Disney Magic Trip Report Day 8, Part 3: Final Night At Sea

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 8, Part 3: Final Night at Sea

After stopping to allow Dave one last ride on the Aquadunk, we headed to our room to shower, change and finish packing. We decided to place our bags out pretty early because we did not plan on coming back to the room much that night (we had bigger plans!).

First stop was the souvenir shops. We had been really good about not buying too many things along the way during our trip and decided to pick something up as a memento. First, we each picked out a mug. Though we have a lot of different mugs, I have found one of the best ways for me to battle post-Disney depression is to have my morning coffee in a Disney themed mug. My particular favorite is my Wonderground Hipster Mickey one, but I do alternate here and there! I also bought a Mickey watch to wear at work to help get through some of the more hectic and stressful days.

From there it was on to “Remember the Magic.” It was a pretty cute show and I enjoyed how they brought in real footage from the ship into the performance. This wasn’t my favorite of the shows, but again, enjoyable. From there, we went with a couple of our tablemates to O’Gills for 80’s music trivia (and the lovely appetizer buffet, which I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about).

When we got to O’Gills there was a football game on the screens and a decent amount of people watching it. We could see by looking over at the cruise staff that they anticipated that this would be an issue. They first put out a bit of a feeler giving people a warning that trivia would be starting in a certain amount of time and that everyone was welcome to stay but that the sound for the game would be shut off so that people interested in playing could do so. They also reminded everyone that the game was being shown on funnel vision and also on their in room TVs. Personally, I felt this was more than fair… but some people had a bit of a difference in option and got pretty angry. One woman actually slammed a plate down and said “I hope you all lose” as she stormed out of the lounge. Most other people, however, quietly left or remained and watched their screens without sound.

After trivia, it was time for our final dinner at Animator’s Palate. Unfortunately, it was the only meal of the trip I didn’t really enjoy. To be fair, I think there is way too much pressure on the staff as it is on the final night of a cruise with the standards Disney sets for survey responses, but adding in the show at Animator’s Palate just puts it over the top for them I think.

The meal started off with the expectations from the servers for us to mark “Excellent” on everything related to dining quality. Even the food quality reflects on the server because they had the opportunity to change it out for you. As our servers put it, they asked us every night if we are enjoying our meal, if we weren’t we were encouraged to speak up so that they could remedy it. I still don’t find it fair that the servers are evaluated on this, but they seemed very stressed when we questioned it.

That night I ordered the seafood linguini and in my first bite of clam I ended up with the grittiness of sand in between my teeth. I totally understand that when cooking for such a large number of people things happen and I don’t usually send meals back, but I just couldn’t keep eating this meal. With the show timing, the waiters were even more stressed trying to time their dishes perfectly and ensure that everyone had food before the meal started. Our server was no where to be found, but after a bit of work, we were able to flag down our assistant server who was a little perturbed and stressed when I asked to change my meal. Again, I don’t blame him with all that was going on, but given the speech he gave us before, I felt I was in the right to send this particular dish back. Instead, I ordered a salad with grilled chicken. Everyone else’s meal seemed fine (including the pasta Dave and one of our other tablemates got) but after examination you could even see the sand in the clam shell I took out of my pasta.

Anyway, the rest of the meal went fine though I felt really guilty after seeing how stressed the wait staff was. The animation show (where you draw a character and it ends up on the screen) was pretty amazing, however, and it was easy to forget the mishaps of the meal. The technological advances Disney makes to enhance the guest experience never cease to amaze me.

After dinner, we went with one of the couples at our table to the Fathoms for the adult entertainment for the night which consisted of two different gameshows. The first was called Pop which was kind of a mixture between a memory game, tic tac toe, and Hollywood squares. I’m sure that was confusing, but I’m not quite sure how else to explain it! This one was fun, but not anywhere near as memorable as the second portion.

The second game was called 80’s Flashback. If you have the opportunity to attend any of the adult’s only nightly entertainment, you should definitely try to make it to this one if at all possible whether to participate or just watch. This game took 80’s music trivia to a whole new level. First, the audience was divided into three teams or sections. Then each section was assigned a staff member who was dressed as an icon from 80’s music. Our staff member was the ship’s DJ, DJ Matt. Game play starts similar to 80’s music trivia where one team is played part of a song and must guess the name of the song and title. Once they guess, all teams get an opportunity for extra points by planning some kind of synchronized movement or acting out of the song. People get really into this part and things get silly, creative, and very fun to watch (and more fun to participate if it’s your type of thing). Once you see it, or participate in it you’ll have a better idea of what I mean. The woman in the other couple and I got really into it. The guys started off with us, but decided to take a seat for most of it since it was more of our kind of thing.

From there, it was time for our last night’s sleep on the ship. In the morning we had one last meal in Animator’s Palate with our table mates before debarkation. The entire process was so smooth, stress free, and easy. Before we knew it we were at the airport wondering where our vacation time had escaped too. It was truly an amazing vacation and I think I even made a cruise convert out of Dave! Can’t wait to start planning our next one!

