Tag Archives: travel

Pre-Holiday Whatup

So… I’ve been a little remiss with this here blog.  But November is busy.  Especially with the knitting 24/7 that is going on around here.  But we’ve had birthdays, and there’s Thanksgiving and other social things going down, visits from family, visiting family… Oy.  You get the picture.  I feel something akin to a chicken (turkey?) with it’s head cut off these days.  I have several projects that I want desperately to get done by December.  I don’t think that’s realistically going to happen, but I am hoping to get as much done as I can.

Who knew that a year later, I would be a knitter bogged down with projects?

Anyhow, Thanksgiving is tomorrow (!).  We’re driving down into California to spend the day with some family and then we’re driving to San Jose that evening to stay at my parents’ place for the weekend.   I don’t think we thought the details of this endeavor all the way through as we neither have $ at the moment (we will… eventually!) and we also didn’t consider that we needed someone to watch the dogs.  WHOOPS.   We have it all figured out now, thankfully, but for a minute there I was wondering what the heck our problem was.  It’s almost like, “Oh yeah! We’re going to be gone for several days!  I forgot!”

Lame.

The good thing about not being paid for a few more days is that we won’t be tempted to try to do the Black Friday thing down in San Jose.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about attempting it.   Here in Reno, Black Friday is one thing.  But down in San Jose, it’s something else altogether.  I just don’t think I’m up for it.   Weep not, for Cyber Monday follows and I full intend to take advantage of that to the full extent of my abilities.

So far this year?  Not really feeling it yet.  I hope that happens soon.  So far it’s been stress, stress, stress.  You try to rise above it, but it’s hard when everyone else around you is stressed too.   I’m sure it’ll ease up.   For the moment, however, it’s hard to see beyond obligations, shopping and dollar signs.  I definitely don’t feel as with it as I did last year.  I guess you can’t have it together all the time, right?

So how is everyone else doing with the holidays this year?  Please tell me there is someone out there who is more together than I am.

Disney Extravaganza: Day 7

I’m losing y’all, aren’t I? You’re beyond tired of hearing about this trip, aren’t you? I apologize. But I want to get it written down before I forget a lot of the details, mostly so that I can look back and remember it better. Having this record of our trip is so important to me. I assure you though, that after today, there will be no more “daily trip reports” and there will be only ONE more post about the Disney Extravaganza. So just hold onto your panties and be patient. We’re almost done!

Wednesday, August 12

Today was a day at sea and the only day that we didn’t wake up in port somewhere.  Outside our porthole was sea, sea and more sea.  And there was a lot of sea to see. (*snort*)

Blue Atlantic

And yes… it really WAS that blue.  As Kile remarked, it was the sort of blue that you see in people’s water fountains where they dye the water to make it look blue.  But this water was naturally that blue.  Just amazing.

We slept a little longer than we had wanted.  We were wanting to try a breakfast at Triton’s on our last day and they stopped serving at nine (I think… see, I’m already starting to forget!).  We threw clothes on ourselves and the kids and headed down.  It was a table service breakfast so I ordered eggs benedict.  We got our orders in just before they closed the galley for the morning.  Whew!

After breakfast I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of the beautiful atrium.  I hadn’t had a chance yet.

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That last picture there shows the line at Guest Services.  People wanting to settle their accounts, pay their tips, arrange for on-board airline check in, etc.  We didn’t have all our information with us, but Kile would return later.  They made a special exception for us and got online to get our Southwest boarding group for us.  Whew!

We put Harry in the Oceaneer’s Lab again today, though he seemed a little less than thrilled.  We promised him we would get him before we went to the pool later on.

In the meantime, we wanted to take the little kids to the splash zone up on Deck 9.  Kids that aren’t potty trained could play in the splash zone and they both really enjoyed it.  Especially Evie.  She had a BLAST.

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We had lunch up on Deck 9 as well, grabbing sandwiches and burgers and such things at Goofy’s Galley and the other similar counter service places up there.  We sat by the pool (in the shade, of course) and munched and just enjoyed the atmosphere.   After lunch, Evie was feeling drowsy so I took her down to the room to nurse her and put her down for a nap.  Kile and Liam followed shortly thereafter.

We had arranged to put the littles ones in the nursery for a couple hours in the afternoon so we could enjoy time in the pools without having to worry about them.  We got Harry from the Lab and headed up to the pools yet again.  The boys tried the Goofy Pool which was SUPER crowded (and rather small, frankly) while I squeezed into a hot tub (that wasn’t terribly hot but that was FINE by me… the bubbles felt awesome).  I considered trying the adult pool but for some reason, felt a little intimidated.  Kile and Harry went over to the Mickey Pool so Harry would try out the slide at long, long last.  I’m not entirely sure what I did at this point as I’ve already forgotten.  But I think I went down to the room to chill out for a few.  The boys returned after a while, bringing the little ones with them.

Dinner that night was at Parrot Cay, but it was table service instead of buffet.  Everything was very colorful and felt very laid back.   I felt very resistant about it being our last night.  I wasn’t ready for the cruise to be over.

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As you can see, Evie had quite the appetite.   She loved eating on that cruise.  She also turned into a total fruit bat and now will do anything for a slice of watermelon.  She also loved sitting on the end of the table and watching everything that happened.  This cruise was developing in her a deep love of the performing arts.

I also took the opportunity to take a couple of artsy-esque pictures.

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I took a quick picture of Harry as we left Parrot Cay because I wanted to get a good one of him and I wanted to get a picture in one of the oversized portholes.  I had to use flash though… a real quality DSLR would have been awesome on this trip!

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After dinner, we had an hour or so until the show (Disney “Dreams”, tonight), so we headed to our room to pack.  Yep.  Pack.  We had to have our bags outside the room by 11pm.  And we didn’t want to have to do all of it after the show so we wanted to get a good head start on it.  The good news was we had most of it done by the time we left for the show. Oh and I didn’t neglect taking a picture of our towel animal tonight: a swan!

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And the show was AWESOME.  I think it was my favorite of all three stage shows.  There were a lot of really neato elements, such as sparkling lights, fireworks, bubbles… They really made it special for the audience.  And Evie just adored it.  Again, she sat very still for the show, as did Liam.

After the show, we had to get the kids to bed and we had to finish packing.  We had it done pretty quickly and were able to sit back, enjoy some more room service cheese and crackers and reminisce on our wonderful trip.  Neither of us wanted it to be over.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  And the next morning dawned early for us.  While the trip home was something of a nightmare, we would have done it all again just to be able to do this trip again.  It was AMAZING.  And I’m so beyond grateful to my parents for taking everyone on it.

And thank YOU for reading along, if you have managed not to be bored to death so far.  It’s like looking at someone elses’s vacation slide-show, isn’t it?  But I had to share just how much this trip meant to us.  So thanks for humoring me and tagging along.

Disney Extravaganza: Day 6

Tuesday, August 11

We woke up in port again, and yet again, I didn’t feel a thing.  We were sleeping like stones at night.  A by product of the busy days at WDW and on the boat itself.  The kids even slept through the night without barely a stir.

The difference this morning is that we were woken up by a phone call.  It was Harry, up in my parent’s stateroom.  My parents were going to breakfast and Harry wanted to go to breakfast with us.  Did he know the way down to our room?  Of course not.  So Kile had to throw on clothes and go get him.

It was earlier than we might have otherwise gotten up, but it wasn’t an entirely bad thing either.  We were hoping to get off the boat and get a good spot set up on the beach under an umbrella.  I had heard that if you don’t get their relatively early, you can miss out.  And if there’s one thing I knew about myself: without shade, I was not worth a whole lot.

On our way to breakfast, I took a quick picture of the hallway outside our room.  It was a very long hall:

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That’s looking forward.  It’s a long way forward from our room.  But that was okay, because we grew to have a fond spot for the aft portion of the ship.  Forward was for squares.  Midship was for pansies.  Aft was where it was at.  HAR!

Okay, so we decided to do the Parrot Cay buffet for breakfast.  And it was MUCH better than the Beach Blanket Buffet.  We were rather pleased as we gorged on breakfast goodies.  There’s no end to the food on cruise ships, just in case you were wondering.  It’s EVERYWHERE.

After breakfast, we had to get ready for….

