Cruising around the Western Caribbean
I've heard great things about Disney Cruise Lines from friends, especially as a fun adventure for kids. That's why I was super pumped to talk my family into going on a Western Caribbean Cruise for Spring Break. As you might've read in my last post, we spent a week in Crested Butte before embarking on our cruise.
While in Crested Butte, I enjoyed the Java Posse Roundup, but unfortunately had to do client work most of the week. However, that didn't stop James Ward, Trish and me from building a Shot-Ski and doing a 5-minute lightning talk on it. We had a great time doing research, getting locals to help us out and beta testing it with JPR attendees. I'll write a blog post on what we learned in the near future. In the meantime, you can check out Trish's Making a Shot-Ski photos.
We left Crested Butte on Thursday (March 29th) and drove back to Denver to meetup with my parents (who drove down from Montana). Friday morning we hopped on a plane and flew to Orlando, Florida and took a bus to Port Canaveral. Abbie and Jack were at their Grandma's in West Palm Beach, so Trish's parents picked them up on their drive up from Naples. We all met with near perfect timing and boarded the Disney Magic around 4 o'clock Friday afternoon.
We were immediately impressed with our rooms (we had 3 staterooms next to each other on the 5th floor forward) and their nice portal windows. We saw dolphins jumping in Port Canaveral as we departed and witnessed a horn battle between our ship and the Disney Fantasy. The Disney Fantasy was embarking on its maiden voyage and we saw it many times throughout the trip. That evening, we ventured to the first dinner seating (at 17:45). We were pleased to find out we'd have the same servers all week, at different restaurants throughout the ship.
Saturday morning, we arrived in Key West and had from 12am-9pm to explore. We took a tour in Key West and learned a lot about the history and architecture of the town. Last time we visited Key West, I was super impressed with Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. It was fun to show it to everyone and we savored some tasty beverages at Margaritaville afterward.
We returned to the ship for dinner that evening and enjoyed the service of Omar (our main server) and Marijah (his assistant) once again. A couple hours laster, the boys (minus Jack) returned to shore to do some bonding. We wandered about, set a match to some cigars and made it back on the ship before it departed. We spent the remainder of the evening in the ship's Sports Bar watching March Madness and talking about Trish and my upcoming wedding.
Sunday was a day at sea and we made the most of it. Lots of swimming, relaxing, playing with kids and enjoying each other's company. The ship had two different places that you could drop your kids off and Abbie (9) had a lot of fun attending their activities. Jack wasn't that into it and spent most of his day visiting the soft-serve ice cream machine. That evening, Trish and I journeyed to a romantic dinner at the ship's 18-and-older restaurant and celebrated our 1-year "moved in together" anniversary.
Monday, we arrived at Grand Cayman early in the morning and were ashore by 8am. We had a snorkeling expedition planned so promptly gathered and headed out to sea on a snorkeling boat. The weather was beautiful, the water was warm and snorkeling around a shipwreck was a very memorable experience.
We visited the Hard Rock cafe to get my Dad a t-shirt, purchased some Tobago Rum Cakes and finished with a tour of the new Cayman Islands National Museum. We were back on the ship by 4 so our parents could have their own romantic dinner that evening.
Tuesday morning, we woke up in Cozumel. Trish and my parents headed to shore for some exploring while I slept in with the kids and ate at the "something for everyone" breakfast buffet. In the afternoon, we all headed to shore for a submarine ride. The submarine adventure was very cool, going down 120 ft. and even taking us to the edge of a cliff on the ocean floor. We got to see several schools of fish, loads of coral reef and even a sea turtle swimming along the bottom.
The highlight of Cozumel was Manuel. After the submarine ride, we took a taxi to a restaurant with a great view and had a couple margaritas and some excellent steak tacos. While we were finishing up, a man walked up to us and asked if we wanted him to play us a song on his guitar. We said yes and gave him our small change ($1.75) for his serenade.
Shortly after, we got up to leave the restaurant and walk back to the ship. That's when Trish came up with a brilliant idea and asked Manuel if he'd be willing to walk with us around town and play music the whole time. She offered him $20 and he quickly agreed.
What followed was lots of laughs, smiling and dancing through the streets of Cozumel. Not only from us, but also from many of the locals. Manuel was an excellent mariachi musician and provided an exciting sense of celebration around us for the next 20 minutes.
Wednesday was another day at sea as we traveled from Cozumel to Disney's private island in the Bahamas: Castaway Cay. We got a kick out of the ship's activities, from Beer Tasting to watching the John Carter movie in 3D. I snapped some sweet photos that night as we were watching the sun set over the horizon.
At first, I thought Castaway Cay was going to be like Disney World, just on an island. I was expecting all kinds of rides and an amusement park. I was surprised to find it was nothing like that, but more of a private beach with all kinds of bars, games, water sports and even a water slide. The kids had a blast building sand castles, learning how to play checkers and exploring the island. I had a massage to the sound of ocean waves in the afternoon and we hopped back on the ship around 5 that afternoon.
That night, we had to pack up our luggage by 10 and put it out so it could be checked into our flight the next day. Disney did an awesome job of handling our luggage both to and from the cruise. All we had to do was attach bag tags in Denver and our bags arrived at our room shortly after boarding. On the way home, we gave them our bags on Thursday night and didn't see them until arriving in Denver.
The last morning on the Disney Magic was a bit early. We had to be at breakfast at 6:45, were off the ship by 8 and at the Orlando airport by 9. Our flight was at 7 that night, so we suddenly found ourselves with 9 hours of free time and nothing to do.
Last year around this time, Jack was struggling in school and getting in trouble almost every-other-day. In an attempt to promote good behavior, I told him I'd take him to LEGOLAND if he had 10 days in a row of good behavior. This didn't seem to help and we ended the school year with no trip planned. However, when this school year started, he had excellent behavior (which has continued all year) and quickly remembered my promise.
As we were sitting in Orlando's airport, I remembered this promise and 30 minutes later we had a car rented and were driving to see some legos. We spent a joyous day there, riding the few rides they had and marveling over all the things you could build with legos. It was a fun way to end our wonderful vacation.
This cruise was a first for myself, my kids and my parents. We were extremely impressed with Disney's Customer Service and have never felt more pampered in our lives. All the crew we interacted with knew our names by the second days and were some of the most kid-friendly people I've ever met. The food was excellent, the weather was beautiful and the activities were plentiful. It wasn't until the last night that we realized there were 15 bars on the ship, and by that time it was too late for a pub crawl. Oh well, there's always next time.
For more pictures from our Disney Magic voyage, see our photos on Flickr.