Disney cruising

Last week the Disney cruise itineraries were announced for Summer 2017. Within 48 hours I had received a quote from the travel agent, and 24 hours later I booked and paid the deposit. We’re really doing this!!

It hasn’t been an easy decision. It’s not a cheap holiday. I actually got a quote for the Dover-Barcelona and Mediterranean itineraries a couple of years ago but I didn’t proceed with either booking because I just couldn’t justify the cost. However, to be honest I’ve thought of nothing else since. I’ve priced up no end of cruise holidays. I’ve talked to the children about cruises – a lot – and they both said they’d really love to do a Disney one. My ex husband said “if you’re going to spend all that money, wouldn’t you rather just spend a bit more and go back to Florida?” Honestly… the answer was no. We loved Florida and I’d go again in a heartbeat, but there’s so much of the world that we’re yet to explore. Last year I looked after a little girl from a forces family – they spent 2 years in England and have since moved on. Honestly, that little girl saw more of Europe than I’ve even dreamed of. There were cruises, weekends away, road trips… I’d look at the photos on Facebook and think I want that. I’ve lived in Europe for all of my 35 years and I’ve never even been to Spain! This needs to be rectified.

I frequent a couple of Disney cruise forums and a lot of the regulars are up in arms about the sudden price hike. Many of them have been priced out of the market. I don’t know if they’re looking at very different itineraries and cabins to us, but I think our quote was around £300 more than the quote re received for August 2015, which doesn’t seem an unreasonable increase to me. I did price up a similar cruise on the Royal Caribbean line and it would work out around £500 cheaper… but I can live with that. It’s Disney!!

adventures-by-disney-europe-7-night-mediterranean-magic-cruise-day-1-barcelona-spain

Photo by adventuresbydisney.com

We’ll be sailing on the Disney Magic, the ship we all fell in love with after watching this video on YouTube (although it makes me feel a bit queasy watching it for some reason!). We’ll be departing from Barcelona and visiting the ports of Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno and Villefranche. We’ll also have two days at sea. We’ve booked an inside stateroom – the price hike for a window or veranda just isn’t worth it for us, much as I love the idea of chilling out on our own private balcony with a book and a glass of wine! Our lovely travel agent has suggested we go for an 11A category room, which is midship, rather than the slightly cheaper 11C rooms which tend to be at the far end of the ship (I really need to get to grips with the cruise ship lingo) and can be a bit harsher if you’re prone to seasickness (which, as cruise newbies, we may or may not suffer with).

I have 53 weeks to pay off the full balance, so I’m going to be saving hard. We also need to come up with a plan for the ports. I think it will could quite hard to find a good balance between port time and ship time. If we’re going to spend long days off the ship, surely it would be better to just holiday on land… and if we’re not going to see much of the ports at all, why are we bothering to do a cruise in the first place? However, I’m confident that with careful planning we can work out something that makes it feel like we’ve made the best of the ship and the ports. I plan to order Rick Steve’s book to help us achieve this. I hope not to have to shell out for organised tours at each port, but we may treat ourselves to one or two. The only thing I’m set on is a beach day at Villefranche, which just so happens to be my birthday! We also plan to spend a few days in Barcelona before we sail, so I’ll be looking at various hotels and airbnb properties.

I’m sooooo excited! Stay tunes for more updates as our plans develop.

Cineworld Unlimited

A couple of months ago I started thinking about signing up for a Cineworld Unlimited card. It wasn’t something I’d ever really considered before… infact if anything I thought they sounded quite expensive for what they were. I was working nearly full time and I didn’t see I would ever fit in enough cinema trips to make it pay for itself. Plus, for quite a few years I’d pretty much only been to the cinema to see children’s films of varying qualities. I just didn’t think it would work for me.

