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Disney Junior Character Breakfast

Monday, October 26, 2015
Much to our surprise, our cruise had a Disney Junior character breakfast option. This was new since the last time we were on the Fantasy two years ago. And it was totally free. All you had to do was go get tickets (first come first serve) on embarkation day.

Our breakfast day was the first day at sea. They had lots of kid friendly and yummy breakfast options. Perry went for the Meeska Mouska Mickey Waffle. And while we ate some of our favorite Disney Junior characters came around to visit.

The breakfast was in Animator's Palate, our all time favorite dining venue on the high seas. It is so colorful and fun.

We were nearly done eating when the characters made it to our table. Which was nice actually. Perry waited somewhat patiently while he watched them make their way around the room. Ha.

It was a great way to kick off a sea day! You may notice that Jake in the above picture is signing a photo matte. One of the negative changes in Disney procedure since we cruised last was they took away the ability to drop off items at the front desk to have signed by characters over the course of the week. On our last cruise we dropped off a matte and got it back the last night with all kinds of signatures on it. Apparently lots of people were doing that and it was just getting out of control.

We wanted a matte from this trip too, so we can do a kind of collage on a wall upstairs, so this time we had to do it ourselves. So we carried around a matte and silver sharpie everywhere we went, until we got it all filled up. It wasn't terrible...and I kind of like that I had control over which signatures we got.

Formal Night Fun

Sunday, October 25, 2015
I wanted to share some of our pictures and fun from formal night on the cruise. We love getting dressed up and cruises are a fun excuse. Perry has gotten several other lives out of his ring bearer outfit from Caroline's wedding this summer.

Humans were not the only ones dressed up. The characters were all out in their finest formal wear as well. We met the girls (Minnie and Daisy) all gussied up. And then literally bumped into Pluto while walking around ship. 

Other best thing about formal night? It's the night lobster is on the menu. Which makes this girl pretty happy. And on a cruise ship the waiter does all the work de-shelling it for you...pretty much does everything except actually putting it in your mouth. Winning.

Afterwards we did a little post-dinner dancing. Lots of the characters came and danced as well. Perry loved all the dance parties on board. Every time we walked past D-Lounge he asked if we could go to the "dance party." We had so much fun dancing with our little boy.

Halloween on the High Seas

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Across the Disney fleet, cruises in September and October celebrate Halloween on the High Seas. One of the nights everyone (including our favorite Disney character friends) get dressed up in their costumes and party.

A lot of the early evening was spent meeting the characters all dressed up. They were all so cute. While P was napping mommy went wandering around and met Chip and Dale and Jack and Sally.

We decided a long time ago that Perry would be Peter Pan this year. I searched for and ordered a precious Peter Pan costume for him on Etsy. Andrew and I wanted to coordinate so we dressed up as Captain Hook and Mr. Smee respectively.  The costumes were really quite easy to toss together including a DIY Cap'n Hook vest made of a cheap red t-shirt, ribbon and some fabric glue.

It was a day we were in port but we got back on the boat early, so we lucked out and got to meet characters before the crowds showed up for the evening. We met pretty much everyone before dinner.

They had a whole Mousequerade party happening in the atrium all night with trick or treating, games and a dance party. It was fun. But oh so crowded.

The best part of the night though was the moments that followed the photo above. Characters were out dancing and Perry approached super hero Donald. He noticed him and put out his hands and danced with our little guy for a while. It was so cute. I wish blogs had a way to show video...because I was too busy recording it to take photos. When they finished the ditty, the look on Perry's face said "did you see that? I just danced with Donald and this is the best day ever."

Later that night to get away from the crowds we headed up to the top deck outside and played a little putt putt golf in our costumes. It was a great way to end the evening.

Disney knows how to do Halloween. On the High Seas.

Grand Cayman and Stingray City

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Our other island stop was Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. I was so excited to take Perry to the Caymans. The Caymans have a special place in my heart. I went there as a preschooler with my family. I remember going to Stingray City (though I was too scared to get off the boat and into the ray infused water) and being taught to crack coconuts with my grandfather. We have visited the islands a couple other times, once in college with my grandmother and then again a couple years ago as a couple. Perry was there that time in utero. And we took a picture of "we're pregnant" written in the sand to announce our news.

