Day 1- Rocky Mountaineer Train
The all-daylight trains mean you get to sleep in a hotel at night. Our overnight for this portion was in Kamloops. We stayed at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Center for an evening.
Sunkissed Adventures Family Travel Blog
What you need to know, first, is that there are hundreds of different packages to choose from. Your carefully curated package can be as short as a two-day rail route to as long as a 12-night train and land journey. You also have the option to travel Eastbound or Westbound. We chose Eastbound, starting in Vancouver and ending in Calgary. Additionally, we added one extra day to explore Calgary before heading home and three nights in Vancouver at the beginning.
Altogether our trip was 12 days in length, including travel days. Due to various situations we ended up staying in two hotels in Vancouver. The first three nights we spent at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, we made a quick and easy trip over to the Fairmont Waterfront for our final day in the city. For the purpose of this blog I will number the days based on the package we had with Rocky Mountaineer. We spent four nights in Vancouver before boarding the GoldLeaf Coach for the two-day rail route portion.
Day 1- Rocky Mountaineer Train
The following morning we met in the lobby of the Fairmont Waterfront with a few hundred other guests. I believe there were a total of 650 guests on the entire train for our journey coming from various hotels around Vancouver. It sounds like a lot but there were only about 50 people on our specific coach. Rocky Mountaineer provided motorcoaches from the hotel to the Vancouver Rocky Mountaineer station. It was a quick trip of about 20 minutes. We were on the train and rolling down the tracks by 8am.
The all-daylight trains mean you get to sleep in a hotel at night. Our overnight for this portion was in Kamloops. We stayed at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Center for an evening.
Day 2- Rocky Mountaineer Train
The following morning, we had to be up bright and early; meeting in the lobby at 5:45am. As expected, they drove us to the train station in Kamloops to board for our second day on the breathtaking journey. Day two of the train route took us in to the Canadian Rockies and things just got more amazing from there! By the time everyone had boarded the train this morning, we were moving down the tracks by 6:45am. The train has an Outdoor Viewing Platform that we spent quite a bit of time on this second day. The cool fresh mountain air felt great. We passed waterfalls, traversed bridges, saw eagles and big horn sheep, every moment had something to gaze at. We went in early June and so many of the mountains were still snow capped! That was exciting for this Florida girl. We passed the continental divide just before arriving at the Lake Louise train station around 8pm that evening.
Day 3- Lake Louise
We ended up with an amazing view from our room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. You'll need to tune back in when I write up our hotel experiences. (I will come back and link it here once I get to that point.) The next morning we had a tour organized through Rocky Mountaineer. We headed out on a motorcoach that took us up to Jasper National Park and the Columbia Icefields. Our first stop was the visitors center where we had an included buffet lunch in Altitude. Next, we took the Ice Explorer, a specialized truck that can handle 30% grade and ice, and drove out on to a glacier. We spent some time out on the Athabasca Glacier. Our next stop was to the Skywalk, jutting out 115 feet out from the side of the mountain and 918 feet above the ground below! We were brought back to our hotel by around 5:30pm and had dinner on our own on the hotel property.
Day 4- Lake Louise
We had the morning hours to ourselves in Lake Louise and chose to walk as far as we could along the Lake Louise Lake trail. It is advertised as 1 hour round trip. We're in decent shape and after walking for 30 minutes we were not even half way to the end. We turned around and headed back for our lunch reservation. It was a beautiful walk over mostly flat ground. You do need to watch your step since it is not paved and there are sometimes tree roots or streams of water going across the trail. This is by far one of the most beautiful places I have been in my lifetime. He left around 2:30 for an organized motorcoach tour and transfer to Banff National Park Emerald Lake, the Natural Bridge, and then our next hotel, the Rimrock Resort.
Day 5- Banff
We had a fully open day to spend in Banff. The Rimrock Hotel is situated up away from the downtown corridor on Sulphur Mountain. As part of our package we were given bus passes for the Roam Bus to get us downtown and back. So we spent this day exploring Banff, sampling yummy food in the city, and relaxing. We attempted to go on a walk but the Concierge advised us that they had seen a few bears in the last few days, so we "noped" out of the that decision very fast.
Day 6- Banff
Our second day in Banff began with another escorted motorcoach tour as part of our Rocky Mountaineer package. Our first stop was to the Banff Gondola, which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel. We rode to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the 4-person Gondola, spent some time seeing the sights and then rode back down. I wish I had more time to spend at the top as there are multiple restaurants, a boardwalk, an interpretive center, and more. From there the tour brought us back to downtown Banff for a quick lunch stop where we chose a Vietnamese restaurant with gorgeous views of Tunnel Mountain (I think!). After lunch we were taken to see Bow Falls and then onward to Calgary and the Fairmont Palliser.
Day 7- Calgary
We had another open day to explore on our own in Calgary. We walked over to Prince Island Park and then made our way down to the Peace Bridge and then walked back to our hotel. We ventured back out to the CORE Shopping Center around lunch time and spent time wandering through their very unique indoor park called Devonian Gardens! We ended up stuck in the mall for a bit because as we left it started to hail. So we hung out in the park until the rain settled down. Later on we walked up and down Stephens Avenue Walk, their pedestrian mall with many restaurants and shops.
