Category: Photography

The Disney Dream – Five Magical Days Part 1

About a year ago, my husband announced that the time was right to take the kids on a Disney Cruise. Um, Ok, no arguments here. I did some research and the plans were made.

Me: “When should we tell them?”

Him: “The day we leave.”

Can I just tell you how hard it is to keep a secret of THAT magnitude? Amazingly, we pulled it off. Here’s where the kids found out they were going on a Disney Cruise.

Let me start by saying that the number one objection I hear to Disney vacations is that they cost too much. It’s true, that they aren’t cheap, and a year later our finances weren’t as robust as they had been, but we made the trip anyway and I’m really glad we did. Disney has incredible standards of service that make any vacation with them a wonderfully memorable experience.

Ship: Disney Dream

Departure Port: Port Canaveral Florida

Cruise Length: Four nights/Five Days.

Ports of Call: Nassau, Bahamas, Castaway Key, Bahamas (Disney’s private island).

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Accommodations

My Daughter waking up (slowly) on the bottom bunk The thing about Disney is that they get the important stuff right. Our room was tight, but comfortable, we had opted for a room with a balcony, something I highly recommend. We had a queen sized bed and the kids had bunk beds. One dropped out of the ceiling and the other was the couch converted into a twin bed. Both kids said they were comfortable and our mattress was fantastic. The bathroom was in two separate rooms, a shower and sink and then a second space for a sink an the toilet. I’ve cruised before and one of my big complaints is the size of the shower. This one was down right spacious in comparison. It even had a little bench.

Disney Cruise Food

Food is a big factor for us when we travel. Fish is intolerant to gluten, eggs and dairy and allergic to red food dye. The combination means we rarely eat out at home, but Disney is amazing at handling food allergies. The staff went out of their way to accommodate her needs, even planning ahead to have an extra, sushi style appetizer on hand when they knew she’s love it. I may have been a little jealous that I didn’t think to order two myself. It was THAT good.

My one complaint was that outside of meals it was sometimes hard to track down snacks. On other cruises I’ve been on something has been open 24/7. But there were times when I just wanted a little nibble and couldn’t find even a strawberry. Truth is I probably saved myself a few pounds. I never starved, I was just looking to fill in a few cracks here & there.

Disney Cruise Activities

Fish is 13 and Mim is 9. Neither child participated in the planned activities as much as we thought they would, but in hindsight I attribute that more towards their personalities then a flaw in the programming. Her age group was automatically given the right to enter and leave the activities as they pleased. Their activities mostly started at 4pm. It’s a hard age to program for, but there was a variety of events, including cooking, movie making, movie viewing, video games and dance parties.

3 pictures horizontally, Mim & Mike from Monster's Inc. In the Oceaneers Lab, A snap of The Edge, teen hang out, The Sail Away party on the big screen on the ship's funnel.

Mim’s group, The Oceaneers, had a two spaces just chock full of fun all day long. There was a Toy Story themed toy room, a craft room a dance floor, a science lab and gobs of video game stations. There were plenty of staff available to organize games and trouble shoot where necessary. We opted to give Mim the same freedom to sign in and out of the activities as he desired, with the understanding that if he didn’t behave responsibly, he would be glued to our sides. Some people were aghast that we’d let our 9 year old run around the ship unattended, but we know our kid.Close up of my Son & Daughter in a porthole window. He was great about making sure we knew where he was at all times. It was actually nice to be able to feel comfortable enough with the environment to give him that taste of freedom, and even nicer that he lived up to our expectations.

Our schedule leading up to the cruise precluded a lot of family time, so the kids were keen to stay with us or do things as a family and that was fine with us. They even sought each other out to spend time GASP together! One highlight was a scavenger hunt that took them all around the ship. A-Man and I also managed to snag a few minutes to ourselves in the 18+ sections.

Ports of Call: Nassau. Bahamas

Here we opted for an excursion to the Atlantis Resort. Where we paid an exorbitant amount of money for access to Aqua Adventure (their water park), a lunch voucher and a tour of the aquarium. I should say we started off this trip by visiting Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. In comparison, Atlantis Aqua Adventure has fewer attractions and longer lines that Typhoon Lagoon and we were at TL a sunny Saturday in August. The only attraction Aqua Adventure had that was better than Typhoon Lagoon, was the river ride. TL’s is actually a relaxing lazy river. AA’s is a river rapids adventure. There are calm parts, but there are also narrow passages and with rapids and waves. There are several paths to follow, on one, you are transported via conveyor up into the tower of one of the water slides. Where you then go down a series of slides until you are eventually released back into the river. That was fun and it was the last ride we rode, so we left with a pleasant feeling. The aquarium is small and in my opinion, not worth the trip. Atlantis is like a mini Las Vegas in the Carribean complete with gambling and high end shops. Nice, but not really my scene. If we hadn’t visited Typhoon Lagoon we might have had a more favorable impression of Aqua Adventure, but having visited both in such a short space of time, Typhoon won hands down.

I also feel the need to say that overall, I wasn’t impressed with Nassau. There are a lot of empty storefronts down town and in hindsight, I wished we’d picked an activity that supported the local economy rather than a mega-corporation headquartered thousands of miles away.

