Jennifer and Dave's Western Caribbean Cruise Adventure

Dates: May 10-21, 2002


Transportation: Northwest Airlines (from Detroit Metro Airport), Avis, and Tiffany Town Car

Ship: Disney Magic (Inaugural Western Caribbean Cruise)

Resort: Dolphin Resort

Parks: Kennedy Space Center, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, Pleasure Island

Restaurants/Eateries: Orbit (KSC), Fischer's Seafood (Cocoa Beach), Flamingo's (Radisson), every restaurant/eatery aboard the Disney Magic, The Dolphin Fountain, Chevy's (off-property), Bongo's Cuban Cafe, Restaurant Marrakesh, Palio, Yorkshire County Fish & Chips, and 50s Prime Time Cafe

Background: This was a R&R trip (relax and research) for Kennedy Space Center and the Disney Magic. We also spent three nights at Walt Disney World just for the fun of it.


Updated 11/21/03

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We really owe this entire cruise experience to our friend Deb Wills (yes, the fantastic lady who founded and All Ears Net. Last year she mentioned she'd booked the Inaugural 7-Night Western Caribbean Disney Cruise in May and invited us to join her and her friends. A great idea! Alas, cruises aren't inexpensive and we always have too much work, so we had to think about how to afford both the money and the time.

In January, we learned about a spring cruise special that we could afford and we figured we could take some time off by May. So we booked our 7-night cruise in mid-January. The special rate we received was $1888 for two people in a category 9 stateroom -- a good price. Then things got crazy. As some of you may know, the 2002 edition of PassPorter debuted at the end of January and we set new records for orders. We were busy kids! Can you see where this is going? Yes, we missed the date to pay our cruise deposit -- by one day! We had made a note of the deposit deadline, but we'd put down the wrong day. We begged and pleaded with the reservation agent to let us keep our cruise reservation, but no go. And the special rate that we'd counted on was now gone. But now that we'd told everyone we were going and we were so looking forward to it, we just had to go. So we bit the bullet and made a new cruise reservation at rack rate -- $3038 for two adults in a category 9 stateroom. Ouch!

Now that our cruise was going to cost us so much, we decided to make the most of it. We got online (are we ever offline?) and read everything we could about the 7-night cruise. While we’d been on the 3- and 4-night cruises and had a pretty good idea what to expect, we knew there were special things about the 7-night cruise and we wanted to be sure we took advantage of the special activities. In the midst of our personal cruise research, we noticed how many of our readers were requesting more information on the cruise. It seemed like every other e-mail we received was requesting cruise information. We already knew we couldn’t fit more information in the PassPorter Walt Disney World guidebook because it would get too big to carry around. So we began to think about doing a special, downloadable report of, say, 32 pages. Wow, was that an underestimation! The more we outlined and the more we researched, the bigger the project grew. Eventually, our idea for a little report became an idea for an entire book. That’s right – we decided to write a book on the Disney Cruise Line! (What was that we said earlier about having too much work to do?)

We began writing the Disney Cruse Line guide in February. The first chapter, "Cruising Your Way," has a section on money-saving ideas and programs. We felt a bit underqualified to write about saving money since we’d blown our own money-saver when we missed our deposit deadline, but we forged on. No page on saving money would be complete without a mention of Mary Waring’s wonderful site, While we were poking around her site, we made an amazing discovery! Mary listed a cruise discount for American Express cardholders… and it was valid for our cruise. This was the first we’d heard of it and we quickly called Disney to see if we could apply this discount to our reservation. The entire call lasted about 1 minute, and in that time we saved a whopping $1151! Thank you, thank you, thank you MouseSavers!

MouseSavers also turned us on to a deal that the Swan and Dolphin offered to Disney cruisers – rooms at $150/night before or after your cruise. So we added on three nights at the Dolphin after our cruise. We prefer to visit Walt Disney World after our cruise – that way we have something to look forward to when our cruise ends.

Airfare was simple – we fly out of Detroit Metro and both Northwest and Southwest offered good rates for May. We went with Northwest so we could check out the brand new terminal they built for Northwest.

We also decided to fly down a day early and check out Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. Research into this revealed that we could stay at the Radisson, which is the closest hotel to the Disney Cruise Line terminal. We got a great deal for the Radisson for just $59/night thanks to a post on the cruise boards at DIS boards. We also discovered that Avis had an office inside the Radisson, so we decided to rent a car for the day and drive from Orlando International Airport to the Cape.

The cruise was also great motivation to get our passports, which we received in April. You don’t need a passport to cruise (a birth certificate and government-issued photo identification is fine), but we wanted to have the passport for future adventures anyway.

Work-wise, we arranged to have a good friend of ours, Tracy DeGarmo, mind the store while we were gone — literally! Two nights before our cruise we took a spare computer to her place and she took care of orders while we were away, as we would not be able to get online with our own computer while we were cruising.

Packing was relatively simple. First, I shopped for and purchased a formal gown for formal night, which I found a couple of weeks before the cruise. I also had to dig out some of my nicer dresses – most of which didn’t fit anymore because I’ve lost weight, but one older one was okay and another was alterable. Dave reserved his rental tux online at and dusted off his suit jacket. (We don’t dress up much in Ann Arbor.) I also picked up some snacks like granola bars, and I packed my cereal and soy milk just in case I had any problems with breakfast onboard. We packed everything into our new set of matching luggage with the PassPorter logo – we travel so much that we thought new luggage would be a good investment. I must admit we did pack a lot on this trip – three big suitcases, one garment bag, one duffel bag, and our carry-ons.

All our plans were in place by March… now we just had to get to May. And between March and May was a huge trade show in New York City, where we would be exhibiting for the first time and speaking at a seminar. We had to get a trade show booth, prepare our presentation for the show, get all our materials in order, send out postcards to show attendees, etc. etc. The show was the week before the cruise – it was a wonderful success, but we were totally drained from it.

PassPorterBooth.jpg (17078 bytes)
Jennifer poses in our booth at Book Expo America in NYC before the show officially opens

So as you might imagine, we were REALLY READY for the cruise by the time May 10th rolled around. Disney Magic, here we come!

Next: Day One

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