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If you miss us, you can still find some of us online. Sara started a new blog at DisneyParkPrincess.com -- I strongly urge you to visit and get on her mailing list. She IS the Disney park princess and knows Disney backward and forward. And I am blogging as well at JenniferMaker.com, which is a little craft blog I started a couple of years ago to make ends meet. You can see and hear me in my craft show at https://www.youtube.com/c/jennifermaker . Many PassPorter readers and fans are on Facebook, in groups they formed like the PassPorter Trip Reports and PassPorter Crafting Challenge (if you join, just let them know you read about it in the newsletter). And some of our most devoted community members started a forum of their own at Pixie Dust Lane and all are invited over.

So we encourage you to stay in touch with us and your fellow community members wherever works best for you!

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Old 12-02-2015, 11:01 AM   #1
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Turning 40 In Style!

Hi everyone! Long time no see! Well, I've seen you all and have been reading many of your TR's, even if it doesn't SEEM like it. Life has been crazy over here, and there hasn't been much exciting travel to speak of this year - just little jaunts to familiar haunts.

Finally, though, I have a trip worth doing a PTR / TR about! Typically at Christmastime, life is insanely busy. We have pageants and church services and volunteering and more church services and more volunteering, and then add in that the week of Christmas is one of the busiest weeks ever at our BBQ restaurant... well... it's just not a very restful week whatsoever.

Then comes Christmas Day, with an early wake-up, presents to open, breakfast to prepare, then maybe an hour of rest before the hustle and bustle of cleaning and preparing a large meal for family, who arrives and then there's more hustle and bustle and presents and visiting... and then cleaning up afterwards... by the time we collapse on the couch, it's nearly bedtime!

Don't mistake me, I love the holidays and the hustle and bustle is expected, and not always dreaded! BUT... Christmas Day is also my birthday. Most years I don't mind in the least being busy and seeing family and friends and the like. But this year... this year I turn 40. So it's special. A milestone. I'm not at all dreading 40. In fact, I think my 40's will be awesome. But. This year, I wanted to get away from it all. All of the expectations. All of the work. All of the stress and cleaning and cooking. This year I wanted to get far, far away.

I told mom last year, and she agreed that she would be on board (har har) with going on vacation over Christmas this one year. And you know that Meri is ALWAYS up for a trip.

Then I started looking at trips. I have very limited vacation time, so I didn't want to have to travel very far. I definitely wasn't flying standby at the holidays - that's a fast way to celebrate Christmas at an airport gate. After much research, I, unsurprisingly, settled on a cruise. But then... where to? Definitely the Caribbean, because I wanted warmth. My parameters were that it had to be the week of Christmas, and it had to dock on the 27th, not the 26th. I didn't want to spend half of Christmas packing up stuff. I wanted to enjoy the day in full, and then have another full vacation day before heading home.

Up Next: Where are we sailing?
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My Countdown Counting down to: My 40th Birthday Celebration
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My Previous TripsMay 2016 - RCCL Baltic Cruise * Dec 2015 - Carnival Dream Caribbean Cruise (My 40th) * Mar 2015 - EPCOT Day * Nov 2014 - Carnival Elation Caribbean Cruise (Mom's 75th) * Feb 2014 - CBR / Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise (Meri's 8th) * June 2013 - Disneyland Paris * May 2013 - Disney Magic Transatlantic Cruise * Oct 2012 - Disneyland * Sept 2012 - Port Orleans Riverside (Royal Room) * Feb 2012 - Boardwalk Villas / Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) (Crissy's Bachelorette) * Oct 2011 - Port Orleans Riverside / Bonnet Creek * Feb 2011 - Caribbean Beach Resort (Pirate Room) / Animal Kingdom Lodge (Meri's 5th) * Nov 2009 - Port Orleans French Quarter (Mom's 70th) * Feb 2009 - Coronado Springs (Meri's 3rd) * Feb 2008 - Port Orleans Riverside (Meri's 2nd) * Sept 2006 - Boardwalk Inn * Prior to 2006 - Too many visits to count...
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:29 PM   #2
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Great start, Mel, and it sounds like you are going to be celebrating 40 in style!
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Old 12-02-2015, 12:56 PM   #3
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Great start! It sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate your 40th - I spent mine on the Fantasy and loved that.
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:00 PM   #4
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Good for you. looking forward to the next chapter
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Old 12-02-2015, 02:42 PM   #5
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Great start! And an Early Happy Birthday!
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Old 12-02-2015, 03:14 PM   #6
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Thanks, all! You know I'm not good at dragging things out - I'm way too impatient, and I am so excited to talk about this, now that it's finally close and I've got a little bit of time to actually do a PTR!

