Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

I Broke Up with Running

This week thousands of princesses will converge upon Walt Disney World Resort for Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Normally, I’d be one of them. Right about now I’d be stalking the weather and making any needed adjustments to my costume, packing, messaging with my fellow princess friends and excitedly making any last minute plans. I’d be studying the course map, meticulously calculating how much extra time I would have for photo stops and strategizing my potty breaks. I’d be filled with nostalgia of races gone by, almost teary-eyed thinking of seeing my fellow princesses again. Not this year, though.

Disney Princess Half Marathon 2013

It was “A Whole New World” in 2013 when I finished my first Disney Princess Half Marathon.

I broke up with running. After seven years, we called it quits with a clean break after last year’s race.

My relationship with running started off hot and heavy as all great relationships do. We met multiple times a week, consistently and faithfully for the first few years. We had good days and bad days, and some of our dates were longer than others. Some days I was giddy with love for the sport and others I questioned my sanity. I was committed to making it work, however, and I did just that for several years.

Then running hurt me. I developed Achilles tendinitis and went through months of physical therapy. We took a break. We grew apart, and I lost that loving feeling.

Disney Princess Half Marathon 2016

I finished in 2016, even though my training had been a little “sad.”

I tried hard to find my love again, mostly because of my love for my princesses, which never wavered. We were on again, off again for the next few years, but running continued to hurt me. I developed mild arthritic knee pain that showed its ugly face with distances over 5 miles. However, I decided I could still enjoy my princess weekends by dropping my distance down to the 10k. This was a great idea and served me well in 2017.

Enchanted 10k 2017

The Enchanted 10k of 2017 was just the right distance.

Then in 2018, I succumbed to peer pressure and registered for the half again.

I had plenty of time to train and tried really hard to talk myself into it. Time passed all too quickly and before I knew it, I was packing, having logged zero miles since the Enchanted 10k of 2017. Zero! Yet, I found myself at the starting line willing to accept whatever the course had in store for me that day.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Finish Line

I snapped this photo of the finish line before the race started because I thought there was a real chance this was the only time I would see it that day.

I do not recommend this. At all! If you are reading this and thinking, hey I can do a half marathon with no training at all, please pay close attention to what I’m about to say next. Don’t do it! Just don’t.

I finished. Miserably. But I finished. I legit thought I might never walk again by the time I made it back to our hotel room. The pain, though! Oh, the pain!

Princess Half Marathon 2018

Smiling through the pain

One of my roomies and I had prepaid reservations to the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party later that night, and I didn’t think there was any way possible I was going to make it. She was my cheerleader and helped me rally by feeding me a steady stream of wine coupled with Tylenol alternated with Advil. I made it to the party by keeping myself as numbed as I could.

Star Wars Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party

Thankfully, Tinkerbell sprinkled me with Pixie Dust and I made it to the party.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Medal

It was a great way to celebrate the end of my running chapter.

I vowed that day to never run again. I was done with the on again, off again relationship. I knew a clean break was in order. Yes, I’m aware that if I had actually trained, my experience would have been better. Yet, I couldn’t even make myself like it enough, even a little, to do it. So, with that, we were done.

It’s now been a year, and these days I’m in a new relationship. Orangetheory Fitness and I have been together for over a year now, and we are seeing each other much more frequently than running and I ever did. I get more out of it than I ever got from running, too. I have muscle definition I’ve never had, and I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been since my 20s.

Orangetheory Fitness

Orangetheory Fitness is my new love, along with the amazing coaches there.

Every now and then thoughts of running start to creep back into my head, as exes often do. I think about lacing my shoes up and heading out for a few miles just to see how the asphalt feels beneath my feet. That’s a slippery slope, though.

Still, the thing I never accomplished continues to nag at me at times, the marathon. Unfortunately, so does my arthritic knee pain. I know running and I don’t have a future.

