Archive for September, 2011

Disney Dream, August 2011: Nassau (Part 1: Introduction, Breakfast, DVC Reception, Mini-golf)

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Nassau
View of Nassau from our stateroom

On the first full day of the cruise, the ship was docked at Nassau, the Bahamas’ capital city.  Our only previous visit to Nassau was during our previous cruise on the Disney Wonder.  On that cruise, we took a shore excursion over to the Atlantis Resort, a popular luxury hotel and casino, which also features an aquarium.  It was fun, but a very touristy spot with little-to-no local color.

This time, we wanted to see a bit more of the city and perhaps get a little more of a taste of the local culture.  When reviewing the offered shore excursions, it was quickly obvious to me that a good choice for us was the one that featured a visit to Ardastra Gardens, which is a local zoo, followed by a bus tour of the city.  This was particularly appealing as the featured attraction at Ardastra Gardens is the "world-famous marching pink flamingos".  Pink flamingos are my wife’s favorite animal, so this sounded like something she would particularly appreciate.

The excursion left the ship at 12:30pm and lasted for about 2 hours, which left us with plenty of time on-board the ship in the morning and the late afternoon and evening.  We wanted to have plenty of time to explore the ship and enjoy its features, so this was about the right length for the excursion.

Breakfast at Cabanas

Cabanas
Cabanas food stations

For breakfast, we decided to try out Cabanas, the buffet restaurant on deck 11.  Cabanas is pretty different from the equivalent restaurants on the Magic and Wonder.  It has a much larger indoor seating area and has also been changed from a traditional cafeteria-style buffet into more of a food court format with stations for different kinds of food.  Another interesting change is that Cabanas is a table-service location during the dinner hour, offering a more casual alternative to the main dining rooms while still serving the same 4-course meals.

At the entrance to the restaurant, greeters were stationed to guide guests to a table and give a brief overview of the available food.  I definitely prefer this approach over being left to find a table on our own. We were taken to a table next to a window and had a really great view during our meal. 

The breakfast offerings were pretty typical for a buffet.  They had scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, Mickey-shaped waffles, pancakes, and a variety of fruit, cereal, and pastries.  Drink stations on either end of the restaurant offered juices, coffee, and soda.  I only like eggs that are very well-done and the eggs they had were way too runny for my taste.  Because of this, I mainly stuck with waffles and fruit. I don’t know if they would have prepared some better-cooked eggs for me if I had asked, but they didn’t have a cooked-to-order egg station.

Seagulls at Cabanas
The seagulls from Finding Nemo were perched on a ledge near our table.

The food was pretty decent for this type of buffet and the decor of the restaurant, which is largely inspired by Finding Nemo, is pretty nice.  We actually ended up having our breakfast at Cabanas three of our four mornings on-board the ship.

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Answering Difficult Questions from Our Child

Monday, September 12th, 2011

For several years now, part of my 7-year-old son’s bedtime ritual has been to mark off the day on a calendar that he keeps in the room.  The calendar lists many holidays and he often will ask my wife and me to explain what they are.  I am writing this post on September 12, 2011 and last night he asked us to explain what "Patriot Day" was.

My wife and I had both paid attention to our share of remembrances, but we hadn’t openly discussed the anniversary around our son.  We also hadn’t had the TV or commercial radio on all day (which is actually pretty normal for a weekend day), so he hadn’t heard or seen any of the coverage either.  The events of September 11, 2001 aren’t currently covered in school for his age group and we hadn’t had previous occasion to discuss them with him, so this was the first time we needed to address the issue. 

I know that we probably could have largely avoided the issue by giving a simplistic answer, such as "It is a day where we recognize American heroes" or something similar to that.  That type of evasive answer somehow felt dishonest, though, so we instead did our best to provide a child-friendly explanation of events that still feel almost entirely inexplicable even to my grown-up mind.  During the conversation, he frequently asked us variations on the question "why?"  We did our best to explain that there really isn’t a good answer to that question.

