Disney ‘Mystery’ Western Carribbean Cruise 2011

We have been looking forward to this vacation all year. This is our second cruise in as many years as last year was our first ever: a 4 day quick hop to Nassau, day at sea and ending on Disney’s ‘private island’ in the Bahamas: Castaway Cay. Staci definitely caught the ‘fever’ and we decided to try our luck on a longer, 7 day cruise. Since I was already coming to Orlando in October for a conference, we found a 7 day Western Caribbean itinerary after my conference ended. Seemed like good luck and it was towards the tail end of hurricane season, too. So we booked it! Our original itinerary looked like this:

Saturday: Board and head out to sea
Sunday: Key West
Monday: Day at Sea
Tuesday: Cozumel
Wednesday: Grand Cayman
Thursday: Day at Sea
Friday: Castaway Cay
Saturday: Disembark and fly back to PHL

Day 1: Saturday
Fully armed with the seasickness patch (on me) and Ginger Root capsules (everyone), we boarded and got ready to sail. So far, a smooth ride and were excited to have another ‘only child’ family at our dinner table. In Disney’s data-crunching, they sat us down with a family who’s only daughter had her 11th birthday one day after Abby, the husband and Staci were both July birthday’s and the wife and I were both February; only a few years apart. Good data DOES lead to good results!

Day 2: Sunday
I woke up looking at the ship map and thought ‘wow, we’re really going around the end of the keys to come into port’. But then the captain came over the loudpeaker to say that due to heavy rain and strong winds in Key West, we would be unable to dock there today. So Sunday would become a ‘day at sea’ and we would dock in Cozumel on Monday. Which is great- except that our beach club reservation was for Tuesday! Staci and I trundled down to the internet cafe on Deck 3, paid 10 bucks for 10 minutes to email the club and inform them. We were relieved when there was another family doing the same thing, too!

Staci and I had a couples massage while at sea. With the stormy seas (not too rough, but definitely noticeable) it was definitely a new sensation to be rolling while massaged. Totally added a new dimension to the spa treatment!  As for the day at sea: there was plenty of activities on board to keep yourself occupied, as well as the ever present food and drinks.

Day 3: Monday
We arrived on Cozumel a day early, but the beach club had no issue. We took a 15 minute cab ride from the port to the club and spent the partly sunny day on the beach, relaxing. Abby and I rented a Jet-Ski and took a VERY choppy 30 minute ride over the waves! Otherwise, we just spent the better part of the day by the beach, pool and whirlpool resting our cares away! We got back on board in enough time and were in our cabin when the captain came back on the overhead. We would NOT be stopping at Grand Cayman due to serious wind and surf conditions. Instead, we will be heading south to the mexican port of Costa Maya, where the weather was much nicer. Surprise! Staci was lucky enough to have the contact information for our Dolphin Excursion on Grand Cayman and we placed an expensive mobile phone call (and a few more minutes on the internet) to cancel our reservation there.  We had a ticket for ‘Tea with Alice’ that turned out to be ‘Tea with The Mad Hatter’.  While Abby is starting to become a little too old for these things, she did say that she had a great time.  So we’ve still got some time before she’s too old for some things!

Day 4: Tuesday
The weather was sunny and warm in Costa Maya, as promised! Staci, working her scheduling magic, was able to grab 3 of the last slots at the Costa Maya ship-approved dolphin encounters. Abby really wanted to do it, but I was a bit wary of the whole ‘manufactured encounter’ aspect of the whole thing, but I was pleasantly surprised by how caring and knowledgeable the trainers were and the dolphins looked well cared for. Once I let my guard down, we had a great time! We also used the extra time to do a bit of jewelery shopping for the ladies! Abby took a dip in the port’s saltwater pool and we packed it in and headed back to the ship. This time the captain came on to tell us that we were heading for a day at sea, with a Thursday arrival to Key West. Tonight was the ‘Pirates IN the Carribbean’ deck party, which brings fireworks at sea. Not being one to miss fireworks, we found a good spot on Deck 10 and got a great show!

Day 5: Wednesday
When the captain came on this morning to give us the morning update and spent a good 5 minutes talking about the weather in Cancun, the whole ship was prepared for a ‘mystery cruise’ stop there instead of Key West. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were on schedule, but that he was just setting us up for the news that it was going to be a bit of a rough ride there. 10+ foot seas and gusts of 40+ knots. Staci and I hit the spa for a couples massage and the rolling of the ship gave it a whole different feel! The ‘patch’ got me through the evening without being sick, so I am thankful for that. I was able to supplement some Dramamine and went back down to Lumiere’s to see the girls Happy Birthday celebration during ‘princess’ night. Abby was anticipating this all week and was really excited. I was able to stay with them for a bit longer before the rough seas had me retiring for the night.

Check out this video of the family pool. About an hour after we shot this, they closed the pool because of the weather!

Day 6: Thursday
Luckily, the weather was cooperative and we were able to dock in Key West without a hitch. Since we had to change our arrival date, we ended up docking at the Key West Naval Air Station. This means we had to be shuttled back and forth, but ended up being pretty convenient. The shuttle left us right next to Ron Jon Surf Shop, so that was a required stop! It was great to walk around and see the sights. After doing some shopping along Duval Street, we headed off to check out the Truman ‘Little White House’ and admire some of the really neat bungalows. But the highlight of the day was lunch. On the recommendation of a good friend, we hoofed it over to El Siboney.

The entire vacation has been awesome so far, but this meal was the highlight of the trip! The food reminded me of what my mom and grandma cook. Staci had a ‘real’ Cuban sandwich, Abby really enjoyed her Ropa Vieja and white rice. An order of tostones came and they were PERFECT!! For me, I had an amazing Bistec Empanizado. Probably my favorite food besides pernil. It was awesome (almost as good as the one my Aunt Linda made me before I got on the cruise!).

After lunch, we walked back to Duval Street and did some shopping. We noticed that there were businesses pumping out their basements and were told that there was some flooding due to the rain that made us miss our planned stop earlier in the week. Good fortune on us, I suppose. We made it back to the ship and Abby went off to the ‘tween’ area and dinner with our new friends. Staci and I headed to the adults only restaurant, Palo, for dinner. It was a really nice meal and we were quite glad for some tranquil seas to enjoy dinner.

Day 7: Friday
After an uneventful night of steaming from the Florida Keys to the Bahamas, we arrived at Castaway Cay. Formerly Gorda Cay, it’s an island owned by Disney for the exclusive use of the Disney Cruise Line. We docked, picked up our snorkeling equipment and found a spot on the beach. It was a bit cloudy and cool for the Caribbean, but a bad day at the beach is better than a good day at work! Afterwards, it was time to head back to the ship and pack up.

Debarkation Day: One last breakfast, farewell to our new friends and we were off to the airport. Who would’ve thought that we would come home and have snow on the ground? We sure didn’t! Of course, vacations aren’t every day and we worked all year to get here. There’s definitely something about a Disney cruise that keeps us coming back!

And since everyone asked for pictures, here they are! If you can’t see the embedded gallery, you can link to it here.  Now everyone should have an idea of why we keep calling this our ‘mystery cruise’.  Since the cruise director started calling it that on Day 2, it kind of stuck!

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About golasalle

Gadget Geek, SAP Mentor, computer nerd, SME in Business Intelligence and Halo/MW2 player. Also a ProBoard Firefighter 2 and Fire Police Captain. Can you say dichotomy?
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