I've often said that I stumble into my travel adventures; although my dreams are full of destinations both near and far that I'd love to visit (or re-visit), I don't exactly have a bucket list that I check off. I tend to follow my heart and my instincts- and that's really the only way I can explain how I ended up taking my nieces on a 2 night cruise on the Disney Magic.
Oh, sure, I was immediately interested when I read that the Disney Magic would be spending the summer of 2012 using NYC as her home port. But the cruises were expensive and I had so many other things planned, so I didn't really give it another thought until May 2012. By then, all 3 of the 2 night cruises were pretty much sold out.
Meanwhile, I was thinking that it would be fun to do something with my nieces for a weekend. There was some thought about heading to Cape Cod to see a show... but, for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog, that didn't work out. While I was toying with some ideas, I saw that a "secret porthole" cabin on the Magic was available for the Aug 10 cruise. I put it on hold for myself; when that hold expired, I put it on hold again. When the 2nd hold was about the expire, I found myself entering credit card information- I was booked and there was no turning back. But just for myself.
I started to debate the merits of adding my nieces to the reservation; the main hesitation was naturally the expense. But then when I was browsing the Navigators from the first 2 night cruise in June, my eyes lingered on the blurb advertising the show "Villains Tonight", which had been my nieces' favorite show on the Dream in 2011. I imagined myself seeing the show by myself and was sure I'd miss having the girls by my side. So I threw caution to the wind and my solo cruise turned into another adventure with the nieces.
Since the trip was so short and since it was coming up so quickly, I decided that it would be fun to leave it as a surprise for the nieces. Not only did no one tell them that they were going on a cruise, we basically let them assume that they'd be spending the weekend at my apartment.
A couple days before we were due to depart, our local weatherman scared me with talk of dire weather much worse than even typical summer thunder storms. I resigned myself to another indoor sail away party and pirate show, and just hoped there wouldn't be any interruptions in train service. I've always believed that when I do something out of love, all the details will work themselves out for the best, but I wondered if that luck was running out for me.
Another trip means another time I got myself up and ready in record time. In fact, I even had some time to kill before I needed to leave for my nieces' house so I had a chance to poke around around online a bit. When I arrived a little after 8am, I was thrilled that although it was overcast, it was still dry. So at least I didn't have to drive in a downpour- that was definitely something to be grateful for!
Julia was being a little cranky about getting up so early, so I told her she could stay home if she wanted. But I think both girls know that time with Aunt Faith will inevitably include something that they'd regret missing. So everyone (including Caren and Brian, the nieces' parents) piled into Brian's car in eager anticipation of.... an unknown destination! It still wasn't raining and my gratitude was growing.
I'd already purchased NJ Transit tickets, so we headed directly to the train platform. While Julia was going to the Dunkin Donuts inside the station to get me the chocolate donut I've been wanting for over a year, there was an announcement that the train to NY was approaching. Fortunately, Julia got back (albeit without a donut) before the train pulled into the station. We boarded the train only to be told by the conductor that it would be advantageous to get off at the next stop and switch to the express which would get to NYC sooner. We did as he said, and after a short wait, were on the train that would take us to NYC.
While onboard the train, the girls found ways to amuse themselves: Julia read her book and they both txted each other (yeah, really...). They obviously figured out that we were going to NYC. I told them that once we got into the city we'd take a cab to "where we are staying"- somehow they seemed to think that even though we all had luggage, we'd be going back to my apt. Of course, they assumed it was a hotel and asked what it was like. I hedged the question and told them that they'd see. I also said we might be able to take a boat ride past the Statue of Liberty. Still no rain- yay!
Especially when traveling with the nices, I try to prepare for everything- I'd even scoped out the pier location on my last trip to NYC. However, I realized that I had no idea where the taxi stands were at Penn Station. But we soon found one. I handed the cab driver a 3 x 5 card on which I'd printed "Manhattan Cruise Terminal. 55th and 12th. Disney Cruise Line. (this is a SURPRISE for the girls!!!)" So naturally the first thing he said after we'd settled was "So you're going on a cruise?" Fortunately the girls were too engrossed in looking at various NYC sites and they completely missed that comment; I made a "shhh" symbol and that was the last we heard from the cab driver until we arrived at our destination.