Last Autumn I made a big career change and my weekly work hours dropped from 28 to 16 (and for a lot more money!). L is out of the house from 8-3.30 on weekdays (and, at 11, she’s old enough to be home alone for a while anyway). By the time I return home from dropping M at her primary school it’s usually no later than 8.50am, and I don’t have to leave to pick her up until 2.50 or 3.50, depending on whether or not she’s got an after school club that day. It doesn’t take Carol Vorderman to figure out that I suddenly found myself with more hours than I knew what to do with, and I was keen to find a hobby.

In January I went to see Room (by myself, which felt like a big achievement) and I really enjoyed it. I don’t normally have the greatest attention span. When I watch TV and films at home I tend to get distracted by something else – Facebook, messages from friends, the kids, the cat, Candy Crush, my thoughts – and I find it really hard to follow what’s going on. I get bored easily. Sometimes I rewind whatever I’m watching to try and fill in the blanks but more often than not I just give up. At the cinema, none of these things happen. You can do nothing but watch the screen… and the movie snacks certainly seem to help with concentration and overall enjoyment!

The Cineworld Unlimited card costs £16.90 per month and for that you can see as many films as you like (exclusions apply). As long as you see at least two films a month it should pay for itself – and if you use it for a discount on cinema snacks, even better! So far I’ve had no trouble getting my moneys worth and it’s nice to have that bit of escapism when I’m at a loose end. I thought I might use my blog to review the films I’ve seen so far:

  1. How To Be Single – 6.5/10. I was a little disappointed by this one. It sounded like it was going to be similar to Sex In The City but actually, it just wasn’t that memorable. I wasn’t familiar with any of the cast, despite the two female leads in particular being pretty big names, so perhaps that didn’t help.
  2. Dad’s Army – 6.5/10. Again, I was a bit let down by this! I’d enjoyed the trailers and felt it was a must-see because it featured some very well known British actors and actresses… but it was just missing something. I was never a huge Dad’s Army fan but for some reason I expected the film to be much funnier than it was.
  3. Kung Fu Panda 3 – 7/10. We saw this on Mother’s Day. It had a good story and we all love pandas so that element obviously appealed. We’d seen and enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 1, but I don’t remember seeing 2. Anyway, this was worth seeing and we did enjoy it, but I don’t think it’ll be one we rush out to buy on DVD.
  4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – 8.5/10. I loved this one! I’m a bit of a wuss these days and can’t cope with full on horror, but this had just the right amount of scariness to keep me on the edge of my seat without scaring the life out of me. It kept me guessing all the way through, and just when I thought some pretty major questions had been answered, I began to doubt myself all over again! The last 15-20 minutes or so were pretty weird and I think I may have rated it even higher if not for this… I won’t say any more than that because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. It was left pretty open for a sequel, though, and I hope that happens.
  5. Zootropolis – 8/10. You pretty much know what you’re getting when you go and see a Disney film. It was funny, it was cute, it was a bit predictable (good always wins in the end!) and the graphics were stunning. It was scarier than I expected it to be – there was one really jumpy moment where M leapt so high in the air that she made me gasp more than the actual movie moment did! – but I guess there’s a reason why it was a PG and not a U! I must admit, it was brilliant for us – I’m not sure how much longer my 11 year old will want to come and see kiddie films with us (hopefully forever!) so I’m glad for her sake that it wasn’t all nicey nicey. It’s a shame for friends with younger, more sensitive children though… I guess they’ll have to wait a while and catch it on DVD instead.

So, that’s 5 movies down since 23rd February… not too bad. I’m really enjoying having the pass and it’s made me look at a much wider genre of films than I’d ever usually see. The only frustrating thing so far is that sometimes the films I want to see don’t fit around school runs and childcare and so on, but I can understand why the cinemas don’t necessatily want to show horror movies at 11am. My next step is to try and watch a couple of films back to back! 🙂

My Travel Bucket List

Some of the places I’d like to go at some point include:

New York City

I’ve already got two trips to the Big Apple under my belt, both in the late 1990s. I was a teenager then and I’d love to go back and see it from a more grown up perspective. I’d like to take my girls to see the sights I fell in love with back in the day (Statten Island, the Empire State Building etc) along with some that I’m yet to experience myself (the High Line, The National September 11 Memorial & Museum). Also, in not too many years from now my children will both be teenagers – how much would they love shopping in New York?!

empire1

The view from the Empire State building

Lake Garda

Specificially Eurocamp’s Bella Italia site. This one always stands out when I flick through the brochure because not only does it look absolutely stunning, it’s got plenty on site to keep everyone entertained, and it doesn’t look too cut off for a non driver. It also has the added bonus of not being too far from the airport.

