Magic-al Thanksgiving Cruise – Confession Time

Hi, I’m Lori and I am a running addict.

 (Not that this is a surprise if you’ve been here a while.)
As such, I get some really great views of dawn.

 

On the first morning, there were quite a few walkers and runners out on deck 4 with me, but they seemed to clear out after a couple days.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite spots to stretch so after a little walking warm-up, I claimed this bit of deck to do my pre-running routine.

 Then I settled into a nice little pattern.
Run. Be awed by the beautiful ocean. Take a picture or two.

And back to running.
So after a while enjoying the odd sensation of running on a moving surface (the gulf rolled the ship quite a bit, and once you add the jogging motion to that, it just compounds the motion, especially on the ramps on the forward end of the deck.) I claimed another bit of the starboard aft part of deck 4 to stretch again.
Took another glance out at the lightening sky, judging that I could snap a few more pictures before the kids sprang awake. Afterwards, I headed inside to poke around a bit.

Thankfully, Animator’s Palate stood open:

 
 

 One last peek at the dawn…

And I headed inside. Back in 5020, I started getting Chris and Kylee dressed, which required far less negotiating than usual. Kylee can be quite insistent on what she cares to wear, but on a suggestion from these boards, I’d packed each child’s outfits in individual bags (each giant Ziploc contained an outfit containing the tops, bottoms, socks, underthings and even bows) labeled with their name and a day of the week. I didn’t have one day where I had to explain what went with that top or searching for the hair bows or socks that went with something else. Chris helped out by finding the bags with the right day of the week. And since we’re all quite modest, it gave them one thing to grab on their way to half the split bath to change. Ben still was out for a run, so the rest of us decided to go drop off some fish extender gifts.

The kids really enjoyed finding the different rooms and seeing all of the types of door decorations and fish extenders. Chris said his favorite was the Aggie decorated door and Kylee most enjoyed one with all kinds of princess magnets.
The gift distribution took quite a bit longer than anticipated, so we arrived back to the room, we found Ben quite ready to hit Topsiders for breakfast. Kylee enthused over the prospect of pancakes, and I told her we’d see what they could do. 

Not a bad breakfast view.

As we arrived and got our trays, I asked the server at the front of the buffet if we could get some vegan pancakes. He scooted off to go get a chef, while I followed our omnivores through the buffet. They had packets of jelly and peanut butter on the buffet as well near the toast. Kylee and I picked from oatmeal and cream of wheat (both we were told were dairy free) and some fruit salad off the cereal bar (which I note contained Rice Krispies, and several other options Kylee can eat). They also had walnuts and almond slivers on the cereal bar and rotated berry types every day. The chef came out and asked Kylee if she would like some vegan pancakes. She enthusiastically said yes.
It took a little bit, but Kylee quite enjoyed her pancakes when they did arrive.



Vegan (and apparently delicious) pancakes available on request

If she wanted to eat at the same time as everyone else, we would need to send one of us down earlier so they could request her pancakes before Chris headed down. We would’ve been better accommodated in the main dining rooms, but I don’t know as the kids would’ve been happy to have three seated meals a day. Ben and Chris excuse themselves to head back to the room to get changed for the one thing both kids really, really wanted to do but hadn’t gotten to the previous day, The Mickey Pool and slide.
Meanwhile back out behind Topsiders, Kylee and I enjoyed a leisurely, if slightly windy end to our breakfast.



Aft deck behind Topsiders, Disney Magic.

On the positive side, after breakfast on deck, it was pretty simple to talk Kylee into letting me pull her hair back the next morning. We headed back down to get her suit on as well and headed up to the Mickey pool.

This post is Part 3 of an Ongoing Trip Report Covering Our Thanksgiving Cruise 2012

Magic-al Thanksgiving Cruise – And the Eating Begins

We headed into Parrot Cay for our first vegan meal attempt onboard. Ben and Chris plowed through the buffet while I asked a server what was vegan. He asked us to wait to one side as he went to get a chef to assist us. After speaking to a chef, he promised to bring something vegan to the table for Kylee.