Day 8- Calgary
For our final morning we woke up, had breakfast at the Starbucks in the hotel and headed off to the airport for our final piece of the journey.
I have been asked by quite a few people if I am going to write about my experience on the Rocky Mountaineer journey I recently took. I have mostly ignored this blog for the last couple of years due to various reasons (a pandemic, back to teaching, decreased business in travel), but I am not giving it up just yet! It's summer after all and I don't have to go back to teaching for another 5 and 1/2 weeks. I will do my best to break it up in to various aspects of my experience rather than a day by day guide. I am thinking of writing about the following:
Here I am again, randomly, another year later! I will probably do an update sometime soon on what's going on with Sunkissed Adventures, but for now I wanted to write a little bit about air travel in a post-pandemic world. I recently flew internationally, kinda... we went to Canada.
My husband and I went on a 12-day trip throughout Western Canada. We started in Vancouver for a few days, took a glass-domed Rocky Mountaineer train through the Rockies for a couple days, then proceeded to spend two days each at Lake Louise, Banff, and Calgary before flying home. Of course, being from Florida we had to fly. So we went into Vancouver and home from Calgary. I ended up booking it as two one-way trips on different airlines.
We left at the beginning of June when there was a mini-surge going on locally. We opted to wear masks on all of the plane segments. In the past I always thought people were silly for wearing masks on planes. I realized that I almost always came back with a little something after flying. So, moving forward I plan to wear a mask long after this mess! On our first flight, about 3/4 of people wore their masks. On our WestJet flight it was mandatory because Canada still has mask rules for public transportation. They were pretty strict with this as I saw them go up to one family not wearing masks and told them to put them on immediately. Of course it was done with, what I call, Canadian Kindness! I always find Canadians so polite. On our flight home from Calgary to Dallas the captain made an announcement that it was optional and he will not tolerate anyone arguing or criticizing anyone for wearing or not wearing a mask in-flight. About half the people I saw wore them. From Dallas to Palm Beach even less people wore masks. I have found that my ears are now far more in tune with hearing coughs, sneezing, and sniffles. It grosses me out now! Not to mention on one flight the person behind me sneezed at least 10 times. I am not so much afraid of covid these days, but I just don't like being sick even if it's just a cold! So having a mask on made me feel a little more at ease that I wouldn't come home with an extra souvenir. ;)
Our first hiccup came the night before our initial flight. I received a text around 8:30pm that our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles was delayed two hours. That put our connection at just under an hour in LA. This made me a bit nervous. I went on the app and it showed that my flight was actually cancelled due to a misconnection. AHH! A misconnection means that you won't have enough time to make your connecting flight. I panicked of course, this trip was 2 and a half years overdue thanks to covid. I quickly got on the phone where I was greeted with a message that hold times were exceeding the "norm" and could be a couple of hours. I played on the website and app for over an hour, while sitting on hold. I was able to rebook for another connection that left at 4:10pm from LA rather than our original at 1:35pm. Okay, crisis averted! Except... what time do we get to the airport? Our new flight time for the delayed flight was 10am instead of the original 7:45am. Working in the travel industry I have heard horror stories of flights getting un-delayed and people then missing them because they weren't there to board the plane. I made the executive decision to get to the airport at a little before 6am, just in case...
So our Fort Lauderdale to LA flight took off at 10am without any issue. We arrived in LA and our next flight wasn't for 3+ hours so I checked the signs to find which gate it was leaving from when I noticed our original LA to Vancouver flight had not left, was delayed, and we would have made it after all! Whatever. We sat and had an overpriced airport lunch in the back of a bar. We decided to walk to stretch our legs, we were just on a 5+ hour flight. There was nowhere to walk. The terminal was small and it was very crowded. There were multiple flights boarding in the same corner at the same time. Lines were getting mixed up and people were like sardines. AND there were a lot of sick people traveling, like very sick! I put my mask back on at that point. Terminal 2 at LAX SUCKS! Just my personal and humble opinion.
Is this trip even going to happen?
We finally got on our connecting flight from LA to Vancouver. This was on a West Jet plane. We had to show our passports, vaccine cards, as well as the ArriveCan QR code proving we completed all their forms. We get up in the air and maybe an hour in to the flight they announced for any medical personnel to please alert a flight attendant right away. I was pretty sure we were a few minutes away from an emergency landing. They were able to stabilize the woman in the back and we got to Vancouver on time. We had to wait on the plane until paramedics could meet the plane at the terminal. Canadian customs was a breeze. The international terminal is huge, so we did have a long walk. However, we were through customs in about 5 minutes from start to finish. No lines at 7:30 at night! Wooho!
We finally made it! Fast forward a little and now its's time to fly home.
Let me preface by saying that I am the type of person who is early to everything. If I am on time, that means I am late in my head. So I always go everywhere before I am supposed to be there. Our flight home from Calgary was to leave at 12:30pm. In my head I rewind 3 hours, because that's what they tell us to do. Then I rewind another 30 minutes for the ride to the airport from downtown. Then I rewind a few more minutes just in case our Uber or taxi takes a little while to show up... We left downtown Calgary at 8am, maybe even 7:30 ;). I figured we can sit in their international terminal and get a decent sit-down breakfast.