So now that I'd narrowed it down to a Caribbean cruise, and chosen dates, I had to figure out WHICH cruise to take. Most of the cruises I looked at (the ones in my price range) were from the 19-26. After much surfing, I narrowed it down to an NCL ship out of New Orleans - the Norwegian Dawn. I could get a nice outside (window) cabin with three new ports - Belize, Roatan (Honduras), and Costa Maya (Mexico), along with Cozumel (which I think I've been to five times or so at this point).

We booked the cruise in March, and, as we didn't have much else to do at that point, we promptly put it to the back of our mind for a while.

Then, two months ago, just before the due date (because you KNOW I am prone to tweaking as we count down to a vacation), I started looking around to see if anything else had opened up or come down in price. I really, really wanted a balcony cabin for this cruise, but the NCL ones were all booked solid. So... I started poking around other cruise line sites, too.

I found a fabulous deal on the Carnival Dream - a balcony cabin on Deck 11, for less than the outside cabin on NCL. The Dream was also a little larger, and had more on-board options as far as things to do, including 3 big water slides, plus kiddie slides and a much larger kids club area. The itinerary was nearly identical, except instead of a stop at Costa Maya, we have an additional day at sea. For those of you that know me, you know that I LOVE at-sea days, so this was a bonus for me!

I know Carnival is considered the "Walmart" of cruise lines, but I have to be honest, we took a cruise on the Elation last year, and it really was fine. A little louder than I'd probably like while on deck, what with all the parties and things, but... service was fine, and I'm genuinely not too picky as long as I get adequate service and good food, and plenty of relaxation on the deck.

Before I committed, I re-read my TR from the Carnival Elation, to make sure I had found nothing unacceptable... and then I booked the Dream and canceled the Dawn. Hello balcony cabin!!!

So. Now, we have the following rough itinerary:

Friday, December 18 - Depart at around 6:30pm and drive to probably somewhere south of Jackson, MS.
Saturday, December 19 - Finish the drive to New Orleans and check in to our hotel.
Sunday, December 20 - Board the Carnival Dream.
Monday, December 21 - At Sea
Tuesday, December 22 - At Sea
Wednesday, December 23 - Roatan, Honduras
Thursday, December 24 - Belize
Friday, December 25 - Cozumel
Saturday, December 26 - At Sea
Sunday, December 27 - Back to reality... lunch in New Orleans, then drive home

We chose the 6pm dinner time, because we all prefer an early dinner. We often skip the shows in favor of relaxing in our cabin with a book, but this time I'll at least try to remember to catch them on the stateroom tv. It's hard work to lay on deck all day, drinking FAB's and napping and reading in the sun.

I booked two excursions today, so I'll get to that in the next update.

Up Next: Excursions and ship details
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My Countdown Counting down to: My 40th Birthday Celebration
Cruisin'!!!
My Previous TripsMay 2016 - RCCL Baltic Cruise * Dec 2015 - Carnival Dream Caribbean Cruise (My 40th) * Mar 2015 - EPCOT Day * Nov 2014 - Carnival Elation Caribbean Cruise (Mom's 75th) * Feb 2014 - CBR / Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise (Meri's 8th) * June 2013 - Disneyland Paris * May 2013 - Disney Magic Transatlantic Cruise * Oct 2012 - Disneyland * Sept 2012 - Port Orleans Riverside (Royal Room) * Feb 2012 - Boardwalk Villas / Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) (Crissy's Bachelorette) * Oct 2011 - Port Orleans Riverside / Bonnet Creek * Feb 2011 - Caribbean Beach Resort (Pirate Room) / Animal Kingdom Lodge (Meri's 5th) * Nov 2009 - Port Orleans French Quarter (Mom's 70th) * Feb 2009 - Coronado Springs (Meri's 3rd) * Feb 2008 - Port Orleans Riverside (Meri's 2nd) * Sept 2006 - Boardwalk Inn * Prior to 2006 - Too many visits to count...
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Old 12-02-2015, 03:19 PM   #7
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Your itinerary sounds fabulous and intriguing too, as there are ports of call in there I've never heard of. I am very excited to read this trip report!
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My Previous Trips21 trips to WDW, 6 to Disneyland in California, 9 to Disneyland Paris, 1 to Hong Kong Disneyland, 1 to Tokyo Disney, 1 to Aulani, 1 to Hilton Head, 2 to Vero Beach and 13 Disney cruises on the Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy
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Old 12-02-2015, 03:44 PM   #8
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What a great way to celebrate your 40's!

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I know Carnival is considered the "Walmart" of cruise lines
This was funny!