It seemed like everyone in NYC was driving on 12th Avenue, but the girls didn't seem to mind the traffic because there was so much to see- billboards for Broadway shows, and lots of larger than life scenery. And oh yeah, there was a Disney Cruise ship ahead to our left! I saw it first, and when Megan noticed it, I attempted to start filming with my point and shoot camera and asked them what they'd think if I said we were going on that ship for a 2 day cruise to nowhere? Unfortunately, I was total fail at actually filming so I can't transcribe the exact reaction. There was some hesitation about the "to nowhere" part but once I explained and the girls had a few seconds to digest the information, they were definitely excited! Even though it meant that Julia wouldn't be able to take her friend's advice (via txt) to have some NY pizza. Best. Surprise. EVER! (at least of any surprises I've been a part of)
We arrived at the terminal shortly after 11am; our cab driver dropped us off by the dock where they were boarding a Carnival ship so we had to walk a tiny bit to the correct terminal. It was still dry out (yay!) but the walk would have been undercover, anyway. We all got excited when we saw the ship from the window. After entering the correct terminal, we headed toward security. There was absolutely no line and we would have breezed through if it weren't for the fact that it took forever for the family in front of us to get out their ID's. There was no line to check in either- and we soon found ourselves with key cards and a card stating we had boarding number 10.
Since we had to wait anyway, we got in a short line to get our photo taken with Mickey Mouse dressed as Uncle Sam. I'd read a lot about NYC cruises and came across the fact that Minnie dressed as the Statue of Liberty can sometimes be found in the terminal; I'd really wanted a photo with her and hoped that she might come out later. Well wouldn't you know it- when we were next in line, Statue of Liberty Minnie entered the terminal and switched with Mickey. I felt like I'd been sprinkled with Disney magic when we posed for the photo with Statue of Liberty Minnie! I couldn't have timed it better; everything was falling into place even better than I could have imagined.
They started boarding the ship at around 11:45 and our boarding number, #10, came up very quickly. By 12:10 we'd posed for our official boarding photo and were ready to board the Magic. As you walk onboard a Disney ship, someone announces your family name over the microphone and a bunch of CM's in the atrium cheer. Megan remembered that I'd mentioned last year that people sometimes use funny names, and she thought we should use one... so eventually "The Stitch Family" was welcomed onto the Disney Magic.
Although someone was directing us to Parrot Cay restaurant, I made the executive decision to head upstairs to Topsiders Buffet because I thought they might have more options for picky eater Megan. We were able to find one of the few remaining tables inside the A/C and we dropped off our stuff before getting in line for the buffet. As usual, Julia sampled the most foods and Megan the fewest- though she had much more than the plate full of cucumbers that she'd eaten after boarding the Disney Dream last summer. There was much joy and silliness at the table- basically a typical meal for us, just some added excitement due to the surprise factor. After clearing our plates, we headed to the dessert buffet. After one taste of the Tiramisu, Julia twisted her face into a look of pure disgust and I learned that she does not like coffee. I mean REALLY doesn't like it. Not. One. bit. (I don't much care for coffee but I do enjoy Tiramisu)
By this time, we could see that it was raining pretty badly outside. But it was all good because we'd made it onto the ship. Even in the absolute worst case scenario, we would still have a fun weekend. From the moment we walked into the terminal, I felt like I was back in my happy Disney place. If you're a Disney lover like me, you are enveloped within an inexplicable comforting feeling whenever you enter any Disney environment- on land or sea, in any continent, in any language. And there's nothing better than sharing that joy with people you love!
