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.
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),
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?