The day after we arrived in Orlando, we were up and at 'em rather early (once again) ... especially considering we were working on a 3 hour time zone change! In order to have our luggage transferred from our hotel room to the Disney ship, we needed to be 100% packed and ready to go by 8:30 AM, so we were... in all of our sleep-deprived glory. (Our hotel room had 2 double beds and the kids proved very early on that they were too wound up to sleep in the same bed, so Eric and I each took a
Regardless of being tired, we were pretty darned jazzed knowing that our long-awaited cruise was so close to getting under way. We knew that we wanted to be on one of the first Disney buses from the airport to the cruise terminal so we could get as much time on the ship as possible. Fortunately, we were able to get on the first bus. Way to go, us!
Along the way, we got an extra treat of seeing (way off in the distance) the NASA building that is next to the shuttle launch pad. My inner geek shone through when I almost teared up seeing the outline of the building.
|NASA building (far right)|
Soon after we passed the NASA building, the Fantasy started to come into view just over the horizon. People applauded and the anticipation was practically tangible. Kids and adults alike started craning their necks for better views of the ship and, before much longer, we were at the terminal ready to go through security, get checked in, and wait for our boarding group's number to be called.
|First views of the ship|
(Our cabin has the 1st and 2nd portholes bottom, left-hand side)
While we waited to board the ship, a few of the Disney characters were made available for photo opportunities. The first character was Pluto, who Annika and Conor met and were photographed with right in front of an incredible scale model of the cruise ship.
One of the really neat parts about waiting for the green light to board the ship was meeting some of the people from our cruise's Facebook group ... especially the family we were going to dine with each night. In some ways, it was like reuniting with old friends, but still so new all at the same time.
I give a lot of kudos to Disney. They know how to keep things moving along while keeping their customers happy. MAJOR props!
|The kids and Pluto before boarding|
Before we knew it, we were standing at the entry to the ship's atrium and having our name announced. Yes, EACH family is announced upon boarding the ship for the first time and greeted with clapping Disney employees. Talk about a red carpet feeling!
As soon as we were on board, it was hard not to be impressed with the grandeur of the ship. The stained glass chandelier in the atrium, alone, is enough to stop you in your tracks.
|Chandelier in the atrium|
We knew ahead of time the the cabins wouldn't be ready until 1:30 and were prepared with swim gear in our carry-ons so we could start enjoying the ship's features sooner rather than later. After a quick lunch from one of the buffet options (Cabanas), we donned our swim gear and got to work relaxing and playing in the pools and on the ship's water slides. The AquaDuck is the larger water slide that goes around much of the ship's perimeter and even goes out over the side of the ship. The Mickey slide is much smaller and is for children only. The AquaDuck quickly became a favorite attraction for our family and we rode it countless times over the course of our time on the ship.
|The Mickey pool|
|The movie screen above the Donald pool|
|Conor enjoying his dip in the pool|
|Eric and Annika on the AquaDuck|
|Annika on the Mickey slide|
|Conor on the Mickey slide|
|Conor coming in for a landing|
Around 1:30, Eric headed to our room to see if it was ready while I kept an eye on the kids in the pools. Eventually, he made his way back to us and after a bit more water fun, all four of us wound our way to our new home for the week.
I was impressed with how spacious our room was and, as the week progressed, grateful that we had a bit more room than others to spread out a bit. One of the hurdles we had to work through was teaching the kids that they needed "quiet feet" all of the time. With the ship being mostly made out of metal, it was very easy to hear the footsteps of those around us and we didn't want our kids to disturb any of the other passengers. Our cabin had two very large portholes, which were perfect for watching the sea go by, reading, resting, and enjoying a little bit of tranquility.
|Eric taking in the view from one of our portholes|
|Annika's new favorite resting spot|
|Conor enjoying the porthole after his swimming escades|
After we got settled in and showered, we made our way to the Sail Away party, which is a way for the Disney cast to welcome everyone to the ship and up everyone's already through-the-roof excitement levels. Considering how painfully hot it was, we gave extra props to the dancers in the character costumes... they must have been practically passing out in there!
|Sail Away Party|
|Sail Away Party|
|Sail Away Party|
|Sail Away Party|
During the Sail Away party, we heard the ship's loud horn and felt the first sensations of motion as the ship departed from port and started us on our at-sea adventure.
|Bye-bye Port Canaveral|
After the party wrapped up, we returned to our cabin in hopes that our luggage would be waiting for us. Over the next hour, all of our piece trickled in (woo hoo!) which allowed us to change into our dinner clothes (talk about a change from our every-day life... here we were dressing for dinner!)
Our dinner companions were the Colvin family, who we met on Facebook and are so glad we did. Sara, the mom, posted online that they had a little boy who was turning 5 during the cruise and wondered if anyone had kids about the same age and would be interested in sharing a dinner table with them. With Conor being on the more shy side, I thought that sounded ideal, so I raised my hand. Our boys send a couple of video clips of themselves to each other before the trip, so they had an idea of who the other was. Holy moly! Talk about to peas in a pod! Jackson and Conor were practically personality twins separated at birth. They had a marvelous time together... not only at our nightly dinners but at play when we happened to cross paths at the pools. Instant buddies, for sure! Jackson became a bit of a celebrity for our kids... each night, they wanted to be the person to sit next to him. Fortunately, we were at big tables and for the most part, both kids were able to sit with him each night.
|Jackson, Annika, and Conor on formal night|
|It's an Annika sandwich!|