I hadn't really planned to write a TR but started jotting down notes for my trip scrapbook and realized I was writing a TR without meaning to! Hope this is helpful to anyone doing the new 8-nighter from Galveston! EARLY PLANNING We knew we wanted to do a Disney cruise when we moved to TX from Southern California, and then found out DCL was sailing from Galveston. We started saving up those pennies and booked the 8-night itinerary that included Costa Maya, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Key West. When DCL changed things up and ditched that itinerary, we rescheduled for this 1/18 cruise we were actually really pleased---not having to navigate Mexico with little kids---saving a bunch of money by not needing to do port excursions---and getting a day at WDW (to satisfy our Disneyland withdrawal) was wonderful for us! This was our first-ever cruise. WHO WE ARE Nikki (me, aka Mom); Scott (DH/Dad); DS1 (age 8) and DS2 (age 4). I wouldn't necessarily say we are Disney fanatics, but we did LOVE living close to Disneyland and have missed it a lot since we moved! PRE-TRIP NOTES --We got passports (when we thought we were doing a Mexico itinerary). Still glad we had them for this trip; I'm definitely of a "be prepared" mindset. --We got trip insurance from USAA. Didn't need it, but both kids had had nasty colds/respiratory infections in the weeks before the trip, so I'm glad we had it just in case they had not improved. --At 75 days out we booked a Palo brunch and booked an early bus to Hollywood Studios on the WDW day. We didn't book any other excursions. --We packed most of our clothing in plastic travel/Ziplock bags and squished all the air out of them... and were able to fit everything in two large suitcases (+ hanging bag for formal stuff). --Pirate Night: The kids wore Halloween pirate costumes from Costco and the Children's Place Outlet. DH cobbled together Goodwill leather vest + hideous shirt + chopped off sweatpants. I wanted to convert "real" clothes into something pirate-ish, so I wore red capri pants, a top with flowy sleeves from the Banana Republic Outlet, a Goodwill denim vest, long scarf tied around the waist, giant gold hoop earrings, and a big brass key ($2 from Michaels) on a necklace chain. SOME THINGS THAT WORKED FOR US: --DH didnt think he wanted a lanyard, but I insisted we get some before the trip and he used his all week. --Instead of a purse or backpack I carried a beachy-looking tote bag everywhere on the ship. Light, cute, and vacation-y looking, with plenty of room for my dSLR camera, notepad/pen, Advil, lip gloss, navigators, Nook, etc. I also had a lanyard but instead of wearing it I looped it over the bag handle so it was always handy. --We chose not to put a credit card on our account. We wanted to be sure we stayed in control of our spending, so we tried to guesstimate a budget ahead of time and we put cash (our spending budget + tips) on the account on the first day. Throughout the trip I jotted down any spending in my notebook& not trying to be obsessive about it (we expected to add money to the account later in the week!) but just not wanting any surprises. This came in handy later on when we sat down to check our account statement up against our actual shopping. --Wed asked for gift cards for Christmas, so the kids had their own plastic to spend. We took the g.c.s with us to Disneyworld, then put the rest on the ship account and let them shop in Mickeys Mates before the end of the cruise. --Earplugs. We had a room that adjoined with the one next door& and our neighbors were rather, um, enthusiastic in expressing their frustration with one another, especially around bedtime. Thankfully my kids are solid sleepers and were unaware, but the earplugs that I grabbed on a whim before the trip came in very handy for me on a few nights. --We liked Topsiders for breakfast, because we are usually up early and it was usually fairly empty up there. Lunchtimes were much busier. --Cove Café&. we went there for the first time on the 3rd day, and couldnt believe we didnt find our way there sooner (and more frequently). --Guest Services staff was very helpful and we had an easy time scheduling/canceling/rescheduling various tastings. --I was very relieved that the main stage shows had afternoon matinees. We had main dinner seating, so would have had to go to the shows at 8:30---difficult with kids who normally go to bed at 7 and 7:30. We were glad to see Twice Charmed, Villains, and Dreams in the afternoons! --We tried to be selective about waiting in lines for characters. My kids LOVE all the friends, but we waited to see many of them later in the week when the lines were much more manageable. --We did not bring something to be signed at Guest Services, but I did make autograph books for my kids& they are really into the whole experience of meeting characters and collecting signatures. I used the free printable set from CapturingMagic.me (you have to sub to their newsletter and they'll send the download). I had the 4x6 pages printed cheaply at Costco, adhered them back to back before binding, and took Sharpies along for signing. --We did bring an over-door shoe holder thing, and found it handy for collecting all the random stuff that would have been laying around the room otherwise. --But we did NOT bring a power strip, and found we didnt really need it anyway. The plug behind the tv and the wave phone plug were sufficient for keeping our e-readers and game players charged up. --I found the hair dryer to be okay, and was glad I didnt drag my own along. SOME THINGS WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY (or we wish had been different): --Go to Parrot Cay for lunch on embarkation day. Deck 9 was crazy. --Take photos of dinner menus, and jot down what we ordered! It didnt seem like a big deal at the time, but now I wish I remembered more about it. --Consider bringing a portable dvd player and movies to watch in the evenings after the kids go to bed. Unless they upgrade this, the rotation of options on tv left a lot to be desired on an 8 night trip. --Avoid the scrambled eggs at Topsiders. This was the only truly bad food item we came across. (There were other mediocre things, but this is the only one we purposely avoided. Well& this and the coffee from the beverage station. Blech.) --Do more tastings. We did two wine tastings and mixology; I wish we'd done others as well. I also wish I'd jotted down the names/notes on the various wines we tasted in the tastings and in Art of Entertaining. It was nice to get recipes from AofE, but we wished the wine tastings had included take-home notes. --Neither of the boys really liked having lunch in the club/lab. After the first day of trying that, we made sure either to give them lunch before going in, or pick them up before lunch time and hit a buffet. Okay---that's the basics! Back with daily journals and some pics later on!