The trip report may be over but the blog continues on! Now that I have finished my Master’s Degree and completed my Child Life Certification I can’t wait to get back to providing more entries on all things Disney from a Child Life perspective. Stay tuned for tips on preparing your child for new experiences, helping with anxiety or nervousness, battling long waits and the heat, and overall having a more magical and stress free vacation! Be sure to follow me on twitter @KidCenteredDis or Follow the Blog for continued updates!

Enjoyed this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

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Disney Magic Trip Report Day 8, Part 2: Exploring Castaway Cay!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 8, Part 2: Exploring Castaway Cay!

After some relaxing on the beach, it was time to explore the beautiful island! Again, we aren’t the type of people who can just sit and relax, we need to be active and go go go…. however, I feel like I probably could have laid in the hammock all day! It was so quiet and there was such a beautiful view. It was also so warm (but not sweltering) which was a nice change of pace from the eternal winter we were experiencing up north! Since we didn’t know when we’d have another opportunity to cruise though, we decided to take advantage of the day.

Dave had wanted to check things out a bit since he hadn’t had the chance I did that morning with the 5k. When we started walking though, we realized we were actually already pretty hungry and lunch was about to be served (11:30). For breakfast that morning we had only had some continental room service because we wanted to make sure we got a jump on the day. We were used to having a good sized breakfast with protein so our bodies went through the simple breakfast pretty quickly that day. We also ordered breakfast early, “just in case” it came late. Let me tell you, it was actually a bit earlier than the time we marked. We ended up eating and going back to sleep for a bit before venturing out!

Anyway, we decided to eat our lunch at the Serenity Bay BBQ. Lunch here is served buffet style with seating similar to the set up at Cabanas with silverware readily on the table for you. The tables were picnic style and had umbrellas for sun shielding. I must say I found there was a great variety and there were selections for every palate. At least at Serenity Bay there were healthy options and more sophisticated options along with the normal BBQ cook out type foods. For lunch I had the steak, a rib, some Greek salad, fruit, a slice of banana bread, and cole slaw. Dave had the grilled mahi mahi, cajun chicken, Greek salad, and pineapple upside down cake. Almost everything we had was delicious, Dave did mention the chicken was a bit dry but cooking for the masses that’s expected!

After lunch we went for a hike down the bike trail. Again, this was more lengthy of a walk than we were initially expecting and it started to get pretty warm out since it was mid day. If I were to do it again, I’d probably rent a bike. Everyone that did seemed to enjoy the ride. It would have been nice to get around quicker but also have a bit of a breeze.

Here are some pictures from our walk:

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After this walk, it was time for a drink. We grabbed a Konk’s cooler at the bar at Serenity Bay and asked the bartender if he knew when the happy hour 2 for one special was. He had no idea there was such a thing and told us it was probably something they discontinued (later we found out that wasn’t exactly true). The other workers, however, agreed with him. We think maybe those bartenders always work Serenity Bay and therefore don’t know what goes on at the other bar.

Anyway. from there we went on the walk that we had intended to go on that morning to the family beaches so that Dave could check out the rest of the island. Even though there were a lot more people here than when I came through that morning, it still didn’t seem “crowded” like the beaches we saw on the other islands. Despite the whole ship being on only a few beaches it still feels secluded and tranquil and stress-free.

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From there we walked down to the observation tower, which again took longer than we expected. Definitely going to invest in a bike next time! Here are some pictures we took from the tower:2015-01-10 14.08.11 2015-01-10 14.12.02

When we got back to Serenity Bay after our walk it was relatively empty. We were able to grab our hammock again and relax a bit. Then took a few pictures on the panoramic mode again (we really got into those this trip, didn’t we!).2015-01-10 15.10.43 2015-01-10 15.09.14 2015-01-10 15.04.30 2015-01-10 15.14.25You can see how empty the beach was in these pictures and it was only just about 3pm (with a 4:45 all aboard time). You can also see in this last one that cast members were already stacking chairs and things to prepare for departure. We, however, weren’t giving up much time on the island before we HAD to be back on the ship.

On our way back toward the family beaches and the boat, the bartenders at one of the bars were advertising the 2 for 1 drink of the day special and basically trying to convince people to get them. I started to think that maybe the bars in that area make the drink of the day in dispensers (which they dispensed the drinks from) and they needed to try to get rid of them so they don’t go to waste. Either way, we were glad to partake!

On our way back, we took some pictures at the family beaches:

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Honestly, before going to Castaway Cay I wasn’t sure I would ever be interested in going on the 3 or 4 night cruises with only Castaway Cay (and Bahamas on 4 night) for a port of call, but now I see how those cruises would be worth it. Even though they are short, a day at Castaway would be rejuvenating enough to deal with the travel to and from Florida for me (though I can’t say I wouldn’t try to add at least a park day in to the trip!). Though everyone talks about how great it is, I kinda wondered whether it could live up to the expectations I had built up in my mind after seeing everyone’s pictures and reading trip reports. It definitely met and surpassed the bar I set!

Next up: Final night at Sea!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 8, Part 1: A 5k and Serenity Bay!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 8, Part 1: A 5k and Serenity Bay!