We didn't dock in the Caymans until mid morning so we had some time on the boat first thing. We went to D-Lounge and woke up with some songs and dance to our favorite Disney Junior tunes. Goofy even came to join in on the dancing fun.

Our excursion was booked apart from the official cruise line excursions because 1) we are comfortable navigating in the Cayman Islands and 2) we wanted to go to Stingray City and the official excursions would not allow children as young as Perry to do it. If you book directly with a private company though there is no age restriction.

The company was Moby Dick tours and they were great. It was a small group and small boat, only like 10-15 people compared with the 75-100 on the big "official excursion" boats. The downside of the small boat was that it was raining and there was not a lot of covering and moving quickly through the water the rain was kind of pelting us in the face on the way out to the reef. It was pretty miserable there for a few minutes by no fault of anyone but mother nature.

Thankfully the rain quit and the sun came out while we were at the reef and the rest of the excursion and boat ride was glorious. We stopped first at the barrier reef for some snorkeling with fish. I didn't think P would want to get out there in the deep water and with a life vest on (which is a part he did not love) but he didn't want to be left out.

Then we took the short boat ride over to Stingray City. Stingrays have been coming there for ages to feast and let humans pet them. What is great is that it is a sandbar so you can stand feet on the ground and interact with them. Meant we could easily hold Perry and no need for bulky life vests. Have to do the stingray shuffle though with your feet to keep from stepping on one. Perry now knows that Stingray boys are smaller than girls and that they eat squid. How many 2 year olds know that?

The excursion took about 3 hours and it was great. Before we left on our excursion that morning (and got soaked by rain and sea water) we got some good pictures from the pier in front of our boat. Big cruise ships are too large to dock at the pier so you have to take smaller tender boats from the ship to shore.

The Cayman Islands did not disappoint. Maybe someday we will get back there for more than just a few hours.

Dolphin Cove: Jamaica

Sunday, October 18, 2015
The rest of our Jamaica day was spent at Dolphin Cove. A undeniably tourist driven place where you can interact with Dolphins and lots of other creatures as well as swim, shop, and eat.

Our excursion included a Dolphin meet experience, a guided tour around the grounds and lunch. Our excursion guide for the day was awesome. She was very much a mother hen leading us around and telling us what to do and what not to do. She was careful to keep us from getting taken advantage of (i.e. "repeat after me, do not pay for this until you are given the merchandise").

We didn't swim with the dolphins (P is just a tad young for that), but we got to stand on a platform in knee deep water and touch and get kissed by them. Our dolphin's name was Mitch and he was the lone male of the group. He was big and could jump really high.

We each got turns kissing the dolphin and then watched him do all kinds of tricks.

After the dolphins we went on a little walk along a trail into the woods where we got to meet, and hold, some tropical birds. Perry got a kick out of birds sitting on mom and dad's head and shoulder. Then we got a buffet lunch and had some chill out time on the beach. We met a nice family with two young girls who were pretty smitten by Perry, and the mom was a fellow DG, so we sat and chatted with them a while watching the kids play and hunt for treasure in the sand.

Then it was time to head back to the bus and back to our Mickey boat. Most of the bus passengers (including P) slept the trip back. We had been gone for 7+ hours and were all worn out. And had a big night of pirate partying ahead.

Hiking Dunns River Falls

Friday, October 16, 2015
The first day of the trip that we got off the boat was in Falmouth, Jamaica. We had never been to Jamaica so it was fun to explore a new place. We definitely wanted an excursion booked through the cruise line to decrease the likelihood of sketchiness and getting lost. After reading all the options we settled on a full day adventure that took us on a bus ride across the island to hike up Dunn's River Falls and then to nearby Dolphin cove for some dolphin kisses and other fun.

It was the best day. First off we had a great guide who told us all about the Island as we drove around. Now we fully expected that when we were at the falls that either myself or Andrew would have to sit out with Perry and watch while everyone else hiked the falls. Perry did not meet the height requirement. But when we asked the tour guide about it she said "no he can do problem." I guess nothing really is a problem in Jamaica.

