Our favorite vacation was definitely our Disney land and sea excursion we took last spring. We always knew we wanted to take the kids to Disney but when Brent suggested we try a Disney cruise and parks, I thought, “Is that allowed”! It seemed like a dream come true! But that’s the thing with Disney, the right travel agent and an awesome husband…they do make dreams come true!
I am excited to share our experience, stories and tips from our trip. And honestly I’m just excited to reminisce and relive an experience I wish we were doing now! The kids are constantly saying things like “Remember at Disney when…”, “Remember when we were on the boat”, “When are we going back”?
I mean look at those faces…these pictures were taken when we gave the kids their goody bags and first told them we were going to Disney!
Inside their goody bags:
- Their own vacation books to tell them what we would be doing each day. A good friend of ours gave us this idea and they loved it! I loved it because it prepared them for some new adventures and experiences to come! I am so glad I laminated them because the kids still read the books today.
- Disney shirts, swim gear and jammies!
- Autograph books
- Glow sticks
- I made a Mickey Mouse chain link to help us count down the days!
We started our trip with a 3-day Disney cruise on the Dream boat to the Bahamas (Nassau and Disney’s private Island Castaway Cay (pronounced “Key”). I have to say we loved, loved, loved the cruise! The only thing I would do differently is book a longer cruise. A 3-day cruise is a great way to get your feet wet and see what they have to offer. But honestly there is so much to do and Disney does such a great job that we were not ready to leave. The only thing that kept us from getting the “sea blues” was that we were heading straight to Disney World from there.
Here is what I will be covering:
- Travel Agent
- The Kids First Plane Ride
- Booking a Hotel
- Boarding the Disney Cruise
- First Moments on the Boat
- The Stateroom
- Key to the World
- Kids Club
- A Day at Sea
- Pirate Night
- Castaway Cay
- Helpful Items to Pack Besides Your Basics
1. Travel Agent
We were very fortunate that we found an excellent travel agent that has not only booked many Disney trips for her clients but also has traveled there herself many times! Lisa Tekippe with Treadway Travel Company gave us tips, suggestions and helped us book our cruise, hotels, park tickets and special dinners at no extra cost! So why wouldn’t you use an expert like Lisa?!
2. The Kids First Plane Ride:
I was a little nervous about the plane ride as I had no idea how the kids would respond. Were they going to be scared and we’d have to drag them on the plane? Would they scream the whole flight? I guess you could say I was preparing for the worse.
I was pleasantly surprised how amazing the kids did! Here is what I packed in each of their backpacks to help with our successful flight:
- Empty reusable water bottles: Once we got past security we filled them up at the water fountain;
- Snacks: We made sure they had plenty of snacks including some favorites to help with the take off and landings….gum and Tootsie Rolls;
- iPad’s: They had their own devices with movies already downloaded;
- Coloring books and stickers.
They were happy campers the entire flight!
And when they had enough snacks, iPad and coloring…the Sky Mall magazine is always thoroughly entertaining!
3. Booking a Hotel:
We were boarding our cruise at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning. Since we lived so far away we flew into Orlando the day before, rented a car and drove to Cocoa Beach. This night was our only night we did not stay at a Disney facility. Here is where I screwed up. Our awesome travel agent suggested a hotel that their family has actually stayed at in Cocoa Beach. I opted for a different one only because it was a bit cheaper and they offered breakfast the next morning. I’m going to pull a “Pretty Woman” line here…Big mistake, big, huge! I will tell you a story about what went wrong with this decision of mine, and I will not mention the name of the hotel since they were accommodating and ended up giving us a full refund. Now on to the horrific story that has scarred me forever:
We went to bed early that Thursday night since we were exhausted from the day of travel and excited to board the Disney cruise the following day! We had two double beds in a first floor room. I was sleeping with Mahlia while Brent and Paxton were in the other bed.
With my long hair, I have to sleep with it in a bun since I can’t stand having hair in my face while sleeping. In a deep sleep, I feel what I think is my hair tickling my forehead. But when I went to scratch, something crawled fast across my face. I immediately swatted it and jumped out of bed and turned on my phone some light. With a little light, I could see sweet Mahlia on the other side of the bed with her back towards me and right behind her is a big black blob the size of my fist which started scurrying down the bed near her back. So at this point you need to realize: One, I have a very real fear of spiders. Two, my instincts kicked in and I had no control over my reactions for the next 20-30 seconds.