Finally, the day had come we had been waiting for (though not necessarily hoping it would come sooner since it was the last full day of our trip!) Castaway Cay Day! Out of all the islands we were visiting we were most excited about Castaway Cay because we were both comfortable that we didn’t have to plan anything and we could still have an amazing day. We were also comfortable that what we were seeing in pictures beforehand was what we were really going to get. It’s basically that sense of Disney quality we have come to know and love. While the other islands left us a bit disappointed in our expectations, we knew Disney wouldn’t let us down… and we were completely right!

Our plan for the morning was that Dave wanted to run the Castaway Cay 5k and I wanted to get off the boat as soon as possible to take some pictures and meander my way down to Serenity Bay where we were going to meet up after Dave’s run. Dave didn’t actually sign up for the run, which he found out that morning he was supposed to, but they let him join in anyway. If you’re interested in running, probably a good thing to ask about at guest services, but know that they will probably let you join in even if you forget!

While Dave got ready for the 5k below deck with the other runners, I waited up top for the crew to clear people to go ashore and took a few pictures.

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This is one port where it was actually beautiful to take pictures right off the side of the ship. I also couldn’t help but take advantage of the empty pool deck!2015-01-10 09.17.00 2015-01-10 09.19.14

Once we were cleared, I headed down to the gangway to start venturing around the island. Besides the 5k runners, there weren’t as many people getting off the boat that early as I thought. I wanted to be sure I was taking full advantage though and took pictures as I made my way walking down to Serenity Bay.

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It’s kind of amazing how beautifully the boat blends into Castaway Cay, just another nod to that Disney detail!

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Not too many people on the family beach yet as you can see.2015-01-10 09.54.02

I also took a few moments to look in the shops knowing that the Castaway Cay merchandise could sell out. I didn’t see anything I “had to have” and decided to save for splurges on the ship (as I had already seen a few things I liked onboard!).

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Here are the 5k runners at the starting point. Now it was January so it wasn’t the terribly hot weather you find in Florida and the Caribbean in the summer. However, it was definitely hot enough to call them all “brave souls.” I definitely commend people who take fitness seriously and run on vacation and in the heat, I am just not one of those people!2015-01-10 09.55.48 2015-01-10 10.06.56-1

Here’s Dave on his run! (Above)

And now a few photos of Serenity Bay that morning. People had started to trickle in a bit by the time I walked all the way down,  but still pretty empty.

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So much so, that I was still able to snag the last hammock to relax on while I waited for Dave (and to take an obligatory feet on the hammock in front of a beautiful ocean picture).2015-01-10 10.47.41

After Dave returned, he jumped in the water for a quick dip. When I say quick, I mean probably less than 30 seconds because the water was pretty chilly. There was definitely a big difference between the water we tromped through in Grand Cayman and here. If going in January on an adults only trip, I wouldn’t count on things like snorkeling unless you really don’t mind water temperature. We did see a few kids in the water when we passed the family beach, but not too many adults swimming on their own accord!

2015-01-10 11.15.57After his quick dip, we took a few minutes to relax on the hammock before giving it up and venturing off to explore the island!

Next Up: Exploring Castaway Cay!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 7, Part 1: Another Amazing Sea Day!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 7, Part 1: Another Amazing Sea Day!

As you can probably already tell, we aren’t the kind of couple who can just lay out all day by the pool on a sea day (though sometimes I wish it worked for me!) and our second sea day was no exception. We packed it with activities! The problem was, I didn’t always take the time to write down what we did and came home with question marks marking the gaps of time that I have no idea what we did!

Anyway, we started our day with breakfast at Cabanas. It was really windy but we opted to sit up on the top deck anyway (which proved to be more challenging than we thought). After a bit of a hastened breakfast, we spent some time up on deck watching the waves roll through before heading to the You Can Cook demonstration. We thought about spending some time at the pool, but it was a bit too windy and rocky for us.

This demonstration was making apple strudel and it was paired with a sweet red sparkling wine that I really wished I had gotten the name of. It was awesome to watch the chef manipulate the dough with such ease, however, there’s no way I would be able to duplicate a strudel of that size myself!

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The strudel and the wine pairing were both delicious. The pastry crust part was so light and I enjoyed the addition of raisins and nuts both for taste and texture. The red wine was so good that one of our table mates and I both got a glass to have with dinner.

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After the You Can Cook demo we headed out to find Jack Jack’s Diaper Dash about to start, so we watched it from the balcony. Originally, it wasn’t an activity we were going to make a point to see, but it was actually really cute. Here it is in a nutshell:

Here’s one of my question marks, we probably dilly-dallied a bit before heading to lunch at Lumiere’s (even though it felt like we hadn’t stopped eating all morning!). I had pasta with clam sauce and Dave had seafood risotto. It’s crazy how many courses they offer for every meal! There’s no way we’d have room for something from each course eating on the schedule we did!

After lunch we headed to Big Hero 6 in 3D. It was so great being able to see so many movies in the theater, especially in 3D knowing we had already paid and should take advantage of them. Living in New York City it’s sometimes hard to justify spending $40 on 2 tickets to see a movie and not even think about snacks or dinner beforehand, so the movies were definitely a treat for us.

