Square Life Round World

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

Palo Inspired Snacks

Earlier this year, I visited the Eastern Caribbean on my 3rd Disney Cruise Line cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy.  This was my first time on the Fantasy and the first time on a 7 night cruise.  It was also my first time in the Eastern Caribbean.  You could say it was a trip of firsts, for so many reasons, but one of those firsts was especially yummy.  We dined in Palo one night for dinner.

Palo aboard the Disney Fantasy

Palo aboard the Disney Fantasy

It was not my first time dining at Palo.  In 2011, we enjoyed a most delicious brunch in Palo aboard the Disney Dream.  You can find a snippet of that here.  However, it was our first time having dinner at Palo.

Palo is 1 of 2 adults-only restaurants aboard the Fantasy.  It features upscale Northern Italian cuisine, and it is outstanding.  It requires advance reservations and comes with an extra charge of $30 per person.

I’ll share more about this meal later but for now, I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite parts of the meal, the antipasto.  Shortly after we were seated and our orders were taken, our waiter wheeled a cart to our table containing an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

This cart contained an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

This cart contained an assortment of Italian meats, cheeses, olives, roasted veggies and flavored olive oils.

He placed a generous amount of each on a plate for us to share and drizzled it all with aged balsamic vinegar and the flavored olive oil of our choice.

The waiter placed a generous amount of each item on a plate for us to share.

The waiter placed a generous amount of each item on a plate for us to share.

It was a great way to start the meal!  One of my favorite things about it was the simplicity of it.  It’s something that I can easily replicate at home and feel like I’m right back on board the Fantasy anytime I need a mini staycation.

A few weeks later, I was at our local farmer’s market and spotted a new vendor selling locally cured meats.  One of the meats caught my eye.  It was bresaola, which is an aged, cured beef.  For my southern friends, think country ham, only beef.  I was planning to attend an outdoor concert that evening with friends and needed to make snacks for us all to share.  A light bulb went off in my head, and I decided to let that be the inspiration for my contribution to the night out.  On the way home from the market, I picked up a nice chunk of parmesan cheese and some olives marinated in Italian herbs.  I cut the cheese into chunks and since everything is better on a stick, I skewered all the components into my Palo-inspired antipasto bites.

My finished Palo-inspired antipasto bites

My finished Palo-inspired antipasto bites

No outdoor concert is complete without wine or champagne so I also picked up a bottle of Italian Prosecco, which paired perfectly with my antipasto bites.  One of my friends brought orange juice for mimosas, and we had a great evening.

Cheers to a lovely evening with great friends.

Cheers to a lovely evening with great friends.

Have you ever made a vacation-inspired dish?  Tell me about it in the comments.

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I’m a Bad Blogger!

I guess you’ve noticed by now I’ve been a little MIA lately.  Sorry for that!  Have you ever felt totally overwhelmed with life in general to the point that you can only focus and complete what absolutely has to happen at that particular moment and everything else gets put on the back burner?  That’s been me lately.  Between work, a huge list of things around the house that need attention, and my running woes, I haven’t really had the mental capacity to fill you all in on what’s been going on.  I’ve been doing some fun things that I’m sure you all would love to read about, and if you follow me on Twitter and Instagram you might already know about some of it.  However, when it comes time to share after the fact, I’m already in the mentality of handling what’s next on my it-has-to-get-done-now list.   I deeply apologize and hope you’ll stick with me while I catch you up.

So, here are a few of the things I’ve been doing this year (I do plan to write more in-depthly in the coming weeks about these things).

  • I took a semi-last minute trip to New York in January with a girlfriend of mine.  It was my first time going!
  • My family booked our third Disney Cruise Line trip, which will be coming up next year.
  • I once again registered as a St. Jude Hero for the Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon.  To support me, visit my fund-raising page here.
  • Over Memorial Day weekend I spent 24 consecutive hours in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for the Rock Your Disney Side 24 Hour Event.
  • I also took some extra time to enjoy some of the special things happening during Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • I finished my first distance event since being injured–the Navy 10 Nautical Miler.
  • I’ve been working with a company called BzzAgent and will be bringing you a Coppertone product review and giveaway soon.
  • I’m also working with a company called Influenster and will be reviewing their Spring Fling Vox Box.
  • I’ve also had a request from a reader to share exactly how I went from couch to half marathoner.  I’ve touched on my story a little bit but I never really shared what happened between point A and point B.
  • Finally, I have developed a summer slush recipe that my family loves and I hope yours will, too.

