There’s An App for that: Flash Card Edition, Quizlet

So tech Thursday this week is inspired by A: Homework getting real around here and B: This post over at KidsActivityBlog (which used to be June Clever Nivana but I don’t understand that part) about the awesomeness that is SpellingCity.com

I agree SpellingCity.com is a great big bowl of awesome. We were introduced to it through several of our elementary school teachers. They use teacher accounts to set up the whole year of spelling words – no lost lists or What is this word translations needed. Great iPad app also – for Spelling words, nothing better.

But I don’t think it’s the best for vocabulary. (not bad just not the best)

We have found the most awesome for Vocabulary to be Quizlet.com and it’s completely free for parents (I believe teachers can buy an upgrade account and manage a class with it but I’m not sure about that part)

On Quizlet you can set up digital flashcards for just about anything. (I think the original intent was to create foreign language flashcards but they have now grown beyond that – but that’s one of the reasons they have a killer audio feature) Then they have tools and games to learn the content of those cards and when you’re done studying them you can set up tests to quiz yourself in a variety of ways – matching, true/false, or multiple choice  It will also accurately read the content to younger children.

The same day I saw the other post my eight year old came home with the first set of vocabulary words for the year. So I set up a list and then because it’s hooked into social media – I was able to share that list with other moms and the teacher as well.

Here’s the list so you can see it in all it’s glory

http://quizlet.com/25315280/new

quic

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They also have killer iPad, iphone, and Android apps

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So if you’re looking for a killer site for flash card study – weather it’s vocab, or language, or whatever. Check out Quizlet.

I don’t get paid to talk about the things I like, I just like ‘em.

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Rethinking my iPhone addiction

I love my iPhone. I’m no Apple junkie, in fact I kind of loath the MacBook that I inherited for work and only use it when I have to. Admittedly part of that is comfort, I’ve spent decades mastering the PC so relearning even the simplest thing like how to backspace with a key that says delete when here is no actual delete key – not so much fun.

But I’ve been an iPhone lover from the start – I’ve loyally upgraded every 2 years as my contract allows. I’ve even sort of weaned myself from my big heavy DSLR in favor of iPhone photos. Sort of.

My daughter understandably begs for an iPhone of her own. Right now she uses my old 4 as a glorified iPod touch. But money being what it is and the fact that she’s 11 and prone to loosing things – I am not about to get into another pricey data contract just so she can be like mom.

Enter Metro PCS.. she’s had a crappy it’s-only-a-phone phone with them for a year or so that she took with her to practice and church or where ever she got dropped off so she could call me if needed. The no contract and cheapo less than $50 phone was just what we needed at the time. But not surprisingly it died or more specifically the battery died about a year into it. So with middle school coming up and the year of being responsible phone-wise I agreed to an upgrade.

They are running a special for $40 a month, unlimited talk, text, and data (throttled) and deals on entry level smart phones. So I bit – and I got her the LG  Optimus F3 for less than $100 and off I went home to set it up.

Having never dealt with anything Android I figured again I was going to be in for a bit of a learning curve and like the Mac/PC experience I wouldn’t love the new toy as much. But much to my surprise the whole thing was crazy easy, even kind of fun,  and the Google Play store or whatever they call it had every app she uses on her iPod plus some.

In fact there’s nothing I do on my iPhone that I haven’t found the same or better app for on the Android. And hers has a expansion slot for an SD card so I can control the size of the memory with an relatively inexpensive memory card. Endless room for One Direction songs and videos of cats …. I’m starting to get it now.

So her monthly cost 1/3 of mine (granted I’m grandfathered into unlimited unthrottled data) and her phone is 1/3 the cost of mine. And there is not a contract so it can be upgraded or replaced without drama anytime? And it’s just as good? Just as cool? In some ways better? What??!!??

Time for me to rethink the iPhone I believe. Maybe even my iPad…

I’m due for a new iPad at the end of the year through work as part of a contest and I’m already lobbying my IT boss into letting us choose the kind of tablet rather than getting the Apple gift card by default.  That Nexus 7 and 10 are looking pretty cool…

Nothing in this post was sponsored – this is just me telling the story of how I spent my own money and how I felt about it.

Twitter #Music–Album art is important again

So Twitter #Music opened it’s gates today. My first impression, it’s like the scan button on your car radio. If you’re the kind of person who selects your station that way – Twitter music is your dream.

