Friday, August 26, 2011 - Monday, September 5, 2011
Although we are huge Disney fans, we had stayed away from the Disney Cruise Line merely from a cost perspective. Cruises on RCL, for the same itineraries, were usually much less expensive. That being said, for Jill's 40th Birthday it only seemed fitting that it would be a dream for her, aboard the Disney Dream! Jill's 40th birthday trip was actually divided into three parts, all three being things she's always liked to do: The Great New York State Fair, a Caribbean cruise, and Disney!
Our week and a half adventure started mid-day on Friday the 26th. We headed north to Syracuse, arriving at The Great New York State Fair in the early afternoon. Walked around there a while, playing "I Got It", having lunch in the international pavilion, getting our traditional milk and corn on the cob, as well as a PBR or two and wine slushie along the way. Late afternoon, we headed to the hotel.
Being the first weekend of the state fair, we had a bit of difficulty finding a reasonably priced hotel. Jill finally found the CrestHill Suites and it proved to be a good hotel for us. We usually don't spend the night in Syracuse, but more than likely if we had to again this would be on our short list. For dinner on Friday night, we found a place nearby for some good Italian food - Joey's Italian Restaurant. Good meal, a keeper for us.
Bright and early on Saturday morning we were up and to the airport. JetBlue was our airline of choice on this trip, flight 663 at 7:05AM would take us directly 'home', MCO! I wanted a direct flight, instead of a connecting one, to hopefully minimize the chances of our luggage being misplaced. The flight was ontime and uneventful. Landing in Orlando at just before 10:00, our timing was 'perfect'. We grabbed our rental for the week or so, and it was off to lunch! Arrived in Celebration at just about 11:00, which worked out well since our lunch venue, The Celebration Town Tavern, opened at 11:00. Had a very good lunch and I even joined the 99 beers club there (after trying all 99 beers on their list, I get a cool mug!). After lunch, we made our way to property where we wandered around Epcot, got Jill her first liquid crack of the trip, and hit some of our favorite rides.
For dinner, before heading over to the coast, we sent to Taverna Opa. Jill and I had been there on a previous trip, and we wanted Mike to see the place. Good food, a wild atmosphere, but no dancing on the table girl this time around. We'll have to take Mike back again so he can see that! With dinner done, we made the drive about an hour east to Cocoa Beach. We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach, a good find by Jill, and a hotel that we are going to stay at later in the year when we are back for the Space Coast Marathon.
Up on Sunday morning with some time to kill. Our listed boarding time was 1:00-1:30, although when we arrived at the port early (around noon) we found that it was actually open boarding. Prior to that, we grabbed Mike some breakfast at the Starbuck's adjacent to the hotel, and Jill and I had a quick breakfast from a nearby grocery store. We parked the car in the ramp at the port for this trip. The last trip out of Port Canaveral, onboard the Freedom of the Seas a couple of years back, we waited for quite a while after disembarking before the Avis shuttle came to get us. To circumvent that, this time we just decided to leave the car in the parking garage rather than turn it in, only to have to rent another one after the cruise.
Our checking in was seamless, waited in line a bit to board the ship, after the traditional embarkation photo though we were up the gangway! As we came onboard, they actually announced our families name and welcomed us! Very cool. From there, we started to explore the ship a bit (our cabin wasn't ready yet), Mike changed into his swim trunks and took a dip in the pool, as well as his first ride on the AquaDuck, and Jill and I sat poolside with our first drinks of the cruise.
When the time came for our cabin to be ready, we went down (one deck) to check it out. Not only was our luggage already there (bonus!), but the decorations and champagne I had ordered for Jill's birthday cruise were there waiting for us as well. Nice cabin, usual size that we have had on most cruises in the past, with the exception being the shower/tub and toilet parts of the bathroom were actually separate rooms which was a nice 'perk'. We headed back down to the fourth deck for the muster drill after checking out the cabin, and returned afterwards for our sail away.
I had ordered a bottle of Fairy Tale Cuvee' Champagne for the sail away, thought it was pretty fitting for being on the Disney Dream and all. We had grabbed Mike a specialty smoothy on the pool deck so he had something as well (which he didn't like after getting it). Sail away was pretty cool, with the captain playing three different Disney tunes as we made our way down the slip and out of Port Canaveral.
Our first nights dinner was Artists Pallette, a very cool venue for eating and the one (of two) we had most been looking forward to. There were animation screens throughout the restaurant as well, and Crush (the turtle) and other Nemo characters interacted with the patrons while they were eating.
Monday the 29th of August was our first port of call, the Bahamas. Jill had actually made a 'reservation' at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island, which happened to be right next door to the Atlantis Resort. Along with the reservation, we were given three passes to Atlantis (which was the real reason for the reservation). So, we took a taxi to the hotel, checked in, and walked over to Atlantis where we spent the day. Very 'Las Vegas-esque' kind of resort, with casino and lavish furnishings throughout. Headed back to the ship mid-afternoon.
Monday nights dinner was at the 'Enchanted Garden'. Another pretty cool venue for Disney (not as cool as Artists Point of course), where the foliage throughout the room - on the virtual screens - 'grew' during dinner.
Tuesday was to be our day at Castaway Cay, but due to Hurricane Irene they flip flopped our sea day and Castaway Cay day. Mike was off to the teen club for the day, and Jill and I found a couple of spots on deck to relax and just hang out.
Tuesday evening was our dinner at Palo, one of two 'fine dining' (and adults only) restaurants aboard the Disney Dream.
We arrived back in port on Thursday morning, grabbed the car and headed to property. On Thursday evening, we had dinner at Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot (8:50 reservation).
On Friday - Jill's birthday - we went to Citrico's for her birthday dinner. I had ordered a specialty made cake for her (seen below in the picture) adorned with Tinkerbell, and of course vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream - both Jill's favorite's!
On Sunday afternoon we had lunch at the Biergarten Restaurant (2:45 reservation). On Sunday evening we had dinner at the Coral Reef in Epcot (8:30 reservation).