Dunn's River Falls is a famous waterfall that stands 180 feet high and 600 feet long. Water rushes over the rocks and empties into the Caribbean Sea. We had a guide that led the way up the falls helping us out in the particularly treacherous parts.

Perry loved it. We carried him a little, but for most of the hike he walked holding our hands. We were so glad we were willing to give it a try with him because it was one of the best memories from the trip. I mean how many two year olds can say they have done that.

We had an absolute blast. There were rock slides and ledges to jump/fall off of into the water and pools of standing water to play in. You could spend the better part of a day just sitting and playing in the water.

We learned a lesson during this little excursion though - about how you are in control of how you handle and react to situations. Another family on our same tour had a miserable day. They had almost the same experience that we did. They had a child who probably should have been too young to do the falls but were given the opportunity to take her. Instead of either choosing still to not participate with the little one, or taking it as a happy surprise and jumping in and doing it...the mother spent the entire excursion pouting and complaining that she didn't want to be there and thought she would get to sit out with the preschooler (who by the way was having the time of her life). She was just a bundle of joy. We tried our best to tune out the negativity, but talked later about how it is up to you to be happy, not the responsibility of your circumstances or the people around you. 

After we finished with the falls we jumped back on our bus for a super quick ride over to Dolphin Cove for phase two of our Jamaican day. 

Sea Days

Thursday, October 15, 2015
We had two official sea days on this cruise: days 2 and 6. We created an extra sea day for ourselves by choosing not to get off the boat when we docked at Cozumel. We had just been there in April and it is just not our favorite place. So we took advantage of playing an empty boat (hello repeated Aquaduck rides).

Days were spent at a little slower pace. One morning we decided to just eat breakfast in our room/balcony and order room service. Best thing ever. After we carb loaded with a view, I went and ran my carbs off on the treadmill while the boys went and played. The picture in the middle below is the view from the aforementioned treadmill. I could get used to that.

The pool deck is awesome. Lots of room to sit and watch TV or swim or eat. Or all of the above. Like most cruise lines they have unlimited soft serve ice cream up by the pools.

They had wake up dance parties for the preschool aged kids. I think they figure that preschoolers all wake up early anyway. Not ours. We had to wake him for such experiences. But once he got there and was dancing with the other kids and Goofy, he was doing just fine.

We met a lot of characters on the cruise. And the sea days had some of the special events like the Anna & Elsa meet and princess gathering. Perry loved the frozen girls. He didn't really know who any of the more traditional princesses were (which I am ok with) so he was a little more standoff-ish with them.

During naptime we would take turns going and exploring the boat while the other stayed in with P. One day when I went exploring I stumbled upon Goofy up on his sports deck playing some putt-putt.

We also met Jake on the last sea day. Perry loved him.

Isn't P cute in his semi-formal wear (below). We often had a lag between dinner and the evening entertainment since we had early dinner and well toddlers eat quickly. Made for a good time to snap a few pictures.

The pumpkin tree bloomed throughout the week. Looking good Mr. Pumpkin tree. That is just a tiny little bit of how we spent our days at sea. Take home message is we had a blast.

Anchors Aweigh

Monday, October 12, 2015
Embarkation Day

We flew down to Florida the night before the cruise. Perry is finally big enough for his own seat on the plane which costs more but is certainly nice to have extra space for him to sit and put stuff. He watched TV on the iPad the whole flight and did great. When we got to the Orlando airport there was a gentleman waiting for us with our name on a placard. I scheduled a car service ahead of time to take us to our hotel at the port. It is an hour or so drive so it was nice to be in a comfortable car and it was not all that terribly expensive. And it was a fun way to start the trip feeling fancy.

We stayed the night before the cruise at the Radisson Resort at the Port. I have so many memories from this hotel staying there when I was a kid and my mom was on business trips to Kennedy Space Center. It had the coolest pool to my little childhood self. So it was neat seeing it again, though we had no time to enjoy the pool. The most important thing was that it was a mile or two from the cruise terminal and had a shuttle.

