Tag Archives: Disney

Disney Cruise Thoughts – only read if you want details on our trip!

Here are my random thoughts about the Disney cruise – only read if you are interested!

Disney Memories


It was all in all a wonderful trip. I have a few recommendations, observations, and tricks and tips to pass along. I also wanted to let everyone know that we are currently on the books to go on the Disney Magic next Thanksgiving as well – another 7 day cruise. This time, the ship will go to three different ports: Key West, the Disney private island Castaway Cay, and Nassau,Bahamas. So, that should tell you that we definitely had a good time – and I think as the kids get a little bigger it will be even better.



The experience was magical – the characters were everywhere. We even ran into Mickey wearing pilgrim clothes on Thanksgiving – in the hall! The princesses were available two day in the atrium and after a 30 minute wait, Emmy got to meet, hug, and get the autograph of every princess. We also had a character breakfast with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Chip and Dale and Goofy. Plus they attended a bunch of other things – a dance party on the deck, etc. It was so fun.


I had been told ahead of time, you can also leave something at Guest services (like a pillowcase, frame, etc) and the kids and I made placemats that ALL the characters signed which we will laminate. The look awesome. (I put in a package of rainbow sharpies).


There was *always* something to do. Unfortunately, our kids didn’t warm to the idea of being by themselves in the lab/club (at least the five year olds) – the staff was a little disappointing on that regard. But, there was plenty of time for open house where parents could go and sit and watch, and there were always crafts, tea parties, BINGO, dance parties, etc. AND the movies – they had movies showing first run (Wreck it Ralph and Frankenweenie and Lincoln) and tons of others – on three separate theaters. Plus the TV had Disney shows, 12 channels of movies, etc. A good way to chill out on the afternoons. I think if you went with kids that were a little more used to camp or to doing things together or just a little older it would be perfect. And at age 8 they can check themselves in and out. You have special phones so they can always get ahold of you.


There were two family pools on board that were super fun – one was for “swimmers” and one was the Mickey pool – more shallow and with a giant curvy slide. But the bigger pool had funnel vision which was a giant screen movie that had football games, movies, etc.



The food was great – we went through three different restaurants for dinner and the kids could order off the kids menu or adult menu and our servers went with us. They did magic, drew on the tables (washable crayons!) played with cousins and had a great time. Dinner took about 1 hr 30 min each night, but the kids got their food first and most nights we did well. But it was great food – and we didn’t have extra charges as we brought wine to the room and drank before dinner. Sodas and water and tea and coffee were free all day.


There was always someplace open for lunch and breakfast – we tended to do the buffet which had the best array. It also had BBQ, and “themed” days – steakhouse, seafood, French, etc. They had onlettes in the morning and risotto at lunch.


I had been told room service was free but we never used it because we just went upstairs. I did grab some extra cereal at breakfast and a couple of bananas just in case.




We went to Grand Cayman first and Davis and I had a day all to ourselves. It was magical – we went diving after a 8 year absence. It was so warm we didn’t need wetsuits. And, one of our fellow divers took a video which I hope to share. We will definitely bring a camera the next time. The whole operation was so easy – they had everything you needed and it was a great group – only about 12 folks. We saw more fish than we have ever seen. Including a porcupine fish. It was a blast.


The kids went with their grandparents and the rest of the family to the turtle farm – it was awesome. They had a great time – holding turtles, swimming with them, and seeinga  ton of other wildlife. They even did a little snorkeling.


The second port was Costa Maya – which is obviously a relatively new port. It’s not very built up and the children remarked on that – probably a good thing for them to see. We went on a glass bottom boat, and the kids all did some snorkeling. Emmy and Carter got out after the waves got to be too much. They were happy to be there and got to touch a spider sea star as well as a sea urchin and a conk.


Our last port was Cozumel which felt much more Mexican in general and was clearly a touristy town as well. We did the Colphin adventure and it was AWESOME. We swam with dolphins, kissed them, held their hands and then hitched a ride on their bellies. Davis took Carter on his back and I took Emmy – and we both got solo rides as well. (The only bummer was the pictures were prohibitively expensive – luckily we had an observer who took pics from above.


You could do the whole thing without extra charges – just take a taxi to a beach in port or walk around, but we decided to do it up right – and we did.


I brought work out gear (as did Davis) but we never had the chance since the kiddos didn’t want to stay in the clubs. But we had plenty of stair time. At one point, we ran into Minnie dressed in her evening gown and I ran up five flights of stairs in my formal dress and back down to get our autograph books. It was totally worth it.



Our stateroom was lovely – a deluxe verandah. It slept all of us, but with the beds all down (one from the ceiling and one from the wall) it was a tight squeeze. Emmy seemed to be fighting getting sick so we had a couple of days of naps and that was complicated too. For the next trip we booked two adjacent rooms with portholes for way less money (we hardly ever used the verandah and this way we might be able to sneak out to the shows)

It also had abath tub which was great for the kids – but a challenge for Davis and I. I ended up taking a couplf of showers up in the Vista spa because there was more space and I felt more open.