Shortly after 1pm, we decided to head down to deck 5 toward our stateroom; we'd received our room keys at check in but rooms aren't actually supposed to be ready until 1:30pm. Before they are ready, the guest areas are roped off. We lingered a bit enjoying the ship and were pleasantly surprised that we could already get into the stateroom a few minutes early. My first order of business was to unpack the magnets so I could decorate our door. Although we weren't participating in a gift exchange this trip (since we had such little time), I love having a festive door. Plus it's fun to go down the hall and say "boring door, boring door... OUR DOOR!"
Our stateroom was categorized- and priced- as an inside room even though it had a window because there was an obstructed view. (which is why people in the know refer to it as a "Secret Porthole" room). It was really an excellent value because the obstruction wasn't bad at all. I'd stayed in an inside cabin on my very first cruise and without any natural light coming inside, it had felt tiny and unwelcoming. Even the girls could tell that having a window makes a cabin feel bigger. The window was quite large and made for an excellent seat for Julia and Megan at times. Although the room was a bit smaller than the one from last year, it was just fine for us- especially for so short a cruise.
Eventually it seemed like it might be clearing up outside so we headed up to the pool deck. (Another reason why it's great to have a window is to be able to check on the weather) A few lingering drops were still sprinkling down from the sky, but when they had nearly stopped, we ended up being some of the first people out on deck; it seemed like we had been a step ahead of the masses ever since we'd arrived at the port. While the girls enjoyed splashing in puddles, I tried to do my best to visually capture a rare combination of elements: a nearly empty deck on a Disney ship with a backdrop of NYC. We completely circumnavigated the ship on deck 10, 1 deck above the pools, and ended up near the soft serve ice cream station on deck 9 where Julia enjoyed a mango soft serve ice cream. Megan insisted on taking a lick, and Julia was kind enough to oblige.
Before heading back to our cabin, we explored some of the public indoor areas of the ship- more silliness for the girls and more photo taking for me. It felt like we had the passageways almost all to ourselves; everyone else was probably still in their rooms or emerging onto the pool deck.
At 4 pm, it was time for the dreaded (but important) lifeboat drill. We all agreed that it actually wasn't as annoying as last year (which had still been an improvement on my previous drills), partly because we didn't get there super early and partly because it wasn't as hot. It also helped that the woman demonstrating the life vests for our station, Tisa, was a hoot; as the announcements came over the loud speaker, she would mime them in a way that entertained and elicited laughter. All 3 of us loved Tisa.
The sail away party was due to start about 10 minutes later, so we headed directly to the pool deck and claimed spaces right up in front of the stage. Some CM's were encouraging people to dance and I would have joined in, but the girls didn't really want to. Soon enough, who did we see front and center on stage to lead the party but our life vest demonstrator, Tisa! No wonder she'd been so funny- she was part of the entertainment crew. All 3 of us were clapping and moving to the music- big cheers when Tisa wanted to hear from everyone who was excited to be on vacation! Because we were so close, there were a lot of shots of us on the Jumbotron- I'm not sure what the kids thought of that but I love being the center of attention! (and yes, I took a photo of myself on the Jumbotron because I am that much of a dork) Of course a bunch of Disney characters eventually came down a staircase to take center stage, much to the delight and cheers from the crowd. After the characters left, the crowd thinned a bit and they taught us a simple step dance which I enjoyed doing; the girls seemed to be doing the dance motions in place on the sidelines.
It was exciting to realize that we'd started moving, though I can't remember exactly where that fit into the timeline (I think it was either during or right after the characters were out). After a little dancing, we were all eager to get away from the crowds and I led us to claim to a spot at the front right of the ship, in anticipation of passing by The Statue of Liberty. It was a miracle that the skies were clearing and that we were able to enjoy the sail away out on deck. Drifting further and further away from NYC is much more dramatic and scenic than departing from Port Canaveral; it certainly rivals any port sail away that I've seen. (though Singapore was great and Hong Kong would have been amazing if we hadn't been stuck in a 2nd class docking area) Despite the wind, we stayed out on deck until we passed under the Verrazano Bridge (at about 6pm). Then it was time for Julia to get another ice cream; she liked taking advantage of the "free" food.
