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  • Jenny

32. Disney Cruising with the Family

After a bunch of intense, purposeful, healing-driven travel stories, it feels so good to sit back and reflect on a much more joyous and carefree experience. I guess that’s because of all of the work I had put in, and all of those side journeys that were important for teaching me lessons and bringing me back to my core.

This one was just about being myself, connecting with my family and just having a genuinely good time.

I love to travel to Disney in between holidays; first, because it is the slowest time of year there, and second, because they have a lot of magical holiday events that really get you into the spirit. I had convinced my mother and sisters (with very little arm twisting, mind you) to join me and the kids on a Disney cruise. We would spend a day at the resort and parks before embarking on a 4-night cruise, and they were all down for the new experience. I was the only one who ever had the cruise experience before, and like last time, I was excited for them to share in my joy.

This time was different. I chose to be more laid back and open to others’ travel preferences, and at the same time, the years had brought a maturity and closeness for all of us that guaranteed this trip would not be like the last time. Early in the morning we were set for our flight out; my son’s first, my daughter’s second (though she didn’t remember her last one) and a terrified mother who, thankfully, kept it all in so that the kids didn’t feed off of her fear of flying and develop a sense of their own. Neither child had an issue and actually loved flying.

Their enthusiasm trickled over to my mom, which helped to alleviate her own anxiety a bit—or at the very least, distract her.

We got to the hotel, and the excitement really began. The kids were in awe, as was my family, to see a Christmas tree in the lobby, and then the adorable character-themed towel folding welcome on our guest room beds. We stayed at the All-Star Movies resort, so the theme was lighthearted and fun, and less grown up, which brought out everyone’s playful side. We settled in for a bit and grabbed some lunch before setting off for our first adventure: Magic Kingdom.

Since it was off-season, it was less crowded. We went on the traditional rides, and the kids were just so in awe of everything (including mommy’s special tiki room dancing and singing). There were some rides they weren’t impressed with, but as my sisters ironically tried to teach them, they had to be open to enjoying what everyone else loved to do because that was what family vacations were all about. Gratefully, my kids were young enough to grasp that concept a lot more easily than my then-teenage

sisters did.

Knowing how special this trip was to all of us, with it being my first “real” vacation with the kids since the divorce, and the first real one with my own immediate family (minus my dad) since the last Disney trip, I had some surprises up my sleeve.

I had the kids get into their Cinderella and Prince Charming costumes, and then led everyone to Cinderella’s castle. Not understanding why the kids had to be dressed up, or why we were actually entering inside the castle, they soon caught on that we were about to have a special Princess lunch in the castle.

Everyone was so excited, especially the kids. They got to talk to all of the princesses, and even my son blushed a bit as he posed with some of his favorites as our only prince. The food was delicious, and the whole dining experience was magical. It definitely was a meal to remember. To add to the magic, I had purchased tickets for us to stay on into the evening hours for a special after-hour Christmas in the park event, with extra riding time, specialty shows and a whole bunch of other holiday touches, including

fireworks. Unfortunately, we were all a bit too tired to truly enjoy the evening for long, and headed back to retire, but the day in the park proved to be a very good start to our family vacation.

The cruise was an equally great time. From the delicious meals, to the captivating shows, to the port adventures, we all enjoyed ourselves. Well, except for the first part of the trip where one of my sisters was very ill from seasickness and ended up in the boat’s emergency room. But she was a trooper—nothing was stopping her from having fun. The first night was rough for all of us, but as we started to get our sea legs, the rest of the trip went swimmingly.

Everyone found something they loved.

We all loved the deck parties, fireworks, off-shore beach day and barbecue and holiday events, like the Christmas tree lighting. The kids loved the pools and sprinkler areas and the unlimited ice cream on the boat, and got a kick out of alternating being on the top bunk bed. And they would giggle with fits of laughter at seeing the different animal towel creations that awaited us in the room. My daughter

especially looked forward to the shows at night.

My son really loved going out on our balcony in the morning to see the sun come up, and enjoyed swimming in the ocean with me. He just wasn’t a big fan of taking pictures with the characters, and made a grumpy face each time. And my daughter was freaked out about the fish in the water at the beach, so it was kinda cute to see her flip out and refuse to swim. She kept my mom company as she relaxed on the beach—something my mom rarely does, but you could tell she enjoyed immensely. My mom also loved the shops and all of the little activities going on around the boat. My sisters enjoyed swimming with the dolphins and the night life, and trying new foods with me at dinnertime.

Me? I enjoyed it all, plus an amazing massage and quiet time in the adults only pool area for a spell—but mostly, I enjoyed the fact that I could not have a cell phone on, and no one could reach me for anything.

I was absolutely free.

Everyone I needed to be in contact with was with me. I didn’t have to worry about checking my phone

or emails; I left it all behind. It made me more present to who I was with, and what I was doing, and I think that single-handedly was the reason we all were able to truly enjoy ourselves and each other. All we had was each other, and that was all we needed.

When we needed to go off on our own, we did. When we wanted to do something together, we were all on board. At times, I needed to do things alone with the kids, and at times, I needed some me time while they had the chance to spend quality time with the kids without me. It was such an easy-going, non-itinerary driven kind of vacation, yet we still all got to experience everything we wanted to.

There was no fighting. There was peace, and appreciation, and pure enjoyment about spending time together. The only time normal life tension occurred was when we were first checking in, and as we waited in the airport to board the plane to go home.

Oh, did I mention that was because the phones were turned back on and we had all forgotten how to stay present in the moment?

Although for me, since that trip, I do make a concerted effort to make sure my phone is completely off. If I am with the kids, I allow myself a courtesy call or text to my mom just to touch base, but that is it. When I do not have my kids, I turn my phone on only once per day to call them to say good night. If there is an emergency, people know where I can be found, but I have faith that everything will be okay, so there is no need for me to keep a phone by my side just in case.

I am there to experience the experience; not to worry about what is going on somewhere else. And that one small change has had a ripple effect not only in my most adventuresome adventures, but also in my local outings and quality time spent with loved ones.

It has made all the difference in how I connect and enjoy the time that I have with them, or to myself—and that is the only profound lesson that came out of this particular trip, except for the reminder of how much I truly and deeply love my family, and wish for many more moments just like these.

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