Puerto Vallarta Paradise

So our fourth day on the cruise was our first day ashore. Our first port stop on this adventure was Puerto Vallarta and it is an incredible destination completely opposite of Cabo San Lucas. When you port in Puerto Vallarta, you go immediately on land instead of having to use tender boats like in Cabo San Lucas. With that however, you are met with views of a shopping mall, a Wal-Mart and other high-rise apartment buildings. It doesn't quite feel like a tropical destination, but the weather was really warm and humid and the palm trees really set the ambiance of the city.

Last year my DH and I did the port excursion of visiting Las Caletas with the tour company the ship uses, Vallarta Adventures. (We actually saved about $15 by booking directly with the company ahead of time instead of on board). The excursion to Las Caletas was about $85 per person and while we loved it last year, we decided not to spend any money on excursions this year.

Instead, we decided to leisurely walk the 4-mile stretch of beautiful, warm beach from our ship to the downtown shopping area of the Malecon. The Malecon is their "main street" center of commerce with stores, restaurants, and plenty of beachfront views. I regret to not have any photos from this day because I left my camera on the ship (didn't actually realize our quick trip to the beach would end up being 4 miles!), so I will do my best to describe the scenery to you.

It was a very hot and humid day and we were thirsty after our walk which took us about an hour and a half one way. We were really excited to stumble upon a beautiful oceanfront restaurant called Punto V (which is apparently a night club at night but by day they have beautiful seats and tables that sit and overlook the ocean). We stopped because they had us at "two drinks for $2." Okay.

We munched on fresh salsa and guacamole, relaxed with some ice cold drinks and relished the fact that we were truly vacationing in Mexico.

Thankfully T.Love let us hail a cab back to the ship, and after successfully avoiding the sales hounds at Diamonds International (don't get me started), we paid $6 for a 15 minute ride in a comfortable taxi. T speaks Spanish and always engages our drivers in conversations when we're traveling in any Latin country, and you'd be surprised by the kinds of information we learn from them! (Plus I think they appreciate that someone is actually going out of their way to have a conversation with them in their native language). Our taxi driver told us that he had a throat tumor but he apparently staved off the growth by drinking a liter of something called "guanabana juice" every day for the past five years since he can't afford health insurance. He seemed to swear by it and had a huge bottle full of the juice that he said he got at his local health food store. He seemed healthy enough to me! I had never heard of it before, but he was happy to inform us of it and its affect on his life. He also told us that he has been a taxi driver in PV for over 25 years and wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

After our little jaunt downtown we went back for yet another nap and refresher before we had our own dinner reservation at Palo that night. As much as I loved our long walk on the beach, our lunch downtown and our afternoon nap, I was really excited to go to Cabo San Lucas the next day because it was home to my absolute favorite hotel-- the Sirena Del Mar, which we would be visiting all day. More on that later!

Our Palo dinner that night was really nice but I have to be honest-- I actually preferred brunch more than dinner and wished that we had two brunches instead of a brunch and a dinner. However, I know that if someone had told me that, I probably wouldn't have believed them and would have wanted to experience dinner myself to make that decision. In the future, I know I will definitely just make brunch reservations because the other unfortunate thing is that we missed a big dinner performance at Animator's Palate and time with our table mates because of our night at Palo. I would prefer not to miss any dinners on our cruise on the next one because there is always something going on. Also-- breakfasts on the ship leave little to be desired unfortunately and I would gladly miss breakfasts on board for a brunch instead.

Anyway, after Palo we saw the stage production of Toy Story and while it was really cute, it wasn't anything to write home about. It was definitely geared more towards kids, and it was probably my least favorite show on board.

We went back to our room around 10pm and fell asleep yet again to the sounds of Disney movies, ceiling creaks and our hangers swaying side to side with the rocking of the ship... sigh. 

Next up: Infinity Pool Bliss in Cabo


Brunch + Pure Laziness

Ohhhhh I am still drooling over our Palo brunch. I don't want to jump ahead of the story but I'm pretty sure that was the most amazing meal I've ever had in my life. (and I'm not speaking in hyperbole... for once.)