Since we had the late seating for dinner, we attended the 6:15 early show which happened to be "Villains Tonight", a live show that the girls had loved on the Dream. The Walt Disney Theatre was just downstairs from our cabin which was super convenient since I had to stop in and drop off my large camera. We managed to find seats toward the front just off to the side even though we weren't that early. Once again, we laughed through the show; I think it varies slightly with different performers so it doesn't feel stale. On the way out, Julia tried to talk to a CM in hopes of getting pixie dusted again with a backstage tour- but that kind of magic can only happen when you aren't asking for it.
The shops were near the theatre, so we decided to take a look since they were now open (they close in port). Apparently half the ship had the same idea because it was super crowded! We browsed a little, but decided to return at a more sane time to actually make purchases. I was particularly interested in merchandise specific to the NYC sailings. Since this was the last 2 night cruise of the season, the Weekend Getaway T-shirts were 30% off and I decided I wanted to get one later.
When we returned to the stateroom, we were delighted to meet our new roommate: The Towel Monkey!!! Last summer, we'd had many laughs making up stories about The Towel Monkey wanting his revenge on Julia for threatening him with detention; even before that, we'd been all sorts of amused with the creature dangling from a hanger. So we were all thrilled to see him again. This year's version of The Towel Monkey had 2 gold-wrapped chocolate coins for eyes, but Megan took one before I even had a chance to snap a photo. So I was sure that the Towel Monkey now wanted his revenge on her, too, for taking his eye. She tried to place the empty wrapper back in place, but I interpreted the Towel Monkey as feeling even more annoyed at her for giving him a hollow eye. Eventually, she took the other chocolate eye out as well and gave it to me. We were disappointed when he had unceremoniously vanished from the room on Saturday night but that inspired a new, ominous slogan: "The Towel Monkey can't see you [because he has no eyes] and you can't see him... but he's plotting his revenge!" Laughing with the girls is a definite highlight of spending time with them; it's fortunate that we all can share similar senses of humor.
Before dinner, as is our custom, we posed for the ship photographers in front of a couple different backdrops. We were assigned to Animator's Palate for our first night dinner but all the restaurants were serving the Pirate Menu (seemingly identical to the one on the Dream) because it was Pirate Night at sea. Arrr! Julia actually decided to order from the adult menu, and she seemed to enjoy the Treasures of the Seas Grilled Shrimp and Seared Scallops which were served with pasta. Megan of course stuck to the children's menu (I think she had pizza). My dinner consisted of: Pirates Golden "Pot Stickers" (appetizer), Caribbean-style Conch Chowder (soup; Julia also had this), The Dutchmen's Dijon-Crusted Sirloin of Beef (entree) and Floating Island (dessert). I'd had the appetizer and dessert last year and they were as yummy as I remembered. The soup and especially the entree were a bit of a departure for me and they were both quite tasty.
We were seated at a table for 10; on cruises, I always hope to talk to people at my table but once again my hopes were dashed as the other 2 families basically kept to themselves. I was also really surprised that we were seated at a table with 2 families with really young kids; last year, at least we'd been with kids of similar ages to my nieces. You obviously have to expect that there will be screaming babies/toddlers on a Disney ship but I didn't really think that I'd have one at my dinner table, although it wasn't too much of a distraction. Fortunately, our servers were quite good. They were having a pirate themed parade for the kids and our assistant server encouraged Megan to join in; she was smiling so I guess she didn't mind. Later, Jack Sparrow came by with little goody bags for the kids which contained items such as a pirate earring and an eye patch (we totally agreed that the latter had to cover The Towel Monkey's missing eye).
After dinner, we headed back to the gift shop, thankful that we could now breathe in there. And then it was time to head up on deck for the "Pirates in the Caribbean" party/show. Disney sure did pack a lot of entertainment into one afternoon/evening! I couldn't believe that the weather was still clear, albeit rather on the chilly side. We enjoyed seeing Pirate Stitch onstage and we had an excellent view of Pirate Mickey flying down a wire to the stage area. Then we enjoyed the signature of Disney Cruise Line- fireworks at sea!