Castaway Cay (from the ship)

Castaway Cay!  And yes, that IS the Flying Dutchman there on the right.  It may not look like much from here but Castaway Cay is where I want to go to die.  It’s just awesome.  And completely stress-free.  We stuffed ourselves into our swimsuits, sprayed ourselves down with sunblock (I have to give mad props to Banana Boat for Kids/Babies (we had both) tear-free sunblock because NO ONE got burned when we used it.  And we didn’t have to obsessively reapply either.  And in case you weren’t aware, I’m entirely white and prone to burning so that is a BIG DEAL) and were ready to hit the beach.

Again, we could have waited for the tram but we decided to just hoof it.

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Castaway Cay

It was like something out of a Corona commercial.  I kid you not.  We even spotted none other than “Captain Jack Sparrow” on our way to the beach.  This guy did a good Captain Jack, too.  It was uncanny.  He had the voice and the mannerisms DOWN.

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IMG_2146 How about now?  He was a crowd favorite that day.

We dropped Harry at “Scuttle’s Cove” which had all sorts of children’s programming on the island.  But I sorta wish we’d kept him with us.  He didn’t get any chance to play in the water with them and I think some of the activities kind of bored him.  Kile had gone to check on him at lunchtime but wasn’t able to ask Harry directly if he wanted to stay.  Oh well!  NEXT TIME!

We were able to quickly find the perfect spot on the beach to set up camp.  It was under not just an umbrella but a palm tree as well.  We gathered a bunch of chairs and loungers around, just in case anyone wanted to join us (and eventually they did).  It was… heaven.

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White sand beaches?  Check.  Blue-Green ocean?  Check.  Palm trees?  Check.  Bright umbrellas?  Check.  Just awesome.

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We pretty much went in the water right away with the little ones.  And yes, you could just walk right in.  It was like bath-water.  One of the ships photographers came along and took a picture of Evie and I (yes, while in the water!) and Kile bought it on our last moments on the boat.  Beware for my hideous-ness but Evie was sure cute:

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Liam loved the ocean too and I think we could have stayed out there all day.  But I didn’t want Evie to get water logged too much at once.  So we eventually returned to our little “nest”.

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After the kids played on the sand a bit, we went back for another dip in the water.  It was hard not to!  If we hadn’t had the little ones to chase around, I would have liked to rent an innertube and float around like I saw many other people doing.  That water was intoxicating!

Eventually, we got hungry so we dried off and went in search of food.  The cruise had a BBQ buffet set up just down the path from where we were.  We went and loaded up on bbq ribs and a very tasty mahi-mahi sandwhich along with chips and cous-cous salad and lots of lemonade.  Being out in the sun makes you hungry!  After we ate, we stopped by the souvenir stand to see if we could find anything we loved there.  We knew we wanted some postcards, since we’d heard you pretty much HAVE to send a postcard from Castaway Cay.  And Kile and I still hadn’t found any t-shirts we loved.

As it so happens, Kile found the PERFECT t-shirt and they happened to have ONE more in his size!  It was perfect for him and he was very happy with it.  I got desperate and went with a t-shirt that had a picture of the beach and the boat, said Castaway Cay and 2009 on it.  Pretty good, but it was quite larger than I would normally get.  And it wasn’t the sort of cut I was hoping for.  But every “girly” shirt I saw was outrageously expensive and this one was a very reasonable price.  The cheapskate in me caved and I got it.  We were able to send all our purchases (sans the postcards, of course) back to the boat to pick up later.

We returned to the beach and hung out there with some of my siblings for a while.  Evie was exhausted so she took a nap on one of the lounge chairs.

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Too cute.  Kile and Liam went back into the ocean and I found some reputable family members to keep an eye on Evie while I went back into the water myself.  Again, I could have stayed out there forever.  It was just bliss.  And the water was SO salty, that I was able to lay back and float with no trouble at all.  Ahh…

I only returned to shore because I saw Kile holding Evie, who had woken up.  It was getting close to the time we had agreed to head back to the ship.  We wanted to be out of the super heat of the late afternoon and we also wanted to catch a screening of “Up” in the theater on the ship.  We had even arranged to put the wee ones in the nursery while we did it.  So it was time to pack it up and head back to the boat.  Kile went to get Harry from Scuttle’s Cove and we found out he hadn’t been in the ocean at all.  Kile offered to take him down there for a few minutes and I took Evie back to the boat myself, since she was DONE.  I sensed she wanted to nurse, but wouldn’t consider the sippy cup.   I took a few pictures on my way back, mostly of the Flying Dutchman.

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Back on the ship, it was time to get clean.  Evie and I both were a little sandy, despite having rinsed off at the beach showers, sticky from the sea water and greasy from the sunblock.  Bleh.  My plan, flawed as it was, was to bring Evie in the shower with me in hopes that she would stand or sit still while I washed my hair, then I would pick her up and wash her down.

It didn’t go quite that smoothly.

She wasn’t terribly interested in staying still.  And as the Disney Cruise doesn’t believe in no-slip bathtubs, she fell down.  A lot.  And cried.  A lot.  But we got it done eventually.  And while we were in there, Kile and the boys came back and I was able to holler at Kile to fetch Evie and dry her off so I could dry off myself.  While I was dressing her and nursing her back to her old self, it was Kile’s turn to take a shower with Liam, though Liam cooperated a lot better than Evie had.

Once we were all dressed and ready, we dropped the little ones off at the nursery, which was conveniently located right next to the theater.  We grabbed our 3-D glasses and headed in.  The theater is truly a full-sized movie theater and I’m a little sad we didn’t try to go see more movies there.  But G-Force and Hannah Montana didn’t appeal to us that much, believe it or not.

The 3-D was AMAZING.  The glasses irritated me a little but it was worth it.  Almost like seeing a different movie!  And it was nice to see “Up” outside of the drive-in and I caught more details this time than I had on the first viewing.  Best of all?  FREE.  Free is good.

After the movie, we killed a little time and then picked up the wee ones.  It was time to head to dinner, so we took a quick picture of everyone out on the deck before heading back to the Animator’s Palette.

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They were all a lot happier than this picture lets on, believe me!  And yes, we were back at sea, the boat having left Castaway Cay at 5pm.  And this time?  I didn’t feel it at all.  I was getting VERY used to it.

It was Pirate Night and the Animator’s Palette was the best place to celebrate, I’m sure of it!  All the waitstaff was dressed up like pirates, the table cloths and linens were colorful and we had festive, themed menus.  Let the fun begin!

Evie and Ghoola on Pirate Night

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I had scallops and shrimp and it was fantastic.  I’m not even a big scallops person and they were awesome.  Evie LOVED all the extra excitement of the evening and kept everyone entertained the way she clapped and cheered while the waitstaff paraded around the dining room for us, whooping and hollering.  It was all a big show to her and she ate it all up.  Loved every single minute.  The girl, she knows how to party.

The staff had a cake for us that night, for my parents.  In honor of their fiftieth anniversary this year.  That was pretty cool.

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The show that night was “G-Force” in, you guessed it, 3-D.  Kile and I weren’t terribly hot to see it and the little ones were getting rather desperate for sleep.  So my brother’s family offered to take him with them.  Sweet!  We took the little ones down to the room and found our nightly towel animal waiting for us:

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I also realized that I had been very remiss in taking pictures of our towel animals to date.  The first night we had a dog, and the second night it was an elephant.  Both were adorable and I’m a fool for not taking pictures.  But at least I got the towel monkey!

The little ones went to sleep VERY easy that night after their big day.  We watched some TV but started to feel bad about missing the big pirate party above-decks.  Around 10pm or so, we came to a decision:  the little ones were well asleep.  We could run up there, watch the fireworks, and then head back down to our room.  No harm, no foul!  Right?

We hoofed up to Deck 10 (no small feat since there were areas closed off and elevators to nowhere and all that fun stuff).  There was the dance party underway which we didn’t really care about, but it was fun to watch anyhow.

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We cruised around the deck a little bit, went as far forward as we could.  It was dark out on the ocean.

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We returned to the party where things started getting a little more interesting, what with the introduction of pirates and Mickey Mouse himself. And then? The fireworks.

The perfect end to the perfect day. Truly.

Coming up: a day at sea! And our last day on the boat. Aww, nuts.

Disney Extravaganza: Day 5

Monday, August 10

We woke up and were already in port at Nassau, Bahamas.  I hadn’t even felt the boat come in, I slept so hard!  Kile said he did.  I was a little glad the boat had stopped moving, so I could reorient myself.  I wasn’t feeling sea sick but there was a certain amount of instability and wooly-headedness.  Kile had arranged for the little ones to go back into the nursery from 1-3pm and Harry to go to the Oceaneer’s Lab so that we could get off the ship and explore, sans kids.  Sounded good to me!  Though I had to admit that I wasn’t too excited to go see Nassau.  We hadn’t booked any excursions.  Most of them were too expensive and didn’t appeal to me.  I would have liked to see the Atlantis hotel (which we could see clearly from our boat) but didn’t feel like risking the cab ride over there and it seemed a little far to walk in the heat.