We weren’t blindsided by the need to address the issue.  It was obviously a possibility that he would see or here some reference to 9/11 around the 10th anniversary and ask us about it.  In fact, it wasn’t really a surprise that his calendar commemorated the day and that was what triggered the question.  For that reason, my wife and I did already have ideas in mind for how to address the subject, although it wasn’t easy to actually express the right words when the time actually came.

We started off by first asking him if he had heard anything about the events, either at school, from friends, or from some other source.  When he said he hadn’t, we then explained that some very bad people had attacked buildings in New York City and Washington D.C., causing many people to get killed.  One thing we avoided was telling him the specifics of how the attacks were carried out, mainly because we do fly somewhat frequently and we feared that part of it would be too much for him to handle.  I’m sure we would have answered direct questions, but he didn’t ask for more details of that type.

We tried to focus on the heroism of the firefighters, police officers, and even civilian bystanders that risked and, in too many cases, lost their lives trying to help get people to safety.  He specifically asked us where they took the people that they rescued and we told him that those who were injured were taken to hospitals, some were simply moved out of harm’s way, and that some of those rescued joined the effort to rescue others.  We tried really hard to convey that the attacks themselves represented the worst of what people can do, but that much of the immediate response brought out some of the very best of humanity and that those heroes are the focus of the recognition of the anniversary.

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Disney Dream, April 2011: Embarkation Day (Part 5: Shopping, “The Golden Mickeys” and The District)

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Shopping

Inaugural Voyages Logo
Dream Inaugural Voyages Logo

After dinner, we had a little time before the evening’s theater presentation and we decided to explore the shops on deck 3, located near the Walt Disney Theater.  There are actually three shops in that area.  Mickey’s Mainsail is the main source for typical Disney souvenirs, including t-shirts, hats, plush, etc.  The selection includes a lot of merchandise with the Disney Dream logo as well as some more generic Disney Cruise Line items.  At least on our cruise, much of the Disney Dream specific merchandise still was identified as being for the inaugural voyages.  We bought t-shirts and hats here and I was also able to get a model of the Disney Dream to match one that I bought on our earlier cruise on the Magic (the one sold on the Wonder was identical to the one on the Magic). 

Disney Dream Souvenir Model
Disney Dream Souvenir Model

Across the way from Mickey’s Mainsail is Sea Treasures.  This store features some more upscale clothing as well as some higher-end merchandise like watches and jewelry.  This store also has a fairly large toy section.  Most of the toys are not cruise-specific, although they do have some Disney Cruise Line plush here.  My son found and purchased (with some of his saved up allowance) a plush cruise ship containing plush figures of Mickey and friends dressed in nautical outfits.  It is very cute, although he was a bit disappointed to discover that the characters are sewn in.

Disney Dream Hat
Disney Dream Hat

The third store in the area is Whitecaps, which is primarily a duty-free liquor store, although they do also stock a number of sundries, such as common over-the-counter medications, sunscreen and other similar essentials. 

All of the shops on the Dream are only opened while the ship is at sea, which allows them to sell all merchandise duty-free (tax-free).  Guests do have to declare all purchases at the end of the cruise and will be charged taxes if you exceed the $800/person duty-free limit.

"The Golden Mickeys"

Note: I didn’t get any photos in the theater or The District, which is why there aren’t any more pictures in this post.

Disney’s ships employ a full theatrical troupe that perform in elaborate productions in the Walt Disney Theater.  While this is not unique to Disney’s cruise line, the shows benefit quite a bit from Disney’s experience with live productions, including those for Broadway and the theme parks.  The result is a pretty consistently high quality to the shows presented on the Disney ships.  The shows also benefit greatly from Disney’s extensive library of stories, characters and songs, which provides strong source material for the shows to use.

On both of our previous cruises, the first night featured a "Welcome Aboard" variety show instead of a full-blown theatrical production.  On those previous cruises, we skipped that opening night show in favor of more general exploration of the ship’s features.  The schedule was different on the Dream, though.  The first night featured one of the major productions, "The Golden Mickeys", which we didn’t want to miss. 

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