The girls had hoped to relax the hot tub at night, but the area had been closed off for the Pirate show. It was already nearly 11pm and I, for one, was exhausted! So we ended up just chilling out in the room for a bit before going to sleep. I am pretty sure that all 3 of us had an awesome day; the best part for me was seeing the girls smile and laugh. They'd told me that they would have enjoyed spending time together even if we'd just stayed at my apartment, which was nice to hear. My nieces just lucked into having an Auntie who has a passion for all things Disney; My parents and grandparents exposed me to amazing things like travel and theatre throughout my youth, and now it gives me great pleasure to be able to pass the love along to another generation by sharing some of the same joys with my nieces.
Mornings away from home are all about balancing my love of sleep with my excitement to start a new day's adventure. On this particular morning, that meant waking up about 8am with excitement but hanging out in bed until I started to hear the girls stirring after 9. Julia was groggy and still wanted to stay in bed; she said she wasn't hungry. Of course, once we actually got to breakfast, she may have put more on her plate than Megan and I combined!
We headed to Topsiders buffet because it is analagous to the Cabanas buffet on the Dream which had been our prefered breakfast location. We arrived a little before 10am and managed to get an indoor table in the A/C; they served until 10:45 and by the time we were done, there were tons of tables available. As we ate, Megan asked me what I'd do with them if I had unlimited time and money. My answer? "I'd send you lots of postcards from all over the world!" Hee. After giving it some thought and also reminding them that they'd still have school, I told them that they'd still need to do something productive with their summers so I wouldn't let them live a life of luxury traveling all summer long. I mentioned that I'd probably take them on a cruise through Europe. (note to any prying eyes: that is really NOT happening... unless perhaps I got a bucketload of cash) After later seeing a commercial on Disney channel about some Disney channel star going to India to volunteer, I revisited our breakfast discussion and said that if I had unlimited time and money, I'd probably want to take them somewhere where we could see some more of the world and also help others who were less fortunate.
On our previous cruise, we hadn't participated in any of the organized activities, but I suggested that we head to the Promenade lounge to check out "The Wheel" (a version of Wheel of Fortune). The girls liked the idea, and seemed to enjoy the actual game. The way it worked was that the room was divided into 2 teams based on where everyone was sitting. Puzzles were projected on various screens so everyone could see them. Our team got off to a quick lead in part because we had a really awesome guy on our team; it helped that the other team had a tendency to land on bankrupt and lose a turn. However, the other team eventually caught up so it all came down the the final puzzle, which was in the category of "Inventor and Invention". Although we had revealed almost all the letters, it took forever to come up with the name of the inventor until someone finally guessed "John Lodie Baird The Television" and we won! The game was a lot of fun; every time we won a round, our team captain (aka the designated spokesman) would run around the room to high five everyone. There was one puzzle Julia got very quickly, and another that I (almost) got very quickly.
After playtime, I decided to buckle down on a serious endeavor: a (mini) shopping spree! I wanted to make sure we made time to buy souvenirs, so we headed to the stores where I told each girl that she could buy a T-shirt and a pin. There was no price limit as long as it wasn't ridiculous by Disney standards (ie no $60 shirts!). Coincidentally, I wanted to buy a Weekend Getaway t-shirt and pin for myself. The girls made excellent choices, and when Julia also wanted a keychain, I told her I'd count it as part of her present for her upcoming birthday.
After making our purchases, we saw Goofy posing for pictures nearby and I suggested getting in line because it wasn't very long... and, well, because we're kinda goofy. When it was our turn, Julia tripped a bit over some tape that was covering wires on the floor; Goofy saw it and pointed to her and laughed. I figure that it is quite an accomplishment to get Goofy to laugh at you.