So, what story should I tackle first?  What are you most interested in?

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My Disney Side @ Home Celebration

This past Saturday I hosted my Disney Side @ Home Celebration.  Thanks to a partnership with MomSelect and Disney Parks, I received a kit full of fun to help me host my party.  I had so much fun hosting this party, and I think everyone else had a great time, too.
Show Your Disney Side

First let’s talk food!  I wanted to feature all four parks at Walt Disney World Resort as well as Disney Cruise Line in my menu.  So, this is what I served:

My menu card

My menu card

  • Fantasmic! Firecrackers (Hollywood Studios)
  • Farmer Mickey Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (Epcot)
  • Living with the Land Tomato Soup (Epcot)
  • Chilled Strawberry Soup (1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Mickey on Safari Rice Crispy Treats (Animal Kingdom)
  • Dole Whip Push Ups (Magic Kingdom)
  • Nemo’s Konk Kooler (Disney Cruise Line)
    This is most of the food I served.  I forgot to take a pic of the soup but here are some garnishes I put out for it.  I also forgot to take a pic of the sandwiches after they were toasted, but you get the idea.

    This is most of the food I served. I forgot to take a pic of the soup but here are some garnishes I put out for it. I also forgot to take a pic of the sandwiches after they were toasted, but you get the idea.

For some items, I actually used Disney recipes, like the Konk Kooler (minus the alcohol, thus Nemo’s) and the Chilled Strawberry Soup.  Everything else, I merely made as a representation of the Disney Parks theme.  I really had fun developing the menu, and everything was really easy to put together.  I also used some popcorn buckets I’ve gotten in the past at the parks and put some different store-bought flavored popcorn in them.

No party is complete without great decorations!  My kit contained plates, napkins, cups, a table cloth, and swirly decorations. 

Cups, plates and napkins were included in the kit.  I also used a flower pot I bought at World of Disney last year for the utensils.  I took it on my DCL Dream cruise last year and had the characters sign it.

Cups, plates and napkins were included in the kit. I also used a flower pot I bought at World of Disney last year for the utensils. I took it on my DCL Dream cruise last year and had the characters sign it.

I used everything except the table cloth.  I had a different idea for the table.  The kit also contained runDisney/ESPN ChEar cards, as used at runDisney races and ESPN sporting events.  I covered the cards in clear contact paper to protect them, and used them as place mats. 

ChEar cards make great place mats.

ChEar cards make great place mats.

I also picked up some containers from the dollar store, added some ribbon and tulle fabric to them, and made some fresh flower arrangements for the center of my table. 

I made three of these flower arrangements and placed them down the center of the table.

I made three of these flower arrangements and placed them down the center of the table.

My finished table

I used the swirly decorations on the back drop to a photo booth I made along with plastic table cloths, also from the dollar store.

Back drop for my photo booth

Back drop for my photo booth

My friend Beth picked up some of these celebration buttons for me in the parks and sent them to me. 

I used these celebration buttons as name tags.  Beth even included a penny for good luck!

I used these celebration buttons as name tags. Beth even included a penny for good luck!

Disney Parks has complimentary buttons for pretty much any occasion and it’s not uncommon to see lots of people in the parks with them.  I thought they would make really fun name tags since some of my guests didn’t know each other. 

After we had spent some time eating and chatting, it was time to play Bingo, which had been generously included in my hostess kit.  After a few minutes, it was pretty apparent that all the cards were very similar and it was likely that everyone was going to Bingo at the same time.  It became a race to see who could yell it out first. 

We played three games of Bingo before it was time to have fun with the photo booth I set up.  HP was a sponsor of the party and had included some photo cards for my guests.  I thought it would be fun to take some pictures and play around with the Disney Memories app on my iPhone.  The kids had such a blast with it!  They enjoyed putting borders, stickers and characters on their photos with the app.

My Pic

My Pic

This pic won the day!