Oh, and I forgot to mention on Day 4 that cleanliness is a BIG thing on the Disney Wonder.  Before we even got on, our hands were sanitized by wipes and gel within an inch of their lives.  And there were constantly crew members wiping surfaces.  No Noro Virus there!  And we got rather used to it, to be honest.  It became no big thing to wipe down our hands obsessively coming and going from restaurants, theaters, shops, etc.  My hands have never been so clean in my life!  And for days afterward, I missed having those handy wipes around every time I did something.

We decided to try the less formal buffet for breakfast, Beach Blanket Buffet, up on Deck 9.  I kind of wish we hadn’t.  It was a little to informal for my tastes and breakfast was fairly chaotic.  Harry was still feeling funky but I urged him to drink plenty of juice and water and to have something to eat to get something on his belly.  He seemed to perk up after that.

I’m a little hazy on what we did for the rest of the morning.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s because we went back to our room and did nothing more exciting that peruse the movies on the television.  Which, at the time, I was more than happy to do.  I was feeling a little bitter about how difficult it was to do anything FUN with such little kids in tow.  I didn’t feel free to do much of anything interesting.  There was a little “woe is me” going on.  I was LOVING the cruise, don’t get me wrong, I just wanted to be free to enjoy it more.  Kile and I kept cracking that we would have to do this again… WITHOUT the kids!

I’m trying to remember what we did for lunch that day.  And I’m drawing a blank. Did we even HAVE lunch?  Surely we did.  But right now, it’s a blur.  Oh well.  Whatever it was, I’m sure it was yummy. Maybe I had a sandwich!  Or a hamburger!  Who knows??

Around 12:30 or so, we got the little kids together and went to drop them off at the nursery.  Then we dropped Harry off at the Lab.  And then… footloose and fancy free!  We headed down to Deck 1, Forward, where the gangplank was set up.  There was a good line of people trying to get off and we came to find out that it was because these were people who were signed up for a shore excursion.  We showed our IDs and passports and got off the boat.  We could have waited for a tram to take us to the terminal, but we chose to walk the short distance ourselves.  I took a picture of what I thought was our porthole:

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I think it’s the smaller one (the larger ones are on Deck 3), above the little door there.  Or maybe to the left of that.  One of those.  I think?  Or maybe it’s the slightly bigger on on the far left.  Anyhow.  You get the idea!

We moved on to the terminal and snapped a few pics of the boat before heading inside:

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The terminal was brightly colored and cooled with somewhat smelly air conditioning.  I learned that pretty much all the air conditioning that I came across in Nassau was smelly.  Curious.  Anyhow, the terminal spat us out into a county-fair style collection of booths, only a few of which were stocked with goodies to sell to the tourists.  Maybe it’s busier on weekends?  We came out onto the city streets and there were several cabbies there, ready to whisk us away.  No thanks!  We’ll walk.

We crossed the street and a woman chased after me, wanting BADLY to braid my hair.  Almost as badly as I didn’t want my hair braided, even.  I won out and my hair remained unmolested.  I’d heard those hair braiders charge an arm and a leg.  And I couldn’t fathom trying to unbraid those tiny tiny braids I saw girls and women on our boat later on sporting.  I’d probably have to chop my hair off.

Oh and another thing:  I have full comprehension of what it means to be “steamy” outside.  I had an idea before, but now I KNOW.  Florida and the Bahamas taught me that.  It’s a lesson that, frankly, I could have done without.  But… I did get somewhat used to it.  Still, it would be nice to find a place to be there was somewhere in the middle.  You know, not swimming in sweat and not moisture sucked from your eyeballs.  A happy medium!  My mom would be the first to holler, “California!  Move back to California!”  And to that I say: “NO THANK YOU.”  California and myself are both better off apart.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand.  The first place we stopped in at was, of all things, the Hard Rock Cafe.  They had a great selection of t-shirts and we promised to stop back there on our way back to the boat.  The next street was Bay Street (I think?) and there was a lot of shopping there.  But… I’m not much of a shopper.  So we wandered up and down the street, took a few pictures, and tried not to get pick pocketed.  You know, in a lot of ways, Nassau reminded me of Tijiuana.  And not in a good way.  But still.  We were there!

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So, after all that fun and delight, we were feeling a little tired, hot and parched, so we walked back to the Hard Rock Cafe where I proposed we have a drink.  Kile thought it was a GREAT idea.  And, I have to admit, it may have very well been the best idea I ever had.  Like, in the history of ideas.  We got comfy at the bar and Kile ordered a pineapple juice and rum while I went full boar for the classic Hurricane.  Cuz, duh!  It’s a drink AND a souvenir!  And it had rum in it, which was important.  If you’re gonna have a drink in the Bahamas, it pretty much HAS to have rum in it or you’re just not doing it right.

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After we finished our drinks (we were very leisurely), we headed back to the boat.  And this time we took the tram.  Because it was there and we were tired.  It was almost time to pick up the kids from the nursery so we went up to deck 9 and got some snacks and gazed out at Pleasure Island (which besides Atlantis, has some VERY NICE houses on it, holy cow.

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We tried to pick up Harry from the Lab, but he was having a good time and wanted to stay.  So we left him.  We picked up the wee ones and found the rest of my family playing a trivia game in the Promenade Lounge so we joined them.

IMG_2142My sister and brother in law, two very fine people.

Our team lost the trivia contest, though I’m not even sure HOW because I rock at trivia.  I blame the Hurricane.  There was a little time to kill before dinner so we went to the room to freshen up and then on our way to the Animator’s Palette, we stopped to get Harry.  He was already at dinner with the rest of the group, they told us.  Traitor.  So we went to dinner without him.

I loved the Animator’s Palette.  Triton’s was fancier and had some great food.  But Animator’s Palette was a little more informal without being chaos (like that morning’s buffet).  It was fun watching the restaurant bloom with color over the course of our dinner.  Evie loved the movie screens depicting famous Disney movie scenes and the music that accompanied them.  The food was AWESOME, even if I can’t quite remember what I had.  But it was good.  And I made sure to try as much as I could of everything. I do remember ordering butternut squash soup.  The soups on this ship were outstanding.  And I love soup.

Dinner at the Animator's Palette

Sometime during dinner, the boat left port in Nassau.  And I swear, I felt it.  I could tell when we went from staying put to steaming out to sea.  But the motion wasn’t bothersome and somehow even less noticeable than it had been the day before.

After dinner, it was time for another show.  This time it was “Toy Story: The Musical”.  We put our foot down and dragged Harry out of the Oceaneer’s Lab so he could join us.  We got to the theater a little late and had to sit down front, but as you know, with stage shows sometimes being down front isn’t such a bad thing!  And yet again, the little kids surprised us with how they sat still and watched the show.  Plus, it was really kinda cool how they managed to translate Toy Story into a stage production.  Very cool.

Harry decided to stay in my parent’s room that night so after the show we sent him down there with his backpacked packed with pajamas.  We got the little ones to bed (again, didn’t take long!), pulled the curtains as strategically as we could while poking the TV out so we could see it, and called room service.  Kile ordered another cheese platter and I requested a side order of fries.  The fries were awesome on this ship.  And right then, exactly what I wanted.  We watched Star Trek and munched and reminisced about the day.  It was one of the nicest moments on the cruise.  Completely laid back and relaxing.

We were pooped though, and dropped off fairly early.   We are totally turning into old duffers, I swear.  But it was a good day, at the end of it all.  I dare say I was getting used to cruising.

Coming up: Castaway Cay!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 4

Getting tired of these posts yet?  TOO BAD!  We’re only halfway through.  It was a looooong (and awesome) vacation.

Sunday, August 9

We woke up early, to make sure that we had all our bags ready to go when the porters came by at 8 to pick them up.  We were going to have a few small bags with us, such as my purse and Kile’s carry on/diaper bag.  The rest were going on the bus!  Even the carseats since you can’t use carseats on buses.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.  Now I do!

We hurried but we still were running short on time and weren’t quite 100% ready when they came for the bags.  Luckily, they were busy dealing with the rest of my family so we were able to catch the last minute things and gather them together.  And then?  Our bags were GONE.

