To say that I was ecstatic with joy to board our JetBlue flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, on December 22, 2017, is an understatement. In two days, we would be back on a Disney cruise ship!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since we knew what it was like to cruise with Disney, the anticipation of our trip was HUGE!
But, let me back up a little bit…we first cruised with Disney on the Dream on December 26, 2016. Within a week of our return, I had booked our next cruise because we had such a fantastic time. To have to wait almost a full year was excruciating (so, we decided to travel to Orlando for a week at Walt Disney World in March 2017 – Disney withdrawal: it’s a thing, and the only remedy is to see Mickey!).
Fast forward to December 22, 2017: our day of travel had finally arrived. We live in Richmond, Virginia, so I had booked a direct flight via JetBlue to Ft. Lauderdale for our cruise out of Miami. We were booked to stay two nights at the Four Seasons Miami Hotel. Then, we would board the ship on Christmas Eve.
Our flight was around 10:00 in the morning and about two hours and 15 minutes long. JetBlue makes traveling with kids easy – live satellite TV at every seat! I watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during the flight, so JetBlue’s in-flight entertainment is great for adults as well!
Upon arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we ate lunch at the airport, as it was around 12:30pm. We then took the rental car shuttle bus (there is one bus for all the major rental car companies) to the rental car center. The rental car center is located in a parking deck within the airport facility. I am a member of the Emerald Club through National Rental Car, so we did not have to wait in line to get our car. We just walked right over to the Emerald Aisle and picked out our car, a Chevy Malibu. I was surprised to see how fully equipped the vehicle was: it had a touchscreen tablet and a large, stunning sunroof.
We always travel with a high-back booster seat for my son, so once we installed it into the car and got our luggage situated, we left the rental facility. It’s a 45-minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami on I-95 South. There was (and apparently usually is) a TON of traffic on I-95 (otherwise the trip only would take 25 minutes).
The Four Seasons Miami was very easy to find. You can read about our two-night stay at this fantastic hotel here.
After two relaxing nights at the Four Seasons Miami, the day we had waited for finally was here: we’re going on a Disney cruise! As soon as we had booked our cruise in January 2017, I started our “cruise countdown” on my Disney Cruise mobile app. There’s nothing better than seeing this on your app on the morning of your cruise:
Woo hoo!!!!!!! And, it was Christmas Eve to boot!
We wanted to get on the ship as soon as we could. After having a hearty room service breakfast, we called for the bell hop to assist with our luggage and had the valet bring out our rental car. We were only a ten-minute drive to the Port of Miami cruise terminal from the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, so we didn’t have far to go. I wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to park and lug our luggage, so we left around 11:15am.
Upon arriving at the port, we parked in a deck, and walked a while with our luggage to the Disney terminal. In hindsight, it would have been easier if I dropped off my husband, son, and luggage at the terminal, parked, and then met up with them. We had a lot to carry! Oh well – live and learn.
Although I had a rental car, I decide to pay the $20 per day for parking to make it easier at disembarkation to do a little sight seeing prior to flying out of Ft. Lauderdale. To me, the convenience was worth the extra expense. Also, having a child, it’s much easier to leave his booster seat installed in the rental car and not worry about the safety of Uber/taxis/shuttles, etc.
Once we arrived at the terminal, the staff took all our tagged luggage (we had three pieces). We then went inside and waited in a loooooong security line. It took us at least fifteen to twenty minutes to get through it. But, it was exciting, as we saw everyone around us with their Disney gear and could not help but smile!
Since we were sailing concierge level, after passing through security, we were able to go straight to concierge check-in counter. They gave us our “Key to the World” cards on nifty lanyards, since we were now silver Castaway Club members (no lanyards are given to first-time cruisers):
Note how our cards have a “DV” in the corner: that means that my Disney Visa card is the credit card we used for our onboard account. I applied for the card a few months before the trip so that I could get discounts (and rewards) on the cruise and also for future trips in the Disney parks. When you spend more than $50 in one of the ship’s stores (does not apply to the stores at Castaway Cay), be sure to tell the Disney cast member that you have a Disney Visa card and would like the 10% discount. They only take the discount while you’re checking out. We made sure to always do our shopping in bulk so as to take advantage of the discount each time. (Disney nuts that we are, we spent a lot in those shops!)
By the time we had checked in, it was after 12 noon, and we received this card showing which boarding group we would be in:
#1! I like that number. As Concierge guests, we had the privilege to board whenever we wanted, so off we went to the main boarding area.
The boarding area was PACKED! I noticed that Concierge guests had their own lounge to relax in should they arrive before the ship was ready for boarding. We arrived at the perfect time, as we walked right onto the ship.
When we sailed Concierge with the Disney Dream out of Port Canaveral in December 2016, we were personally escorted by a concierge staff member onto the boat and directly to the concierge lounge. There was no such service in the Port of Miami, and I was told that was because Disney has exclusive rights to the terminal in Port Canaveral but not so in Miami. They apparently don’t have as much staff and/or are not allowed to get off the ship to assist (I wasn’t quite clear about the reason, as the Concierge staff member who escorted us onto the Dream also sailed on the ship with us). Anyway, it was a small disappointment, but no big deal for us.
Once we boarded the ship, in usual Disney cruise fashion, they announced our family’s name on the microphone and the staff applauded us as we walked around the Lobby Atrium area. (I wonder if they ever get tired of doing that for four straight hours of embarkation!)
Since it was lunch time, we immediately went up to Cabana’s to eat. Luckily, since we were some of the first people on the ship, it was not that crowded and we were able to get a table inside. We feasted on the buffet and then examined our daily Personal Navigator to see what activities awaited us.
