You may have noticed that our social media presence was pretty much nonexistent this past week. Well, we were gone. We went on our first ever cruise. Disney cruise. To the Bahamas.
I want to say… it was AMAZING!
We booked a 5 day/4 night Bahamian cruise with Disney and took about a week that way we could do other things near our resort. Because time-shares, you know?
We purchased a time-share (yes, another one, unfortunately) through IHG when we visited Orlando last year. We decided to exchange and stay at the resort in Cape Canaveral, thinking we could walk to the terminal at the port (more on that later).
The resort we stayed at, Holiday Inn Vacation Port Canaveral, was fantastic. The hotel was nice and clean, and there wasn’t too much noise, even though they are upgrading units.
We booked a studio style room, which was enough and fine for the few nights we actually stayed there. The room was very clean and the decor was lovely. They also left a towel origami swan on the bed… fancy. 😉
The beach was a short boardwalk away, maybe 10 minutes depending in which building you’re staying in, but they also have a shuttle to take you there and back. The beach was very clean. IHG also had showers and a foot rinse area on the boardwalks, after clearing the sandy areas, to rinse off with – an awesome thing when your child hates sand in his sandals!!
On-site, the resort also has a 9 hole mini-golf course, included in your stay. We probably did this about six times, my kids never tire of mini-golf. Another thing included with your stay in the kids jungle gym area. It was like being at Chuck E. Cheese, without the gross pizza. We probably spent a good two or so hours in that room each night. There were slides, monkey bars, kids crafts, ping pong, etc.
The pool/water park area is such a nice size. It never felt too crowded and the water temperature was actually decent. The kids loved the area with the “valves” and of course the hot tub.
On-site is also a movie theater (also included with stay) and a game room. We did not spend too much time in these areas, but they looked way cool. The restaurant on property was decent. Foods you’d expect but some special to them. The chicken was moist and flavorful, I highly recommend the Baja Burger with fries. The prices were reasonable, similar to what you’d expect at other hotel restaurants.
One of the mornings, we checked out a local restaurant for breakfast. Southern Charm Cafe is about 5 minutes from the port/resort. It is probably the best cafe I’ve been to in years! The food was tasty and priced tremendously, and the service was fantastic. The manager personally goes around to check on customers and the waitresses are never far if you need something. Like I said, the prices were great. The five of us ate breakfast, in a sit down restaurant, for $30 with left overs for the next morning. A must for anyone looking for an inexpensive, filling meal in the Cape Canaveral area.
When we travel, we like to do as much as possible. So much, so that we usually feel like we need a vacation from our vacation. This time was no different, of course. We especially like things that are fun and educational.
One of our stops was Exploration Tower. It. Was. Awesome.
So admission rates for us out-of-towners:
- Adult 6.50
- Child (3-10) 3.75
- Senior 4.00
Not bad considering all you get to experience. There are 7 floors for you to explore, and it is 100% wheelchair accessible.
- You have the prerequisite gift shop and cafe, with guest information. And the ceiling decorations are beautiful.
- Ports of origin & fragile environment: again with the ceiling decorations made from 100% recycled materials. This is awesome floor to learn about the European settlers and the early history of the port.
- Leisure and theater area: an floor where you can learn more about the port and the ships that harbored there.
- Meetings & Special Events: you can pretty much skip this floor.
- Navigating Port Canaveral: “virtual reality game” where you can steer a ship through port and learn about ships that have sailed through the port carrying clothing, gold, food, etc.
- Air and Space port: great views of the Kennedy Space Center (more about the KSC next), plus so much information on our U.S. space program.
- Outdoor Observation Deck: beautiful 360 degree view of the surrounding areas.
The kids, and myself, really enjoyed spending time here. Once you purchase admission, it’s good all day meaning you can leave and come back before they close. I believe Exploration Tower is a Must See.
Kennedy Space Center, a place I wasn’t even sure I wanted to actually visit with my kids until I got there. It was absolutely awesome!
So, the reason I was sure I wanted to visit there was because my kids are young and it’s a bit costly, so I though.
Basic Single Admission
- Adult (12+) 52.00
- Child (3-11) 47.00
- Senior 50.00
We had so much fun here. So many rockets/space shuttle facts, displays, and the guided bus tour!! The bus tour was my favorite. It was air conditioned and we got to get close to the mobile launch pad and the Space X building.
