disney dream: boarding the big boat

Cruising is not my favorite form of vacation. I have been on two cruise ships (a seven night and a three night) and neither one was all that spectacular. Keep in mind that I am claustrophobic and highly susceptible to motion sickness, and for me, it’s just not worth taking to the seas.


Little man has been asking to go on a “big boat” since he first saw one of the models of a Disney cruise ship in the lobby of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. It’s something I knew we would absolutely do, and we finally decided to go ahead and book it as a surprise for his 7th birthday. The timing was right (we found a sailing over Mother’s Day weekend that would serve for his day, as well as my birthday and Mother’s Day), and we invited Nana and Papa Bear to join us.


We booked on the Disney Dream through Costco Travel. Disney doesn’t really offer much in the line of discounts (they don’t have to), but Costco does offer cash cards for a certain percentage of your cruise post-sailing.

After much research, we decided on a three-night adventure, leaving from Port Canaveral with stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay. We figured it would be just enough to see if we liked it, and not too long if my mom (her first cruise, and she is also susceptible to motion sickness) and I had a hard time.

Little man was incredibly overwhelmed when we broke the news to him on his birthday. We let him process everything while we finished up the whirlwind of packing and getting ready. And then, on Thursday afternoon, it was time to go. Even though we weren’t sailing til Friday, we had opted to spend the night down in Cocoa Beach, close to the port, so we wouldn’t have to make the drive and rush around in the morning.

The Night Before…

The drive was an easy two hours. We into the Four Points by Sheraton, and met my parents on the beach out back. The hotel was maybe 15 minutes from Port Canaveral, and offered a great shuttle/parking package of which we took advantage. That night, mom and I walked to dinner at Brano’s Italian Grill (the boys drove), and then we took a walk along the beach to get back to the room. 

I was on the nervous side but a glass of wine and plenty of fresh sea air seemed to be doing just the thing to calm me down, and we were able to get some sleep.

Friday Morning: Boarding and Embarkation.

In all honesty, I was a mess on Friday morning. I don’t know why I was so anxious, but it was a rough, rough morning for me.

We hadn’t been able to snag an early Port Arrival Time (we were scheduled to arrive at 12:15 PM), but our shuttle was scheduled to leave at 10:15 AM. I had read that we might not be allowed in the terminal if it was crowded, and we were expecting a fully booked ship, but there really wasn’t anything we could do, so we loaded our luggage, boarded the shuttle and set out.

There were absolutely zero issues at the terminal. We got off the bus and a Disney Cruise Line porter took our checked bags. We walked to the entryway, showed our passports and signed cruise documents and were directed to the security check at the terminal. Everything proceeded 100% smoothly.

Once inside, we got in line to check in and get our boarding number (18). We had to fill out a health questionnaire and pose for identifying photos before being handed our three Key To The World cards. These cards were vital: they would grant access to the ship, to our staterooms, provide our main dining room rotation, and act as a form of payment onboard (DCL ships are cash-free).

And then, we waited.

In the interim, we signed little man up for the Oceaneer Club. Actually, we had signed him up online several weeks prior, but there was a desk where we were able to get him his Magic Band (secured so he couldn’t remove it), which would allow him to check in and out, as well as confirm all his information and ours.

There were some characters in the terminal – little man wasn’t interested in meeting them at this time, although he promised me he would want to meet them later.

Alrighty then.

We found a place to camp out, and at about 11:15, the doors beneath the Mickey ears opened and the first groups began to board.


I played it pretty cool for a while, but I wanted on that boat. For one thing, I don’t like waiting. For another, I wanted to register for the Castaway Cay 5K – a complimentary race offered on Disney’s private island, for which you can only register in person. For some reason, I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to get a spot.

The time passed quickly, and by 11:30 AM, we were making our way to the gangplank aboard.

We stopped for photos (we had gone ahead and pre-purchased the CD of unlimited digital images in order to save 20% and my plan was to throw our group in front of every photographer we saw to get the most bang for our buck),

and then?

Then we were welcomed to the ship via an announcement of our family names from a cast member and a round of applause by the waiting staff.