We had a decision on what to do that day.  We had several hours until our bus was leaving for the boat.  Not enough time to go to one of the parks, but too long to sit around an empty hotel room.  We could have gone to the pool but I didn’t want to have to deal with wet suits.  We decided to go back to Downtown Disney.  Harry had missed out on going back on our first day and he still needed to pick out a souvenir from the Disney store and he desperately wanted to see the Lego store there too.

The boats weren’t running quite that early so we took the bus, which stopped at Typhoon Lagoon first.  It made me sad we weren’t able to do the water parks while we were there.  Something to add to our “must do” list for next time!  When we got to Downtown Disney, nothing was really open quite yet.  We took our time walking through and took some pictures of the Lego sculptures outside the infamous Lego store.

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Lego T-Rex

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Yes, ALL of those were 100% made out of Legos.  Amazing.  And awesome.  Harry was entranced (as you can see).  While the boys waited the few minutes remaining for the store to open, Evie and I went next door to the World of Disney store that was opening already (for the  “Bibbity Bobbity Boutique” located in the girl’s section which was already cranking out little princess in tiaras and sausage curls at this early hour).

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Yeah… not too impressed with the princesses just yet.  And I am perfectly okay with that, otherwise just walking into that store would have cost me a small fortune.   We wandered around the store, in a daze pretty much, until we met the boys over there.  Harry decided he wanted a t-shirt as his souvenir.  He wanted something with Epcot on it, specifically, but if you can believe it we weren’t able to find anything.  We did eventually find a great shirt that had all the parks on it and he was happy with that.  I also got a “Cars” themed WDW shirt for Liam that I had had my eye on for several days.  And I found Evie the most perfect “My first trip to WDW” tshirt.   But for me and for Kile?  That’s where it got sticky.  I was pretty particular with what I wanted.  And also cheap.  Everything I wanted was really expensive.  Everything that was more reasonably priced, was too flashy for my taste.  I didn’t want something emblazoned with brightly colored Disney characters.  But I wanted something that said Disney World or something akin on it.  And the year wouldn’t be bad.  A tall order!

I found the perfect  sweatshirt that I desperately wanted.  However, I couldn’t reconcile myself to the price.  Even now, I wish I had gotten it because I loved it so.  But oh well.  Too late now!  It’s what I get for being so damned cheap.  Of course, it turns out there were about fifteen thousand other Disney stores in Downtown Disney that we never even saw.  I guess we should have explored some more!   Kile and I decided we would just have to try to find tshirts on the cruise.  We picked out a few things for the co-worker who was kind enough to shuttle us to and from the airport.  And then we were on our way back to the resort.

The boats were running by then so we caught one and rode back, trying to savor our last trip along the lazy, winding river system.  Back at the resort, I thought I should maybe take a couple pictures of it to remember it by.  I never did take pictures of our hotel room but I can assure you it looked something like this.

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IMG_2112 The lobby from the “inside” of the resort

We found a table to situate ourselves in near the lobby and the cafeteria.  I had the munchies (no breakfast that morning, but again, not much point since shortly we would be on the boat and it would be EAT EAT EAT, all the time!) so I grabbed a drink and a toasted bagel from the cafeteria.  The rest of my family started trickling in, as did other guests who were going on the cruise.

We didn’t have to wait too terribly long before the employees prodded us outside and onto t

he waiting Disney Cruise bus.  Time to say goodbye to the French Quarter and to Disney World!  It felt sad to leave, even though we were embarking on another amazing adventure.  I wish I could have stayed another week!

The bus ride wasn’t terribly long but Evie was VERY squirmy and I had a hard time keeping her still.  The bus had movie screens on it and they showed some Disney cartoons as well as some promotional material for the cruise to get us all jazzed.  I think I was beyond being jazzed at that point though, and was mostly just frustrated trying to keep Evie happy and NOT scratching my sunburned neck.  (Yes, I had been STUPID that first day and didn’t put sunblock on before our first trip to the parks.   A mistake I did NOT repeat, thank goodness!) (Also, notice my out of control bangs.  It did not matter that I straightened them hours before.  My straightener had NOTHING on the Florida humidity.  UGH.)

The bus to the boat

It wasn’t long before we were pulling up in front of the boat in Port Canaveral.   I didn’t take many pictures at this point because I was so frustrated with dealing with Evie and just wanted to get the show on the road, so to speak.  It was all a lot better once we had her back in the stroller where she (and her sharp claws) (note to self: clip fingernails before trip next time) was contained.

Checking in was a piece of cake since we had essentially already done all of that at the resort.  All we had to do was go up to a gal, get Evie a  “Key to the World”card (we’d already gotten ours at the resort) and have her snap some quick pictures of us to put into the system.   Then… it was onward to the ship!   It was only now that I thought, “Hmm… I should take a picture!”

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We checked in with our cards and then got an embarkation portrait done (in which we all looked like zombies so we didn’t purchase one).  Next thing we knew, we were walking onto the ship, being greeted by the staff and found ourselves in the gorgeous atrium.

Since it was after 1pm at this point, we could get into our rooms so we headed right there.  We made a mistake in taking the midships elevators.  We came to hate the midship elevators because they were always SO busy.  And we needed an entire elevator to ourselves since ourselves and our two strollers took up the entire thing.  Eventually, we got down to Deck 2 and then worked our way aft towards our room.  (Aft is “the back of the boat, to the nautically challenged out there.)

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Woot!  The room was small, yes, but bigger than it could have been.  And our “porthole” was awesome.  We all settled ourselves in (but we didn’t unpack… something else I would probably change should we ever do something like this again) and took some pictures.

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IMG_2116 The view out our porthole at the Carnival ship docked nearby

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As you can see, it’s rather tight near the door (and the doors to the bathroom and shower) with the strollers there.  We would constantly be battling where to park the strollers and often folded them up and put them in the closet to get them out of the way.

We headed back out to get some lunch at Parrot Cay up on Deck 3.  It was the nicer of the two buffets and we were hungry for some good cruise food!  We wandered around a little after that, exploring the upper decks to see the pools.  There were already quite a few people in the pools, particularly the Mickey pool with the slide.

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We also checked out the children’s programming.  We got Harry signed up for the Oceaneer’s Lab and stopped in to check out Flounder’s Nursery too.  Since Liam isn’t potty trained yet, we couldn’t use the Oceaneer’s Club for him, but we could put him in the nursery if we wanted.  We were thinking we needed a break from the little ones so we made a reservation right then and there to put them in for two hours later on so we could enjoy dinner in peace.  It was $6 an hour for the first child, $5 for the second.  $11 an hour seemed a small price to pay for the sanity.

We headed back to our room for the safety drill.  We all had to suit up in lifejackets and follow the instructions on the PA system.

Lifejacket Liam

There was even a wee little lifejacket for Evie which she didn’t care for in the slightest.  We found our assembly point and assembled.  A crew member kindly told us we could take the little ones out of their lifejackets to keep them settled.  That helped a lot!  It wasn’t too long before we could go back to our room.  Our luggage wasn’t there yet, but we set up the pack n’ play crib for Evie and checked out the movies on the television.  We could watch Disney movies at any time of day, and even some other flicks like Star Trek (which I did end up watching several times) and Monsters vs. Aliens.  We chose to sit out the Deck Party/Send Off up at the pools, rathering to chill out instead.

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We were underway!  And we could DEFINITELY feel the motion of the boat.  It was almost like flying, but with no turbulence.   A constant, gentle motion.  And the constant but quiet thrum of the engines below.  Still, it took some getting used to.

We still weren’t used to it when we went up to Deck 3 for dinner at Tritons later on.  We had dropped the little ones off at the nursery and they hadn’t even been sad to see us go.  They had their eyes on all the fun toys in the nursery and couldn’t have cared less about us!  Unfortunately, Harry wasn’t feeling so well.  I don’t think it was entirely seasickness, I think he was tired (again from the super long day we put in the day before and the late night the night before that) and a little dehydrated.  He had a headache and felt dizzy and tired.   Kile eventually took him down to our room so he could sleep and then rejoined the rest of us to eat.

The food at Tritons was great, it was “French dinner” night and while Kile was brave enough to try the escargot, I stuck with the french onion soup.  I had a wonderful lobster pasta dish for dinner and a sampler dish for dessert (I would have the sampler dessert every night, so I could try a little of everything!).  It was all very good but my stomach was definitely not used to the rich food yet!

