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Lebeau Family Trip Report 2015: Disney Dream Cruise Part 2

Atlantis Paulo

We were nearing the half-way point of both our Disney cruise and our overall vacation.  By this point, we were all aware that while there was still a lot of fun to be had, it would all be ending before long.  For all intents and purposes, we had two days left on the Disney Dream and we wanted to make the most of them.

If you happened to miss the previous installments, you can read about our weekend at Universal Studios and the first half of our cruise by following the links.

Just as I have in the previous installments, I am going to include a table of contents for those who are only interested in specific topics:

Princesses!

Anna and Elsa

Dolphin Encounter at Atlantis 

Pirate Night

Another Day on Castaway Cay

Anyone Can Cook

Animator’s Palate

One Final Thing

View of Atlantis

We had a busy day planned, so we got up bright and early.  I went upstairs and got my coffee from the concierge lounge while the kids were still asleep.  When I got back, I looked out on the verandah and I saw we were approaching the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.  We were docking at Nassau today and we had an appointment to do a dolphin encounter.

But first, we had two princess meet and greets scheduled.  These were ticketed events and supplies were limited so we knew the lines would not be long.  The girls had shrugged off meeting characters up to this point at both Universal and on the ship.  But they were still excited about meeting the princesses.  From a young age, Kara has held the belief that the only characters who are “real” are the ones who can talk.  So the princesses were “real” and Mickey Mouse was not as far as she was concerned.

Lighthouse View

We didn’t have any firm lunch plans.  We weren’t sure whether or not we would be back from our excursion in time for lunch.  Regardless of where we ate, we knew it was going to have to be a late lunch.  Our excursion didn’t start until 11:00 am.  So the plan was for everyone to enjoy a good, hearty breakfast at Cabanas so as to not be hungry again until late in the afternoon.

Cabanas Mine Birds

As I mentioned previously, Cabanas has a Finding Nemo theme.  The “mine” birds from the movie are perched at various locations looking down as if waiting for a scrap of food they can claim for their own.

International Clocks

But not everything in the buffet is all about Nemo.  On one wall there are several clocks keeping “international time”.  For Disney, that means they show what time it is at each of the Disney theme parks around the world.  While we were sunning it up in the Bahamas, Daffy Stardust was on Disneyland time.

Sand castles

Nearby there is sand art depicting the castles (sand castles, get it?) of Disney’s parks.  These are the two you are probably most familiar with; Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World and the original Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland.

Cabanas Pancakes and Waffles

There’s a wide variety of options at Cabanas.  I didn’t have anything that blew my socks off.  But it was good enough and plenty filling.  Josie loaded up on pancakes and of course we had to get a Mickey waffle.  If you put a tray of Mickey waffles in front of me, I’m going to take one.  That’s just not even a question.

Cabanas Bacon and Eggs

They had all of the things you would expect to find at a breakfast buffet; scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage.  I find it’s usually best not to go for scrambled eggs in a buffet line.  They’re just never very good.  Instead, I got a serving of eggs benedict which wasn’t fantastic, but it scratched an itch I had been having for a while.

Cabanas Meats and Cheeses

There were also less traditional (at least from the perspective of a US tourist) options like trays of smoked meats, cheeses and vegetables.  Vegetables for breakfast?!  Positively un-American.

Cabanas - POG juice

Most importantly, Cabanas had a Minute Maid juice machine.  What’s so important about that, you ask.  The option to the far left is POG juice.  POG juice is a sweet fruit juice blend that is very popular at O’Hana in the Polynesian Resort.  We haven’t eaten breakfast at the Polynesian in quite a long while, so I was very excited to taste POG juice again.  The drink consists of passion fruit, orange and guava.  I wondered if it would be as good as I remembered.  Turns out, it totally was!  Josie tried some too and she became an instant fan.

Next: Princesses!

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Posted on July 9, 2015, in travel, Trip Report and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Of course, great reading, and in general, a lot of laugh out loud moments here, but the portion of the report about the dolphins really touched me. I don’t know why. The family photo is absolutely priceless.

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    • The dolphin encounter could have been so much better than it was. But at the end of the day, you’re still doing something that not everyone gets to do. You’re in a beautiful environment interacting with a truly marvelous creature. It’s hard to gripe too much. At least until the bill comes in.