So Tuesday morning (cruise day three) was simply fabulous. We woke up around 8am with sunlight pouring through our balcony, walked out on our verandah and were met with warm, humid air. I missed the sun SO much and loved the feeling of heat and salt water on my skin. I was also really excited because we had our first "adults only" breakfast up at Palo scheduled for 10:00am.

Before brunch, we decided to get our blood pumping and go for a run out on the main deck which is an awesome experience that I highly recommend while at sea. With the ship moving, the wind blowing, the sun shining, exercise out there just feels sooooo good. Anyway, I digress.

So after our run, we got ready and dressed up for our brunch. Palo is the adults-only restaurant on the top deck of the ship, and it's a really beautiful restaurant that Disney pulled out all of the stops for. Since Disney is essentially synonymous with kids, they wanted to create a space for people only 18 to have some rest and reprieve away from all of the kids. Palo is one of those places and a must-do for any adults sailing with Disney.

Soooo.... onto Palo.

We were immediately greeted by our server who seemed incredibly excited to host us. Obviously she had served hundreds of people, but she made us feel like we were her very first guests ever. She was excited about everything, from our drinks to the view to taking us on a tour of the restaurant. Her name was Mariana, and if ever you happen to sail on the Wonder in the near future or for any reason, you should absolutely request her! She has worked on the ship for eight years. She took us around to all of the food stations, introduced all of the various items to us, and told us to "relax for the next two hours, because we were in the best place on board."

Just a sampling of our food from brunch:

Timothy's caviar...

After brunch, we rolled ourselves out of Palo and took a long and necessary nap. Necessary because, well, we never get to nap and even though it was highly indulgent and lazy, it was absolutely fabulous.

After our nap we decided to pour some glasses of wine, order room service and read books on our patio for another two hours or so. It was the most deliciously lazy and ridiculous day... and probably my favorite one of the cruise. I knew that the next three days were going to be busy because of the fact that we would be in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo and wouldn't be sleeping in or taking naps.

Deck indulgence:

Laziness was the theme of this day... we didn't even go to the evening show which was a hypnotist I believe. We watched movies in our stateroom, finished the books we had started in the morning and just rested....

I highly recommend a full day of turning clocks off, eating, napping and reading... and not even caring about it. THAT's what vacationing is all about.

That night, we had dinner at Triton's (french-themed restaurant on board), and we were the only couple at the table because everyone else at our dining table was eating at Palo for dinner that night. Because of that, we had full attention from our servers-- Eddie and Raka. We loved getting to know them better-- those Disney cruise ship crew members sure work hard. Eddie told us that his mortgage in The Phillippines was only $31,000 and that he will have it paid off in two years from working on the cruise ship!

Anyway... sorry for the boring update/posting, but it was just pure, fabulous bliss with not a whole lot of excitement involved. I highly recommend those days once in awhile. 

Next up: Long walks on the beach... in Puerto Vallarta!

Formal Night & the Golden Mickeys

So after our fabulous tour ended, we headed back to our room to get ready for The Golden Mickeys evening performance. It was SO GOOD! I'll admit. I teared up a bit. I LOVED feeling like a kid again and seeing all of my favorite Disney characters and movies up on stage. It took me back to such a special time in my childhood when I was just simple-minded and definitely caught me up in the magic of it all. It sounds pretty cheesy, but I let myself be "ageless" on this trip and just relish the awe that Disney brings. (Yes, you can mock me.) Timothy looked at me a little funny when he saw me tearing up over the Golden Mickeys, but after the cruise was over, he eventually got it. If you've grown up with Disney, you know what I'm talking about.

It was also formal night on the cruise that night meaning it was time to put on our best clothes and mingle with the crew. I was super impressed with the fact that SO many families dressed up for formal night. During our cruise last year, we felt overdressed on formal night because many families believed that khakis and skirts were formal and not cocktail dresses or dress coats. We wanted to go all out, and we weren't alone for sure! They had complimentary cocktails in the lobby and lots of photo opportunities with characters and cast members also dressed to the nines.

Here is a picture of us on formal night with our captain of the ship, Thord Haugen.

(My hair had issues this trip so I didn't really go all out hair-wise...!

After the show, the juggler, Ivan Pecel, was doing another family show in the WaveBands where we watched him juggle a kid (no joke), as well as other things like 6 bouncing balls at the same time! He was incredibly talented. I highly recommend checking out his stuff online if you can. I think he has a Youtube page.