There was a taxi ready and waiting out front of the Palliser hotel, so we didn't bother getting an Uber. He got us to the airport fairly quick. We were pretty early, but that's okay. We had to check our bag in, go through security and Preclearance. What's very nice, and convenient, about most Canadian airports is that US Customs and Border Patrol have preclearance facilities in the airport. This means you go through customs there instead of after landing in the US. So the extra time would be a little necessary on this morning. Of course we also have Global Entry which helps get through the line even faster.
We walk into the International Terminal and see a massive line streaming back from the American Airlines desk. I walk to see what is going on and can't figure out why this line, with 100s of people in it, is so big. There are 3 ladies working the desks. So I ask one of the airport volunteers there, what is going on? "Oh, the morning flight to Dallas was loaded and backed away from the gate and the plane broke. Yeh. It broke." So they offloaded the entire flight, made them collect their bags and then sent them all upstairs to rebook. "Oh great, so I am just checking in for a totally different flight, where should I go?" This nice man informs me the same line is servicing everyone. To the back of the line I go.
After standing in line for 30 minutes we moved less than 10 feet. There was no way they would get our flight checked in on time at this rate. Thirty minutes later another volunteer comes through the line to check how many people are there to check-in and how many are there to rebook. Another 20 minutes later they formed a second line for those of us needing to check in. The line was still moving at a snail's pace. More AA employees showed up, but they just kept taking the rebooking people and not those of us who need to get on an actual flight! Finally, our flight is one hour from take off and they decide to start checking our line in. I was pretty sure we'd have a delay and another misconnect on our hands at this point.
Why did I write this? Well I see a lot of people complaining about cancelled, delayed, and messed up flight experiences lately. It's going to happen. Plane travel is a non-luxurious luxury experience these days! Our world is not what it used to be. Every single business it shorthanded from entry-level jobs up to professionals. We need to give some grace even in the most stressful times. I am terrible at this , but getting better. I want to travel. I want to see things. I don't want fear, annoyance, or anxiety to hold me back!
Well, it's certainly been a while!
I figured I would update everyone since I haven't shared anything on this blog in a year! As I am sure every living person on Earth knows, we've been in a pandemic. Things were going really well for me in January and February of 2020. Sunkissed Adventures blossomed in to something amazing by then. Then along came COVID and that really put a twist in everything.
Travel was halted and I took a job covering for a teacher who was out on maternity leave from March to May 2020. That turned in to a full time position at that same school for the next school year. I am back to full-time teaching and running Sunkissed Adventures part-time again, like I did years ago.
I've done a lot of thinking. Do I want to do both again? I successfully taught and ran Sunkissed for 4 years in the past. Then I left teaching to do this full-time for 6 years. Can I juggle teaching, travel, and now my own two kids? I can! I am simply scaling back. I won't take on as many new clients. I will be more selective on what I take on. I don't want to take away from providing good service to my regulars and current travelers. But I am here and booking travel for people now that the world is slowly opening back up.
As for my own family we've been traveling throughout the past year. We went to Orlando a few times. We went Glamping again. We drove to Blue Ridge in Georgia and stayed in a mountain cabin. Then Orlando again! Most recently, my husband and I just got back from 10 days in Colorado. We've changed our own personal travel planning to explore more of our own country and it's been wonderful to get out there!
I hope you have a chance to travel again soon if you haven't already!
A Little About Both Packs
Both packages come with a combination of numbered boxes and padded envelopes. They are clearly labeled by day so that everything is organized for easy use. Each kit has six days worth of activities. I plan to spread them out every other day and not do them back to back. This will get me quite a few weeks out of them. There is also a "camp schedule" which is a suggested daily plan for how to use the kit. They add in time for lunch, free play, and more. The kits are fairly flexible so you can complete each day in one sitting or break it up over the day as their provided schedule
Summer Camp in a Box: Science Junior
From the Little Passports website: With Summer Camp in a Box: Science Junior, budding scientists can explore the world around them with STEAM-based activities. While visiting six unique locations around the world, campers will build projects like a Weddell seal walker, an erupting volcano, a stringed instrument, a swinging chimpanzee, a sinking submarine, and a balloon-powered air boat. Campers will also read full-color comic books, complete pen-to-paper activities, collect trading cards, and place badges on their very own camp backpack. An easy-to-follow, flexible camp schedule allows campers to participate in camp over a one-week period or spread camp out all summer long.
Summer Camp in a Box: World Edition
From the Little Passport Website: With Summer Camp in a Box: World Edition, kids will learn about the world around them with an introductory kit featuring an easy-to-follow camp schedule, our signature blue suitcase, and world map. Campers will then travel to five different countries where they will be immersed in the cultures of Brazil, Japan, France, Egypt, and Australia. Camp activities include reading a letter from pen pals Sam and Sofia, completing pen-to-paper activities, collecting coins, enjoying hands-on culturally relevant projects, reading the Sam & Sofia’s Scooter Stories Chapter Books, and so much more.
Stay tuned for feedback on the activities inside!
