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Sharon Amaral -- January 2000 -- Walt Disney World (ASMoR, BWR) / Disney Cruise Trip


Disney Cruise Trip Report: Mickey and the Seven Dwarves

January 25th through February 3rd, 2000

Cast of Characters:

  • Pushy (me, Susan): Age 31
  • Woody (husband): Also age 31, best friend to Buzz
  • Sunny: daughter/thrill ride lover, age 6
  • Buzz: son, age 4 and barely 40 inches tall but also loves thrill rides
  • Blondie: Niece, age 9, doesn’t like thrill rides
  • Ookla: Niece, age 14, likes everything
  • Smokie: My mom, in her 50s

This was the first trip to Disney World (we’ve all been to Disneyland many times) for all of us except Woody and myself. We went to Disney World once 6 years ago for three days without any advanced planning. This time I planned for months. We did the Disney Cruise, with five nights/four days on land and four days aboard ship. I think I got a pretty good deal on the cruise thanks to this site - if you want the details, please feel free to e-mail me.

We had a great time and I am glad we chose to do the land/sea cruise package. The kids had a better time at the parks and the grownups had a better time on the cruise so there was something for everyone.

I wrote this as a summary style trip report so that it would be shorter and more succinct. Now that it’s finished, I don’t think anyone will call this either short or succinct. Sorry! Just skip the boring parts (what do you mean you’re already done?) Anyhow, I learned so much from all of you and now I’m trying to return the favor. Many of these tips are not my own, I stole them from others. I put them in here only if I tried them out and they worked for me. If you have any questions at all about anything in this trip report, I’d be happy to answer them.

January weather:

Several people have said that January weather is unpredictable and they were so right. The first couple of days were very cold, like crop warnings at night cold. It warmed up on the third day and on the fourth we wore shorts. We had great weather on the ship, but it did get cold again on our day at sea. I heard it was raining in Orlando at that time. The only packing advice I can give you is to take layers. We took some shorts, some pants, sweatshirts and light jackets and it was fine. Crowds were light, especially in the morning. Getting to the parks early and taking mid-day breaks worked really well for us - we never waited more than 10 minutes for any attraction and often walked right on (even at MK on a Saturday).

Traveling with extended family:

A lot of people have horror stories about taking extended family to Disney World. We took my mom and my two nieces with us and I’m really glad we did. It was nice to see them and I think it made the trip more enjoyable for everyone. My niece didn’t even lose her retainer once on the trip, thank goodness! (I threw that one in for my Inspiration Board pals. :)

Transportation:

Airplane: TWA

We started out the trip with a close call. I had two suitcases attached to each other and when I crossed the shuttle pickup area, the second suitcase fell off and I didn’t notice. A shuttle driver honked at me and I said to Woody, “what’s up with him? Didn’t we cross quickly enough for him? How rude!” Luckily, the wonderful shuttle driver actually got out and chased us down to tell me I lost the suitcase. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Shuttle Driver! Whew!

We flew TWA out of Seattle and at the check-in counter we got our second lucky break. We asked if they had any first class seats available and they did! We paid an extra $150 per person, but it was well worth it for an almost-eight hour flight (and was only a little more expensive than the Disney airfare price we almost paid). Upgrading at the gate was a little less than half the price of paying for first class at the time of booking. The plane was a 757, so it had headphones and an in-flight movie too. The kids slept most of the way, but when they were awake I was ready for them with trip surprises.

Hello Hat Tip

I used Gifts of a Lifetime to order trip surprises for the kids (plus I bought some others too). I wrapped them up and doled them out over the course of the trip. Before we left for the airport, I gave them Mickey ears to wear on our flight into Orlando. My daughter named it her “hello hat” because so many people talked to her about them. One of the flight attendants kept stealing her ears to get her to laugh. Other things I gave them were Epcot passports, guest of honor badges, candy, glowsticks, travel magnadoodles, travel colorforms and Disney books on tape.

Plane Tip

Only fly in a larger airplane for long flights. On the way there, we had one and it was great because it was bigger, quieter, and had in-flight movies and headphones. On the way back, we flew in a MD-80 and it was old, very noisy and had no music or movies. It never occurred to me to check what kind of plane we were flying on, but I will next time!

I would fly TWA again. They were on time, didn’t lose my suitcases (even though I tried to LOL), and the flight crew was friendly. Bumping up to first class didn’t hurt either.

Airport Parking Tip

If your flight leaves early in the morning (ours left at 6:00 am), check the travel section of your local paper for hotel deals. We found a deal for 11 days parking, plus a one-night hotel stay at a Radisson near the airport for $99. It included a free shuttle and continental breakfast, although we left so early it wasn’t ready yet. Parking alone would’ve cost us at least $7 a day anywhere else, so for an extra $20 we got some extra sleep and got to start our vacation a little earlier.

Rental Car: Dollar

We used the KISS code to get $199 rate for a minivan (thank you for that tip everyone). There was no special Fastlane line, but luckily there was no wait anyway. So, for us, we found our Fastlane membership to be fairly useless (but then, it was free so it didn’t matter). They did ask if we wanted any insurance, but they weren’t pushy when we said no. The vans are Plymouth Grand Voyagers, so there was plenty of cargo room. It held enough luggage for seven people staying 10 days. Overall, we were pleased with Dollar too. We were glad we had a rental car and used ours a bunch.

Don’t make this mistake!

Dollar will refill your gas tank for $1.30 per gallon, which was much cheaper than Orlando gas prices. What a deal, right? Wrong! They charge you for a full tank of gas regardless of how much gas the car actually needs. Unless you’re returning a nearly empty tank, you’re much better off refilling the tank yourself.

Double Dollar Desks Warning

There are TWO Dollar rental counters at the Ontario airport, one at each terminal. Of course, we set the Dollar counter as our meeting place with my mom and nieces so they sat by one counter while we sat at the other. Make sure you find out which terminal your flight comes into.

Ribbon Tip

You’ve heard it before, but it worked great for us, so I’ll say it again: take a piece of ribbon and tie it to the antenna on your rental car to make it easy to find (especially if you rent a green minivan - they’re everywhere).

Disney transportation:

We used it all, and from two different hotels too: the busses, the monorail, and the boat and we never waited more than ten minutes for any of them. Our favorite was the monorail, mostly because the kids got to ride up front with the driver and got badges. We asked the CM at the Contemporary if the kids could ride up front and we had to wait one train (about 5 minutes) before it was their turn. It was worth the wait and just one more way to add a special treat to the trip.

Hotels:

All Star Movies:

We faxed the room controller a request for Buzz Building in the Toy Story Section and that is exactly what we got (room 750).

Tip:

Ask for a view of Andy’s room. We got a lovely view of some trees and the parking lot so next time we’ll be sure to ask for a view of Andy’s room instead.

The theming here is very cool, Woody and Buzz (of course) loved it. There’s an outside area called Andy’s room with a giant Buzz, Woody, checkerboard, blocks, Rex, Bo Peep and door to Andy’s Room. There’s also a giant RC car that kids can climb on. My son loved that the most. The stairwells are giant army men buckets and the green army men are all over the roof too.

