October 22, 2014

Stingrays, Stingrays, Every Where!

Welcome to those of you joining me from Disney Mamas and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

Sometimes you just need a little push to get through the frustration of learning something new. For our (then) toddler son, swimming seemed insurmountable. Then one day, while we lazed around (because napping wasn't going to happen that day) Samantha Brown hopped off of a ship in Grand Cayman, into a whole group of stingrays.
He knew, that very moment, that he wanted to learn to swim.
And he wanted to swim with the stingrays.

Disney Cruise Line offers two very different stingray experiences on a Western Caribbean itinerary. So what's the difference?

Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure
Location: Stingray Hut and Lagoon, Castaway Cay, The Bahamas
Cost: $36 ages 5-9, $45 ages 10-adults
Duration: 1 hour (10 minute orientation, 50 minutes with the stingrays)

Simple as stepping off of the ship and onto the dock, Castaway Cay is the ideal beach escape. Similarly streamlined, the Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure offers all of the high points of a stingray experience (education, hand-feeding, and snorkeling) without any less magical waiting around down time. The water is only waste deep on even the youngest guests. Although very tame and fun to feed, our son did not want to stick around to snorkel with them when all the wonder of Castaway Cay stood in view.

I have to hand it to him, a hammock is pretty irresistible. 
So we returned to our tropical paradise.
This is an ideal first timer stingray experience, though the sand can get churned up by other guests, so I recommend an earlier excursion time, if possible.

Stingray City Snorkel Tour
Location: Stingray City, Grand Cayman, The Cayman Islands
Cost: $39 ages 5-9, $49 ages 10-adults
Duration: 2.5-3 hours (one hour in the water with the stingrays, 40 min cruise each way and bus transfers to the boat)

The Stingray City Snorkel Tour is pretty much as close to Christopher's swimming inspiration as you can find. Complete with jumping off the aft of a beautiful double decker boat into the great blue open water adjacent to a sand bar.
These are not tame creatures.
Although they will exhibit standard petting zoo behavior including petting holding and swimming with them, they live in the middle of a sandbar in the middle of the North Sound off of  Grand Cayman.
Which brings me to the following photos.

Fun fact, a group of stingrays is not called a school, but rather a fever of stingrays.
The day and time of our particular port adventure happened to be during high tide, so the water on the sand bar was up to my chest. This means my five year old leapt off the back of the ship (toward me on the sand bar) into water at least seven feet deep and swam the ten feet to the sand bar where I was waiting. Those swim lessons sure came in handy.
He LOVED it.
For more details on this excursion check out my trip report.
Overall, this is a much more once in a lifetime memory for us. There's something incredible about being surrounded by real animals in the open ocean and going for it.
Adventure *is* out there!
I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is I Am a Mommy Nerd.


Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Disney with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers - Castaway Cay
2nd Stop ~ Disney Mamas - Submarine Excursions on Grand Cayman
3rd Stop ~ Adventure in the Great Wide Somewhere - Stingrays, Stingrays, Every Where!
4th Stop ~ I Am a Mommy Nerd - Disney Cruise Line Excursion - The Walt Disney Family Museum
Final Stop ~ Two Moms and Mouse - When You Can't Afford an Excursion

October 21, 2014

2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search | Round 2

Hang onto your pixie dust!
In case you don't follow the hullaballoo on either twitter (via #DisneyMP), Facebook (Amazing Adventures of the DisneyMP 2014 Search and others), or discussion boards (like the DIS Moms Panel Search thread), the last six weeks slowly melted away.

2015 Disney Parks Moms Panel Search | R2, is that you?

We submitted our round one applications, featuring such puzzlers as "How many "frozen fractals" do you think Queen Elsa had all around?" before the end of Friday, September 5th. 

Then we waited, visited, and wondered about rice and the number 71. We debated the virtues of the Oxford comma, spellcheck, and generally hung out having fun. After all the mystery clues and spectacular fun of waiting in round 1, last Friday, my email exploded with pixie dust!

That's about how much I read, before I forwarded it to my husband, dropped the phone, and started bouncing around the house.
I spent most of the weekend grinning like a crazy person, enjoying moving onward.

Today, I got my first look at round two and it is amazing, challenging and magical!
Featuring eight essays and a video, this invitation only round makes me want to get down to business and write. I'm super excited that two of the questions are sample questions similar to the panel.

Between homeschool, applications, and the absence of my prince charming (corporate conferences), I'm going to be a *little* busy this week.

Six days?
Let's get down to Dis-ness.
      974 word count allowed for the essays
        71 seconds allowed for the videos
 +       6 days allowed for submissions
If you don't hear from me in a week, send in an emergency  Dole Whip.


I should probably get off of my blog now.

October 13, 2014

Rotational Dining 101: Clean Cup, Move Down!

