2018 Christmas Disney Cruise Part 1: Introduction and Getting There

We went on a Disney Cruise just before Christmas in December 2018 with our friends the Riedels. See more about it at the 2018 Christmas Disney Cruise page. But before we go, here is a little introduction…


Disney Cruises are a fun way to celebrate big events. In the past, we have been on cruises for our 10th wedding anniversary, Laura’s completion of her master’s degree, our 20th anniversary, our friend Zach’s high school graduation, and my parents’ 50th anniversary. In fact, all of our Disney Cruises so far have been in celebration of some event. And two of those cruises had been with our friends the Riedels, because their 20th anniversary was the same year as ours and because Zach is their son. A cruise is good way to celebrate, because you can spend time with the others in your group, or you can separate for a while and do fun things before getting back together for meals. We have always enjoyed it in the past.

Our next big life event was going to be Zach’s college graduation. So there was talk of us and the Riedels going on a celebration Disney Cruise in the summer of 2019. But once we started looking at calendars, schedules, and post-graduation opportunities for Zach, we thought that might not be the best idea. Then we realized that there would be a whole week between when Laura and the kids got out of school and Christmas. So we thought, what would it be like to go on a Christmas Disney Cruise? We could celebrate just a little early, because we are pretty certain that Zach really is going to graduate at the appropriate time.

It sounded like a good idea to everyone, so we got our travel agent friend Melissa to look into it for us. Interestingly, all of this came together while we Burnses were in the car on our way to Florida for our annual visit in June of 2018. Nothing like heading to Florida for one trip while planning a future cruise! At first, we were looking at a Caribbean Disney Cruise leaving out of Galveston, Texas. But fortunately someone eventually realized that the date for that was December of 2019, not December of 2018. Glad we caught that when we did. Melissa then found that there was indeed a cruise on the dates that we were available. Similar to several of the others we have been on recently, this one would be a four-night Bahamas cruise on the Disney Dream, leaving from Port Canaveral, Florida. Unlike our 2017 cruise, which included two stops at Disney’s island of Castaway Cay, this one would be like most of the others we had been on, with stops at Castaway Cay and Nassau, along with a day at sea. Nothing wrong with that, as I always enjoy the relaxed feel of the day at sea. It all sounded great to us, so Melissa got us all booked with connecting rooms, and we were all set to go.

Watching the countdown on the Disney Cruise Line app was fun. And when it got to 3 days, it was fun to see some other 3s in the countdown, too. I may have waited around for a few minutes to get just the right screenshot for this.

As the time for our trip got closer, we all talked about what to do for getting there. We Burnses decided to stop for a night at Walt Disney World, and Melissa got us a reservation for the Art of Animation Resort. The Riedels decided to head straight there, leaving home a day after we would leave, so that we would just meet up with them on the morning of the cruise.

As soon as we could, we all did the online check in procedure, and because we did it early we were able to select the first port arrival time, which was 11:00. That would give us plenty of time to board the ship and eat lunch on board, we hoped. We always want to maximize our time on our cruises, after all.

Because we had done several of these cruises before, the biggest unknown for all of us was the weather. We had all been on a few December trips to Florida. Some years it was hot, some years it was freezing cold. But what would it be like in the Bahamas during that time? Would we be able to swim? Would we need a jacket? We started watching the weather pretty regularly as the time for our cruise drew closer, and we started noticing a trend of highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s. That would be just about perfect, if it would hold true for when we were there.

We all decided not to do any shore excursions, or port adventures as Disney likes to call them. We Burnses never have done any of those on Disney Cruises, but the Riedels had done one or two. But nothing was scheduled for this cruise.

So aside from having a hotel reservation at Art of Animation, a port arrival time, and a cruise booked, we did not have any plans at all. Which is just fine with me. Besides, we were all so busy with work and school leading up to the trip that we were just looking forward to getting away from it all. That was enough of a plan, especially for me.

We had our passports ready, our suitcases packed, and our SunPass all charged up for the Florida toll roads. We picked up our rental car (a 2017 Nissan Rogue - we got an upgrade because they did not have any cars)  the day before we were scheduled to leave, and we were all ready to go.

