; they were supposed to be at Grand Cayman today (I think all of their ports were cancelled as they told us they would be in Cozumel with us tomorrow and this was a change as well (they might even have an overnight in Cozumel) We passed out Fish Extender gifts today (this was our 2nd time to pass out, we dont have daily gifts- just two times). We did this at 6:00am since DS was up early in order to not be late for 9:00 Oceaneer Lab checkin. Breakfast again from Topsiders but in our cabin. Had thought about Room service but just easier for us to walk upstairs and getting it now vs a 1 hour time window since we didn;t know when the kids would be up we could not order in advance. DS #1 went off to lab at 8:55. We spent most of the am in the cabin. The living room area and balcony make it nice for the 7 of us to visit together and is the usual meeting point before dinner, etc. Off to character dance party at noon and then we were ready to go ashore. Taxi ride was $12 ($2 x6) to Tropicante restaurant. We had made reservations with Steve online prior to cruise. The Massages are still $25/hour. Ponga rides to snorkel spot $20/pp. The food was good (all we had were drinks, nachos, guacamole. The kids loved playing on the beach. The beach is a protected area. There is a reef ~150 yards off shore that the water breaks off of- so the water is calm inside the reef. THe kids snorkeled, swam, built sand castles. The snorkel treasures they found: minimal fish- it is mostly just mud and sea grass so no where for the fish to live and hide, sand crab, conch shell, concrete thumb (would have been from a ~6 foot statue-- steve says there is a statue in town that is missing a hand or thumb- we took a picture of twin #2 with it (he found it) and then gave it to Steve- who asked if he could have it , needle fish (or better known as a swordfish to the 2 girls sitting beside us who also screamed like crazy at the crab- they tried throwing sand at it to keep it form moving closer to them, much different than my 3 boys trying to pick it up and play with it......THe water was warm, not crystal clear but nice enough and we would definitely return again in the future. Taxi was same price back. We had option of being dropped off outside the port (near the mini mayan ruin) or within the security gate at the port- we opted for as close tot he ship as possible since we were trying to get back as soon as we could for the halloween party- we had 30 minutes to shower and put on costumes......have i mentioned that I will need a vacation form vacation-- 30 minutes to get 5 people showered and in costumes, and 3 of them are worn out, tired children that keep waking up early and going to bed late....UGH! Success. arrived at Halloween party at 4:33pm. Those little munchkins were so cooperative, but a little disappointed to see that the party was pretty much just dancing AGAIN! The Halloween Dancy party was fun but I was thinking there were going to be other fun Halloween festivities going on all night for the kids. Oceanerrs clubs 10p Halloween party did have a ghost hunt ............. There were at least 4 different events that involved dancing. We decided to have fast food dinner and watch Villians tonight at the early show, since the kids had several things in lab they wanted to do. We also had an early start planned for the next am, so was hoping to get them out of lab a bit early. BUT-- halloween party in Oceaneers Club started at 10pm, I would love it if DCL had their party start a little earlier for the kids- especially since we arrive in port the following am at ~7:30. Back to dinner plans. We went to tell our MaitreD we could not have the special raviolis he is having prepared nightly since we were trying to get to the 6:15 show. He said- we should sit down and he would get the raviolis ready soon. By the time we arrived to the table, he was there as well letting our head server know to get the kids meals out ASAP and order a few appetizers/salads for me, they also offered that we could come back later in the evening for dessert. Very sweet and great services continues. we didn't expect that they would rush to get the kids meals, but the kindness and effort were appreciated. Concierge service also tried to get us to order room service later in the evening as well. Everyone has been so great thus far!! Cruise Day #6 Cozumel Partly cloudy 90's. WINDY!! Sunrise 6:47 am; Sunset 6:13pm. Sea Conditions: 2 (still calm but movement can be felt)- my guess ~4-5ft Semi Formal We arrived in port by 6:30am. Disembarkation started ~7:30. We left our cabin ~8:15 and were at Chankanaab by 8:45. We took a 45minute tour that is included in the park entry fee. Mostly the tour was thru the archeological park. Our guide Rafael was excellent and provided great information/history. He also provided information about the park facilities and was helpful for planning out our day. Next was check in for the Manatee encounter: DH, myself, DS x3. We had already booked the Dolphin & Manatee excursion online and park entry fee was included with the