Princess Meet & Greet
The Princesses are in such high demand that you can't just line up if you see them out. You need to register for this ahead of time. A good travel agent :::::wink wink, nudge nudge::::: will let you know how to make sure you get this locked in. Tiana was up first and my younger son took a real liking to her. Next was Cinderella, my mom's favorite. My mom mentioned loving shoes and Cinderella bent down, slightly lifted her dress to show my mom her shoes. She loved that part! Next was Rapunzel, who remembered us from last night. My younger son was a little afraid to take a picture with her at dinner and she commented that he had warmed up and was ready to meet her this time. I thought that was nice that she remembered us out of the thousands of people she interacts with each sailing. Sadly, the Princess pictures went missing from my phone and I only have the ones from my mom's camera, so no Rapunzel pics. Finally, there was Ariel. Overall I think they do a great job of playing the part and making things memorable. We didn't expect Cinderella or Rapunzel's attention to detail, so it was a nice touch.
Throughout the day we lined up for other characters. Donald is my older son's favorite so that was a must. We ran into Goofy in the hall by chance and he invited my kids to hold his hands as he walked back to his cabin to take a "rest".I love how the characters understand how important the interactions are for the kids (and parents, haha). And of course we had to get another shot with Mickey in his holiday best this time!
The kiddos then went to the club for some free time. Mommy and daddy relaxed kid free for a bit! Then I can't even remember what we did next. We went to the pool with the kids at one point. Had lunch at Cabanas. Squeezed a nap in before dinner. Thinking back, the timing of everything was a blur because we did so much. The main pool, which is very small, was filled with kids. The corresponding hot tubs were kid soup! Thank goodness Disney has the Quiet Cove pool area that is adults only. If you ever want to get away from the busy pool deck, head over there for some relaxing pool time. The kids played in the kids pool area for a bit too which wasn't as crowded as the main pool.
Before the cruise I ordered a cake to be delivered to our table for my son's birthday. The cake itself was very cute and the Cast Members did a fantastic job of singing and making a big deal about it. Unfortunately, my son got scared when one waiter started singing opera style. We kinda thought it was funny! I know that's terrible to say. He stopped crying and then started again because he didn't like the cake. I wasn't really a fan either. It was mostly mousse inside. So my big surprise for his birthday was another fail on this trip. You live and you learn, no more expensive special cakes for my kids. We'll just get Mickey Ice Cream Bars for dessert!
After dinner we went right back to our room. It was the last night of the cruise and my kids were going to school in the morning. They needed a good night's rest after a busy four days of excitement. Yes, that's right, I am a meanie who sends her kids to school the morning we get off a cruise. We're fortunate to live so close to major cruise ports, otherwise we'd be flying or driving home and getting an extra day of rest. I needed the day to myself to recuperate anyway, as I still wasn't at 100% me. Everyone tucked in nice and early and off we sailed toward Miami and home.
If my family's adventure has inspired you to try a Very Merrytime Cruise, or regular Disney Cruise for that matter, please reach out to me. I will guide you through each step of the way to ensure a Magical time on any of the ships you sail on with the Mouse. You're in good hands with me.
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Back in 2016 when we sailed on the Magic, this dining room was called Cariocas, named after Donald Duck's character in The Three Caballeros and themed after the city of Rio de Janeiro. In 2018 it was full remodeled and turned in to Rapunzel's Royal Table. While Cariocas was fun and enjoyable, I much prefer Rapunzel's. From the decor, to the experience; it was a great improvement. I know some people might be thinking, "Rapunzel? That's a girl's movie. My son won't like this." First of all I am a big believer that kids can like anything they want. I don't slap a gender on toys or entertainment. Secondly, even if you have a stereotypical "boy" on your hands, I assure you, they'll enjoy this dining experience.
The dinner experience was simply fantastic. You are celebrating Rapunzel's birthday in the Kingdom of Corona! It's essentially a dinner show, with activity going on all around you. It was lively and the characters come around throughout dinner to meet the kids and take photos! Musicians float around the room for the musical numbers. Rapunzel and Finn stopped by for pictures. The Snuggly Duckling Thugs were out and about too being silly and stomping around. At the end of the night, the waiters take the kids around the dining room dancing and skipping along to the music. My kids LOVED it and from the looks on the faces of all the other children, it was a definite hit. Check out the photos below. Click on them to filter through them in a larger size.
The food at Rapunzel's Royal Table was German themed. Schnitzels, sausages, and similar types of food. Of course if you don't like German food, there's also standard options you can order. We happen to enjoy this type of food and so I was thrilled to eat dinner on this evening. This was also the best night when it comes to dessert. So wear your stretchy pants when you have this dinning room on deck!
Something interesting to note. In the past, when it was pirate night, each dining room had the same menu. A special pirate night menu. At first I was a little disappointed that we were assigned to this dining room on Pirate Night because I don't really enjoy the Pirate menu and I had wanted to try the Rapunzel meals. Well, apparently I wasn't the only one who felt this way and they no longer have a dedicated pirate menu. So we had the Rapunzel's menu after all. Woohoo! Our waiter explained that they had a lot of complaints about that specific menu and so now it's been eliminated in favor of the regular menus assigned to each dining room. This was a positive change in my opinion. I am interested to hear from others who have been on Disney cruises in the past and their thoughts on the Pirate menu.
Before and after dinner the characters are out for meet and greets. They are dressed in their pirate best! Little guy wanted to meet pirate Mickey, so I took him to the atrium for that. Less than a 10 minute wait despite the line being wrapped around the corner. It wasn't bad at all!
