Friday, July 26, 2013

Amazing Disney Cruise with Russian Adoption Reunion Group

Jackson, Alexa, Michelle and I just returned from a fantastic 4 day cruise on the Disney cruise ship "Dream", and I'm going to do my best to recap the vacation here, but we did so much stuff that it may be impossible to remember every detail. I'll sure try though!. The cruise was part of a Russian Adoption Reunion trip, and about 140 people traveled with the group. It was great to see all of the beautiful Russian children and meet lots of wonderful families who we definitely share a bond with through the adoption experience. Going into the trip we knew a few families through our travels to Russia, knew a few more through the blogging thing, but we met a whole bunch of new friends this week and are already looking forward to the next reunion.

Now for the recap!

We started our vacation last Saturday by flying to Orlando and staying with my sister and her family. Jack loved swimming in the McKeels' pool and playing with his cousins cool Cars toys. He had so much fun there, I think he would have been content staying with his cousins for the entire week. But on Sunday morning we left Orlando and headed to Port Canaveral for the start of the Cruise!

Day 1:

Day One started w/us driving from Orlando over to the Port, and this might sound "hokie", but there was something magical about driving over the causeway and seeing the Disney Dream come into view for the first time. The look on Jack's face was priceless when he saw the boat, and we knew we were in for a great time. Thanks to a great tip from our friends the Duda's, we drove to a satellite parking facility (their tip saved us over $100 in parking fees) to park for the week, and who did we run into in the parking lot.... the Duda's themselves! Even though we hadn't physically seen them since being in Russia w/them in 2009, we picked up where we left off with the friendship with hugs all around. John and Kristina Duda have grown and changed so much since we saw them last, and it was great to finally meet Keegan. Ken and Gloria hadn't changed a bit, and it was great to start the vacation together with them.

After a quick shuttle trip to the boat, we checked in and entered the terminal, where Jackson got his first glimpse of Captain Mickey Mouse! He couldn't believe he was seeing one of his heroes in the flesh (or fur) and he was so happy to get his picture taken with the big guy. We met Minnie there too, and I think Minnie wanted to take Alexa home with her.

Disney obviously knows what they are doing here and the boarding process was very easy. Before we knew it, we were on the boat and headed for Cabanna's for our first of many huge meals on the week. After a great buffet lunch of surf and turf, we changed into our swimsuits and hit the pool deck for some fun. John, Kristina, Jack and I headed for the AquaDuck, the waterslide/roller coaster that towers over the pool deck. That was really fun, and though we always intended to hit it again, this was the only time Jack and I rode the slide. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing in the pools and catching up with old friends.

Once our stateroom was ready we headed down to check it out. We had a nice room with a private outside deck. Over the course of the week, we had several cool towel animals left in our room (a snake, a crab, a monkey, and a turtle). Our room was very comfortable and it was nice to have the private deck to go and check out the Bahamian scenery or just relax with nothing but the ocean when we were in transit.

For dinner on Day One we headed to Animators Palate which was a Finding Nemo themed restaurant complete with big screen TV's where the Nemo characters interacted with diners. It was at this restaurant where we had our only negative experience of the trip.... One of the appetizers on the menu was shrimp cheesecake. Now Michelle and I love cheesecake and we love shrimp. We figured this would be some sort of magical creation, and surely it wouldn't just be a piece of regular cheesecake with shrimp in it right??? Well, we were wrong, it WAS a piece of cheesecake with shrimp cooked into it. If you've spent any time with me, you know that there isn't much I will turn down in the way of food, but I met my match on this one. Yuck! Anyway, the rest of the dinner was pretty good and Jack loved the Mickey ice cream bar for dessert.

For after dinner entertainment on Day One, we headed to the Walt Disney theater for the Golden Mickey's which was a live action show which gave awards for various Disney things like best villain, best princess, etc. It was a cute show and one of our favorites on the week.

Day One was a long but extremely fun day!