The pools looked fun, but it was too cold to swim when we were there. We stayed close to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice pool and the kids thought the Mickey statue was neat. They really wanted to play in the whale fountain, but for the two nights we were there it was literally freezing cold at night (crop warnings and all).

The food court was big, noisy and had a lot of choices. The food was fine, standard cafeteria-type food -- not great, but not bad either. They do have Mickey bars and you can’t go wrong there.

Drink Tip

Ask for a regular drink cup at the register if you don’t think you’ll be eating at the food court enough to get your money’s worth from the refillable mugs (they’re $9 each). They have those mugs out in a big display so you might think you have no choice but to get them, but regular drinks are available if you ask.

Inside, the rooms you can definitely tell that it is a value resort. It’s still cute with “magic” popcorn lights, movie bedspreads, posters and a Toy Story border, but its small and the amenities are few and far between. The beds are doubles and not particularly comfortable. The soap and shampoo are in a dispenser in the shower. There’s even a sign asking you to reuse your towels. But all in all, it’s a good way to stay on property cheaply.

Shampoo/Soap Tip

Ask for individual shampoo and soap at the front desk if you don’t want to use the stuff in the dispenser.

The Boardwalk Inn:

Danger: if you want to be happy staying at the All Stars, never stay here (or bring the final bill with you LOL). Wow, this resort is so beautiful. We fell in love with it. Its location is fabulous and did I mention how beautiful it is? We stayed in a standard room. The rooms seemed so large after staying at the All Stars. The rooms have two very comfortable queen size beds, a ceiling fan, a balcony, a double sink, a day bed and a phone in the loo (I’ve always wondered why hotels do that though - who would use a phone in there?) The pool looked like fun, but again it was too cold to swim. Also, the Keister Coaster was closed for maintenance.

Lucky break

I had faxed the room controller asking for a room close to the elevators, with a view of either the Boardwalk or Epcot and she called to say the views cost extra, but would see what she could do. I thought that sounded promising, but I wasn’t counting on anything. However, we checked in so early (at 9 a.m.) and I just knew my kids would need a nap before the 3 p.m. check-in so I asked for any room that was ready. I thought for sure we wouldn’t be able get our earlier requests anymore, but the man checking us in spent a lot of time and found us a room overlooking the garden with a perfect view of Epcot! Wahoo!!

Turndown Tip

Don’t hesitate to ask for the nightly turndown service. My kids thought it was so special that someone came in, turned down their beds, and left candy for them. It doesn’t cost anything extra.

We found the maid service to be excellent. The room attendant even wrote a thank-you note after receiving our tip.

The Restaurants:

We ate at The All Star Movies Food Court, The Sci-Fi Dine-In Movie Theatre, the Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney, the Biergarten, Restaurant Marrakesh, Cinderella’s Royal Breakfast, Chef Mickey’s, and Crystal Palace. Overall, we were happy with the food at all the restaurants except one - The Sci-Fi Dine-In Movie Theatre. Prices listed are for 2 adults, 2 children except at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

All Star Movies Food Court: Dinner

(Food: 6.5 out of 10 stars, Atmosphere: 3 out of 10 stars)

The food court here is convenient and has a wide variety of food at reasonable prices (for Disney). They also have Mickey Bars which is always a good thing. Woody and I got the meatball sandwiches and they were okay. Smokey and Blondie got the pizza and liked it fine, Ookla got the spaghetti and must’ve liked it because she ate the whole thing and Happy and Buzz ate all their chicken strips so they must’ve been pretty good too. We didn’t get the refillable mugs since we knew we’d only eat here once and $9 for one coke is not a bargain no matter how neat the plastic mug is. Remember, you can ask for a regular cup at the cash register. This is a very loud and busy place with pretty average food court food. Total bill: $29.59

Sci-Fi: Lunch

(Food: 3, Atmosphere: 7)

Believe what everyone is saying and avoid this restaurant! I am not a picky eater at all, I hardly ever complain about food at a restaurant. I ate here on my trip 6 years ago and it was okay, but when I went last week it was pretty bad. They only had 5 or so items on the menu (no hot dogs anymore), so I went with the cheeseburger. Bad choice! It wasn’t even as good as McDonalds (I like McDonalds). The meat was tasteless and burnt, the bun was dry and it comes plain (there was a leaf of lettuce and a tomato slice). We ended up asking for onions to put on it to give it some flavor. The french fries are the crinkle cut type like you used to get in school lunches. To top it off it this entrée cost around $11! The milkshakes are pretty good though, nice and thick. Those cost about $3.50. The kids had pasta and they didn’t like it either. I thought the kids would get a big kick out of eating in the cars, but they weren’t impressed. I met some CMs who are performers at MGM on the cruise and they said they won’t eat there, they go to the 50s Prime Time instead. I wish I listened to you all on this one. I didn’t keep the receipt from here, but the total bill was right around $65 (grr!)

Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney: Dinner

(Food: 7, Atmosphere: 7)

We didn’t plan to eat here, but even the best-laid plans change. We needed a place to eat that wasn’t at the theme parks, so we went to the first place at Downtown Disney we ran into. It is the largest Planet Hollywood anywhere, but if you’ve eaten at one before it’s basically the same. The food was pretty good and they have a large variety to choose from. I had the fajitas and a margarita and I was happy with my order (could’ve been the margarita though LOL). Woody had the pork sandwich and he thought it was okay. The kids really liked the Captain Crunch chicken fingers. It’s not a particularly special place to eat, but the food was good and it was kinda fun. Couldn’t find the receipt here either, but I believe the total bill was around $50.00.

Biergarten: Lunch

(Food: 8.5, Atmosphere: 8)

We really liked the Biergarten. The meatballs, bratwurst, roasted red potatoes, potato salad, macaroni salad, spatzle, pretzel bread and cheesecake were all delicious. The roast pork, chicken, cucumber salad, tomato salad and apple strudel were also good. Woody got a Beck’s light beer and he liked it. I thought the red wine was really good too. Even Smokie and Blondie liked the food here and they’re both very picky. There was a band playing polka music to add some German atmosphere. This was one of our favorite restaurants. I saw at WDWIG that desserts were extra here, but they were included when we went. Total bill: $67.35

Restaurant Marrakesh: Dinner

(Food: 8, Atmosphere: 9)

This was a great restaurant too. We got the Marrakesh Feast and I think that it’s a good way to go if you’re trying new foods. Our favorite dishes here were the bread with olive oil, the beef brewat rolls (beef in a pastry shell - my favorite dish), couscous (yummy!), and the dessert pastries. We didn’t like the Shish Kabobs because the meat was very dry, but maybe it was just an off day for that. The Lemon Chicken and the Harira Soup were okay, but not our favorites. I think next time I will get the Royal Feast that includes two Bastilla dishes since the pastry dishes were so good. The setting is beautiful with lots of intricate mosaic tile-work and the service was good too. It was fun to watch the belly dancer. Give this one a try, but if you’re new to Moroccan food I suggest you try one of the feasts. Smokie didn’t and I don’t think she enjoyed her entrée much and that was all she had to eat. Total bill with MKC 10% discount: $72.87.