We headed back to the cabin and saw that there was a blanket animal on the bed- some kind of aquatic animal. We thought maybe it was a whale but after looking online, I think it might have been a shark, which is a shame because we missed the opportunity to include it in our repetoire of shark jokes. We hung out in the room for quite awhile until it was nearing the end of the window for having a sit down lunch at Lumiere's; we were still full from breakfast but we had enough room for a small lunch- I had pasta and the girls had mozzarella sticks. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie so I love the atmosphere at Lumiere's, especially the chandeliers with the red roses and the mural on the back wall.
Soon after lunch, it was time for one of our main events of the day: Stitch was scheduled to appear on the pool deck. We love Stitch; Megan had brought a number of stuffed Stitches with her even without knowing that it would be a Disney themed weekend (which made me happy because I'd bought them for her! I love knowing that people enjoy my presents). When I'd perused the Navigators (listing of events) for the 2 previous NYC weekend cruises, there had not been a single mention of a Stitch character appearance. But he was onboard for our cruise, and I told the nieces that he had to have known we were coming! There was already a line when we got there, but we waited patiently. We ended up with an awesome photo, and Stitch liked the Megan's little Tokyo Disney Tower of Terror Stitch.
Since we'd enjoyed the Wheel, the girls suggested that we participate in Disney Trivia at 3pm at Diversions . The great thing about the Disney Navigators is that they categorize activities by age- so if we wanted to find things that we could do together, we just needed to look at the "Family" section. For the trivia, everyone had to work in teams of no more than 4 people to write down the answers to 25 questions which ranged from easy ("Who's the leader of the band that's made for you and me?") to before my time ("Who was the original Head Mouseketeer?" At least I guessed someone who was a mouseketeer, lol) and covered every aspect of Disney trivia: from movies and TV to theme parks and even our cruise ship. Julia came within 4 feet of our cruise ship 's length which was quite impressive (I later realized I had that factoid accessible on my camera's SD card). All in all, we scored 17 out of 28 (there were some multiple point questions) which was quite respectable but there were some pretty amazing trivia buffs who scored over 20, so no prizes for us.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of relaxing in our cabin punctuated with activities such as taking a photo with Peter Pan when we saw him in a hallway. I made a point to tell Peter that I had no intention of growing up and that I was the biggest kid of the 3 of us. Stitch had another appearance, at 4:15 in the lobby and if Stitch appears at any reasonable time and place, we must go see him; It's sort of a law. We arrived early while Mickey was still in the greeting area, but we got in line since it was long; it worked out that Stitch switched with Mickey before we got to the front. After Stitch, the girls went up to the deck to get ice cream and pizza while I met them back in the cabin. Megan wanted to swim during the day, but she didn't want to do it by herself; fortunately, she handled it ok when neither Julia nor I were in favor of heading to the pools.
We decided to change for dinner since I'd suggested each girl bring a skirt or skort. (the 1st weekend cruise had the 2nd night listed as semi-formal) While getting ready, we noticed that it was storming a little outside. But that was fine, we didn't really want to go on deck. Instead, we posed for more photos taken by professional photographers. The girls also had an epic battle in the shop (while not running into anyone): Megan had a Buzz Lightyear shooting thing and Julia had a large claw (think Toy Story). Soon enough, it was time for the evening's live entertainment: "Disney's Dreams", a show I'd seen during the inaugrual season of the Magic way back in 1998 which features scenes from Disney movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. We managed to score seats just a few rows back in the center section.
Before dinner, we had time to get our photo taken with Captain Mickey even though the line was a little long; it's always nice to meet the main mouse himself. When we saw Snow White upstairs, we went to see her too- she was just doing an informal (and unannounced) meet and greet without ship photographers so there were only a few people there.