Big Hero 6 was definitely my favorite that we saw on the trip. Aside from the fact that Baymax is a personal healthcare worker/child life specialist in disguise, I thought it was really engaging yet heartfelt plot. Definitely a must see for those who have yet to!

After the movie we headed to O’Gills for Know it All Trivia. If you make it a point to do one of the trivia games, unless you are partial to a certain musical genre, I’d definitely say do this one. Know it All Trivia was definitely the most fun and engaging yet frustrating of all of the trivia games. Every other night the trivia was pretty straight forward. There’s a question you have to answer or a song/artist you must guess. This one was a bit different. First of all, the goal is to get the LEAST amount of points. I know, a bit weird for trivia, let me explain how it works.

For each question open ended question for example “Name a Color in the Rainbow” (the questions were much harder than this but this is just an example to illustrate how the game works) they asked a hundred people and totaled their responses (much like Family Feud). Your job is to pick the answer no one said. Whatever you pick, you add the number of people who said it to your total score. The trick is, there are also one or two wrong answers put in there to fool you. If you pick one of these, you get 100 points added to your score.

So when the question Name a Color of the Rainbow comes up, perhaps these would be your choices:

Yellow, Orange, Brown, Violet, Black, Green, Blue, Indigo, Red

If you pick Brown or Black you would get 100 points added. If you pick the one no one said (let’s say here it was indigo) you get zero points added and the others you’d get however many people said it. Maybe you pick yellow and only 3 people said it, you get three points. Maybe you pick Red and that happened to be the top answer with 65 people, you’d get 65 points.

We teamed up with a couple we had met at a previous activity and did very well. We would have tied for first, if we didn’t play it safe on one question. That’s the strategy in it… if you aren’t sure whether an answer is correct or not, you may want to play it safe just to avoid that 100 points!

Then we went back to the room and packed for a bit. If you’re able to, I would definitely recommend starting your packing on this last sea day. We did it mainly because we didn’t want to spoil Castaway Cay day and it was well worth it.

After packing we headed to the theater to watch Disney Dreams. This was my favorite of the shows. Sure, parts of the plot were a bit over the top, but I love the music from the movies and this show really celebrated the best of Disney’s soundtrack. Also, thinking about this show in particular from a technical standpoint, it’s utterly amazing. The amount of set changes, props, puppets, lighting effects, etc. that go into this show left me awestruck, especially considering how they must tetris all of these things (plus the props from the other shows) into such a small area.

After the show… you guessed it…. more trivia! We met up with two of our table mates and joined forces for 70’s trivia… and of course hit up the appetizer bar! From there, it was time for dinner at Lumiere’s where Dave and I both had the mushroom soup and lobster tail. The mushroom soup was delicious, and the lobster tail was good too. Of course, cooking hundreds of lobster tails makes it difficult to get it cooked perfectly but it was still enjoyable!

From there, we went to Fathoms with our table mates for the adult variety show. This time it was a magician, who we ended up laughing at more than we laughed with… In my opinion, the adult variety shows just weren’t worth it. We kept going thinking we might be surprised by them and because there weren’t really too many other activities at that time of night to keep us busy. However, given the opportunity to cruise again I’d definitely skip them. The shows led by the crew in Fathoms we loved, but the variety talent just didn’t cut it for us.

Then it was time to head back to the room and get ready for a fun filled day at Castaway Cay the next morning and our final full day of the cruise!

Next Up: A 5k and Serenity Bay!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 6, Part 3: Palo and Pirates

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 6, Part 3: Palo and Pirates!

When we were planning the trip, Dave was a little iffy on splurging on both brunch and dinner at Palo. I admit, there were times I too questioned if it was really worth the extra money and whether or not we should just wait for the next cruise to do dinner. I did my research and both looked really good, but there was still the question of is it worth it. I finally just booked it and kind of told Dave the plan rather than asking him…. In the end I am so glad we did both (and so is he!). Beyond the fact that both dinner and brunch were worth the cover charge, there was also the fact that we ended up getting the $200 from our excursion refunded and that I had gotten sick halfway through brunch and wasn’t fully able to enjoy it. If you are contemplating a similar circumstance and can swing the cover, DO IT!

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We took our pictures beforehand since we knew we wouldn’t want to once we were stuffed! Our waiter this time was Mriko from Croatia. We were surprised we did not get the same waitress as brunch (since she was there) but she did come over and say hello and see how we were doing. When ordering, we asked our waiter for his recommendations and went with most of them. 2015-01-08 19.01.00

First up was our antipasti. Olives, artichokes, aged parmesan with balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and peppers. All delicious, but especially the parmesan with balsamic and the artichokes!

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Appetizers: Jumbo pesto marinated shrimp (above) which I really liked and the fried calamari (below) which Dave really wanted to try (Mriko had recommended the tomato and mozzarella salad so this one was a bit different from his recommendations). Both were good, of the two I preferred the shrimp.

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Below: Pasta course we chose the gnocchi which melted in your mouth- delicious. This was another thing that Mriko had a different recommendation for. He recommended the lobster ravioli, but since we had the lobster ravioli during the you can cook demo, we opted for this instead.

