Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Magical Harry Potter, Dreamy Disney Vacation

What happened to my summer? 

It was right here yesterday. . . endless weeks of nothingness on the horizon with zero commitments and activities.
Oh yeah, that was in my dreams!

My summer has been busy.  Busier than usual, I think.  Part of this is that the girls are no longer in the same age-level activities at church (youth vs. children), but I'll get to that later. 

We kicked off the summer properly, with a week of nothing, followed by a week of swim team practice.  Mind you, the summer weather had not gotten a strong start, with several nights in the 40's the week before, so that first jump in the pool was a shocker for the girls.

The next week was our long-awaited trip to Florida and the Bahamas.  We were excited to be on the way, but we got stuck in Baltimore for five hours while our plane had a "mechanical delay."  Something hydraulic.  Not a comforting thought.  We finally made it to our hotel around 10:30, grabbed a to-go dinner at the only hotel restaurant open, and crashed.  Nothing like sleep-deprived teens to make your vacation cheery, right?

We managed to get up early the next morning despite our late night because one of the perks of staying at our on-property hotel was that we got into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter an hour before the general public, and we were not going to miss a single Harry Potter moment!  When we got to the gates of Hogsmeade, we were not disappointed - at least I wasn't - I was so overcome I cried!

We rode the rides and looked at the stores, and tried our first Butterbeer and Pumpkin juice.  Maggie liked the regular Butterbeer, Jerry, Gracie, and I preferred the frozen.  We all agreed that the pumpkin juice was not to our liking.

By that time the park was packed, and our lack of sleep was beginning to show, so we headed back to the hotel for a nap, and then hit the other park (Universal Orlando) and the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner.  Gracie and I looked at the Elvis room, and saw a section of the Berlin Wall out back, and had fun playing with their digital catalog of all the items Hard Rock owns.  It was a full wall touch-screen that worked like something you see on "home of the future" videos.  Glitchy, but cool nonetheless.

The next morning we again headed to Hogsmeade, where Maggie was convinced to ride her first inversion roller coaster - the red side of the dragon challenge.  She liked it so much, that we rode the blue side next!

We zipped into Ollivander's wand shop for a second time, and this time Gracie was picked to have a wand choose her.  It was so fun to hear the music just like in the movie, and watch her hair fly up when she held "her" wand.  I wish that we could have taken a picture, but no cameras were allowed.  We continued riding rides and shopping until the general public showed up, when we slipped into the Three Broomsticks for breakfast (another perk of staying on-property!)

After breakfast we proceeded to explore the rest of the Islands of Adventure theme park.  Maggie, Jerry, and I rode the Hulk roller coaster, which was an intense experience.  Gracie and Maggie wanted to ride the water rides, so they and Jerry went on the three wet rides while I held their stuff in dry comfort.

There were three water rides - wet, wetter, and wettest.  By the time they were finished, they were soaked (especially Jerry!), so we headed back to the hotel, where we planned to take a swim, dry off and change, and then head back to Universal Orlando to ride some things we missed the day before.  When we headed back out of our hotel room, however, there was a monsoon going on!  It seriously looked like a hurricane out there, with sideways driving rain and large potted plants and patio furniture blowing about.  The lobby of our wing of the hotel was rapidly becoming flooded because the automatic doors couldn't shut against the wind and rain.  Unfortunately, there was no protected walkway to the main lobby, so we were stuck until an employee arrived and took us through the service hallways to a patio that was connected to the main lobby.  We ate an early dinner, and just had some down time.  All the poor people that were at the park when the storm hit came in looking rather bedraggled in the evening - I'm glad we were at the hotel!

We had three-day park passes, and our intent was to use that third day on the day of our arrival, but that didn't work out thanks to our airline delay, so on the third day of our stay we packed up early and headed back to Hogsmeade for a mere hour before heading back to our hotel to meet our car and head to Port Canaveral for our cruise departure.  We stopped on the way to get a 12-pack of water, which was a tip that I had read online.  It was a good one - when we got on the ship you could get a 12-pack for a embarkation day special of only $27!!!  Yikes!  I'm pretty sure our 12-pack was $3.99.  The only thing was that we had to haul it around for a couple of hours until our room was ready.  Next time, we'll bring a rolling duffle for the water!

We had lunch, and then it was time for our room to be ready, so we headed that way.  Our bags arrived shortly, and we got all settled in.  The room was well thought out, with lots of storage.  Definitely the nicest cabin I've ever had on a ship!

They had a setting sail party on deck, with all the super-peppy entertainment staff and characters defying the heat and humidity with a bouncy going-away dance as we sailed past Cape Canaveral and the Florida coastline. 

We had the early seating for dinner (probably the one thing we would change if we go again) so we headed that way.  We met our servers, Alexander and Guillaume, from France.  They charmed the girls with a puzzle each night, and the girls also met some similarly-aged girls at the next table, so we were off to a good start.

After dinner Jerry and I wanted to see the stage show, but the girls wanted to try out the water-coaster, so we separated and each went off to do our own thing.  It was a little odd at first, but I got used to it quickly!

The first day we docked at Nassau, where we had booked a Dolphin Encounter at the Blue Lagoon.  We had a great time meeting our dolphin.

Gracie shocked all the grandparents when we got home by telling them that she had had her first kiss on the lips on this vacation. . . with a dolphin!

After meeting our dolphin we spent the rest of our day at the beach.  We had a great time, until Jerry realized his wedding ring wasn't on his finger anymore!  We looked at pictures and he had it on at the dolphin encounter, so we figured it was somewhere on the bottom of the lagoon.  The staff loaned him a snorkel and mask, and even called a guy with a metal detector, but all they found was an old-style pop top ring from a soda can.  He was bummed.  Later that night, I said something about sunscreen, and all the sudden he remembered - he had taken off his ring when he put on sunscreen!  We dug through the bag, and there it was, in the Ziploc bag with the sunscreen.  Whew!  After that we locked his ring in the safe for shore excursions!
Jerry on the beach at the Blue Lagoon

My view at the Blue Lagoon :-)

Leaving Nassau
The second day was at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.  We fed and swam with stingrays there, and then snorkeled and played on the beach until lunchtime, then went on a snorkel cruise to a reef.  It was super, super nice.  Everything is charged back to your room, so there's no need to worry about cash or valuables on the beach, all refreshments are included, and it was so, so clean!  All the beauty of a Caribbean vacation with none of the worries.

The third day was at sea, so we slept in (the girls even missed breakfast!) and played on the water coaster and in the pool.  

Gracie and I saw the live show after dinner, while Jerry and Maggie went to the movies.  I played bingo, and we all shopped for t-shirts and souvenirs.  We had to have our bags packed and outside the door by 10:30, so it was a bit of an early night.  The kids and Jerry went to bed, but I wanted to take the opportunity to take some photos, so I prowled around the ship for another hour.  It was kind of weird - you know there are almost 7000 people on the ship, but no one was out and about - it was deserted!  A bit spooky, really!

The next morning we docked as we ate breakfast, and then it was off the ship, on the plane, and back home.  Gracie loved the cruise - the morning we got off the ship she gave me a big hug and said, "This was the best vacation ever!  When can we do it again?!"  Her favorite part was swimming with the stingrays.  Maggie had an awesome time, but her favorite part was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Jerry's favorite part was the beach, as always.  I loved both parts of the trip - one part for adventure and one part for relaxing.  It was an incredible vacation, and our Disney Cruise will be hard to beat! 


Jennifer D said...

Abby and I are jealous! It looks like a fabulous vacation!

Jennifer D said...

Abby and I are jealous! It looks like a fabulous vacation!