Day 2:

Day Two was the day the ship docked in Nassau in the Bahamas. We had a great view of the arrival in port from our stateroom. The waters in the Bahamas are as pretty as they are in the movies, and it was a neat experience to see a different part of the world even though we decided not to get off the ship in Nassau. We decided to take advantage of the boat itself on Day Two, and after a nice breakfast at Cabannas, we hit the pools again. Jack and I wanted to ride the AquaDuck again, but the when we tried to get on it, it was shut down for a while, so he and I headed to the front of the ship where they have Goofy's sports area with a basketball court, mini-golf, foosball, and other games. Jack and I were alone on this part of the ship and we enjoyed hanging out and doing his favorite thing in the world...playing sports. Michelle and Alexa hung out on the pool deck and spent some quality girl time together. After some pool time, we headed back to the room to order room service lunch and take a nap.

Before dinner on Day Two, we took some family portraits (we highly recommend taking advantage of the professional photography on board) by ourselves and with some characters. This was where Jack met his future wife. He met Daisy Duck and for some reason, he was absolutely smitten with this duck! He hugged her and wouldn't let go. Let's just say if I had hugged Daisy that long, security would have been called. But it was a really cute moment. He still refers to Daisy as his girlfriend, and he says he is going to marry her.

For dinner, we ate at the Enchanted Garden, and luckily there was no shrimp cheesecake on the menu! Entertainment was the Villains show, which we all liked. After Michelle and the kiddo's were asleep, Ken Duda, Glenn Scrudato and I went and saw the movie The Lone Ranger, and I was pleasantly surprised with the flick!

Day 3:

Day Three was our day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private Bahamian island. After breakfast at Enchanted Garden we got off the boat to enjoy some beach time, and immediately ran into Captain Hook and Mr. Smee! I'm a sucker for pirates, so I enjoyed this a lot, despite the fact that Hook and Smee wouldn't hold Alexa  (those sissies). Personally, I thought a picture of Alexa hanging from her diaper on Hook's hook would have made a great picture! Oh well, what can you do. So, we took the tram ride to the beach, where we met up with the Dudas and Scrudatos for some fun in the sun. Jack and I played some sand soccer and teatherball, then headed to the water where big fish swim freely among the people. The Dudas had read that the fish like dog treats, and they sure did. They would swim right up and take the treats from you. One even nipped at my wedding ring thinking it was food! Lunch this day was the barbeque on the island, then we headed back to the ship for some rest before the big Pirate Night celebration.

Dinner on Pirate night was at the Royal Palace, where we were lucky to sit by the Coopers (Tracy, Chuck and Matt) who also adopted Matt from the same region where we adopted Jack. Everyone was dressed like a pirate, and the menu was pirate themed. After dinner we headed up to the deck for the Pirate party where there was a show about how Mickey and friends defeated the evil Captain Hook (karma for not holding Alexa!). Jack saw his leading lady Daisy in this show as well.

After the pirate party, we headed to the theater for a magic show with Mike Super, the winner of the TV show Phenomenon. Jack and I ran into him in the hallway, and he couldn't been a nicer guy. His show was good too.

To cap off Day Three, we headed back to the deck once again for the Captain Jack Sparrow pirate show and the the fireworks. This was a busy day for everyone and a late night, but we loved every minute of it, including the pirate towel monkey who greeted us in our room that night!

Day 4:

Day Four was Jackson's 5th Birthday! He woke up to some gifts in the room, then we went to the Royal Palace for breakfast. After that we went to the movie theater to watch Monsters University in 3D. After the movie, we entered Alexa in the Baby Race where she didn't budge from the Start line. She earned a free bib though, and we'll always remember her first race! From then on, we kind of took it easy for our last day on the ship. We spent a lot of time in the room ordering room service for lunch, resting and watching Disney movies On Demand.

Dinner was at the Royal Palace again where Michelle had arranged for a birthday cake to be delivered and Jack absolutely loved the attention of the wait staff as they sang to him and made a big deal over him.Michelle said her favorite part of the vacation was seeing the smile on his face during all of this.

Entertainment for the evening was the show Believe. The Head Server warned me that I would cry during the show, and while I didn't actually shed a tear, it was a nice sentimental message about how parents can view the world through their children's perspectives and to cherish these moments because they don't last forever.

After a couple of group pictures with the Coopers, Scrudatos and Dudas, it was back to the room to pack for our return to the real world.

Disembark Day was a blur as it was a quick breakfast followed by some goodbyes to our friends, then our return to the airport.

What an amazing time we all had. I think the trip exceeded all of our expectations, and we are already thinking about the next time we can take a cruise (we're thinking maybe 2015ish....)

Special thanks to Michelle to making the vacation happen! We love our Mommy!