May 24, 2011

A Magical Vacation

So, this post is going to be ridiculously long but you’re going to have to just get over it, buckle down and read on - I want to truly capture our vacation and some of the comical things that happened. This vacation is simply amazing and I would recommend it to all families. If you have been to Disney World you know that while it is SO MUCH FUN it is also exhausting. You really need a vacation from your vacation after Disney World as it is constant on-the-go and does not provide for much down time as you just want to see and do everything. However, the Disney Cruise on the other hand was the perfect combination of Disney for your kids and relaxation for the parents. Disney’s ability to pay attention to every detail is unmatched. From the parks to the cruise – Disney should be considered the expert in customer service. Since our culture has absolutely tossed customer service to the side in most cases, it was so refreshing to be on the receiving end of world class, top notch customer service. What a better place this world would be if we took advice from a Mouse and changed our approach to how we treated the people who grace our life.

To start, Tim and I booked our cruise on December 9, 2010 and decided that we would keep this vacation a secret for two reasons. First, if you are a parent you will understand that the price one would pay for sanity is well, never mind – it’s priceless. My sweet and wonderful children would have driven their parents CRAZY asking “how many more months, days, weeks, hours”. Knowing our limitations, we chose to spare ourselves this torture and keep the vacation under wraps. Second, I had this grand image of the big announcement and how wonderful it was going to be – the scene that was playing over and over again was Oscar worthy. Really.

The day before our ship was scheduled to leave we flew to Orlando. Tim and I picked up the kids from school around 2ish and gave them the big surprise that we were going to get on a plane and go on a business trip with daddy. This alone was so exciting and truth be told would have been just fine with both of them – little did they know we were going to give them another surprise the following morning.

The next morning I had scheduled Mickey to call and welcome them aboard the Disney Magic. This was going to be PERFECT. Cameras were charged and Tim and I watched the phone like a hawk. The bellman knocked on our door to collect our luggage for the CRUISE and after I just about tackled him onto the ground he realized our kids were clueless. I kindly told him that our luggage would be ready if he could come back in 15 minutes. Wow, that was a close call.

Then it was time – my phone was ringing and I knew it was Mickey. I charged to the phone while Tim charged to the cameras. Well, the call was overrated. Bummer. The call was short and my cell phone reception was choppy in the room. Josh was looking at the phone and then at us and was highly confused about what was happening. When I asked if he understood the message he said NO. WHAT??? Ugh. Dag nab it, time for unplanned Plan B. Think, Think, Think. Here is goes ..

SG: “Josh mommy and daddy lied to you” (yea, probably not the best way to lead) “daddy does not have a business trip and we are not going to be able to swim in the pool at the hotel today”.
JG: (sad face) “but, why?”
SG: Well, mommy and daddy decided that we should do something more fun
JG: No, I just want to swim
SG: Well, we are going to swim but it will have to be later. Because right now, right this very second, we are going to get on a bus and then we are going to get on a cruise with Mickey and Pluto and Donald and Goofy …
JG: Gasping for air …. Really? Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.
OG: Yea!!!!!! (having no idea why he is excited, but he is)

And then we were off to catch the Magical Express to Ft. Lauderdale.

Day One: Welcome Aboard
We stepped onto the boat and it was remarkably beautiful! We quickly found our room and headed to the 9th floor to check out the pools and get ready for the sail away party. Owen fell asleep on me so we chilled out at a table while Tim and Josh headed to the celebration. Quickly after we sailed away toward the Eastern Caribbean it was time for dinner at Animator’s Pallet. One thing that Disney did that I thought was neat was to rotate families through the different dining rooms throughout the ship. However your dining/serving team stays with you and rotates as well. After dinner we headed to a preview of the shows to come. And, that’s about it - it was time for bed.

