Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Vacation-ville Part 2: The Disney Cruise

So this was what the trip was mostly about - the Cruise with family! We were all excited to get on the boat and get moving! I had read and read and prepared and prepared for the cruise. As with all things Disney, ahead planning makes for a much smoother trip. 

But there is such a thing as too much reading and planning. For example, I read a few places that the rooms are dark at night and so to bring a light. Well ours had a nightlight function built into the central light in the kids' area. So no problem. On the other hand, I really liked my shoe organizer. And knowing ahead of time that there is only ONE power outlet in the entire room and that they confiscate power strips? Very helpful. 

It took forever to get on board. And it was complicated by the fact that I had a rental car that was way full of our stuff and I needed to drop everyone off, return the rental car and then take a shuttle back. We had conflicting advice from staff - "make sure your husband has your passport so he can check you in" vs. "keep your passport on you". The first is correct, Hans could have checked me in with the passport. Instead he just had to hang out in the terminal with three kids!

Finally! I got there, we got checked in and walked over the threshold! 

I have been on a cruise before. When I was 18 my grandmother took me on a cruise around the Hawaiian islands. It was ok. I recall then thinking the food was over the top for an all the time thing (sometimes I don't want four star, I just want a quick bean burrito) and that I wanted more time on each island. A quick stop wasn't enough for me. Oh and I got seasick then. 

I was nearly certain that I had conquered some of my motion sickness issues recently with all the flying I have been doing this last year. I did ok, though not great. There was only one night that was really bad for me and I resorted to Dramamine. We were in 70 mph winds and they closed the outdoors. But poor Skadi really struggled. I bought us SeaBands and on the days it wasn't horrible, they worked fine for us. But when the seas got rough, it wasn't enough.

 So my overall take. Some people are "cruise people" and some are not. Skadi and I are firmly planted in the "I am not a cruise person category". Leif is firmly planted in the "I love cruises" category. AB could take it or leave it and SIlas was too young to care. The ship was full of cruise people. Over half of the ship was repeat cruisers. Skadi didn't like it because of the motion sickness. And unlike Skadi - she didn't make friends on the ship. I think she just didn't feel well enough to put the effort in. She did hang with her younger cousins, Wesley and Charles. 

For me it was an issue largely of claustrophobia (I couldn't WAIT to get off that freaking boat after the two days at sea). And I didn't get enough time in port. And then the feeling of slight nausea, off-centeredness, dizziness, etc., was enough for me. I am not the type to sit on deck in a chair with a drink in my hand. When we vacation I usually have us booked solid (too solidly) with a variety of activities. So I do realize, this is me. But if sitting on a deck chair in the sun surrounded by hundreds of people isn't your thing? Then a cruise may not be your thing. 

We had the first two days at sea. Skadi was excited to spend time at the Oceaneer's Club - the kids area for ages 3-10. Leif was chomping at the bit to get up to the Edge - the tween club. No parents allowed at either locale. At one point my three kids were busy - Silas was in daycare and the other two off doing their own thing and I had no flipping idea what to do. I would have loved to sit and read, but the swaying didn't encourage that. Skadi soon rejected the Oceaneers Club (not the greatest location for someone struggling with motion sickness) and then there were a lot of little little kids in her area. She ended spending much of her days with AB and me, which was fine. 

Silas glommed onto seeing characters. It was something SIlas and I could do easily together. But still, if you didn't know to go to Guest Services and ask to see characters you just got a few around the ship (Donald, Mickey, Minny, Daisy and Goofy). Princesses required special advance tickets and if you wanted to see Elsa and Anna (and we did), that was even more separate and secluded (secret). 

Leif spent the majority of his time in the tween club. Our first time where he was just gone, off, poof and made a whole group of friends. They could check themselves in and out. They went and got their own food at Cabanas, ice cream at the ice cream stand. There were organized activities going on still at 11pm! We heard about it when we told him he needed to be back one night at 11pm, "but mom, gender wars was just beginning!!" It was our first experience with an independent Leif. It was good for him. He loved it and has decided he wants to work on the Disney cruise line when he gets older. Leif didn't want to leave. There were emotions upon disembarking. Poor kid. 

The service on the Disney cruise is amazing. Truly. They go over the top and you want for nothing. People bend over backwards for whatever you want. Your wait staff moves with you from restaurant to restaurant. There are three restaurants and you get either the early or the late seating. We had the early (thankfully). Our server was outstanding and worked so hard. Her assistant was less great and had to be reminded 2-3 times for things we asked for. If the kids (Skadi) didn't want what was the menu and instead wanted chicken strips, she had them. Leif worked hard at trying new foods and we discovered new foods that Silas loved - soup, all soups!!

Disney Fantasy in Port Canaveral 

Silas in our porthole. 

The "Up Bed". Everyone wanted the loft bed that folded out of the ceiling. 

Skadi "enjoying" the view. 

Meeting Anna and Elsa!

Happy Silas still talks about meeting Anna. 

We had Skadi's hair braided. Huge help in managing her hair - she had it in for two weeks!

Fancy schmancy!

Ice Cream at every meal. 

Meeting Sofia. 

Sofia again! 


Doc Mc Stuffins. 

Mickey Mouse!

Minnie Mouse 

Silas loved Donald Duck. 

Dinner at Animator's Palace - our favorite venue. We got to animate our own cartoon characters and then they danced on the walls for us. 

Who knew, Silas loves soup. 

Skadi on Pirate Night visiting our family at our other table. 

Ice cream was a theme. It was either "free ice cream" everywhere, or the most expensive ice cream you have ever eaten. 

Princess Tiana

The huge gingerbread house. (And us!)