The Pirate Night Deck Party happens at 10pm at night. A lot of littles tend to miss out on this fantastic show because it occurs so late at night. We fully intended on being there. Actually, we were there. The little guy was in the nursery and our older son was gung-ho about it. We headed up to the top deck. TWO minutes before show time my son got sad and started crying that he was tired and his legs hurt. He begged us to go back to the room! I think all the excitement and running around, plus some sun earlier in the day really wore him out. So we missed the party, which I happen to love. Strike number 83,426 for me on this cruise, lol. If you've never been on a Disney cruise, I don't want to ruin the surprise. But it's a fantastic show well worth the late-night wait if you and/or your kids can make it!
With each passing day I had more energy and spunk to me. Which I was thankful for, we were on vacation. Nobody wants to be sick on vacation. Today we were stopping at Castaway Cay. I could relax and take it easy on the beach. It's still one of my favorite stops on a cruise. I am a big fan of private islands on cruises. Check out this side-by-side comparison of our family. On the left is our family of four behind the Magic a few weeks ago. My littlest turned three during the cruise. On the right, our family in January of 2016 a few weeks before my oldest turned three.
On Castaway Cay there are various parts of the island where you can meet the characters. The first spot, closest to the ship, is the Post Office. Then once you get closer to the beaches and activities, there is Mount Rustmore. We saw Goofy there and hopped in the line. It was a 5 minute wait at most. This is what I like about Disney Cruises, the character lines look long but they move pretty quick. The longest line during the entire cruise was 15 minutes at most. You may notice that my younger son decided that Moana is going everywhere with us from this point on. She NEEDED to go to sea and return the Heart to Te Fiti.
Speaking of Moana, when my son left her by the chairs to go play in the water my mom and I made her a soaking tub. Every girl deserves to relax on vacation. ;) We spent the next couple of hours sitting beachside. It was overcast, so thankfully not too sunny and hot. The water was cold! My husband went in with the kids but I stayed on dry land. We live 15 minutes from the beach and never go, but we always enjoy a beach day on a cruise. The water on Castaway Cay is beautiful, just like most Bahamian beaches. The sand is fine compared to what we have back in South Florida. So it's a different experience in my opinion. My older son decided that he wanted to head over to Scuttle's Cove. This is the supervised kids club on the island. I signed him in and off he went. They feed them in a separate area reserved just for the kids. They have organized games, free play, a splash pad, and more to entertain them. I love that Disney has this option on their island.
Castaway Cay Beach BBQ
After lunch I went to check on the older kid at Skuttle's Cove. He said he wanted to stay a little longer. I needed to get my little guy back on the ship for a nap or the night would be a disaster. So my husband volunteered to hang back while I headed back to the ship. We took the tram since he would never make the walk back on his own. Then we got distracted by the holiday decorations right next to the ship and we needed to have a photo session! How cute are the snow/sand couple?!?
Cell Service & the Disney Guest Wifi Experience
I wanted to take a moment to address something that happened to me on the cruise and I am sure I am not the only one who experienced it. I chose to take an internet break for this cruise. Mostly due to not feeling well and just wanting to disconnect and relax. I did, however, connect to the Disney Guest wifi in order to use the DCL App for onboard event information. If you connect to the free wifi for using the app, you will still get notifications from your other apps. I was getting text messages, Instagram alerts, and all that stuff. I panicked at first. My phone didn't do that last year on the Dream. I went to the internet help desk to inquire and make sure I wasn't blowing through my husband's Small internet package. The cast member explained that, yes I will get alerts, I just can't respond to them without activating the internet on my own phone. Phew! Crisis averted. But wait... When I got back on the ship in Castaway Cay I was looking at my text messages that came through. Somehow I clicked something that turned airplane mode off. Yes, I know I sound like an idiot here. I will blame it on being sick because I clearly know NOT to mess with that setting if I didn't want extra charges. Well, my phone then flooded with even MORE alerts. Ahhh! I quickly turned airplane mode back on. Crap, now I was going to have weird charges on my cell bill. When we got back I had a single $10 TravelPass charge on the bill. All for 30 seconds of AHHHH! But if you're wondering, you can get cell service on Castaway Cay. haha
I was going to include afternoon and dinner info in this post too. This night's dinner was a lot of fun. But I feel like it's gotten long enough, so check back for the evening portion in another post.
So you're back to find out if I survived? I hope you stick around for more than just this follow up. ;) I woke up on Friday the 13th and felt much better than the night before. I was nowhere near 100%, probably at about 80%. It was the weirdest thing I have ever experienced as far as illness. But I could walk, I wasn't sweating or shivering anymore, the bone pains were gone, I could tolerate noise, I even felt a little hungry and decided to join my family at breakfast. We were in Nassau that day and I never rush to be the first off the ship in that port!
We met two characters on this day. Pluto and Captain Hook! Waiting in line for Pluto was only about 10 minutes of our time. He had reindeer antlers on and was acting all hyper and jumpy when he met each family. It was a very cute experience and they didn't rush everyone along for each meet and greet. We just happened to run into Captain Hook in the hall on our way back from meeting Pluto. All of the characters are great at stopping to say hi and take pictures even when they are moving between locations on the ship. We were going to let Captain Hook go on his way but he actually insisted on taking a picture with us.