Honestly I’ve struggled with the whole internet music thing. I’ve tried Spotify and Pandora and whoever else and maybe it’s just me and signs of aging or something but I just can’t make them work. They never do what I expect which is replicate a really cool radio station on the internet.

So I just fall back to listening to my favorite radio station via their live stream. And lets face it, at my age that means I’m listening to the same stuff I’ve loved for the last 40 years and hearing very little “new” music.

My first real meaningful impression of Twitter #Music was Holy Crap – Twitter’s bringing Album Art back.  I mean seriously when was the last time you paid attention to album art?  Those of us who are old enough to remember record stores remember how much time we all spent flipping through albums judging them by their covers. And I cannot tell you how many hours I spent kicked back on my bed as a kid, listening and staring at the detail on cover art like Bat Out of Hell or News of the World. Cover Art used to be everything!

When CDs became the norm and they were smaller and wrapped up in 3 pounds of security plastic, it started to mean less. That was the beginning of just running in and buying what you came for. The last CD I think I bought because of the art was TMBG, Apollo 18 – in 199?.  Browsing was more work than fun at that point. We stopped killing time looking at albums. (We also started buying in Walmart and online and not in record stores  – and teenagers no longer “hangout” anywhere because their mommy’s are afraid they’ll be kidnapped but those are other balls of wax for another day)

Yes I know the art is there on itunes and Amazon too, but the way it’s shown, it doesn’t dominate, it competes with the page for time and real estate and interest. There is so much else going on, the album art shinks in comparison and you don’t notice it.  I cannot begin to tell you what the art of any album in the last 5 years looks like.

But today for the first time in almost 10 years.. I sat and looked and browsed music because of the Album Art today. Because my screen was full on nothing but this

image

One thing is clear. Music Artist have gotten lazy about cover art. The reality is I stared at this screen and this is what I saw…

image

I had never heard of Two Door Cinema Club  (remember the stuck in on an old Beach radio station thing)  but you better believe I clicked on that Album Cover  – it caught my eye, it interested me. The weird surreal image of Barbie doll legs hanging out of a mattress on a ceiling made me wonder about the music.

So I clicked and listened to the sample, and it was cool. So I clicked more and went on to purchase.

So if Twitter has anything to say about it  – Album Art is Important Again.

Graphic Artists of the world REJOICE!

Music Artists – Get over yourself  – a headshot  is not cover art. And seriously I cannot stress this enough, put some damn clothes on. Save that shit for Vanity Fair.

(I was going to say that’s what the free poster inside the album is for but you  know… no more albums)

And let’s face – no one is every going to do “naked” better than this little guy.

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Raising Tech Kids: Kindle Fire and FreeTime

Kindle Fire with FreeTimeBoth the girls received Kindle Fire’s for Christmas. They had not asked for them but I was looking to make an active move towards purchasing gifts that I felt hold more value and would be used more often than random toys and bling encrusted junk that just gets left around for Mama to pick up.

I had stumbled across a promotional price (less than a DS and way less than a ipod)  the week of Black Friday and snapped two up. It was total surprise and ended up being their favorite gift.

In early December Amazon announced the release of FreeTime – a kid zone type app that would (with my prime membership) allow a number of pre-approved kid friendly items to be at their disposal without me having to pay a la cart for them.

Awesome.

And it is, although it’s very clear that it’s a first generation product at this point.

In spirit –  the FreeTime app rocks. Here is what I love about it.

  • It’s a flat monthly rate (about the cost of 1 book), no begging me for every game or video or book
  • Once they are in it, they are locked in it. They cannot access content outside of it without me unlocking the machine
  • I can choose to add content from outside FreeTime into their FreeTime profile, so if you let your kid on Facebook for example, or maybe download a Judy Moody Book,  that can be added and they are still locked in.
  • You can set up multiple profiles for different kids with different additional content – my oldest is allowed some things that my youngest is not. (i.e. certain Judy Blume books)

But like I said, it’s clearly the first pass at the idea. I think there is a great deal of improvements that can be made and I look forward to seeing the products get better and better.