Newbie princesses, perfect princesses and all princesses in between are going to have the time of their lives this weekend. I’ll be following along on social media from the comfort of my couch. I’m excited for everyone who will be there and look forward to living vicariously through them. I can honestly say, though, that I do not have FOMO. That chapter in my life is over, and I’m totally ok with that.

The Incredibles photo stop at Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

An “Incredible” photo stop on course. Also, who is this girl? I barely recognize her now.

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Tales of a Castaway Cay Cabana Convert

This is the time of year when I start dreaming of tropical beaches, citrus sunsets and colorful umbrella drinks. January and February are my least favorite months, and I can’t be alone in that. Lately, my thoughts have been wandering to the paradise that is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, only accessible via a Disney Cruise Line ship.

The Disney Wonder

The Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay

More specifically, I’ve been dreaming of my private cabana on Serenity Bay, the adults only beach on the island. It took me seven years of cruising Disney before I finally bought into all the hype. For years I thought they were an over-the-top extravagance that couldn’t possibly be worth the high price tag. Less than five minutes after setting foot into our precious piece of real estate for a day, I knew my past thoughts had been misguided. Wayyyyy misguided.

Serenity Bay Cabana 25

Cabana 25 on Serenity Bay

Getting a cabana on the island had never been on my radar, partly because they are almost impossible to get but mostly because of the high costs. As of now, Serenity Bay cabanas are $399 for up to 4 guests before tax. Family beach cabanas are $599 from September 25, 2018-March 17, 2019 and $649 from March 18, 2019-September 24, 2019. These prices are also before tax and are for up to 6 guests. On both beaches, you can have up to 10 guests in the cabana for an additional charge of $50 per guest over the number already included in the price. Not exactly cheap!

So, how did I get from there to here? It’s pretty simple, actually. I mainly wanted a more comfortable beach experience for my parents, my mom in particular. They are both in their seventies, and over the years I’ve watched as my mom has increasingly struggled with the beach. It’s harder for her to walk on the sand, and the beach chairs hurt her back. She also is sun-sensitive. While there are plenty of umbrellas on both beaches, getting full coverage from the sun is easier said than done. In 2017, my parents stayed on the beach just long enough for lunch to be served. It was hard to watch them not enjoy this highlight of the trip. I thought a cabana might be the answer and rationalized the cost by thinking of it as an all-day excursion. Per person, it’s really not that much more than other all-day excursions. Disney math at its finest!

Sign at the entrance of the private cabana area

So, after I made up my mind I wanted one for our 2018 cruise, how on earth was I going to get one? Let’s first break down why they are hard to get. First, there are only 24 of these beauties on the island (numbering goes up to 25 but 13 doesn’t exist); 20 are on the family beach (one is a double sized Grand Cabana at, you guessed it, an even higher cost) and 4 are on the adult beach. So, there aren’t a lot to go around. Second, Disney has a tiered system for booking activities, cabanas included, based on number of cruises you’ve taken and room category. Concierge guests (top room categories) get first dibs at them. There are more rooms in this category than there are cabanas. Often, they are all snatched up by this group first. Then, Platinum (10+ cruises) cruisers get a shot, followed by Gold (6-10 cruises), Silver (1-5 cruises) and finally, the newbies can try.

As a Silver cruiser not staying in Concierge, my chances were slim-to-none. As expected, they were all gone when it was our time to book. I stalked the site daily for cancellations to no avail. My next plan was to immediately go to Guest Services after boarding the ship and get on the wait list.

On the day of embarkation, something magical happened! We were on our way to the port when we learned of a change in our itinerary. We were supposed to go to St. Maarten, but due to a storm in the Caribbean, we weren’t going to make it. Instead, we would be making two stops at Castaway Cay. Thank you, Mickey! Many people were disappointed to miss St. Maarten, and I can totally understand that. I was elated, however! Immediately my brain went to the cabanas. A surprise stop meant all cabanas were available for the bonus stop, and I was determined to get one. Or so I thought.