Magic Moment

During her show the belly dancer tries to recruit people to come onstage and dance with her. She came to our table and we were all a bunch of chickens, except for my six-year-old daughter, Sunny. She went out there and shook her tail-feathers with the best of them, much to the delight of the crowd.

MKC Marrakesh Discount Tip

Make sure to use you Magic Kingdom Club card for dinner here to get 10% off.

Cinderella’s Royal Table: Character Breakfast

(Food: 9, Atmosphere: 10)

I know this one has gotten some bad reviews lately, but it really was one of the highlights of the trip (well worth getting up at 4 am to make a PS for and I am NOT a morning person). We were one of the last seatings for breakfast, so maybe that helped. First off, I have to mention the Fairy Godmother. She is incredible. If anyone knows the secret to her knowing everyone’s name, please e-mail me. She really impressed my 14-year-old niece, Ookla. The food was delicious too. I loved the cream cheese-filled french toast, Woody loved the eggs (just the way he likes them), Smokie liked the Croissants, and Buzz thinks bacon is the food of the gods so everyone was happy. The servers were great too - I think I could get used to being called m’lady. The castle is truly gorgeous. Am I gushing? I can’t help it; we loved this place. Total bill: $104.67 for 4 adults, 3 kids.

Magic Moment

I let my son bring his Peter Pan plastic pocketknife to breakfast and Peter spotted it. He sat next to my son for quite a while playing with it and telling us what all the things did (the blade was for cutting chocolate cake, etc.). My daughter had a Wendy magnifying glass and he played with that too. He told her it was good for looking at the Xs on treasure maps. Then he called all the princesses over and they all fussed over Sunny’s princess jacket while Buzz did his best to hide from the yucky girls.

Not so Magic Moment:

The film in my camera broke (technically, it was the thingy on the film canister that lets the camera rewind the film), so I probably lost all those pictures. I turned the film in, but I don’t have much hope. Fortunately, Woody also took some digital pictures so at least we have something.

Don’t lose your PS Tip:

Make sure your entire party is there or they won’t seat any of you. Woody was due to go on the next round of Dumbos with the kids, so we told them to meet us over at the castle and almost lost our PS.

Crystal Palace Dinner Buffet:

(Food: 7.5, Atmosphere: 9)

We had a PS for 5:15 here and had a 20-minute wait (that was a longer wait than most rides). I think that’s just a bad time to get a PS because it doesn’t give the first round of 5:00 p.m. diners enough time to finish. I like the way they call you into the restaurant “Pooh Bear and friends would like to welcome the Amaral family to dinner.” This is another beautiful place to eat, but it was pretty noisy. The food was good too, but to be honest if I hadn’t written it down, I wouldn’t have remembered what I ate there. My notes say the carved ham, salmon and prime rib were really good and so were the potatoes. The desserts were yummy too. The kids liked the chicken tenders and the pizza. They really enjoyed making their own sundaes. Total bill: $72.39

The characters were also great here, although I wish they could talk like the face characters can. I would love to hear Pooh say “Do you have a rumbly in your tumbly?” Anyhow, Pooh Bear played peek-a-boo with my 14-year-old niece and then kissed her (she swears he makes a kiss noise when he does). He gave hugs to each of the kids, posed for pictures, signed autograph books and played with Sunny’s stuffed Pooh bear she bought with her souvenir money before we came. Piglet and Eeyore (Eeyore is just too cute!) came by too and did the drill (pose for picture, give a hug and sign the book) and the kids were thrilled. But then we noticed that Tigger was at the far end of the restaurant and we were done with dinner. We couldn’t leave without meeting The Bouncy One. So we asked the waiter politely if Tigger could come see us before we left. The otherwise very nice waiter said we should just wait. I said we’d be happy to, but there sure were a lot of people waiting to get in and I’d hate to keep them waiting any longer than they’d have to. But he still said to wait and wait we did. Finally, a manager saw us waiting and brought Tigger to our table. I’m glad we waited because we had another magic moment.

Magic Moment

My 4-year-old son loved Tigger. He ran up to him and said, “I’ll teach you how to bounce Tigger.” Then they bounced together for a little while. It was very cute. Tiggers and 4 year-old boys are very bouncy. Finally, we had to say TTFN (ta-ta for now) to Tigger.

Chef Mickey’s Character Dinner:

(Food: 7.5, Atmosphere: 8)

This was a fun place to eat and there were a lot of characters here. It’s very active and noisy because it’s like a great big party. We saw Donald, Chip, Dale, Goofy, Minnie and the head chef himself, Mickey. The kids thought the napkin waving was fun and they liked getting all the autographs. The character interaction was fine, but we were pretty spoiled by now so it didn’t seem particularly special. It could also be that we didn’t bring any props with us here, so the characters didn’t really have anything special to “talk” about. But it was still fun. We liked the food, especially the ribs, the mashed potatoes (our favorite dish here) and the carved Prime Rib. Chef Mickey’s and Crystal Palace are pretty comparable -- Woody slightly preferred Chef Mickey’s to Crystal Palace because he thought it was more comfortable and the food slightly better, but I slightly preferred the Crystal Palace. The kids loved making the cupcakes with Goofy and the soft serve ice cream and I loved Goofy’s helper because she asked if my fourteen-year-old niece was my sister LOL. Total bill: $87.73

Photo Souvenir Tip

Don’t skip the photo at the beginning of the meal. It’s a pretty good deal (for Disney World anyway). For $24 you get two 5x7s of your family, two 5x7s of Chef Mickey in a special paper frame and two refrigerator magnets.

The Theme Parks

We went to the World for four days and spent 1 day at MGM, 1 day at Epcot, ½ day at Animal Kingdom and 1½ days at Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom was by far our favorite, followed by MGM, Animal Kingdom and then Epcot. The grownups would’ve placed Epcot higher, but with the kids, it was the least favorite.

The 7 People = 15 Extra Minutes Rule

Remember to plan extra time to get anywhere with a large party. Even after everyone says they’re ready, it still takes another 15 minutes or more to get out the door.

Guest of Honor Badges

The name badges make nice souvenirs, but that’s all (at least for us). Not one CM called the kids by their first name once during the entire trip. No big deal, but I was hoping the kids would get some extra attention in line. That said, the CMs were wonderful on the trip and made the kids feel special, guest of honor badges or not.

MGM (Wednesday, January 26th):

The first day of our trip was very, very cold. The kind of cold where you spend souvenir money on scarves and hand warmers (I think it was in the 30s that day). We did Early Entry and in that first hour we did the baby-swap at Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster and all rode Star Tours together twice. After that, we were able to do all the attractions we wanted. We didn’t wait for anything at all. About 2, it warmed up a little and started to get crowded. The kids were getting tired so we went back to the hotel room and napped. We came back for Fantasmic! armed with towels to put on the really cold metal seats and lots of layers of clothes. The show was great and everyone’s favorite part was when the water was on fire because it was nice and warm.

Fantasmic tip:

Fantasmic is a great show so it gets very crowded. Make sure to set a meeting place after the show in case someone in your party gets separated. Somehow, Smokie and Ookla took a different path out of the arena than the rest of us and we spent at least twenty minutes trying to meet up with them.

