(featured photo taken by Janice Tillman Brady with An Open Suitcase)
Summer is FINALLY here and…
Well, I’m not going to lie to y’all. It has not exactly started off on the greatest “foot.” As I noted on the blog’s Facebook page, it seems that our family footprints are more stuck in quicksand these days than they are making tracks on the beach. Of course, there’s no denying some great things have happened (our son graduated, is going to his first choice college, everyone made it out of school alive, etc.), but, all in all, it’s been a rough year and the hits just seem to keep coming (I’ll leave that for another blog post). In the midst of the stress and headaches, however, as a momma, I knew we needed something this summer to which we can look forward (and taking my son to college is NOT going to be one of them). I always work hard at trying to create at least ONE big event during the summer that gives us a reason to smile, a reason to look back and memories to cherish as a family. So, this year, we are doing something new…something our family has NEVER done before.
We’re going on our first Disney Cruise!!!!
While many of my Disney friends are either shaking their heads right now because they believe we should have done this years ago or chEARing us on because, “YES, THEY FINALLY TOOK THE PLUNGE,” I admit I’m embarrassed to say that, as frequent Disney vacationers, this will actually be our first off-land magical Disney adventure. Our normal annual vacations usually include a jaunt down south to visit the Big Cheese himself, mainly because this is the only place I trust when it comes to my son’s food allergies (no big secret, if you know us well enough). Last year, however, our oldest son, the one who was entering his senior year of high school at the time, had a special request, one that deviated just a bit from our normal family trips. He had been wanting to go on a cruise for years (so, no, the entire idea is not mine to own). Unfortunately, it has just not been feasible and, to be quite honest, I have always been terrified of two particular things:
- My getting sea sick (I’m the mom who can’t enjoy Star Tours, Mission Space or Mad Tea Party ~ but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror)
- And our youngest suffering the consequences of an ill-informed dining staff.
Nonetheless, hubby and I took our soon-to-be college-bound son’s request into serious consideration and we pondered…and pondered…and pondered…for nearly the entire year. This was a tough decision in some respects and we could not find ourselves ready to commit. We certainly wanted to give this to him (I mean, at least he was asking to go with his family and not friends – right?), but financially we were not seeing how it would work. Of course, I was also having a difficult time trying to get over the poignant fears preventing me from agreeing to this.
It came right down to the wire….graduation was about a month away and we had no clue what we wanted to give our son as a congratulatory gift, nor had we planned our annual vacation! I found myself beginning to play around with prices again. I started doing some research and talked with hubby quite a bit, working out various scenarios. Fortunately, we do have the Chase Disney Visa Card, which allows six months 0% APR when booking something like this….so, that option made it a little more tempting. We had also made a few recent financial decisions that seemed to free up a little vacation money. So ~ the potential for this to happen was gaining momentum once again.
Finally, we just came to the ultimate conclusion that, “Heck, we only live once and this would certainly make his (our) summer before college memorable!”
So……WE DID IT!!! We booked our first cruise with Disney Cruise Line! We sail the Disney Dream in just a few weeks!
Okay, so many ask – why Disney Cruise Line? Why not any of the other options? Well, it really all came down to comfort, familiarity and peace of mind. As noted above, we vacation at Walt Disney World nearly every year and are very proud Disney Vacation Club members. They take such great care of our son and we experience so many pixie-dusted moments when we are there. We have even made some tremendous friends among Cast Members through the years and look forward to seeing them each trip we take. I also have oodles of Disney sisters and brothers who have raved over sailing on the Magic, Wonder, Fantasy and Dream ~ every single story leaving me with a stronger desire to sail. So, it was a no-brainer that, if I wanted to plan a magical first time cruise for the family, Disney Cruise Line would be the way to go.
I have also read many a post that talked about all the precision and attention paid to those who have food allergies, no matter the severity. For instance, I read that your dinner server stays with you throughout the cruise, carefully noting and accommodating any dietary restrictions each and every night. I’ve heard stories about special treats being delivered to staterooms and meals being specially prepared for kids’ club or port excursions. That’s the kind of magic I hope we see on our trip.
In addition to the careful meal preparation, I keep reading about the various and numerous activities and events offered onboard, giving every member of our family ~ no matter the age ~ something to enjoy on a Disney Cruise. I mean, how could we go wrong?
In conclusion, this was THE ONLY cruise line I truly believe my heart would be willing to trust and my family appreciate…especially for a first time cruising family.
Once the decision was made, I booked through a Disney friend of mine who is a travel agent. She did a great job getting us in at the last minute and into what appears to be a great room (I was insistent on a veranda room). Even with using a travel agent, though, I still chose to do a lot of footwork myself afterwards this time around. I’m the mom who has to make sure that everything is taken care of for her little guys (no matter how big they get). I sent emails, made phone calls, filled out forms, you name it. I wanted to be prepared. We chose a three-day cruise to keep it simple, but long enough to get our “feet wet” with the new experience. I’m actually still a little nervous about getting sick at sea myself, but I’m more confident as time goes on that our youngest is going to have an amazing and SAFE time.
As a family, we have already agreed to do a show, a movie (everyone is hoping Spiderman: Homecoming will be playing), miniature golf, the AquaDuck and meals together. We also have one excursion booked for one of our days at port. I’ve been reading and reading about opportunities on board, how to schedule your day, what we should not miss and what is okay to forego. Three days is really not going to be enough in the long run, but it will be a good start. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’m working hard at trying to make this one of the most amazing and magical vacations our family has ever taken together!
So ~ that leaves me with questions for you! I’d love to know, from those of you who have cruised with Disney before (to be more specific, the Disney Dream), the following:
- What recommendations do you have regarding character meets?
- What would you consider the top recommended activities onboard? In Nassau (we have never been)? On Castaway Cay?
- What are your recommendations for potential seasickness?
- Have you had any experience with the medical staff and, if so, how were they? Easily accessible? Great bedside manner? Capable and understanding?
- Do you have a cast member I can say hi to for you? (I love making connections!)
- Talk to me about the Rainforest Room (I have a pass!! Thanks, Karen!)!
- For my older teens, talk to me about Vibe. Will my 17 1/2 year old be bored?
- For my friends with littles who have food allergies, what has been your experience with the kids’ areas (namely those that include 11 year olds)?
- What other amazing and magical tips can you share for our maiden voyage?
See? Now, I’m getting even more excited about our upcoming trip! I can’t wait to hear what you have to share (which doesn’t have to be limited to answering the questions above) and then I’m anxious for the day I get to share with you everything that happened during our own Disney Cruise adventure!!
In the meantime, enjoy making lots of footprints in the sand this summer, my friends!!
HUGE, HUGE, HUGE thanks to all my Disney Social Media Mom friends who offered up some of their own favorite pics from their own Disney Cruise experiences. When I didn’t have any of my own, they were more than willing to share theirs and I am bursting with excitement to soon see all of these images with my own two eyes!! Thanks again to:
- Janice Tillman Brady : An Open Suitcase
- Patty Maro Moliterno: A Mother’s Random Thoughts on Disney, Homeschooling & Autism
- Carrie Hurst: My Favorite Finds
- Kelly Carlson: The Main Street Moms
- Gayle Feldman Turner: Disney Gals
- Lisa DiDomenico Cameron: Adventures in Familyhood
- R. Horsley and Crystal Benedict: Two more awesome Disney mom friends willing to share photos
- Kami Allen: The Momma Diaries