Back to Back Cruising

I have had several people ask me how this Disney Cruise Line “back to back” cruising works. It’s a neat concept, and has it’s perks and downfalls.

First, let me explain. We went on two separate Disney cruises recently: a 4 night Bahamian sailing and a 3 night Bahamian sailing, back to back. Why do this instead of just a straight seven night cruise? For us, adding the 3 night was a last minute decision as we had already booked the 4 night with friends. Another perk for us was two stops at Disney’s private island: Castaway Cay. We love it there, and each sailing made a stop so we got two full days in our favorite place.

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Also, once you sail on a Disney cruise you become a member of what is called the Castaway Club. If you have completed 1-5 cruises you are a silver member, 6-10 is gold, and then platinum. Each level has different perks like gifts in your room, different booking windows for bookings excursions, and platinum cruisers even get a free meal at the adults only restaurant Palo, as well as the ability to board the ship with boarding group one. So, for us, doing two cruises instead of one “counted” twice and my next cruise, I will be platinum.

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It’s also fun to get on the boat before everyone else and get to your room first on the second cruise. Let me explain how it worked. The last night of our first cruise (the four night cruise) we had a letter in our room explaining the process. If you are staying in the same room, you can leave you luggage etc. in your room, and debark the ship by 9:15. If you are changing rooms (like us) just pack up, leave everything in the room, and the stateroom host will bring your bags to your new room for you. perfect!

The next morning we ate breakfast and were in no hurry to get off the ship. We actually stayed on closer to 10:00 because people were still getting off. We relaxed in the adults only coffee shop checking emails and doing work while we had a day in port (another perk to a back to back, ability to get on the internet halfway through your trip).

We got off, breezed through customs, then turned and went right back up the escalators to check in. The port wasn’t even open yet, so it was empty. We checked in and were given a special green ticket, and were told to go sit in the concierge/closed off area in the back of the terminal.

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We sat there just hanging out until 10:45, when a cast member led us through a side door to get back onto the ship. (to the right of the Mickey ears is the closed off area we sat in while waiting to board).

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It was weird being on the ship early (boarding usually starts around 11:45ish) because people were still cleaning and scurrying about getting things ready. The next perk was a big one, getting to our rooms early. The letter that was left on our bed started that our stateroom would be a top priority to get cleaned, and it would be ready by 11:30. FYI, for everyone else that gets on board, you can’t access your room until 1:30. We were able to get into ours just before 11:00, and our luggage was already in there, it was awesome.

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We unpacked, called our families, and hung out in the room until the lunch buffet opened at 11:45, and we were among the first to eat, and we simply went back to our room after, changed, and went to the pool. Normally we have to lug our day bags around, change in the public bathroom, etc. So this was a very nice perk.

Another fun thing was Disney kept us with our same dining room team, so it was nice to have familiar faces at dinner, it made it seem like a 7 night cruise.

We enjoyed experiencing the back to back, but I don’t know if we will make it a habit of sailing on them. One downfall is they only go to Nassau and castaway cay, so if you are looking to go to other ports this may not be for you. However, we use Nassau day to stay on a near empty ship anyway, so we didn’t mind. You lose a few hours on the day you get off and back on, having to get off then wait to get back on etc., but other than that we enjoyed ourselves!

If you have any questions about the process please let me know!

QOTD: Would you ever consider a back to back cruise?

Disney Cruise Recap 12/13

Hello! I am officially back home. I made it back late morning yesterday, and I have been playing catch up with work since then. I cannot believe Christmas eve is in a week, I feel so unprepared (my Christmas tree has NO GIFTS under it. I am so behind y’all). Anyway, we had a fabulous time on the cruise, and I plan to recap the Castaway Cay 5k (again) because I took some video this time. But for today, I wanted to share what we did the OTHER days of our cruise.

We did what is called a “back to back” which means we did a four night ailing followed by a three night sailing on the same ship. There is a certain procedure that you follow in order to do this which I will also be sharing about. So we were on the Disney Dream for a total of seven nights. We went to Nassau twice and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, twice.

We drove to Disney on Saturday and stayed with Jen and Jeff at Port Orleans Riverside in a royal room.

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We took the boat to Downtown Disney for dinner at Earl of Sandwich.