(Amazon – want to hire me to be a consultant on some of this? Here I’ll give you the first ideas for free )

  • We should be able to segment the content by age level. It’s all in one big pile right now and it’s hard to browse through the entire haystack.
  • Amazon suffers from what most internet app designers do when approaching “Kid friendly apps” – they are totally caught up with Pre-Schoolers and forget there are older kids out there. The majority of the book and video content is focused on the 5 and under crowd and not so much the 6-12 age group. Hint to the content curators – no kid who’s started Kindergarten wants that much Dora… Pull back on the Dora! Nothing against Dora but OMG there is so much of it! You need a Dora filter or something.
    • Especially books, you need more books that aren’t beginning reader books. It’s very heavy on the early reader crowd.Hard to find things for say 4th-6th graders.
  • Make it easier for me to admin. It wasn’t that easy to set up and seriously if I’m tweaking the settings I have to put in my parent password every three steps.
  • Love idea of being able to limit the game time, video time, and book time separately – that was smart. But how much smarter would it have been to give even finer controls, like time periods. i.e. no games during designated times for example my kids do their homework from 4-6pm.
  • Better yet –give us the option to gamify it. Let them earn more game or video time by reading … let me set the parameters maybe every 25 pages or 25 minutes of active reading = they earn the  same amount of game or video time.
  • Allow limited internet access to approved sites. My kids get web based homework assignments from school on sites like IXL.com and www.spellingcity.com and they love doing them on their Kindle’s but I have to let them out of FreeTime to do it. Let me approve websites, like I can approve purchased content.  (also these site have apple apps but not android apps? Why is that?)

So here is my favorite story of Kids with Kindle’s so far… One night little FancyPants was sitting beside me in bed watching videos or playing games or whatever, and I was reading or watching videos or whatever on mine (yes I have one too – older gen 1 Fire). I had on headphones. She taps me on the arm and I pull off the headphones and she asks me this question, “What’s up with the guy in the videos that takes his clothes on an off all the time?”

I tried to hide my panic while I desperately tried to remember if I somehow forgot to put her back in the FreeTime app last time I was doing something and thinking she somehow got into something on the Prime Instant Video stuff I have access to. Very calmly I ask.. “What man, honey?”

“You know,” she says “He’s always doing this (mimes removing a jacket) when he comes and goes.  And his shoes, he always taking his shoes off”

At that point a light bulb went off.. “Do you mean Mr. Rogers?” (Oh thank gawd!)

“Yes!” she says. “What’s up with that!?!”  And then I realized that my kids being daycare and pre-k type kids – they never see Mr. Rogers. PBS puts on a little Sesame Street on Sprout at night but never Mr. Rogers. He’s a day time fellow. The Free Time app has what looks like several season of his show in the video area.

“OMG!” I told her – “Do you love the Neighborhood of Make Believe or what? Henrietta Pussycat was my absolute favorite!” – at which point her eyes got wide and she enthusiastically nodded and we spent the next 2 hours watching Mr. Rogers episodes together – totally fast forwarding to the part where Trolly comes in.

* Note, the products discussed in this blog post were/are paid for in full by myself. I was not paid to write this in anyway.

The New Precious Has Arrived – Concoction Anyone?

I’ve been eyeing these for awhile but it was the Amazon review that said “It’s not an appliance, it’s a lifestyle’” that pushed me over the edge to click the BUY button.

For the record Margaritaville Concoction Maker DM1000 but we just call it The Precious. Purchased from Amazon for $240.00 Something

Poor William and Sonoma – their summer catalogue is what planted the seed for this but alas their price for what is very close to the same product took them out the running. We did however try your Slow Cooked Chicken and Herbed Biscuit recipe while we waited for The Precious to arrive and it was wonderful. Maybe next time.

So back to the story at hand. The Precious has brought with it much joy. And then much pain. I’m talking college sized hangovers, back in the day hangovers. Ughh. But it only took one night to determine that we were pouring way way too much booze in. We are now pouring in moderation, and there is joy again.

Note: The kids LOVE it to. They are having a blast making smoothies, kid daiquiris, and the big surprise – shave ice -  in it. Yes you can just have it shave a pitcher of ice and then scope that out into bowls for Hawaiian Shave ice. So it’s been a treat for the whole family.

At this rate it will more than pay for itself in fun and entertainment as the summer progresses.

