2015 Disney Cruise Day 1 - Sailing Away

The following is an account of our Disney Cruise to the Bahamas from earlier in the summer.

Monday, June 1, 2015

We awoke in Cocoa Beach, Florida, excited and ready for our Disney Cruise. We had left home two days earlier, stopping to spend the night in Tallahassee, before driving on to Cocoa Beach to spend Sunday night there. Going to Cocoa Beach actually served two purposes for us. First, being so close to Port Canaveral on the morning of our cruise would mean that we didn’t have far to go. And second, Lori Wilson Park at Cocoa Beach is our favorite beach spot, so we had enjoyed a fun afternoon at the beach the previous day. But now it was time to cruise.

Our traveling companions, the Riedels, had followed a different plan. They left home a day before us, so that they could have a day to spend in the parks at Walt Disney World. So while we woke up in Cocoa Beach, they woke up at their hotel at Walt Disney World and would have about an hour’s drive to get to the ship. None of us had any complaints at all.

We had learned from our previous cruise two years earlier to reserve our port arrival time as soon as possible, and this time we were able to reserve the 10:30-10:45 arrival time for both of our families, thinking that would get us there ahead of the crowd. As it turns out, the crowd thought the same thing, apparently. When we pulled up at the terminal around 10:20 to drop off our luggage, there was already a line of people standing along the fence waiting to get in. My guess was that they don’t start letting people enter until at least 10:30, and these people were all just waiting to get in. Most of them had probably arrived from the Walt Disney World resorts by the Disney Cruise Line buses that you see, although some of them probably arrived by car like we did. Anyway, someone soon came to get our luggage, and we drove on to the parking garage to park our car.

From our phone calls to each other, we knew that the Riedels were close behind us. In fact, the last call we got was from Karen saying, “What are all these people doing standing out here?” So we shared our guesses about the crowds with her. And then we waited by our car in the garage so that they could find us and park next to us. Because we were in a rental car, they wouldn’t have known otherwise which car was ours. But we didn’t have to wait long, and then we were on our way to join the crowds.

Instead of entering on the ground level, we decided to use the third level walkway from the garage to the terminal building, figuring that we would avoid all of the people that we had seen waiting to get in. Once we reached the end of the line on the walkway, we had a short wait, because they still weren’t letting people enter the terminal yet. One of the cast members said something about the Coast Guard running behind in all of their inspections between the arriving cruise and our departing cruise, and that was slowing up everything. And then once the line started moving, it was moving slowly, so they diverted some of us downstairs to go in that way. So our plan to avoid the downstairs crowd didn’t quite work out, because we were right back to where we would have been all along. Oh well, it was worth a try. We had a short wait to get through security, and then we were in the terminal.

Once we were inside the terminal, we went to get all checked in. This time around, we were all able to go through the Castaway Club line, even though on our previous cruise the guy manning the line had told the Riedels just to follow us, even though they hadn’t yet sailed before. So with the Club line, we had just a short wait before it was our turn. Checking in itself was a pretty quick process because we had filled out all of the paperwork online and printed out the signature pages to bring with us. All we had to do was to get our passports scanned in, and then we were good to go. We were given our boarding group number, which was group 3, and the Riedels were in the same group. I knew we wouldn’t get in group 1, because that is for the concierge guests and those with a higher Castaway Club group than ours. I was hoping for 2, but 3 was just about as good. And then, we had to wait.

Even with all our previous cruises, I hadn’t realized that there is an observation deck at the terminal building, but I had recently read about it online. I guess on our previous cruises, we hadn’t had much time between checking in and boarding the ship, so that we could go exploring in the terminal building. Because we had some time to kill this time, I talked everyone else into going out there for a few minutes to get some group photos. We had a good view of the Disney Dream from out there, and it got us away from the growing crowd inside for just a bit, too. But it was hot and sunny out there, so we didn’t linger all that long.

Group photo from the observation deck

A different group photo after switching photographers

Just the Burnses

Back inside, the crowd was starting to get a little restless, but they finally started calling group numbers for boarding. It was a little frustrating once they called our number, because everyone who hadn’t been called yet was standing right by the entrance to the boarding line, making it hard for those of us who had been called to get there. If you have a number of something like group 12, why bother standing right by the entrance as they are calling group 3? And yes, I know that was the case because I glanced at others’ boarding numbers as we pushed our way through the crowd. Because you know, they might just mess up and call group 12 right after group 3, right? But I tried to be nice, because these were the people we would be sharing a ship with for the next four nights. Might as well get along.