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Above: Oregano and Parmesan crusted lamb; Below: Beef tenderloin “Palo” with gorgonzola cheese sauce. The lamb was easily the best course on the menu, if you like lamb, don’t miss this. The beef tenderloin was good, but the lamb out shined it. For me, it might have been slightly because of my previous experience that week with gorgonzola, but Dave also found the lamb to be by far the better of the two.

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I’m not sure how we still had room, but we had enough room that I asked Mriko for a small portion of the mushroom risotto which was amazing. Don’t be fooled by the look, besides the lamb definitely one of my favorite courses.
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We also split two desserts. The chocolate souffle, of course, but we also asked for the tiramisu. The souffle was really good, however, it wasn’t as good as the tiramisu. Now, you can get the tiramisu at brunch… I just didn’t make it that long!

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After dinner, it was almost time for the pirate party. We got changed quickly and donned our pirate garb before heading to deck 10 to secure a spot for the party.2015-01-08 20.50.10

For people without kids, deck 10 is where to be. You still get a great view of the show (and possibly a better view for the fireworks) but you still get a bit of distance from the “action.” We got there early and secured a spot right up against the inner rail.2015-01-08 22.04.34

The show was really cute, fun, and engaging for the whole family. The fireworks were also quite impressive. No, they aren’t as good as the parks but you’re on a BOAT! Also, the boat was so rocky and there was so much wind, I thought for sure there wouldn’t be fireworks or a visit from a special friend (don’t want to spoil for those who don’t know). However, the captain actually slowed down the ship and turned it from course in such a way that it was calm enough for the show to continue. Mriko had said there were very few conditions where they wouldn’t be able to find a way to make the fireworks work.2015-01-08 22.25.24

After the fireworks, we headed to the pirate buffet even though I was way too stuffed to eat anything. There were lots of choices including quite a few “create your own” bars: crepes, sundaes, nachos/tacos, baked potatoes, as well as desserts, fruit, turkey legs, and other snacks. Dave made himself a crepe and we headed to our room to watch part of a Disney movie before bed.

Next Up: Another Amazing Sea Day!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 6, Part 2: A Bit of Disappointment in Cozumel

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 6, Part 2: A Bit of Disappointment in Cozumel


Dave and I were really excited about Cozumel. It was the one port day where we booked an excursion and splurged a bit to do the X-Rails to the Jade Caverns. We had booked it outside of Disney (through the same company that Disney uses) because the Disney excursion was full. The company seemed pretty reputable, it had good reviews, and the time set up gave us a great window to getting back to the ship. So why not?

While we knew that many of the water excursions had been cancelled because of high winds and rocky waters, but figured ours would still be on since it was on land. We got off the boat and first tried to get WIFI at the Starbucks in the little mall area. We bought a coffee to get the password but could only get the internet to work for about a minute. Probably because so many excursions got cancelled that people really didn’t know what to do so they went to Starbucks to get on the free internet.

2015-01-08 10.14.14I really wish I had tried harder to go unplugged (though it may have kicked me in the butt in the end) because the times I hooked into the WIFI I was flooded with things that needed my attention or that stressed me out during the trip. Didn’t have much time to take care of it then, so we headed to our meeting spot.

Unfortunately, our guide met us at the meeting spot to let us know that the excursion had been cancelled. We were a bit disappointed at the time, but happy to report that the refund process was extremely easy and seamless.

So it was time to take care of a few things, I won’t you with details but will let you know that if you plan on trying to make any calls from payphone buy an international phone card before you leave! They don’t seem to sell them ANYWHERE and we didn’t want to input a credit card number into the phone itself.

2015-01-08 13.27.37Anyway, from there, we just decided to walk around. Unfortunately, we didn’t find much around the port area. So we took care of some stressful things via phone and internet and had some delicious margaritas and fresh made guacamole at Margaritaville. On our way back to the boat we bought a few souvenirs and duty free items before heading back on the ship. Note: you can buy duty free items in port and enjoy them on the ship but if you buy duty free items on the ship, you have to pick them up at the end of your cruise.

2015-01-08 13.43.53When we got back to the ship, it was time for a Drink of the Day (Sunken Treasure) on the again empty pool deck. We had a bit of a conversation with the bartender (a great part of cruising with Disney is the ability to do just that with almost any cast member on board- they are a wealth of knowledge!). From there we headed to the theater to watch Maleficent. I really liked Maleficent, Dave however wasn’t impressed.

2015-01-08 14.49.31Before heading back to the room to get ready for Palo we took a few more panoramic shots! Overall, we wished we had been able to do our excursion but the day didn’t turn out so bad!2015-01-08 17.33.48 2015-01-08 17.47.04

Next Up: Palo and Pirates!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 6, Part 1: Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, to the aft.

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 6, Part 1: Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB to the aft.


The next morning I woke up really early because I was seasick. It made sense because my medicine was wearing off and the boat was rocking so much that the doors to the closet and even other things in our room were shifting a bit and making noises. It was actually a bit of a struggle to get to the bathroom for a drink of water and to take some Bonine.