My oldest (5) loves space so this was a big deal. He got to see his toy rockets up close and personal. He also is big into architecture, one of the buildings we studied was the Vehicle Assembly Building – he was thrilled we were actually able to see this place.
Again, a must visit place in Cape Canaveral. Worth it, no matter your child’s age. My youngest is two, there was plenty he could do.
The last place we visited was the Dinosaur Store [and Ancient Culture Museum] in Cocoa Beach. We drove by this purely by chance… and I’m not sorry.
They offer three different types of admission.
Dinosaur Store and Museum:
- Adult 14.00
- Child (3-11) 10.00
- Senior 12.00
- Adults 7.95
- Child (2-15) 9.95
- Child: I honestly don’t remember, sorry!
Once admission is purchased, it is good all day, as long as they are open. You can leave to get lunch and come back. Fantastic! The Dinosaur Store is wheelchair accessible, however, the objects in the store are extremely breakable and extremely expensive.
This place was so cool! Dinosaurs, ancient China, ancient Egypt. I loved it. The adventure zone was full of “free play” games and activities, an educational video, and a reptile zoo.
The museum had one whole floor dedicated to dinosaurs!! Dinosaur bones, real and replicas. Fantastic dinosaur facts.
The second floor, or mezzanine, was ancient cultures – the two that stuck out to me the most were ancient China and Egypt. They had a replica of king tuts tomb. It was great.
Okay, this brings me to start talking about our cruise! Yay.
So, like I said way up at the beginning, our original plan was to rent a car, drop luggage off at the terminal and walk back to said terminal. Yeah, that went out the door on the first night. There is absolutely no SAFE way to walk over there. You’d have to walk along the expressway/highway… the A1A.
We toyed with the idea of calling a Lyft, but didn’t want to store the carseats in our stateroom [on the boat]. The resort works with a 3rd party shuttle, but it was $30 one way and no car seats. We eventually came to the conclusion to just drive and park the rental at the terminal… $85 in a covered parking garage with 24/7 surveillance.
The check-in process for the cruise went pretty quickly. Once we parked and made it through security, I don’t think we waited more than fifteen minutes or so for our boarding group to be called. While we waited there was a model of one of the Disney fleet and multiple character meets.
Once on the boat, we had to wait for our stateroom to be prepared and our luggage to be brought up, so we did what any curious first time cruiser would do…. we ate lunch at the buffet and explored the ship! At this time, they were not enforcing the 18+ or teen areas.
Disney Dream is huge! Over 1,100 feet long and about 137 feet wide, there was a lot of space to cover.
The coolest place we checked out, that later we couldn’t get into, was Vibe. It’s essentially a hang out area for tweens & teens, but it’s awesome. It has it’s own pool and drink bar (non alcoholic, of course), and so many video games! They had circular seats in the walls.. with a screen in them to play an xbox.
Once they started implementing the age restricted areas, Brian and I checked out the quiet cover, an 18+ pool/bar area. Honestly, there was nothing quiet about it, it was just as loud, if not louder than the family pool.. maybe just not as crowded.
Alright, the family pools, the Mickey and Donald. I loved the idea of the pools, and lord knows we spent enough time in them last week! So, they have a nice bench seat, a shallow area, and then it gets considerably deeper depending on which pool you wade in; Donald is deeper at about 5 feet, while the Mickey pool is only about 2. The pools were super crowded on Embarkation day and the Sea day. Your best chance to do the Aquaduck (water slide) is on the day the ship visits Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Almost everyone gets off the ship this day.
The shows, that we actually took time to see, were amazing. Our favorite was the Golden Mickey. It was so cute and the kids really enjoyed it. It’s fun for all ages, guaranteed. They have multiple theaters on the ship, with plenty of seats but lacking in leg room. If you have small children that like to kick, maybe try to arrive a bit early to snag an isle seat in the middle.
Alright, I know just about everybody loves to meet their favorite characters while visiting Disney parks… the cruise is no different. The lines could get long, but don’t let that deter you! The staff does a good job at moving people along quickly and the really popular characters make multiple appearances; with all the chatacte dance parties, sail away party, and the like, you’ll have plenty of opportunities.