Of course, there was a plan.

First, we had to go to Guest Services. There were two reasons.

Each stateroom is entitled to have two items autographed by characters. We were planning to have a baseball and a photo mat signed. We submitted these items in ziploc bags, labeled with our name and our cabin number. We also included colorful Sharpies and one king-sized Snickers bar per item (I don’t know why you have to include the giant candy bars. It’s kind of like having bleach in a hurricane preparedness kit. No one knows what it’s for, but you need to have it).

Mr PugRunner and my mom each turned in their bags of items.

And me? Well, I had to register for the 5K. While I was doing that, the cast member advised me that I should go ahead and fill out the form that would allow my parents to take little man off the ship, since we would be separated on Castaway Cay day. I had no idea that would even be an issue, and I was glad she had pointed it out. She also asked me if I would like my birthday button, but since my birthday wasn’t til Saturday, I passed.

Since our staterooms wouldn’t be ready until 1:30, we decided to eat. Cast members advised that we could go to Cabanas on Deck 11, but if we wanted to be served more quickly. to go down to the Enchanted Garden on Deck 2.

We were hungry, and still toting carryons, so we chose the Enchanted Garden. Incidentally, this is the same Dining Room we were assigned for dinner on the first night.

We were seated at a porthole for the buffet meal.


While the boys went to get food, our server asked if little man would like some chicken strips or macaroni and cheese, because he would be happy to get those. Since I wasn’t sure what was available on the buffet, I said yes to the mac and cheese on his behalf.

Lunch was very good. There was a salad bar, a selection of cheese and cured meats, some pastas, lollipop lamb chops (my mother’s favorite thing in the world), peel and eat shrimp and crab legs, fruit and a variety of desserts.

After that, we split up a bit to explore the ship, while waiting to get in our rooms. At exactly 1:30, the corridors were opened and we made our way to 7610 (we were connected to Nana and Papa Bear in 7610).

Mr PugRunner and little man surprised me with a birthday package, a cheese and fruit platter and champagne. What a way to start the vacation! (I will do a separate stateroom tour in a later post).

We enjoyed a quick toast on our verandahs,

but I wanted to deliver some fish extender gifts, and little man wanted to see the pool. We had a 4:00 PM muster drill, followed by the Sail Away Celebration, and then dinner at 5:45. Oh, and we wanted to check out the Open House at the Oceaneer Club, see some characters and possibly take in a show!

So much to do! And all the time in the world!

It was off to the pool!

Of course, it was packed, but Mr PugRunner and little man hopped on line for the AquaDuck.



It was awesome to watch.

I wanted to wander back to our room to see if our bags had shown up. We had a change of clothes and toiletries in our carryons, but I like to get everything organized.

As luck would have it, our suitcases were there, and our stateroom host, Patrice was making the rounds. She introduced herself, and we chatted for a few minutes. We did ask if, for turndown, she wouldn’t mind pulling down the bunk bed from the ceiling rather than the Murphy bed from the wall for little man, and she said she would be happy to.

The muster drill was uneventful, although uncomfortable. We were crammed into position on the walking track of Deck 4 and it was so hot and close. People kept showing up late and we couldn’t leave until everyone was there and accounted for. Ugh. Obviously, it’s very important to know what to do and where to go in case of an emergency, but it would be nice if everyone could show up on time to make it easier on everyone else.

And on that note? It was time for the Sail Away Celebration on Deck 11.

We will pick up there tomorrow with the rest of the events from our first night!

Have you ever sailed Disney Cruise Line?
Do you get nervous when traveling or trying something new?

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47 Responses to disney dream: boarding the big boat

  1. Ivanna says:

    This looks like so much fun. I want to do this with my family one day. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Ivanna recently posted…Choosing a Plant Based Diet (Thrive at 35 #1)My Profile

  2. You know, while I enjoy the actual act of the cruise, I ALWAYS forget how much I hate the beginning & end of a cruise. So much “hurry up and wait,” because, well, I’m convinced that, if I don’t end up on the cruise ship, they’re going to leave without me — yet, once I’m on, things need to process & progress . . . no fun.