Here are our family’s favorite attractions:

Mine: Rock and Roller Coaster although it was too short, and Tower of Terror and Star Tours

Woody: Same as mine

Buzz: Star Tours, by far (yeah -- he made the 40 inch height requirement!)

Sunny: Surprisingly, my six-year-old’s favorite was ToT

Blondie: Star Tours

Ookla: RnR and ToT

Smokie: Star Tours

Everyone also really liked the Muppets show, the Hunchback show and Fantasmic! (although we would’ve liked those last two better if we weren’t so cold).

Some other highlights were on Star Tours where my son thought HE beat the death star by himself and came off the attraction shouting “Yes! We won! I did it!”; Radio Disney (see the tip below) and interaction with the characters. The kids got autographs from Mushu, Meeko (very cute), Kit Cloudchaser, Chip and Dale, Buzz, Woody, Green Army Man, and Jesse (loved her!). Meeting the Toy Story 2 characters made our Buzz very happy.

Memorable Moment:

Those rascally rodents Chip and Dale stole my son’s baseball cap and then went on to the next person in line, daughter Sunny. My son snuck around behind Dale and stole it back -- but then Dale started chasing him! They scurried around the crowd a few times, giggling the whole way, until Dale caught him and stole the hat again. Finally, Chip scolded Dale and made him give the cap back. It was very cute. Chip and Dale also stole Ookla and Blondie’s frisbee played catch with it for a while.

Radio Disney Tip:

Stop by Radio Disney about 15 minutes before noon or just after 4 to meet B.B. Goode. She broadcasts in the studio right next to Sounds Dangerous every weekday from 12 to 4. If you stop by, your kids will get to meet her and she’ll say the kid’s name on air and give them a souvenir. My kids listen to Radio Disney all the time and Sunny and I thought it was SO cool to have their names said on the air.

 

Epcot (Thursday, January, 27th):

Even though we took a really long nap on our first day, everyone was droopy today. We got up early to change hotels, from the All Star Movies to the Boardwalk Inn. By the time we were done, it was nearly 10 am. We took the boat over to Epcot and did Test Track first. The day didn’t start off well. Poor Buzz was too short to go on the ride even though he was 40 inches tall the day before. I guess he really was droopy! Plus, the measure-person was kinda grumpy, I think. Either that or she was seduced by the power of being The One Who Wields the Measuring Stick. She said he wasn’t tall enough even though his knees were bent (a lot). He was really disappointed, but we did the baby-swap and watched the crash test dummies fool people while we waited. The ride was fun.

Proud Mom Alert:

The kids were great the entire trip, but I’m particularly proud of how Buzz behaved during the baby swaps. He never complained about having to wait for us. Thank you Buzz!

After that, we got a stroller for Buzz and made our way to Biergarten for lunch. We were a little early, so I bought some German candy from the Suissgarten and it was delicious. I wish I bought more to take home. J

Stroller Tip

If you’re coming from the Boardwalk, you can rent a stroller at the International Gateway. Also, tying a ribbon around the stroller made it much easier to find in a crowd.

Mickey Heads

I taught my 6-year-old daughter how to search for Hidden Mickeys, but my four-year-old didn’t quite get the hidden part of the equation. He played his own version of the game and just looked for Mickey heads everywhere. Not surprisingly, he found them everywhere - on t-shirts, cups, whatever. You might want to teach your preschooler the Mickey head game to keep them occupied. Then again, you might not because there’s no way to turn this game off LOL.

After lunch, everyone really needed a nap so we went back to the hotel. They all slept for nearly four hours. By then Future World was nearly closed. We made our way back to World Showcase, got two signatures in the Epcot passports and ate dinner at the Marrakesh. Right after that, we watched Illuminations. We really enjoyed that show too. Then we walked back to the hotel to avoid a long wait for the boat. It was a pretty short walk, but at the end of the day it seems a little longer, especially for poor Woody who carried Buzz on his shoulders most of the trip. In fact, Woody carried Buzz on his favorite perch a good part of the whole vacation.

Magic Kingdom (Friday, January 28th):

With everyone well rested from the day before and the weather starting to warm up, we made it to Magic Kingdom early enough to see the rope drop to Fantasyland. We didn’t have any waits at all for the first hour. In that hour, we were able to ride Pooh Bear (very cute), Peter Pan (another favorite), the Carousel, Dumbo, and Snow White. Then we had our wonderful breakfast at the castle and headed off to do more rides. It started to rain, so it wasn’t very crowded. We’re from Seattle so we felt right at home and stayed. We were able to walk on most rides and nothing had more than a ten-minute wait. We rode pretty much everything. We used Fastpass for Space Mountain and Splash Mountain and it worked great for us since our Buzz was too short for those rides and Blondie too afraid. We would get Fastpasses for those two rides, all go on Buzz or BTMRR together, then split up and take Blondie & our Buzz on the more tame rides while the thrill-riders went on their rides.

Everyone started to get a little tired around 4 pm, but we had a PS for Crystal Palace at 5 pm so we decided to wait. After dinner, we got a second wind and stayed around until 9 pm. We even talked Blondie into trying Space Mountain and it ended up being her favorite ride. We had by far the most fun here.

Our family’s favorite attractions were:

Mine: Cinderella’s Royal breakfast and riding the thrill rides with my kids

Woody: Riding the Mountains with Sunny and riding Buzz and BTMRR with our Buzz

Sunny: Space Mountain and Cindy’s castle

Buzz: Buzz (big surprise!) He must’ve rode this ride at least 10 times. He also said the Teacups, Race Cars and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were his favorites.

Blondie: Space Mountain and Cindy’s Castle

Ookla: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Cindy’s Castle

Smokie: Cindy’s Castle

Animal Kingdom, morning & MK, evening (Saturday, January 29th):

Today I decided to get everyone up early to go to Animal Kingdom at 8 a.m. Big mistake! I thought I was giving everyone enough rest with a daily three-hour nap, but everyone was sleepy, especially Woody who’d been carrying Buzz on his shoulders much of the trip. At AK, all of us turned into Grumpy. Sigh! We were able to see all the major attractions by noon (we chose to skip It’s Tough to be a Bug). Everyone’s favorite things here were the Lion King Show and the Safaris. The Lion King Show was amazing. If you’re at Animal Kingdom, don’t miss it. Buzz also liked tickling Mickey’s ears at Camp Minnie/Mickey.

Not surprisingly, everyone decided a nap would be a good idea. They slept until about 4 p.m. and with the Indy Race traffic, we barely made it to our Chef Mickey’s 5 p.m. PS. After dinner, we took the monorail over to Magic Kingdom and the four kids rode up front with the monorail driver and got badges. Thanks for that tip everybody. We rode Splash Mountain and BTMRR without any wait while the fireworks show was going on.

Magic Moment

The fireworks show reached its finale while we were riding BTMRR. It was so magical to ride it while all the beautiful fireworks were going off overhead.

