Monday, March 27, 2017

Disney Cruise ReCap

This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
We landed in Florida the night before our cruise left (which I always recommend since you never want to risk a late flight and missing your cruise). We were going to stay in a hotel, but our friends, who we were cruising with, said they were staying the night at their cousin's house and they'd ask if we could stay the night there as well. Their cousins generously said yes and invited us to stay with them. So nice! The next morning as our kids were getting acquainted with each other and as we were hugging and talking with our friends, the cousins--who are empty nesters--were such lovely hosts and made us a pancake breakfast. We started making jokes about how much this cruise was costing us and how crazy we were for booking this trip over a lunch break phone call, when one of the cousins said, "It's worth it. We lost a daughter in her early 20's and all those memories from all the trips we took are worth it. Not a single penny was ever wasted on a vacation."

Hello perspective. Now I don't think you have to go on a Disney cruise or any cruise for that matter, but in whatever way you can swing it, taking time to be together as a family, having fun with your kids, and making memories is worth it. And not only worth it "just in case" but worth it because memories and togetherness and relationships are all that we really have in the end. Road trips, day trips, vacations, stay-cations, traveling abroad or staying close to home... I believe in family vacations. A week long family Disney cruise with some of our closest friends and their kids was not cheap, but it was definitely worth it.

I love a good top 5 list, so may I present to you :

Top 5 favorite Reasons I loved our Disney Cruise
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

1. Traveling with friends!
The biggest difference about this cruise was going with some of our best friends from our NYC days. Neither of us live in NYC anymore and we live far away from each other now, but we had such a great time getting together with all of our kiddos, eating every meal together, watching movies, seeing shows, hanging out. In general, doing a cruise is a great way to travel with friends. The accommodations, the food, the activities are for the most part already decided for you, yet there is still  plenty of flexibility built in. We didn't spend every waking minute together, but a lot of it. And it was great.
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

2. A Disney Cruise is Disney Lite
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
Characters? Check.
Parties? Check.
Fireworks? Check.
Dancing? Check.
Top Quality Everything? Check.
Something for the whole family? Check.

Crazy long lines? Walking forever and ever? Super crowded? Nope, nope and nope.

We've only done Disney World once, when we had 1 kid and I was pregnant with Lamp actually. I think we'll definitely go again sometime, but as a family who still have young children AND a power wheelchair (that would have to be charged mid-day with all the walking) a Disney cruise is a great option for us at this stage. It's Disney but without all the crazy lines and crowds. We get to see a lot of our favorite characters and the wait times are pretty minimal--think 20 minutes. The evening shows are Broadway quality and now that Disney has taken over Star Wars, there was even a Star Wars day at sea and lots of super legit Storm Troopers and other Star Wars characters everywhere. The Star Wars evening show featured the real-deal R2D2, C3PO, Chewy, Darth Vader and more. We're not a huge Star Wars family, but it was impressive and my kids keep saying it was their favorite day. Go figure.
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

I think their Jedi training had something to do with it.
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

3. Adult time
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
I cannot compare to other cruise lines since we have only done Disney, but one of the best parts is the fact that you can actually have adult time. (With or without the wink, wink.) The was the first year all three girls could go in the kids club (called the Oceaneers club and the Oceaneers Lab)--which is very large with a lot of activities and a lot of great counselor-type people who are there are entertain, assist, help, and engage your kids at every turn. We were even able to take an excursion scuba diving and leave the kids on board the ship (we did not know we could do this!) However, being a little nervous about being too far away, our friends stayed aboard during our excursion and we stayed aboard during theirs. It worked out great. We also had an adults only dinner our first night (there are 2 restaurants on board that are 18+ and they do cost extra) and it was definitely a highlight. Date night with our BFF's at a fabulous restaurant on the open sea? Yep. I'm in.

4. Great Accessible Family Vacay
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
I mentioned this last time, but a cruise is a pretty great way to vacation as a family if accessibility is an issue. One of the great perks of having a wheelchair are the extra big state rooms. There are elevators everywhere and while they can get crowded around certain times of day we've gotten used to speaking up and saying, "Excuse us, can our daughter get on first? She has a wheelchair and this is the only way she can get down/up." Usually people are very polite about it, but sometimes you have to remind people that most of us have the option to use the stairs. Everything else from the kids club, to the bathrooms, to the restaurants is very accessible and there are plenty of ramps. The one place that isn't completely accessible is the theatre. It's a small issue, but they take you around back to a service elevator and it's generally no biggie. My only complaint being that they need to reserve the front rows for wheelchair families as these are the only rows where wheelchairs can park, so they shouldn't let other families sit there first. (That's it. I'm writing a letter. Tiger mom just kicked in...)

Also, I'm considering a part 2 to this post that's just about traveling as a special needs family because being on a cruise ship full of kids who aren't familiar with my daughter has it's challenges. We had some tough moments on this cruise and it's something I want to talk about in a broader sense. Also, it's a good idea to call Disney's special serviecs department to see how and what they can do to accomodate your child. For example, I know that not every child with special needs can be accommodated at the Oceaneer's club.