Planning the day while waiting to board

Once through the crowd, we walked through the Mickey-shaped portal thing, and then we scanned our room key cards and were officially on board. Except that we weren’t technically on the ship yet. We stopped to get our official “boarding the ship” group photo made, which we were sure would be the first of many photos that we had made, based on previous experience. Then, we gave our name to the crew member, who said, “The Disney Cruise Line proudly welcomes the Burns family!” And then we were technically, officially on the ship.

The Mickey funnel portal thing.

Because of our early arrival, our rooms weren’t ready yet, but we knew to expect that. So our first order of business was to eat lunch; our stomachs were all reminding us of this important event. You can’t skip one of the three most important meals of the day, after all, even if you know that you are going to be eating a big dinner later on. You have to have the energy to make it to that dinner, of course.

We decided to head up to Cabanas and eat at the buffet. Fortunately, Laura and Karen spotted an open table, so they went ahead and sat down while the rest of us went and got our food. I filled up my plate, and then when I got to the table I noticed that everyone else had lots of stuff that I hadn’t seen. Apparently, I hadn’t gone far enough down the buffet. No big deal, because my plate was full of stuff I was looking forward to eating, but I would have happily added some of that other food to it as well if I had seen it. The table that the girls had found was a little tight for all seven of us and our carry-on bags, but we managed to squeeze in. And then when we were finished, we didn’t stay around, because we could see that others were waiting for a table as well.

Our rooms still weren’t ready, so we went walking on the upper deck for a while. At least until we got to the ping pong table. For some reason, that was a big hit before with the kids and Brant, so they all stopped there to play again for a while. So Laura, Karen, and I checked out the view of the shore from up there, and just generally passed the time waiting for them to finish and for our rooms to be ready. Who knew ping pong on a cruise ship was such a big draw?

Fun in the sun while we were waiting.

Hello, early pool people!

The sun was blazing, and we were starting to melt just a little bit just like Olaf by the fire, so we decided to make our general way toward our rooms, just to see if they were ready. We had been told they would be ready around 2:00, and we thought that if they weren’t ready, we could at least get a break from the sun for a while. Our rooms, as it turns out, were close to the Oceaneer Club areas, and we waited close to those for a little while, because we couldn’t go any farther down the hall. It was interesting to see the kids’ reactions as their parents would bring them by the club for the open house times. The kids were especially fascinated with the automatic hand washing sinks, and it seemed like every one of them washed their hands multiple times. Even if they had just washed them at the other club down the hall.

Getting closer to our room. And no, the ship wasn’t leaning, just the photographer.

Finally, we were able to move down the hall closer to our rooms, but they still weren’t ready yet. I was interested to see that the normal sign says the rooms will be ready after 1:30, but they had paper-clipped a “2:00” sign over that. I guess that was still because of the Coast Guard delays that we heard about earlier. No big deal for us - we weren’t in a hurry.

We didn’t have to wait long, though, before one of the crew members removed the sign and allowed us to go to our rooms. As with our previous cruise, our room and the Riedels’ room were adjoining, and of course the first thing we did was open the door in between the rooms. Who needs privacy? Well, we do sometimes, but we only close the door when we really have to. We also discovered that our verandahs were about five feet larger than before, due to their placement on the ship. I’m sure we paid a little extra for that, but it was cool to have a nice, large verandah.

After a bit, we were greeted by our stateroom host, Dennis, who was more than happy to open the divider between our verandahs, giving us one large verandah. He went over a few things for us, but because all of us had sailed before, we pretty much knew what was going on. And before long, our luggage started showing up outside our doors, much earlier than I had expected. I guess it helped that we had arrived early, putting our luggage in one of the earlier batches to be loaded. Also, the Riedels all tried on their life vests, but the Burnses didn’t. The Burnses did, however, take photos of the Riedels in their life vests. I guess if the ship were to start sinking, one family would be prepared to not drown, while the other family would be prepared to document it all as they go down. Safety first!