I went back to bed and tried to go back to sleep until I heard “Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB to the aft. Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB to the aft” over the intercom in the room. Now, the announcements almost NEVER come into the rooms on Disney Cruise ships so I knew something was up. Also, working in hospitals, I knew that any announcements repeated and dealing with “Mr.” are usually an emergency situation.

Seeing as I was half asleep, I don’t remember whether the boat turning around happened before or after the announcement, but I do remember trying to get up at one point during the turning. I still had no idea what was going on, but I knew it wasn’t good.

A little while later (30-45 minutes or so?) another announcement came through into the rooms. This time, from the captain, who explained what had happened as apparently many people had been watching the rescue from the decks. He explained that the ship’s crew pulled a man from the water who had not been a passenger of our ship. He explained that the man was alive and alert and was receiving medical care in the ship’s infirmary.

I felt this was very professional of the crew and captain to give a briefing to dispel some of the concerns of people watching or hearing things later in the day. It did not, however, deter the rumor mill from starting of course, since it  was all that people were talking about on the ship that morning!

We went to breakfast at Lumiere’s that morning because we wanted to get a good breakfast before heading out on our excursion that started at 11. We were seated with a couple that had seen the rescue and so we heard first hand about how quick and efficient the crew was which made us feel very safe. We were also joined by another older couple who began speculating that the person was “definitely” trying to commit suicide. It irked me that this woman was so definitive on a topic she really knew nothing about. However, since my first impression of her was her saying to me “Oh, you don’t speak English, do you?” because I did not immediately start a conversation with her when she sat down…. I took what she said with a grain of salt.

I’m not saying this was the only speculation we heard that day nor would I say that talking about the situation was a bad thing. It’s natural for humans to pose possibilities to make sense of  and cope with an intense situation they just witnessed. No one ever imagines they will be on a boat that has to pull someone from the water. When that possibility becomes a reality, it is understandable that you may not know how to mentally or emotionally deal with it. However, the fact that this women had the audacity to nonchalantly but definitively claim this person was trying to end his life and brush it off as if it was not a big deal bothered me especially as a mental health advocate. Anyway, end of my rant.

At breakfast there will also announcements about certain excursions dealing with water were being cancelled due to high winds as waves. Since our excursion was completely inland (and not booked through Disney) we decided to go to the meeting place as planned figuring ours would still be on. After breakfast, we headed up on deck to watch the ship pull in and get ready to disembark.

Next Up: A Bit of Disappointment in Cozumel.

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 5, Part 2: Back to an Empty Boat!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 5, Part 2: Back to an Empty Boat!


Well, even though we didn’t have the best experience in Grand Cayman (definitely will plan that out differently if we go back), we did get back on the boat at 2:00 pm and enjoyed the empty pool deck!

We headed to the adults only area of the pool and were the only ones in the hot tub and there weren’t many people in the pool. The family pool was also pretty empty and Dave was able to go on the AquaDunk multiple times with no line (though once was still enough for me!). After the pool, we grabbed some pineapple and vanilla twist ice cream and headed down to get changed before heading to Into the Woods.

Now I haven’t seen the musical, but I think I hyped myself up too much for this one. It was good, just not as good as what I had laid out in my mind. I thought the actors, special effects, costuming, music etc. were awesome. I just wasn’t so hooked into the story line as I wished I was. It was probably my least favorite of the movies I saw on the ship. We also broke down and bought popcorn for the show… it’s just too hard for me to resist when I smell it popping all the time (since our room was just down from the movie theater- we passed the popcorn machine A LOT!).

While we waited for Twice Charmed we went out on Deck 4 and played around with the camera on my iPhone 6 as the sunset. We took some “trick panoramic” shots and a time lapse video as the sun dipped below the horizon. Here are some of them:

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After that, we met up with two of our table mates to see Twice Charmed. This was a very cute show and had the most cohesive story line of them all I felt. Definitely worth seeing, even the boys liked it!

After that we all went to Who Wants to be a Mousketeer together. This was also very fun and cute. Our female table mate and I were hoping to get picked and the guys were very happy to give us their numbers if they did. You are probably starting to see that we got along really well with this couple! We didn’t end up getting picked but it was fun guessing the trivia and trying to help out the contestants during the “ask the audience”. It was also really fun how the hosts tried to steer the person in the right direction if they seemed unsure. Very fun family oriented gameshow (many of the contestants were kids). Everyone wins something, but they made sure the kids won the full prize.

From there, it was time for dinner back at Carioca’s for the Prince and Princess dinner. I had the Duck Quesadilla (it was good, but nothing to write home about… wasn’t really in quesadilla form either), the lamb medallions with polenta (amazing) and Princess Jasmine’s Banana Bread Pudding (also amazing, very reminiscent of ‘Ohana).

Dave had the polenta cakes (very good), the saffron muscle soup (he said it was so delicious he would have licked the bowl clean), the portobello mushroom triangoli pasta (very good) and the sweet temptations which that night came with bite sized lemon cheesecake, tiramisu, and fluorless chocolate cake (which he said was the best of the three).