      We told the kids several times before and during the trip to really appreciate what we were getting to do. This vacation was the nicest any of us have ever taken by far. We’re lucky to have the opportunity to do something like this. Not a lot of 10 and 6 year olds get to do something so extravagant. Of course at those ages, there’s no way they can fully appreciate what a rare treat something like a Caribbean cruise or dolphin encounter is. But we wanted them to understand that we were very, very fortunate. I think that message got through.

      With regards to the dolphin encounter, despite the flaws in the organization and the non-cooperative dolphin, the word “priceless” kept coming to my mind. Technically, it’s not priceless. They put a price on it and it was a steep one. The experience and the pictures combined came in around $1,200. That’s obviously not chicken feed. But yeah, I know what you mean. While not technically without price, it does feel “priceless”.

      There’s another popular dolphin encounter on Nassau that is a bit cheaper than Atlantis. You lose those amazing towers as a backdrop, but I wonder if the experience isn’t a bit better. I’d definitely encourage people to pet a dolphin if the opportunity arises. But I’m not about to fully endorse Dolphin Cay at Atlantis. I’d recommend shopping around.

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  2. Also, I meant to say. You have hit on something positively genius, which I have also only discovered by accident after I’m ashamed to even think of how many years of trial and error. Then again I’m a single parent and there is never another adult to bounce ideas off of.
    The thing is this: when you have that wonderful trip, as you mentioned, you are all together and discovering new experiences… the end of the trip can be a letdown even if you are ready to return home. It’s too sharp of a contrast. You can end up feeling sad. So, by scheduling a “buffer”, you accomplished more than planning a trip with something for everyone. You guys actually had something of a transition to get you from dream vacation to home. This may not affect everyone the same way, of course. I started noticing this effect again, by accident, by trial and error: This last trip we flew home direct from 3 nights and 4 dreamy days in south Florida. It was somewhat depressing for all of us, even though the trip itself was idyllic. Last time we were in Las Vegas, we got up late and took a later flight that left us trying to find accommodations in Chicago overnight before getting home the following day. That buffer, even though it was just a one night buffer, eased us gently out of vacation mode and created an additional sense of adventure (compounded by a radical temperature change and riding the L train late at night). My son is pretty much of a even-keel person and it doesn’t change his outlook radically, he is more concerned with things going according to plan. But for my daughter, and me, it made all the difference in the world. We arrived home in a much more contented state of mind than we did being jarred from Florida beaches and back in our home airport 3 hours later. I will now try to plan the end of vacation transition, a lot more deliberately in the future.

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    • I like that term, “buffer”. That’s pretty descriptive.

      There were a few factors that lead to us leaving a beach buffer this trip. For one, Mindy was concerned that two days at Castaway Cay wouldn’t be enough beach time for her. Another factor was that the way airfare was prices, leaving on Monday was substantially cheaper than flying home over the weekend. So why not make a weekend out of it?

      Also, I had read a ton of trip reports. And the ones where people went directly back to the airport left people in a funk. It’s tough to walk off that luxurious ship where everyone is waiting on you hand and foot and then have to deal with TSA and the real world drudgery of air travel. A lot of people scheduled theme park time after their cruise and they were pretty uniformly glad to have something to look forward to once they got off the ship.

      After such a relaxing week, we didn’t want to deal with an exhausting theme park experience. So we did that first. Then we were free to decompress for a weekend before having to suck it up and get back to our regular lives.

      Writing this report has been an extension of that buffer. Now that it’s over, I feel like I have completely closed the book on a really wonderful vacation. One we will remember for the rest of our lives.

      Incidentally, the kids were asking me last night when we could do it again!

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      • The people in the room next door to us did something similar. They didn’t tend to use their balcony but on the last day before they checked out, I was sitting out on our balcony, the dad stepped out to retrieve a couple towels and he said hello. They – family of 4 with 2 teens – were packing for an early AM departure. We chatted for a bit and it turned out they had been on a cruise the preceding week and then did exactly what you guys did – scheduled a couple of days to unwind on the beach before heading home.
        There obviously really is something to this buffer idea 🙂

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        • I kid you not, we spent the first day saying “I miss Georgi!” “I miss Eye Scream!” “I wish we were on the ship!” I was surprised how quickly we all got used to the life of luxury and how much we missed it when it was gone. The sting was greatly reduced by the fact we were in a nice hotel on the beach. By the time we finally had to drive back to the Orlando International Airport, we were ready to go home and see our dog again.

