Matter of Heart
After our ridiculously late night the night before, It was no surprise that the ship had long been docked for our final day at Castaway Cay before our little “sleeping beauties” rolled out of bed groggily after 10:00am. We grabbed some breakfast and then hit the Aquaduck while the masses were off the ship on the island and the line was shorter for the water slide.
We lazily made our way down the gangway to enjoy a few more hours on the tropical island. While in search of a row of empty chairs, we happened upon a character dance party. You can be sure these girls knew how to boogie with Chip n Dale!
MAW had given us vouchers for tube rentals and snorkels and fins for the day so we cashed un and suited up. Can I just say that getting half a dozen kids fitted with masks and teaching them to breathe through a rubber hose is no small feat!! I was so proud of Evie who overcame her first couple frantic minutes of hyperventalative breathing and mastered the art of snorkeling! She was so proud! The kids and I kicked off and explored the mile long staged underwater ship-wreck. Totally cool stuff!! Coral covered abandoned underwater ship and canon…..treasure chest….and even a massive granite Mickey statue. Colorful fish weaved through the wreckage and Tristan even chased a massive sea turtle and had the gumption to go up and touch it!!
It was our fault that we missed lunch again due the the fact that we were so busy having fun that we totally forgot! Way too busy having fun! So that meant ice-cream-cones all around from the beach-side soft-serve machine.
We contemplated “missing” the last call to get back on the boat. I mean, how bad would it be to be stranded here? Reluctantly we bid farewell to the most magical destination in the world and boarded the Dream for a final night at sea.
The MAW staff had strawberry-shortcake cupcakes waiting in our stateroom for an afternoon snack. Always, always one step ahead with surprises and treats! As the kids showered and dressed for the evening activities, Evie protested the nautical dress I’d laid out and begged to wear her Cinderella dress “one more time”. Of course I couldn’t say no to that! So princess it was for one more magical evening!
C and I ordered a wine and cheese platter and enjoyed a few leisurely “couples” moment after sending the kids off to the Kids Clubs so we could get the suitcases all packed up for tomorrows departure! It was short lived, but man….why hadn’t we accessed the free room service before now? Cheese platter was fantastic!
C went to pick up the little girls from the club which resulted in a scenario he will not soon live down….
Disney has stringent security measures in place to make sure no “stranger” can walk in and check your child out of the club. When we’d enrolled the kids the first day, we were asked to provide a secret “family password” which would be used in conjunction with our key cards, etc. to ensure our kids protection. I had told C the password Id listed, but apparently in his slightly loopy state (still taking some heavy duty pain killers from his surgery only a few days before), he had no recollection of the password. So….as he’s trying to pick up our girls, he’s drawing a complete blank when asked to provide the password.
The club counselor (bending the rules a bit and trying to work with him) asks instead if he can provide the kids full dates of birth.
If this woman only knew…this guy has a LOT of birthdays to keep up with!
Apparently it took some time and careful calculation, but he eventually was able to retrieve his own daughters 🙂
Disney saved the best for last. Their final nights show performance in the grand Walt Disney Theatre was absolutely enchanting! However, C and I could barely take our eyes off of Gigi who sat perched on the edge of her seat dancing and singing along and then collapsing in laughter, completely immersed and enthralled in the performance. Oh the magic in her eyes!!
On our way to dinner, we stopped at the guest services desk to take a thank-you note from Evie to our precious Miss Nicky who had done so much to make the trip unforgettable for us. She in turn had more treats for Miss Evie – chocolate covered Mickey shaped rice-crispie treats. This woman was amazing!
Animators Palace dining room hosted us for our “last supper”. Tristan and I ordered the best truffle stuffed white wine sauce ravioli for appetizers. Absolutely divine! We interacted with “Crush” on the movie screen by our table while we sipped cocktails and tasted delicacies. Fillet Mignon. Lobster. Escargot. Creme Brûlée. When else in their lifetime will my kids get to try these things in one sitting?!! 🙂 We were seriously sad to say goodbye to Constantin and Potchara when we concluded our meal. These guys made our dining experience every night a truly entertaining event!
Reluctant to see the fairy tale end, we soaked up every last magical moment. We donned mermaid tails and went night-swimming and enjoyed one more ride on the Aquaduck. We sat on lounge chairs with the deck all lit up and the little ones wrapped in (heated) towels on our laps and watched Avengers on the “dive in movie screen”. The big kids filled cups with coke from the soda machine and topped it off with soft serve ice cream for everyone – coke floats!!
The 4 days aboard the Disney Dream were that precisely – a dream! Im pretty sure if Evie had wished for the moon, MAW would have thrown a lasso around it. This organization is amazing and facilitated memories for our family that have so beautifully celebrated Evie’s life and commemorated all she’s been through! We are so grateful for the opportunity together as a family to recollect all the prayers God has answered in our girls life and to reflect on how far she’s come! Here’s to many more dreams come true and life lived abundantly, joyfully, gratefully!!
I might have been just as excited as the kids, because I was up before the alarm to watch our first sunrise aboard the Disney Dream. A massive funnel cloud on the horizon was fascinating to watch as a storm brewed on one side while a pink sun rose on another.