Although vegan, this isn’t exactly inspiring.

It was a little unnerving ordering the first plate of vegan food and having the fear of a week of steamed unseasoned veggies settle on me. I can do it, but I wasn’t thrilled about it. I raided the salad bar and fruit bar and made a mental note to come up with ideas for future meals. Thankfully, this problem seemed to be short lived.

We headed to Rockin’ Bar D to make sure our reservations noted the proper dietary restrictions (they did) and then wandered around the ship for a bit to let the kids feel oriented.

Tiny child-sized sinks and mirrors in the Club

They loved the Oceaneer Club, were unsure about the lab and loved the large porthole windows on deck 3.

Our room ready and our bags waiting, I plowed through unpacking before the safety drill started. I also started browsing through the Voyage Navigator, entertainment schedules and checked out excursion tickets and Palo invites. I think this is around the time we sent our last few phone calls to let everyone know we’d made it onboard the ship.
More exciting, we got our first Castaway Club gifts, a backpack, keychain and snacks. (The pretzels are vegan!)
Then we headed up to the sail away party and saw one of the oddest things.
Chris threw himself into the dancing and steps. He has NEVER done anything like that before, and we were even halfway expecting to have to take him up to deck 10 if the crowds were bothering him. Instead, he was busy dancing right by the ropes, spinning around breakdancing and even heading up on stage when they let the kids join the crowd at the end of sail away.
After lots of dancing, we headed up to deck ten to watch as the ship pulled out of port and turned our phones to airplane mode. Then we headed back to 5020 to get ready for main dining and decorate the door.

Lumiere’s is lovely, although it is a bit odd to see Lumiere’s instead of Triton’s.  I’ve found that even after three cruises on the Magic, I still halfway expect to find things the way that they appeared on the Wonder.  I think that is because so much of the sister ships are identical that it makes it easy to forget which of the two you’re on, until the differences pop out.

We met Giuseppe our server and Patricia our lovely assistant server. She seemed quite well pulled together and joyfully assisted in any way possible.

The menu seems to have a lot more vegetarian and healthy options than I recall from our previous cruise, but I may not have been looking as hard for them.
So I ordered the citrus salad and the grilled marinated tofu, roasted zucchini, eggplant, and red peppers on lime-cilantro couscous from the menu. And we amused ourselves by taking goofy pictures while waiting for our food.

The tofu was pretty good, although the plating size seemed a bit ridiculous, I could easily have shared this plate with Kylee and still had plenty leftover. Never mind the fact that each of us ended up with a full salad too. However, since they brought us two full orders, I felt like I had to make the best of it and eat up. I’ll blame it on the tiny lunches, but somehow we managed to make sizable dents in our meals, despite the overwhelming nature of the portion size.

Mmmmmm.  Balsamic vinegar!

After dinner, our head server Luis dropped by to help us preorder food for the next day. We opted to let Kylee eat in the Oceaneer Club the next day, so we preordered her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some apples for delivery around noon. I think we let the kids play at the clubs for a little bit after dinner, but honestly, don’t remember. We ended up altogether in our room well before the second “All Aboard!” show started.

A stingray towel waited for us, and the kids pretty much collapsed after all the excitement of the day.
This night began a tradition of me reading the following day’s navigator quietly with Ben after the kids were passing out to cartoons on the TV or the broadcast of the evening’s stage show.

This post is Post 2 of an Ongoing Trip Report Covering Our Thanksgiving Cruise 2012

Worth the Cost of a Cruise

I have never been one who is much of a secret keeper. And so today, I’m spilling the beans, letting you know about which five things top my”Reasons I wish I was on a Disney Cruise Right Now” list…at least until I change my mind tomorrow and come up with another five favorite things…

5) All Inclusive and Cashless society

Roll out of bed. Put on clothes. Put on lanyard (with Key to the World). Done.