I threw my pillow at the “thing” which then sent it flying across the room somewhere. I then was apparently standing on the other bed, over Brent screaming. Brent awakes startled, grabbing my shoulders asking what is going on, thinking we had an intruder and I was being attacked. This wasn’t far from the truth. The intruder was either a spider or a cockroach. Brent of course thinks I’m crazy and tells me to go back to sleep. But what I can’t get through his head is that sleep was absolutely not in the cards for me after that experience. In fact I was ready to sleep in our rental car, but couldn’t bring myself to leave the children in that room not knowing where the “thing” was. No man left behind. Brent then realized he wasn’t going to get any sleep either until he found the bug for me.
Mind you, the kids are sleeping through all of this! As we are looking for the bug, I found bug spots on the sheets around where Mahlia was sleeping. Brent kept killing small bugs, asking if that was the big one. After killing a few more, Brent’s attitude changed quickly and he said “Pack up, we’re leaving”. We packed and got out of there faster than you can shotgun a beer (not that I’ve done that…at least not in the last decade). The kids had two very different reactions to the situation we were in. When we gently woke the children and told them we were changing hotels, Paxton was very chill and said “Alright, let’s do this”. Mahlia on the other hand was not happy about being moved and cried the entire time. The scary part was, it was almost midnight and we are driving around Cocoa Beach, which we were not familiar with, with our children, with nowhere to sleep.
We ended up finding a Hampton Inn where Brent scored an ocean view on the eighth floor. Our room was so nice and clean, I actually felt safe as everyone got settled in to go back to sleep. We didn’t even bring our luggage in until the next morning as we were afraid what we might be carrying in with us. I was so relieved that my babies fell right back to sleep in a clean hotel. But I still did not sleep well. Every time Mahlia’s hair or mine would brush across my face, I would wake with a jolt! Honestly that night that was an experience that still haunts me.
My husband Brent, my knight in shining armor, my hero woke up early the next morning and got coffee for both of us. We took some quiet time to ourselves on the balcony while the children were still asleep and enjoyed the ocean view and much-needed caffeine. By far this was one of the most interesting, dramatic, horrific starts to a vacation that I have experienced so far in my life.
So long story short, if are you want a nice hotel for a reasonable price, I highly recommend the Hampton Inn, Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral. Their rooms were clean, staff was excellent, they had an amazing free breakfast and we got a voucher for the parade at Cape Canaveral where we boarded the ship.
4. Boarding the Disney Cruise:
We drove our rental car to Cape Canaveral, parked in their parkade and got in line to check in our luggage. We took a carry-on with us that had our essentials we would need for the day as luggage may not get delivered to your stateroom right away.
Inside our carry-on:
- Swimming suites;
- Dry set of clothes;
- A wrist watch: We bought a cheap Minnie Mouse watch and tied it to our bag we would take to the beach. Cell phones do not work on the boat and this is the best way to keep track of time;
- Adult beverages: You are allowed two bottles of unopened wine (no larger than 750ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) but they have to be in your carry-on.
Once our luggage was checked-in and we had gone through security, we were headed to the terminals where we checked-in with our documents similar as you would at an airport. Once checked-in we headed straight over to the Kids Club booth to get the kids wrist bands. This is amazing and trust me…you want this! This wrist band gets them into the Kids Club and can track where they are at all times.
There were chances to see Goofy and some of the gang while waiting in the terminal, but the line was long. We skipped this as we were group #4 to board. I wish we would have known how quickly the groups were called in. I would have done things differently here. Instead of sitting on their couch enjoying Disney movies waiting for our boarding number to be called, I would have had us all lined up with our carry-on near the entrance.
We found that mobs of people surrounded the entrance and were not very willing to let us through when our number was called. In fact they were acting like it was the last raft on the titanic and they were not about to miss it! I had trouble hanging on to Mahlia’s hand due to the people trying to cut between us. We lost Brent and Paxton briefly in the mix. But as soon as we made it to the boat, any nerves from trying to board quickly dissolved as the Disney staff is simply amazing! They announce each family individually by intercom and everyone cheers as you board.
5. First Moments on the Boat:
Once inside we went straight to the booking counter to set up our tickets to see the princesses. You can also set up any excursions at that time. The staterooms were not ready yet so we had a chance to explore the ship, swim and check out the amazing buffets! We also took the time check out the Kids Club as they did a free tour that first day.