Here’s where I made my second mistake of the day and it was a biggie. I thought the park stayed open until 10 p.m. on Saturday, but it only stayed open until 9 p.m (I should’ve checked my notes more carefully). I promised the kids they could go on Space Mountain or the race cars after the Main Street Electric Parade, but all the attractions closed right after. My four-year-old was so sad. He kept saying, “Mommy did it on purpose. It’s Mommy’s fault.” I felt so small. Not the best way to end our stay at the parks. Then we capped it off with Bad Parenting 101 and bought him the new Buzz action figure on the way out. Parental guilt is a strong motivator.

The Cruise:

First Impressions:

We drove to the port and it was about a 45-minute to 1 hour drive from the Boardwalk Inn. We got there about 1:15 that seemed to be a good time to arrive. You definitely want to get there before 1:30 though so you have time to visit your stateroom before you make your Palo/Spa/babysitting reservations. As you drive up to the terminal you can’t help but notice how beautiful the Wonder is. The terminal looks great too. Being the Disney geek that I am, I thought it was just too cool to board the ship through the Mickey tunnel. If you’re doing the land/sea package embarkation is really a breeze. You just swipe your key to the world card as you enter the ship. That’s it - no lines, no forms, nothing. I felt sorry for all the non-U.S. citizens though. They had a long line at the terminal. We brought our own sodas and beer with us paper sacks and no one said anything to us, so they must not care.

The inside of the ship is richly detailed, especially the lobby. Its definitely Disney, but not cartoonish. For instance, the stair railings in the lobby have character outlines on them, but it’s so understated you don’t even notice it at first. Our cabins were category 5, deluxe staterooms with a verandah (#7060 & 7062). We’ve never cruised before so I thought the cabins were a little small. They’re actually bigger than the industry average though. I loved the verandah! I’m spoiled now and probably won’t cruise again without one. It sure made the rooms seem a lot bigger. Inside the room, there’s a comfy double bed and bunk beds that open up from the ceiling and the couch. The kids loved their “bumper beds.” There was enough of storage space for everything, but we had to use every nook and cranny.

Making everything fit tip

Put everything you don’t think you’ll be using during the cruise (jackets, souvenirs from the parks, etc.) in your suitcases. Then stick your suitcases under the beds. It’s a tight fit, but your suitcases should fit just fine.

I never knew kids could move so fast!

The toilets on the ship flush REALLY loudly. The kids would come tearing out of the bathroom every time it flushed.

Taking care of business:

Before the relaxation could begin, there were a few pieces of business to take care of - getting a Palo’s reservation and booking the Couple’s Surial Bath at the Spa (if you have children under three, you need to make babysitting reservations early too). They begin taking reservations at Palos at 2 and I got in line about 1:45. There were about 25 people ahead of me in line and once we hit 2:00 the line moved very quickly. I had no problem getting the time and day I wanted, even though I wanted the most popular date and time (the fourth night). I’ve heard that Nassau night is also a good time to make your Palo’s reservation because you get a view of the city and not just the blackness of the sea at night. While waiting, I met some nice cast members from MGM in line. I went to the Spa about 3:30 and waited in line about 10 minutes to get my reservation there. Again, it was no problem to get the time and day I wanted.

White Glove Benefits:

We booked the American Express white glove package and got a letter in our stateroom saying we had our shipboard credit and the times for the tour of the ship’s bridge. No champagne from the travel agent though. Do most people get this?

Highlighter Tip

Bring a highlighter for your personal navigator. There’s a lot going on aboard ship!

Mandatory boat drill:

The wonderful safety drill -- I didn’t realize those life-vests were so uncomfortable. A lot of the little kids were crying, my 4-year-old sure was. I never could figure out how to pick him up and comfort him while wearing it either. At least it was over pretty quickly. Minor gripe: I completely understand why they have to do this, but I do think they should change it a little. They have your group stand in line with the tallest in the back and shortest in the front, so our children were in front of the line crying and we were wedged in the back unable to help them. If it were a real emergency, there’s no way I’d let my child be separated from me. I think they should change that policy to make it more realistic. Oh well, on to a happier topic, the service.

Service:

They really spoil you aboard the ship. Without exception, all the servers we met were pleasant, courteous, and helpful. We had four that stood out. The first was our cabin steward, Super Mario. He made us feel very welcome. He introduced himself and spent some time learning our names. From then on, whenever we saw him in the halls he greeted us by name and often unlocked our cabin for us. He kept the room clean, turned down the bed each night and arranged the stuffed animals for the kids. The first night, our kids fell asleep at dinner. He saw us carrying them and offered to watch them for us while we ate. We didn’t take him up on his generous offer, but it was nice of him just the same. Our dining room servers were also great. Kristzian was our head server and when I took his recommendations for dinner, he was right every time. He was also very friendly and pleasant. Victor was our assistant server and we really liked him too. He made some good wine recommendations and was great with the kids. The night Buzz fell asleep at dinner, he pushed two chairs together to create a makeshift bed for him. He also packaged up dinner for Woody so he wouldn’t miss it when he took Buzz up to sleep. Marc was our waiter at Palos and he was wonderful too. He made great recommendations and was always right there when we needed him, but somehow managed not to be too fussy at the same time. He went out of his way to try to make the meal special for us. What I liked best though, was that he brought us extra dishes that we didn’t order, just so we could try them. J

Spa:

We did the Couple’s Surial Bath ($60 per couple for one hour) and it was very romantic (and messy). The description reads: “A fun, exfoliating, re-mineralizing treatment that you can try by yourself, with a partner or in a group of three. Enter the Surial Bath chambers where you will be provided with three different colored medicinal muds. Apply these all over the body, including the face, then relax in the gentle steam room as your body absorbs the minerals and trace elements from the mud. Wash away the mud with individual showers and take your time to enjoy an aromatherapy experience of your very own.” Basically, you rub mud all over each other, take a steam bath, wash off and massage each other with aromatherapy oils. It was very relaxing and private. I highly recommend this one.

Activities:

Parties: We went to two parties (almost three) on the ship. The first one was the Sail Away Celebration at 4:45 on the first day. All the characters were there to lead the party as we departed Port Canaveral and it was a lot of fun. There was music, bubbles, dancing and drinks. My kids loved the character-led conga line.

Magic Moment

Pluto ended up right behind Buzz on the Conga line and kept licking him as we danced our way around the deck.

We also went to the “Dancing Under the Stars” Millennium Deck Party on the second night from 10 p.m. to midnight (while we were docked at Nassau). This too was a lot of fun. The Junkanoo Rockers performed and everyone danced. There was a fruit and dessert buffet from 11 to 12 and the characters made an appearance. They capped the show with a fireworks show led by Captain Mickey. Very magical (can you say that on the Wonder?)

We sorta made it to the Party of the Captains. By that I mean we accidentally bumped into the party in the lobby, but they gave us free champagne anyway. ;)

Drink Tips:

The drink prices really start to add up if you’re not careful, so here’s a few things we learned:

Bring your own drinks aboard. We just carried ours on board in plain view and no one said anything. We brought sodas, beer and wine (don’t forget a corkscrew).

