Julie Elberson -- August 1999 -- Disney Cruise Trip
August 8-12, 1999
DAY 1 - ARRIVAL
We have a 10:30 flight to Orlando scheduled to arrive around noon. We are not morning people, so this flight is perfect for us, not too early but gets us to Orlando in plenty of time to pick up the rental car (from Hertz) and drive to Port Canaveral. Well, best laid plans...We make it to the airport in plenty of time and at a leisurely pace. But when we check in, the flight has been delayed an hour. Well, we still have plenty of time to get to Port Canaveral, I think. But, they don't even load the plane until an hour and half after scheduled departure time. Then, we sit on the ground for another hour! So, now we're two and half hours late leaving Charlotte!! US Airways - I should have known. I'm in a panic because I'm thinking we're never going to make it to Port Canaveral on time to catch that boat.
We finally land in Orlando a bit after 3pm. While the rest of the family collects our luggage, I call Disney Cruise Lines to apprise them of our situation and am informed the latest we can board is 4:30 and they will not hold the boat for us. The representative was very sympathetic and wished us "Good Luck!" as I hung up and ran back to help with the luggage.
Fortunately, my father-in-law rents a lot of cars and is a member of Hertz's Premier Club (I think that's what it's called). Because of the Premier Club, a Hertz representative meets us at the airport with a Town Car to shuttle us over to the Hertz facility. [For those of you not familiar with the rental car situation in Orlando, only a handful of rental car companies actually keep their fleet of cars on-site at the airport. For the rest, you must catch a shuttle bus to their off-site facility]. Thank goodness for that service! I do not think we would have had a chance to make it to Port Canaveral on time if we had to take Hertz's regular shuttle.
Got to the Hertz facility where our mini-van was waiting for us. We jumped in and took off! The entrance to the Bee Line Expressway was only a short distance from Hertz, so we were on our way in no time. The drive to Port Canaveral is an easy one, and I'm beginning to feel a bit better about actually getting on the boat. We arrive at the Disney dock at around 4pm, hand our luggage over, and rush in to the terminal lobby. What a lobby! We were impressed and awestruck. The model of the Magic that sits in the middle of the lobby area was truly remarkable. Of course, by this time, there was nobody there, so checking in was a breeze. Everyone on ship was participating in the lifeboat drill [we caught up with that one by watching the drill on our stateroom TV]. We had filled out all our forms on the airplane, so we received our 'ship cards' [they're like the ones you receive at a WDW resort and act as your room key and credit card while on board] and were off to the ship!
The Magic is simply beautiful. The entrance lobby has this incredible glass chandelier that, I think, is supposed to represent the sea and sea life (that's what it made me think of anyway!) We stared at that for a minute, and then started the search for our stateroom. The ship is a bit confusing, at first, in terms of finding your way around, but we felt it was well marked with directional signs. We had a family veranda stateroom on deck 8. My father-in-law opted for a less expensive inside stateroom on deck 2. Our stateroom was wonderful. The layout of those staterooms is truly a wonder of design.
The stateroom was actually pretty roomy, mainly because they had designed it so well. Plenty of storage areas for clothing, etc. There was a king bed and a sitting area that doubled as sleeping quarters for the kids. The sofa folded into a bed and another bed came down from the wall above the sofa. The kids loved it! Our cabin steward was Agnes from Hungary. Our luggage hadn't arrived yet, so we decided to explore a bit before our early dinner seating.
We went up to the pool deck and the kids got very excited about the Mickey pool. It was really quite well done. The main pool area was shaped to look like Mickey's head, and his two ears served as wading pools for the little ones. The slide was awesome - Mickey's hand holding up this tubular slide. We checked out the other pools, too. They were pretty much standard rectangular pools.
After the pool check, we went down and found the Oceaneer's Club to sign up the kids. Annie, our youngest, was completely enthralled. It was made to look like a ship with lots of areas for climbing and playing. There was a dress-up area, a computer play area (chock full of Disney software!) and a stage where they showed movies. We got signed in and decided it was time to return to our stateroom to get ready for dinner.