After dinner, Kile checked on Harry, who was content to stay in the room and then we picked up the little ones from the nursery.  There was a show that night, “The Golden Mickeys” and we all went to see that.

The little kids really enjoyed the show and stayed surprisingly still while it was on.  Evie just loved the song and dance and fanfare.  The applause was probably her favorite part.

By the time the show was over, we were all bushed.  We headed back to the room where the luggage had been delivered (Kile had actually seen it when he first took Harry down to the room during dinner).  We got the kids all set in bed, with Harry in the pull down bunk, Liam on the fold down sofa bed (with a bed rail) and Evie in the pack n’ play.  We pulled the curtain across to block the light in the room from them and settled down.  This is where we found a serious flaw: the tv was located on the kid’s side of the curtain.  We couldn’t have the curtain drawn and watch TV at the same time.  On later nights, we would just pull the curtain across enough to block most of the light while we could still see the TV.  But it would have been nice to have a TV across from our bed.

We ordered from room service and got the infamous cheese platter we had heard so much about.  It didn’t disappoint.

We didn’t stay up terribly late though… we were rather tired from our exciting day.  So with the engines thrumming beneath us and the boat ever so gently rocking, we all fell fast asleep.

Coming up: stopping in Nassau!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 3

Here we go again!

Saturday, August 8

It’s our 11 year anniversary!   But there was seriously NO time to do anything special with just us.  We sort of considered the whole trip to be doing something special.   Besides, how awesome is it to be at Disney World on your anniversary?  Kids or not?  It was also cool that our actual wedding day had also been on a Saturday so it was fun to think about “11 years ago… did we ever expect to be HERE??”.

We had a reservation at the Crystal Palace for breakfast in the Magic Kingdom shortly after 10am.  We slept a little later than we might normally have, to give the boys a chance to catch up after being up SO late the night before!  We weren’t entirely sure where the day would lead us, but we knew we wanted to get as much done as possible since we’d be leaving for the cruise tomorrow.

We caught a bus and made it to the Magic Kingdom.  It was already pretty hot outside but, dare I say it?  We were getting used to it.  I definitely wasn’t as affected by the heat as I was the first day.   I had gotten USED to the sensation of sweat dripping down my back.  Who knew you could get used to such a thing??  We found the Crystal Palace at the end of Main Street, across from the castle.  There were a lot of people waiting outside and we checked in with the reservations gal.  We only had to wait maybe 10 minutes for them to get our table ready before we were ushered into the cool, air conditioned and beautiful interior!

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The staff had taken some Mickey Mouse shaped confetti and decorated our table with a heart, for our anniversary.  Isn’t that awesome?  The kids were hungry and it was buffet style so we got right to serving them up.  It was wonderful to have a “whatever you want to eat” atmosphere after restraining ourselves for several days.  And it was good preparation for the cruise!   Evie in particular had developed a major fondness for watermelon and little else was more important to her that morning than getting more food to eat!

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It was cool to be able to watch all the Winne the Pooh characters traipse around the restaurant.  They made an effort to get to every table and let me say, Liam LOVED it!

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We actually were visited by Winnie the Pooh too but for some reason, I don’t have any pictures of that.  We must have been too concentrated on stuffing our faces.  Or maybe it was when I went to get food and Kile didn’t think to grab the camera.  It’s all good.  Evie could have cared less.  These characters were an annoyance to her, as best demonstrated by her photo with poor Eeyore:

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Oh well.  Someday she’ll be into it, I’m sure.  And maybe someday she’ll regret having shoo-ed Eeyore away.  I always have liked Eeyore… he’s my favorite.

Before we finished with breakfast, the staff brought us a cupcake and sang to us.  We were also presented with a special certificate showing we celebrated our anniversary there that day and was signed by all the characters!  I loved these little touches that Disney did.  It was hard to celebrate just “us” that day, but they made it special anyhow.  That rocks.

After breakfast, we felt full of energy and ready to tackle the day.  Turns out, having breakfast before hitting the parks was the best thing we could have done!  Who knew?  Maybe we wouldn’t have pooped out so soon the other two days had we had breakfast first.  Live and learn!  We wanted to do a few rides before it got too crowded and hot.  So, of course, we did indoor rides!  D’oh!   We did Mickey’s Philharmagic which was awesome.  It’s a show all in 3D and is completely imaginative and amazing.  I’m sure it was lost on the little ones, who wouldn’t keep 3D glasses on.  But I appreciated it!  We were even pelted with drops of water at appropriate times and blasts of air and everything!  Definitely, a must-see!

“It’s a Small World” was across from the theater so we did that next.  You HAVE to do that one while you’re there.  It’s just a RULE.

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After that, we headed towards Tomorrowland.  Harry wanted to ride the cars at the Speedway again.  He’d gone on it last night with Kile and it was quickly one of his favorite rides.  This time, he wanted to ride alone.  It was starting to get really hot though, as it was now past noon.  On the way, we saw a Disney Vacation Club kiosk.  We’d seen these all over the place and even saw the little show on the television in our room about the Vacation Club.  Kile was intrigued and wanted to learn more.  So we stopped and talked to the dude there.  He said he could get a van (air conditioned!) to pick us up right then, take us to the Vacation Club center, put the kids in child care, have some refreshments, talk to a gal about the Club, tour some models, get free ice cream, some FastPasses or gift certificates for our time and then get shuttled to anywhere in the park that we wanted to go.  I think he had me at “air conditioned van”.  We decided to go for it, as it would be a nice break that would take the place of going back to our resort.

We were ushered through a back gate of the park where a van was indeed waiting for us.  There were even car seats set up inside!  We strapped the kids in and off we went.  The center was at the Saratoga Springs resort which is huge and gorgeous.  Not that our resort is awful (because I loved it so!), but some of the resorts on the property were just AMAZING.

We dropped the older kids off at the child care where there was plenty to do (including video games, so Harry was happy) and brought Evie with us.  We had cookies and lemonade and then talked to a super nice lady who did her spiel for us.  I was impressed that it was TRULY a no-pressure deal.  They never once asked for money from us.  Just showed us the club details, gave us some offers and told us to think about it. If we wanted to do it, we had her number to call her back after we got home. Simple as that. Both Kile and I were pretty impressed.  Even moreso after touring the models!  OH MY!  The “studio” floorplan was much like a regular resort hotel room, except there was the addition of a kitchenette.  The one-bedroom floorplan, the next step up, was AMAZING.  Suddenly there was tons of room and ammenities and a full kitchen and I think I passed out somewhere while touring the Bay Lake Towers room.  Holy cow.

After we mopped up our drool, we picked up the kids from child care and were led to a cozy little ice cream shop, just for Vacation Club peoples.  Everyone got a scoop of ice cream to enjoy and we relished that.  When we were back outside, it had clouded up substantially and was even spitting rain just a bit.  I loved it when it clouded up.  I could almost handle the heat and humidity if the sun was out of the picture.

We had chosen the FastPasses, which they had told us there were three but it turns out there were three for each person.  Yes, including Evie!  We wanted to get to Hollywood Studios so the van took us there and dropped us off right out front.  We got there at a great time as there was a parade going on down the street right near the entrance when we got there.

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We were on a mission though, and chose not to stop to watch it.  We wanted to try out the Toy Story Mania ride we had heard so much about.  But, when we finally found it (Hollywood Studios is kind of a confusing place to navigate!), the FastPasses had all been distributed already and the line was an hour long.  Ugh.  We moved on, and chose to go on the backlot tour.  There was no wait, hardly, and we could basically walk right on.  Very reminiscent of the Universal Studios Tour but not as long or without as many attractions.  Still, it was fun.

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And we did get a little wet.

After that, we wandered through an AFI exhibit (that seemed to specialize in Villains, but I never got the whole story).  Harry appreciated all the nods towards Star Wars.

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While on the tour, we’d seen a car stunt show and went to go check that out.  We got there JUST in time, the show was just starting and the place was PACKED.  We were up in the nosebleed section but it gave us a good view.

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After the show, we wanted to go track down Lightning McQueen and Mater for Liam’s benefit.  We had been told they were here… somewhere.  Again, it wasn’t the easiest place to navigate.  But we eventually found them!  And Liam got a picture with his heroes.

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After that, we were a little tired and very hungry.  We decided we wanted to go back to the Magic Kingdom, use up some of our FastPasses and have dinner there.  We checked Toy Story Mania on the way out and the wait time had gone up to 90 minutes!  No way!  So word to the wise:  if you wanna do that ride, get there early for a FastPass.  Otherwise you’ll never see the dark side of it, like us.