They have an unlimited soda deal for kids 12 and under. It costs $4 per child for each day of the cruise. Sodas cost $1.50 each so if you think your children will drink 3 sodas a day on the deck it would be a deal. I bought the cards for my kids, but it was a waste of money for us. Remember, your kids will spend a lot of time in the kids clubs, at the shows, eating in the restaurants and off the ship (Castaway Cay and Nassau) so they won’t be on deck to use the card at those times. We ended up paying $32 for four cokes - yikes!

Buy bottles of alcohol from Radar Trap aboard ship. They have good prices there.

Don’t waste your money on the souvenir cups. They’re just plastic and in odd shapes. Make sure you’re just paying for drink and not the cup. They don’t always make it clear that they’re selling you the cup and not the drink.

Buy a bottle of wine at dinner even if you don’t think you’ll finish it in one night. The servers will re-cork it for you and bring it to the next restaurant.

Go to the Party of the Captains. They serve free drinks there.

Shows:

The Walt Disney Theatre is very nice and they have a bar called Preludes conveniently selling drinks right outside. We missed the Hercules show (our waiter said it was too corny), but made it to the other two - Voyage of the Ghost Ship and Disney Dreams. They were both really good. I’ve read really mixed reviews for Voyage of the Ghost Ship, but all of us who saw it enjoyed it. It’s a romantic pirate adventure. The cast was very talented and my son loved the swordplay. They call Disney Dreams their “Kiss Goodnight” to their cruisers and it makes a wonderful finale. The story was something about a girl who has to grow up tomorrow unless she can learn to fly, but what makes it special is seeing all the characters from your favorite Disney movies. Well, that and the Pixie dust (you’ll see what I mean when you go). Don’t miss the shows if you can help it, the ones we saw were a lot of fun.

Movies: They show first-run movies in the Buena Vista Theatre. We saw Toy Story 2 (how could we not with two of our party being named Buzz and Woody?) and Tarzan. The theatre is nice and I really liked both those movies. They also showed cartoons, Bicentennial Man, Island Magic, Cradle Will Rock, Straight Story and the Sixth Sense. I REALLY wanted to see the Sixth Sense, but the way they schedule the movies, I would’ve had to miss either Disney Dreams or dinner to see it. I guess I’ll have to see it at home. J

ESPN Lounge: We checked out the ESPN lounge, but weren’t able to spend much time there. They had a special Superbowl party there that Woody caught the tail-end of. He said there was a lot of food and plenty of drinks to purchase (of course). He accidently bought a beer mug for $5 though. He thought he was buying the beer. The mug actually costs $5 and the beer is extra. Woody did say the lounge is very dark, so on sunny days its not the place to be.

Bingo: My mom loves playing Bingo so she thoroughly checked out that activity for us. She didn’t win any prizes, but she must’ve had fun because she kept going back. J Kids can play too, as long as an adult is there to claim the prize. On the final day when they were giving away the big jackpot, the promenade lounge was standing room only.

My biggest pet peeve with the cruise activities was the scheduling. It seemed like they had all the things I wanted to go to at the same time. Other times of the day (mid-afternoon usually), there was very little of interest going on. For instance, Sixth Sense only showed at 11:15 (too late for us to take the kids to the club) the first night or at dinner & show times on the last night. Wine tasting was offered once and that time conflicted with the children’s Discover the Magic show (also only performed once). Many of the activities were only scheduled once for the entire four days, so if you missed it once you might as well forget about it.

That said, there were a lot of different activities to choose from. There were many that I meant to try, but I just ran out of time. I really wanted to do the Improv Comedy show which was shown at several times each night, the wine tasting, and the many different games they had. I didn’t make it to ANY of the adults-only activities at Route 66 or the family activities at Studio Sea. I just don’t know where all the time went. Except for one cooking demonstration and the wine tasting, I didn’t notice any Disney-Institute-Style classes offered. I thought they were starting to offer those. I guess not. With all the stuff I missed this time through, I’ve decided that I MUST win the grand prize from the McDonald’s sweepstakes so I can go back and do them. ;)

Early vs. Late Seating

One thing I wish I’d done differently was to choose the late dinner seating. We usually don’t eat dinner until about 7:00 p.m. and the kids really weren’t hungry yet at 6:00 p.m. Even worse, they were usually sleepy at dinnertime. I just thought it would be better for us to eat at the “family” seating, but since we had our own table it didn’t really matter.

Kids Activities

Oceaneers Club and Lab: The kids clubs looked great, the counselors were very nice and the kids had fun when they went there, but the kids didn’t use the clubs as much as I thought they would. I think it was because they wanted to play with their cousins since they don’t see them very often. Still, I had hoped they would ask to go there at least once.

Even though their time in the clubs was limited, they did enjoy themselves while they were there. There are drink dispensers inside the clubs with water and lemonade available anytime and they do take the children to eat during meal times. At night, they have mats for them to sleep on and they can watch videos.

Sunny had a good time in Gasses in Action, Noodle Nonsense (on Castaway Cay) and Professor Goo. Gasses and Prof. Goo were both science activities where they get to wear lab coats and create things. Making flubber was Sunny’s favorite activity, period. In Noodle nonsense, they used those floating pool noodles on the sand to create tunnels and play games. We watched some of that and it looked fun. Blondie went to Now a Word From our Sponsor, Activities on the Sports Deck (not her favorite thing), Professor Goo and the Island Treasure Hunt. Blondie enjoyed making flubber the most too, but also had a good time as the costume designer in Now a Word. Buzz went to Adventures of Simba and Sebastian’s Musical Sea Search and I guess he had a good time. However, he’s four years old and if you ask him what he did, he just says “nothing,” so who knows?

Even with all those activities to do, my kids probably enjoyed playing in the Mickey pool the most and who could blame them? The pool is awesome with the hot tub ears and the Mickey waterslide. They loved going down that Mickey slide! Just so you know, children must be at least 4 years old to use the slide without a parent. Little ones can make full use of the pool though; it is shallow enough that they can stand anywhere in it. In fact, the Mickey slide empties into water only about ankle deep. They keep the water temperature at 78.8 degrees, so even if it’s a little chilly outside, the pool is nice and toasty warm.

Ookla didn’t use the Common Grounds at all. She was happy to play with her cousins, visit with her favorite aunt, ;) and shop. We all played some ping-pong on deck and air hockey in the arcade.

Discover the Magic show:

I heard a lot of wonderful comments about this show, so I made sure not to miss it. I have to admit, I didn’t think it was magical at all (except for the free T-shirt) and I’m usually a giant Disney dork for that kind of thing. I’m sorry I had my kids leave the Mickey pool to take part in it. In this show, all the children from all the age groups come together to sing a few songs. That’s a lot of kids! I could see Sunny pretty well, but I couldn’t see Blondie at all (Buzz opted out). Nearly all the kids looked really bored. While they sing, they have a brief slide-show (about 20 slides) of some kids doing the activities in the club. I didn’t recognize any of them. I thought things were going to be better when Mickey showed up, but even then most of the kids still seemed lethargic - even the ones right next to Mickey (Mickey had the moves though)! I guess by the end of the cruise, Mickey is just old news. It wasn’t just my kids either, I’d say about 80-90% of the kids looked zoned out. Anyhow, then it’s over and you have to wait in a long line to get your kids back out of the club. I think this show could be improved a lot if they just made two shorter, smaller shows. I was really looking forward to this one, so I was disappointed by it and so were the kids.