We're in the process of getting ready - Oh, by the way, the bathroom arrangement was really unique and well done. There were actually two baths: one with a toilet and sink, and one with a small tub/shower and sink. This arrangement really does help when everyone is trying to get ready and get out the door at the same time. So, on with the story... we're getting ready for dinner and I pull out our big bag which mainly held the kid's clothes and some of mine. Unzip it, look inside, and...it's not our bag!! In our panic to get out of Orlando, we had picked up some poor man's bag that looked exactly like ours! I simply didn't know what to do. My first thought was that we had to call US Airways and pay for them to ship our bag to Nassau so we could pick it up the next day while we were there. [After all, this was completely our fault]. By this time, the ship had already left port, and my husband pointed out that ship-to-shore calls were $6.95 per minute!!! Knowing that US Airways could keep us on hold for 15 minutes, for starters, I was despondent. So, dear hubby says, "Why don't we call guest services?" I'm like OK, but this isn't really their problem. He calls anyway, and they instruct him to put Poor George's bag outside our stateroom door [the man's name whose bag we mistakenly took was George, so we started calling him 'Poor George' because he must have really been having a fit back in Orlando!]. Hubby then took off to guest services to fill out a missing luggage form for them to fax to US Airways.
It was time to go to dinner by now, so we take our bedraggled group down to Parrot Cay. We meet our servers, Matt, from England and Christian from Chile. I was so bummed out by the missing luggage thing, that I let Matt choose for me. This was to become a pattern for me. Matt really knew what he was doing. I can't even remember what I had, just that is was OK, nothing spectacular.
After dinner, we do the gift shops to pick up whatever we could clothes wise. The gift shops are your basic gift shops, with t-shirts and souvenirs, nothing special. We explore the ship some and the kids try out the Oceaneer's Club while the grown-ups go have a drink at the Promenade Lounge. Agnes, our cabin steward had straightened up the room by the time we got back and left us a wonderful towel sculpture of a turkey. The kids loved these towel sculptures and looked forward to seeing what Agnes had left for us every night. In fact, we started using that as a way to entice the kids back to the stateroom every night: "Let's go see what Agnes left for us!"
By 10pm we were beat, so we go collect the kids and head off to bed. What a day!
DAY 2 - NAUSSAU
The next morning, I managed to find the time to sit on our veranda and just watch us pull into Nassau. It was wonderful. If you can pull it off financially, I highly recommend the staterooms with verandas. Everyone got ready and we went to Topsider's for the breakfast buffet. We did this every morning, except the last one. We're just not the sit down and be waited on at breakfast types. We liked Topsiders, there was plenty to choose from and it was all pretty good. My husband got the brilliant idea that he should go into Nassau first and try and find a local shopping mall so we could pick up essentials (like underwear) due to the lost luggage. We still hadn't heard any news from guest services regarding our bag. After breakfast, hubby disembarks and the kids and I spend the morning at the Mickey pool. This really turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Everyone had left the ship, and we practically had that pool to ourselves. The kids would go down the slide, cross over the pool and go down the slide. This went on practically the entire time we were there because it was just so empty. About noon, we were all getting hungry, so we stopped at Pluto's Dog House and then took our food back to our stateroom so the kids could get a little 'quiet time' and veg out in front of the TV. I thought the dogs from Pluto were very good and the kids enjoyed theirs also. About the time we had finished eating, hubby returns. He had found a local shopping mall that he felt would suit our needs. We finish up lunch and head out to Nassau. Since we waited until the afternoon to disembark, the hub-bub I've read about surrounding the ship was no where to be found. A couple of cab drivers who didn't seem extremely pushy to me were there and we choose one. We make it out to the mall in about 20 minutes after a very scenic ride through the residential area of Nassau. Cab ride was $21 though! The mall was more than satisfactory and we managed to get the kids enough clothes and essentials to get them through the rest of the trip. Took us about two hours. We decide to catch a local bus back to port. Only 75 cents! The local bus drivers are very helpful. We just went up to a bus and asked what we should do to get back to port. He told us which bus to get on. These buses, by the way, are really more like mini-shuttles with air conditioning and nice, individual upholstered seats (not bench seats you'd typically find in buses). My son sat up front and talked to the driver the whole way back, asking him questions about what it was like to live in Nassau. They had the local radio station playing and folks were talking and swaying to the music. The toddler seated with her parents in front of us was singing to the music (in that way toddlers do all over the world!). It was simply lovely and very festive. Bahamians are genuinely warm and friendly people. If you can, and have a mind to, I would heartily encourage you to get off the beaten path in Nassau. It will really change your perceptions about that part of the world.