I was very excited to watch the movie Coco on this cruise, since it had just premiered a month prior and we had not seen it. Well, what do you know? Coco was going to be playing at 1:45 pm in the Buena Vista Theatre. Our cabin would be ready at 1:30pm, which was about ten minutes away. So, once we were done, we went down one deck to wait to get into our stateroom (Cabana’s was right above our stateroom, which was 8086).
There was a little bit of a crowd waiting to get into the rooms. The staff actually blocked off the stateroom hallways until the cabins were ready. We only had to wait two minutes and then we were able to get into our stateroom. We were very pleasantly surprised with all the space in our one-bedroom suite!
Here are some views of Miami from our stateroom’s balcony:
(Those yachts aren’t too shabby!)
After we dropped off all our bags in our stateroom, we went straight to Buena Vista Theatre to see Coco. It was a fantastic idea to go while others were embarking, as the theater was practically empty. There probably were not more than twenty people there.
We absolutely LOVED Coco (and I was very pleased to later see that it won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature and that it was nominated for two Oscars)! If you haven’t seen this movie, then bust out the tissue box!!! I cried at least three times. It was a very touching and well-written movie.
After watching Coco, we had a little time to kill before the mandatory guest assembly drill (the so-called “muster” drill) at 4:15pm. So, we hung out in our stateroom. Thankfully most cruise ships no longer require you to bring life jackets to muster drills.
Promptly at 4:15pm, the ship’s alarm went off, and we headed to our assembly station: Animator’s Palate. Animator’s Palate is a restaurant on deck 4, which was four decks below us. By the time we got there, the place was filled, and we had to squeeze ourselves next to some folks to sit at a table. We sat through about ten minutes of announcements and life jacket demonstrations. Then, we were “released.” We decided to head up to the kids’ club, a.k.a. the Oceaneer’s Club.
We had pre-registered our son with the Oceaneer’s Club during our on-line check-in. When we checked in at the concierge desk in the cruise terminal, my son received a magic band, which gets him in and out of the club.
Sailing on the Disney Dream, my son refused to go to the Oceaneer’s Club on his own. We went to the open house on embarkation day (for security reasons, parents are only allowed into the club when it’s an open house), and then he decided he didn’t want to go back. Luckily, this time around, he was a little braver and went to the kids’ club for at least an hour or two almost every day of our cruise. That gave Mommy and Daddy much needed “us” time!
Here are some photos of the Oceaneer’s Club:
Here I am getting ready to take a plunge down the Toy Story slide:
For dinner, we had requested the main sitting, which started at 5:45pm. Before dinner, though, I had to get over to the concierge lounge for happy hour! Starting at 5:00pm, the Concierge Lounge has complimentary adult beverages – literally anything and everything you could want: from wine to beer to all sorts of cocktails. The Concierge bartender was at my beck and call. I’m a wine kind of gal, so I had a glass of red and sampled some appetizers while I was there (they have complimentary dinner “snacks” starting at 5:00pm as well).
I also got to meet our concierge hosts: Emanuela (from Italy), Blanca (from Mexico), and Yuki (from Japan). I love the international cast members on all the Disney ships!
Our first night’s dinner was in Animator’s Palate. Animator’s Palate on the Dream has a fantastic Finding Dory/Nemo theme, with TV screens showing very cute “live” scenes from the movies. Also, Crush shows up and actually interacts with the guests (similar to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot). The Animator’s Palate on the Magic is actually about animation. You’ll see scenes from various movies being shown on all the TV screens in this restaurant.
Our dining room server was Oliver from the Philippines, while his assistant was Joy from South Africa. Oliver was pretty good, although it took him a little time to warm up to us (maybe he was shy?). Joy truly was a joy, and we enjoyed her company.
For dinner I had the tomato tarte, the black truffle pasta purseittes, black bean chipotle cakes, and the cheesecake (you’ll notice a trend throughout our cruise: I always order way too much food at dinner – I just have to try everything!). My husband had the arugula leaves, as well as the black bean chipotle cakes. My son had chicken tenders, French fries, and pasta with tomato sauce every single night of the cruise (gotta love that kids’ menu!).
After we finished our main course, the dining room’s lights darkened and the TV screens started showing a montage video of various Disney animated films. At the end of the montage, there was a big surprise: Fantasia Mickey showed up and danced around the dining room! It was pretty exciting to see him, as we totally were not expecting that.
Speaking of Mickey, here is a photo of my son’s dessert – a Mickey bar:
Here is a picture of my cheesecake – yum! I love how they “painted” the raspberry sauce on the plate:
After dinner, we headed over to the Lobby Atrium for Mickey’s Tree Lighting Magic, which was going to start at 7:30pm. The place was super-crowded, but somehow we were able to squeeze ourselves in a spot overlooking the balcony.
It was a Disney character extravaganza, which we love! Here is a photo of Mickey, Minnie, and Santa Goofy singing and dancing prior to the tree lighting:
Reindeer Pluto joins the fun:
And, here is the tree after it was lit by Mickey:
After all the fun, we headed back to our stateroom. We already were well past my son’s usual bedtime of 7:30pm, so it was time to hit the sack.
One of my favorite things about cruises, especially Disney cruises, is the creativity (and amazing service) of our cabin stewards. Flora, our stateroom “hostess” (sorry, not a cabin steward on a Disney cruise), was phenomenal at crafting towel origami. Case in point for our first night:
Our towel “snowman” was reminding us that tomorrow morning was Christmas Day! We would be at sea on our way to Cozumel, Mexico. This would be our first time on a ship on all together at Christmas. We couldn’t wait to see what Disney had in store for us!
Click here to read about day 2 of our Very Merrytime Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic.