Category Archives: Everything Else

Disney Wonder California Coast Cruise Sept 2013 (Day 1)

One of the best family vacations we’d taken with Theo was a cruise on the Disney Wonder in September 2011, so deciding to take another Disney cruise didn’t take a whole lot of deliberation. The California Coast cruise is ideal for us–it’s a repositioning cruise that starts in Vancouver and ends in Los Angeles, requiring us to 1) only buy one set of plane tickets, and 2) visit one of our favorite cities in the world, Vancouver, where we honeymooned. Perfect.

This past June I turned 40. To celebrate, rather than throwing some big party for my friends and family, we decided to splurge on our cruise and get a suite with concierge service.

Oh yeah.

When we travel, we try to get suites as often as financially possible. The kids sleep better in their own room and we can keep the light on and do crazy things like sharing a glass of wine or reading before we go to bed, rather than laying there, silent and motionless, in the dark while our light sleeping night owls try to their hardest not to fall asleep. Good times, good times.

The concierge service came with the suite. To be honest, we didn’t think we would use the service much and if we could have gotten a suite without concierge we probably would have, but that would have been so short-sighted because we did end up using the concierge, a lot, and now it will be hard to go back to cruising the regular way. *sigh* Concierge offers shoreside services before you board, which I didn’t take too much advantage of, booking our own Port Adventure (excursion). Checking in at the terminal, you have to wait in the regular security line but when you check in to the boat, you get the earliest boarding time and your own special line to wait in, which wasn’t a line at all since we got right on. It was great, but I can see how on one of the really crowded, bigger ships, it would be really, REALLY great.

We were in room 8078 and the first thing I did when we stowed our stuff–well, first we ooohed and aaahhhed at the room, and then we stowed our stuff, but the next thing I did was decorate our door. The doors are metal so magnets stick to them. I got some DISigns (signs) off of DISboards and made myself at home.

Our door!

Our door!

Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself again. The first thing we did is board the ship, and the fun part of that is that they call out your family name as you walk in and all the crew claps for you like you’re a celebrity. Then since we were concierge, we got to go to a special concierge reception with free snacks (and free booze!) where we got to meet our concierge team, sign up for kid’s activities and port adventures, and hang out. Unfortunately the kids weren’t up to hanging out so we only stayed a brief time there. I understand that on the two larger ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, there’s a special concierge lounge, but on the Wonder they only hold a couple of concierge activities. That’s okay, the kids were bored through them anyway.

THEN we got to our room.

The living room/kid's room

The living room/kid’s room

The room was, like, huge and gorgeous. And gorgeous. And spacious. And beautiful. And ours.

Yeah, baby. I’m already spoiled rotten.

We were greeted with a basket of fresh fruit, which was replenished daily.

That's us!

That’s us!

I loved having a dining table. It was the perfect size for four and while we’d brought our own booster seat for Violet, we could have gotten a high chair.

The baby amenities on Disney cruises are awesome. They brought a pack n play which they set up and took down every day so it wasn’t constantly in the way. Violet is still in diapers so they brought us our very own Diaper Genie for easy disposal. I mean, that alone is worth the price of a cruise.

Or maybe not, but you know what I mean.

Our bedroom had a lovely bed, our own balcony door, a little desk area, and a two-part bathroom with a jetted tub and a separate toilet/shower area.

The bedroom

The bedroom

Also a TV

Also a TV

Desk

Desk

Vanity

Vanity

Full-sized jetted tub!!!

Full-sized jetted tub!!!

Even the shower was beautiful

Even the shower was beautiful

The kids’ room also had their own bathroom with shower so they didn’t have to bug us for ours. Nice. And they also had their own balcony door, and the balcony was shared between the rooms with a partition on either side from the other cabins.

Here is a picture I took of the main room from the balcony. Clearly I took this picture through the glass. Why on earth didn’t I open the balcony door and then take the picture???

I have no idea.

The living room/kids' room

The living room/kids’ room

The couch folded out into a bed, which is where Theo slept. There was also a Murphy bed in the bedroom that could have been made up for the kids, but honestly that would have defeated the entire purpose of having  a suite for us, so the couch it was! It seemed perfectly comfortable.

We went over to the kids clubs to get Theo and Violet registered. There are several kids clubs but we used three: Flounder’s Nursery for toddlers and babies under 3 and in diapers, the Oceaneer Club geared toward younger kids, and the Oceaneer Lab geared toward slightly older kids. There’s also a tween club and a teen club but obviously we weren’t eligible for those. Kids under 12 can go to either the Club or the Lab as they like. I’ll cover more about the clubs on a different post because we didn’t take many pictures there the first day. They did have family open house times where you can go in and play on the play structure and do the activities as a family, which was great because it gave Violet a chance to hang out there as well. I can’t wait to take a cruise when she’s old enough to be in the real kid’s club instead of Flounder’s.