The bus let us out on the main tourist street leading to the docks. My family went back on board while I ducked into a shoe shop to pick up a pair of sandals. I had packed all my shoes in the big bag with the kids' stuff and was dying for just a pair of sandals. Picked those up without any problem and headed back to the ship. Getting on and off the ship was no big deal, just make sure you have your ship card with you. They won't let you off or back on without it. And, the Cruise line takes care of any customs stuff. We never spoke to a Bahamian customs official.
I get back to the cabin and everyone's just lounging around. I suggest we might better get ready for dinner. Our restaurant that night was Lumiere's. My son asks, very innocently by the way, if I would help him pick out his clothes to wear that night. Not that he had much to choose from I thought. So, I open the trunk-like armoire they provide for storing your clothing and what do I find? All the clothing from our lost luggage! My husband and kids had unloaded the bag and hidden it so they could surprise me when I returned. Can you believe Disney's Guest Services had found our bag in Orlando, convinced US Airways to fly it to Nassau and somehow got it delivered to our ship's stateroom in less than 24 hours after we had realized we picked up the wrong bag! It was incredible! Even my husband, who is not the world's greatest Disney fan was impressed. Talk about your Disney magic!
Well, you can imagine, we were all in a festive mood that night! Lumiere's was by far the best dining, food-wise. I again took Matt's advice and selected the sea bass entrée. It was outstanding! After dinner, I ran down to the guest services desk and blubbered my thanks to the cast members on duty. They introduced me to Adele from Nova Scotia, the supervisor instrumental in rescuing our luggage. She reeked competence and empathy. So, I blubbered some more thanks to her and then met up with the group so we could attend "The Ghost Ship" at the Walt Disney Theatre. It was an OK show, the performers were fine, but we had trouble following the plot, music and action sometimes. I don't know why exactly, but it just didn't hang together quite as well as it should have. Maybe they were trying to do too much story-wise. Anyway, it was not terrible, but not great, either.
After the performance, the kids were begging to go to the Oceaneer's Club. They were always begging to go to the Oceaneer's Club. They really loved it, and I was very impressed with the whole set-up because my kids tend to be real homebodies. The grown-ups went to the Promenade Lounge for a drink. Around 11pm we gave up for the day and went to bed. One note here: we always let our kids have a little bedtime snack. It's just part of our bedtime routine. Topsiders had a midnight buffet, but from about 9 until midnight, you could not find any food! We ended up calling for room service and they didn't have a great bedtime snack menu. We ended up with cookies and cakes, not exactly what I like them to have before bed.
DAY 3 - CASTAWAY CAY
Topsiders for breakfast, then back to the room to get ready for the beach. I guess we left the ship around 10 (I told you we weren't early birds). The beach was already pretty full, although there was no line for snorkeling equipment and beach rafts. We walked and walked down the beach looking for a spot with no luck. I was about to get upset, we had almost reached the end of the beach chairs and umbrellas set-up when we found an area that had not been taken yet. My big tip of the day: if you're not the first ones out, and the beach looks pretty full, walk down the paved sidewalk to the far end of the beach chairs/umbrella set-up. It's a much easier walk on pavement than trekking through the sand carrying all your beach paraphernalia.
My husband snorkeled, and the kids and I played in the water and in the sand. It's really quite a beautiful beach with that blue-green tropical water that is so pretty. We got hungry around 1pm and went up to find the bar-be-que, etc. It was kinda crowded (but not unmanageable) and the food was OK (although there was plenty of it!). We checked out the dinosaur dig area. This place was made for kids. My kids were having a ball when the cloudy skies decided to put forth some rain. Since it looked as if thunder and lightning would accompany the rain, we decided to call it a day. We headed back to the ship around 2:20pm.
We decided to just have some 'quiet time' in our stateroom. We walked out to the veranda to watch our departure from Castaway Cay. We were on the island side of the ship. We watched this supply truck drive out to the point of the island we were passing, joining about three other cast members there. The folks in the truck get out and pass around these white things to everyone out there. They were Mickey gloves! You know, those gloves made to look like Mickey's hand. Everyone put them on, and they waved to us from shore! It was SO Disney. I loved it! We waved and waved and shouted our thank yous. I realize it doesn't sound like much in print, but it was really a fun moment for us.
After departing we were just lounging around the cabin when we hear this knock at our door. I went to open it, and found a very naked young boy there. He wanted his mommy. I told him his mommy wasn't here and followed him out into the hallway. He proceeded to knock on several doors, always asking for his mommy. No one claimed him, and the shock of seeing a naked youngster at my door had worn off, so I told him to come into our stateroom and we would help him find his mommy. I got his name (Reid) and his age (4 years old), while my husband stood at the door expecting Reid's hysterical mommy to come running down the hallway. We waited about 15-20 minutes - no hysterical mommy. So, I call Ship Security. I explained the situation to the crew person that answered the phone, frankly, he sounded a bit taken aback by the situation. But, he said he'd send someone up right away. Meanwhile, Reid was certainly a happy little fellow considering he had no clothes on and had lost his mommy. We stuck one of my son's t-shirts on him, and he was contentedly coloring with my daughter when a regal looking gentleman in dress whites arrived at our door. His name was Andy and he was from Scotland. We found out later he wasn't exactly from ship security, he was actually the first mate! At any rate, he collected Reid (we had found out his last name by this time) and whisked him away.
We didn't know what had happened to Reid, but we did see him later, fully clothed, with his family on their way to dinner. So, all's well that ends well. My daughter simply refused to go to dinner with us that night They were having a Tinkerbell Treasure hunt she absolutely could not miss at the Oceaneer Club so we dropped her off on our way to Animator's Palate. The food at Animator's Palate was not as good as Lumiere's. I followed Matt's recommendation again and ordered a beef dish. It was good, but not spectacular. But, we felt the show at Animator's Palate more than outweighed the less-than-spectacular food. My son had the best time watching the walls and columns change color. Then, just before dessert was served, the waiters put on a little 'show' where they all gather around and walk and sing around the restaurant. We really enjoyed it.
After dinner, we picked up my daughter and headed for the Hercules show. It featured most of the same performers as the night before, but it was a much better production. I don't if it was because we were familiar with the material, or what, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. After dinner, we dropped the kids at the Oceaneer's Club and headed to the Promenade Bar for a drink. I guess by now you've figured out we didn't spend too much time in the 'adult' only section. We looked in a couple of times, and there was hardly anyone at any of the venues there. Maybe it was a bit early, remember we did have early dinner seating, and we tended to check it out either right after dinner or the stage show. Whatever the reason, it was always practically empty. We even stopped at the Rockin D and danced to one tune because we felt so sorry for the band standing up there playing for an empty house. [My husband is in a band and he really empathized with that].
After our nightly libation, we picked up the kids and called it a day.
DAY 4 - DAY AT SEA
We slept in a bit and then hit Topsiders for breakfast. After breakfast, I ran down to guest services to take care of our gratuities. No line whatsoever, and I was in and out in no time. The kids wanted to go to the pool, which we did, but only stayed for about an hour because it was so crowded. Went to see Bug's Life (again!) at the movie theater. The theater is really nice with a top-notch sound system and stadium seating. Grabbed lunch at Pluto's and took it back to our stateroom. I sat on the veranda for a while and just watched the ocean go by. I really liked being able to do this.