We caught a bus that would take us to the transportation terminal outside Magic Kingdom.  Once there, we hopped on the monorail and got another ride through the Contemporary resort on our way in.  The park was MUCH more crowded than it had been Thursday night, but we expected that.  I had to use the restroom, so we wasted no time on Main Street and we hustled over to Tomorrowland, where I had a pit stop at the bathroom outside the noodle restaurant.  My iPhone fell behind the toilet and I put that in my Facebook status (after a good disinfecting, mind you) because that’s just how I roll.  We planned to grab burgers for dinner (at Harry’s request) and get the boy on his Speedway racer.   The restaurant across from the Speedway was chaotic, crowded and dark but it served our purposes.  We were hungry, so it didn’t take us long at all to eat.  I was pretty pleased with the healthy food options for kids at these restaurants.  Virtually all their meals came with fresh fruit or veggies and there was very little fries to be had.

Kile took Liam with him when the boys got in line for the Speedway.  Evie and I chose to check out a gift shop (that was overrun with Stitch paraphernalia… I learned that Stitch is BIG TIME at Disney World) to kill time, and eventually I sat on a bench, enjoyed the evening air, watched people walk by and caught up on some email on my phone.

The boys weren’t long and eventually they returned and Kile showed me a picture he’d snapped:

Speed Racer

Liam had had a GREAT time steering the car, apparently.  This is not surprising news to me, by the way.

It was time to get down to business.  I wanted to use SOME of these FastPasses, darnit!  So we hurried over to Frontierland and I talked Harry into trying Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with me.  He’s not a big roller coaster fan but I assured him that it was a fun ride, not at all scary.  The FastPasses were truly awesome.  I put them in the machine and we got passes to get on the ride RIGHT away!  We essentially were able to walk right on the ride.  That was awesome.  Kile stayed with the little ones while Harry and I had our ride.  And I was right, Harry LOVED it.  He laughed his fool head off the entire time and my cheeks hurt from smiling.  When asked later, he would say that was his favorite ride of them all.  High praise indeed!

Next, I convinced him to try Splash Mountain. We found Kile a better spot to wait with the little ones and again, all but walked right on.  This ride was a bit more crowded but it was still a MUCH shorter wait than it would have otherwise been. And mostly air conditioned, which was downright sweet.

Harry did enjoy Splash Mountain.  That is, up until the big drop at the end.  Then he started to tear up.  He does not like steep drops, that one.  But I praised him thoroughly for giving it a try and he was able to shake it off.  The picture that was snapped was classic, because I swear Harry had the same look on his face as he did when we went on the log ride in Santa Cruz when he was three.  Poor kid.

After that, Harry kind of wanted to go back to the resort.  We headed out but couldn’t resist one last ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.  Again, there was NO line (people were lining up for the parade by now… it was dark) and just before we got in our boats, Kile found a family with a young boy and asked if they wanted the rest of our FastPasses.  They were very grateful and happy to get them.  I hope they were able to put them to good use!  We enjoyed what little we were able to do with them and I do kind of wish we had opted for the gift certificates instead.  Oh well. Live and learn!

Pirates was fun, as usual.  It’s a classic for a reason!  Next, we walked by the Jungle Cruise which the boys had done the night before and Kile insisted was AWESOME at night.  We decided to make that our LAST ride and hopped on board. It didn’t disappoint.  We had a very funny driver and I even remembered parts of the cruise from the last time I had been to Disney World, if you can believe it!

I wanted to try a Dole Whip, but the line was too long and by now Harry was REALLY shot so we just headed out.  It was hard to say goodbye to the Magic Kingdom but we vowed to return someday and this time, to do at least a WEEK there.  Because three days isn’t NEAR enough for all the parks.  Not even close.

We caught our bus and before we knew it, we were back at POFQ.  We stumbled up to our room and I think Harry was asleep before his head hit the pillow.  We had to pack up our bags some… they had to be ready to be picked up by the staff and put on the bus to the cruise ship by 8 am!   Yep, it was going to be yet another BIG day for the Porter family!

Coming up: We meet the Disney Wonder, in person!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 2

I didn’t have a chance to do a post yesterday, sadly.  We had to drive to Winnemucca to meet my in-laws and pick up our dogs from them.  It has been so weird to be without the dogs for two whole weeks!  They’re happy to be home and the drive wasn’t even that bad.  Helped me to get some knitting done at least!  But not so good for the posting.  So I’ll be getting to that now…

Friday, August 7

We were determined to get out of our room and to the parks at a reasonable hour this morning.   I didn’t take a shower, knowing that I would much rather have it mid-day when we came back to the room to recharge.  We loaded up the kids, grabbed some granola bars to munch on and got down to the bus station to catch the bus to Epcot.

We saw my brother and his family on the bus, which was nice.  They were headed for FastPasses at the Test Track and I thought maybe Harry and I would enjoy that too.  So we tagged along with them as we went through the bag check and admission gates and found our way to the Test Track ride.  Our fast passes weren’t for a couple hours yet so we had plenty of time to kill.  My brother’s family was headed to breakfast but we had decided we would rather do lunch in the park instead so we amused ourselves elsewhere.

We went to the World of Energy, or whatever it is called.  It was a ride/show with Ellen DeGeneres that was actually pretty funny and interesting.  I remembered it from my trip there all those many years ago.  Of course, Ellen wasn’t in it back then, but you get the idea.

It was already starting to get majorly hot and we needed to find a bathroom.  It took some wandering around but eventually we found it near a gift shop.  Then we headed over to the Living Seas and did the whole Nemo ride and checked out the aquariums and did Turtle Talk with Crush too, which was fun.  I thought it was cool how they had all the Nemo fish in the aquariums so the little ones were able to identify and get excited easily.  There were also dolphins and manatees and other cool stuff.  Plus, you know, air conditioned.  But, like most things at Disney, strollers weren’t allowed.  And while Liam could walk around on his own, Evie could not and I got tired of holding her.

We were all pretty hungry at this point, so we went next door to the Earth building (the name escapes me, I apologize) and found a big food court there.  We didn’t stay to look at anything or go on any rides.  We were kind of tired and thought maybe we should head back to the room at that point.  Harry and I had missed our FastPass time while having lunch and it was after 1pm.  On our way out, we stopped in a gift shop to browse around (and take some super cute pics of the kids wearing mouse ears).

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Evie's Ears

We also took some pictures of the most recognizable monument at Epcot: Spaceship Earth.  It was starting to cloud up, thank goodness.  I was beat and so were the kids.

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Spaceship Earth

Harry at Epcot

We caught the bus back to POFQ.  Harry was desperate to go in the pool so while the boys all went down there to have at it, Evie took her nap and I took a shower.  I also tried to get some knitting done but wasn’t able to get much accomplished.  Evie woke up before too long and I let her wander around the room.  It wasn’t long after that the boys returned.  We all got cleaned up and headed down to the boat dock to take the boat to the Port Orleans: Riverside resort up the river.   We were having dinner there that night to celebrate my parents’ 50th anniversary that is happening later this year.

Dinner at Boatwrights

We had to split into two tables because there were 19 of us and there just isn’t a table alive that could fit that many people (at least not in a restaurant this size).  Dinner was alright.  The food wasn’t that great, sadly.  And Evie had some serious ants in her pants.  She normally doesn’t act up at all in restaurants but she would not settle down that night.  Kile and I took a couple turns getting up with her so we could each eat.  But eventually I had to just leave.  I let her walk to her hearts content through the lobby of the resort and then strapped her in her stroller and went outside on the docks to look at the river, feel the sprinkles from the sky and people-watch.  Eventually, the boys met us outside and we decided to head back over to Epcot for the evening.  I really wanted to get to the World Showcase.

My wrist was starting to hurt very badly.  I wondered if maybe it wasn’t because of the knitting I had done earlier, but I think it was from NOT knitting so much.  It hurt SO badly that we stopped by the aid station on our way to the World Showcase to get some ibuprofen.  Then… Mexico!

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Liam had fallen asleep in his stroller (I think it was Liam… Evie?  One of them!) (or maybe both…) so I sat outside the pyramid on a bench and watched the world walk by while Kile and Harry went on the boat ride.  After that, we walked around the Showcase, and I took pictures of the different “countries” until I ran out of light.

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We stopped briefly in “Germany” because Harry needed to use the restroom.  The boys also checked out the Christmas shop there and Kile brought me back a glass of the most awesome wine.  Maybe it was awesome just because I NEEDED IT SO BAD.  But whatever.  I took it.   Then… more walking.  We had no time to actually DO anything, which I’m still sad about.  But at least we saw it.  Let me say it here first, folks:  Epcot takes TIME.  Days worth, even.