This pic of my mom won the day!

Later on, I texted all the photos to my guests that they could print out at home using the HP photo cards each family took home with them.

Each guest also received goodies from the sponsors.  The adults got a poster, the HP photo cards, a runDisney/ESPN bumper sticker, and a Muppets calendar.  The kids got runDisney arm bands, Craisins, stickers, temporary tattoos, and a few other things I threw in for them.

All my guests got goodies to take home with them.

All my guests got goodies to take home with them.

It was a really fun way to spend an afternoon, and I’m very thankful to all the sponsors who helped put together the generous hostess kit.  I especially love my hostess gift from American Tourister!

Decorations, gifts for my guests, and this piece of luggage from American Tourister were all included in my hostess kit.

Decorations, gifts for my guests, and this piece of luggage from American Tourister were all included in my hostess kit.

Disclosure:  I received free products from MomSelect and Disney Parks with which to host a party.  As always, my opinions are my own.

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Disney Cruise Line Room Service

Hundreds, maybe thousands of families are just like mine these days, anxiously awaiting the release of the Disney Cruise Line itineraries for the remainder of 2015.  My family and I are getting ready to book our third Disney Cruise as soon as bookings open, and the suspense is killing me!

The famous Disney Cruise Line horn on the Dream

The famous Disney Cruise Line horn on the Dream

Where are the ships going?  What will the itineraries be?  Most importantly, what is it going to cost?  While we wait, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite things about a Disney cruise, included room service!

Yep, most items on the room service menu (packaged snacks, canned sodas, bottled water, and alcohol excluded) are available 24 hours a day and are included in your cruise fare (don’t forget to tip the delivery person).  Just like the rest of the food on a Disney cruise, it’s delicious, too!  My family loves room service primarily for the unlimited Mickey ice cream bars (not on the menu but they’ll bring them) and my very favorite thing they call All Hands On Deck.

All Hands on Deck cheese plate and Mickey ice cream bar from room service

All Hands on Deck cheese plate and Mickey ice cream bar from room service

It’s a fruit, cheese and cracker plate, which hits the spot as an afternoon snack with a glass of wine while getting ready for the evening.  I’ve spent several early evenings noshing on this very thing while sitting on my veranda watching the sky dim.

My favorite afternoon snack aboard a Disney ship

My favorite afternoon snack aboard a Disney ship

It’s definitely one of my happy places.

We also love room service for breakfast when we either don’t feel like getting dressed right away for breakfast or we are in a hurry to get off the ship to begin our day in whatever the port of call is that day.  In addition to the regular menu (which again is available 24 hours a day) there is a card you can hang on your door the night before with your selections and desired delivery time.  It’s a continental-type breakfast and you can get things like cereal, yogurt, fruit and pastries.  We love the fruit and pastries!

Fruit and pastries for breakfast

Fruit and pastries for breakfast

Hot food is also available any time.  We’ve gotten things like sandwiches with fries and chicken wings.  Other things are available, too, like salmon and pizza.  We’ve also ordered the chocolate chip cookies, and they are colossal!

Huge chocolate chip cookies

Huge chocolate chip cookies

We’ve even been the lucky recipients of surprises from room service like a fruit basket and a miniature dessert plate.

Surprise fruit basket from room service

Surprise fruit basket from room service

Surprise dessert plate from room service, I ate a lemon pie bite before snapping a pic.  Oops!

Surprise dessert plate from room service, I ate a lemon pie bite before snapping a pic. Oops!

As soon as Disney Cruise Line releases the itineraries for our targeted travel time, I’ll be counting down the days when I can once again enjoy this luxury!

What’s your favorite part of a Disney cruise?

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–Pirates of Nassau Museum

Yo ho, yo ho! A pirate’s life for me! Most kids (and adults, too, for that matter) have dreamed at some point of being a pirate. Many have even dressed up as one, making pirate costumes some of the most popular and most sold of all time. The pirate lifestyle has been dramatized and romanticized by books, movies, TV shows and attractions for decades as a fabulous life on the high seas of eating, drinking, and being merry. There are no rules. Do what you want, when you want, however you want. Pirates seem to get away with everything so who wouldn’t want to be one? On our Nassau day, we visited the Pirates of Nassau museum and learned it wasn’t quite the glamorous and care-free lifestyle of our pirate dreams.

Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates of Nassau Museum

Pirates were a big part of Nassau’s rich history so it’s only natural to preserve it with a museum dedicated to the pirate’s life. The museum is located at the intersection of King and George streets, very easy to remember (King George). It really is a very short walk from the port so no need to get a taxi and maps are available at the information desk at the port.

The information desk at the port in Nassau

The information desk at the port in Nassau

The cost for the museum is $12 per person, but I’ve read that if you go on a slow day or later in the afternoon, there might be a guy standing out front ready to cut you a deal. They had plenty of patrons when we went so no deal for us! We were directed to the gift shop to purchase our wristbands (clever of them to start you in a gift shop) and then we were free to start the tour.

Wristband for Pirates of Nassau Museum

Wristband for Pirates of Nassau Museum

It was a self-guided tour, and it was VERY dark inside the museum.

There weren’t very many (if any) actual pirate artifacts, which was kind of a disappointment. I wanted to see some real, bona fide pirate stuff. Instead, displays were created to give visitors the feeling that they were stepping into a pirate ship and into the lives of pirates. The tour guided us through the “ship”, showing us the sights and sounds of a pirate’s life.

Displays depict the life of a pirate.

Displays depict the life of a pirate.

Placards were on the walls, giving information and also true/false trivia questions testing your knowledge of facts versus myths.

This placard sets the stage as you enter the museum.

This placard sets the stage as you enter the museum.

While it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I did learn some things. For starters, most pirates got their start as legitimate ship workers, where the hours were long, the work was hard, and punishments were severe. The only escape from this very difficult lifestyle was to become a pirate. Instead of long days of hard work and punishment, pirates enjoyed days filled with drinking, games and merriment. Of course, the only way to fund this lifestyle was to steal, cheat and kill by overtaking other ships that passed through the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean. Greed was prevalent and oftentimes they would turn on each other to get a bigger share of the loot. Also, most pirate ships didn’t have a doctor on board so any amputations and other surgeries had to be performed by the ship’s carpenter, using carpentry tools such as saws, with no anesthesia.

Pirate surgery without anesthesia--ouch!

Pirate surgery without anesthesia–ouch!

It didn’t take long for me to decide that rum or no rum, the pirate’s life was definitely not for me!

Another thing I found quite surprising was their attitude toward and respect for women. The rape of a woman was totally against “pirate code” and was punishable by a very cruel death. Also, if a female pirate (yes, although rare, they existed) were caught and sentenced to death, she could easily get her sentence reduced to life in prison by simply claiming to be pregnant. Death sentences were normally carried out immediately, and because the judges of that day didn’t want to be responsible for the killing of an unborn child, they would not call for the execution of a pregnant woman. I also found it odd that there was no follow up to this. Wouldn’t they have caught on to her lies after 9 months in prison and no baby had popped out? Chances are, she was going to die of natural illnesses in prison anyway (according to the museum), so I guess they thought it really didn’t matter.

Even though it wasn’t quite what I expected, I really enjoyed the museum. It was very interesting and informative and it only took about 30 minutes to tour. It’s very close to all the shops, which makes it a great add-on if you are only planning on shopping in Nassau anyway. It’s probably not something you’d want to go out of your way to make time for if you are planning an all-day shore excursion.

Have you been to Nassau? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

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I’m raising funds as a hero for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. If you’d like to donate, please visit my fund raising page here.

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–Castaway Cay 5k and a PR, Well Maybe Sort Of

If you’ve been reading along, you know that strangely enough the thing about this cruise I was looking forward to the most was the Castaway Cay 5k.  On Tuesday of the cruise, the day had finally come.

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island that most of their cruises sail to.  It is gorgeous!  The water is so blue, and the sand is pristine!  There is plenty to do on the island.  There is snorkeling, a sting ray interactive area, water toys, character experiences, parasailing, a glass bottom boat tour, and even a water slide.  There is yoga on the adult beach (Serenity Bay), and massage cabanas for those who want to indulge on the beach.  Then there is my most anticipated activity, the 5k.