A cruise

My mum has always said that she thinks a cruise would be a great way to see a lot of the world in a short space of time. While I’m sure a lot of people don’t agree that a few hours exploring cruise ports counts as “a lot of the world”, I do feel it would be a great way to get a small taste of some corners of the world that we’re yet to explore… and we’d always have the option to return to our favourites for a longer trip another time. Add to that the food, entertainment, pools, views and general excitement of sleeping on a boat, I think this may just be the next ‘big’ holiday we book

To see the Northern Lights

28573163

Photo by Booking.Com – Kakslauttanen Igloo West Village

I saw this picture on Facebook a few months ago and fell in love! Would there be anything more magical than seeing the Northern Lights from the comfort of a dome like this?! Not to mention the guaranteed snow – something we’ve had so little of in my corner of the UK that my 9 year old has no recollection of ever having a snow day… (I’m pretty sure she has, but she was probably too small to remember it!)

Castaway Cay

I think this might just be the trickiest one to make happen. Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island and the only way to access it is froma  Disney Cruise of the Caribbean or Bahamas. While I’d love to take this trip, it’s one hell of a trek from England! I think it would have to be part of a longer Florida holiday, which would make it in to a Big Thing that would no doubt take a lot of saving and planning. I’m not ruling it out though… I’d love to see that beach eventually and I don’t think any of us would turn down the chance to return to Florida!

Legoland Hotel

I took a look at the Legoland website the other day and fell in love with their themed rooms. Sure, for the price of ONE night at Legoland we could book a whole holiday… but I’d love to take my youngest for a ‘sleepover’ there before she gets too old and grown up for Lego (does that ever actually happen?!). She’d really love to stay in the Lego Friends room!

d756d38b56f2487db73d32efef00674c

Photo by Legoland

A spa hotel break BY MYSELF

I actually think this might take the largest amount of bravery on my part. You see, in my years as a single parent I’ve learned to not only tolerate but enjoy my own company… but the thought of going away for an entire weekend with nobody to share it with seems more than a little daunting. Would I find it relaxing or would I feel self conscious and awkward?! I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure, but I suspect I’d grow to love it!

Spain

It’s not that far away really, and it’s reportedly the most popular destination for UK holidaymakers to visit, but I’ve managed to get to the age of 35 without having holidayed there once. I intend to rectify this soon! I like the idea of exploring the beaches, the culture and eating lots of tapas!

I have no doubt that just as soon as I tick a destination off this list, three more will be added in their place!  Better get planning then… 😉

Travel

We didn’t have many holidays when I was a child. I’m not sure if there was a particular reason for this… my parents were both self employed until I was a teenager, so perhaps they couldn’t justify the time off or commit to a big expense. My brother’s Autism probably played a part, especially as he got older and his self-initiated routines became more rigid. But in all honesty, perhaps my parents just didn’t prioritise getting away. We lived in the countryside and we had beaches and castles within reasonable driving distance. I don’t remember my friends going on holiday much either. Were things just different back in the 80s and 90s?

celny.jpg

Moody teenage on top of the Empire State building – my post A level, turning 18, preparing for going to uni treat!

My ex husband and I had a few nice breaks together, both pre and post children. However, when we split up I honestly didn’t feel that I’d ever be able to go on holiday again. I’d given up work to raise our children – not that I’d ever really had much of a career to speak of anyway. For a couple of years I stayed at home with a toddler and a breastfed newborn, claiming income support and child tax credits and struggling to make ends meet. I became an expert at managing my finances. We didn’t go without the odd treat, but I planned to the nearest penny. I could never have dreamed of popping to Costa on a whim and buying a hot chocolate and a slice of cake… I’d have to work stuff like that in to the weekly budget. I’d dreamed of taking my children to Disneyland but I honestly didn’t see how it would ever happen.