The day was mostly uneventful. My big kid went to the Oceaneer's Lab kids club for a few hours and even had lunch with them. My little guy wandered around the ship with us. We had a yummy lunch at Cabanas, the buffet, where we had to move tables due to there being a bee infestation at our first table! Then we brought him back to the room for a nap. My mom and her other half were in their room and offered to keep the door propped open and an eye on the little guy, so we could go in to town and look for my husband's favorite cologne. So my husband and I wandered around Nassau for the first time in a number of years.
Before the cruise I told my family to bring one nice-casual outfit so we could get a good group shot. Tonight was the night I had designated for those pictures.. We all dressed nice and took a bunch of pictures. The professional ones in front of the tree looked best, but of course I forgot to buy it, doh! So all I have are the shots from my phone and none with my mom's boyfriend. oops. I blame it all on being sick and not being my usual Type A self on a cruise.
Each ship has a slightly different experience for their Animator's Palate entertainment. So I enjoy getting to see all of the options on the table. This was our second assigned dining room in the rotation for the cruise. My kids enjoyed watching the sketches take shape and guessing what each one was as it progressed. It was a nice time filler while we waited for our courses to come out. I had an appetite again, so that was nice. Everyone's food was tasty and of course we finished off the meal with Mickey Ears Ice Cream Bars. At the very end Mickey himself came through the dining room followed by all the wait staff. It was fun and lively! My mom actually prefers the Animator's Palate experience onboard the Disney Dream a little better because it's more "high-tech." I think they are equally enjoyable because they have their own charm to them.
After dinner we walked around the Atrium and checked out the life-sized gingerbread house. There was video screen inside so that the fireplace looked like it was flickering. Oh did I mention, it was made with REAL gingerbread? It smelled so nice! While standing around that area we saw a Cast member come by with cups, they were handing out hot chocolate. Yum! It was a nice touch. It was being served in custom Very Merrytime Cruise insulated cups. I only had a few sips because it made me start sweating again. What a shame, because it was good hot chocolate too!
Tangled Stage Production Show
As with everything Disney does, their stage shows are top-notch! We saw Beauty and the Beast stage show last year on our Halloween on the High Seas cruise, which I failed to review, oops. The Disney Magic features Tangled, the story of Rapunzel. I had seen bits and pieces of the movie but didn't exactly know the plot. The show was fantastic. My 6 year old son enjoyed it too and he's not big in to sitting for long periods of time watching something on stage. We sent the little guy to the nursery on this night. We knew he wouldn't last. If you only see one show on the Disney Magic (as we did on this trip) this is the one to see! We lucked out too because the following night we had dinner at Rapunzel's Royal Table and the show and dinner go hand in hand with each other. I'll review that experience in the next entry, for day 3.
Rewind to 19 months ago. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, ready to book on opening day. I had always wanted to go on one of these cruises. I love holidays at sea and I love Disney cruises. Oh yeah, and my 17 month old son would turn 3 during the cruise. This was the perfect combo! I snagged two rooms next to each other with a connecting door. My mom was going to join us on this trip. Yes! It was booked. Finally, I get to experience the magic during the holidays. I mean... My kids get to experience the magic during the holidays, haha. ;)
It just wasn't a good day. What should have been an hour drive from our home to the Port of Miami, turned in to over 2 and a half hours in traffic. There was heavy rain and since it's snowbird season down here, lots of extras cars for a Thursday morning. As we drove, I was feeling worse and worse by the minute. But hey, I can stick this out for my family. I'll nap when we get in the room and feel refreshed for the excitement of the first night of the cruise. Right?
So we get in the terminal and, thank goodness, boarding had already begun. I can get on the ship and settle in. We got on and then had to wait in the introduction line. Normally I love this part, when they introduce your family. Not today. I couldn't stand any longer. I sat down in a random chair and told my family to come find me after. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the day. All I had to do was survive until we could get access to our room at 1pm. We decided to have a sit down lunch in Lumiere's rather than deal with the buffet. I was struggling at this point. I had zero energy. I was feeling very cold despite it being over 80 degrees outside. I put my head down and went to sleep on the table. Yep, that's me between my husband and my older son. Asleep at the table.
We were assigned Lumiere's for our first night in the dining rotation. As I got to the dining room, something just felt off. I was shivering nonstop. The noise from talking and dishes clanking was driving me crazy. My little one was tired because he DIDN'T nap. I left when my appetizer came. I realized that the only thing I ate all day was first thing in the morning. I had no appetite but figured I might later. We asked the waiter to bring a roasted chicken with vegetables at the end of dinner for my husband to bring back to the room. I left with my little one, miraculously put him to bed, and then I climbed back into the sofa bed. At this point things got a lot worse. I was sweating, shivering, and had bone pains shooting down my legs. You would have thought it was the flu based on symptoms, but nope! I was thinking deliriously too. Right before I dozed off I thought, "I am probably not going to wake up. If I die, I hope my family still enjoys the rest of the cruise." Um okay Nicole, yeah, they'll just stuff you under the bed until the last day of the cruise and carry on, lol.
This was quite possibly my biggest disappointment of the entire trip. I missed Mickey's Tree Lighting Magic and Santa's Winter Wonderland Ball. Those are the biggest events that kick off every Merrytime Cruise on the first night. I think I need a do over already!
Interested to see if I survived the night? Tune in to my next installment, coming soon!