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The next day we drove to Port Canaveral and boarded the Dream. The ship looked gorgeous all dressed up for Christmas.

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We had lunch then went to check our our verandah stateroom. (Category 5C is anyone is curious)

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We then did some walking around and lounged at the pool until time for early dinner.

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A Mickey Bar was my dessert of choice most nights.

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After dinner Bobby and I went to one of the adult only areas to watch the Saints play on Sunday night football. (There was a HUGE screen to the right of this photo and we sat in recliners right in front of it. Aaahhh, bliss).

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The next day was a sea day and we went to the gym then had Palo Brunch reservations which was amazing as always. My favorite part: dessert.

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Bobby and I attended a special reception for gold and platinum castaway club members that afternoon. Free champagne? Of course I’m there! We got to hear from the captain which was neat.

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At dinner we may have all been craving cheese sticks…

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The next day in Nassau, the Disney Magic parked next to us. It was neat to see the ships side by side again and get some photos. A couple years ago I was on the MAGIC when we were next to the Dream. This time it was reversed!

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We didn’t get off in Nassau. it rained, so we just read books up on deck and took a nap.

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I love these guys

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The next day we were at Castaway Cay, and we ran the 5k.

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We had a great day on the island relaxing and also playing volleyball.

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We had Palo dinner that night which was amazing, even though poor Bobby had a migraine. Luckily, with a special concoction from the Palo Maître d’, he started feeling better. Even though said concoction was disgusting.

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The next day we had to get off the ship and say goodbye to our friends. Then, we got back on board shorty after.

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Our new room was a deluxe family verandah stateroom, a category 4B.

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We went to the hot tub, and honestly I don’t remember what else! We had late dining this time, so we got to see the sun set before dinner.

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Our cute dinner table

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The next day was Nassau day again, so we hung out at the pool, rode the AquaDuck waterslide, and took a 2.5 hour nap! We had dinner at Palo again that night, and I had the most amazing Crème Brule martini. Seriously. Order it. (The the way we had the same server for both Palo dinners and the brunch and he was amazing. his name is Matt he is from Poland. be sure to request him!)

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These two goofballs were eating at Palo that night as well and came and found us.293

Katherine, Amanda, and me.

The next day we were back at my beloved Castaway Cay for another day of fun in the sun. We had beautiful weather, high of maybe 80, crystal clear water, perfection.

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The next day it was a 10 hour drive to Louisiana to pick up the dogs then back to reality yesterday. We had a wonderful time, it was a great idea to give the cruise as a gift to each other, and I can’t wait to go back some day!

QOTD: Have you been on a cruise? Favorite thing about them? Favorite cruise line?

*WINNERS of the Runner’s Christmas gift guide giveaways are posted on the Rafflecopter widget. See if you won!

**If you would like me to help you plan your magical cruise on most any cruise line (at no extra cost!) email heather@travelwiththemagic.com I would love to help you!

 

My Christmas Gift

Good morning friends. I am on the move again! Bobby and I will be heading out of town tomorrow to go on a Disney cruise with our buds Jen and Jeff.

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I am SO excited, because over the past 5 years, we have tried twice to go on a cruise together. Once, I had to cancel because I got a new job, and once she had to cancel. So I can’t believe it’s finally happening!

We will be leaving Sunday on the Disney Dream for a four night cruise, then just Bobby and I will be staying on for a three night after that. Our Anniversary is January 6th, so we decided this would be our Christmas AND anniversary gift to each other (well, we are allowed to get each other one small gift just to have something under the tree).

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That’s fine with me, we love cruising and got a great rate we couldn’t pass up on the 2nd half, and a discount from rebooking onboard for the first one. I can’t wait to see our friends again, go to our favorite place on earth, Castaway Cay, and do a little unwinding before Christmas.

Don’t worry, I have been working on some posts and also have some great guest posters lined up, so things here on THLG will be business as usual. Also, when we get back into port Thursday before going out again, I will be able to check email, share photos, and catch up with the online world before going back out again.

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I will be taking tomorrow off per usual, then blogging again Sunday before we board the ship. I will be live posting Saturday and Sunday from Disney and the Dream on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. In the meantime, don’t forget about my giveaways I have going on:

Panera Bread backstory challenge and $100 gift card giveaway

Runner’s Christmas gift guide with TWO giveaways

*Winner of my Natural Bliss giveaway is Lauren Graback. Please email heatherslookingglass@gmail.com to claim your prize!