Anyway, Theo headed to the computers but Violet enjoyed the open coloring and a surprise appearance of her favorite book.

Open coloring

Open coloring

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

And we walked around some more.

Along a rail

Along a rail

 

After getting acquainted with the ship, it was approaching Violet’s nap time so we set up the pack n play in the bedroom and Theo and I headed out to the sail away party. This was a deck party by the pools where they introduced the crew and there was lots of singing and dancing and peppy music and it was impossible to not get totally excited about sailing away. I almost cried I was so happy.

 

The crowd on the deck

The crowd on the deck

We attempted to watch from the upper rail and fortunately a nice couple of adults made room for Theo right up against the rail.

I love it when people are so nice to kids that way

I love it when people are so nice to kids that way

We walked to a different angle to catch the Funnelvision, where they show movies during the cruise.

It's a Jumbotron!

It’s a Jumbotron!

And Theo loved waving the little pom poms the crew members were handing out.

Here Mommy!

Here Mommy!

When we got back to the room, Violet was asleep and Daddy was relaxing in the living room reading. It was completely awesome having her in the other room where she could sleep in peace but we could still use the room.

Theo took his travel train set out on the balcony.

I love this train, it packs so easily

I love this train, it packs so easily

Bye bye Vancouver!

Bye bye Vancouver!

I love to get my kids dressed up for dinner. Unfortunately Theo was not onboard with this plan at all and every dinner was a struggle.

4-year-olds, what’re you gonna do?

An attempt at a family picture

An attempt at a family picture

The way dining works on Disney cruises is that there are three main dining rooms (MDRs), each with a theme: Triton’s, Parrot Cay, and Animator’s Palate. You rotate each night to a different MDR, but you take your wait staff with you. That part is awesome because you really get to know your wait staff and it’s a lot of fun to see the same faces every night.

We started out in Parrot Cay. Theo was all camera shy while Violet was doing well.

Don't take my picture

Don’t take my picture

So far, so good

So far, so good

 

But then Kevin did something really horrible like moving Violet’s water cup or something and this happened.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Look, even the high chair has Mickey on it!

Anyway, Violet got over whatever she was ticked off about in that picture.

Kid dining is great on Disney cruises. Each night they have a kid’s menu with a kid version of whatever is on the adult menu, then a kid-food menu that doesn’t change. Theo really liked that because he had the mac and cheese every. single. night. To be fair it was really good mac and cheese, but still. Another nice thing is something we noticed on our last cruise, which is that they get the kid’s meals out right away. It’s wonderful because the kids don’t have to wait for the adults to order or for their food to come, they can just start eating. And the adults don’t have to worry about rushing through either. Another nice thing is that if the kids finish early, you can run them up to the clubs and finish your own meal in peace, which we did one night.

However Flounder’s Nursery only has a limited number of spots, so you need to call ahead an arrange that, but more on that later.

Daddy took some selfies with our pretty girl.

dayone-24 dayone-25

One awesome thing about concierge that isn’t available to guests in other staterooms is that you can order food from the MDRs as room service, including a hot breakfast. Everyone can order room service, but it’s a limited menu. Since our cruise was so short (5 nights) we didn’t eat dinner in the room, but we did take advantage of the breakfast once and it was really awesome to enjoy eggs benedict in my PJs.

Another awesome thing about concierge is that they can arrange all kinds of things for you, like nursery time. You are allowed to reserve 2 hours per night (so 10 hours in a 5 night cruise) before the cruise starts, and the spots can fill up fast. We did this on our first cruise when Theo was 2 and it was a bummer some days because it didn’t leave us a lot of flexibility. However, with concierge, you can decide last minute and they call and check if there’s room. Let’s just say that we never had a problem with there being room for Violet :). There is a nominal fee for Flounder’s, I believe it’s $6 per hour, and worth every penny.

It was a fun-filled first day, and the cruise was just getting started!

Keep the Faith

In 2006, two things happened. Well a lot of things happened, but for the purposes of this post, two things happened, one very important and the other which seemed less consequential.

The important thing was that we started the China adoption process that would eventually lead us to Violet, and the lesser important thing was that I started working at Build-A-Bear Workshop in Downtown Disney.

You can see why one is more important than the other.