Wavebands at night:

(It's red in there because the only lights were red...)

After the show we finally made it to dinner for the first time. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, we were on a dining rotation so we missed the restaurant, Parrot Cay, the first night (as well as all the meet-n-greets with our servers and table-mates). This night, we were at a place called Triton's and got to meet our table mates and our fabulous servers, Eddie and Raka. Disney did an amazing job and paired us with three other "kidless" couples around our same age range. That made SUCH a huge difference for us! It was great having things in common with people and we became fast friends with one couple in particular during the cruise. Disney is just all about the details for sure!

I also don't really remember what I ate each night... but I will say that I ate a lot of steak and it was all amazing, AND, if I wanted to try multiple items including soups, apps and salads, Raka just brought out one of everything to sample! I highly recommend that route... even if you don't end up eating everything. Like he said, "it all has to get used up before the cruise is over anyway, so you might as well try it!"

Dining became one of my favorite things to do on board, even though it was hard for me to wait until 8:15 every night to eat. I loved taking my time leisurely through the meals and then enjoying dessert and coffee with friends until closing time. It was so relaxing and those dinners provided a lot of memories for all of us. Plus, I loved having our servers follow us around because we got to know them really well over the course of the week also.

After we said our good-byes around 10:15pm, we headed back to our room because I am a total party-pooper and can't stay out past 11pm anymore. Our friends went out for the late-night adult entertainment options, but sadly I couldn't muster the stamina. If you are into that kind of thing and staying up late, there are TONS of options for adults to do after dinner.

Upon coming back to our room each night, we always had a navigator, chocolate and an animal to look forward to. One of my favorite nightly "rituals" was to wash my face, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed with a Navigator (the daily agenda) and a highlighter, planning out the next day's adventures.

Up next: Morning run and brunch at Palo!


Sunshine, Sleeping in and Ship Tours

So where did I leave off...

Day 3 of vacation, day 2 of the ship:

Oh yes. The next morning. SO much better than the night before! Once the ship cleared Los Angeles and San Diego, the waters were much calmer and everyone seemed to get their sea legs back. My appetite was in full force and I was ready for my vacation to start!

We awoke with our curtains open and the sunlight pouring into our cabin. Breakfast was typically offered one of three places on the ship: Triton's, Beach Blanket Buffet and Parrot Cay. We decided that since we missed dinner the night before, we would start our dining off with a bang and join 8:30am breakfast at Triton's the next morning. This is where my feedback to Disney goes a little south. Besides our experience at Palo's, we never had a good breakfast on the ship. This is okay for us because we are not huge breakfast people anyway, but breakfast was so mediocre that it just became a way to take away the hunger pangs but not a lingering, enjoyable experience for us (unlike the other meals the ship offered).

Here is a picture of me at breakfast that morning-- fully recovered from seasickness (but still looking a little green). Hooray!

One of the best things about the cruise (and also unfortunate when you think about it!) was that there was SO much to do while on board. I say unfortunate because part of me wanted to experience everything there was to do on the ship every hour, and part of me wanted to just sit back, lay out and relax with a good book for 90% of my time onboard. Timothy and I settled on a happy medium between the two.

After breakfast that morning, we decided that we were going to go on a full exploration of every area on the ship, so we found the gift shops

and perused their goods (and also bought a bathing suit because stupid rushed packing mistake #2 on my part was that I forgot my bathing suit- ugh), discovered the movie theatre, sat up by the quiet pool and then found our way back to Wave Bands for a little bingo action at 11:00. I normally LOVE cruise ship bingo (and ironically never win), but Disney's bingo buy-in prices were SO expensive compared to other ships that we didn't indulge this time. Minimum was $30 and it went up to $60. I couldn't justify losing that much money in one single go (at least draw it out of me in the slot machines or something--lol), so we just sat and watched the competition for an hour or so. There was some schadenfreud involved as we watched people drop tons of cash on bingo computers and then subsequently lose it all. Ouch. It made me want to stay out of bingo for the entire trip (which I did-- hooray!).