The food was, by far, my favorite part of the cruise. Unfortunately, we didn’t reserve a spot at Palo or Remy (next time for sure!), but we did try all the other restaurants, the free ice cream, and Venelope’s Sweets & Treats. All of them were delicious.
- Flo’s V8 cafe: mhm, from Cars. It’s a cute little walk up restaurant that serves a variety of pizza, salads, burgers, fries, wraps, and chicken tenders. It’s about what you would expect to get from a place like that on a boat. The pizza was good and the fruit was extremely fresh. Best of all, its unlimited and included in your cruise. They are open for lunch and dinner, late night munchies. Must get drinks from one of the drink stations. Flo’s V8 Cafe is found on deck 11.
- Cabanas: a huge buffet! They food always changes from day to day and it’s always delicious. You can get a variety of fish, meats, cereals, fruit, eggs, soups, etc. depending on the time you go. The are open all day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They have their own drink stations located inside the buffet area, at least 4 different areas. Cabanas is found on deck 11. Also included in the price of your cruise.
- The Royal Palace: a sit down restaurant, one of three rotating on the ship. The menu was exquisite, and the atmosphere lovely. I adored the decor. The food was amazing, both from the adult menu and the childrens. You can order something from every course (appetizer, entree, etc.) or maybe two of something else? The service is a bit slower at the sit down restaurants, so be prepared for that. Drinks are provided (except alcoholic beverages) and the meal is included in your cruise price. They are open for breakfast and dinner. Located on deck 3.
- Animators Palate: my kids favorite restaurant. We ate here twice. Once with their regular menu, then again for pirate night. Both menus were spectacular, the restaurant decor was brilliant, and the screens provided a bit of entertainment for the young kids that couldn’t wait for their good to arrive. Drinks provided and the meal is included in the price of your cruise. Same as the other rotating restaurants, you can order as much, or as little, as you’d like. Located also on deck 3.
- Enchanted Garden: my favorite of the three rotating restaurants. The decor is very Alice in Wonderland meeting the singing flowers. My favorite menu of the week, for sure. They are open for breakfast and dinner. Drinks included and the meal is included with the price of your cruise. The Enchanted Garden is located on deck 2.
- EYE-SCREAM: this is the free icecream station, located on deck 11 next to Frozone bar. There were 6 flavors to choose from, not including the “twist” flavors; banana, blueberry, mango, vanilla, chocolate, and I cannot remember the other. You can come get ice cream, any time of day, as many times as you want. This is a pretty popular area so you may have to wait a bit.
- Venelope’s Sweets & Treats: the name basically says it all. You can go in the store, purchase candies, cakes, caramel apples, etc. Its delicious. I tried two cupcakes and a cookie from there. Best $12 spent the whole trip! Unfortunately, this wonderful place isn’t included in the cruise price so you will need to use your onboarding account to pay for any items you may want.
- There are several bars located throughout the ship, and much like Palo or Remy, they are not included in your cruise booking. You must provide a credit card for your onboarding account to purchase these extras. That includes specialty drinks, alcoholic beverages, and the like, and don’t forget to tip! (The bars are no included in your charge at the end.)
- Cookies BBQ on Castaway Cay: I’m pretty sure there were other restaurants on the island, but I can’t be sure, since we didn’t venture too far from the beach. That being said, we did eat at Cookies BBQ before getting back on the ship. They had a small variety of foods to chose from; fresh fruit, burgers, bbq ribs, chicken, etc. The food was on the island was okay, but I wasn’t too impressed. Drinks are provided at the drink stations, and the meal is included in your cruise price.
Like I said, the food was my favorite. I tried so many new things. Some I really enjoyed, others I will never eat again.
The staff on the ship was amazing. Everyone was friendly and did real well with the kids. Our room host was fantastic. The boys really enjoyed coming in the room each night to see a new towel origami creature and my husband was convinced he was going to be able to start a band with the crew (apparently every crew member we talked to also enjoys metal music).