4)  The Oceaneer Club and Lab

Let’s face it, around now summer is getting to be very long.
Imagine a room full of age appropriate new toys filled with (mostly) British formally trained nannys who want nothing more than to play and amuse your children with games and stories about their favorite characters all day long. 
DCL calls them counselors. 
I call them a Godsend. 
Oh, did I mention that Belle just casually drops by to read the kids a story some days or Snow White pops in to dance with them?  The only hard part about the club and lab is getting your child to leave them.

3) The Disney Point

The Disney Point.  I Miss It!

During our first cruise, my darling son picked up the quirky way of indicating direction known as “The Disney Point.”

According to several cast members, the reason that all Disney employees point with two or more fingers is to avoid rudeness by accidentally pointing at a guest with one finger.

I just view it as an interesting behavioral souvenir.  After a year or more, he is still doing this and every single time it takes me back to wandering the decks of the Disney Magic.  A tiny gesture that fills everyday with pixie dust.



2) The cast members

Ever since leaving the ship, room service and turn down service sadly disappeared. Towel animals became extinct and no one asked me if my service continued to be “excellent.” The cast members on the ships really go above and beyond to try to help out in any little way. Unlike a land based Disney vacation, you see the same crew members day after day and develop a relationship with them as individuals. A moment or two to talk to them you’ll not regret it.

1)This vegan fruit pizza dessert:

After my cruise last November, I talked about this pizza for months. I think it even took a turn as my iPhone wallpaper.

Sweet, a hint of basil, tart and oh, so yummy.

I love it.

Magic-al Thanksgiving Cruise – And We’re Off

Welcome to my very first trip report! I was so thankful to be able to set sail aboard the Disney Magic on DCL’s first Thanksgiving sailing from the port of Galveston this last week, November 17, 2012.
After a good night’s rest, the kids shot out of bed predawn, much like on Christmas mornings while I tried not to forget any of the last minute odds and ends.
They got out their little pre-cruise goodie bags so they were armed with sunglasses, pirate bandanas, lanyards and even some “My First Cruise” journals. I printed some handwriting worksheets specific to our itinerary, coloring sheets from the castaway club website, car scavenger hunts for the way down, to hopefully keep them amused during the drive down to Galveston.

I enjoyed the last of the free stateside Wi-Fi and 4G to do a little web surfing and found out something terrible on Facebook. My acquaintance Kathryn and her family were to be sailing with us (their first cruise ever) but she sent me a note late the previous night that they could not for the life of them locate her DH’s birth certificate. She pretty much said they wouldn’t be making it. I sent her a quick note saying to text me WHEN they made it. Then I started praying that they find it or a way around it.
After a stop into Egg and I for a quick breakfast of Mickey shaped pancakes for the men and oatmeal with all the fixings for the vegans, and a forced restroom run, we set out for the ball or Galveston, anyway. While driving southward, the kids managed to direct their pixie dusted enthusiasm into finding green cars, campers, semis, cement mixers and whatever else appeared in their scavenger lists.
Thank you DISigners! Ben managed to get us all the way south of town where we encountered our first snag. Kylee’s favorite jacket lost a button during our one and only pit stop, which as luck would have it, occurred in a Wal-Mart. So I procured a travel size sewing kit, pocketed the wayward button and promised princess that I would sew it on as soon as the opportunity presented itself…it still hasn’t, but I haven’t lost the button yet, so it’s still a possibility, although quite remote as later events will reveal. And again, the sewing kit did end up getting used during this cruise, so it wasn’t a total waste.

We passed the port en route to out parking area and got our first glimpses of the Magic from Harborside. After trying to get several good photographic angles as we drove past, I concluded that maybe the reason there aren’t very many photos of the Magic in port is the very industrial feel of the port just didn’t look very vacation-y.
Ben thoughtfully pre-booked at EZ Cruise and the turn by turn directions on the iPhone spared me the general stress of navigating an unfamiliar terrain while maintaining peace in the backseat.