Riedels in life vests.

It wasn’t quite time for the safety drill yet, but we decided to go out walking again instead of sitting in our rooms waiting for the drill. We had come with our swimsuits in our carry-on bags just in case we wanted to swim or get a ride on the AquaDuck, but we ultimately decided against that. So off we went on our ship exploring adventure.

How do you do a group hug when the whole group won’t hug?

We didn’t notice any major changes from our previous cruise two years earlier, which was fine, because we all enjoyed the ship just like it was. We did notice that the crew members were already starting to close down the pools for the sailing away party. I have always been interested to watch them convert from pools to dance floors. Yeah, I know - cruise ship nerd. That’s me. They should give out badges for that, because I would probably proudly wear mine. Anyway, people draining water from pools is not necessarily what you want in your photos, but I could always come back later and take more, right?

We wandered over to our assembly station for the safety drill about 10 minutes early, and we were a little surprised to find that a large crowd was already there. Now who are the cruise ship nerds? Apparently, no one bothers to wait for the 4:00 start time to get there any more. Cruise tip: you don’t get any prizes for being there early, and you still have to stay all the way to the end. Don’t be late, but don’t be really early, either. Unless you like to stand there on the deck in a line with your family. At least it isn’t like the good old days of our first cruises where we had to wear our life vests to the drill!

Someone was taking photos and not paying attention during the safety drill.

Maybe everyone was there early for the drill because they wanted to be first to the Sail Away party after that. But even then, they ended up just going up there with all the rest of us, which was what we did next. Knowing the elevators would be crazy crowded, we took the stairs, and we were huffing and puffing by the time we reached Deck 11, having started at Deck 4. Remind me to be in better shape before our next cruise. As usual, we chose Deck 11 instead of being out on the floor on Deck 10, because we aren’t in-the-middle-of-it-all party people. And I can’t speak for everyone else, but I get tired of the show pretty quickly and wander over to the railing to see if we are sailing yet. This time, they did the countdown. said, “We are sailing away,” and the ship’s horn blew, but we had actually already been sailing for almost 10 minutes by that point. Not that you would know that if you were in the middle of the crowd dancing to the music.

We enjoyed watching the world go by, seeing sights such as Jetty Park beach grow smaller as we moved farther away from them. We were following another ship out through the channel, but they were well ahead of us. Zach and Brant had already been up at the front of Deck 11, because Zach wanted to see what it was like to go to the 18 and over “adult” areas. So I decided that I wanted to go get a view from the front of the ship as we were sailing, and because that was the “adult” area I got Laura to go with me while Jaylin stayed with the Riedels. The wind was pretty fierce up there, so we got some quick photos and videos while holding on to everything for dear life, and then we went back and joined the rest of the family.

Hello, Jetty Park Beach! Can you see us waving from down there?

The view from the pointy end of the ship.

After all of that excitement, we went back to our rooms to chill for a bit before getting dressed for dinner. The Riedels decided they were going to go see the Golden Mickeys show in the Walt Disney Theater. We decided that we weren’t going, since we had seen the show on our last cruise. The Riedels are much more theater type people than the Burnses are, and that’s fine. Not that they have a lot of extra drama in their family or anything. Just that they like theater shows.

Laura lounges on our verandah.

Sailing, sailing over the bounding main!

Once we Burnses got changed for dinner, we went out to walk on the Deck 4 Promenade for a bit, just to pass the time before our seating. People always seem to line up to get into the restaurants before their seating, and I don’t really see the point of that. You don’t necessarily get your food any faster, and if you wait to go until right at your seating time, you don’t have to stand in line to get into the restaurant. Why wait for that? It’s a lot like getting there early for the safety drill, actually. So we had some nice, quiet time in the cool of the early evening out on the Promenade. Too bad there wasn’t a nice sunset to see, but the clouds prevented that from happening.

Promenading on the Promenade.

Laura and Jaylin at the sunset, except that we couldn’t see the sun setting.

Laura Lounges on the Promenade

That’s a mighty big chandelier!