6. The Stateroom:
We chose the Deluxe Oceanview Verandah Stateroom. Brent insisted that we get a balcony; he wanted a place to relax and enjoy a glass of wine after the kids went to sleep. We really loved having one! At the time of departure, we ended up staying on our balcony to watch as we left the Florida shoreline. Mahlia was a little confused and upset when we started leaving. There were tears and she kept saying “I want to be on the boat!” The boat was so big to her that she didn’t think we were actually on it! It took some convincing, but she eventually came around to the fact that we were on the boat.
There was a lot of storage in our stateroom. There’s a closet to hang items and the suitcases fit nicely under the bed. During the day, we had a couch in the living area. At night they turned down our room, pulled the bunk beds out, and they always left a fun towel design on the bed with chocolates!
One of our favorite memories from our trip was at the end of the night when we would get in our jammies and watch old Mickey Mouse cartoons on TV. I also recommend ordering in room service some night for their milk and cookies. The kids really got a kick out of it and I believe these were the best chocolate chip cookies ever! They are big, crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. What a great way to end a day!
7. Key to the World:
This is where our lanyard’s came in handy. The Key to the World gives you access to your stateroom, powers the electricity in your stateroom and your dining rotation time is stated right on the card. You can buy anything on the boat through your card such as alcoholic drinks and souvenirs/shopping. The only cash you may need on the boat is for tipping the housekeepers and dining room servers, but you could also sign for that during check out.
8. Kids Club:
Aw, the Kids Club, this place is truly amazing! There is only one entrance in and out of the club and there will always be “bouncers” manning the entrance. The kids scan their wrist bands before entering. This checks the kids in, and then you are given a pager so they can reach you if needed. You will also have a secret password you use to get the kids out of the club.
The kids are required to wash their hands before entering, this is the coolest hand washer and I think every bathroom should have one! It’s like a car wash for your hands. You put each hand in a separate machine that spins soap and water around your hands like a pressure washer. From there the kids have so many rooms to choose from, they have an arts and crafts room, Star Wars room, Toy Story room, Tinkerbell room where each kid can get their own iPad, all the Disney Infinity video games you could want to play…just to name a few.
All Paxton wanted to do on this trip was swim, but one afternoon Mahlia decided to take a break from the sun and go to the Kids Club. Paxton was not ready to part with the awesome water slides.
We all went together to check Mahlia into the Kids Club, Paxton sees Peter Pan in their dancing around with all the kids. Paxton’s response to this? “I want to go in too!” Brent and I both look at each other and ask him “Are you sure? You don’t have to”. Once both kids were securely checked in, we ran as fast we could to the adult section of the boat for the first time where we enjoyed an adult beverage, some quiet and serenity!
We were assigned the early dining time for the formal sit down meals each night. You can opt to skip this and do any one of their amazing buffets if you are busy with activities. We made each evening dinner; we didn’t want to miss out since the food was absolutely spectacular! One thing I wish we figured out sooner was to take the kids to the Kids Club as soon as they were done eating. We found they brought the kids food right away and by the time they were done eating, our dinner would just be arriving. Our kids did not have the patience to sit and wait for us. The last night, Brent took the kids straight to the Kids Club as soon as they were done. By the time he came back with the pager, our dinner just arrived and we were able to enjoy a quiet meal together! And the kids were also much happier!
10. A Day at Sea:
Instead of exploring Nassau we decided to stay on-board and utilize all the amenities with fewer crowds such as the famous AquaDuck slide! The pools have lots of life jackets, lifeguards on duty, and a big screen playing Disney movies all day!
And oh my, all the Princesses! Mahlia got to meet so many princesses and got lots of autographs and pictures! We brought a photo frame mat and colorful markers for signatures. You will need to have tickets to see some of the princesses, if you don’t, they will turn you away. As I mentioned earlier, when you board the boat, go get your tickets first so you don’t miss out!
Paxton attended Jedi Training and performed in a show battling Darth Vader; he received a certificate as an official Jedi! This was one of the highlights of the trip for Paxton!
11. Pirate Night:
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me! I prepared for Pirate Night well in advance by researching Pinterest and making our own costumes. You will see a bit of everything. Not everyone dresses up, but quite a few do and some really go all out with some amazing costumes! The costumes I made were so easy, light to pack and fit the night well!
To make these costumes, you’ll need the following:
- An old pair of black pants (For Paxton I used his blue pants from one Halloween he was Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The pants were too short on him, so it worked perfectly to cut just below the knee.