We were on the first shuttle of the day and made it to the cruise terminal well before noon. Getting on board was a breeze and before we knew it we were exploring the ship and sitting down in the Cabanas buffet having meal number one.

While we sat and ate, we were reading over the daily Navigator (schedule and news) and realized that they were in the middle of distributing tickets for some special events (Disney Junior character breakfast, Elsa and Anna meet, and a princess meet). So we promptly put down our forks and headed that way. The tickets were all given out that first afternoon until they ran out. So glad we happened to see it. Note if you are going on a Disney cruise soon - check the day one navigator ASAP.

I will say that overall the daily schedules and navigators were quite different from the ones I pulled offline from a similar cruise last year. I had stalked them ahead of time...because I am OCD...and tried to plan out our days. It was helpful but it was definitely not identical.

The rest of the first afternoon was spent exploring the boat and meeting Goofy and Captain Mickey. As said previously, Perry was all about some Mickey Mouse this trip.

Our rooms were ready early afternoon and we couldn't wait to go unload our carry on bags and see our home away from home for the next week. All cruise ship rooms are on the cozy side, but we had plenty of room and remembered instantly some of the things we love about Disney cruise rooms in divider curtains and two bathrooms. We had a balcony which provided some nice extra space for eating room service breakfast and hanging out while P napped some afternoons. We also immediately hung up our Fish Extender hanger outside our door so our cruise friends could have a place to leave us presents. If that sentence made no sense to you....Fish Extender is this crazy thing people do on Disney cruises where they organize themselves into a sort of "secret santa" group where everyone in the group brings and exchanges small gifts. It is called Fish Extender because the pockets you hang (either DIY or ordered on Etsy) hang from a hook shaped like a Fish outside your door. We were in a small group of only 8 families so it was not too big of a burden and was really fun.

We played a little while in the kids clubs. Perry being 2 years old was still too young for the official kids clubs (which start at 3). But he was totally big enough to enjoy playing in them. So we took advantage of open house times when we could go in and play with him.

We sailed away from port about 5 pm. There is a big sail away party on the pool deck to celebrate complete with songs and dancing characters. Gets you pumped for a fun week ahead.

After we sailed off into the sunset we headed down to dinner in the dining room and met our awesome wait staff for the week. We ended up having pretty sketchy table mates (as in they only came to dinner one night the whole time) so we had the table to ourselves and Perry quickly had the assistant waiter wrapped around his little finger.

The first night ended with story time in the atrium where we learned the history behind the barren pumpkin tree that stood there. If Disney does one thing really well it is telling stories. We helped bring the tree to life and were instructed to watch and see if it would start blooming pumpkins.

If Perry looks a little dazed in those last pictures it was because he was. He got no nap due to all the day's activities and was really ready to head to bed. He was a trooper though, all week when we had to be woken up to go have fun. At one point I woke him up and said we had to get ready and go meet Elsa and which he rolled over and replied "later." You know a kid is tired when that doesn't even entice them (we got him up anyway).

It was a fun first day aboard the Disney Fantasy!

Ahoy Captain Mickey

Sunday, October 11, 2015
Fall 2015 Disney Cruise Recap

Buckle up. I am going to attempt to cover our recent Disney cruise over the next week or so here on the blog. As I sit here and wonder where to even start in tackling the thousands of pictures and hundreds of stories I am going to start with some overview of the trip and kind of a highlight reel of some of our favorite moments.

We were gone from home for a total of 10 nights. It was glorious to lock up the house, turn on the out of office email reply and just focus on family and play time for a week and a half. We flew down to Orlando late on a Friday evening and got a car service to a hotel in Cape Canaveral near the port. That way we could be up and to the cruise terminal early on embarkation day and get the cruise vacation started.

The cruise was 7 nights in the Western Caribbean with stops in Cozumel (spoiler alert we didn't get off the boat this day), Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Castaway Cay (Disney's private island) and a few days at sea.

After the cruise we went over to Walt Disney World for two nights at the newly renovated Polynesian Village Resort and played a little more at Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom and did a few really special things like a fireworks cruise and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Whew.