The bright orange signage along the EZ Cruise aided made it, well, easy to spot. Parking breezed by and after unloading the suitcases and preschooler from my vehicle in a clown car type maneuver a helpful employee ushered us and our luggage into the shuttle.
Minutes later we hopped to the curb, another porter to the terminal and our bags ventured into the unknown of port security to be reunited with us later in the afternoon hopefully. We looked at our phones, and it was still a while until the terminal opened. Our port arrival time was 11, but we still had about an hour to kill.

Thankfully, the kids felt like we were finally on vacation and quite enjoyed dancing about outside the terminal and walking around until they let people inside around 10:30. Also thankfully, the restroom in the terminals was available even when we were still waiting outside.
The Castaway Club line let us walk directly up to check-in and the people at the next check-in desk were hearing that no upgrades were available as the sailing was full, so we didn’t ask about them. Ben and I got our first Silver lanyards, boarding group card, first day navigators and our key to the world cards.
We all headed over to the kids program registration area. We met Beth, the kid’s club counselor who cheerily explained that the computers were down, but we were welcome to hang out and let the kids color or take our seats in the open part of the terminal. We opted for patience. Besides, Kylee could color endlessly and be cheerful about it. Chris can too, for that matter. So we had a fair amount of time to talk to the Californians behind us in line who, as chance would have it, later ended up being selected as the family of the day and boarded the ship first. The mom also loves running, but as it was her first cruise, hadn’t any idea how exactly that would work out as a 12 miler is a bit much on a treadmill. She seemed skeptical, about the laps as much as the whole “Disney cruise thing” blaming her sister for setting it up.

I let her know I prefer running laps on deck 4. We ran into each other repeatedly, but never while running and she seemed to buy into DCL as whole heartedly as anyone else I’ve seen. The counselors fixed the computers and we had our first Q/A about Kylee’s diet and age with the counselors. Yes, she’s really three, she just talks incessantly and clearly; no, she doesn’t have an anaphylactic reaction to milk; no she doesn’t have an EPIpen.

She explained that the kitchen arranges special meals for delivery to the kids clubs or we were welcome to take her out and feed her and drop her back. And with their new bracelets, the kids cheerfully wandered off to the open seating to wait for our group to board. Around 10:50, another mom wandered by and pointed out Mickey needed company at the other end of the terminal. So off the kids went to meet Mickey for the first time.
Chris sauntered right up to Mickey, although Kylee originally needed to be restrained to keep from going directly under the ropes to meet the mouse, a couple steps from the fateful meeting, she realized he is humongous in real life.

They announced boarding would be delayed until 11:30, so we got the first of several awkward family photos.
The family of the day got called to board (Hey, we know them, cool!) and then they called groups 1-27 to board.

Oops! I don’t think they really meant to call everyone at the same time.

After the mad rush to get the obligatory boarding photo (which believe it or not is even worse than the one above), they welcomed Chris and Kylee and their entourage on board the Disney Magic. I got so choked up watching the awe in the kids’ eyes, that I didn’t get a single photo. I remembered to head straight to guest services and request four “Tea with Alice” tickets and drop off pillowcases and sharpies, while Ben and Chris hit the restrooms.

This post is Post 1 of an Ongoing Trip Report Covering Our Thanksgiving Cruise 2012

Itty Bitty Living Space

So you’re going on a family cruise! Hurray!

You’ve seen the promotional materials flaunting inside staterooms on the classic ships “up to twenty five percent larger than the cruise industry standard.” This is Wonder-ful; until you realize that this makes a stateroom a smidgeon smaller than the average American dorm room. What’s a family of four and their belongings for the week to do? Aside from just packing less, there are some tricks and tips that have helped me make my own “itty bitty living space” feel bigger on the inside.