Discover the Magic Tips

The children don’t have to attend the rehearsals to be in the show. Also, you can get a free T-shirt even if your kids don’t take part - just ask for one. If you do decide to have your kids take part in the show, sit on the ends of the aisles for the best photo opportunities.

Nassau: I can’t really add much here since I was so busy I didn’t even get off the ship. Ookla and Smokie went to the shops on Nassau, but didn’t stay too long. They thought it was dirty and the prices were too high. Ookla is a typical teenage girl who spends a lot time shopping at malls and even she didn’t buy anything there. I heard Atlantis was really nice and people had good things to say about the swimming with the dolphins excursion.

Castaway Cay:

Castaway Cay was the absolute highlight of the trip. We had great weather (70s) on our Castaway Cay day, so we really lucked out. The water is beautiful and so are the beaches. We got off the ship as soon as they let us and stayed there until just before closing. There were plenty of umbrellas on the beach and Ookla made sure we got a hammock. We rented a paddleboat at $8 for 30 minutes and lasted about 10 minutes before the kids got bored and the big ones got tired. I wouldn’t recommend renting one. I would recommend renting a tube though. The kids had a lot of fun with theirs. You can also buy sand toys for $19.95 at the shop on the island.

Tip I wish I knew then!!!

You can check out sand toys for free at Scuttle’s Cove (the kids club on the island). I asked the cast members at the float rental place where you could get sand toys and they didn’t mention this so I bought the $19.95 bag. Sigh!

Timid child alert:

The fish will swim right up to you in the water. They’re not very big, but it spooked our 9-year-old niece Blondie so much she didn’t swim in the water and she usually loves to swim. None of the other kids cared and played in the water all day.

My husband went snorkeling and had a good time. It costs $25 for adults and $10 for kids. He tried to take Sunny, but she wasn’t quite a good enough swimmer to enjoy herself. It’s a long course, but you can stand for a lot of it. They are trying to grow coral, but there’s not very much yet. Be sure to look for the underwater Mickey statue.

There are only two shops on the island and both are small. “She Sells . . .” sells things like sunscreen, sand toys and Castaway Cay logo merchandise like shirts. The other store sells mostly Bahamian clothes. Just outside of that store is the hair braiding. It seemed like almost all the girls and a few of the boys had their hair braided. It cost $1-$2 per braid or as much as $70 for a whole head. The braiders are very fast, but it can take a long time to do a whole head. It looks really neat and lasts for around 3 weeks. My two nieces got theirs done (very cute!), but my daughter decided not to do hers.

On Castaway Cay day, they move the kids club to Scuttle’s Cove on the island. We checked Buzz and Sunny in for about an hour and they had fun, but I think they would’ve rather just played in the water.

There is a post office at Castaway Cay too. Its not run by Disney, so you need cash here, preferably exact change (they couldn’t change our $20). Stamped postcards are around $1.10 and they only have one style of postcard for sale. You might want to buy some on the ship where there’s more variety and take them with you to the island. (I think stamps are 55 cents). I mailed two to myself and I’m still waiting for them to come.

The Food:

I’ve heard that the food on cruise ships is supposed to be excellent. I don’t want to bum anyone out, but this was not quite the case on the Disney Wonder. With a few exceptions, the food was very good, but not excellent. It’s mass-prepared and it sometimes shows. To put it in Disney World terms, its about as good as Crystal Palace/Chef Mickey’s/Biergarten, not Victoria and Alberts. We also wished they had a wider variety of dishes available. If you’re looking for fantastic food, I recommend Palos.

Welcome Aboard Luncheon:

On the day of departure in Beach Blanket Buffet they kick off the cruise with some mediocre food. Its basically standard buffet fare with some salads and carved meats. They did have large peel and eat shrimp available as well as a fairly large selection of desserts.

Pluto’s Dog House:

Plutos serves hot dogs, bratwurst, hamburgers, tacos and burritos from about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. most days. The food was so-so, but we wished it stayed open later.

Pinocchio’s Pizzeria:

Pinocchio’s offers three types of pizza - cheese, pepperoni and vegetarian. It tasted okay, but got bonus points because it stayed open so late -- often as late as 1 a.m.

Scoops:

The ice cream here was a little disappointing. It wasn’t exactly soft serve (maybe it was frozen yogurt?), but it wasn’t particularly rich or creamy either. Unlike Pinocchio’s, this one lost points for closing too early. It was only open until 6 p.m. each night.

Room Service:

The menu is pretty limited and the food mostly uninteresting, but the service was always very fast and efficient - and it was offered 24 hours a day, which is a big plus. We wondered why they didn’t have items like popcorn, fries and chips and dip available to make us thirsty (and then buy more drinks). They did have 4 flavors of pizza, 3 or 4 sandwiches, chili, a cheese tray (really weak, the “international crackers” were Saltines), a salad and for kids, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or chicken strips.

Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch:

We usually didn’t go to breakfast or lunch, since brunch went from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Parrot Cay. The brunch consisted of breakfast items like pastries, cereals, store-bought yogurt (I think it was Dannon brand), fresh fruits, hot dishes like scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage. They also had lunch fare like cold salads (potato salad etc.), a garden salad, rolls and lunchmeat. It was just average buffet fare. We got up early on the Castaway Cay day, but we decided to go to the Beach Blanket Buffet rather than burn prime Castaway Cay daylight at Tritons. Beach Blanket Buffet is a smaller version of Parrot Cay and the food is just okay. The sit-down breakfast at Tritons is from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. daily, but we never got ready early enough to go to it. Triton’s also had a sit-down lunch daily from noon to 1:30 p.m. but we were never hungry at that time since we didn’t finish brunch until 11ish. We ate lunch at Cookie’s Bar-B-Q at Castaway Cay and again it was good, just not as good as I hoped. They had ribs, baked beans, hot dogs, salads and potato chips. I like barbecue, so I was looking forward to eating here. Oh well!

The dinners:

Parrot Cay (Food: 8)

We had Parrot Cay the first night it was food-wise the best of the three main restaurants, which really surprised me. I followed Kristzian’s recommendation and had the coconut onion ring and shrimp appetizer and it was great. Woody enjoyed the crab cakes too. Kristzian also recommended Carribbean Isles “Land and Sea” entrée so I decided to give that a try too. I’m glad I did. It’s supposed to beroasted lobster tail with grilled beef tenderloin, broccoli, and double-baked potato. They didn’t have lobster tail so they substituted lobster pieces and filet mignon. I thought this entrée was as tasty as the coconut shrimp. So far Kristzian was 2 for 2. For dessert, Kristzian recommended the Key Lime Pie and I thought “Lime Pie - Yuck!” so I didn’t listen to him and got the mousse. It was just okay. Smokey chose wisely however and had the key lime pie. I tasted it and it was very good. I should’ve listened to Kristzian. The kids ordered a garden salad with ranch dressing and chicken strips with fries, but they fell asleep before it came.

