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disney cruise: epic family vacation!

Oh, man! What a trip!!!

When Rich and I were talking about what we wanted to do for our tenth anniversary over a year ago, Rich mentioned the possibility of going on a Disney Cruise with the girls and making it a family vacation. He explained that it made sense because the girls are at such great ages for something like that, and they’re growing so quickly and we know that their interests will be changing and they won’t always be so excited about princesses. And, since we can’t afford to go on a tenth anniversary trip AND a family vacation, we decided to make this a special family time.

So, ten years and two beautiful little girls later, we celebrated our anniversary on the high seas, among princesses, fairies, stunning scenery, incredible entertainment, delicious food, and each other.

We chose a fall cruise rather than summer because well, frankly, it’s off season which made it actually affordable for us to go. I began saving a year ago, having garage sales and consignment sales, and we paid in full for the trip with money that we saved over the course of the year. So when it came cruise time, all we needed to do was relax and have a great time!

We began our trip by having Alana miss a day of school while we drive to Orlando, FL to stay at the Nickelodeon Hotel for one night. It was a less than stellar experience but the girls didn’t know that the place was kinda run down and crappy, they just knew that the water park portion – complete with water slides of all sizes – was AWESOME! So despite an expensive but awful dinner, a fire alarm, and a pathetic shower, we had a great night!

But the most exciting part for Rich and I was that we had kept the cruise a secret from the girls for MONTHS and it was almost time for them to find out what we were about to do!

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The next morning we got on the road and grabbed a delicious breakfast on our way to Port Canaveral, which was an hour away. We finally told the kids what we were doing when we were pulling into the port and they could actually SEE our ship: The Disney Dream! I caught their reactions on video and all four of us were giddy.

It felt like such a fitting way to spend our tenth anniversary, since the only other time Rich and I had been on a cruise was for our honeymoon ten years ago. We had a phenomenal experience on the “Explorer of the Seas” Royal Caribbean cruise ship and it felt so exciting to know the kids would have this memory!

One of the best decisions we made while planning our trip was to have our dear friend and amazing travel agent, Alex Smith of The Travel Agency plan our trip for us. At no cost to us, she was able to get us the best options for us with the best prices. We booked a room with a verandah at a small up-charge and we were SO GLAD we did. We LOVED coming out on our private “porch” morning, noon, or night and being able to see the ocean and see the ports-of-call that we were arriving or departing from. Oh, we HIGHLY recommend having a verandah!

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Anna and Elsa, courtesy of Nana!!! Thank you so much to my mom for getting these amazing quality Disney princess dresses for the girls specifically for the cruise! It was perfect to have brand new dresses for them to bring with them on our first official family vacation 🙂

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A family self portrait on the verandah!

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There was a “Sailing Away Party” on the top deck and it was FUN! Lots of singing and dancing; Disney knows how it’s done!

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Oh my gosh, how do I do the Aquaduck justice? This was the second day, and Rich and Alana were the first to go on the Aquaduck. I would later ride it with Alana, but Sierra, unfortunately, did not meet the height requirement. Just one of many reasons that we need to go on another Disney Cruise in the next couple of years!

The Aquaduck is an incredible water slide that runs around the perimeter of the top deck, and, well, is just a ridiculous amount of fun! Alana was so brave to do this – it is pretty substantial!

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This part of it even runs over the side of the ship over the ocean! Not gonna lie, looking at this part of it made me a bit dizzy and nervous! Alana didn’t skip a beat, though, the girl has surprised us lately with her sense of adventure!

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Rich and Alana waiting in line to ride the Aquaduck for the first time! Sierra and I stayed below with the camera…

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And took a self portrait while we waited!

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Clearly, it was a total success! They LOVED it, and I just kept thinking “there is a massive water slide ON OUR CRUISE SHIP.”

It was along the same lines of how I felt with our honeymoon cruise. I remember thinking, “Unreal. There is AN ICE SKATING RINK ON OUR CRUISE SHIP.” Does anyone else find this kind of thing just utterly amazing? People far, far smarter than myself engineered this.

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We didn’t spend too much time in our stateroom, but when we did, you could find us on the verandah. Have I mentioned how much we loved having one? Because, really. IMG_5758

I liked these silly photos of the girls but it’s so strange to look at them because I was shooting with a 16-35mm wide angle lens, and it makes the water look WAY closer to us than it was in reality. The ship was larger than my brain could wrap itself around, and the water below was so, so far down. But here it looks so different…not an accurate representation of what it was actually like to be out there. Random thought, but it’s the one I have each time I look at these photos. IMG_5761There are 3 main (huge) dining rooms on the Disney Dream, and we were assigned to each of them…a different one each night of our 3 night cruise! The first night, where we took the photo below, was called the Enchanted Garden, and it was incredible. The next evening we ate in the Royal Palace, and the last night we ate in the Animator’s Palette.

Truthfully there were SO MANY times that we didn’t have the camera with us and therefore, don’t have photos to document those times, but we did the best we could and tried to bring the camera when we could. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any photos from the other two dining halls.