 

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Disney Dream Day 2: My Kid Broke The AquaDuck

Disney Dream Aquaduck

So Day 2

I did what I always do on vacation – it drives me absolutely batty – wide awake at sunrise. Why oh, why can I not sleep in on vacation!?! In this one case it turned out to be kind of nice: I threw on some shorts and grabbed my camera and headed out of the stateroom to explore the ship solo with almost no one else up yet. It was just me and the Deck Crew watching the sun come up as Nassau was becoming visible on the horizon.

Disney Dream

It was really a great time to explore the upper decks. The wind was incredible and on Deck 14 would about blow you over but it was wonderful to walk around and take pictures with no crowds. Lots of great photos, if you want to see more, visit my Flickr Set.

After a bit I noticed that folks had already started showing up and staking out deck chairs for the day and the deck crew had cleared and fired up the Aquaduck so I went down to roust the troops and get them going for the day.

We had already decided that we were not leaving the ship that day. I’ve been to Nassau before and frankly there is nothing there that I need my kids to see. After living in Grenada, straw markets and spice markets have lost their fascination.  Atlantis is more expensive as an excursion that if you just flat out went there for a vacation so that was not an option.  And they have plenty of drinks on the boat, I have paid my dues to Senior Frog in a previous life.

The big attraction of the day was of course the Aquaduck – Disney’s one of a kind clear waterslide that goes around the entire deck of the ship in a for the most part, clear tube. All I had to do was mention to the kids it had finally been turned on and they were up and ready to go. We ate some breakfast and then grabbed some deck chairs of our own. We were set for the morning.

Puddin headed up first. I had warned her that while she was plenty tall enough to ride alone, she might not weigh enough to be allowed to ride alone. She said she understood but please please could she GO. So I said yes and waved her off. At this point the line only went about half way down the staircase. It wasn’t long until FancyPants decided she was ready to give it a shot and dragged the Dr off in line with her. (She’s tall enough ride but not without an adult).

By the time they got in line maybe 10 minutes later the line had backed up to the measurement sign which is supposed to be the 30 minute mark. I can tell you if you are the person on the deck waiting it takes about 10 minutes from the point they disappear into the funnel. The best pictures are on the return after the go around the back of the ship as they travel slower on that side.

So Puddin made her solo ride ..

Disney Dream Aquaduck

And not too much later the two of us watched Dad and FancyPants

Disney Dream Aquaduck

It’s all good. Better than good because Disney fired up our all time favorite Peter Pan on deck on the big screen and well I was just in heaven.

Disney Dream

After a bit of movie watching I started getting a bit warm and  I realized that I had in fact not changed onto a bathing suit at this point and needed to go do so and bring up more sunscreen. The kids were running around, Puddin had gotten back in line almost right away and the Dr and I were discussing what our plan was when I looked up and saw that the Aquaduck had been turned off.

Oh look there is someone stuck and they are bringing the raft back up to the top. Ha Ha that’s funny and this will make good blogging … I’ll grab the camera.

Disney Dream Aquaduck

This will be great for the blog …I’ll zoom in a little …

Disney Dream Aquaduck

Hey look the stuck kid is on the other side of the raft … umm wait I recognize those feet!

Disney Dream Aquaduck

PuddinPop! That’s MY kid! Oh Sister Mercy, Puddin broke the Aquaduck! How in the world did she get stuck the second time when she was perfectly fine going down the first time? She seems fine though….

Disney Dream Aquaduck    Disney Dream Aquaduck

At this point she started looking out and spotted us watching her on deck. We waved and she waved back and then noticed everyone watching her, and started waving to everyone. The Disney person had removed the tube back up to the top but walked down and had her crab crawl through the loop and back down the first drop to a spot where there is a ladder. To which she immerged and greeted cheers from the crowd  with triumphant arms over her head. (I don’t think she ever realized they were just glad the delay was over LOL)

Disney Dream Aquaduck

Truth be told, it wasn’t over. It takes a really long time to get it going again. They have to clear the tubes to insure they did not abandon any other riders when they turned the water off. Then when the water is off it takes about 5 minutes of running the water to fill the landing pool at the bottom. So it’s was a good 10-15 minutes more after she was out before riders are going again. Also somewhere out there is another lady who has way better pictures that I do because once I realized it was my kid I kind of stopped taking pictures. But she was closer and more underneath and had great shots of the crawl. She say me talking to Puddin later and came up and told her how brave she thought she was was and I gave her my email and I hope one day she sends them to me!