Tritons (Food: 7.5)

Next up was Tritons. I was just a little disappointed with this restaurant. The décor was nice enough I guess, but not as beautiful or elegant as I’d imagined. The food was good too, but I thought this was supposed to be the best restaurant so I was expecting more. I love salmon and chose the salmon appetizer. It was just so-so. Woody got the escargot and it wasn’t’ to his taste, but it did gross the kids out so it had its desired effect. The main courses were very good though. I had the Herb-crusted Sea Bass on leaf spinach with champagne sauce and enjoyed it very much. All the other adults had the Roast Sliced Beef Tenderloin with traditional gratin potatoes, Mediterranean vegetables, and three-peppercorn sauce, which they also really liked. For dessert, I had my favorite, Crème Brulee. It was just an average crème brulee, but even an average crème brulee is pretty yummy. I talked Ookla and Smokie into trying it for the first time and neither one liked it. Go figure! Woody had the strawberry shortcake from the kid’s menu and liked it, but he thought it was too small for an adult. The kids had vegetable sticks, beef tenderloin with rice and vegetables and strawberry shortcake. They didn’t eat much of it.

Animator’s Palette (Food: 7)

On the third night, we ate at Animator’s Palette. This meal comes with a show, as I’m sure you already know. It was fun and the kids liked it. We noticed that the walls are the same material as the popcorn lights in the All Star rooms so that must have something to do with the special effects. We liked the food at the other restaurants better for the most part. I had the fried mozarella sticks from the kid’s menu as an appetizer and it was good. For dinner, Woody and I had the parmesan-crusted veal chop with asparagus-corn risotto and wild mushroom sauce. It sounds good - doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. The risotto was actually very good, but the veal was dry and tasteless. The “Mouse”terpiece dessert sampler was the best part of the meal. They had four small items for you to taste (a cream cheese fruit tart, a chocolate mousse, a blueberry cheesecake and a chocolate truffle). They were all good. The kids had a fruit cocktail and hot dogs that they barely touched since they weren’t hungry (yeah right) and a Mickey bar for dessert that they were somehow able to eat all of.

Palos (Food: 9.5)

On a more positive note, Palos was excellent. They are able to spend more time preparing your food and it really shows. The service was outstanding and it’s a much more relaxed, quiet dining experience. Your first course is the pizza course. Really, there IS a pizza course. I’ve forgotten what kind it was, but it was good, not great. Better things were coming though. We had the portobello mushroom and roasted shallot sauce with shaved parmesan cheese and it was delicious. I chose the rack of lamb in Chianti sauce with baby vegetables for an entrée and it was wonderful. The lamb was cooked just right and the sauce complemented it perfectly. Marc, our server brought out Tortelloni for us to try without our asking which was nice, but I thought the lamb was much better. I’m a dessert person so I thought the desserts were incredible, but Woody, who is not, wasn’t as impressed. We had the chocolate and hazelnut soufflé with vanilla bean sauce and I loved it. That was the first time I ever had it so I can’t compare it to any others, but now chocolate soufflé is right up there with crème brulee as my favorite dessert. You really should try this one. Marc also brought out Tiramisu for us to try and it was the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten. It was very rich and creamy with a white chocolate shell. If you want great food on your cruise, you should definitely go to Palos.

Shops:

They have four shops on the ship: Radar Trap, ESPN Locker Room, Mickey’s Mates, and the Treasure Ketch. By law, the shops must be closed while in port so make sure to do your shopping while at sea. Radar Trap sells tobacco and alcohol. Surprisingly, you can actually find some duty-free products for a good price here. I didn’t see any bargains at the Treasure Ketch though, not even on the perfume. That doesn’t mean there weren’t any, mind you, just that I didn’t find any. That store sells more upscale items, like crystals and designer purses. Mickey’s Mates sells cruise line merchandise like shirts and toys. The prices seemed slightly higher than theme park prices, but I got some cute shirts here. My favorite is the child’s cruise line logo with all the character’s autographs on the back. I wish I bought the sailor Pluto stuffed animal for Buzz and the Mickey-eared sailor hat for both kids. The ESPN Locker Room sells sports memorabilia and ESPN logo merchandise. I never saw anyone in there!

Shutters:

Shutters is the photo gallery. During the voyage, professional photographers will be all over the place to take your picture. They take them as you come aboard, at all the restaurants, in the lobby, at special events, in the kids clubs and at several places on Castaway Cay (and probably some places I left out). There are pictures of the characters and the ship available too. I think you should take advantage of every photo opportunity you can talk your family into. If the pictures are bad, you don’t have to buy them. If they’re good, you have a great momento of your trip of lifetime. How often do you get professional pictures of the whole family together anyway? They also develop film here, but I don’t know if the prices were any good. They sell some cute frames and mattes as well. Warning: It is very easy to spend money here. I spent $100 on pictures and easily could’ve spent more. However, this is one place I don’t regret spending money at all. The 5 x 7s are $9.95 and the 8 x 10s are $19.95 each. Considering you don’t have to pay a sitting fee or anything, the prices aren’t bad for professional photos.

Photo Tips

It can be hard to find your photos in the display racks. Once you find them, ask the CM to keep them aside for you until you’re ready to make your purchase.

If you want multiple copies of the same picture, they can do reprints overnight on any of the photos for the same price as the original.

The Seasickness/Noisy Cabin Questions:

None of us ever got seasick at all during the entire voyage. The seas were very calm though so I can’t say how it would be in rough weather. The cabins weren’t noisy at all (except when kids were yelling in the hall). I never noticed any noise from the deck or entertainment areas.

Disembarkation:

On the last night, you have to have your bags packed and out in the hallway by 11:00 p.m. (although we didn’t see them pick them up until after midnight). On the last morning of the cruise, they politely kick you off the ship LOL. If you have early dinner seating and want to eat breakfast at Triton’s, you’re supposed to get there at 615 a.m. They also have the Beach Blanket buffet until 8:00 a.m. At 8ish, they start making announcements that it’s time for you to leave and supposedly you’re not allowed to go back to your room. I got breakfast pastries for everyone from Beach Blanket at 7:00 a.m. and brought them back to the room so the kids could sleep a little later. This worked great because shortly after that the lines got really long for the buffet. After that, we packed up our remaining items and said our good-byes to the Wonder. We headed straight for the airport to make our noon flight and had plenty of time, but not too much. We were able to upgrade to first class on the way home too, although this was a DC-80 so it wasn’t as nice.

P.S. The lost and found number for DCL is 407-566-7964 just in case you accidentally leave a little something behind to keep cruising like I did.

If you’re still reading this, all I can say is, “Wow, you are as obsessed about Disney as I am.” I hope this helps you get your Disney fix a little. I know it helped me with my post-trip withdrawal. Thanks for reading my trip report and if you have an upcoming trip I hope you have a great time! We made some terrific memories on our trip and I wish you the same. For us, the quiet family moments were the most precious part of our trip.

Sharon Amaral

sharon_amaral@hotmail.com


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