Skadi and Cousin Wesley

Our housekeeper was master of surprises each evening. 

Pirate Night! And more "Free" ice cream. 

AB and I had dinner at Remy. Put Silas into daycare. Let Leif hang at The Edge and Skadi hung with grandma and grandpa for the evening. It was a wow and fabulous dinner. Glad we did it. It is touted as $85 each additional. That's base. We were offered plenty of additional items for hundreds of dollars. Wine pairings were $150 extra (we ordered a bottle). We kept it to a dull roar, but dinner for the two of us hit $300. 

Dr. Hook and Mr. Smee

Cinderella and Skadi 

Ariel and Skadi and Silas

Belle and Skadi and Silas

So finally! A picture of Leif. We insisted he come and eat dinners with us!

I had intended to do the cruise in one post. Not happening. The boat aspect of the cruise is here, ports will be in a separate post!

Vacation-ville Part 1: Universal Studios

We got up early and boarded the plane to Minneapolis and then from there to Orlando. All five of us. The two and a half year old could hardly stand it he was so excited. He was getting on a PLANE! Then we took off and he was done. No more interest. Enough of that, let's go do something else now. That made for a relatively LONG set of flights from Washington State to Florida. 

Once in Orlando we got our LOADS of luggage (you need a lot of crap for five people for 2 weeks). We were missing one piece - our suit carrier with our dress clothes for our dinner at Remy on the ship. We had been kind of tossed up on doing that since it is extra (ha ha ha, jokes on us, everything is extra...), so we were nearly giving up and figuring if we were missing a suitcase we would rather it be this one. Then they found it. It had fallen off the baggage cart. Got a cab and headed on our way to the Universal onsite hotel - Cabana Bay Beach Hotel. 

For being the least expensive onsite hotel I have to admit I was impressed. The kids LOVED it and even weeks later still call it "that really nice hotel we stayed in in Orlando". The pool area was awesome - not that we had a ton of time there, but the kids and AB did get in one evening swimming. They have a Starbucks onsite and a decent hotel restaurant that is appealing to kids. The rooms were a bit small, but we were all fine. They sent a crib up for us and we had a great time at the hotel. I would totally stay there again. 

We opted for the Park Hopper ticket because we wanted to be able to ride the Hogwarts Express back and forth. You can't do this without a park hopper ticket. And you want to do this. It is totally worth the price difference. 

We got in early (1 hr early admission for hotel guests despite it being REALLY early for us on Pacific time) and beelined it to Hogsmeade. The whole two days was great and remains the highlight of my two weeks vacation. Nothing was busy and we walked on nearly every ride the first day. The second day we had a few 20-30 min waits. Both days I had the Cottage Pie at the Leaky Cauldron and Leif had the fish and chips. The Cottage Pie was a very yummy pie crust with a ground beef mixture and topped with mashed potatoes. And Butterbeer. Yum. 

One of the things that we hadn't experienced before was the child swap. We LOVED the Universal child swap setups. We loved having a room with a changing table and chairs and usually videos playing to watch at the end of the line, before getting on the ride. At Universal part of the fun is the walk to the rides, so Silas got to experience this also. And then on a few, we switched more than once! At Disney they just hand you a Fast Pass. And that has its advantages as well, come back at your convenience. But it meant the person with Silas had to go find something else to do while the three rode. I am surprising myself by saying that Universal was just far better equipped for kids that aren't big enough to ride. 

Leif's favorite ride - Gringotts
Skadi's favorite ride - She doesn't know - Jurassic Park, or Transformers or Men in Black (which she rode about 5-6 times) or Harry Potter, but NOT Minions
April's favorite ride - Gringotts (And Leif is in trouble for taking me on that freaking Minions ride)
AB's favorite ride - Men In Black or Gringotts
Silas' favorite ride - the Seuss carousel

So here is our two days at Universal in photos!

Silas on the plane - anything to keep him entertained. Oh and upon departing no one told me what a well behaved little boy I have. 

These two did awesome. 

Minneapolis wasting 5 of our 60 mins layover. 

We love Suessland. One of the places where Silas could do nearly everything (except the sky trolley!).

Flight of the Hippogriff. In front of Hagrid's home. 

Meeting Sam I Am and the Grinch. 

Sam and the Grinch

The Cat in the Hat and Things One and Two.

Silas LOVED this ride. He picked out his blue elephant himself. Skadi is also obviously enjoying herself. 

This one didn't want to be photographed on the little kids ride. 

This was my bribery photo. If he flew me through the water I would post it on Facebook that he rode One Fish Two Fish. He did fly me through the water. 

Super fast!

We took the train (ultra-cool) to Diagon Alley. 

Someone was digging MY hot Butterbeer.

Gringott's Bank ride - this one was great. 

Skadi naming Pinky in the naming ceremony. 

The night bus driver. 

Skadi had to meet him too. 

Finally something for Silas - BOOTS! And Dora!

One of Silas' favorite characters. Curious George. He played in the George Play area for quite awhile. 

Eating dinner. I don't know where she learned this pose, but it is entirely way too old for her. 

I am pretty sure they have no idea who this is. But Woody was walking through the park when the kids bombarded him. 

Silas was SO excited to see Spiderman and we talked about it for weeks before. He admired the photo of Leif and Skadi from three years prior with Spiderman. He was completely star struck. 

Yay Spidey!

Silas wanted to meet Wolverine, lol. 

Trying to spin me and make me puke. Lucky for me he spent the entire time fighting the inertia in the wrong direction. 

Gummy Bear. Or SpongeBob. But Silas thinks he is a gummy bear and that's fine with me. 

In the bed getting ready for the next phase of the trip!