Come to find out … The Disney girl who went and got her out of the tube had been the girl who had first let her on solo, she had taken air out of her raft the first time to allow the raft to be more flexible. The Disney boy who was running the ride by the second time she was up didn’t know that trick and therefore her second raft had more air and was stiffer and that is why she got stuck. The girl was very nice and told her she could come straight back to the top if she got someone else to ride with her. (I think she announced it to the line as well when they were on those stairs) So you know the Dr. loved that particular trek back up the stairs  … LOL. Hey I didn’t have my suit on yet!

After that they gave her a wristband that indicated she could ride but only with another person (didn’t have to be an adult).

We played on deck all morning, when Peter Pan was over Nemo came on! Second favorite Disney movie, yeah! The funniest part was how every parent was walking around muttering the lines with the movie. We all know it by heart. It was perfect.

After some lunch we headed in from the sun for a while and joined the Princess gathering in the atrium. Puddin would have you believe this was a supreme sacrifice she was willing to make for her little sister (and gift shop swag)

Disney Dream Arial

 

Disney Dream Sleeping Beauty   

Disney Dream Belle

 

But after coming face to face with Arial (the only princess she purports to stomach) I think she drank the Kool-Aid a bit and before you know it she was getting stage direction from Cinderella..

Disney Dream Cinderella

 

But still… it really was all about this..

 

Disney Dream Cinderella

Okay, Cinderella after that hug you were forgiven for the snotty breeze-by the night before. We love you best again.

Then we were off to do some detective work with the Midship Detective Agency … more later.

 

Disney Dream Midship Detective Agency

 

Note: this review is completely my mother-of-two opinion of our 4 day cruise on the new ship the Disney Dream. We paid full price for our fair and were in no way compensated for writing this post.

Disney Dream Day 1 Part 2: Soggy Trip to Sea

Note: this review is completely my mother-of-two opinion of our 4 day cruise on the new ship the Disney Dream. We paid full price for our fair and were in no way compensated for writing this post.

I’ll pick up where I left off on our last post. After arriving at port around 10ish, we boarded around 12:30 and immediately went to lunch at Cabana’s on the 11th deck. I don’t know if this was the only food open or not but it suited us fine so we went there. It’s basically a huge buffet with huge variety of food – hot and cold.

Cabana's Disney Dream

One thing that the hostesses here continually stressed upon our first visit and throughout the cruise but that they could never get anyone to listen to seemed to be that there are NO LINES in Cabanas. You’re supposed to spot the food you want and come at it from a 90 degree angle and then leave. However, after being trained so well in the terminal everyone insisted in forming a line at the end of the first section and walking down the serving area in a line – waiting on people ahead of you being served rather than walking around them. This infuriates the hostesses – you can see it in their eyes behind those cheerful smiles — I think more because people don’t listen than from it being a real problem.

We finished up lunch about 1:00 and went to wander. It was still pouring down rain so we decided to go check out the kids clubs. On Deck 5 we inadvertently ran into a tour group leaving the reception area and was invited to join by Jess, a very friendly cast member, since they were going that way anyway. I’m glad we did as it’s the only time we ended up seeing any of the the adult areas in the District.

But first it was on to Oceaneer’s Club and Lab. This tour would end up being the only time my kids enjoyed themselves there .. ha foreshadowing….

Oceaneer's Club Disney Dream

Oceaneer's Lab Disney Dream

When we finished our tour, it was exactly 1:30 so we went off to find out stateroom 7058 Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.

Cabin 7058 Disney Dream

Cabin 7058 Disney Dream

Our view from the verandah included everyone we knew… well sorta.

Balcony 7058 Disney Dream

So with no pool to play in and nothing else to do but wander aimlessly .. what else would you do but go get ice cream!

Ice Cream Disney Dream

Now this is where with a little different luck I would have started talking about the send off party on deck and there would pretty pictures of our beautiful ship leaving the port and all the kids playing on deck.