Our personal Navigator for the day (a printout that tells you everything that is going on) said we should meet in Evolution at 8:15 am.  Running also were my dad, my brother-in-law, and 2 of my nieces.  So at 8:15 we signed in, were given our bibs, and Briana (a member of the activities crew) went over the course map with us. 

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

We all met in Evolution to get signed in for the 5K.

Ok, this is not a great picture but they had the course map on the big screen.

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

We all got bibs, and they say runDisney!

My dad was wearing his t-shirt from the Mickey’s Happy Haunted 5k Trail Run from last year, which got Briana’s attention.  She ran the 10 miler last year.  When dad told her I ran the 10 miler also as well as Princess this year, she came looking for me.  She is planning on running Princess in 2014 as part of the brand new Glass Slipper Challenge.  From that point on, she kept calling dad and me her runDisney family.  I thought that was really fun.

So about 8:45, we made our way as a group to the gangplank to exit the ship.  We walked all the way to the second family beach.  It felt like a long walk, but that is pretty typical of runDisney races.  At one point during the walk to the start, my brother-in-law said, “Is this 5k almost over?”  I thought it was a good warm-up, though.  I like to walk for a bit before I start running.

We got to the start and I had the bright idea to go ahead and buy our 5k shirts.  The gift shop is right next to the start.  I’ve read that many people have their family members buy them while they are running, and if you wait until you finish they may be out of your size.  Since none of our family members who weren’t running were planning on getting off the ship before we would be done, that wasn’t an option for us.  So I grabbed the shirts and went to pay, thinking I’d be in and out in 2 minutes.  The Cast Member was super friendly and talkative, wanting to know EVERYTHING about our trip so far.  I told her we were about to start running and I needed to get to the start.  Then she proceeds to tell me ALL the reasons she can’t run.  Yeah, yeah, let’s pick this up!  I was about to be left behind.  She was SUPER careful to make sure they were folded perfectly in the bag, too!  Well, needless to say, the other runners took off while I was walking out of the store.  They have a box by the start for everyone to put their belongings, and I still had to do that, too.  So, not only was I the last one to start, there wasn’t anyone in sight when I started.  I wish I had checked the clock at the start to see just how far behind I was, but I didn’t.  I’m going to estimate 90 seconds.

It wasn’t too long, though, before I was passing people, mainly the walkers.  Then I had my dad in sight, who was mostly walking.  I wanted to catch up to him, but every time I was almost to him, he would take off running, putting more distance between us.  He can actually walk faster than I can walk/run so with him adding some running in, it was almost impossible.  Then came the first water stop.  Dad was stopped at it, and he spotted me.  I stopped to refill my water bottle, and I was sure he would wait on me.  But noooooooo!  Dad, you’re KILLING me!  I’m 38 years old.  I’ve been running for a year and a half.  I’ve completed 2 half marathons and a 10 miler in the last year.  I have on expertly fitted running shoes and tech running clothes.  And I’m being smoked by a 69-year-old man who doesn’t run or walk regularly, wearing 10-year-old Reeboks, khaki shorts and a cotton t-shirt.  That was a lesson in humility.

The course takes you down the air strip,  has you make a loop through the 5000 foot long bike trail, finish off the air strip to Serenity Bay, circle back and make another trip through the bike loop, then head home.  It’s pretty clear to go counter-clockwise through the bike loop the first time, but for the second loop, some were going clockwise and some counter-clockwise.  I was in the clockwise group and met my brother-in-law and one of my nieces heading the other direction.  He indicated that he thought I was going the wrong way.  I told him I didn’t think it mattered and continued on.  At this point I vaguely remembered Briana mentioning that if you do something wrong, it could add a half mile to your trip.  I couldn’t remember what that was, and I started questioning myself.  The bike loop is marked in feet by thousands in both directions, and I had just passed the 2000 feet mark.  I decided to try to estimate another 500 feet and turn around and head back the other direction (remember the bike loop is 5000 feet, so by my estimation I would be at the 2500 feet mark and doubling back would equal 5000 feet).  I have no idea how close I was, but I don’t think I could have been that far off. 