After bingo, we decided to head back to our verandah for some room service and quiet time because-- surprise!-- the sun was finally out. Ahhhh... glorious sun. We Oregonians had missed you so badly!! I forgot what healthy heat felt like on my pale skin. It was quiet marvelous.

After some delightful reading and vitamin D, we decided to embark on an "Art of the Ship" tour, to go around and hear the behind-the-scenes details of the specific and intentional design ideas that went into both the Wonder and the Magic. I HIGHLY recommend going on this tour if you ever sail with Disney. We met on deck 10 in a small group and it was led by a fabulous entertainment host named Sophie.

We first learned the history of the adults-only restaurant Palo, which means 'pole' in Italian. It got its name because the Wonder was crafted and built in Venice, and Venice is marked by several various gondola poles. In Palo, there are many different authentic Venetian masks and poles all around, which makes sense as to why the restaurant's primary cuisine is Northern Italian influence!

After that, we headed down to deck 5 and Sophie asked us to count how many different types of carpet we saw on the way down. This wasn't something I normally would have paid attention to, but of course now I did. When we made it down, I noticed eight different types of carpet between the corridors, the lobby areas and the stairs, and that was correct. Sophie said that the ship actually has around 250 different styles of carpeting and they all have a very specific and intentional theme to them. Other cruise ships have approximately 80 - 100 different types of carpet, but Disney has a purpose for all of theirs and replaces them completely every few years or so.

On deck 5, which is the children's area deck, Sophie noted that the ceilings are intentionally 1 - 2 feet lower, because it gives kids the feeling that they are more "in control" since they are often running around on the deck in their own clubs. It apparently gives them much more comfortability and confidence feeling "bigger" than on other floors. Kind of interesting!

We stopped by the Buena Vista Theatre where she told us that Disney is the only cruise line who shows first-run movies and in-theatre movies still, largely because they own all of them...

We also learned that there are over 28,000 different signs on board the Wonder alone... crazy!

We then made our way down to deck 4 where the Walt Disney Theatre is housed. We studied this picture for a minute... do you happen to know what is different about it?

... While this is a very famous picture, Walt's cigarette was photoshopped out of his fingers because the cruise didn't want to give the idea of endorsing smoking to kids... especially since he died of lung cancer... :(
Deck 4 is also the only place where the famous "WD" logo is found on the carpet!

While we were talking about the picture, none other than Daisy Duck comes strolling along the red carpet, no big deal! Only on a Disney cruise can you pass by a character and "chat" with them, without them being escorted away hurriedly by their entourage.

By the elevators of deck 4, there is a lobby viewpoint area where the beautiful (plastic) ceiling sculpture by Dale Chihuly hung from the ceilings. Sophie said that crew members hike themselves up with ladders every Sunday and dust that thing, and that the reason it is not actually glass (unlike his sculpture at the Bellagio in Vegas) is because of the danger of a rocking ship + frequent guests underneath. Smart move.

After that, we walked out to the running deck on deck 4 to note a few different characteristics of the outdoors. First, the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic are sister ships and are intentionally the same, except for the fact that the Wonder was built as a whole, and the Magic was built as two halves put together. There is a large seam down the sides of the Magic to signify this, so, even though the Wonder was built as a whole, it also has a large seam down the middle (re-created) in order to be identical twin sisters with the Magic. Crazy fun fact!

Sophie also told us that Disney wasn't cool with the ugly orange boats that the Maritime law (or whatever it's called) requires all cruise ships to keep on board and they didn't feel that orange meshed well with the colors of "The Mouse." They appealed to the coast guard and asked if they could test out the yellow color shown below. The coast guard obliged after some negotiations, and discovered that not only did the yellow color work, but it was actually more visible at night than orange! Fancy that...

Disney also wanted to design their ships not as cutesy Fantasyland-extensions, but as elegant, grand vessels similar to the Titanic or Lusitania. Because those turn of the century ships had the traditional shuffleboard games on the outside decks, of course Disney had to as well.

All in all, we learned a ton of valuable, "insider" information on this tour and I definitely didn't cover it all on this post. It took about an hour and a half, and the most amazing fact of all (for all of your Disney-afficionados), is that Mr. Dave Smith himself of the Disney archives was on our tour of ten! In fact, he was on the ship the entire week we were there and even led his own informational seminars about the Archives and Disneyland. It was fabulous! We so enjoyed meeting him and learning from such an amazing Disney legend. I was a bit star struck, as only true Disney fans might imagine.