Day 2: At Sea
We started the day with a character breakfast. We trotted down to Parrot Cay and ordered our breakfast. Shortly after receiving our meals, Owen looked up and was graced with his first character experience - Goofy walked in the door. To somehow put into words the expression on his face and how he literally lit up would be an impossible task. Owen was so excited and was waving and yelling for Goofy. Josh who was apparently on a first name basis with Goofy (old pals) was also waving and saying “Hey Goof”. The characters come to every table to meet the kids and take pictures. One after another the kids could not believe what they were seeing as Goofy, Minnie, Mickey and Pluto came walking in the door. When Owen saw Minnie, he said so matter-of-factly that he was going to kiss her and well, he did just that. I caught the sequence of pictures as they occurred and am so happy that I did. Owen hugged Minnie and then leaned up and planted the biggest kiss ever on her MOUTH! Minnie leaned back with her hands to her face as if she were blushing – it was entirely too cute!

After breakfast, the kids went to Oceaneers Club (kid’s camp). The kids’ areas on this ship were so neat. My kids decided to hang out in the Oceaneers Club which looks like Captain Hook’s ship. They had a great time playing video games, watching movies, sliding, doing arts and crafts, playing on the computer, meeting new friends, seeing characters and playing with Stuey. Stuey, known to most as Stinky, was unbelievable with kids. It is neat to see someone who loves their job and you can tell they are doing exactly what they were meant to do. Stinky was a lifesaver for Owen and truly wanted to make sure they had a great time. While the kids were in the club, Tim and I headed to Deck 10 for a few hours to sit in the sun, watch the ocean, and read.

That evening, we ate at Parrot Cay and then headed to our first Broadway-style show called Twice Charmed. Wow, just wow!! The talent is awesome and the show was entertaining. The show is a spinoff of Cinderella and what would have happed if the other glass slipper would have broken? The kids were glued to this great performance and loved the show.

Day 3: At Sea
I have been told that it takes 3 days to remove yourself from the everyday stresses that invade your life when you are on vacation. That mentally people need 3 days to simply prepare to relax – not relax – just prepare to relax. I completely agree with this assessment. It took three days to turn my mind off work, selling our house, work, packing, work, building, work, moving to an apartment, work, spending time with friends and family, work, blah blah blah. So many moving parts were going on in my life in Oklahoma and I had to find time to remove myself from those stresses. Two days at sea were just what the doctor ordered.

We spent the day just vegging on the ship. We took the boys to see Tangled in 3D in the morning then we dropped them off at Oceaneers Club and set by the pool and read. Later we let the boys play in the pool, ate, etc. We also went to see the show Villains Tonight. The show brings all the Disney Villains together to try to help Hades become more evil (after his defeat from Hercules) so he can keep his job as ruler of the underworld. Villains Tonight was a great show, probably my least favorite but it was still very entertaining.

Day 4: St. Maarten
We arrived at St. Maarten and were ready to get off the ship and hit land for a little while. We caught a Taxi to Panel Island. The water was so pretty, but it was an overcast day and it looked like it could rain on us – it did. However, before the 2 hour downpour Josh had the privilege of observing a French beach. ;o) I did try to prepare Josh that there may be some women who were topless and his response was “Great! Can I get naked too?” Ummm …. no my modest child you may not get naked in fact throw on a swim shirt as well! (Dear Lord, help me with this one). So, Tim and Josh were in the beach when Josh spotted a larger woman with droopy ta-tas and just giggled and giggled. Then he ran up to me and said in his not so quiet voice “Mom, I see one of those ugly naked people you were talking about”. Nice Josh – real nice.

Pirate Night – After St. Maarten we had to get back to the ship for pirate night. I had purchased pirate costumes before we left and now it was time to get the kiddos all decked out. Josh had just purchased 2 new swords, 2 new hooks, a gun and other pirate essentials and was excited to take some of this stuff to pirate night (yea, our bag was definitely checked on the way home). The boys had a great time in their costumes and enjoyed seeing all the characters dressed in the pirate costumes as well as seeing Captain Hook and Smee. Pirate Night is also fireworks night and that was a lot of fun. It was a late night, but everyone had fun!