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Old 12-02-2015, 06:12 PM   #9
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These plans sound lovely. We've sailed over Christmas before and it is so much fun. I have a friend who went on what I believe this very same cruise. I know it was on the Carnival Dream from NO. She loved it and said it was quite nice. She has also sailed Disney and RCI, so definitely has comparisons to make. You will have a wonderful cruise, I am sure. Enjoy!!
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Old 12-02-2015, 08:51 PM   #10
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Great way to celebrate a big birthday! I did the same for my 40th, and will be doing it again this summer for my.....gulp.....50th.
Not sure I've seen much about Roatan, so look forward to that port. Costa Maya is a made up port, built by the cruise industry, so you aren't really missing much there, imho.
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Old 12-03-2015, 07:17 AM   #11
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Great start Melanie!
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Old 12-03-2015, 08:55 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cam22 View Post
Great start, Mel, and it sounds like you are going to be celebrating 40 in style!
Thanks! I figured this year, why not?

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Originally Posted by chezp View Post
Great start! It sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate your 40th - I spent mine on the Fantasy and loved that.
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Originally Posted by chezp View Post
Your itinerary sounds fabulous and intriguing too, as there are ports of call in there I've never heard of. I am very excited to read this trip report!
One of the biggest attractions to me was the fact that it was two new ports that I was wholly unfamiliar with. Cozumel is Cozumel. If you've been on any western Caribbean cruise, you've been there, lol! But the other two are so interesting!

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Originally Posted by jimmymac View Post
Good for you. looking forward to the next chapter
Thanks!

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Originally Posted by Hugmonster View Post
Great start! And an Early Happy Birthday!
Thank you!

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Originally Posted by MayraLR View Post
What a great way to celebrate your 40's! This was funny!
It's unfortunately kind of true. Having been on a number of different lines, I'd probably agree. That being said, I've been on Carnival three times now, and I've never been unhappy at all.

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Originally Posted by Pris View Post
These plans sound lovely. We've sailed over Christmas before and it is so much fun. I have a friend who went on what I believe this very same cruise. I know it was on the Carnival Dream from NO. She loved it and said it was quite nice. She has also sailed Disney and RCI, so definitely has comparisons to make. You will have a wonderful cruise, I am sure. Enjoy!!
I am really excited to cruise over Christmas. It's a first (and likely a last, lol), and I think it will be really a different and cool experience. Great to hear a good review from someone I know (well, a friend of someone I know, lol)!

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Originally Posted by cubfancolleen View Post
Great way to celebrate a big birthday! I did the same for my 40th, and will be doing it again this summer for my.....gulp.....50th.
Not sure I've seen much about Roatan, so look forward to that port. Costa Maya is a made up port, built by the cruise industry, so you aren't really missing much there, imho.
No way are you turning 50 next summer. I refuse to believe it. I did read that Costa Maya is a port just built for the cruise industry... if we stopped there we were likely going to stay on board, to be honest.

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Originally Posted by Colexis Mom View Post
Great start Melanie!
Hey there! Thanks!!
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My Countdown Counting down to: My 40th Birthday Celebration
Cruisin'!!!
My Previous TripsMay 2016 - RCCL Baltic Cruise * Dec 2015 - Carnival Dream Caribbean Cruise (My 40th) * Mar 2015 - EPCOT Day * Nov 2014 - Carnival Elation Caribbean Cruise (Mom's 75th) * Feb 2014 - CBR / Disney Dream Bahamas Cruise (Meri's 8th) * June 2013 - Disneyland Paris * May 2013 - Disney Magic Transatlantic Cruise * Oct 2012 - Disneyland * Sept 2012 - Port Orleans Riverside (Royal Room) * Feb 2012 - Boardwalk Villas / Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) (Crissy's Bachelorette) * Oct 2011 - Port Orleans Riverside / Bonnet Creek * Feb 2011 - Caribbean Beach Resort (Pirate Room) / Animal Kingdom Lodge (Meri's 5th) * Nov 2009 - Port Orleans French Quarter (Mom's 70th) * Feb 2009 - Coronado Springs (Meri's 3rd) * Feb 2008 - Port Orleans Riverside (Meri's 2nd) * Sept 2006 - Boardwalk Inn * Prior to 2006 - Too many visits to count...
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Old 12-03-2015, 09:22 AM   #13
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Ok so let's see, where was I... oh yes, shore excursions and ship details! I actually just booked our excursions yesterday! It was a hard decision as there were some really neat ones available.