First off, prepare your packing and luggage for small spaces. Don’t worry, you can still bring your ball gowns and pirate night pantaloons. I’m talking organization today, not minimalist packing, although that certainly does help, too. If your party contains people who still need or like assistance finding all the parts to an outfit, or just people who can never match colors, this first tip is for you. I found that if I put entire outfits, in a gallon size or larger zip top baggie, not only did the outfits all stay together, but no one kept us waiting in the search for socks in the bottom of a drawer. Just stuff each bag with a complete outfit from tops to socks and underclothes and squeeze all of the air out before zipping shut. Toss them into a suitcase and you’re good to go. The bags also make unpacking a snap. All your pirate’s baggies get deposited into his allotted drawers and you’re done. If you’re a super planner, you can write the names and days on the outside of the bags to keep your crew color coordinated. One last bonus to baggies – the aforementioned ball gowns won’t be able to shed glitter on everything that shares a suitcase with them. I’m as much of a fan of pixie dust as the next cruiser, but not in my socks.



Work in Progress
Packing is my way to slowly bring order out of my precruise chaos. Not that you can tell from this photo.

Another handy packing pointer – make sure to select the right luggage for the job; bags you can store under the bed. If you’re setting to sea aboard the Disney Magic or Disney Wonder, you have nine inches of clearance to store suitcases under the bed. Dream class ships enjoy a little more wiggle room, with thirteen vertical inches to stow your belongings. I find it easiest to either choose to bring baggage that can slide easily underneath the beds, or else (on Magic class ships), bring a roommate who doesn’t mind lifting the bed frame to slide them underneath to store (there’s a bit of extra clearance once you get past the edge of the frame). Squishy-sided bags are another great option. If you’re stuck traveling with oversized luggage, you may be able to get your stateroom host to take the empty luggage off of your hands for a little while. However, be prepared to stow large baggage in your closet as more often than not, stateroom hosts simply do not have space to store personal belongings.

After you’ve arrived in your stateroom and have taken stock of things, it’ll be time to start unpacking. We found that there was more than ample space and the room felt spacious, so long as everything stayed relatively put away. I know, it is vacation and the last thing anyone wants to do is clean. A little planning and unpacking keeps everything running smoothly and keeps the stateroom feeling calm rather than cramped. To keep your room shipshape, consider hanging everything that can hang, in the closet, to maximize the amount of available drawer space. The closets can hold a surprising amount of things hung up, and have two small shelves near the room safe as well. If you run short on hangers, the stateroom hosts keep some extras, available on request.

Cute personalized clothes-check. Stuffed animals-check.
Mommy’s going to need a vacation from all this packing.

If you bagged the kiddie clothing by outfit, assigning each child a set of drawers to themselves keeps them organized almost without effort. I store the previous days’ Navigators, photos, and other papers in the top desk drawer, and reserve the top dresser drawer closest to the door for odds and ends we pick up throughout the cruise, rather than leaving these to pile up on the dresser top.

If your stateroom has a steamer trunk-styled cabinet or storage in the coffee table, take advantage of the extra space to stow and tuck away things that aren’t in frequent use, perhaps the spare pillows found in the over-TV cabinet, so you can free that up for more shelving space.

Where to store the shoes? With square footage ranging upward from 169 square feet, the last place they should stay is underfoot, so to speak. These can go on the closet floor of course, along with a handy mesh laundry bag or pop-up laundry hamper. Once the laundry bag fills, I run a load and fold it back into the luggage. If vacation means skipping laundry for a week, you can always shove the dirty laundry into a plastic bag. If you did the zip bags, the empties store the dirty or wet clothes and keep your luggage clean, to boot. Alternatively, your souvenirs from the gift shop came with bags too. Either way, bag the laundry up and it’s back into the luggage.




Panorama showing space in Disney Magic stateroom 5020 with bunkbeds set up. 
Child not included.

One thing I always remember to bring is either strong magnets or a magnetic ribbon board for organizing tickets and such that you need to grab on your way out of the door. Aside from the entry door into your stateroom, the bathroom doors also take magnets nicely – that gives you lots of “pin-up” space right near the front door. Actually, we nearly left our magnetic ribbon board behind on our last cruise because it blended with the room decor so well. Make sure to use only magnets on the surfaces in the rooms, as tape and other adhesives mar the doors and walls and can incur a re-painting fee; not the most pleasant souvenir.