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Epcot at Dusk

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Aaaaannnnd… then it got too dark to take pictures.  I was using my iPhone too, so there wasn’t much to do about picture quality.  But with my wrist hurting, it was the best picture taking solution for the moment.

We continued on, past Great Britain and  ended up at Canada when we ran into other members of my family who were there for the fireworks show.  We planted ourselves on some benches and settled in to watch the show.

I didn’t have the best view, but best I could tell, they were trying to blow the whole place UP.  It was amazing to see.  I tried to get a picture but pictures just couldn’t do it justice…

Epcot Fireworks

It was all done over the lagoon and was loud and simply breathtaking.  Evie got a little freaked out, even, when the night before she hadn’t been upset at the Magic Kingdom fireworks at all.

Epcot closed down after that, which was a little surprising for a Friday night.  It was all good, we were planning to leave anyhow.  Kile and Harry were going to the Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom that night, from 11 to 2am!   Originally, I was going to go, but my wrist was still hurting so bad and I was just exhausted.  We took the crowded bus back to the POFQ.

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We got the little ones settled down and the boys left again.  I couldn’t have imagined it… I was rather happy to read some of my book and then go to sleep.  It would have been nice, but I was just plain tapped out at the moment.

The boys stayed the whole time, it sounds like.  Kile didn’t get many pictures, but he got a couple:

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Tiki Lounge

Yep, they did the Tiki Room!  They did a bunch of other rides too, though nothing too thrilling because Kile isn’t a roller coaster kind of guy.  Apparently, there were a LOT of people there.  Of course there were, it was a Friday night!  But it was cooler and the lines were shorter than during the day and the boys had a blast.  Kile even had a Dole Whip, damn him.    Mostly I’m just glad that they had fun.  The late night would take it’s toll though, especially on Harry.  The next day was our last day in the parks and there was a LOT to do!

Coming up: we finally get it right!

Disney Extravaganza: Day 1

There’s a lot to tell about our big trip.  So much that there is no way I could fit it all into one post.  So I’m going to do a post for each day and hopefully I’ll be able to get the whole thing out, do it justice, and not forget anything.  But as I said… there’s a lot.  Now that we’re home, I can’t quite believe that we did all this.  It truly was a dream come true.

Thursday, August 6

We woke up at my parent’s timeshare condo, where we’d crashed the night before.  It was in Kissimmee which is incredibly close to Disney World itself.  It was a really nice resort and condo and it’s a shame we didn’t have more time to enjoy it.  We had originally wanted to get up super early, head to the resort at Disney World (hereafter referred to as “WDW”, like all the pros do) and drop off our bags and hit the Magic Kingdom for their Extra Magic Hour.  But it soon became apparent that we were TIRED.  And we needed to kind of take a little extra time.  We had a little breakfast, cereal and donuts and bananas.  I stubbed my pinky toe HARD on the edge of the high chair and damn near crippled myself.  This little detail will become important later on.

We packed up the kids and the bags and tossed all of them into the rental car (a Dodge Charger!  Rawr!).  It was time to go see the Mouse.  It was around 9 am, if I remember correctly.  Not bad for being as tired as we were.

It wasn’t long before we saw this:

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I think once we saw that, we started getting REALLY excited.  Liam, I think, wasn’t quite sure what all was going on, but fed off our excitement.  We found our way to our resort, the Port Orleans French Quarter (hereafter referred to POFQ, for future reference).   It was small and nothing special but at that moment, it looked like the Taj Mahal.  I stayed in the car with the kids while Kile ran in to see about checking us in, leaving our bags and getting our passes for the parks so we could get to it.  While he was in there, I took a picture of the bus stop that we would come to know and love and use quite often.

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There were two stops there, the far one is the “A” station, which went to Magic Kingdom and… someplace else that I’ve sorta forgotten at the moment.  I wanna say Hollywood Studios.  The near station (which you can only see the corner of on the righthand side there) is the “B” station that went everywhere else (water parks, Epcot, Animal Kingdom).

The resort was more than happy to take our bags so we checked those in with the luggage people and then we were off.  We still wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom and had the rental car for several more hours.  I had the stupid idea of driving to Magic Kingdom rather than taking the bus.  You’ll find we make many mistakes on this trip, but these mistakes made us stronger and wiser.  But this was a key error on our part and I paid dearly for it later on.

We parked in the monstrous parking lot and waited for a tram with about a bazillion other people.  It was hot.  Did I mention it was hot?  IT WAS HOT.  The tram took us to the monorail and we rode that into the park.  We had our bags checked, used our passes to get in and… voila!  We walked down a very crowded Main Street until we saw a good view of the castle.

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And that is when Liam “got it”.  “Disney World!” he hollered, pointing excitedly.  We all felt it in that moment.  We were at Disney World!  Let the magic begin!  As we got closer to the castle, there was a show going on and we stopped to get our bearings.  And take a few pictures.

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Don’t we look like a happy bunch?  I promise, Harry is just wincing at the sun.  He’s not in pain or anything.  And me, I’m starting to hate life a little here.  The heat caught me totally unaware.  Also, notice I wore sneakers with socks.  Another grand mistake that I soon rectified.

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Liam is still obsessed with the castle.  Everytime we would pass it for the next several days he would shout, “Disney World!”  A big fan, that one is.

Kile left us at this point.  He needed to head back to return the rental car.  I know.  We had JUST gotten there!  But it takes so long to get from one place to another.  Taking the car to the park?  BAD IDEA.  Add it to the “mistakes” column!  It took him a goodly amount of time to get the monorail and tram back to the car, drive the car to the return place in Downtown Disney and then take a bus back to our resort.  He had planned to then come back to the Magic Kingdom via the bus.  But it took him SO long to just get back to the resort.  Taking the bus to the resort: mistake.  Should have taken the boat.  Boat is BETTER.  We were making mistakes right and left that morning!

It soon became apparent to those of us left at the Magic Kingdom, that there were too many babies in strollers and not enough pushers to do much of anything interesting other than stumble about looking for shade and a cool breeze.  Harry wanted to go on a ride, but everything had an obscene

line and I couldn’t go on anything with the babies.  We eventually decided on the Dumbo ride.  The line wasn’t too long and there was some shade for me to sit in while I waited.  I was able to keep an eye on Harry and sit and feel the sweat drip down my back at the same time.  Score!

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Harry is on one of those elephants, believe it or not.  He liked it, and felt better for having rode SOMETHING.  After he got off, I needed to change Evie and I knew there was a “baby care center” in the park that was supposed to be the bee’s knees.  Luckily, it was rather close so we headed over there.  I struggled with leaving the strollers outside (WDW hates strollers, and they aren’t allowed anywhere, just about) but eventually ditched them because the air conditioning inside won me over to the dark side.  I was able to change Evie, the kids could sit and watch some cartoons, I fed them some Teddy Grahams and we felt a bit better.

But we couldn’t stay there forever and eventually plunged ourselves back into the furnace.  I saw a nifty bird and took a picture.

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Little did I know, I would see dozens of these birds over the course of our stay.  What were they?  No clue.  But there were a lot of them.  And some of them were black.  Who knows.

We continued to stumble around, exploring.  We went through Adventureland, boggling at the lines for the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean.   I found a seat outside of a restaurant where we could feel a touch of air conditioning.  I was tired.  We were all hungry.  Tired.  HOT.  Miserable, basically.  Do you know what it’s like to be miserable in the Magic Kingdom on your first day there?  Very discouraging.  I got ahold of Kile and that’s when I found out he was close to getting back to the resort.  There was some hemming and hawing before I decided that we would head back to the resort ourselves.  I knew it would be hard to manage the kids and the strollers on the bus without Kile’s help, but staying in the park sounded AWFUL to me at that point.  I wanted lunch and someplace cool to sit.

As we were making out way out of the park, I stumbled a bit, stubbing my foot.  The same foot that I had smashed my pinky toe on earlier that day.  And OH MY SWEET JESUS, the pain.  I could hardly walk without limping, feeling the toe swell and throb inside that hot sneaker was just adding to my joy.  Getting on the bus was the goal though… and it was just as difficult as I imagined it would be.  Thankfully, a kind Samaritan helped me by getting one of the strollers on the bus for me.   The bus was blessedly air conditioned and the ride back to the resort felt awesome.  We got there, let Kile know we had arrived (he texted that our room was ready, just before 1pm… not bad!) and he told us he would come meet us.  We stumbled towards the resort entrance from the bus stop and at the same time we spotted Kile coming toward us, my dad and my brother Tom stepped off a car rental shuttle bus.  Great timing!

