Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back from a Wonderful Disney Cruise

Wow! That's my one word summary of our vacation a week ago, myself and the family aboard the Disney Wonder for a 4-night Disney Cruise. That's our first time doing anything remotely like that, as most of our vacations are simply trips in the minivan to visit family. We had one of our best vacations ever - and a rare one in that despite four days with tons of activities and events, at the end I was actually refreshed and relaxed instead of ragged!

Dawn had wanted to take the kids on a Disney World/Cruise package for the last two years, but I wasn't keen of prebooking a very expensive cruise 10 months in advance during hurricance season, nor of taking low stamina too-young kids to a place filled with long lines. The time to the kids fall break was coming soon, and this was probably the best chance to do this while all the kids were young enough to enjoyed Mickey and friends. We opted to forego Disney World (as the kids aren't that much into scary rides anyway) and choose a 4-night Bahamas cruise instead - thanks to some pretty nice last-minute specials that put this in range of our budget.

The flight to Orlando was the kids' first flight, so that was an adventure in itself. They were champs! The Country Inn and Suites in Cape Canaveral served as an excellent place to stay the one night before the cruise, and Thrifty got us from Orlando to the ship early, with a minimum of fuss or cost. There were several impressive highlights on the cruise:

  • Live family entertainment every night. Included in the price of the cruise, the kids loved the musical, the play featuring all their Disney buddies, the comedy and ventrioquist. On top of that, they had a movie theatre where we enjoyed 'Ratatouie' and 'Underdog'. (Given the price of six movie tickets, that's a luxury we don't normally indulge in.)

  • Castaway Cay, Disney's own private island. We passed on Nassau, taking advantage of less crowded conditions on the ship, but we did disembark for Castaway Cay. What a huge mental difference it was, facing mobs of strangers and high priced chair rentals, versus a private getaway designed solely for the passenger families, and with friendly and helpful staff everywhere to make sure all your needs were met. We even got to check the kids into a kids-only zone with lots of fun activities while Mom and Dad got to spend some time along on the 'grown up' beach.

  • Oceanview Club - you could drop off your kids in an age-appropriate room where it was non-stop fun, play time, and special activities. We got a pager so they could contact us if needed and we parents got to go off and relax, read a book, take a swim, hit the spa, and get some quiet time alone. Best of all, the kids were in no rush to have us come back to get them :)

  • The food was amazing! No surprise there, if you've heard anything about cruises. We knew the stories, yet were still unprepared for just how abundant and just how delicious everything was. My biggest dilemma was "Filet Mignon tonight, or Glazed Veal?" My server's answer "Oh sir, get both! And we've got some scallops as well I know you'll love - I'll bring you some!"

  • The ship was magnificent - every detail was special, from the glass elevators to the elegant restaurants, to the cute towels in our rooms shaped like animals. Everything was in perfect shape, when and where you needed it, with no extra charge.

    This will be a vacation and family time that none of us will forget. I would highly recommend a Disney Cruise for families that can afford it - and given how much it would cost elsewhere for 4 nights in a hotel, 4 full days of delightful eating, non-stop entertainment, car rental and parking, it was really quite a good deal! (To be clear, we have no relationship with Disney, just six very satisfied customers)