04ze

Playing on the seaweedy beach at Devon Cliffs

Then, when the girls were 3 and 5, I managed to book us one of those Sun £9.50 holidays at Haven’s Devon Cliffs. I don’t think it actually worked out to be £9.50 each; I seem to remember paying around £130 for a long weekend. I remember feeling guilty when I booked it, but thankfully I returned to work a few months before we travelled which made it much easier to pay the balance and cobble together some spending money. And you know what.. it was ‘just’ a static caravan in Devon but we had an absolute blast. By some miracle we managed to coincide our visit with a mini heatwave and the weather was glorious. We went to the beach and the pool, made use of the soft play and entertainment. We ate out and devoured our bodyweights in icecream. As we left to come home on the final day, I was thinking two things: I don’t want to come home, and we NEED to do more of this.

07c

Eweleaze near Weymouth

As the girls have got older, holidays have become easier and easier. Travel is really important to all of us. I love it because it gives us a chance to truly relax in the way that I can never quite manage when we’re stuck in the daily routine, and it’s valuable bonding time. We have so many shared memories that I hope will never leave us. We sometimes holiday with relatives but most of the time it’s just us three, doing our own thing and conquering the world.

06n

Camp Bestival in the sunshine!

Since that first trip to Devon Cliffs we’ve had so many adventures together. We’ve had numerous overnight trips to London, taking in the sights and watching West End shows. In the last few months we’ve had mini breaks in Blackpool and Edinburgh. We’ve camped in Somerset, Devon and Dorset (our favourite!); eurocamped in Duinrell (Holland) and Ca Savio (Italy); glamped at a Featherdown Farm and jetted off to Stockholm for a weekend. We’ve festivalled at Camp Bestival and Big Feastival. And yes, we made it to Disneyland… in fact, we’ve been 3 times as a family and we’ve already got 2 more trips booked for this year. We’ve even managed Florida!

So, what’s next? Well, I’m well aware that we don’t have that many years of holidaying together ahead of us. I’d love to believe that the girls will want to go away with me forever – I know some do – but I have to assume there will come a time when they’d rather stay at home and party with their friends. So really, we need to get cracking.

We’d all really, really love to take a cruise. A Disney cruise around the Med is top of the wishist – watch this space! There are so many European countries we’re yet to explore and I’d love to see more of them. We’ve never done the whole beach & pool all-inclusive type holiday so I think we should give it a go… just once, just to see what the fuss is about. I think I’d probably get bored but I might surprise myself! I’d also love to take them to New York City… I’ve been twice and it was absolutely amazing. I think the girls would love it there.

01m

For us, travel is important. I’m glad the children are unphased by getting on a plane and travelling to another country. I’m glad they’ve had a chance to experience different languages, climates and cultures. Some people prioritise finding their dream home or saving for the future, and perhaps this is a more sensible approach, but it’s not for us. I will never regret the money I’ve invested in travelling with my children because the memories are priceless.

New Beginnings

I’ve wanted to blog for such a long time. I’ve made many false starts over the years but I finally think the time might be right to give it a proper try.

So, introductions…

I’m a thirty-something-year-old female. I live in the South West (West Midlands end rather than Cornwall end) but “home” is in deepest, darkest Wales. I’m a single mother/lone parent/whatever other negative-sounding label you want to attach to it; my not so little girls are 9 and 11. I work part time from home, having had a complete career change at the end of last year – more on that later!

My interests include travel, reading, baking, cinema, cats and anything Disney. I do a lot of daydreaming and despite my best efforts I never seem to get enough sleep. I’ve recently started treatment for social anxiety disorder and I hope that I will soon get it under control once and for all.

I look forward to seeing my blog develop!