Things I learned

There is a sense of pure joy with Disney – magic is everywhere. The big boys stayed up for the fireworks (in pirate attire) and there were so many people in costume on pirate night it made it so fun. Almost every dinner had something special – a show, a restaurant where the walls came alive, etc.

The shows and fireworks are late – shows are at 8.30 if you have early dinner – which is 5.45 – and the fireworks are at 10.30. Our kids were up by 6.30 every morning regardless of when they went to bed! So we did have some fun time with ipads and movies in the afternoons.

Extra things to pack:

powerstrip (lots of things to plug in and not much space),

magnets for the door – we had a dry erase board and that was nice to write to each other.

Pirate outfits made that night super fun. We all got bandanas at dinner too.

Bottled water – great to have in the room

Wine/liquor – helps with the cost and you always have a little time to down some drinks before dinner

Sunscreen – we used about three bottles and we weren’t out that much

Kid swimsuits – we used almost all of them, not so much for the adults

You don’t have to dress up for dinner but we had two nights of suits ( … and Emmy and I wore a dress every night.


Things to Know

Tea with Alice is a special event you can sign up for at Guest Services – way worth it

Express Check out is well owrth it, you drag your luggage but we were off the boat by 8am

The “extra” goodie signed at Guest Services

Bring a camera everywhere – you never know when you will see a super fun photo op

Bring cash with you on the excursions for tipping and some small souvenirs

Bring paper and pens – a great way for the kids to unwind is to draw and hang out in the room





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And So the Season Begins – In Sickness and In Health

This will be a special holiday season for our family. Every holiday season is special, but made even more by the events of 2012. Last year at this time, Davis was on a 12 week stint overseas – returning only for a week at Thanksgiving and a week at Christmas. I thought that was a hardship. He received the promotion to Dubai and we argued – I was utterly exhausted, resigned and sure of the calamity that awaited the outcome.

How much things have changed.

Life altering experiences are just that – a new lens through which you see the world. And if you are lucky enough to have one of those experiences using it is up to you. (another favorite quote – this one from the movie Overboard – are you sensing my complete lack of culture at this point?)

You, on the other hand Madam have had the rare privilege of removing your bonds for just a spell to see life from an entirely different perspective. How you choose to use that information is entirely up to you.

Yes, that’s from the Butler to Goldie Hawn.

I am using this year to enjoy the moments. I am sinus infection sick, exhausted from the treatments, and carry some extra weight I’m not used to, but reasons that this doesn’t matter to me too much are many:

  1. We leave tomorrow to head to Houston and embark on a Disney cruise. The excitements in our house is at fever pitch – Mickey called last night and you would have thought it was God himself from the heavens. “That’s so funny! I didn’t know the characters talked like they do on the TV all the time,” says Emmy.
  2. In direct correlation to the excitement about the Disney cruise is the excitement about the new Angry Birds: Star Wars. My three kids have been playing it since we downloaded it Wednesday night and they are already to the Piggy Death Star level. Obi Wan bird has the force, Han Solo bird has a laser blaster. It makes me laugh so hard I want to cry. And play. Brilliant.
  3. I have hair. I don’t have a lot, but I have enough that people think this is intentional. Now, I did have someone say “thank you, sir.” to me this week when I moved out of the way at the movies, but I will take that as a misguided observation and instead embrace the comments from the lady who said “you look so cute with your hair and that outfit – like a teenager.” I’ll take it.
  4. I’m cancer free. I feel like someone has a vice grip on my head and I’m wobbly from the mucus in my ear canals but I don’t have cancer. My throat is sore from pot nasal drip but I’m not in treatment anymore. The cancer bugs are gone – did that. Now, snoot bug? No biggie.
  5. My children are freakin’ hilarious. On the Disney cruise you can leave an item at Guest Services and the characters will sign it. I have made placemats out of flexible chopping boards. I let the kids decide what I would draw on them. Emmy wanted “Minnie Mouse SCUBA diving under dolphins” Henry wanted “Mickey SCUBA diving with a friendly shark – not a scary one” and Carter wanted “A turkey driving the boat wearing a captain’s hat.”

My attempts to fulfill their dreams are here.

This year, there will be appointments missed and presents not made. Thank you notes written and confused, cookies and bon bons aplenty. It will be about love and family and traditions.But most of all, fun.

I mean, you have to laugh when your spouse is trying to convince you that “box wine” would be a viable alternative to bottled wine on the Disney cruise because they have come very far in ten years. Let’s carry on some Franzia! Maybe some Zima and Boone’s! (And you have to laugh that you are packing wine to drink in your cabin before dinner like some teenager!)

You have to laugh when your five year old daughter looks up at you and says “I’m going to ask Santa for a Princess Leia Angry Bird stuffed animal with a slingshot.”  Or her twin brother comes flying across the room to give you a giant hug for “Getting me Angry Birds underpants.” (I’m serious.)

And you have to laugh when your super amazing friend and photographer Erin (here) sends you a lookbook for family picture outfits and you realize there is absolutely no way your family could look that cool. Ever. Davis in a cardigan? Henry in a tie?