At that time, Build-A-Bear had a line of soft, stuffable dolls called Friends 2B Made. What many people don’t know is that there were actually two dolls in that line–one was a set of small, skinny dolls that we sold in our store (along with their various clothing items and accoutrements), and the other was a full-sized doll called a “Sweetheart Doll” that was only sold in the small handful of Friends 2B Made stores around the country.

Going by faith, I bought a Sweetheart Doll with Asian features for our future daughter. Did you know that you can buy any Build-A-Bear animal unstuffed, then take it to any BABW location and they will stuff it for you for free? That’s what I did with this doll. Part of the Build-A-Bear experience is the heart ceremony, where you take a small stuffed heart, make a wish, and place it inside your new friend before it is sewn up.

I wanted our future daughter to do her own heart ceremony.

But then, like many, many other families, our China adoption stalled out. Our wait grew and grew. We kept ourselves busy. We had Theo, the baby we never thought we’d have. I stopped working at Build-A-Bear right before he was born. This doll that I’d purchased, limp and lifeless, got moved around from closet to shelf to stuffed-in-the-back-somewhere. But still, we kept the faith.

Until finally, after 6 years, 3 months, 24 days, our dreams came true and we met Violet. The following year was a complete whirlwind. I all but abandoned my blog, juggling two kids–a cheeky but lovable 4 year old and a laughing, running hurricane of a toddler. It wasn’t until a year later that I was able to reflect on things. To slow down, take a deep breath, and take stock of all that had happened. To finally get into the groove of a new normal, a bigger family, a bigger heart.

On November 11th we celebrated our one-year anniversary, our Violet Day. You can read about our celebration at Goofy’s Kitchen, Part 1 and Part 2. When we were making plans for Goofy’s Kitchen, it occurred to be that we’d be in Downtown Disney. And that’s when I knew.

It was time.

What had begun in 2006 had come full-circle.

I dug the doll out of the closet and dusted her off. Her yarn hair was disheveled, and as I ran my fingers through the tangles I thought about everything we had been through, holding onto this doll that Build-A-Bear stopped making 4 years ago, holding onto our hope and dream. I put the doll in a bag and we headed out to Goofy’s Kitchen.

After our meal we walked down to Build-A-Bear. The Bear Builder who helped us was amazed. He’d never seen a Sweeheart Doll but knew what it was and he was surprised to see an unstuffed one come into the store. Both Theo and Violet stepped on the pedal of the stuffing machine and blew some life into that floppy body.

Then it was time for the heart ceremony. Theo took a heart for himself and chose one for Violet. They worked together like the team they are, best friends. Theo held the heart up to his chest to make a wish; Violet copied her big brother. Then they placed them inside the doll. I almost forgot to take a picture.

Almost.

BABW

BABW-2

Picking an outfit out for Violet’s new doll was a no-brainer–the Minnie Mouse dress. Finally we left the store, Theo happily swinging the empty box and Violet clutching her dolly, refusing to let her go.

She loves it, plays with it, and insists on sleeping with it. In fact, I had to wait for her to be at preschool before I could even get a picture of it. But here she is.

Keep the faith.

BABW-3

Goofy’s Kitchen (Part 1)

Try not to fall out of your seats–it’s a new post!

Exactly one year ago today, our family and lives were made complete with the adoption of our daughter, Violet. This year we just had to do something special for “Violet Day,” the day we became a forever family. Doing something at Disneyland was a no-brainer, so we decided to eat at Goofy’s Kitchen, the character meal inside the Disneyland Hotel.

Here we are!

Here we are!

We were greeted at the door by the Goof himself.

Not our best family photo

Not our best family photo

Now there are two basic aspects of Goofy’s Kitchen–the characters and the food. This post I’m going to cover the characters–next will be the food.

The very first character we saw was Violet’s favorite princess, Snow White.

For real, I can never get everyone looking at the camera at the same time

For real, I can never get everyone looking at the camera at the same time

After Snow White, Chip came by. Theo has now learned to tell Chip and Dale apart. I remember them because a reader pointed out to me that Chip has a small black nose like a chocolate chip, while Dale has a reddish-brownish bigger nose.

Also at Goofy’s Kitchen they wear aprons with their names conveniently embroidered on them.

Violet didn't want to be torn away from her food here.

Violet didn’t want to be torn away from her food here.

After Chip was the Pièce de résistanceViolet’s personal hero Minnie Mouse. This girl LOVES Minnie. I mean LOVES. She calls her “Mow Mow” (she’s got a speech delay and Minnie is one of the few words she has).

At first Theo is looking a little funny but you can see the adoration on Violet’s face.

You are my hero.

You are my hero.

Then Violet got to share some one-on-one time with Minnie.

Big hug!

Big hug!