We sailed on the Disney Magic from December 12th-16th for a Very Merrytime Cruise! Here are the Voyage Navigators for that 4-night cruise.
Thursday, December 12th
Friday, December 13th
Saturday, December 14th
Sunday, December 15th
Disney Cruise Line Internet Packages
We opted for the Small package. I did not use the internet at all and my husband only used it to check his work email and communicate with employees. It was sufficient for what we needed.
UNFORGETTABLE CRUISE ADVENTURES FILLED WITH BONUS AMENITIES AND PERKS
We know how much you love to cruise, that’s why we have partnered with the exclusive Distinctive Voyages program. A celebration of cruising, Distinctive Voyages elevates your cruise experience by providing you with complimentary amenities that will make your cruise vacation a true departure from the ordinary. Yes that's right, these additional perks do not cost extra.
Our exclusive Distinctive Voyages program includes:
Below is a sample of what the Private Shore Event may include. This is an upcoming event that a large group of my clients are participating on for their Celebrity Equinox New Year's Cruise.
Upcoming Distinctive Voyages
Below are the 2020 offerings from AMAWaterways, Azamara, Celebrity, and Holland America Line. There are over 300 sailings eligible for these special perks including on other lines as well, such as Crystal, Cunard, Oceania, Regent, Seabourn, and Silversea.
Royal Caribbean introduced nonrefundable fares in July of 2017. Since then you have two options for booking. Refundable and Nonrefundable, of course. Refundable deposit fares can be cancelled with no penalty up until final payment. You will get the full amount back. Nonrefundable fares work a little different. You place a deposit based on length of cruise and number of people as usual, but Royal holds on to that money. If you need to change the ship or sail date, you're charged a $100 per person change fee. The balance of what you paid then gets converted to a Future Cruise Certificate. That FCC must be applied to a new reservation within one year.
So, what's the motivation to book a nonrefundable fare? They are less money. It varies by ship and date, I've seen differences over $500 and less than $25. It just depends. So if you know for sure you're going to cruise, go ahead and book that nonrefundable rate for some savings. If you're not 100% sure you can go on the date, I would recommend taking the refundable option.
*Something to keep in mind is that for Suite Guests, a nonrefundable deposit is the only option.
Here is the official policy from Royal Caribbean HERE.
Carnival has the largest number of booking fares for cruises. I typically see 5-8 fare types for every cruise depending on whether someone is a past guest, casino connoisseur, or what have you. So I will focus on Early Saver rates since those are the most generic and popular of their nonrefundable rates. You place a deposit based on length of cruise and number of people as usual. If you need to change the ship or sail date, you're charged a $50 per person change fee. The balance of what you paid then gets converted to a Future Cruise Credit. That FCC must be applied to a new reservation within two years. These Early Saver Rates are typically less than the fully refundable rates. Pack & Go is another one of their nonrefundable fares, but that one is 100% nonrefundable as soon as the money is paid since these are only available last minute.
Carnival's official policy is located HERE.
Princess Cruise Line does not have a set nonrefundable fare type. In fact, most of their fares happen to be fully refundable up until final payment. What has changed for them is that some of their sales are part of a nonrefundable deposit requirement. Those special sales have deposits that are 100% nonrefundable and cannot be converted to a credit either.
Read more about Princess Cruise Line's Passage Contract HERE.
Celebrity's nonrefundable deposit fares are very similar to Royal Caribbean's. This makes sense being that they have the same parent company. There is a $100 per person change fee for any ship or date changes. If you need to cancel, you'll be issued a FCC minus the change fee.
Celebrity's Nonrefundable Fare Q&A HERE
If you're still confused about how to figure out which one is the right one or which one you're even looking at, please reach out to me. It's so much easier for me to lay it all out for you in an easy to understand and compare format.
I never know what I want for my birthday, so this year I told my mom I wanted to try this new luggage brand with all kinds of neat features and contraptions. So she pitched in and paid for half of it as a gift. Thanks mom! The biggest draw, at the moment, was the 100 day guarantee. If you don't like it, you can return it no questions asked within the first 100 days. Part of me wishes I had it before we went on our big Europe trip, but that's okay. Vegas will be a good spot to test it out!
I ordered the Navy Blue, Bigger Carry On, yes, that's what it is called. They have a slightly smaller version which they call the Carry On. I went for the bigger one because it is compatible with the overhead bins on most of the planes I will ever fly on. I don't fly regional or small planes, so I am not concerned with it fitting on one of those. It arrived in a nice cardboard box with their branding all over it. There was no way to hide what was inside, so keep that in mind if you order this for someone as a surprise. Once I broke open the cardboard exterior, it was nicely wrapped in a natural canvas bag.
I was able to get six days worth of clothes and shoes in here. Yes, you've read that correctly, SIX! I used my own large packing cube with a small amount of compression paired with the built in compression component in the bag. The only thing I did not pack in here were my sneakers, I threw those in my husband's full sized suitcase. I could have just as easily worn them on my travel days if I did not have my husband's suitcase space to borrow. As you can see from the photos below, I packed my clothes using a Pack It Folder from Eagle Creek (not pictured) and placed them in my Packing Cubes from eBags. I zipped up the cube which gives a small amount of compression and placed it in the compression side of the suitcase. I then flipped the compression piece and straps and tightened them. It pulled my clothes down enough that it was level with the side. Woohoo, for double compression! I didn't take a picture of the other side, but in there I put a pair of reef flip flops, rhinestone sandals, my toiletry bag, my charger bag, and my makeup bag. It closed up easily and all was well!