Yeah that didn’t happen. It was pouring rain again at this point. Disney did hold a party on the lobby I think. We went back the cabin, made adult drinks with our room bottles, and the kids played DS until time to get ready to go dinner. How was this different than home?  Oh yean, dinner at home doesn’t involve men in livery.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Or Chandeliers with Cinderella Slippers…

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Speaking of Cinderella, evidently she’s a bit of a snob, her visit consisted solely of a fast paced walkthrough with no stops and no hugs. See how she has that apologetic “I don’t have time for you my peasants” look on her face. She was in and out in a flash.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Princess Tiana however was much more of a Princess of the People and spent a good deal of the dinner time visiting tables, hugging, signing autographs, and posing ~ that New Orleans girl knows how to tell people to “Be Our Guest.”

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Let’s see what did we eat in the Royal Place Dining room. I had the Duck appetizer, Green Salad, and Wild Mushroom Pasta. The Dr had the Double Baked Spinach Soufflé, Green Salad, and Wild Boar. (We had all vowed to try and eat things we’d never normally eat)

Both the duck and the spinach souffle were excellent. Salad was well salad. My pasta was just okay – it was a bit rich and I didn’t want to finish it, he said the boar was pretty good, I didn’t taste it but he cleaned his plate.

The kids has kid food, Hamburger and Mac-N-Cheese with fries. What is up with Disney no wanting to leave the ketchup bottle on the table? After about three trips our server caught on to the extent of how much ketchup 8 elementary aged children can consume and started leaving huge blobs though.

At some point at dinner we finally left port. I was glad that Disney had waited everyone who had experienced weather delays.

Afterwards.. Mickey Bar’s reigned supreme for the kids but I won best smelling dessert with the Grand Marnier Soufflé. It tasted as good as it smelled.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

 

After dinner went and got in line for the balcony of the theatre for the Golden Mickeys show and well we watched the Golden Mickeys. It was okay, not bad, not great. The villain section was enough to scare FancyPants into my lap. Would I see it again on a repeat cruise? No. I’d use that time to do something else because what we were just beginning to get a hint of is, free time is kind of precious on the cruise. There is just not a lot of it scheduled in.

After the show we checked the kids into the Oceaneer’s – which they were excited about. Walked back to our room to put down the camera…. and were half way to the bar when the Wave phone texted us to pick up the kids.

I left the group to go see what the problem was. I told the cast member who had 10 minutes earlier checked in our kids that I had a text and she basically popped the gate and tossed a look over her shoulder and told me to go find them.

All but two were sitting there on bean bags looking sad and bored. I asked what the problem was they they said "Mom look, you can’t do anything”. I took a look around and they were right.  It was packed to the gills and the only counselor I could see from standing there was the one guarding the bathrooms. It was chaos.

I don’t know if the rain was throwing off the anticipated counselor/kid ratio but basically there was no ratio. It was wall to wall child and not a little bit like Lord of the Flies. No organized activities were taking place at all – it was basically just an arcade with loud music. The only grown ups there were the ones dealing with unhappy kids (I was not the only one)

I quickly took the kids and checked them out. I was chastised for going out the lab rather than the club – a procedure I had not been made aware of. Whatever Disney. At this point I was kind of pissed at you. From that point forward the kids had no interest in the Oceaneer’s area. They went back one other time but still found it boring since at that point there evidently was an organized activity going on but were told they could not participate because they had not been there when it started. They were told to go play video games or color. Nice.

I took the kids to the D-lounge (Thank you Jessie – your tour you saved the night!) and we stayed in there and watched a family game show which was much more fun for them!

After that we hit some rougher water and the ship got a bit lurchy.. time for greenish turning kids to head to bed.

Disney Dream: Day 1 Part 1 Checking in …

Note: this review is completely my mother-of-two opinion of our 4 day cruise on the new ship the Disney Dream. We paid full price for our fair and were in no way compensated for writing this post.

Ask any Florida raised kid what the “vacation of choice” is around here and they will tell you .. Disney Cruise. Years and Years and Years ago I promised Puddin that when her little sister was finally potty trained we would take them both on a Disney Cruise. Well FancyPants has been potty trained for a really really long time now and we were getting reminded routinely that ummm “You Owe Me A Cruise!”

So early last fall we logged in to take a look and lo-and-behold we found out the new boat would be sailing for 4-day cruises to the Bahamas from our local port (Canaveral) and we were still early enough to book Spring Break cruises without having to mortgage the house. Done, Booked.