Our dinner was at Parrot Cay; that night, only one of the other couples arrived at our table and they didn't have their kids, which resulted in 5 people sitting at a table for 10. Saturday night, everyone on the ship had the "Master Chef" menu which was new to me. I enjoyed my Double Baked Gruyere Cheese Souffle (appetizer) and the cheese in my Beefsteak Tomatoes and Baby Mozzarella salad course. By the time the main course arrived, Julia was feeling sick, so I wasn't paying that much attention to my food (Lemon and Lime Roasted Half Chicken) though it seemed tasty. Julia didn't even want to touch her main course (Pan-seared Scallop and Asparagus Linguine ) so you know she was not feeling herself! The waters on which we were traveling had started to get really choppy so I wasn't feeling that great either, but I'm known to be sensitive to motion so that wasn't too surprising.
After dinner, we decided to heed our waiter's advice and head to Guest Services for anti-seasick medicine. On the way back to the room, we walked through Shutters which had photos of various families adorning the walls. After looking at the photos, Megan matter-of-factly observed that it was neat how many people of different cultures were on the ship. At that moment, I was a particularly proud Auntie.
After Julia got sick again when we got back to the cabin, we each took a pill. I called housekeeping and they sent someone over promptly to clean up our trashcan- great service. There had been talk about heading up to the hot tub, but we all agreed that it was most important for Julia to feel better so we decided to chill out for awhile. As usual, the girls turned on the Disney channel. And we each snuggled under the covers of our separate beds watching TV and chatting.
Just before 11pm, Julia announced that she was feeling better and that she wanted to go to the hot tub after the current show ended. This was met with mixed feelings by Megan and myself, because we were both feeling so cozy in our beds. Finally, when Julia said that she was going to leave at the next commercial with or without us, we dragged ourselves out from the warm comfort and changed into bathing suits. I joked about wearing the blankets around us on deck because I knew it would be chilly. Before we left the cabin, Julia and I each took another seasickness pill just to be safe.
Late at night is an awesome time to spend at the pool area on Disney ships because most kids are sleeping or in clubs, and I'd imagine most adults are similarly partying or sleeping. Plus, there is no danger of sunburn. So we eagerly dumped our stuff on one of the many available tables and ran over to the hot tub. Unfortunately, the word "hot" was a bit optimistic and a more suitable name would have been "the warm tub". But Megan verified that the other tub was an "ice cold tub" so it was the best option we had available; I didn't have the heart to test the tub in the adults only area because there's no way I'd have been able to resist staying there if it had been suitably hot. Whenever anyone pressed the button for the tub to bubble, it would end by blowing out cool water so we always grimaced when someone pressed it before we could say anything.
In one sense it was better than the tub wasn't too hot because it meant that we could stay in to our hearts' content as we watched the end of the movie Wall-E on the Jumbotron. I didn't think of it at the time, but I'm pretty sure that we'd watched Wall-E on New Years 2009 after I'd told the girls about the first WDW trip we'd be taking, so it was definitely appropriate viewing. I focused on just trying to appreciate the moment that was encapsulated by sitting on the deck of on a cruise ship with 2 of the people that I love most in the world, later than any of us usually stay out, essentially living life to its fullest. I felt that the ship was truly living up to its name, the Disney Magic.
One thing that was curious is that none of us felt the motion of the ship for the duration of our time in the
hot warm tub. I hypothesized that it was due to the motion feeling more natural because we were directly immersed in water. Whatever the reason, I now know that if I ever start to feel seasick on a cruise, I should head directly for the hot tub!
Depsite the fact that it would have been nicer if the temperature (in and out of the tub) had been a few degrees warmer, we stayed in the tub until a CM came by to close it at around midnight; this meant that the girls were able to meet their goal of staying in the hot tub until they were kicked out. We stopped for Julia and me to get hot chocolate before heading back to the room and collapsing. We were tired but it was all worth it!
7am and my alarm came all too soon; I'd originally hoped to get up even earlier to watch the ship sail in to NYC, but our late night escapades in the hot tub made me kill that plan.
The girls got up a bit later than me, and I appreciated the fact that they really didn't give me trouble about getting ready. While they were still getting their stuff together, I ran down to Shutters to pick up our photo CD. On Saturday, when we'd been looking at our photos on a kiosk, I'd clicked on a button to order a CD with all of our photos and announced "Here's where Aunt Faith spends way too much money." The CD is indeed expensive, but photos are precious to me so it's worth it to be able to have all of them.