Later that afternoon we all went to Studio Sea for the vegetable race. This was really a lot of fun. They give you everything you need to build a racecar out of vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, toothpicks plus plastic racing wheels. Design tip for a vegetable racer: you need to use the carrot as axles for the wheels. We just stuck our wheels into the potato, which we were using as the body of our racer. The potato meat is a bit too 'squishy' to hold the wheels securely. Our wheels kept falling off! The carrot meat is much firmer and holds the wheels better. Our racer ended up with a potato body and a carrot-man driver. The carrot man was waving as he drove. They hold the races in heats, with three participants racing at a time. The racetrack was like a pinewood derby racetrack. If you won your heat you advanced, until there were only three racers left for the final heat to determine the winner. Our potato car fell off the track on the first heat (see design tip above!). Mickey Mouse came by to congratulate the winners and hand out awards. They also give out prizes for most creative racer, which we won! We received (everyone in the family) a nice pin which said "Mickey 200" on it. That's what they call the vegetable race, the Mickey 200. We were also able to pose for a picture with Mickey. Lots of fun for both the adults and the kids.
After the races, went to see the kids from the Oceaneer's Club do a little stage show. Daughter Annie decided to participate, son did not. It's a cute little bit with a slide show of candid photos the Oceaneer's Club staff took of the kids during the voyage. Then the kids sing a song with Mickey. It was fun for daughter Annie (she's a real ham) and we spent the entire performance looking for her in the candid photos and pointing to her on the stage, being the typical parents that we are!
Ran back to the stateroom to change for dinner (we were at Animator's Palate again). If you're at Animator's Palate for a second night, they do not do the whole change colors/show thing. We were a bit disappointed with that. But, our meal was fine (I followed Matt's menu suggestion again) and we enjoyed it.
After dinner the kids were begging to go to the Oceaneer's Club again (I told you we had a hard time getting them out of it!), so we skipped the last live stage performance of Disney Dreams. The older kids (6-8s) were going to the Oceaneer's Lab to make Flubber, which my son just couldn't miss! I must say, the kid's programs were well-tailored to the age ranges there. The Oceaneer's Club is for kids 3 through 8. My son was 8 1/2 at the time of sailing and I was a bit worried he'd get bored being with all these younger kids. But, within that broad age range, they separate the kids out by 3-5s and 6-8s. The 6-8's get to go more places on the ship and have more advanced activities which suited my son perfectly.
With the kids taken care of, hubby and I went back to the stateroom to pack. Then we went to the Promenade Lounge for our nightly libation. Picked up the kids a bit early this last night because of the early start we had to have the next morning. While the kids were having their bedtime treat, we finished our packing and put the luggage out by the door, as instructed. Then off to bed with a very early wake-up call.
DAY 5 - DISEMBARK
We had to get up at around 6am, which we as a family do not do well. But we made it down to Animator's Palate for our final breakfast on board. We decided to go for the sit-down breakfast that last morning in order to see Matt and Christian one last time and hand out gratuities. Took Matt and Christian's picture for posterity and wandered out to the main lobby to wait to disembark.
A quick side note: Remember Reid? Our naked visitor? Well, we had inadvertently clothed him in one of our son's favorite t-shirts. We had called guest services to see if they could check with Reid's family and get it back for us. I ran to guest services that morning to find out what had happened and was told they had tried to contact the family, but had received no answer from them. The poor guy at guest services was upset about this, but I said not to worry, it wasn't that big a deal. Well, while we were waiting to disembark, who should we run into but Reid's family! We inquire about the t-shirt and found out they had left it in their stateroom, so Reid's mother went back to fetch it for us. It really wasn't a big deal, but my son did feel better about getting his t-shirt returned.
Disembarkation was a breeze. There was a US Customs official there, but we had filled out our cards in advance, had nothing to declare, and he just waved us through. Found our bags with no trouble and double-checked to make sure we had the right ones! Then off the ship to collect our rental car.
We spent the next two days at Cocoa Beach visiting the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed at the Cocoa Beach Hilton, which I would NOT recommend. It was a very standard hotel, which seemed to do a lot of convention business, not very well kept and too much money for what you were getting.
However, the Kennedy Space Center was another story. I strongly encourage anyone to visit. We all found it not only fascinating and educational, but extremely inspiring. To think that we sent men to the moon using the technology available in the 60s is just awe-inspiring. GO!