We didn’t really know this was that big of a deal until we told a few people and they were all “OMG you’re going on The Dream OMG OMG.” And this was from grown women who don’t say OMG. Come to find out, people who love Disney Cruises, seriously LOVE Disney Cruises and a new boat well that sort of sends them over the edge. Add to that the local fan fare when the ship arrived in port in January and well let’s just say the expectations were set much higher than they had been when we originally set down to book this thing.

I was really hoping this trip was going to live up to the hype.

IMG_0733We stayed a few days at our normal spring break hotel beach hotel and awoke on cruise day to lightening and thunder. Not a good sign. Turned on the news to hear that most of Central Florida was under tornado warnings but that the storms were moving through quickly. We started packing as planned and headed out in time to arrive at the port terminal at 10:00.

Something to note here… in February Disney started assigning port arrival times. This is new and designed to create less of a log jam at the terminal. Good idea but many people evidently missed that part when online registration opened in January and hadn’t done it during their original online registration process. Us included. When we finally heard about it, we logged in and were assigned 1:00. Since we were going to be right there at the beach we had planned on arriving much earlier. Everything I read said it’s an honor system, so frankly we planned on being dis-honorable.

So back to the story.. we arrived at 10:00 AM as planned and gave our luggage to the very happy, friendly steward who told us it was his personal responsibility to make sure out bags made it to the stateroom. Very nice start. We went to park the car in the garage.

I noticed that while most people seemed to be parking on the ground level and walking over the busy street to the terminal, there was an elevated walkway from building to building so we went up to the 3rd floor of the garage which was completely empty and parked right beside the entrance to the walkway. Walking across we saw a very long line in the building below for the 1st floor security checkpoint but when we entered the building there was no one in line for security on the 2nd level. We breezed right through after a sweet greeting from the security people.

After entering the terminal it wasn’t immediately apparent what we needed to do so we approached a lady at a table in the middle of the room. She was very intent on her paper shuffling but finally told us we need to fill out the health form for the cabin swearing we were all pictures of health and that no one had so much as a runny nose. She then directed us to the check-in line.

The fellow at the beginning of the line gave us a boarding card – boarding group 5 – and we proceeded through the check-in process with almost zero wait. In fact, the line was so short I was unprepared with our documents and I think slightly irritated the Disney worker. Despite that we were given our room keys and told to wait for our boarding group to be called. Also an important note here she gave us a card saying to expect the room to open at 1:30.

luggageSo we’re milling around a bit and notice a long line on the other side of the terminal. Did we need to go there too? We didn’t know because our not overly friendly check-in person didn’t mention it.

I wandered over and found a very nice Disney person who explained the line was for the kids to receive their arm badge bracelet GPS thingy that let them in and out of the kid areas. We didn’t have to do this now but we could.

She was kind enough to tell me that if we had registered the kids online already then we didn’t to fill the forms out again, just stand in line with the kids. We stood in that line about 5 minutes (it goes fast) and the kids were branded and tagged. OK so not branded.

At this point we appeared to be done. Mickey showed up – so we got in another line… do you see a pattern here.. there are lots and lots of lines.  But really total check in time was probably 30 minutes total.

Mickey at Disney Cruise Terminal

So it’s 10:45ish and we wandered the terminal, viewed the ship from the observation deck, made pictures and chatted with the rest of our group until boarding was called. (Did I mention we ended up being a group of 16?)

Oh yeah, we ended up being a group of 16. Four families of four. We never do anything alone, it’s always a neighborhood affair. Coming from Jacksonville they arrived closer to 10:45 and 11:00 and were give boarding groups 10 and 11 for those of you keeping score. They also each went through the process fairly quickly although the lines were getting slightly longer. Our friends that had to drive through storms from Universal Studios in Orlando were later arriving at the port about 11:30 and waited in huge lines for luggage drop off and check-in and didn’t board until after 1:30.

So here’s something funny.. at 12:20ish, as predicted the announcement came on saying they were about to start boarding. Then they called boarding groups 1–40. Yeap 1–40. Needless to say everyone in the terminal was in groups 1-40 and it caused a huge serge of people to get up and run to the boarding tunnel. Seriously. Major Crowd Crush.

Then this very apologetic fellow had to come on the speaker and say “Yeah we didn’t mean to do that. Our bad. We only meant Group 1.” And the crowd went grumble grumble but for the most part did not back off. I wish some Disney people had been more proactive about asking people to back away from the boarding tunnel.