- Old or new white t-shirts (I found some shirts for Brent and I at Jo-Ann fabrics for around $3)
- A couple of yards of fabric should do for a family of four to make the sashes and tutu. I used two different fabrics, one with pirate skulls and the other was Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
- A couple of yards of rope to use to lace around the neckline. I had cut a “V” in the necklines, punched a few holes on each side and used red rope to lace through.
Here is the link where I got the idea for our costumes: A Moms Guide, 15 Things to Pack for a Disney Cruise. There are some other great tips on her site, but some are a little out dated. Such as bringing a power cord, as Disney no longer allows that. And Disney will no longer take souvenirs to be signed then delivered back to your room.
Here is the link to the tutorial I used to make Mahlia’s tutu: Free Tutu Tutorial
When they turned down our stateroom that afternoon, they left us each a Mickey Mouse pirate bandana which completed our outfits! The night ended with a dance and show from Mickey and the gang on the deck followed by fireworks!
12. Castaway Cay:
What can I say, this is truly paradise! We arrived on Sunday and we were one of the firsts to debark the ship which really surprised me. We wanted to spend as much time as we could on this beautiful island! Most others took their time eating and getting to the beach so we didn’t have any crowds and got to pick our perfect spot on the beach to camp for the day.
They do have a Kids Club and adult section on the Island but we did not utilize them since all we wanted to do was play with the kids at the beach. They also offer shops where you can pick souvenirs or any beach essentials you may have forgotten. We bought a pail and shovel kit to build sand castles! They have an in-water playground and you can also rent inner tubes for $20!
As for food and beverages, we brought our water bottles to fill as they had soda fountains and water to stay hydrated. Plus all the fruit and ice cream you could want! For lunch they did a Caribbean style BBQ buffet which was excellent!
13. Must-Have’s to Pack On Your Cruise:
- Passports/Birth certificates;
- Lots of sunscreen;
- Sun hats;
- Waterproof phone case;
- Water bottles (you get free sodas, tea and coffee. We drink lots of water so we constantly had ours filled up);
- Lanyards for “key to the world”;
- Book or souvenir item and markers for autographs;
- Hoodies, it can get chilly on deck especially at night.
Motion sickness medicine
If you get even a little motion sickness, bring Dramamine! This was something I learned the hard way. I had been on a cruise about 11 years earlier and did not have any trouble. Plus I have never liked the way Dramamine makes me feel. I thought I could get by using all natural items such as Psi Bands and MotionEaze drops you put behind your ears. Our first night at sea, a couple of hours after we left shore, we were enjoying an awesome dinner and I barely made it through my Crème Brulé when I knew I was in trouble. This ship was rocking a baby to sleep like it was no one’s business. We left immediately and went to the souvenir shop where I stumbled in like some mad drunk woman demanding a Dramamine fix. Luckily they had buckets filled with this amazing drug right at the counter! But unfortunately it was too late for me. So I spent the rest of our first night in our Stateroom.
Do you know what I was thinking about while curled up in the fetal position trying to stay afloat? Which was worse, a bug crawling on my head during sleep in a strange hotel or seasickness? And you know what the answer was? The bug, the bug was worse, I would take being seasick over the previous night’s experience any day! I took my Dramamine for the rest of the cruise; in fact I learned you can take up to two pills at a time.
Our last night as we were getting ready to depart from Castaway Cay, we were getting ready in our Stateroom for dinner. I was already prepared for departure as I made sure I had taken my Dramamine. When suddenly over the intercom the Captain announces that they were expecting rough seas and to lock down our luggage. At that very second I tripped over furniture running to the other side of the room so I could pop in that second Dramamine just to be safe. And you know what? It worked, I never got sick again!
We had the option to leave our luggage outside our cabin the night before to be taken off the ship for us the morning we were leaving. We opted to keep our entire luggage with us as we had plans to leave as soon as we could to drive to Disney World! We were able to enjoy one last amazing breakfast at the buffet, grabbed our luggage and we were on our way. There were check points to go through on our way out, but for the most part it was smooth and we were quickly to our car and on our way. It took about an hour to drive to Orland and arrive at our next hotel. Brent was pretty proud of our ability to eat, leave the ship, drive to Orlando, check into our hotel and get to Magic Kingdom all by 9:30 a.m.!
We all want to go back immediately!
Stay tuned for the second part of our Disney land and sea excursion as we uncover our hotel and park experiences!