Holding hands

Holding hands

A sweet little kiss!

A sweet little kiss!

A great thing about Disney is that they don’t rush kids through the character experience. Violet loved every second of Minnie’s visit.

Next to come by was Aladdin. He playfully made fun of Violet’s “genie hair”.

Hey, that's my ponytail!

Hey, that’s my ponytail!

And then Dale came by.

Theo is explaining that he knows Chip and Dale apart

Theo is explaining that he knows Chip and Dale apart

And for one last character visit, Pluto came by. I told Violet to smile and instead she said, “Da da da” which is her rather ineffective version of “cheese.”

Da da da!

Da da da!

Much to Violet’s delight, Minnie took another swing through the room and shared another hug and kiss.

Mwah!

Mwah!

In short, Goofy’s Kitchen is awesome. It doesn’t require park admission, since it’s in the Disneyland Hotel itself, and it’s a great way to catch a few characters while enjoying a fantastic buffet (especially the desserts–stay tuned for those). They do brunch and dinner and I’ve had both. I probably prefer the brunch because I basically think that breakfast is the best meal of the day, if not the entire universe, but the dinner was great too. The characters vary, but my kids didn’t really care who showed up and were thrilled with everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Club 33 (Part 2)

Back in Part 1 I told you all about getting into the club, dinner, Fantasmic!, and the restroom. Now we’re on to dessert.

It's dotted with raspberry stuff--SIGN ME UP!

It’s dotted with raspberry stuff–SIGN ME UP!

And as any good Disneyland fan knows, following Fantasmic! is…

FIREWORKS!!!

FIREWORKS!!!

I didn’t bother going outside for these. I missed the audio, but I was still enjoying my meal and after the break we took for Fantasmic!, it really was time to enjoy the meal. Plus, you see that nearly empty wine glass in the forefront? Tragic.

At this point we realized that other people were taking pictures inside the restaurant, so as gauche as it may have seemed at the time, we just went ahead and took pictures. Starting with asking the server to take a picture of us.

The situation with the flash got weird

The situation with the flash got weird

Not our best shot. Also, no more wine. Sad.

I made Kevin take pictures of the dining room because he’s a better photographer than I am.

I want this lighting fixture. Yes I do.

I want this lighting fixture. Yes I do.

I also want every single exit sign in my life to look like this

I also want every single exit sign in my life to look like this

Our bill arrived in a lovely Club 33 bill holder thingy. I totally wanted to steal this one too, but that would have been way obvious.

Lovely!

Lovely!

Back in the day, you got a commemorative matchbook with your meal. Now you get this.

Chocolate!

Chocolate!

I was all excited about this chocolate until I bit into it. It’s mint chocolate. Just an FYI. I hate mint chocolate. It makes the chocolate taste cold. So that was a bit unpleasant, unfortunately.

Kevin had to use the restroom at this point, so of course I made him take the camera. Sadly, this is the only evidence he returned with:

He has more class than I do. Which apparently isn't hard.

He has more class than I do. Which apparently isn’t hard.

It was awesome just looking around at all the details of the club.

Club33-34

Walt eating at Club 33? Actually he died before he ever got the chance.

 

Club33-35

There was a telephone booth. I forgot to ask if the phone actually worked.

Club33-36

Menus and billfolds

Club33-44

Actually I recently broke a sconce at the cabin. I think this would be the perfect replacement, don’t you?

There’s also another room to Club 33, the Trophy Room. It’s pretty gorgeous.

Club33-37

Sort of a safari theme

Club33-40

Definitely going for that Jungle Cruise look

This vulture was the start of it all. It was actually intended by Walt to be an audioanimatronic bird like those in the Tiki Room, to listen in on people’s conversations and then respond.

Because how bizarre would that be? And by bizarre I mean awesome.

Club33-38

Also, an eagle

 

This duck, as far as I know, is completely innocuous.

Club33-39

Quack?

And other stuff in the room:

Club33-41

This amazing buffet, and the lone table of people eating in the room. That was awkward.

 

Club33-42

Obviously I need one of these

Club33-43

The plant totally completes the tableau

 

But finally, we could drag our feet no longer. There’s a set of Club 33 merchandise you can buy and I was DESPERATELY hoping to get Club 33 mouse ears, but the cast member said that they had completely sold out. Instead we got a commemorative wine glass and a keychain.

All in all, it was truly a magical night. What an amazing experience, with an amazing meal. I am so thankful to my reader (I don’t know if she wishes to be identified or not :)) for giving us this opportunity of the ultimate date night.

Did we want to take the elevator downstairs?

Yes.

Yes we did.

Bye-bye!

Bye-bye!

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