It is worth to note that two of the three desserts of the sweet temptations were always sugar free. Which is good for those limiting sugar, but also of note for people like me who are sensitive to artificial sweeteners. Though I would have liked to try a sweet temptations plate (since you got to try 3 desserts instead of 1) it wasn’t worth it for me. Dave loved it though, and I was happy with my dessert each night anyway!

From dinner, we went to Fathoms for the adult entertainment for the night. First there was an Elton John impersonator. Though I like Elton John, this guy didn’t do it for me. He was too over the top even for Elton John (which says something!).

After that it was the Match Your Mate Game Show where they pick three couples: the one who has been together the longest (which was somewhere over 50 years for our show), the one who has been together the shortest (which was 22 DAYS for our show not just how long they’ve dated, but how long they knew each other… but really, how do you know someone for less than 3 weeks and plan a cruise with them) and then a couple somewhere in the middle chosen by doing the craziest thing you can (this couple had been together a couple of years). I’m not going to spoil this for people, but it was very funny and worth checking out!

Then it was time for bed, we had an exciting day planned for the next day!

Next Up: Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB, Mr. MOB to the Aft (really this time)

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 5, Part 1: I Enjoy Long Walks on the Beach

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 5, Part 1: I Enjoy Long Walks on the Beach


So, if you read my last post and looked at the “Next Up” I’m sorry for jumping the gun on that one, we still have one more day to go through until I get to that post! This morning is our morning in Grand Cayman!

When we woke up, we decided to start off with breakfast at Lumiere’s. The boat had already docked at 7:30 am but since we didn’t have an excursion planned, we decided to take our time and have a nice breakfast first. For breakfast I had the french toast and pineapple stack which I really liked and Dave had the Eggs Benedict which he preferred over the Eggs Julia he had at Palo.

After breakfast, it was time to tender. This was the only port we had to tender at, the ship was able to dock at all other ports. For tendering, you go to the Buena Vista Theater (movie theater) and obtain a ticket. They then seat you in rows to determine groups for the next available boat. When the next boat arrives, they escort the group down to the debarkation and collect tickets as you board the boat.

Now, we went later than most people and also did not have an excursion to get to, but I felt this process was pretty smooth. We did wait a bit in the theater, but didn’t mind much. They do check to be sure you are not carrying any fruit or meat products off the ship, if you try to, you could get hit with a hefty fine!

The tender boats can be quite rocky so my advice here is 1.) If you have been taking seasickness medication, or get at all seasick on boats, take your meds before leaving for Grand Cayman 2.) if you are on the taller side DUCK when getting on and off the boat. As the boat rises up and down against the ship it can make it awfully close to having you hit your head if not actually do so.

When we got on the island, we first walked into downtown to get some free wifi from Margarittaville. We then looked for a way of getting to the beach and found the taxi/vans that other people had mentioned in forums and trip reports. We knew it wouldn’t be the nicest way of going, but we attempted it anyway.

I can tell you right now, people do not exaggerate about these. They pack them to the brim with people (think sardines) and wait until every single seat is filled in order to leave. When we got on, the van was relatively full but still waiting. After a few minutes, a large family got so fed up that they left. Then it was a longer wait until their seats, and the ones we were waiting to fill, were filled.

When we finally got going, the driver told us there were two options for tourists going to Seven Mile Beach. You could go to Calico Jack’s (formerly Sea Grape) and pay just the taxi ride ($5 per person). Or you could go to Royal Palms, pay the taxi ride ($4 per person), the entrance fee ($2 I think) and chair rentals. The driver convinced us all we wanted to go to Calico Jack’s because there is no entrance fee, there is a restaurant and facilities, and it is much less crowded than Royal Palms. She also wouldn’t really take no for an answer, which made us believe they had some sort of deal with Calico Jack’s.

When we first got there, it wasn’t terrible. Yes, there is a small bar/food place, and facilities. The water is clean. However, when we started walking down the beach looking for a spot to put down our towels, we were told we had to keep walking farther away from the chair rentals. The beach was very narrow without much room for people to spread out.2015-01-07 10.24.50

By the time we got to an area where the staff were “ok” with us sitting, the surroundings went from “ok” to definitely sub par. The beach was dirty, including bags of beer cans and behind us was this lovely construction site you can see in back of the above picture. The beach also got very crowded, very quickly. I realize for some a beach is a beach and that’s fine if that’s how you feel. However, we felt there were nicer public beaches (albeit with more seaweed and less blue water) along the Connecticut shore line (despite the Long Island Sound) or the Rhode Island Shore than we experienced at Calico Jack’s.

We decided it wasn’t for us and wanted to leave. But we did NOT want to get back on that taxi again. Besides, we could see the boat, so we figured it would take about as long to walk back as it would to wait for the next taxi, wait for it to fill up, etc. So we opted for adventure.

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Our walk along the water was beautiful. Of course, we were walking along many private beaches, but no one bothered us as long as we kept walking. Mind you, I would not have tried to swim or sunbathe on any of these beaches as many of them had a no trespassing sign for their beach part. The way the signs were worded, though, the water and water line seemed fair game. It was nice to walk where the waves were breaking and enjoy the sun. We even saw some aquatic life swimming around. Most of the beaches were empty, except one more that was packed which we assumed was Royal Palms.