I went straight to Guest Services when we boarded, thinking I would just book one right there on the spot. Not so fast! I learned that the cabana list is owned by the Concierge staff on board. That means Concierge guests still get first dibs. The Concierge staff would call me if there were any available after they were offered to their guests.

A few hours later, we got a call that there were two left, and one had my name on it! Success! Later that night, we received our wrist bands and cabana check in information.

Castaway Cay Cabana Wristbands

Our wristbands! We were official!

The next day, we docked at Castaway Cay for our bonus stop. We could not get off that ship fast enough to head to our private slice of paradise! Upon arrival at Serenity Bay, we headed straight for cabana check in. We were greeted by our cabana host for the day and taken via golf cart to Cabana 25. They were clearly expecting us as we found our name on the welcome sign.

Welcome Sign

What a warm welcome!

Our host showed us around our cabana, where we found very comfy chairs and loungers, a ceiling fan, changing area, bar menu, snack basket, fridge stocked with sodas, water, fruit and cold towels, outdoor shower, floats and tubes, a hammock and sunscreen. The most important feature was the button to push in order to call our host. All was included in the cabana cost except drinks on the bar menu.

Cabana 25

The back entrance to Cabana 25

Inside the Cabana

The cozy interior of the cabana

Cabana Interior

So inviting!

Cabana Lounge Chair

Super comfy lounge chairs

Cabana Lounge Chair

Another comfy chair. I tried them all out.

Cabana Ceiling Fan

It was a little chilly so we didn’t end up using the ceiling fan. It would have come in handy on a warm day, though.

Castaway Cay Bar Menu

If we wanted something from the bar menu, our cabana host was a push of a button away.

Snacks

Snacks

Stocked Fridge

Fully stocked fridge

Floats and Rafts

Floats and rafts right next to the cabana

Personal Hammock

We had our own personal hammock.

Complimentary Sunscreen

Complimentary sunscreen

We lounged around the cabana for a bit before taking a walk on the beach. It was kind of chilly that day (March) so the water was much too cold to enjoy. We went back to the cabana where we agreed it was nice to be shielded from the cool air. I found a sunny spot on the cabana porch and relaxed in the sun until it was time for lunch.

Beach Selfie

The obligatory beach selfie

We called our cabana host to come get us for lunch. Within moments he arrived to whisk us off in the golf cart. While we could have brought lunch back to our cabana, we chose to eat there. After lunch, I picked up my favorite drink there, the Konk Kooler, and we headed back to our tiny home.

We decided we could almost live there, it was so nice! Before we knew it, they were announcing that it was time to leave. Our cabana host came to collect us, and we enjoyed the biggest surprise of all! The cabana host drove us back to the ship, past the customs check, and dropped us off right at the gangplank. No extra walking for my mom! She was all smiles! It was then that I realized this was the first trip to Castaway Cay that my parents were able to enjoy the island for the entire day. Mission accomplished!

Happy Parents

Seeing how much my parents enjoyed the day made it all worth it.

Four days later, we got another call from Concierge. One of their guests had cancelled their cabana for the second visit, and they were calling to see if we wanted it. Without much hesitation, we wholeheartedly said yes! The next day, we got to do it all over again in Cabana 22.

Cabana 22

We got Cabana 22 for our second day.

Cabana 22

The back entrance to Cabana 22

We are now cabana spoiled! I’m happy to say that we’ve already secured Cabana 25 once again for our next cruise. We are Gold this time, and we got lucky. I found a Platinum cruiser on our cruise who kept monitoring the available inventory for me until our booking window opened. I knew there was one available on the adult beach, and I was laser-focused on getting it! Luckily, I had fast fingers and a fast internet connection. We can hardly wait to visit our little haven in paradise once again.

Cabana 22 Sign

We are looking forward to once again calling Cabana 25 home for the day.

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