First, in Roatan... we are going to ride horses on the beach! I cannot wait! Here's the description:

Take an off road trail ride into the Caribbean Sea on your beautiful horse. Take a short drive to the beach where your hostess greets and briefs you on the facilities and safety. These are sturdy, good-natured animals with a steady gait. Familiar with the route, these horses will immediately put you at ease. The ride begins on an off-road trail from which the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea comes into view. When you reach the end of the trail, ride your horse right into the waters of the Caribbean Sea. The horses love a refreshing dip in the sea and you will love the thrill of the experience. After the horseback riding, enjoy two hours of relaxing on a lounge chair and experience one of the best (and private) Caribbean beaches on the island.

I've read the reviews, and every single one raves about this excursion. The only complaint? It's too short. LOL! I think that can be said for most awesome excursions, though - and vacations in general. I've read that the guides are amazing, the horses are well cared for and very gentle, and the beach is beautiful. I'm super excited for this one, as I've always wanted to ride horses on the beach, and in the water!!

In Cozumel, I really wanted to do something special, as we are there on Christmas Day (aka my birthday, lol). Well, what could be more awesome than swimming with dolphins???

The most amazing experience with the thrilling “Dolphin Boogie Board Push” at Cozumel's only certified Dolphin Beach Park! Accredited by the US based Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums. Visit Cozumel's world famous Chankanaab Park, the most recommended attraction, full of adventure and fun for the whole Day!

Meet your new Dolphin friend at the crystal clear ocean water of Cozumel at this amazing excursion! Get to know your Dolphin pal, as our Trainers are certified to share with you details of the anatomy and physiology of these amazing marine mammals, while you pose for the world famous Dolphin Kiss is next and then for more fun and excitement you'll head into deeper waters to ride a Boogie Board as your powerful Dolphin pushes you across the surface; the excitement doesn’t ends here, as next your Dolphin flips belly side up for the Belly Ride and pulls you across ocean with the pectoral fins, but that is not all, you’ll have the opportunity to perform other activities with them during the interaction, watch them performing high jumps, singing and dancing for you.

From the Dolphin Discovery area, head to the Sea Lion Show, included for Carnival guests, where you and other Cruise guests laugh out loud as you watch the hilarious antics of the sea lions during the 20-minute show.

Your Lunch is included on this excursion at Dolphin Discovery’s brand new Restaurant, your time is then to enjoy a delicious Mexican and international buffet with non- alcoholic drinks, which gives you the energy to freely explore the wonders of Chankanaab Beach Park. Bring your gear, or rent on-site, as snorkeling at the colorful reef. Walk around to discover all that Chankanaab has to offer, such as the beautiful beach area, the archaeological replica area, including a real Mayan village. You will have many photo opportunities at Chankanaab Lagoon a real natural aquarium, filled with tropical fish or at the botanical gardens and Tequila Village, or simply take a cool dip in the pool


Now, I will be the first to admit, the writing in that description is horrifically poor (I was tempted to fix it, but I figure I'll leave it as is for you). Regardless of the crappy writing, the experience itself will be fun! I've done this before in other ports, a long time ago, and it will be a great time. I cannot wait to see Meri's face, lol!

The only negative review point I've read is that afterwards, they sell you the CD of your photos (that they take) at an astronomical price. That said, I fully expect it, and already have it budgeted to purchase. *shrug*

We looked into doing an excursion in Belize, but the ones we wanted to do (cave tubing) were 60-90 minutes away via bus. I just really do not want to sit on a bus for up to 90 minutes each way, to then hike to the river, tube, then carry my tube for another 20 minutes (with my kid undoubtedly whining about carrying her own tube) on a hike back.

So, I honestly have no idea what we are going to do in Belize as of now. There are a couple of generic beach excursions we might do. I've never been there before so I definitely want do get off of the ship and do SOMETHING, and see the city some. Maybe a city tour followed by the beach. I think that one will be decided once on-board. Maybe the excursion desk people will have some thoughts or opinions to share.

Ok, so that's the excursions... I've got to go get some work done, so I'm going to leave the ship details for this afternoon's update!

Up Next: Ship Details
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Old 12-03-2015, 11:29 AM   #14
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Hi! Just found your PTR. Good for you celebrating your birthday in a special way! I feel for you as I'm a December 30th baby, so it always just gets lost between Xmas & New Years. Next year is my 50th & I've already told my husband that I want to be somewhere warm when I turn 50 (we live in Buffalo, NY)!

I've done the dolphin swim with my kids at Chakanaab a few years ago. We all enjoyed it. And yes, we bought the pictures!

Can't wait to read more.

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Old 12-03-2015, 12:13 PM   #15
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The excursions you've picked so far sound wonderful.
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