It was a spectacular trip full of Disney magic and lots of Halloween fun. Here is just a super small snapshot of some of the sights and experiences from the trip. Scroll down for descriptions. So much more to come!

1. We didn't waste any time once on board finding the mouse captain for a picture. Perry loved Mickey Mouse. He was always asking where he was and wanted to meet him over and over.

2. It was a Halloween cruise and the ship had been completely made over with lots of Halloween details and decor. Port holes had jackolanterns and spider web clings on them and the most prominent Halloween decoration was the massive Pumpkin tree in the atrium. It bloomed pumpkins throughout the week.

3. Perry is Peter Pan for Halloween this year. One of our favorite moments was when Perry got to meet Peter, dressed as Peter. Peter taught him about finding your shadows and how to stand with your arms crossed.

4. We hiked up a waterfall. All three of us. Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica is 600 ft long and 180 feet high and we got a guided tour up through the rushing waters. By the rules Perry was too little to do it and we planned for one of us to sit out, but when we got there the guide looked at us and said "oh no...he can do problem." He did. And it was a blast.

5. Sea days were spent playing at the pool and splash area, eating and watching movies up on the giant outdoor screen. Potentially all at the same time.

6. We swam with stingrays in the Cayman Islands.

7. Castaway Cay is a little piece of perfect paradise. We laugh and say we would go on a cruise that only goes there. The trip was made when we were walking down the sidewalk and stumbled upon a certain warm hug loving snowman. You can't meet him just anywhere.

8. Semi-formal night and killing time taking pictures between dinner and the show.

9. We had some adult time too. Perry spent a few hours in the nursery so we could go and dine in the fancy restaurants without having to have discussions about whether he will eat one more bite of chicken nugget or macaroni.

10. We had so much fun on our "Mickey boat" as Perry called it. One morning when I woke him up (because we had to wake him...every single day) and pulled the curtains open to the balcony, Perry stood up and looked out and said "Mommy, I love this boat." Heart melted. He continues to ask where our Mickey boat is and when we can go back. Hmmmm....

Happy 1st Birthday Hadley

Jay and Reagan's little girl Hadley turned one yesterday. Can't believe it is here already...seems like yesterday she was a newborn. She had a party last weekend full of pink and ruffles. Reagan did such an awesome job putting it together. It was girly and sweet. Just like Hadley. So happy we were in town (which is nothing short of a miracle these days) and got to celebrate with her.

Happy Birthday sweet girl!

Pumpkin Picking

Saturday, October 10, 2015
Fall is in the air and a free Saturday had to include a family outing to the pumpkin patch. We love Tate Farm and make a pilgrimage there every fall to play and get our pumpkins. Perry had so much fun today. He jumped on the big "jumping pillow" (with mommy and daddy because he is a cautious little guy), petted the animals, climbed on the playgrounds and helped reorganize the piles of pumpkins.

P was in a happy mood and totally compliant with pictures which was so nice. We all just had fun playing together. We ate lunch out there and picked out a few pumpkins to bring home with us. One big one to carve into a Jake-o-lantern (Jake...and the neverland pirates...get it? And now that I said it here...Andrew you are committed to it. :)

It was a perfect fall Saturday. Welcome autumn. We are so glad to see you!

2 Year Old School Picture

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
I have been completely neglectful of this poor blog the last couple of weeks. I really wondered if the blogger interface would have virtual cobwebs when i logged into it today. Between work travel, an amazing vacation and everything else recently I just haven't been able to fit in time to write and post photos. Not for lack of fodder. I just finished organizing the 3000 photos that were taken on said vacation. Thankfully for you there is a hefty step of filtering to be done before they get posted. I also realized that I only got about 1/3 the way through our summer Europe trip on the blog and need to go back and play catch up there too. We will get there.

To start with low hanging fruit, P had his 2 year old school pictures taken a couple weeks ago. I generally feel like P is photographed quite enough and don't feel the need to purchase school pictures. So I just snap a photo of the proof and call it a day. For posterity sake: here is P's 2 year old fall school picture. 

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