Most of the time I was rolling it, I had my laptop bag on top. This weighed it down a bit but not in a way that made a huge difference pushing weight wise. I found that the bags rolls incredibly smooth over tile and other hard surfaces. It was easy to walk both quickly and slowly. Now, depending on the carpet type I have mixed feedback. Most airport carpet and thin commercial carpets were just as easy as the hard surfaced floors. However, there were a few spots in the hotel we stayed in (Caesar's Palace) that had exceptionally plush carpet and I had to put more effort in to the push! It was slightly annoying to me, but I know most places don't use thicker carpet so I am not concerned about future trips.
Overall I am happy with the bag and I am going to keep it. The little touches make a difference for me. I now have my eye on the weekender bag from AwayTravel. So you may see me writing about that one in the near future. ;)
I think you’d love getting Away (and it’ll give us an excuse to start planning a trip)! Check out their thoughtfully designed luggage and get $20 off any suitcase or bag. #travelaway
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Our original plan was to do Barcelona on our own and stop by La Sagrada first thing in the morning to avoid crowds. But after a lot of thought and consideration we chose to take an organized tour being that we were there on a Sunday. Many shops and restaurants are not open on Sundays and it would have limited what we could do if we wandered on our own.
I really struggled with what to do there because there are so many amazing options. I settled on seeing all the Antoni Gaudi architectural sites. The Complete Gaudi Tour with Casa Batllo, La Pedrera, and Park Guell is what I booked through one of my suppliers. I will link it at the bottom in blue if you are interested in taking this same tour. We had a fantastic guide who knew every detail and was able to answer all the questions we came up with. There were just 16 of us on the tour, so it wasn't a massive crowd and felt more personal. It had TRUE skip-the-line access to all the sites. Some tours advertise skip the line but you still have a little wait. We sailed right through in all three places where skip the line is necessary. The tour title doesn't even begin to describe the extent of what we did. It included the following Gaudi sites:
We started our morning by attempting to locate the port shuttle bus when exiting the cruise terminal only to find out that the shuttle doesn't begin until 8am. Well, it was 7am and we needed to be at Casa Batllo by 8:15! So we hopped in a cab and had him drop us off at Placa Catalunya which was at the "top" of Las Ramblas and a short walk to our meeting point for the tour. Our guide was on time and spoke very clear English. This was important because my husband has a hearing impairment that makes accents difficult sometimes. They also had what I call the "good headphones" and not ear buds.
At the end of our time at Casa Batllo, we all met downstairs in the Cafe next door at Casa Amatller. They had some great chocolates and coffee that we snacked on while waiting for the rest of our group to wrap up their exploration of Casa Batllo.
La Pedrera (Casa Mila)
A short walk from Casa Batllo was our next stop. We did a quick walk-by with some information, but did not go inside. I would have liked to though. The local name translates to The Stone Quarry because of it's uneven concrete look. This was the last private residence designed by Gaudi. The original owner had various disputes with Gaudi over the design elements and the neighborhood was not happy with the final result. They claimed it would bring down the value of surrounding homes. It started as a single residential home, later divided in to apartments, and even commercial entities at some points. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. So I think it may have had the opposite effect! ;)
This park is a former failed residential project. The financier convinced Gaudi to design the public spaces and a few buildings, a few buildings, and homes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was one of the sites I was most excited to see. Our guide took us through the groups entrance where we didn't wait more than 30 seconds to be on our way through the park. Much to my disappointment, there was a lot of construction going on and I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Our guide was fabulous, pointing out all of the technology and advanced systems built in to the area for drainage, viaducts, and more. It's truly a fascinating place and I want to go back when there aren't scaffolds everywhere! The park is filled with mosaic art, his typical wavy lines, and nature. As we left, we saw the long lines of people waiting for their timed entrance. I'm glad we had STL.
La Sagrada Familia
The golden treasure of the tour, La Sagrada, had me awestruck. I'd seen images of it and I knew I had to see it because everyone does, but it truly took my breath away in person. This was the highlight of the day. My husband even commented that it was cool to see and he isn't much in to touring churches. I had always thought the building looked depressing from pictures, but up close it is nothing of the sort. It is amazing how much detail went in to the carving and building of the outside. Once I stepped inside, I was even more blown away by the stained glass coloring and smooth lines. The tour gave us the option (included) to take an elevator to the top of the tower but we didn't do it because we were starving and left the tour a few minutes early. I do wish we had gone up so I could comment on that part of the experience. If you take this tour please take those elevators to the top for me and let me know how it was.
and to think La Sagrada is still under construction for quite a few more years!
As an architectural novice I truly enjoyed this tour. Someone who is an architect or interested in design elements of building would probably love this tour even more! The skip the line benefits truly saved us a lot of time. One of the little things I appreciated were the headsets. These were the single sided type that hung on top of the ear. I found this to be more comfortable than the ear-bud style used by some other tour companies.
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Hi! I am Nicole Perry, owner of Sunkissed Adventures.