I headed to the finish and the clock said I had a PR by about a minute and 20 seconds.  Since it’s not a certified course, I got stared late, and I got turned around, I have no idea how accurate this was.  We all collected our medals, and I got a pic of Briana. 

Briana gave us our medals!

Briana gave us our medals!

We retrieved our belongings and headed to find a spot on the beach for the day.

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Me after the race, with my medal and the ship

Dad and I after the race

It was really a lot of fun!  I kept hearing about how hot this run can get, and it would have been much harder had the sun been out.  It was overcast all day, though, with a good breeze blowing.  It was very enjoyable.  Plus, with this run, I can now call myself an international runner.  The experience exceeded my expectations, and if I ever get the opportunity to go on another Disney cruise that stops at Castaway Cay, I will do it again for sure!

Have you ever done a 5k on vacation?  Where was it?

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–The Aquaducky Derby

Thank you readers for hanging in there with me while I enjoyed fun and frolics aboard the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World last week!  I’m back so now you’ll have new stuff to read.  I know you are excited!

First off, I want to share with you something entirely new for Disney Cruise Line, the Aquaducky Derby. 

Aquaducky Derby

Aquaducky Derby

It’s so new that ours was the very first cruise to ever do this event.  It was a fund-raiser for Make a Wish International, and we were able to raise over $5000 on our cruise for this fabulous organization.  Did you know that every year Disney Cruise Line grants 735 wishes to children with life-threatening diseases?  That’s just Disney Cruise Line!  That does not include what they grant in their theme parks.  That’s pretty awesome of Disney but Make a Wish International still needs cash to operate with so that’s where this fund-raiser comes in. 

Throughout the cruise, passengers were able to purchase cute rubber duckies for $5 each. 

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

We were asked to write our room number on our ducky with a Sharpie so they could track the winner.  This also made it easy to return the ducky to its rightful owner after the Derby.  People even decorated their ducks in all different colors.  Anything was fine as long as it was done with a Sharpie.  Then on the last day, Disney VoluntEARS were on hand to collect the ducks in these mesh bags. 

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Even Donald and Daisy were there to cheer for the event, dressed in their cruise duds. 

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

So, basically what happened is the water was turned off of the Aquaduck (the water slide/roller coaster which can be found on the Dream and the Fantasy), all the ducks were dumped in, the water was turned back on and each duck had to fend for itself to find its way to the finish line. 

And they're off!

And they’re off!

More VoluntEARS collected the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers, the winners were announced, and the owners were presented with medals. 

Here come the winners!

Here come the winners!

It was so much fun and way more exciting than I would have ever imagined a duck race in the Aquaduck could have possibly been. 

They were also really organized about getting the ducks returned to their owners.  I was curious as to how they were going to pull that off since there were over 1000 ducks participating.  They had tables roped off and set up according to floor number.  You walked up to the table that corresponded to your floor number, told the VoluntEAR your room number, and they found your duck(s) for you.  I have to say, though, that my duck had a pretty rough ride! 

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

He was all bruised up from all the other duckies’ Sharpie decorations.  He was still smiling, though, so he didn’t seem to mind. 

I really love that Disney did this event!  It felt good to be a part of something meaningful on vacation, and they did a great job of putting on an exciting show.  I don’t know if they have plans to do this every cruise but if they do, I would definitely do it again!

Would you participate in a fund-raiser on vacation?

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Blog Rewind Wednesday–Disney Dream Cruise May 2011

I’m very excited because I’ll soon be going on my 2nd cruise with Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Dream. I’m a creature of habit, so yes, I’m repeating the same ship. Lately I’ve been reminiscing a lot about the last cruise in anticipation of this one. So I thought I’d share with you a few of my thoughts from last time. I will have a much more in-depth account of my upcoming trip when I return.

The iconic DCL smoke stack and horn

The iconic DCL smoke stack and horn

First of all, I cannot even begin to explain the level of excitement when we saw the ship for the first time. We drove from Pop Century at the Walt Disney Resort to the port the morning of boarding, and for some reason, we thought the port was much further from WDW than it actually was. We knew we would cross a bridge over a body of water but we incorrectly thought the port was another 30 minutes away after that. We were in no way prepared for the beautiful sight of the ship as we topped the bridge. I was much too excited to take pics, and we were almost there before I thought to snap this pic.