The first time we took the plunge (so to speak) the ship looked beautiful, the staterooms comfortable but would "rotational dining," prominently featured in the Disney Cruise Line planning DVD live up to the Disney magic?
Besides, what is rotational dining?
Do I need to make ADRs?
What about snacks, room service, and coffee?

Rotational Dining  n. an innovative and unique dining plan where a family and serving team rotate to each of the three main dining rooms together and in turn so that you can experience each of the different restaurants.

Main Dining or Late Dining?
During booking, the option to select either the main or late seating for dinner pops up after you enter your cruiser information. During each dinner seating the Walt Disney Theatre hosts the evenings show so while main dining enjoys dinner then a show, late dining enjoys the early show followed by late dinner. This is really a matter of personal preference. Late diners enjoy the perk of Dine and Play. The children at the late dinner enjoy expedited meals and then leave halfway through dinner. The counselors from the Oceaneers Club and Lab whisk them away for fun while mom and dad enjoy the rest of their meal. Early dining works well when your young ones fall asleep before the evening show (which is shown on the television if you choose to tuck them into their berths). If both options sound equally good, book main dining. If you want to change before boarding, main dining tends to fill up first, so swapping to late dining is far easier.

So does that mean I need to make ADRs or not?
Make sure to secure reservations or advance dining reservations (or ADRs in Disney-speak) if you wish to experience Palo or Remy (the adult only dining experiences on board.) Your dining rotation appears both on your Key to the World card and on dining tickets left in your stateroom on the afternoon you board the ship.

Last minute change of heart?
You can try to change your dining assignment or your adult only reservations on boarding afternoon, see your Personal Navigator for details!

The Royal TreatmentWhat about lunch?
If you want a super casual lunch of pizzas, wraps, burgers, fries, and ice cream head up to the pool deck for all you can eat. Feel like hanging out on your verandah for some quiet time? Room service is included in your cruise fare (we bring cash to tip) so order up some Mickey Bars and take in the ocean breeze. Want a little more variety? Almost every day features both a sit down and a buffet lunch option.

But what about snacks?
Disney has you covered. From Mickey Bars to baked goods and popcorn, snacks are around every corner.

Mickey Rice Krispies
All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth! And a Mickey Rice Krispie Treat! And a Disney Cruise
I just need caffeine!
Coffee is available 24 hours a day at the drink station on the pool deck or from room service. If you like fancy coffee shop drinks or just the vibe, their are a few cafés to cover your need for java. Getting up from the lounger too much work? Often the cast members selling drinks of the day will happily sell you a soda right at poolside.

I hope that clears up the magic of rotational dining. If you don't mind, I think I'm going to curl up and grab a hot cocoa.

Good night!

September 25, 2014

Thankful Thursday Kickoff | Ten Things

I'm kicking off this fall's Thankful Thursday series with a list of ten things I'm thankful for...not the big obvious things like my husband or my children or my house. Just ten little things I'm often inclined to over look but would definitely miss if they weren't there anymore.
10. Spellcheck
As much as Siri spends a lot of time twisting around my words like ice cream melting in the August sun, I really appreciate knowing that most of my words will be filtered before I send them out into cyberspace.
9. Air Conditioning
In Texas, air conditioning makes life much more pleasant for six months out of the year.
8. Sharp Number Two Pencils
The smell, the color, the way the graphite smears on paper, everything about the number two pencil is wonderful. Unless the eraser is missing. Then it's just sad and frustrating. Part of the loveliness of the pencil is the ability to erase easily and nearly completely.
7. Beautiful Cell Phone Covers
I am a world class klutz. Therefore, my phone is currently enclosed in a (waterproof, shockproof, impactproof) Lifeproof case. I want nothing more than to put one of the cute Little Mermaid, Wall-E, or DCL cases on my iPhone. 
My poor iPhone wouldn't last a week.
6. Green Pilot G-2
Ah, the retractable gel pen.
I love the rainbow pack of colors, but for my money, I prefer just the green. Since the easiest way to get the green pen is to buy the rainbow pack, I try to use all the other colors first and save the green pen until last.
Something about the green ones, I guess.
5. Warm Mugs
There's something comforting and cozy about holding a warm mug of peppermint tea.
4. Planners
The old fashioned paper kind of planner is a highly undervalued. I love getting to write things out and cross them off physically rather than just deleting them from a digital list.
3. Podcasts
Some mornings it is fun to listen to loud music during my run. Some mornings the thought of music makes me want to crawl back into bed. Then I remember all of my podcasts. Between all the variety of podcasts out there, I get to pick between offbeat homeschoolers, travel agents, and news. If you want it, they've got it.
2. Hoodies
The comfort of a super fluffy hooded can't be over-estimated. Perfect wardrobe staple for fall and functional as well.
1. Hot Cocoa
Nothing takes me back to childhood quite as fast as a nice cup of hot cocoa.
So what are you thankful for?

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