We were assigned to eat at Lumiere's for breakfast; the only day on a Disney cruise where you're assigned a breakfast location and time is on the debarkation morning, although the buffet is also open. This morning, our table of 10 dwindled even further to a table for 3 since we were the only ones who showed up. Almost as soon as we sat down, I realized I didn't remember packing my bag of medicine. Julia suggested I go through my luggage, but it was easier to run upstairs (and run I did); I was able to locate the bag stuffed at the very back of a drawer- so far back that they hadn't been visible when I'd pulled the drawer open earlier to check. Most of the medicines were replacable (I always take various OTC meds with me as a precaution) but I would have been a little sad to lose the motion sickness pills that I'd gotten in Australia. (I used one on Friday night when the seas had been choppy heading out of NYC)
I took my time enjoying my lox and cream cheese breakfast, wanting to delay the inevitable. After we were done eating, I suggested heading to the bathrooms near Beat Street because they wouldn't be as crazy as any near the lobby atrium which was bustling with activity. We didn't have to be back home at any time in particular, so we chilled out in Sessions for a few minutes until we heard an announcement around 9:10 that it was last call to get off the ship. At that point, we couldn't delay any longer. Time to exchange the fantasy world at sea for the real world at land. There was a line of fellow procrastinators, but it moved very quickly.
There had been talk earlier about maybe taking a subway or going somewhere in NYC after the cruise, but I for one was exhausted and the girls didn't ask about either option. So I headed directly to the taxi line. It was really simple to get a cab; someone handed out tickets and you just needed to wait for your number to be called. It only took a few minutes. Fortunately, traffic was a breeze so we were at Penn Station by around 9:45 (and the cab ride was about half the price of the ride to the pier). Since the next train was at 10:14, we had plenty of time for the girls to do some souvenir shopping. I even had time to locate a bottle of Diet Cherry Dr Pepper.
The train ride home was pleasantly uneventful; the girls read their books and I caught up online a little on my iPad. For perhaps the first time, there was absolutely no drama on our way home! We were all wearing the new shirts that I'd bought the previous day; I'm guessing that's because we all had such a great time cruising together.
Best. Surprise. Ever! I still can't quite believe everyone was able to keep it a secret from the girls until the moment when Megan spotted the ship, but it helped that I'd booked it so close to the sail date so I didn't have to keep the secret very long. I was also glad to know that the girls would have enjoyed spending the weekend with me even when they didn't think that anything super special was going to happen.
In a word, cruising from NYC was awesome. It's so convenient to just be able to take the train and not have to worry about airplanes; it's also definitely a money saver. I already mentioned to the girls that I'd consider booking something in 2014 if Disney sails out of NYC again. (they won't be sailing out of NYC in 2013)
I was hesitant about taking a 2 night cruise because I thought it might be too short. But since I was only expecting 2 days and since they packed so much into the short time (especially on the 1st night!), it felt ok. Megan lamented the fact that just as she was starting to find her way around the ship, we were getting off. But I think we all agreed that 2 nights on a Disney Cruise is better than spending those 2 nights at home; we were able to make a lot of wonderful memories together.
We had late seating for dinner on this cruise for 3 reasons: 1- It would allow us to stay on deck to see the sail out of NYC 2- I meant a later breakfast the last morning and 3- It was all that was available by the time I booked. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but it turned out great. The girls were able to snack during the late afternoon if they were hungry and they seemed fine with the schedule. (I always eat dinner late so it wasn't so much a factor for me)
The most amazing thing was that the weather had held out so well for the weekend. I'd stressed so much about it, and now I'm reminded that I should never waver in my belief that if you do something out of love, things will end up working themselves out.
I am a big Olympics junkie and I had to miss watching 2 days of competitions to be on the ship, but I wouldn't trade those days for anything. The laughs I shared with my nieces on the Disney Magic are worth more than all the Olympic gold medals combined.