Magic Time!

Good morning! I am getting on the Disney Magic today and I can’t wait to see the newly redone ship! We are spending the night near the port in Miami.

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I’m going to go ahead and say I won’t have a post up tomorrow because I don’t think I will have internet access. I will be sure to take lots of photos to share with you all.

Some fun things are coming up soon like giveaways and trip recaps from Disney so stay tuned and have a great weekend!

QOTD: any fun weekend plans?

Pain in the Butt

Literally! Yesterday I got my first steroid shot…right in the rear! Ouch! Even for someone with quite the fleshy backside like myself, that sucker hurt! Luckily only for a few minutes.

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Shameless plug, don’t forget to enter my giveaway and order from my Thirty-One party! Make great Christmas gifts!

So, yesterday morning I still felt awful and could. not. stop. coughing. So I finally went to the doctor on day six. She isn’t 100% sure if it’s viral or an infection, so to avoid having to take antibiotics just yet I got the steroid shot and if I’m not better by Monday, antibiotics it will be. I also got some awesome cough suppressant and decongestant I am hoping will help.

I haven’t been this kind of sick in a LONG time, but it’s not surprising considering I was in Disney for a week, then, exhausted, flew to Baltimore and ran a rainy chilly half marathon then got back on a plane. Just hoping I’m well before I get BACK on a plane next week!

Did I forget to mention? I am sailing on a two night cruise with my boss next weekend! The newly re-imagined Disney Magic is going to be sailing out of Miami, and she was invited and is bringing me along to experience it. I can’t wait! I have several clients sailing on the Magic in the next year so I know they can’t wait to see pictures of all the new stuff, and I can’t wait to share it all with you.

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QOTD: Ever had a shot in the butt?

Vacation Information

Good morning! Simple post today because honestly, I am very very busy. We are heading home from the beach today .

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(sad times, didn’t we just get here?!?) and, 2014 prices and packages come out today for Walt Disney World, and Disneyland! Remember, I can book a trip for you at NO extra cost to you.

Also keep in mind I can book all kinds of other trips for you like Universal, Sandals, Atlantis, etc. and cruise lines like Royal Caribbean and Carnival. If you are unsure if I can help you, never hurts to email me and let me take a look for you.

You can email me at heather@travelwiththemagic.com

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Those of you who have already emailed me about a quote, don’t worry I haven’t forgotten you, please be patient as it will take me awhile tomorrow to get to everyone! Have a great day!

QOTD: Where are you planning to travel next?

Disney Fantasy April 2013: Castaway Cay Day

Happy Birthday America! I am so proud and blessed to live in a free country, and grateful to those who have fought to keep it that way!

We left off with our last sea day, the day before Castaway Cay which is my favorite day!

In a way I have already covered part of the day because I did my recap of the Castaway Cay 5k already, so I will just skip over the actual race which was first thing in the morning.

We were smart and brought our bags with us so we didn’t have to go back to the ship. We changed into our swimsuits and headed straight for Serenity Bay, the adults only beach at the end of the island. My favorite place on earth!

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Since we ran the 5k we were a little late getting to the party, but were still able to find chairs and an umbrella. Some dark storm clouds were looming overhead, and I really hoped they would go away so we could enjoy our last day of the cruise.

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The tide was way out and the sandbar was above the water, so we decided to go out to it and bring Bobby’s underwater camera and have some fun.

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Looking back at the beach

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Chillin on the sandbar

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yes, my arm is double jointed. Wwwweeeee!

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It got quite dark while we were out there.

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Oh you know, just hanging out in the middle of the ocean on a sandbar while a huge storm rolls in!

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Bobby decided t take a nap.

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After awhile, I decided to go back in while Bobby did some snorkeling. We got SO LUCKY and the storm went right over us, no rain, and beautiful blue skies came out for the rest of the day!

I went to our chairs and started reading a book, when I saw this guy walking across the beach. Of course, I had to get a picture. Ssshhh don’t tell Bobby. He was still snorkeling!

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I then proceeded to do my favorite thing. Ever. I ordered a Konk cooler (my favorite drink, ONLY made on Castaway Cay) and pulled my chair up to the water and just relaxed. Pure heaven. (You can see Bobby with his snorkel gear in the background!)