There did come a time, however, where we could no longer walk on the beach and needed to make a move. Our only option was to walk through a swanky resort toward the road. We decided confidence was our best bet, so we walked straight through the lobby and the resort and ended up at the road. From there, though we thought we were close, it was another at least 45 minute walk. There were also no nice shops or anything to look at, we walked on narrow (or no) sidewalks, and some parts were a bit shady. In total it took us 2 hours to walk from Calico Jack’s to get back to the dock. Definitely not a walk I would do with kids, but the walking along the beach made the rest of the walk worth it for us. Then again, we live in New York City and are used to walking a lot to get anywhere!

If I went back to Grand Cayman Again, I would either book an excursion or stay on the boat. Seven Mile Beach wasn’t any nicer than sitting by the pool on the ship where we could get cheaper drinks and free food all day.

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Next Up: Back to an Empty Boat!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 4, Part 3: The Animator’s Palate Lonely Hearts Club Dinner!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 4, Part 3: The Animator’s Palate Lonely Hearts Club Dinner!


Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, things have gotten a little hectic around here! Since my last post I accepted a job as a Child Life Specialist in Connecticut, bought a car, having been trying to power through my thesis and exam studying, and have started getting ready to move! What a whirlwind few days!

After trivia we went back to the room to get ready for formal night early (because we had big plans for the evening!). Then we headed to the first Captain’s Reception for the first dining wave. We wanting to get our obligatory picture with the captain and also get a few free adult beverages!

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At the captain’s reception, servers are walking around with trays of complimentary drinks you can choose from. There is a red wine, a white wine, a cosmopolitan, a yellow bird, or a nonalcoholic juice cocktail for the kids. They aren’t very strong, but you can basically take as many as you want during the time period. Keep in mind, there are two captain’s receptions (one for each dining wave) and it’s perfectly okay to stop by either or both if you’d like.

From the reception, we went on to the theater to see Villain’s Tonight. I liked this show, it was cute and funny, but it wasn’t my favorite of them all. There were definitely a good amount of modern jokes slipped in to keep the adults interested and it was overall enjoyable.

Then we headed back to O’Gills for Villains Trivia (and the appetizer buffet… one of my guilty pleasures on the cruise). For this trivia, the cruise staff member read a quote and you had to name the movie and the villain who said it. Not my proudest Disney trivia moment (and Dave wasn’t any help on this one) we got 17/34 points. HOWEVER, we were one of only two groups to get this one: You know, I’ve always wanted a child. And now I think I’ll have one… on toast! Can you guess it correctly? Look down below the “Next Up” for the answer.

After trivia we swung through the second wave’s captain’s reception to grab a drink on our way to Animator’s Palate for dinner. Coincidentally, all three of the other couples we were sitting with had Palo that night so we were all alone. Obviously it was nice to have a dinner to ourselves, but a little weird to sit an an 8 top table with just two people. We did get A LOT of extra attention tonight from Okim and Jay and even the head server tonight.

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This night I also took some pictures of the decor and some of the food we had that night.

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The famous paintbrush butter knifes. I seriously almost bought one of these at the giftshop!

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Close up of the centerpieces with our table number.

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For an appetizer I had the black truffle pasta purseittes. They were amazing, I seriously could have just ordered multiple portions of these for my meal and been happy as a clam. The sauce is creamy but not overbearing and there’s just the right amount of truffle that it is not overpowering. Dave got the serrano ham which I did not grab a picture of.

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For his entree, Dave got the above ginger teriyaki beef tenderloin with wasabi mashed potatoes. I was kind of surprised by this because he does not tend to order beef when we go out (don’t ask me why as he happily eats it at home) but he really enjoyed it.

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I got the Lemon Thyme Marinated chicken with sour cream mashed potatoes and roasted root veggies which was really good.

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For dessert, I got the cookies and cream sundae. Now, this sundae looks perfect but most times when other people got ice cream it was half melted when it arrived. It’s understandable when you’re serving in such high volume, but just an fyi so people aren’t expecting this perfectly formed ice cream ball on the top of their sundae.

We got through our meal relatively quickly, but obviously wanted to stay and watch the “show.” At Animator’s Palate on the Magic there are two shows, the one where the color slowly fills the pictures and the restaurant (with a surprise guest at the end) and the animation magic one (which I will talk about on our last night). Our servers wanted us to stay for the show as well, and they felt bad we were sitting there without food so they took turns keeping us entertained with puzzles.

Here are some pictures of the way the restaurant lights up:

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After dinner, we grabbed sodas from the deck and went to see Guardians of the Galaxy in the theater. I had seen the movie already, but Dave hadn’t and wanted to see it. I must admit, the day filled with food and adult drinks (not to mention the seasickness) got the best of me and I fell asleep on Dave’s shoulder. I did however, wake up in time to see the ending again (which was my favorite part anyway!).

Next Up: Mr. MOB to the aft, Mr. MOB to the aft.

Answer to the Trivia Question: Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson from Hocus Pocus.

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!