The only other problem you might have is that not all ports are great for getting off with wheelchairs. We only got off on two ports with the kids and Disney's Island---Castaway Cay--is very accessible and we can manage that no problem. We did get off with all the kids in Cozumel and just walked our way around the square. We used a stroller instead of Lamp's chair and since we walked everything was fine. But if you get off at a port and want to go somewhere with your wheelchair, you've got to find accessible transportation. I'm sure it's possible, but it can be tricky to manage in the states, so we haven't done it yet on our cruises. Something to consider.
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

5. Great food + Great Service
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
When I'm on vacation I want to eat well.  I don't want "all inclusive" to be a green light for cutting corners and serving glorified hospital food. The food on Disney cruises is very good--including the buffet. So many choices and really, such good food. We had so many top quality meals there, it almost makes me wish I had taken food pictures.
(Notice the larger accesssible rooms. Usually there is barely any space between the bed and dresser.)

And the service, is well, Disney quality. We joked that we never heard the word no from any of the staff members on the cruise. Being Disney they don't simply tolerate your children they do every little thing to make these crazy, sugar-high nutters happy. My favorite example was that one night our friend's daughter was falling asleep at the dinner table. They decided to lay her down in an open spot behind our table next to a wall. Our server saw us attempting this feat and ran over with a stack of tablecloths and napkins and put together a make-shift bed for her to lay on. He was amazing! Every night our serving staff did magic tricks for our kids, or brought them something that wasn't on the menu, or helped us feed them quickly so we could get them off to the kids club and enjoy a peaceful rest-of-the-dinner. When it comes to service I have found the Disney cruise staff not just flexible, they are bend-over-backwards, tie-themselves-into-a-knot, contortionists of service. I probably shouldn't talk it up too much, because there was this one grumpy guy at breakfast one morning... but one guy? That's not too bad. (We had him fired.) (Just kidding.)

OK, time to wrap this giant post up... there were plenty more moments I could have talked about but the for the sake of (semi) brevity, I'm going to let the images below do the talking. If anyone is considering a Disney Cruise and has any questions ask away in the comments below and I'll be sure to answer.
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017
This Little Miggy || Disney Cruise 2017

One final note, I'm about to jump into one of those "When I was a kid..." moments, so bear with me.

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money. My parents were divorced and subsequently remarried and well, neither side was very well off. Which is totally fine. The point is, I had one big vacation my entire childhood. In third grade we went with my dad's side of the family on a road trip from Utah to Disneyland. Along the way we also did Vegas (Circus Circus anyone?), Sea World, and the San Diego zoo. But still, the highlight for me was Disneyland. I don't remember much about that day (yes, I believe we spent one day there) but that was my one big trip as a kid.

My oldest daughter who is a year older than my third-grade-self just went on her third Disney cruise. My other two kids just went on their second one. Of course I'm so grateful that we can take our kids on nice vacations. And even when not on cruises we've gone to some pretty great places around these United States and I love it. I'm really grateful we have the opportunity and that we've made it a priority in our family. 

Of course, the flip side we're trying to manage gratitude, expectations and entitlement. While on our cruise I thought of this quote from Richard Whatley frequently: “It is generally true that all that is required to make men unmindful of what they owe God for any blessing, is that they should receive that blessing often and regularly.” We had a few talks during the course of the cruise with our kids about this idea. We could see this sense of entitlement creeping in and tried our best to nip it in the bud. I'm not sure we were successful as it's hard to drill this idea into young minds when they've got ice cream on tap 24/7 and movies playing by the pool. 

Like most parents I want to give my kids more than I had. But when I think of more I don't think of stuff and things. I want to give them more joy, a better work ethic, a stronger sense of self, and I want them to know that their ideas matter. But at the same time, they are also getting "more" than when I had in a material sense as well. I  try to keep this sense of balance with responsibility--i.e. consistent chores, music lessons, and occasionally we have done small service projects as a family. The other thing I've been wanting to do is for everyone to start a gratitude journal. What do you do to help keep your kids sense of entitlement in check? Do you think or worry about this?

18 comments:

  1. I'm a mom with MS in a power chair. I've done Disney cruises, but not since I've had the chair. Was it difficult to get an accessible state room? It seems they're often sold out. Thanks!

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    1. It wasn't difficult--but we booked quite a ways out too. Good luck!

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  2. I just wanted to comment on the kid entitlement issue. I have two kids (older than yours, 13 and almost 11), and we are heading on our second Disney cruise this summer. My kids rarely want for anything. It's been a little easier to talk about these issues as they've gotten older. We talk a lot about how much of life is luck (we are completely non-religious) -- that so much of our lives are due simply to being born into white, upper middle class homes in America. Apparently I did a little too much, though, because then one of my kids told me how much he felt guilty about all the privileges he enjoys. So we've expanded our discussions to include ideas like: we didn't ask for or may not especially deserve this privilege, but since we were lucky enough to get it, one of our jobs in life is to use it for good, and give back, both with money and time. Books like "I Will Always Write Back" have spawned more excellent discussions. I think it's one of those things you have to continually revisit as your kids get older. But, like you, I think it's worthwhile. Glad you (mostly) enjoyed your cruise; I have to admit, I am looking forward to ours, because I think I did less "mom" work on it than any other trip!

