Little kids love birthday parties and our daughter is no exception. We found it a little strange when her birthday was approaching but she made no mention of her own party. If she was going to let us decide what would happen on her birthday, then we were going on vacation.
We're now at the age when Disney becomes the thing to do, but Mira's petite and wouldn't meeting the height requirements for a lot of the fun rides. Nor did we really want to spend our entire trip running between lines in the park. It's the characters she's likes and you can get that on the cruise. Quality family time and relaxing sounded like a great way to usher in year 5.
With the tickets booked, we made another choice: we weren't going to tell her. The cruise departed Port Canaveral on Monday afternoon, which meant that we had to leave our house at 5am. We normally left at 7 for school and it was already dark. We could mess with the clock and Mira wouldn't figure it out. As it so happens, we lost power the night before so that was taken care of for us. I was worried that she'd be tipped off something was up When we got in the car and we gave her her headphones and phone. It's a unusual for a morning school drop-off but Mira wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Surprise intact.
Sleepiness and TV meant that she missed that we didn't take the turn towards her school. Success! A few minutes later she looked up, noticed we were on the highway and this happened:
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, leaving Atlanta for Florida at 5am makes for some pretty light traffic. On the way down Mira and I played a little game where we asked ourselves if the boats on trailers were the one we were about to go on. We might have fooled her about school but no fooling over the difference between a ship and a boat. She knew what a Disney cruise was all about.
When we got to the port we were immediately impressed with how easy everything with Disney was. Our last cruise on Carnival was full of long lines and waits. Even with all the families with kids and strollers we were parked, through security, and on the boat in almost no time at all. Once boarded, the first order of business was to eat then get some drinks.
Heat, ocean, and Bud Light Lime, our companions this sea adventure. Scurvy is a real threat on the high seas
The boat took off right on time, there was a little deck party, a safety drill, then it was time to go to the stateroom to get ready for a show and dinner. Our Disney stateroom was pretty awesome. There was space for us, storage space for our bags under the bed, and a couch that converted into a bed for Mira, along with a curtain for privacy. Mira really enjoyed the cruise staple of turning the towels and other items sitting around the room into animals.
The first night we had a bunny as our towel and blanket animal
Something rather unexpected (and reaffirming of our decision to cruise instead of theme park) was how on schedule Mira was. She used to have no problems staying up and having fun, but not anymore. No FOMO here, when it was bedtime, it was time to be asleep.
Our dinner time staple, Mira falling asleep on the way to the dining room
On the flip-side, Mira loved having her own little bed even to the point of lounging there for a bit in the mornings. For mom and dad that was substantially better than her in-home behavior of jumping into our bed and waking us up at ridiculously early hours.
Mira loved how the couch turned into her bed. She actually slept there.
One of the reasons to do a Disney cruise is for the character experiences. Like any Florida based attraction, there's a long line for all the announced character appearances. However, there are plenty of characters walking around and willing to take a photograph, including when you are on the way to breakfast.
Mira with Stitch, just one of the characters we saw
The first full day of the cruise had us in Nassau, Bahamas. On the way to our excursion, Mira found her second favorite thing on the boat after the ice cream machines.
Mira loved the circular seats on the portholes. She would have spent the whole cruise here.
Sonali with Nassau forming a backdrop from the balcony in our stateroom
Mira is still learning how to swim which pretty much ruled out the excursions involving snorkeling or the resort at Atlantis. We opted for the mini-sub tour complete with a narrated tour of Nassau Harbor. All the highlights were there, from the island Dad-jokes and the celebrity house sightings. The mini-sub worked out great. There were plenty of fish and the sub went over the remains of a shipwreck. We even saw a few rays.
Mira and Sonali looking at the fish outside the sub
After the sub we took advantage of the kids club, easily one of the best parts of a Disney Cruise. It's a large, fully staffed set of activity rooms for kids of all ages. You can drop your kids off and pick them up at your leisure. Getting a break from thinking about how to keep your kid entertained means that you can actually relax. The kids love it too since there are so many good activities. Our dinner companion never wanted to leave and Mira actually regretted not spending enough time there.
We took advantage of the time to do some reading and rode the big water slide. But the thing about the Disney experience is that there are also lots of really fun things to do with the kid. Every day there's at least one deck party with music and characters. On this night we let Mira take a long afternoon nap, skipped the show, and went to the deck party instead.
Mira enjoying dancing on the deck during the party
Our long afternoon nap resulted in the first, and only time, Mira was awake for dinner. She had her mac and cheese, then made it to the dessert course, with an ice-creme sunday and Mickey bar.
Mira having her dinner desert
We've done the all inclusive resort and cruise thing in the past. In each situation we found the food to be alright. Sometimes it looks really fancy but the taste would be close to a high-end cafeteria. All the food on this cruise was legitimately really good. All the kid staples were perfect for their picky palates. Everything for adults was executed to a high degree and suitable for a nice restaurant.
The following day had the boat at Disney's private island, with the major attraction being the snorkeling area and beach behind a breakwater. This meant extremely calm water perfect for all the little kids. Since this was Disney's island, all the ship-board amenities were available, including the kid's club and the bar.
Mira and I gave Sonali a little personal time and played on the beach. We built some sand-fish, practiced her swimming, and did one of my favorite water activities which I call the "turbulent ocean game." Thankfully the real seas weren't that rough.
Playing the Turbulent Ocean Game with Mira.
All that swimming works up a bit of a thirst. The Caribbean air subtly reminds you that some rum is likely in order. The staple is rum and coke, which Sonali choose. The dark clouds rolling in were a sign that I should order a dark and stormy. The drinks were good, but reception I got when I returned to the beach was even better.
Mira and I on the beach at Castaway Cay.
Of course, it's not Disney if there isn't a dance party with a character.
Dance party with Goofy on the main promenade