Our first restaurant of the cruise was the Royal Palace. When we arrived, the Riedels were already in their seats at our table, so we filled in the empty seats around them. We met our servers for the cruise. Constantin, our main server, was from Romania. And Potchara, our assistant server, just happened to be from Thailand. That was interesting to me, because I had just been to Thailand two weeks before our cruise. I wanted to ask him where he was from, but I decided to wait until another night when we all knew each other better. I really do like how you have the same servers each night on the cruise, because it gives you a chance to get to know a little about each other, instead of them just seeming like a couple of guys bringing us our food. And from the beginning, these two seemed like good guys.

Laura with her invitation to the Royal Palace. Which was actually the menu.

But anyway, for our dinner the food was good, the service was good, the setting was good, but the company was even better. Always nice to be there on a cruise with your friends instead of being put at a table with people you don’t know. As always happens whenever we eat with the Riedels, we laughed a lot, probably a little too loudly sometimes. But that’s just us. If you can’t have fun with your friends on a cruise, then you probably should just stay at home.

Zach at the Royal Palace.

I did notice something was going on at a table near ours. I’m not sure exactly why, but the family there was really unhappy. It sounded like one problem was that they wanted to be at the earlier seating instead of the later seating, but I got the feeling there was more to it than that. The head server, Harry, even came over to try to smooth things over with them, but they eventually got their meals in to-go boxes and left. And we never did see them again at dinner for the rest of the cruise. Strange. I also noticed that someone at another table had given their young child an iPad, and the child was constantly watching movies. Wouldn’t it have been better and cheaper to leave the child at home with a relative so she could watch movies there? I’m not sure why some people bring their children on vacations with them, when all the end up doing is trying to keep the children entertained the whole time. But that’s just me.

Karen at the Royal Palace.

As we were finishing, Constantin came to give us an overview of the next day’s activities. He also asked how we felt about the service, if we thought that it was too slow or too fast. He said he could bring our food more quickly if we wanted, but we were fine with the way things were. No need to be in a big hurry when you are eating a good meal with good company, after all.

Even though we had the late dinner seating and weren’t finished until almost 10:00, that is way too early to go to bed on a full stomach. Maybe they shouldn’t feed you so much at dinner. No wait, just forget I said that. I can cope. So we always find something to do after dinner to work some of the food off.

On this night, we decided to go meet the main mouse, which of course would be Mickey Mouse, who was greeting guests and posing for photos in the ship’s main lobby. If we are being honest, his main purpose there was posing for those photos, because of course they want you to buy lots of photos taken by their professional photographers to help you remember your trip, and who wouldn’t want a photo with Mickey Mouse to help them remember their Disney Cruise? That’s us, so we got in the short line and waited our turn. That’s one of the advantages of the later dinner seating, actually - the character lines after dinner are always relatively short. So it wasn’t long before we had our face time with the biggest mouse you have ever seen, before we were rushed on so that the next family waiting could have their photo made, too. Gotta keep the line moving, after all.

Who is that big mouse, and how did he get in our family photo?

We then went out on the Deck 4 Promenade to enjoy the evening air. And Brant and the kids enjoyed a game of shuffleboard, too. It should probably be understood that usually when I say “the kids,” that includes Brant, too. It is interesting how the oldest one of us is the one that most enjoys the games with the kids. Laura, Karen, and I enjoyed the deck chairs while they enjoyed their shuffleboard. Nobody won, because they weren’t actually keeping score, but that helps to avoid any arguments, too. Once they were finished, we enjoyed a walk around the Promenade, dodging the joggers who kept passing us, probably thinking that we were the slowest walkers they had ever seen. But then we weren’t walking for speed, but rather just to be out enjoying our vacation time with our friends.

Girls in lounge chairs, and some strangers through the window.

When we got back to our room, we were greeted with a towel animal crab on our bed. Except that instead of being made with a towel, it was made with the duvet cover/blanket thing from the end of the bed. I guess too many people were enjoying having extra towels in their rooms, so they had to cut back and instead use something else to make the animals. Or maybe they thought that those blanket things didn’t get much use otherwise, and since they had paid for them, they might as well do something with them. Either way, it was still interesting to see it shaped as a crab. And there were even some chocolates there, too, which apparently blanket crabs don’t eat.

There’s a crab in our bed!

So once we had calmed down a bit, we all got settled in for bed for the evening. It had been a fun day, and we were already looking forward to the fun of the next day.

Watch for more about our cruise coming soon!

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.