Day 5: St. Thomas
Oh. My. Goodness. What a beautiful place. We arrived at St. Thomas and got a taxi to Megan’s Bay Beach. Megan’s Bay is rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world and I was in complete awe of its beauty. There were crazy pelicans that were relentless and did not let tourists get in the way of their feeding schedule – they would kamikaze into the water right next to you and pop back up with a fish. It was nuts, but the boys thought it was funny.

We stayed at St. Thomas until early afternoon and then headed back to the ship. The family cleaned up from the beach and then we dropped the boys off at the Oceaneers Club. Tim and I decided to leave the ship again and do a little shopping. Tim found $1.50 beers so he was happy and I was able to shop – actually it was quite the perfect combo. ;o)

Day 6: Sea Day
We were excited to not have to get up and get off the ship early – just to sleep in and take it easy on the ship for our last day at sea. We ate breakfast and then took the boys to see Gnomio and Juliet in 3D, which was surprisingly very cute. After that the kids went to Oceaneers Club and we decided to stay out of the sun and went and read on the promenade deck. I had finally finished book 1 the night before and I was excited to begin my second book on vacation. Since I never have time to read or rather I fall asleep when I read at home, I love reading on vacation (Tim is the same way).

Later in the evening we headed to the show, Dreams. The main thing I love about the Disney Cruise experience is how much they focus on family values and kids’ believing in themselves and their dreams. The show is about a little girl who has to learn to believe in herself so she can fly and Peter Pan is there is help – they highlight so many Disney characters from Belle to Simba to Aladdin to Nemo, etc. and how they had to believe in themselves to achieve their dreams. Dreams has won many awards for being the best show on the High Seas and it is so, so good.

Day 7: Castaway Cay
Well, hello tiny, beautiful, fun island – my name is Shannon and I love you! Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island and it is breathtaking. As we left the ship we decided we had ate A LOT so we skipped the tram that was offered and walked to the family beach. What an excellent decision because Mr. Hottie, Captain Jack Sparrow was along our walk taking pictures. Captain Jack Sparrow did an exceptional job – he was 100% into character and was cracking everyone up. He quickly corrected the guests when someone called him Captain Jack (he must be called Captain Jack Sparrow), he made a comment about how someone stole a 5 yr. old girls pants since she was only wearing her bathing suit bottoms, he kept asking where the princesses were and he did not want to be touched. So, my son runs and hugs him! Captain Jack Sparrow reaches behind a bush picks up a rattle and starts shaking off the kid germs – it was hysterical!
There was so much to do on the island. There are sunken characters if you want to snorkel and find them (Josh and I found Minnie), there are awesome slides, a play area in the ocean for the kids and more! Heck, Oceaneers Club is on land as well (but, we didn’t utilize this service as the kids were having a ball in the ocean). While on Castaway Cay you don’t have to worry about things that cost you extra such as transportation and food like you do at the other ports. It’s just beautiful and fun – it’s … p-e-r-f-e-c-t!

The last show that evening was the Farewell Show and once again it was great. One part of the show focuses on a married couple on the deck of the ship while Cinderella is in the background. The woman asked her husband “if they are going to have their happily ever after” and he says “whatever we have we will have it together”. Oh My – not a dry eye in the room for the women of the audience. Even Josh looked up at me and said “mom, I think I am going to cry”.

We went back to the room to finish packing and put our bags outside. While putting the boys to bed Josh began to cry hysterically and begged us not to get off the ship, he said he had so much fun and was so happy that he just wanted to stay on the ship forever. Josh fell asleep crying and when we woke him up the next morning to tell him we were in Florida and it was time to get off the ship he started crying again. And that my friends is how we know it was a successful vacation and believe me if I could have afforded to stay on the ship and head to Barcelona for 2 weeks we would have done it in a heartbeat. This vacation was perfect!