Up next: Formal night and new friends


Spa Raffles and Seasickness

Due to the storm on embarkation day that I mentioned earlier, the Sail Away party which Disney hosts when the boat leaves unfortunately had to be moved to the main atrium of the ship, which made it too crowded for us to watch. Normally they have it on the top deck which is huge, and can house everyone onboard without problem. We heard the festivities and the music and they seemed to do a great job improvising the venue, but we couldn't really see much of the party.

Since we couldn't see anything at the sail-away party, we decided to head up to the Vista Spa for the ever-tantalizing cruise-ship-spa-raffle giveaway. During the tour we went on earlier in the day, they handed us several "coupons" for discounted services on embarkation day, which I was very tempted to purchase. However, Timothy and I had literally planned our Disneyworld/family reunion trip this July on the car ride down, and he said, "Ohana/Sanaa dinners, or massage?" (O'Hana and Sanaa are two amazing [and kinda spendy] restaurants in DW.) I would love to say that we are the kind of DINKS that can afford all three of said options, but we are just teachers, so we all know that salary cap quite well...

Therefore, I opted to skip the spa this time around (I'll be honest, walking away from my last cruise with a $125 spa bill didn't really feel that great afterwards anyway...) and instead we now have a couple of romantic dinners on the horizon planned for July! Unfortunately, we did not win anything at the spa raffle this time around, but several other people did meaning that it *is* worth it to cram all together in the small gym to see whether you're one of the lucky ones.

After losing at the spa raffle, it was time to head back to our stateroom, unpack and get ready for the first show of the night which was the Welcome Aboard show. Our room was a midship, verandah room on the 7th floor. It was quite spacious and we LOVED the balcony. Holy moly. That was my favorite place to spend the afternoons while in sunny Mexico! There was also ample storage and we had plenty of space to store all of our (many) clothing items we brought on board. I will say though that I heard it was a good idea to pack a lot of extra hangers and those definitely came in handy. We liked to dress up for each dinner and wear things we don't normally wear very often at home, so we definitely used all of their hangers and then some. I think they only provide about 20 hangers total in the closets.

By this time our ship had already set sail and the vacation buzz was in full-force. We had the 8:15 seating, so we had to watch the 6:15 showings of the performances each night. I didn't mind that, but I really did not like having to wait until 8:15 to eat. The self-service restaurant called Beach Blanket Buffet didn't open until 6:00, so we never had time to get a quick snack anywhere except the counter-service places on deck 9 (which we really didn't care for). This is one reason why we ended up ordering afternoon room service almost every night!

We were always able to get good seats for the shows during the week, and we really enjoyed the Welcome Aboard show. Our cruise director, Jimmy, came out and introduced himself and got everyone riled up and in full-vacation mode. Then, the performance started which was SO good. I won't spoil it for you in case you happen to plan your own Disney cruise soon, but I loved the family aspect of it all and the focus of just getting everyone in vacation mode! We also had a fabulous juggler on board-- a 9 time world champion who juggled an axe, a bowling ball and an egg at one point in time! He was hilarious and we saw him twice throughout the ship-- his name was Ivan Pecel. I don't know if he is always on board or just for this trip, but we loved his show.

The performances always ended around 7:15, so we had enough time to watch an "after hours" performance (usually a family activity, an adults-only show or another 45 minute long entertainment activity) until it was time for dinner. I started feeling really nauseous at this point and I don't normally get motion sickness at all (I don't even wear the bands or ear patch!), so I decided that I would just lay down for an hour until dinner and hopefully would feel better.

Unfortunately... I just felt worse. By the time 8:15 rolled around, I slowly got out of bed, we put our shoes on and started walking down the stairs and that's when I felt like I was going to completely lose it. The room was spinning and I was suddenly getting hot flashes chills. Not common for me. I think what the problem was was that I'm not used to eating fried foods very often and those chicken strips weren't sitting well, plus the ocean was VERY rough coming out of LA and going into LA for about 12 hours or so. Not fun. I ended up having to go back to the room and thankfully was able to keep everything down, but on our first night Timothy and I had to order chicken noodle soup & ginger ale room service... I promised him I would make it up to him with our Palo reservations later on in the week. 