The massive ship slowed and gracefully backed into Castaway Cay (Disney’s own private island) without so much as a lurch. At first glance, it looks like a pristine deserted beach. But apparently a couple hundred Disney employees reside on the island just to accommodate the passengers that pull into port for a day’s time. The ship docked about 7:00am and disembarked another several hundred employees who transformed the quiet beach into a tropical paradise with brightly colored umbrellas, BBQ buffet restaurants, live music band equipment and characters decked out for dance parties well before passengers were allowed off the ship to explore the island.
When princess Evie woke up, there was a special surprise from her best friend Maggie waiting to be opened – a beautiful “puffed sleeved” Cinderella dress. The other girls also had Disney princess gowns laid out by their “lady in waiting” (aka mom!) and a personal invitation from the princesses was awaiting them and received with squeals of delight!
We donned our dresses and descended the grand staircases (trains flowing behind and hands clasped in anticipation) and made our way to the grand atrium where the princesses were holding court.
Oh the look in Gigi’s eyes when they appeared waving and welcoming her!!
Its been a 3-year wait for this wish to come true, but honestly, the timing could not have been more perfect! A year earlier and Gigi would have been too young to remember it, and life would still have revolved around a necessary nap time. A year later and Abi for sure would have been out of the princess stage. This girl of mine – she is the most mature 13-year-old I know, yet still loves all things girly and wanted a Jasmine costume for the cruise. Of course this momma was happy to oblige and have 5 girls all dolled up in princess pretties! We’ve decided Abi might have a promising career as a Disney Princess!! She is a magnet for kids and could pull of the homecoming queen wave and pinky-up curtsies!
The princess conversations were hilarious! Snow white invited the girls to come visit her at her home “through the black forest and past the seven waterfalls, then mine is the little cottage in the clearing!”. And Cinderella didnt understand Evie when she said she flew on an airplane to get there. “Whats an airplane? I always take a carriage everywhere I go!”
The girls left practicing their waltz, wave and talking with their pinkies up like Snow White.
When we got to the Frozen gathering on the other side of the ship, we were early for our princess appointment. However, because Evie was a wish kid, they whisked her to the front of the line and gave her an extended period to talk to Elsa and Anna. Anna acted completely baffled that Gigi had a matching dress….and I must say, Britain’s Elsa braid was more authentic than the actual Elsa’s 🙂
Then it was off to dine alfresco at Cabanas. Breakfast buffet with Mickey shaped waffles (and all the toppings) and an extensive variety of pastries, eggs, breakfast meats, crepes, yogurts and fresh fruits to choose from. A lovely view from the balcony of the ship looking out over Castaway Cay….all well and good until a squad of seagulls started dive-bombing our plates!
We hit the Aquaduck after breakfast during the non-peak-time while most of the other cruisers were on the island. This is the massive waterside aboard the ship, that swings out over the ocean and then covers the length of the ship, twice! There was one little duck who was seriously upset that she wasn’t tall enough! Seemed like the perfect time to offer a concession prize – soft serve ice cream available 24 hours a day onboard. Who cares that is just past breakfast time!? We’re on the vacation of a lifetime!!
We disembarked for a lovely afternoon on Castaway. We were so busy having fun, we totally forgot to stop for lunch and hit the BBQ buffet (not to worry….no one was below the recommended calorie count ever on the cruise!) White sugary beaches. Emerald blue water. A majestic view of the ship. And a little shade offered by a towering palm tree for this poor guy who couldn’t go in the water due to the cast on his arm (theres another story – shattered his wrist and had to have surgery last week….not the best timing!)
Before dinner time, we hit up the pool (and the ice cream machine) again just in time to watch a movie starting at the dive-in-movie.
The ship cast off again and we returned to our stateroom to dress for the evening activities. There was a note again at our door with tickets for our Wish Kid for an excursion planned for the next day….and a platter of chocolate covered strawberries!!
Another fabulous show, and then it was dinner at the Royal Palace with the servers all dressed in their Prince Charming dress coats looking very dapper and complimenting the romantic decor of the restaurant that has mosaics of scenes from some of Disney’s traditional and classic love stories.
When we told Gigi she needed to drink water too so she wouldn’t get dehydrated after all the time in the sun, she mastered this skill so she didnt have to slow down guzzling her Shirley Temple.
I was paranoid about the kids clubs before boarded the ship, but my friend Sarah who is a weathered cruiser, and the impressive system for security for the kids, quickly put my mind at ease. The place is awesome and so, so safe with tracking devices on each child and in our case, an older sister who is always looking out for a younger one. We let the girls go to the club for about 45 minutes after finishing dinner. Sure enough, when I came to pick them up after the allotted time, Gigi burst into tears because she didnt want to leave. Apparently dancing with tinker belle is more fun than bedtime!
And just like that, the clock struck twelve and the fairy tale dissolved into a million beautiful memories. It was truly, a Dream Come True. All the magic and wonder and fantasy and flair reflected in our daughters eyes as she soaked up every minute of her long-awaited Wish Trip, left us with memories we will cherish for a lifetime! Im going to have a ton of back-logged blogging to do after this summer, but wanted to get this out while its fresh and I still have sand in my shoes….and pixie dust too!