          Definitely something to the buffer. I do plan to use it again. I know we won’t be doing a cruise again next year. But we could conceivably split some time between Universal and Cocoa Beach again. (Although shark reports in Florida made me nervous. Did you know it is called the “shark attack capital of the world”? Just before we left, Mindy sent me a news report about a shark attack in shallow water on Cocoa Beach. That did nothing for my peace of mind.)

          Whenever we do take our next cruise, I will want another buffer. The trick will be to find a hotel we can check into early next time. That’s one advantage of the notion of going directly from the cruise to a theme park. You don’t have to wait for your room to be available.

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  3. Early check in for us has always been like rolling the dice. I think it depends more on availability than anything, although much has been written and discussed in various travel forums, about the folded $20 along with your credit card when checking in, and so on and so forth. I’ve never tried it and am not convinced it makes any difference other than how booked up they are. Weekends are usually more difficult than midweek. Some chains offer earlier check in (for a fee) but I’ve never done that either. I have paid to upgrade a couple of times and even that didn’t guarantee an early check in. On this recent Florida trip, we were checked in 2 hours early with no fee at all, as it was very quiet that day.

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    • Unfortunately, the Hilton was hosting a convention when we arrived. They said repeatedly that they were fully booked and I get that. We did observe that during our stay, housekeeping moved incredibly slowly. Housekeeping skipped us entirely during the first two days of our stay. On the third day, we stayed out of the hotel room all afternoon and when we returned they still hadn’t gotten to us. So we called the front desk and they sent someone up. And it still took them about an hour to clean the room. That appears to have contributed to the slow check-in. The other thing was that apparently the people at the desk never thought to look at rooms outside of my category until I inquired about it.

      I can’t get too irritated about it. It was a stumble on my part. I had it in my head we’d be arriving at the hotel in the early afternoon instead of 9am. I should have checked both the ship’s departure time and the hotel’s check-in time more thoroughly. It had just never been an issue before. Fortunately, it didn’t mar what had been up until that point a fantastic vacation.

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  4. The woman running down the beach yelling that Olaf was there cracked me up! Great report, as always.

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    • Glad you liked it. What was so comical about that incident was that absolutely no one cared. Her kids could not have cared less. She practically had to drag them off the beach to go meet Olaf. Between her and Cinderella woman, I’m beginning to think meet and greets are what they are because of moms who think that these interactions mean the world to their children when really, they don’t.

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  5. daffystardust

    “Then I checked the news only to discover that the Supreme Court had legalized same sex marriage!”

    I received this excellent bit of news right after hugging my Brother’s family goodbye. I was sitting in the lobby of our hotel waiting for a shuttle to come get me. My unkempt bags were strewn around me and I had gotten some sun. Clearly I was on my way out of town.

    I opened Facebook to find a series of celebratory posts about the Supreme Court decision.

    This is an issue that I’ve been talking about for several years now. I stumped heavily against Amendment One here in North Carolina only to see its citizens vote in favor of that discriminatory blight on the State’s constitution.

    The Supreme Court’s decision meant that personal friends of mine would have their marriages, relationships which have lasted decades, recognized in every state of the union, not just in the states where they had the ceremonies. It meant that if one of them gets seriously ill, the other cannot be barred from their hospital room because they’re “not family.” This was a very personal victory.

    As tears of joy came to my eyes and I moved to wipe them away, I wondered what the people around me must think. Was I that sad to leave the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

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    • I found NC to be an interesting place. I lived there for 6 years while in grad school at Duke. I did exist in a bit of a bubble being in a university environment, but I still became very familiar with the state. The Raleigh-Durham area was more liberal and it was harder to see how some of the more conservative politicians and policies were so successful. It was downright bizarre to me that Jesse Helms was my senator for much of my time there. Once I started venturing out on excursions to the mountains in in the coastal plain it started making more sense. That was the real, unfiltered South. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of great people in those areas. It is just that the political views of people there were fairly different than those I developed growing up in California.

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      • daffystardust

        I have really enjoyed living in Raleigh and Durham, but I would go bonkers if I had to live in one of the more rural areas. Having been in Chicago for two years before moving here, Raleigh and Durham don’t really seem like “the big city” to me, but that’s how many folks in NC see them.

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