We fell asleep that night watching some of the on-demand movies on our TV: Cars 2, The Little Mermaid and The Adventures of Tin-Tin. So much for meeting up with our dining table-mates and servers the first night!

Up next: Sunshine, ship tours and sleeping in! 


Rain? I thought we were on a vacation from the rain?

So in my previous post I mentioned... "and then the clouds rolled in..."

Unfortunately, this was no exaggeration.

When we woke up in our hotel room on Sunday morning, we were met with looming dark skies which did not look appealing. I am on vacation, darn it! The last thing I wanted to see was clouds and rain considering it rains 300 days a year up in Oregon. I was pretty bummed and hoping that this wasn't an indicator for what was to come for the rest of the trip, as I'd heard the weather wasn't great earlier in March along the Riviera.

We didn't have a ship boarding time until 1:00 in the afternoon, but Timothy and I woke up around 7:30am and couldn't get back to sleep. I decided to pull out my trusty go-to "Yelp" app on my phone and see which places around us were highly rated for breakfast (Yelp never lets me down). Lo and behold, what comes up at a 4* rating? None other than The Storytellers Cafe at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel! We were luckily able to get a reservation for 9:30am and I was excited because not only had I never eaten there before, but I LOVE the Grand Californian Hotel and wanted to get my fix of Disney hotels on this trip since we weren't staying in one. I could at least pretend...

If you've never been to the Storytellers Cafe before, I highly recommend it. They have a buffet (which we did not partake in), but we figured that we'd be eating enough buffet stuff on the cruise (plus it is $30/pp for breakfast). More reasonably priced however are their plated breakfasts and I had an AMAZING dish of Huevos Rancheros (best ever!), and my husband had a traditional bacon/eggs breakfast. The best part about this breakfast though were all of the characters that came around for hugs! I may be almost 30, but I am never too old for some hugs from my favorite characters. My morning was definitely an improvement from our experience the night before!!

Mistake #1 that I noticed that morning was that of all things, I forgot my makeup at home!! For some reason in the rush, I forgot the one thing that I never leave home without. Normally I would just not care and not wear makeup at all, but I wanted to look nice in the evenings, especially for formal night, so thank goodness we remembered there was a Sephora in Downtown Disney right outside of the GC Hotel, so we were able to pop in there really quickly and grab the essentials. Formal night saved.

We left Anaheim around 11:00am and figured that we'd have at least an hour drive to Long Beach given the traffic nightmare we experienced two days prior. However, we quickly realized that the highways were empty and we were cruising on down to Long Beach in no time! This was unfortunately when it began to downpour, and let me tell you: San Pedro in the rain is really not a pretty sight to see. In fact, even though it was exciting to see the Disney ship as we pulled up over the bridge, it was so gloomy outside that it kind of took away the "magic." (But not for long of course!!)

We drove our car into the cruise terminal parking lot where we had to leave it for the week (paying $12 a day... ouch). A nice service that was offered however was a shuttle bus that drove around picking us and our luggage up so we didn't have to get soaked in the rain. Thank you Disney!

When we brought our luggage to the loading dock, it was about 11:30am and we thought we'd have to wait another hour and a half to check in. However, it was so quiet and empty in the terminal that we just walked right up to a cast member at the registration desk! I couldn't believe it-- the process was SO quick and easy and smooth-- lightyears ahead of other cruise lines! (We waited over an hour just to "check in" with our previous cruise!). I asked the cast member if it was okay to check in an hour and a half early and he smiled and said, "Of course! You're home now!" This was when I knew it was going to be a magical experience with Disney.

We received boarding number 11, and it was on number 7 when we showed up in the waiting area. I know that the low boarding numbers are a hot commodity so that you get on the ship quickly, but honestly, we were in the ship within 15 minutes of sitting down-- plus they gave us the first day's Navigator (daily schedule guide) to pore over so I never felt like we were waiting for a long time. From leaving Anaheim to boarding the Wonder was about an hour total. I don't know if this is normal, but we sailed on Spring Break so we sure were impressed!