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I sat like this for a long while, relaxing, reading books, and just being so thankful to be in a beautiful place…and then my stomach started growling. Lunch time! Bobby came in and we headed towards the smell of BBQ to the adults only outdoor restaurant for some grub, followed by ice cream of course. We headed back to our spots, more konk coolers were consumed, and we enjoyed an afternoon of bliss.

Mid afternoon we decided to take the tram to the family beach so Bobby could go on the snorkeling path with his underwater camera. We packed up and then set up a spot at the back of the family beach. We only had a couple hours left until all aboard, so it wasn’t completely full of people by this point. While Bobby snorkeled, I went to take some pictures and walk around.

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A near empty beach before heading back to the ship

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Bobby is out there snorkeling somewhere!

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Sadly it was soon time to go. We like to stay on the island as long as possible, and the lifeguards gave the 15 minute call so we decided to go.

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The island from our verandah. Bye bye!

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That night was sadly our last night at dinner, and it was at Animators again.

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The drawing show is super cute, and was one of my favorite parts of our dining experience! However, I think I should keep my day job. Drawing is NOT my gift.

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We went to the adult’s club one more time for a fun game of battle of the sexes before heading off to bed for our last time about the Disney Fantasy. We truly had an AMAZING cruise, and spent a lot of time just relaxing and enjoying the boat. It was very laid back with no set schedule which I loved, and hope to do it again soon!

*Remember, I can book your cruise for you at no extra cost to you, on most cruise lines! Email heather@travelwiththemagic.com for a free quote!

QOTD: Do you like to get in the water or lay out on the beach?

Disney Fantasy Part 5: April 2013

My last trip entry was our delicious dinner at Palo. The next day was Cozumel day! We knew exactly where we were heading, our favorite spot: Paradise Beach. We have been here I think four times or so, and we love it. You pay two dollars for a chair/umbrella, and get to use the beach and the pool. They have other optional add on’s for a fee as well. Not to mention, they have a GREAT menu with lots to choose from, and super clean bathrooms.

We were some of the first people off the boat and ended up walking accidentally with one of the shore excursion groups. It was funny, we were just right in the thick of them. The nice part about it was when we were walking through the outdoor mall part, none of the vendors bugged us because they knew the tour group wouldn’t stop for them to shop so they didn’t waste their breath. Must remember this for next time as well!

We hopped in a taxi and were literally the first ones there I think!

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We headed out to the beach first and decided we would hit the pool a bit later after lunch.

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I don’t know.

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You can pay an additional fee and have use of all of the water toys!DSC_0841

We relaxed in the chairs and I enjoyed a yummy Tidal wave.

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We got hungry after an hour or so, and decided to go eat lunch up at the tables near the pool and then hang out there for awhile. I love the view of the pool and the ocean from the tables, and it’s a nice shady area to eat. I had some yummy quesadillas and another drink.

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We hung out in the enormous pool for awhile, and I even took an amazing nap in my chair. Talk about a great place for a nap! We stayed until about 3:00 and decided we had been out in the sun long enough.

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We hated to say goodbye to our favorite Cozumel spot though!

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We took a taxi back to the port and saw the beautiful Fantasy again.

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If you are ever in Cozumel and are looking for a great but inexpensive place to relax for the day, I highly recommend Paradise Beach! I would love to answer any questions you have. Also, be sure to check them out on Facebook for more pictures!

That night was Pirate night. AAARRGGHH!

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We enjoyed dinner, and were able to watch the fireworks from our balcony in our room! I was way too tired and full to go to the Pirate Buffet so Bobby went without me and brought his food back to the room.

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Of course he had to get a turkey leg.

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I think I was asleep before he even started eating. It was a long day in the sun!

QOTD: Beach or pool?

Disney Fantasy: Palo Dinner

I cut part 4 short because I wanted Palo dinner to have it’s own post.

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I am glad I am writing this one after dinner, or I would be dying to eat all of the delicious food! If you have been on a Disney cruise and have not dined at Palo you are missing out on a great experience. I can’t believe we waited this long to do it!

We checked in and waited in the waiting area for only about 3-4 minutes, when Ivan, the server we had for Palo brunch appeared! I was so happy we had him again, it felt more comfortable since we had already seen him before and he knew what we liked.