    But, once the ship is away, I typically like it. A lot.

    I think this is a cruise I’ll be taking with the kids in just a few years.
    John (Daddy Runs a Lot) recently posted…Where I define the music that has made meMy Profile

  3. Sounds like a blast — can’t wait to read more!! This is on our list of things to do sometime soon! 🙂
    Kristin @ A Mom on the Run recently posted…2015 210W Challenge 5KMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      The kids are the perfect age! And there are so many princesses. We didn’t get to meet any of them, because I didn’t want to wait in line for a ticket just for me (someone was being difficult about that, not mentioning any names, little man), but it was awesome.

  4. I JUST told my husband like, yesterday, that we should book a short cruise sometime after baby arrives!!! (A good while after, obvs.) But this looks like SO much fun. Little man looks like he was absolutely loving it and this is just day one! Oh my goodness!! The only cruise I’ve been on was a 7 day Royal Caribbean back in high school..it was a blast, at least all the different places we stopped were!
    Sarah @ Sweet Miles recently posted…Was It Really That Long Ago?!My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      RCCL is the other line I”ve sailed, and while it was ok, I really appreciated the lack of smoke smell and residue. That can really make me feel boxed in.

      I would definitely plan to do this with your family!

  5. Sounds like a great time. My sister has always wanted to do a Disney cruise. I know they are pricier than other cruise lines but I am sure it is well worth it. Hopefully one of these yrs we wil get a chance.

    • runswithpugs says:

      They are definitely pricier, but I’ll be honest. I think it was worth it. The ship was spotless, service was flawless. I think my only complaint was that it was a pain to get to deck 11 with bottles to get the included water and soft drinks/coffee/tea, but that’s such a minor problem in the grand scheme of things.

      We would book DCL again in a heartbeat.

  6. Ah the suspense! I can’t wait to read more! I love everything Disney. And I’m sure the rest of your trip will live up to my Disney expectations!
    I’ve never been on a cruise, so I find all of the safety measures they take even up to checking that your parents have permission to watch the little man very interesting. Safety first! Nice work Disney.
    Stacie Seidman recently posted…Truthful TuesdayMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      There’s so much to post!

      I try not to be too overprotective, but I was very happy with all the security measures in place for the children. The kids’ club was fantastic, and the only thing I wasn’t comfortable with was the extension of the kids’ club on Castaway Cay. I wasn’t so sure I wanted little man in someone else’s care on an international island. However, next time, I would allow it if he wanted. I saw the area and was very impressed with how it was managed – very secure and the kids weren’t near any water.

      This was just our experience, but I appreciated how everything was done.

  7. I’ve never done a cruise, but I think if I found the right cruise line and friends it would be a fun time!
    What a great way to celebrate birthdays and Mother’s Day 🙂
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…I Am EnoughMy Profile

  8. This looks SO fun!! You’re getting me all excited to go to Disney in January for the Dopey Challenge!
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…Blend Retreat Recap – Day 2My Profile

  9. I’ve never been on a cruise, partly because I’d rather just fly to the destination and enjoy it for more than a day or two.
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…What Worked During My Last Half Marathon Training…And What I Hope Will Work AgainMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      That’s my general philosophy: I prefer to immerse myself in the destination. w

      However, sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy the journey. I have to say that there was so much on the ship, and we did so little OFF the ship, that it was a destination of its own. We were absolutely unplugged and present and that in itself was fabulous.

  10. Marcia says:

    This looks all kinds of wonderful to me. I love that the 5k was complimentary. I’ve been on >15 cruises but never a DIsney one. I’ve had good trips thru Costco too. Glad you enjoyed!
    Marcia recently posted…Eating Smart is Easy with Orange Chef CountertopMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Full disclosure: the race, bib and medal were free. I did pay $39.95 for the race t-shirt LOL.

      Costco was a great way to go. Like I mentioned, discounts on DCL are few and far between, so it was nice to get a little something back for the fares we paid.