3 Frames My son & husband floating in a calm section of the river ride, a wave headed right for my daughter, the conveyer to the tube ride

 Stay tuned for part two later this week!

 

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The Stink Eye

Apparently, my pets do not appreciate being the subject of my photographs.

Our dog dory on her bed giving me the stink eye.

 

A close up of our cat Winnie giving me the stink eye.

 

I finally found something they agree on.

Funky Chickens and Other Fair Phenomena

Pictures of Fancy breeds of chickens. Sometimes it is hard to tell which end is which.

Fancy chickens in the poultry barn. Sometimes, sometimes it was hard to tell which end was which, if you know what I’m sayin’.

 

Required eating. pierogies & kelbasi, funnel cakes and chili in a bread bowl

Required eating at the fair, pierogies and kielbasi for me, and chili in a bread bowl for A-man.

A ride that spins like a pendulum in a complete circle.  My crazy kid road this thing.

My crazy kid road this thing!!! What’s worse is that I let her!!

My kids in front of a monster Jeep

I take this picture every year, and the jeep keeps getting smaller. How does that happen?

Charleston, September 2012

 

The fountain at Waterfront park. Not Battery Park, Waterfront park. “Mom what was your favorite thing about Charleston?” Mim asked. “The laughter.”

Four women, three nights, four days in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounds. At one time, our only connection to one another was work related, but over time we grew to be friends which is good because eventually our work paths diverged. With one exception, we stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter. We know enough about each other to be concerned if one of us drops out of sight for too long (yes Scottie I’ve checked up on you), but there are great stories to share when we see each other.

The weather was warm, but not too hot. The food was fabulous and Karon took it upon herself to introduce the Yankees to some of the bounty the South had to offer. Bless her heart 😉. We experienced, she crab soup, real crab cakes, fried shrimp (that tasted like shrimp, not breading), fried green tomatoes, grits, muscadines, and boiled peanuts.

On the left a crab cake from Charleston Crab House on the right, the Waffle House Menu

I learned some of the local dialect too.

  • “Iced tea, half and half”, results in a beverage that tastes good, but won’t put you in a diabetic coma after the first sip.
  • “Nakin, nakin, nakin” means “Do you want a napkin for the blob of muscadine that is on your chin?”
  • “Boyld peanut?” roughly translates to soggy, cold bead that has the texture of an undercooked potato.

Sunrise on the beach, A sign from The Marketplace in downtown, a Sculpture from Mt. Pleasant, and a flower.

We went on a Segway tour, saw Patriot Point, visited The Marketplace in downtown Charleston and experienced a fantastic farmers’ market. We shopped at a Piggly Wiggly (a.k.a. The Pig), ate breakfast at the Waffle House and enjoyed afternoon refreshment at Kudu, a local coffee house that also served craft beers and had a lovely courtyard. We rode the trolleys, got completely confused about who was meeting who, and where, ate lots of food that went straight to our hips and even laid a myth or two to rest. But, most of all, we laughed and that was indeed, the best part of the time I spent in Charleston, South Carolina.

A pathway away from the beach, The four of us on Segways, Charleston Homes, Jill & Karon mugging for me, The Four of us post segway a pretty winding stair case

 

Sending Summer Off with a Giggle or 8

This past weekend, we sent summer on it’s way. “MOM! Summer’s not over until September 21st.” Mim emphatically reminded me. Summer may not be over in the meteorological sense, but after Labor day our lives are once again filled with homework, karate and Scouts. So, we try to live it up in a summery (read relaxing) way for Labor Day weekend.

We managed to pull off an impromptu get together with friends. There are four of them and four of us and there is always laughter when we are together, so by riffing on parts of both last names, I have dubbed us 8 Giggles. With four careers, four kids and the associated scheduling, our face to face get togethers are few and far between and always planned well in advance. This time, the odds were ever in our favor as we pulled off a get together at the lake with just 4 days notice! By 6pm on Friday my house was filled the laughter of friends who had some catching up to do. We ate and then divided by gender for the ride North. As we rode, there were stories and giggles from the back seat and my friend commented on how cousin like the three girls are. It’s true and ’tis a good thing indeed.

Saturday was my idea of a perfect day. We all slept in, then noshed on rarely consumed Pop-Tarts and assorted forms of caffeine. We packed up lunch and took to the water, anchoring the boat on the sand bar with about 100 of our “close” friends. We turned up the tunes and broke out the frisbee.

Kids playing on the lake.All images Copyright, 2012 Julia Lafererra

Eventually we made our we back to the camp for a delicious dinner of steak tips, large print chicken tips (a.k.a marinated chicken breasts), salad and fresh corn on the cob. There were s’mores for dessert and a relaxing end to the evening with glow sticks and roaring fire. It was just one of those days that rejuvenates you body and soul.

Me Relaxing on the boat, swinging along to the music, A-Man behind the wheel

All images Copyright, 2012 Julia Laferrera

I’m so grateful we have a place to get away to and wonderful family and friends to enjoy it with.