We all headed to our rooms together.  We were all on the third floor of building three.  We occupied a whole row of rooms, our room connecting to my sister and her families room.  I collapsed on the bed and didn’t want to ever move.  Even my hunger was eclipsed by my need for rest and cool air.  Harry, meanwhile, was desperate to go in the pool there at the resort.  We arranged for him to go down there with my brother.  I stayed in the room and took a shower.  I learned that day that I needed to just take a shower each afternoon or so to feel halfway human.  I felt like before that shower that I stunk worse than any human being has ever stunk.  I wanted to BURN my clothes.  It was awful.  The shower felt like HEAVEN.  I put new, clean, dry, non-smelly clothes on and felt like a new person.

With that taken care of, we had to go get something to eat.  We knew there was a McDonald’s, among other things, at Downtown Disney.  We decided to head over there.  The boat that shuttled back and forth was just down by the pool so we were able to easily hop on board and away we went.  That boat ride was wonderful, winding through the backwoods of the Vast Disney Compound, taking us directly to Downtown Disney which is sort of a mall-done-Disney-style.  It was still unbearably hot, but the sun had been obscured by clouds which was a blessing.  I grew to love clouds during our vacation (not that I didn’t love them before!).

It took us a while to find McDonald’s but we eventually got there, found a table in the crowded dining room and Kile fetched us some food.  Which I think I devoured in about 10 seconds.  The food did wonders for us.  Much like the shower had done, I felt like a new person.  I was re-energized.  No longer did my legs feel like jello and my head feel so dizzy.  Who knew that you needed to EAT to keep your energy up!  Lesson learned!

We browsed around a little after that, and explored the enormous “World of Disney” store which was like a regular Disney store on crack.  This place was roughly the size of a city block and was filled with every sort of Disney product you could ever hope to find.  We got Evie a stuffed Minnie Mouse and Liam a stuffed Lightning McQueen.  Both were huge hits right off the bat.

We headed back to the resort, since we figured Harry might be looking for us and we had spent several hours there.  We finally took an opportunity to take a few pictures.

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After we returned to our room, we met up with my sister and her family.  While the menfolk went down to the lobby to deal with checking in for the cruise (a debacle all in of its own), we caught up on news (she’s pregnant!!) and the kids played and got wild.  It was getting late though, and dinner was needed.  Patty wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom to eat and hang out.  I was admittedly nervous about going back, judging from my poor experience earlier.  I had even entertained the idea of staying in my room the remainder of our stay.  It was THAT bad.  But, it was cooler a tad and not as sunny so maybe not so bad.  We headed out on the bus, deciding to give it our best shot.

The ride from the resort the park was a piece of cake and I felt stupid for not doing it earlier in the day.  It was raining just a bit when we got there and it was downright pleasant.  I felt encouraged.

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We decided on a counter service restaurant in Liberty Square.  It happened to be right across from the Haunted Mansion and when we were done, I couldn’t help but notice there was NO line.  My sister’s family had been on that ride earlier in the day and they wanted to go through the castle so we agreed to meet up after we went on the ride.  We ditched the strollers, grabbed the kids, and went for it.  Liam got a little freaked out in the elevator, but the ride was just as fun as I remembered.  Harry enjoyed the ghost in our “doombuggy” at the end.

After that, we decided to go for Pirates of the Caribbean.  Again, there was NO line.   I decided that evening/night was the best time to be at the Magic Kingdom HANDS DOWN.  Of course, it was a Thursday night and I was sure it’d be busier on the weekend.   Still.  Less lines and cooler?  Sign me up!   The kids really enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean and I did too.  I hadn’t been on it since the changes were added after the movies came out so that was kinda nifty.

After that, it was parade time.  My sister and her family wanted to see the parade and it sounded like fun so we found a spot in front of the castle and set up camp.

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The parade was typical Disney magic.  I’m not generally one for parades but this was a good one to see.  And it was kinda fun watching the castle turn colors while we waited.  Afterward there was about a half hour until the fireworks so we decided to stick around and watch.  We killed time by going to the Monster’s Inc “Laugh Floor” in Tomorrowland and that was a lot of fun.  Evie was even picked out of the crowd for being a cute baby!  It was the perfect thing to do because just as we exited the theater, the fireworks were starting.  We found a spot nearby to watch from and I tried to take a couple pictures.

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The fireworks were spectacular.  Dare I say, they even brought a tear to my eye?  I feel like our vacation began that night… we were finally “getting it”.  It truly was magical and I’m SO glad we went back to the Magic Kingdom that night.

It wasn’t even that awful getting the bus back to the resort.  The bus was crowded but not excessively so and we managed well.  We arrived back at our room in good spirits.  And everyone transitioned nicely to their sleeping arrangements, thank goodness.  Evie was set up in a pack n’ play and Liam was in one of the double beds with Harrison, accompanied by a couple bedrails.  Evie was a little cold because dumb me forgot to pack her blanket.  I covered her with a towel but she was still cold in that air conditioned room.  Still, we slept like rocks that night.  All the better to rest up for the next day!

Coming up: Epcot!

A quick update from the Disney Extravaganza

I don’t have long, and I’m tapping this out on my phone which is always a pain in the butt. But I’m chilling (literally) in our air conditioned room while Evie naps and the boys are down at the pool. I wanted to share a couple observations of the trip so far:

* it’s hot
* lugging giant car seats through airports SUCKS and I have the bruises to show for it
* when I say hot, I mean REALLY hot
* it’s beautiful here
* our resort is perfect! Not terribly fancy but nce and has everything we need
* the Magic Kingdom totally redeemed itself last night after kicking my ass earlier in the day
* I now know for sure: I AM NOT MEANT FOR HOT WEATHER
* Downtown Disney is awesome… The perfect combination of outdoor mall and, well, Disney
* the “World of Disney” store is a MECCA of Disney crap. You could spend daaaaaays in that place.
* I’ve learned that I have no business in any theme park here after about 11am and before about 5:30-6pm.
* when your legs turn to jelly and you feel like passing out? Time to eat something.
* fireworks rock
* I’ve had so much fun and done so much and this trip isn’t even near half over yet. Amazing!
* everyone here is truly so nice!

Okay… I’m off to knit and then get ready for dinner with the whole fam later on. Tomorrow: a character breakfast and our 11 year anniversary! Woot!

The Belly of the Beast

We’re getting down to the wire around here.  Saturday ended up being kind of a wash, but Sunday was spent making last minute errands around town for a few things we want or need to have before we leave for our trip.  Now that it’s close, the days are flying by.  Wednesday will be here before you know it.  And whenever I even so much as THINK about it, my stomach starts to hurt.

I’m definitely nervous.  Definitely excited.  Definitely nervous.

Wednesday will be a struggle but I am determined to enjoy it as best I can.  What’s enjoyable about flying across country with two toddlers?  I hope to have an answer for that after this trip is over.  I hope for naps.  Nice, long, peaceful naps.  I hope for short lines at airport security and a simple-ish way to cart two heavier than hell carseats through two airports… one of which I know my way around and the other… well… not so much.  I hope for a hassle-free car rental.  I hope for easy directions (in the dark!) to the condo we’re staying the night in.  I hope for children who will be so exhausted from the trip (even though they slept the whole way) that they’ll sleep like angels despite the unfamiliar conditions.

I hope for a lot, apparently.

In the meantime, I hope for packing wisdom.  I’ve not done so well with that so far, sadly.  My method of packing has involved tossing garments at the respective suitcases.  Also, I have been wondering where half of my clothes went.  I don’t have the heart to tell myself that this is all I’ve got.  Whoops.

Bathing suits, sunscreen, shorts, t-shirts… it’s all swimming in my head.

Don’t forget the passports!  Don’t forget the iPhone chargers!  Don’t forget the camera!  Batteries!  Memory cards!

Ugh.

And, wouldn’t you know it, Evie won’t nap.

There’s so much to remember that I’m sure I’ll forget it.   In the meantime… I have a headache.  Help?

Maybe I need a vacation from my vacation, huh?

I’ll try to post tomorrow but… the way things are going, I’m not going to count on it.  If you don’t hear from me before then, I’ll be back on the 14th or so.  Don’t miss me too much!