  11. yeah! we are both May babies! Happy Birthday! We took our kids on a cruise when it was still the Big Red Boat, do you remember that one? Tons of fun. Can’t wait to hear who the rest of your adventure goes!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…Happy Birthday to me!My Profile

  12. Anne says:

    hahahaha “bleach and the hurricane preparedness kit” you can tell you live in Florida tehe 🙂

    Your comment about how overwhelmed your son was when he found out it was so sweet.

    I’ve never been on a cruise, I’m not big on the idea of being confined to one place, but your descriptions sound pretty amazing!
    Anne recently posted…Sad Puppy Eyes A Weekend RecapMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I’m sure the bleach has a very important purpose. What, I do not know.

      I have to say, this was a very eye-opening experience for me, as far as what I like and don’t like. Or thought I liked and didn’t like. While cruising still isn’t my preferred vacation, it’s defintely moved up in the ranks for me.

  13. I’ve never been on a cruise before! This sounds like it would be right up my alley 😉 I am actually prone to motion sickness, but I’d like to hope that being on a boat often has built up my tolerance !
    Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom recently posted…A Week Back At ItMy Profile

  14. Sounds like fun! I’ve never been on a cruise, for the same reasons that you listed! Plus I like to explore!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Appreciation: I am enoughMy Profile

  15. That ship looks really cool and hubby and I have been contemplating taking the children on a Disney cruise. I hear it is well worth the money and from what I can see w/ these photos – they are RIGHT!!!
    Diatta @ Femme Fitale Fit Club recently posted…Snack Sack Box UnboxingMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      It was hard putting out the money, especially since other cruise lines offered comparable sailings for almost half the price. However, I really feel like we got a great return on the fare, and we all had such a wonderful time. It’s certainly not going to be a frequent thing, but we would absolutely do it again.

  16. Such a fun surprise for your son! I bet he loved every minute! I’ve never done a Disney cruise but we did do a Carnival cruise which was great!
    Sandra Laflamme recently posted…1 Mile Fun Run and a Triathlon Brick WorkoutMy Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      We have never sailed Carnival. Our friends are going this summer and the said that the kids’ club is only open one day of their five day cruise. I don’t know how that would work out for us. However, it’s nice that there are so many options and each ship and line has so many things to offer.

  17. jan says:

    Wow, I’ve never really thought about a Disney cruise before but now I want to go!
    jan recently posted…Timex Factory TeamMy Profile

  18. Pingback: disney dream: let’s sail away with mickey! | Runs With Pugs

  19. rachel says:

    What a fun adventure for your family! Thanks for sharing!!!
    rachel recently posted…Learning About Going Gluten Free with Udi’s Gluten FreeMy Profile

  20. I’ve never been on a cruise before but this looks like such a great adventure for children. Maybe when my little one is a bit older we’ll consider something like this. 🙂
    Lindsay @ Fit & Awesome recently posted…On The Road with thinkThin®My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      I don’t think I would have done any younger than 5. And probably only on DCL. It just really wasn’t at the forefront of my mind, but now that we have gone there… well, it’s part of the agenda now.

  21. SO jealous right now! We went on the Fantasy on a seven day cruise back in November 2012. Best vacation we have ever taken. Can’t wait to go back. Will be glued to the blog to read the rest of this.
    Frank@The Fat Runner recently posted…The Elusive Creature Known as Cross-TrainingMy Profile

  22. So excited for these posts. We are thinking about a Disney cruise this fall, so this is perfect timing!! Can’t wait to read more!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…4 Ways to Protect Your Family from the Sun this Summer: Melanoma Awareness and a discount!!My Profile

    • runswithpugs says:

      Yay! There will be so much more to read! I am trying to be concise and thorough. Good thing we were only on a 3 night itinerary – my posts would have been eternal if it was longer!

  23. Such a fun recap! I’ve never been on a cruise, but it’s on my bucket list. Happy belated birthday!
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…In Appreciation Of YouMy Profile

  24. Pingback: disney dream: nassau, a birthday & pirate night | Runs With Pugs

  25. Pingback: disney dream: happy mother’s day on castaway cay & saying goodbye | Runs With Pugs

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