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    1. Yes! I agree that these are those life-long, consistant conversations you have over and over again. Enjoy your cruise! Glad to see your kids are still excited about them even in the tween and teen years. And yes--I agree that I actually feel like I can relax a little on vacation, rather than it feeling like a business trip. (Stay at home mom, vacation = business trip ha!)

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    2. Anonymous9:14 AM

      Erin - thank you for mentioning "I Will Always Write Back". I have children the same age as yours, we are also non-religious, and I've also been telling them how fortunate they are to have what they have (with luck playing a very major role). I've also been trying to instill a sense of "to whom much is given, much is expected" (to quote the Kennedys) in them. I just ordered this book for both to read.

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    3. Anon, I really hope the book has the kind of impact on your family that it did on ours. It's such a riveting story (and moreso because it's true)!

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    4. Miggy, well, full disclosure, this cruise is one my parents are taking our entire family on in celebration of a family milestone. So, talk about privilege! Since the kids are older we've planned more "big kid" excursions, and their cousins will be on the ship as well. But yes, they are definitely still excited!

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  3. SO worth it!!

    I like this comment above on entitlement. It sounds like it takes consistency, and time, as in years, for the kids to really understand. Keep doing what you're doing-- the talks, the consequences, the future gratitude journals, annnnd even the fun things that you have the privilege of doing (because NOT doing them out of principal teaches a different kind of lesson that isn't any better!) -- and it (the understanding, the gratitude) will happen. Also, you're a seriously awesome mom, with seriously awesome kids.

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    1. Lets be honest--I'm a pretty average mom. But that's OK! I really do believe I'm doing the best with what I have. :) But yeah, my kids are pretty awesome. I do aspire to be Debi-like in my calmness with my kids...one day. (When they're all grown up and out of the house most likely... :) )

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  4. My three grown boys have been to Disneyworld countless times as their Mom (me) is addicted to it. We also traveled overseas frequently throughout their childhood, which greatly shaped their perspective of privelege . This has been the greater gift in molding them into the fine, empathetic young men they are today.

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    1. Good point--travel is a great way to mold kids into good, empathetic people.

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  5. I think your "reality" changes once you've had a child with any sort of medical issues / birth defects. I know that life's too short. I've handed my baby over to a surgeon when she was 40hours, 6 weeks, 4 months and 3 years old. 3 out of 4 surgeries were involving her heart. Fact is - we've literally faced hell and survived.

    The baby was recovering from her first heart surgery and I was whispering in her ear, "I'm going to get you healthy and out of this place. Then we're going to Disney World". And that's exactly what we did. We talk often about how "lucky" we are to have been able to experience what we have (4 Disney cruises for them; countless visits to Walt Disney World, and an amazing trip to Disneyland via Adventures By Disney). But spending time with other grateful families we've met through our volunteering at the local children's hospital has given the girls perspective. They know that there are many families who went through worse medical crisis's than us.

    I came across this quote today, "We didn't realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun"

    As my oldest approaches the college years, we recognize how short our time with them will be. We're looking at one or two more "amazing vacations" before she's off living her own life. But we'll have these memories.

    Your family is beautiful...

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    1. "I think your "reality" changes once you've had a child with any sort of medical issues / birth defects. I know that life's too short" SO true. Life is too short. And while I certainly want to teach my kids about gratitude and entitlement, I know that part of the problem is my own sense of guilt... I don't want that to be a driving force in their lives, even if it sometime is still something I'm working on. And yes, the years are really flying by...I see that and feel it more than ever.

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  6. Thank you Miggy for your posts, always, and for this one, the last part on entitlement. With our 8 and 5 year olds it's something I've been thinking about a lot. As we all do:). We, and I have to say in large part because of my mama, have volunteered at a food depot on a regular basis. Want to do more as they kids get a bit older. We also started the "kindness calendar" during last advent season. So for all days in december, we modified a calendar with an act of kindness every day- smile at someone you don't know at school, make a thank you note for a teacher, volunteering in community, making cookies for local fire fighters, donating money to a loca "empty stocking fund," etc. it went really well. And the most important - conversations through out the week, context and gratitude.
    Thank you for the ideas of posters- feel like I am always searching for ways to do it better.

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    1. I love your "kindness calendar" idea. And they really don't have to be big...I honestly think it's more important that we're mindful about it. That we try and make an effort. Certainly "big" servies are great too, but we can't do them everyday. We can be kind everyday. What a great idea!

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  7. Anonymous1:25 PM

    We are going on our first Disney cruise, 15 nights transatlantic. We are so exited!
    And yes, gratitude is so important to understand. My kids are still little but we have conversations often about appreciating what we have. Having huge house with a pool, and friends who have it too, does not give a real life perspective.

    Alexandra

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    1. What??? 15 dayzzz! That's going to be amazing. You'll never want to come back after that. Have the best time!

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    2. Anonymous5:44 PM

      I can't not wait. Try to instill gratitude in kids after that ;-))
      No kids, this will not happen every year.

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