As we stood in line on the platform to board once our number was called, it drizzled all over us and I hadn't packed a windbreaker (even though it was on my to-pack list! Yikes!). I was feeling a bit chilled, but we were excited to be steps away from our vacation (and hopefully some sun on the horizon!). Finally, we were there: Swiping our first KTTW cards and hearing claps and cheers welcoming our party on board. We felt like mini-celebrities!! I can't believe how special Disney makes each of their guests feel when entering the ship. Their red carpet treatment is something else for sure!

Our rooms wouldn't be ready until 2:00, which was also when we were meeting up with some friends in the Promenade Lounge, so we had to find some various things to do in the meantime and we weren't particularly hungry since we'd just eaten breakfast at Storytellers. So, we decided to go on a spa tour (I had heard great things about the Vista Spa onboard and decided to check it out), and we also went on our own private tour of the ship, exploring everything there was to see and do. It took a good two hours for both of those activities! The downside though was that since it was pouring down rain, decks 9 and 10 were soaked and slightly flooded, so you couldn't really walk around without stepping in pools of water. We felt so bad for all of the lunch workers in Goofy's Galley and Pluto's restaurant serving quick service food because the rain was sideways blowing all over them!

Right before our fellow-cruiser meet-up we grabbed some chicken strips and ate up in the Cove Cafe which is an adults only coffee bar to escape the rain and relax a bit. The chicken strips were really delicious and very hot-- a good indicator of the food quality that was to come! I know they're just chicken strips... but hot chicken strips on a cold and rainy day definitely does the trip.

Next up: Meeting new friends, Spa Raffle and Seasickness...

(PS- I deliberately did not take any ship pictures this day because like I said, it was so cold and gloomy outside-- I didn't want to spoil any of the magic!)


Damp Disneyland

Spring Break 20-12, Day 2

T and I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, threw on our sweatshirts and running shoes, waited for the valet who lost our keys (twice) and then grabbed some Starbucks coffees before we entered the Disneyland when the sun rose. Normally I am not an early morning person, but a) I was so excited to be in Disneyland and b) I wanted to get our money's worth since we only had one day to do both parks!

We were a little nervous that it was going to be crazy busy the first Saturday of spring break, but we were pleasantly surprised in the morning. From about 8am - 11am, both parks were virtually empty and we walked onto almost every major ride that usually fill up really quickly. We were there right when Disneyland opened and hit Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain in the first hour, and then walked over to California Adventure at 10am when that park opened and got Fastpasses for World of Color and Soarin, and then waited in a short line for Toy Story Mania and California Screamin'. We were really happy with all that we were able to do in a short time, and then leisurely took our time the rest of the day going between both parks.

We had lunch at a fabulous restaurant in California Adventure behind the new Goofy's Flying School roller coaster (formerly known as Mulholland Madness) called The Paradise Garden Grill. While everything in Disney is ridiculously expensive (and ridiculously underwhelming taste-wise), we had never tried this place out before but heard about it form great reviews on Yelp. Well, it did not disappoint. For 9.95 you get a big, warm pita bread, rice pilaf, chicken or beef kebabs, olive oil marinade, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It was DELICIOUS! I wish I could go back just for that meal. It was also really quiet and private-- it's kind of hidden so I don't know if people actually know about it. I highly recommend it!

After lunch, we went back into Disneyland and that's when it started to get busy. We tried waiting in line for Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, but both rides had over 60 minute waits which we didn't want to do. The sun eventually came out (I forgot to mention it was cloudy and cool all morning), so we ended up just walking around going into shops and on rides that we don't normally see when we're in Disneyland. We rode the train around a couple of times while I munched on my favorite Disney snack-- popcorn and Coke-- and enjoyed the sunshine that we have been missing up in Oregon.

At 4:45, we had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain and dressed in sweatshirts and long pants, we thought we'd be totally fine. Well, we were wrong. The guy sat me and T. Love right in the front row, and we got SOAKED! You might be thinking, "duh, it's Splash Mountain," but after going on this ride dozens and dozens of times before, I have never got as wet in my life on this ride as I did this time around. It was Grizzly River Rapid-style! Seriously, the wave nearly went over my head and we were soaked to the bone. What was really bad about this is that is was only about 60 degrees in Anaheim that day and our sweatshirts were really thin. I indicated earlier that our hotel was 3 miles away and we had to park in the parking garage so we didn't have the time or means to go back and change. There was no place to dry off (we tried sitting in the sun for an hour and that didn't work), and the sweatshirts were over $60 each (we didn't feel like spending that much money this early in our trip), so we had to just suck it up and be cold and damp the rest of the evening.