The day before the trip, we met Evie’s wish coordinator to go over details and itinerary. Miss Dana treated us to a frozen yogurt fiesta. Good thing we hadn’t had time for lunch while running around like crazy all day because we needed some serious appetites to tackle this yogurt bar! I was absolutely blown away by the Make A Wish organization and their attention to detail. They thoroughly arranged everything to make it relaxing for the whole family.
The night before the cruise, I painted 100 little fingers and toes so the girls would be all “glitzed” up for meeting the princesses. Sometime after we all went to sleep, a little Mickey Magic delivered new Micky/Minnie outfits for the girls to travel in. 6 little eager-beavers had no trouble jumping out of bed at dark-thirty to catch the shuttle to the airport.
After a short flight into Orlando, we caught the Disney Dream Shuttle for a 45 minute ride to Port Canaveral. The Disney difference starts with their employees….even our bus driver was a hoot telling the kids to watch out the window for Mickey who drives the truck that holds all the luggage. And warning that sometimes Goofy drives…and then the luggage gets lost 🙂
We boarded into the grand atrium welcomed with finesse by an applauding row of Disney cast members announcing our family’s name as we waltzed into the fantasy….
We oriented ourselves to the ship, grabbed some pizza from the buffet on deck, and joined the throngs for the mandatory fire drill. Then it was off to check out the kids clubs and explore the vast vessel and stroll the decks as the sun got low. It took us a little while to get our “sea legs”. No nausea, but just a general sense of “wooziness” for about 24 hours until our equilibrium balanced! Bad weather unfortunately rained out the deck launch party, but the night held enough magic to make up for it….
We had a late dinner seating which meant that every night there was a full-blown Disney musical proaction in the elaborately adorned theater before we continued on to a dinner seating that started after our kids normal bedtime! Thats perhaps what I loved most about the whole experience….being an irresponsible fun parent who for a few magical days could say “yes” to almost anything. Late bedtimes. Unlimited ice cream. And swimming in mermaid tails.
The theatre productions every night were phenomenal!! However, I watched less of the show than of the kids on the seats to my left. My childrens eyes lit up with wonder and awe at the special effects and singing along to classic Disney songs. Hundreds of thousands of iridescent bubbles raining down during the Little Mermaid scene with the girls grasping to capture the magic in their hands – priceless! The special effects. The glitter and glitz. The gleam in their eyes. It was pure magic!
We bumped into the ship captain on our way to dinner….Mickey himself was greeting guests and Gigi couldn’t WAIT to give him a hug (but was a little perturbed that he wouldn’t talk to her!)
I made a quick stop at Guest Services to see about arranging to get tickets to the Princess Meet & Greet. Amazingly, after only a couple hours since boarding, all the slots had already been filled up. Eeek!!! This was something Evie had been talking about for months – meeting all the princesses!! But, Miss Nicky who worked in Guest Services knew Evie was a wish kid, and said she’d try to work some magic. Sure enough, by bedtime that night, she’d already delivered tickets not only to meet Cinderella, Snow White and Belle, but had arranged a separate meet up with the Frozen cast as well!! We were told there were 31 Wish families on the ship. Such a humbling experience to see these other kids who also look healthy and happy, and yet know they have each fought such difficult battles and endured heartache!
The dining experience on the cruise was amazing!! Each table gets their own “serving staff”. We had two guys, one from Romania and one from Thailand who were our personal caretakers at mealtime. They rotated with us each night to a different dining room so they knew our drink preferences and always had a “Shirley Temple” waiting for Gigi even before she sat down. They were a fantastic team and our kids loved them. In addition to great service, they kept the kids enthralled with stories, magic tricks, card tricks….and mickey shaped catsup creations on their plate. Tristan has learned all kinds of new slight-of-hand tricks he’s been practicing.
Look at that laughter!! That’s the real deal!!
My only second thought about the cruise is having used the iPhone for most of my pictures instead of my Nikon. My intention was to be more “present in the moment” and not always asking the kids to re-stage things for that perfect shot on my good camera. We got the genuine expressions and I relaxed not messing with settings and shutter speeds….but the photographer in me is so annoyed by grainy iPhone shots:)
When we arrived back in the room, Cinderella (who has a very helpful fairy-godmother) had left “Cinderella pajamas” for the little girls all laid out on the bed. The turn down service had also left chocolate on each pillow and towel creations shaped like Arielle’s crab Sebastian….where else can you eat chocolate right before bed!?
After all the other kids fell asleep watching the Disney channel, Abi and I snuck out and decorated the magnetic stateroom door….an invitation for other cruisers to sign a star and leave a message for our Wish Kid for her scrapbook. We got dozens and dozens of stars from all over the world….what a fun keepsake to take home.
Good thing everyone was so thoroughly exhausted, because all the sugar and hype and anticipation would have made it hard to sleep, but everyone drifted off lulled by the gently rocking ship, dreaming about the adventures to come tomorrow when we would land on Disney’s own private island in the Bahamas!!