This made it extra fun to push through when your actual group did get called. Which I would estimate they did about every 3-4 minutes or so. So then it’s show your card again, get your boarding pic, and boom your on board, name getting called the whole deal. We were on board by 12:00 and told to go to Cabanas on deck 11 for lunch – which was no big deal because by this time it was raining hard again and wandering on deck was not an option. Because of the weather the pool or the AquaDuck was not open. I don’t know if they would normally be.

I’ll stop this post at this point and talk about being on board in the next one but there is two things I want to mention. We knew from news reports the storms were causing delays at Orlando International of at least 2 hours or more when we arrived:

  • The terminal might have been more crowded if more buses of folks were arriving on time.
  • Second, Disney waited for everyone to arrive. Yes that’s right. The all aboard is supposed to be 4:10 or something like that to sail at 4:30 but we did not leave port until the middle of our dinner which started at 6:00. The captain announced that had late buses coming in because of the storms and they waited for all of the guests to get there – which I thought was pretty awesome of them.

Spring Break: Vacation Toes

Blogging was temporarily interrupted by Spring Break. We did our usual New Smyrna Beach haunt and this year kicked it up a notch with a cruise on the new Disney Cruise Line’s Dream. Needless to say there will be many posts to come including my real life, real mom, non-sponsored so I can say anything and I will review of the Disney Dream.

Until then I give you …

Vacation Toes

DSC_7634

 

Update: 

Because people asked, not because I'm getting paid…

Polish is Opi for Sephora – Mermaid to Order

Shoes are White Mountain from Bealls but they have them on Amazon too.

Melizzard’s Favorite Things: My new Eye-Fi Card

images[1]Someone tell me, how is it I am just now buying one of these? Seriously! ‘Cause pretty much, it’s awesome.

I decided to look into as a something to purchase for my parents for Christmas because downloading pictures off their camera seems to be a 2 man job for them… Cards get full, or forgotten and drama ensues.

So this little gadget is awesome. It transfers pictures from your camera to your computer automatically when both are in range of your home wi-fi (or a public one if you let it). No more remembering to periodically remove the card and dump the pictures. No more forgetting to put the card back in!  I bought the $49.99 4GB at BestBuy to see how it worked and if I liked it but I can definitely see me putting the 8 GB one with geo-tagging on my own Christmas list now!

Installation was pretty easy but I did have a small hiccup. You put the card in your reader and it downloads and installs software via the net. It goes through a setup process where you go through your configuration the card to your network and your uploading preferences. All of that went totally fine. Then you take the card out, put it in your camera and take a test pictures. This is where I hit a hang-up.

The pictures wouldn’t transfer back. So I called their tech-support – which I am very happy to say – was very fast, friendly, and helpful. The fellow talked to me … didn’t follow a script … he asked me what was going on and tried a few things, when that didn’t work he asked someone else there for suggestions. We tried their idea, it worked. Turns out I just needed to reboot my router. No big deal.  But seriously – as far as customer support goes – just talking to a friendly, knowledgeable, likeable person how seemed sincerely interested in helping me was awesome and set the company apart. Why is that such a shock these days? image

Anyway – once that was settled the card worked like a charm. I have a Nikon D5000, fast moving kids, a heavy shutter finger so I was concerned about cycle time on the card but the new ones all have Class 6 read/write speeds – I haven’t really had a chance to fully put it to the test in that aspect but I’m optimistic that it will be fine.

The picture management software it downloads into is highly configurable. I was glad to see I could adjust it to fit into my “system.” I have over 27,000 photos and I didn’t want to have to go re-inventing the wheel after all this time so I have the photos hitting a folder on my drive and will move, tag, sort and upload them from there in batches the way I always have.  You can have it automatically upload to Flickr and I seriously considered that but I know I’d never go back and tag if I did that and I don’t want to loose that discipline after all this time. You can also have it automatically send to Facebook, flirted with this idea to but let’s face it, as many pics as I take that would get annoying. Maybe I’ll set that up and turn it on and off depending on the event.

So that’s it – I’m officially their new fan girl.  Cool gadget, totally lived up to expectations, great customer service: What more can you ask? Did mention the iPhone App?