encounters. Which was a great bargain as the Dolphin encounter was $160 total for the 4 of us and entry fee alone would have $80- so for $20 each we essentially had a Dolphin Encounter included. We inquired about upgrading to a Dolphin swim but Adriana checking us in measured the twins and they were too short. So Dolphin Encounter it was going to be. Older DS loved the Manate encounter. DH & I enjoyed it as well. The twins liked it but did not love it. We hadn't been in the ocean yet this day. The encounter was in the open ocean in contained pens. Waves were bouncing us around a bit. They didn't want to kiss the manatee which was understandable they don't exactly look cuddly. They did enjoy petting them and feeding them lettuce. So on a scale of 10 their enjoyment level was probably a 6 or 7 at best. Older DS was a 9 or 10. He snorkeled for almost 30 minutes with them, feeding them lettuce & petting them. The twins also snorkeled with them but it took a few minutes for them to get used to the water. We had inquired about completing the Dolphin encounter immediately after the Manatees so that we would be able to just snorkel the rest of the day but after the twins were not super cooperative with the Manatees we decided it would be best to have a snack, play at the beach & snorkel until ~1pm. We picked beach chairs/umbrella at the children's cove just to the left of the Dolphin/Manatee pen. The kids loved snorkeling, building sand castles, playing in the tide pools, catching fish in the tide pools.....We didn't order food form the restaurant. Time passed by quickly. All of us but the twins went snorkeling off shore as well. Despite the wind the water was crystal clear below the surface. Ocean entry was a bit rough so we opted to not take the little ones even thought hey have been snorkeling. They were enjoying the childrens cove so much & quite happy with the fish they were seeing. We had a few snacks & juice boxes and then it was time for the Dolphin Encounter. While waiting for our trainer. 2 other trainers asked us if we would like to upgrade to the swim adventure. We told him that we had already checked about upgrading earlier in the morning and were told the twins were too little. He said that wasn't true- went up front & talked to Adriana. DH paid $20 x4 (we didn't want to book the buy one get one free for the swim since the twins were below the age requirement. The agent that booked the encounter said it would be up to the trainer on the day of, so I didn't want to sign up and have them say no. We were rebanded for the swim and then had a 30 minute intro with a very sweet gal that showed us all of the training signs/motions we needed to do during the swim. SHe was great with the kids and had a stuffed dolphin to demonstrate with. This was much more helpful prepping them vs the Manatee encounter that we just jumped into the water with them (both programs are set up for you to stand on a platform that is about 3ft under water. The platform is slippery with moss, etc and a challenge to keep your balance with the waves coming in and out and the slippery surface. The kids all enjoyed the Dolphin Swim Adventure. No one was nervous and they very much were looking forward to swimming with the dolphin. There was a little drama just before we walked down onto the platform. The security guard informed me that the 2 little ones would only be doing the encounter, I said no that is incorrect we paid for 4 upgrades for the swim adventure and to please go get the manager at checkin as I didn't want to argue about this once in the water with the 3 kids. That was the last we discussed it. We all 4 completed the Swim Adventure (minus twin #2 didn't want to do the dolphin hug but he still had a great time). The Swim adventure included 8 events: kiss, hug, dance, boogie board swim, belly swim, handshake, sound command, tickling? The kids all said it was the best thing they did all day. 2nd place was the tidepools & snorkeling. Against our better judgement we walked in to the gift shop to look at the pictures that we knew would cost us an arm and a leg. UGH!! BYE BYE $200. We didn't pay for any of the adults pictures and just paid for the 3 kids in each of the adventures. If the kids would have had as much fun at the dolphin encounter as the manatee- I probably would not have bought one picture. We were able to get some pics from a distance but since they did both and had an amazing time we ended up buying them. Oh well! suckers! Taxis were plentiful at the park and we were back to pier- punta Langosta. We spent a brief period of time shopping and were back on the ship by 3:30. The kids went to lab briefly before dinner. Concierge cocktail party was this afternoon. Guest appearance by Donald Duck. We had a fabulous day in Cozumel. Performance DREAMS was excellent. The kids went to Lab all night after dinner (minus twin #2- fell asleep at 6:30p and slept til 6am). Laundry night. Funnest event of the day for the kids: swimming with the dolphin at Chankanaab; for me: watching the kids have fun and an amazing time!!