Approaching the ship

Approaching the ship

The food aboard the ship was just wonderful! I consider myself a foodie and had no trouble finding things I liked and am even looking forward to having again. My favorite main dining room menu was the Royal Palace regular menu. I had a lobster/shrimp appetizer, french onion soup, filet mignon, creme brulee, and Grand Marnier souffle.

Royal Palace Dinner

Royal Palace Dinner

Yes, I had 2 desserts. They let you do that on Disney Cruise Line. In fact, you can have 2 of anything you want (or more). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning gluttonous behavior, but it’s nice to know you can have something if you really want it.

Palo brunch was another highlight. Palo is one of 2 adult dining venues with a surcharge on the Dream (Remy being the other one). Palo serves dinner each evening and brunch on sea days for a $20 per person surcharge (advance reservations are required, and there is a dress code). At brunch, each person gets 1 included glass of champagne or a mimosa, which is always a great way to start brunch. I had the best chicken parm I’ve ever had.

Chicken Parm from Palo

Chicken Parm from Palo

It’s legendary, and now I know why! There was also an extensive brunch and dessert buffet to enjoy in addition to the entrée ordered from the kitchen.

Desserts from Palo Brunch

Desserts from Palo Brunch

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island and most of their cruises make a stop there. It was gorgeous!

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay

I wish they would build a resort there so it could be its own destination. That’s how much I loved it! Castaway Cay has 3 beaches. One of them is an adult beach (nothing crazy, though) called Serenity Bay, and that’s where we stayed most of the day. I also parasailed, and my parents did a glass bottom boat tour (both excursions are for an additional fee and advance reservations are required).

The view of the ship from the air while parasailing

The view of the ship from the air while parasailing

Lunch was a barbecue right on the beach featuring steak, Mahi Mahi, chicken and ribs in addition to the usual hamburgers and hot dogs.

Serenity Bay Lunch Menu

Serenity Bay Lunch Menu

Castaway Cay is also the sight of one of my top 5 favorite cocktails I’ve ever had, the Konk Cooler. I’ve even re-created my own recipe, which you can read about here.

I also really enjoyed getting room service whenever I wanted it. Mickey ice cream bars are available from room service 24/7 as is a fruit and cheese plate that made for a great snack while getting ready for the evening activities.

All Hands On Deck fruit and cheese plate ordered from room service with our own champs that we brought on board with us

All Hands On Deck fruit and cheese plate ordered from room service with our own champs that we brought on board with us

The room service menu is pretty generous, although these were the only items we ordered. Room service is included, however a tip for the delivery person is appreciated.

The shows were also wonderful. Disney really does a great job of making sure something is available to entertain everyone. There were so many shows and other forms of entertainment that you really had to pick and choose what you saw and did. This time I’m looking forward to experiencing some of what I missed last time. My favorite was Pirate Night.

Pirate Night

Pirate Night

There was a stage show on deck, cute light-up cocktails (with and without alcohol both for a charge) and fireworks!

Pirate Night Cocktails, with and without alcohol

Pirate Night Cocktails, with and without alcohol

Pirate Night Fireworks at Sea

Yes, fireworks at sea! Disney was the first cruise line to offer this. There was also a late night pirate themed buffet, but we were still full from dinner and didn’t have any of it.

Pirate Night Buffet Decorations

Pirate Night Buffet Decorations

Then there’s the Aquaduck!

Aquaduck

Aquaduck

That’s the water slide/roller coaster that is the first of its kind at sea. It can only be found on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. It was so much fun! Lines can get long, so in true Disney fashion, a little strategy can go a long way. I also recommend riding it both during the day and at night. It’s a completely different experience at night with the lighting effects.

There is no way I can share enough about this cruise in one post, but these are the high points. I remember when I booked the last cruise, the first thought that came into my head was that I was going to get to ride the Aquaduck. This time when I booked our upcoming cruise, my first thought was that I’m going to get to do the Castaway Cay 5k. How I’ve changed in just 2 short years!

Have you been on a Disney Cruise? What were your favorite parts?

Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win a Cravebox! Find out how here.

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