And you have to laugh when you take your swimsuits to Nordstrom’s to get pockets sewn into them for swim boobs and realize that the suits are haven’t been washed since August.

And, you have to laugh when you are drawing a turkey wearing a Disney cruise captain’s hat driving the ship.

Count your blessings everyone and enjoy the ride. See you on the flip side of turkey day.

I’m sure we will all be doing some power walking in December. But I will have tested out my swim boobs. SO there.

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Single digits in radiation treatment, string bikini dreams

You know it’s bad when your nurses avert their eyes. Luckily I haven’t seen that glance of pity very much throughout this ordeal – even in chemo there were some others whose side effects clearly worried the nurses with their frailty, their color, their breathing, their weight. Now, it’s me – a big pile of radiation sunburn peel. In my armpit.

I use sarcasm a lot because I don’t know how else to say things, and people that are around me tend to get it. By fabulous I mean the complete opposite. And that’s the case right now – voice dripping with unshed venom – this is fabulous.

Now there is a silver lining. Because of my surgery some of the nerves under my armpit are dead or gone so it’s not as bad as it looks. And there’s the fact that hanging out naked with a washcloth in my armpit does seem to help the symptoms. It’s just finding time to hang out naked that’s the challenge. Not really a look I go for on a regular basis. OOOH. I should find my string bikini from my honeymoon – maybe then I could lounge in the family room with the rest of the crew. That is a hilarious mental picture. Sorry, I just snorted in my brain.

And on the more good news front, I found out that I only have four more radiation sessions of the whole area – and by the whole area, I mean the upper left quadrant of my front – up to and including part of my neck. I am glad that it’s starting to get cooler here in Austin so I can wear collars and not feel more than the warm I already feel all the time. Next I will be moving to the “scar only” treatment which means the rest of this red mess will get a break.

I just went on a date night last night with Davis. I can have beer! It doesn’t make me sick or stay up forever and I like it! We saw the movie Argo – which was my favorite movie thus far this year – and it made me realize the scope and nature of things. There are people – real people – in that movie that made decisions that would cost their lives if they were discovered. Real people that were under extraordinary pressure and chaos and responded with humor and strength. When we stress daily over little things – weight, time, even money, this journey has told me that there is a bigger picture. I hope I can carry that – and impart that  – to others.

I am also in the single digit rank for number of radiation treatments out: 9. Number of treatments with the skin cringing bolus: 2. Girls night planned for toasting the end of this round: 1.

Lauren, you just beat cancer, survived radiation and a double mastectomy and chemo, what will you do now? A Disney cruise (priceless!) OH and start working. I know – crazy right? But, that’s what I want to do, to be a plus in a year of minus. Let me know if you are in need of a writer/marketer/business development/strategy consultant. Resume and references available upon request. I bet my oncologist would be a good one.

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Because Everyone Loves a Happy Ending

I had to be reminded this weekend that I am not the same as before. It’s good that every waking moment, every visitor, every thought is no longer about cancer, or recovery, but sometimes just about life.As a result I’m so tired tonight I can’t really make this blog make sense.

In fact I am more tired than I have been in a while – real, honest tired. Not fatigue. I worked on the weekend. I was a helper, a participant, a driver (literally) and then I was up until 2am last night for the right and wrong reason.

We are headed on a Disney cruise for Thanksgiving and today marks the 75-days-until-cruise mark. Well, with all of our family traveling we wanted to be SURE we got the right Port Adventures, the EARLIEST embarkation time. And, we weren’t clear on the demand – this is the first fall that Disney operates out of Galveston and with 2400 of our nearest and dearest friends also onboard, we wanted to get a jump. SO comes our story of Davis and I with all associated reservation numbers and birthdays, logging on at midnight, hitting refresh – panicking when we couldn’t get into the open website. It was the adrenaline rush of an ebay auction couple with the excitement of class registration and Christmas morning all rolled into one. We couldn’t get everything settled and my brain rattled around for another hour, luckily I have the super hubby to pick up the slack and let me sleep it off a bit.

Sleeping on my stomach. Yup, that’s right, though I am stiff and a little tight in places, I am back to my belly flop. In my bed. Tonight I am already fighting the droopy eyes. Who needs physical therapy when you have kids? And, real life.

In some ways I won’t ever be the same because of this journey – the battle hardening my attitude, loosening my parental concerns, allowing my strength to surface. In some ways I want to be the same – menu planning today for a week, shopping at Target, sweeping the garage in 100 degree heat.

This week, we are going  to test the Ward fall scheduling system. Also known as the chaos that is back to school, and the organization that is a dual-MBA house. We have multiple written calendars to determine what we can add into the system – will Cub Scouts tip us over the edge? Will robot camp? Dance?

There was a time in my life when the mere removal of a mole caused a scar whose keloid was objectionable enough to have us revisit it – twice. I even have stories for it: barbed wire fence, shark attack. I was reminded when I received a get well card – some stories to tell about your scar – that my positioning on scars is a little different. After all, I now have two big ones. But I don’t really see them the same way – they are a means to an end. Although this ending is pretty good.

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