We did not do any of the port adventures this time. By the time the booking opened to us first time cruisers, a lot of the options were fully booked and what was left didn’t leave us a lot available to do with young kids. It wasn’t really a problem. On Castaway Cay we just spent time at the beach, a kid favorite. When our ship made port in Nassau, we explored the area on our own and made purchases at the straw market (and the Harley store).
The kids club, or Oceaneer Club, is another area we have some experience with. Not much, because adults aren’t allowed in, no pictures, and we kept missing the open house hours. My 5 year old, however, loved it. We couldn’t get him to leave. He ended up eating dinner there one night and totally missed out on the trick or treating.
So, how much research and preperation did I do before booking our cruise? A ton. Considering it was our first cruise, I wanted to be sure I had all my bases covered. I kid you not, I bought 4 different types of sea sickness medication, since I had no idea how it would affect us. Turns out, this time, we didn’t need it. I was the only one who felt a bit sick, on the first day with the storms going through the area making the waves very choppy. But not sick enough to need medication.
I did enough research to know which area on the ship I should book our stateroom on. Answer: middle of the ship. I was assure I would not feel the motion of the boat if I booked mid deck, middle of the boat. I booked midshipmen, deck 7. I only felt the waves, again, on the first night with the storms moving through the Atlantic.
We joined a Facebook group for our sailing dates & cruise ship. I’m super glad that I did. Most of the people in the group have sailed mutiple times and offered a variety of helpful tips, for things I never would have thought of. They also introduced us to the Fish Extender and Pixie Dust, which we of course joined.
The Fish Extender is a small group of people “getting together” to exchange gifts, more of less. Same with Pixie Dust. They are ways to spread more Disney love. No gift is too small; you can do a lot with a relatively small amount of money. It just all depends if you don’t mind the extra luggage. 🙂
We created customers Disney/Dream shirts for everyone in our group as our main extender group gift, and pop rocks in special containers as our Pixie Dust gift. The gifts we received were so thoughtful and sweet.
Some of the things we received were: homemade beach bags, snacks from Australia and Brazil, a custom photo frame, a jar for sand from Castaway Cay, Eye-Scream icecream toppings, and many more awesome things.
If you participate in the Fish Extender/Pixie Dust, be sure to create a bag or holder.
Passports. Did we need them? No, but yes. You either need a passport or a birth certificate. We already had passports for everyone in our travel group, might-as-well use them. I honestly don’t think I would travel outside of the U.S. without one, with the way everything is going. It also made it easier, showing U.S. citizenship and family relation for the family with the passports that take up such little space.
We flew Delta. Disney offered to include the price of airfare in our cruise price so we could lock in the cheap rate. Yay! We booked through Delta. My instructor from MIAT works for Delta and I know from prior experience that it is a great airline, especially when traveling with children. I love that they allow you to pick your seats, this ensures I will not be separated from my travel party. The snacks are always tasty (or as tasty as airline snacks can be) and the flight attendants friendly. Despite what everyone things, we didn’t have a problem with leg room, or luggage storage. The seats were roomy for us.
Not to brag too much, but my boys did so well on the plane. A lot has to do with how they were raised, and of course we brought things for them to do during the flight. When they got bored with the items we brought, we checked out the things Delta has to offer. We were not disappointed! They offer a wide range of movies and shows for both children and adults, all you need to provide are headphone.. or you can pay $2 for them on the plane. There are also several games to chose from and you can get your flight path – this is something both my kids really enjoyed. It was really cool to check to see where we were over the United States or how much longer we would be in the air.
Other places/things we suggest while in the area:
- Manatee Sanctuary Park – Cape Canaveral, FL
- Edible Arrangements – Cape Canaveral, FL (located in the strip with Southern Charm Cafe. The staff at Edible Arrangements were fantastic and the fruit was freshly cut!)
- Olive Garden – Merritt Island, FL (located near the Dinosaur store and Walmart. The staff were super nice with fast service and the restaurant was very clean.)
- Cocoa Beach Harley Davidson – Cocoa Beach, FL
- Nassau Harley Davidson – Nassau, Bahamas
- Life is short, eat the dessert!
I’ve started another “vacation fund” to save for our next cruise. Probably not for a few years yet, but I really enjoyed our first experience on the sea.
Have you been on a cruise or been thinking about it? Share your experiences in the comments below!!