Wednesday, April 9, 2014
WOW! This was a great part of the trip. Loved it. I cannot say enough about how fun, clean, charming and classic this ship is. But in my usually wordy way, let's start from the beginning...
I booked this trip as a "girls" trip for relaxation on a cruise and it morphed into adding the Disney World days but the cruise did not disappoint. The ship itself is really just a big hotel/resort on the water. Really it's that simple. But it adds a bit more intrigue when you are traveling along in the ocean. You definitely disconnect if that's what you are seeking on vacation. I will explain more about that in a bit.
We were scheduled for the 4 night Bahamas cruise (Itinerary B)...this itinerary is offered very frequently from Port Canaveral. Nothing too special...a night on the ship, arrival into Nassau, a day at sea and then onto Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), then back to Port Canaveral.
We started leaving from Pop Century after some breakfast back to the airport. One caveat here, you get free Magical bus transport to and from the airport if you stay at the Disney resort. However, if you are just going back to the airport without a flight, that seems to confound the staff a bit. Yes, they do have transport to the ship but our goal was to meet our friends at Orlando airport and all take a shuttle to Port Canaveral (not the Disney shuttle). So the advice here is that if you do something similar, just pick a flight later in the afternoon and give Disney that info for your Magic transport tickets back to the airport. Seriously. It seemed like understanding we did not have a flight and we were taking another company for transport just did not flow as smoothly as it should have although we did get the Magical transport back to the airport! Our shuttle was the Florida Sunshine Shuttle (easy to google-great web site). Great service and much cheaper than the Disney shuttle to port. I believe on our sailing date, Disney shuttle was $70 round trip, per person plus tip. Florida Sunshine Shuttle was $40 plus tip round trip. For the five of us we had one very nice new van with a nice driver (Gene) and luggage was no problem. I had made and paid in advance for the service and we simply called when we were all at the airport and together-Gene picked us up, no problems whatsoever. It was great and we saved some cash. Of course we did not get to experience the Magical shuttle to the port with the TV of Disney instructions and cartoons-but that's okay. I actually have already done it and once or even never is enough! We tipped Gene and on our way to the ship!
Once at port we had an awesome porter who took our bags (we had put the cabin tags on in advance-they come in the mail well before your trip) and he pointed the way for us to take to the terminal. We went across the street and up the elevator to an upper level walkway. It was very easy, not crowded and once through security, we were on our way to the Castaway Club line for check in.
I was the only one of our group to be a "member" of the Castaway Club (which in the very least is one previous Disney Cruise) but the staff member whispered we could all go together. So off we went. You need your ID (passport) and your cruise document that is signed (you print that off through the Disney Cruise web site check in) and it's very quick and easy. My sister's passport had not arrived in time for this trip so she used driver's license and a certified birth certificate and that was no problem. (Note here..it's better to always have a passport in case you get stranded in a foreign country. You need that to get on an airplane outside the US so order well in advance) You receive your card "key" and a bit of info including a Navigator (daily program of events for the evening) and they whisk you through to board the ship. Once we were closer to actually boarding you zip your key card through for entry. Mine didn't work. So I was rerouted just off the path for a new key card. It literally took 60 seconds and I was back with my group. I think people tend to get a little crazy boarding and trying to be first or whatever. There really is no reason to do that. As long as you are there at your time (which is available when you do paperwork online), it all goes really smoothly and there are tons of staff to assist! I have found that on the three cruises I have taken. It's just easier than it looks. There are some professional photo ops on the way. We skipped that and just went on through.
Once on the ship, another key card stop and photo for security. Let me just say here, the whole boarding process our group found, was really exciting and easy. I assume for those who have done this numerous times it's old hat and not a big deal but I relish every moment. Seeing the ship for the first time arriving at the port was really cool. My family and friends were in awe at just how big the ship is docked at the port. They were so excited that I just had a great time watching them! One other fun note, I received a silver lanyard with "Castaway Club Member" on it or whatever it said. I took alot of crap for that as the crew says "welcome back!" all day the first day and everyone expects that you know everything-which I don't and by the way, it's different ship that my other Disney Cruise.
Once on the ship we made our way up to the Windjammer. Windjammer is on the back (aft) of the ship and is the big buffet restaurant where you will have many meals-usually breakfast and lunch. You will get tips that perhaps other places are open for eating, etc. Simply ask a crew member when you board. I forgot-they announce your name as you board and there are drinks of the day and I believe some additional photo ops. Drinks of the day cost money by the way-we skipped.
The Windjammer is generally full of people but we did find a table just outside near the pool and got food. Really not a problem for us but I can see how some people would prefer a quieter location. The food is really good. As you can imagine they are feeding thousands of people so you are not at a Parisian restaurant. It's good, it's plentiful and there are lots of choices. What more can you ask for!? I am not sure but I have seen boards where folks complain about food on difference cruises. Our group parked with our day bags (rooms ready about 1:30pm) and one by one or two by two, we got food, drinks and wandered around deck 11 of the ship exploring and eating.
Slightly after-say about 1-1:30pm, we headed to our rooms. We were on the 9th deck, #9166 and #9164 (Class 6A and 7A respectively-if you book rooms in the future, the classes of room can help you decide on what are the better cabins!) -back of the ship. The rooms were fantastic! They are big with the nautical look and split bathrooms (one bathroom with tub/shower and sink; the other bathroom with toilet and sink-fabulous idea!). Our veranda was perfect and we had a great view. Another tip here...our rooms were side by side but not connecting. We asked the steward to unbolt the veranda so that our verandas were connecting. Not sure who came up with that idea but it was brilliant. It was like having apartments next to one another with easier access but not full access like a connecting room. We could just hang out all together on a larger veranda!
Our rooms both had large baskets from our travel agent -Dreams Unlimited with tons of useful stuff including dry erase boards, plastic travel mugs (3 in each basket!), treats, extension cords, etc. We were really shocked by those baskets. They were gorgeous and really useful! Actually they were not baskets really but a travel bag filled with stuffer. I also received a Castaway Club gift (more sturdy travel bag, another dry erase board and clock thing that you could attach to a bag). In our cabin were also our tickets for off ship excursions-look for those on your desk or bed. Ok... more to come later!