Well, this started to get really uncomfortable as the clouds moved back in and the temperatures dropped (and the indoor shows were air conditioned!). We enjoyed dinner back in California Adventure at the Pacific Wharf Cafe and warmed up with delicious broccoli and cheddar sourdough bread bowls (AMAZING!!), but it didn't really do the trick. So, we ended up giving in and going home at around 8:30pm. We had been in the parks for about 12 hours and done tons of stuff, but we learned our lesson that next time we visit Disneyland in the spring, we'll either bring an extra change of clothes to leave in the car, or will skip Splash Mountain altogether. We can laugh about it now, but at the time we were pretty bummed about our "damp" situation. We had a ton of fun in the park pre-Splash Mountain though, including wearing our matching Mickey and Minnie ears and taking a bunch of silly pictures on all of the rides. There truly is no place like Disney parks!

After our sourdough bread bowls in the park and watching the sun set, instead of buying the $9 glasses of wine in California Adventure, we decided to head back to our room, stop by the grocery store, pick up a bottle and enjoy a restful and relaxing evening before we boarded our Disney cruise the next morning.

... and then the storm clouds rolled in...


Vacation Day 1: Crusing down the I-5 and leaving the snow behind...

Sooooo.... we had an amazing cruise. I loved it so much that we've already booked our next Disney vacation for this summer. We kind of love traveling. 

(Except I had to promise T that the next vacation we could take was to Europe... conveniently enough, the Disney Magic will be touring Europe next year... hmmm... ;) )

 On the agenda for this trip report over the next few days: 
  1. Disneyland
  2. Cruising
  3. Mexico
  4. The journey home
So to start our trip off, Timothy and I didn't have school on Friday the 23rd and we decided to drive down after the school day was over on the 22nd from Oregon to California. It was a really smooth trip and our eta to get into Anaheim was about 6:00pm on Friday night. I was excited because that was going to give us time to check into our hotel, change and then hit up Downtown Disney for shopping and dinner. You can bet I was going to get my money's worth for this 36 hour Disneyland stint!


I had {stupidly} completely forgotten about Friday, rush-hour traffic in LA, and as soon as we hit the Grapevine we were literally bumper to bumper, parking-lot style for 2 1/2 hours. There were tears (from me), impatience (from me) and calm reassurance from Timothy of course. My perfectly planned spring break trip was already going sour... thank you LA traffic!

When we finally broke free from I-5, we ended up on Harbor blvd. just north of Disneyland where we sat in MORE traffic, eventually making it to our hotel at 8:30pm... very delayed. I normally stay on Disney property when we visit Disneyland, but thought that just two nights in Anaheim for our cruise was worth saving some money using Priceline (which we do all of the time at home). Wow, big mistake. We got one of the worst locations and most poorly situated hotels in Anaheim, about 3 miles from Disneyland where they CHARGE for shuttle service to the parks and for parking at their hotel! It was an unexpected Priceline fail. I most certainly was not a happy camper. Plus, our room wasn't very clean and we didn't really get that great of a deal on the hotel. Oh well. I would be in Disneyland from sun up to sundown the next day, so I had to keep that in mind. 

{However, I have not given up on Priceline... yet!}

Suffice to say, once I was able to wash my face and change my clothes, I was ready to attempt Downtown Disney on a Friday night at 9pm, and we were able to actually get a couple of seats at the bar at the Rainforest Cafe and share some pasta and a drink after a long day of driving. I don't really like the food at Rainforest, but the experience is always so much fun (especially in Disney).

As we walked back to our car in the parking lot after our meal (and froze the whole way-- I forgot how cold California can be in the early spring!!!), we were able to watch the fireworks over Disney, and I was able to relax and enjoy being "home" in Disneyland.

The following day, we would be spending it hitting both Disney parks from opening until closing... and learning a couple of hard lessons along the way! 

Next up: Damp Disneyland 

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