We had a great table facing outward towards the ocean, it was nice and cozy. Just like at brunch, I loved how we didn’t feel rushed at all. We ordered our drinks and enjoyed the view while Ivan brought us some antipasti (I have no idea why I don’t have photos of this!) Ivan did a great job of explaining everything, and I tried some things I have never had before.

Ivan also did a great job of explaining everything on the menu to us. After appetizers we were also brought a lemon sorbet palate cleanser.

Bobby ordered some kind of shrimp

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Veal

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tuna

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I had white bean soup (not pictured) and  Beef tenderloin. I can only speak for what I ordered, but the soup and beef were both excellent! There were two sauces for the beef and I liked them both, so delicious!

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Of course soufflé with vanilla gelato and chocolate and vanilla sauce. Holy yum. So rich but so delicious.

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Ivan prepared mine for me. It was amazing. I am so glad I left room for this dessert. My hands down favorite of the whole week.

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Again, we were never rushed, and loved how our waiter only had one maybe two other tables so we got taken care of very well. We will definitely be back!

Here are a few things to remember about Palo:

– Palo is an adults only restaurant. That’s why God made kid’s clubs. Smile

-Reservations for Palo can be made online for cruise guests:   Concierge Guests: 120 days in advance
Platinum Castaways: 120 days in advance
Gold Castaways: 105 days in advance
Silver Castaways: 90 days in advance
First Time Cruiser: 75 days in advance

-It costs a little extra to eat at Palo, but SO worth it! Brunch and dinner are both $20* per person.

(*price has since gone up to $30 per person but still worth it!)

– There is a dress code to dine at Palo. We like to dress up anyway so it was no problem, but make sure you pack something appropriate if you plan to dine here!

-Palo holds back some reservations on the boat for when you embark, so if you couldn’t get a reservation online be sure to visit Palo asap to try to snag a reservation once you get on the ship.

QOTD: Are you more likely to try a food you have never liked before at home or at a restaurant, like me?

*I would love to get you a cruise quote! Email heather@travelwiththemagic.com for details

Disney Fantasy April 2013: Part 3

I left off my trip report with Palo brunch on our first full day onboard the Disney Fantasy. We were stuffed, and decided to head back to the room for a glorious nap. We ended up staying in the room for most of the afternoon reading, watching movies and just lounging around. It was the best way to relax on vacation! Around 6:00 we got hungry (go figure!) and sat up by the adult pool area and had a snack. We relaxed some more then got ready for Dinner. It was formal night!

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Dinner was at the fanciest restaurant on the ship, the Royal Court.

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We went back to the Tube for some fun adult entertainment before calling it a night, and found this guy waiting for us in our cabin.

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The next morning, we woke up in beautiful Grand Cayman.

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We ate the buffet breakfast, and then got in line for a tender boat to get off of the ship. We made it to land, and went to find a taxi.

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Funniest thing, I went to grab a driver and saw the SAME GUY that drove us back in October. Hilarious. He got a kick out of the fact that we remembered him (he prays with his passengers before they get off of the van) and he took us to the public beach.

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We rented a beach chair and umbrella, and I spent my time reading while Bobby swam and snorkeled.

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We stayed about five hours, and I was starving. We didn’t want to pay for the expensive food on the beach so we headed back to the ship where the food was included, of course!

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We caught a tender boat and were back on the Fantasy in no time. The ship looks SO MASSIVE from the little tender boat.

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We grabbed some food and headed back to the room. That’s when I realized we were BOTH sunburned! I forgot to reapply and Bobby must have washed his off in the water. Ug. Not a good day to burn, at the beginning of a seven night cruise. We aloed up and headed to dinner.

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We were in Animator’s Palate which is super cute.

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Crush came and talked to us. Dddduuuuddddeeee!

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Dinner was delicious, and after we headed back to the tube for Magic quest. This is SO MUCH FUN. It’s an adult scavenger hunt, I always end up laughing until I cry, and I ended up having to give Bobby my bra…again.

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We had a blast and enjoy this game show so much. Our team won, but sadly we didn’t get a prize like I have seen on past cruises.

We were exhausted after a day in the sun, so we turned in ready to dock in Costa Maya the next day.

QOTD: When was the time you got sunburned the worst? Do you remember?