Another indispensable tip: consider bringing an over-the-door shoe holder with clear or mesh pockets. The shoe holder saves your sanity and keeps sunscreen, bug spray, hair ties, and dinglehoppers neatly at hand. If the shoe hanger hangs on the inside of the bathroom door, then it’s out of sight, out of the way and out of my hair.
EDIT: Leave your over-the-door shoe holder at home! They now charge if you hang these (unfortunately useful) items as they can mar the paint at the top of the doors.

I take full advantage of the shelving in the split baths, borrowing one of our room’s water tumblers to corral wayward toothbrushes.

Basically, I make myself at home with the in-room storage, but make sure everything is in a convenient and consistent location. About once a day, I give our stateroom a good once-over. Taking the time to stow away all the little things that seem to appear out of the woodwork helps keep a calm, peaceful environment. With just a little planning and organizing, rest and relaxation easily fit into even the smallest of staterooms.

Happy sails, y’all!
this article was previously published through Passporter.com and in their newsletter by me.

That "Disney Cruise" Lady

Hi! I’m Lorelei; Lori to my friends. As my Passporter Bio so succinctly puts it,

Lorelei is a Christian, wife, mother of two, vegan, Texan, bookworm, and terrible-though-enthusiastic photographer. She sunburns indoors on a cloudy day, but still looks forward to her next Disney Cruise in spring of 2013!

I suppose that pretty well sums it up.
What…I’ve got three hundred more words available? Okay, I might as well, then.

It’s late 1998
My mother and I huddle around the huge boxy monitor, waiting as the website slowly loads.  I run off to fetch sustenance as the modem complains. Loudly.
We spend the afternoon ooh-ing and ah-ing over pictures of Animal Kingdom which we will see for the first time on our annual trek to Walt Disney World. As we click through the agonizingly slow loading times a notice on one page catches my mother’s eye. So we price out a cruise on Disney’s newest venture, the Disney Magic.
After a little browsing, she decides she’d rather not find out how many of me and my three siblings would suffer mal de mer.

Late 2003
I’m finally planning my first trip to the world as an adult sans parents. Or rather Ben is. It’s going to be a complete surprise as he’s done all the arrangements for our honeymoon himself. I toy with the idea of a Disney cruise. But as I’m prone to car sickness, figure I’d better not push my luck.

2008
Spending a large portion of my pregnancy watching the travel channel, I stumble across a special on the Disney Cruise Line. I share it with my dear husband. We decide that after we finish our mortgage, we’ll treat ourselves to a sailing in the Walt Disney suite on the Magic or the Wonder. This dream fuels us to complete our thirty year mortgage in under nine years.

2010
The tenth anniversary of our first date rolls around and thanks to two of the most wonderful grandparents in existence, we head out alone. As relaxation takes steep precedence over rides, we finally try out the DCL. Three days is not nearly long enough, but it’s enough to know we will be back.
And next time, we will bring the kids.

2012-a few cruises later
As a Castaway Club Member, I flip out when the emails and discussion boards light up with news of the Disney Magic arriving in Texas, practically in my backyard. Not only will we cruise again, but no airfare means half the cost for the four of us. Hmmm. I wonder if Casey would want to come with us?

Nowadays, I’m that Disney Cruise Line lady.
The lady at my kids’ school who people know to ask about Disney Cruises.
“Aren’t those just for kids?  Is it worth it? Why are you cruising with Disney? Was it fun? Can four people really fit in a stateroom? Isn’t that super expensive? What shouldn’t I miss? So do you get sea sick?
The lady whose kids play pirate cruise ship and declare “no, this room is deck five!”




Me and Ben before brunch.

My name is Lori, our resident cruise expert. I’m hoping to invite y’all along on my crazy cruise addiction and answer any questions you might have about cruising Disney!

Happy sails!