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One of the MANY highlights of the trip was a trip to Guest Services when Niko, one of the awesome workers behind the desk gave us the great news that there were still tickets available to the “Princess Gathering” in which all six of the princesses on the ship would be together in one place for meeting and taking photos with the kids. We didn’t know about these tickets prior to boarding, but heard about them by word of mouth. Next time we will know to score a ticket right when we board!

In addition to scoring the princess tickets, we got an unexpected surprise in our room later that day. The guest services friend we’d made earlier, Niko, had chosen us to be his “magical family” for the cruise, and would be surprising us each day with something new and fun! The first evening it was candy and two complimentary passes to play in the ship’s arcade. The next day it was free bike rentals for Castaway Cay, and the last night of the cruise he surprised us with Mickey Mouse shaped chocolate-covered Rice Krispy treats, Disney souvenir pins, and adorable round pink piglet stuffed animals for the girls! Thank you so much for making our experience EVEN better, Niko!!!

The girls got photos with Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella at the princess gathering 🙂 Here are a couple of those.

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In addition to the princess gathering, the daily itinerary showed various times each day when princesses and other Disney characters would make appearances in particular places around the ship. We tried to pay careful attention to those time slots, and were able to meet and take photos with Cinderella and Tinker Bell too!

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I’ve only been to Nassau, Bahamas once before, and it was for a week-long manual labor missions trip years ago when I was on summer break during my college years. Needless to say, I got to experience it a little differently this time. In fact, we took a one day sightseeing tour at the end of that missions trip and I remember seeing a Disney Cruise Ship at the port and thinking about how incredible it would be to someday go on a Disney cruise. And here I was, a lot of years later with an amazing husband and two sweet kids. It was a little surreal.

And although my life has changed so much since I was last on Nassau, one thing that has not changed is HOW GORGEOUS the ocean water is in the Bahamas! It’s stunning!

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Pirate night!

Oh, pirate night, you were magical. Being on the top deck of the ship with the ocean water smells and sounds, with the cool breeze blowing through our hair, and a pirates of the caribbean show with a Captain Jack Sparrow so believable that I heard people whispering, “Is that really him? He looks and sounds JUST like Johnny Depp!”

And then the girls spotted lots of kids with the coolest glow stick/wand things that were lighting up in the most wonderful way – so instead of saying no like I usually would, we used some of our saved up trip money and snagged those adorable things and the kids sat there playing with them and ecstatic to own them.

As if being in the middle of the caribbean on an amazing ship dressed like pirates and watching shows and playing with glow sticks wasn’t enough, that’s when the fireworks show began. And it struck me that we – those of us sitting on that ship that night – were the only ones in the world who could hear and see those fireworks. The VASTNESS of the ocean really got to me that night. I was TOTALLY in awe of God’s BIGNESS. How massive, and uncontainable, and powerful He is. And yet how He cares for us individually. The God who created this expanse of water so large that even a ship the size of a small city would have to travel for hours and hours and hours to get to another land mass…this God created us. And LOVES us. And died for us. And pursues us.

We took these photos after dinner and before heading up to the top deck for all the Pirate festivities.

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We took these photos the next morning after breakfast at Cabana on the ship, before debarking at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private Island.

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I had Rich take this photo of me specifically for our friend and travel agent Alex – we love you, Alex!

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One of several charming signs welcoming us to Castaway Cay! We LOVED this place. It was so clean and well taken care of, lots to do, gorgeous beaches for relaxing, incredible playgrounds IN THE OCEAN WATER for the kids to play on, great little shops, complimentary lunch, and even Scuttle’s Cove, where they had all kinds of kids activities where we could check the kids in with their same electronic bracelets (and the same Disney crew members) from the Oceaneer Kids Club on the ship and do our own thing.

So that’s when Rich and I left the kids at Scuttle’s Cove and rented bikes and rode the island! Then we joined back up as a family for some lunch and exploring and shopping for some souvenirs.

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The girls, looking all island-y 🙂

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After taking this photo below, Rich realized that we’d forgotten Alana’s goggles on the ship so he headed back to the ship to get her goggles (for swimming in the ocean) and he took our good camera back to the room so that we could enjoy our time without having to carry it around. Which means that our only photos from our day on the island are iPhone shots – not my favorite thing but kinda necessary. It is what it is 🙂

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Our ship was SO. BEAUTIFUL.

IMG_5954These next 3 photos we purchased and then scanned in so the quality is bad but they’re part of our memories anyway!

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These last couple of photos with Mickey were the final evening of our cruise and if we learned anything about taking a Disney cruise, it’s that 3 days was not long enough and we would have loved to have had another couple of days to explore the ship and experience everything!

Amazing memories, and it has been so fun to relive these days through this blog post!

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  • Mom - November 8, 2014 - 9:25 pm

    Love the chronicle of your vacation! Makes me want to book a trip right now! Looks like you had a blast.

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