By the way, if you can’t tell a Burns from a Riedel without a scorecard:

  • The Burns Family: Steve, Laura, and Jaylin
  • The Riedel Family: Brant, Karen, Zach, and Katie

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Finally, the morning came for us to leave. We loaded up the Rogue with all of our stuff, and it all fit nicely. There was plenty of room for our suitcases to stand up side by side in the back. Plus, since we were not planning a trip to the beach before we left, we did not have our usual gear of beach chairs, umbrella, wave boards, and cooler, so that freed up a good bit of space, too.

The packed car before our Disney Cruise.

The car was all packed. It almost looked like we forgot something, but that was just about all of it.

We checked and double-checked to make sure that we had everything that we could need, and then we got in the car and drove away. It was around 9:45 AM, which is later than we usually leave. I would have preferred to leave a little earlier. But we did not have any place specific to be by the end of the day, so it would be fine. That is one of the reasons that I like to give ourselves an extra day at the beginning of the trip whenever it is possible. It keeps things a little less hectic that way.

We were about 20 minutes from home when we realized the first thing we had forgotten. No big deal, there are stores along the way. And besides, we thought of a few other things along the way that we had forgotten, too. Fortunately, it was not anything big like a passport or a camera.

Lunch was at the fine establishment of Wendy’s in Fulton, Mississippi. That is a little sooner than we usually stop, but that was because of our later start. And besides, there aren’t many places to stop after that for the next 100 miles or so. We ate our lunch and then we were back on the road again.

Traffic seemed to be lighter than normal for our trips. I would guess that was because it was December and not June. There was a wreck in Birmingham that slowed us down just a little, but it wasn’t too bad. Besides that, the roads were clear of problems and construction. Cool!

As we were driving along, we were passed by a car that flew right by us. Before it sped on away, I could see that it was a Maserati. You don’t see that all that often.

Once our lunch had worn off after several hours, we started looking for supper options. We stopped at a Subway outside of Dothan, Alabama. But as we walked up, we saw the sign on the door apologizing for the inconvenience, but they were out of bread. That was enough of an inconvenience for us that we decided to move along, because we like our sandwiches on bread. Call us old-fashioned if you want to, but we do. So we kept on going.

In the actual city of Dothan, we found another Subway. And this one did not have a sign on the door about not having bread, so in we went. Immediately, I recognized that this building had not always been a Subway. In its previous life, it was a Pizza Hut. It was one of their iconic buildings from the 1970s and 1980s, with the triangular windows. Jaylin had no idea what I was talking about, but Laura knew. Pretty cool, in a 1970s kid kind of way. And the bread was good, too.

As we drove on, I saw that another Subway we usually stop at in Florida was actually closed, and it looked like the building was being torn down. I guess Subway is one of our go-to restaurants on our road trips. Who knew? I was glad that we had not held out for this restaurant. It is always disappointing to plan to stop somewhere, only to find that it is closed when you get there.

Soon after that, we got in Interstate 10 to head east across the Florida Panhandle. Even though it was dark, I could immediately see that lots and lots and lots of trees were down. I quickly realized that this was some of the damage from Hurricane Michael, which had hit the Panhandle two months earlier. Laura and Jaylin were both asleep, so I did not try to wake them up to see it, even though I wanted to. I figured that we would be able to see it much better in the daylight on our trip home in a week. I could see some equipment in places that was being used to clean it all up, but I also knew that there was no way they could get all of that cleaned up in a week’s time. I also wondered if the Subway that was closed had been damaged by the storm, or if they had already started tearing it down before the storm hit. Interesting.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. Once we got close to Tallahassee, the storm damage had ended. We made a quick stop for gas along the way, but that was it.

After Tallahassee, I started watching for somewhere to stop for the night. The town of Madison looked like it might be good, so we stopped there. The first hotel, which shall remain nameless to protect its identity, had a sign in the door saying that there was no attendant at the moment. That was sort of like Subway not having bread. How could we get a room if there was no attendant? So that was the second establishment of the day to lose our business. Hopefully, that was not going to be a theme for the whole trip.

Just down the way was a Days Inn. And it did have an attendant, who was quite friendly. She got us set up with a room for the night. As we made our way back to our room, I realized that Laura and I had stayed there many, many years before. As in 1991, when we were there on a high school band trip. I thought about going back and mentioning that at the front desk, but I don’t think the lady would have cared all that much. So we just told Jaylin, who did not care all that much.

And with that, we settled in for sleep for the night, because sitting in the car all day can definitely tire you out.

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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.