Merriam-Webster defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation. I define it as a time to get away from my normal daily grind. It’s a time to do something different. A time to allow our brains and bodies to relax and be stress-free. The problem with this is that most of us plan vacations just as busy if not more that our normal days. Whether you plan a serene beach getaway or head to an action-packed Disney destination, the one thing that should remain consistent is your daily dates with the Divine. Don’t stop having your dates just because you won’t be at your special spot. You may have to be a bit creative and your dates may look a little different, but they are still just as powerful.
Our family recently went on a Disney cruise and the struggle was real to find space and time for my daily Divine dates. An interior stateroom with four people meant the room was not an option. A balcony room would have made for a more ideal setting but we rarely get those due to cost and lack of use. The inability to find quiet space was exacerbated by the fact that there was no chapel or library on board. I did manage to find a space on deck 4 and I have some video and pics posted below.
Some things to consider when it comes to maintaining your daily Divine date schedule if you are planning to take a cruise vacation are:
- Cabin type – If you can afford the balcony stateroom, go for it. But also check out online videos of the balcony to ensure it is giving you the privacy you want.
- Deck plans – Research the deck plans to see if there is a chapel or library that may accommodate your needs.
- Stateroom bathroom – In a pinch it will work. It will be tight, but it is doable.
- Lounges – Sometimes the lounges are left open and you can go early in the morning when no on else is around.
- Outside decks – Check to see if there is a running deck or go up to the very top deck. It may be windy up top so be careful if you have a book and/or journal with you.
- Ask God – Ask God to reveal to you where He wants you to meet Him.
Stay tuned to this page as I will also be sharing some insights on my travels with kids with special needs. Both my kids are autistic and travel and new places can be difficult for them. I will share my lessons learned with you in a later post.
Disney Magic Cruise Video and Pictures
Spring Break Adventures – Auto Train, Disney, and Carnival Cruise!
Cruise prices were pretty good in 2022 and 2023. I found an amazing deal for a cruise during my kids spring break. We got a suite for 4 on a 5-day cruise for less that $1500. Now when I went to look for airfare for 4 people I almost feel out of my seat. The airfare was going to be more than the cruise! Almost double! Cruise was booked and paid for so what to do?? We didn’t want to drive from Maryland to Florida. Then I remembered the Auto Train. Amtrak has a train that leave Lorton, VA and ends up in Sanford, FL. It’s called the Auto Train because you load your car on to the train and won’t have to worry about Ubers or rental cars while on vacation. A quick check of the prices showed 4 round trip coach seats and the car ticket to be about the same as I would expect to pay for 4 roundtrip plane tickets. Price problem solved, but the Auto Train adds a lot of other nuances to your trip.
The obvious difference – the train takes A LOT longer than a plane to get to its destination. You leave Lorton around 5pm and get to Sanford about 9am. A few things to note about the Auto Train. They do have sleeping cars but I was never able to find a “family” sleeping car that would fit all 4 of us. I would have had to purchase 2 sleeping cars and that defeated the purpose of saving on the cost of the flight. I booked 4 coach seats on the lower level. This worked out great. There are only about 12 seats on the lower level because you share the space with the bathrooms. I know – EEWWW! That’s what I was thinking too, but actually there is a door that separates the seating area from the bathroom area so you don’t get the smell or foot traffic that you would expect being near the restrooms. The chairs were roomy but not super comfortable especially if you have any type of back issues. I suggest bringing pillows, blankets, tons of snacks, and a wifi hotspot if you have one. The train wifi was really spotty and frustrated to the kids as they were trying to stream their favorite shows on Disney+ and Netflix.
The only food coach passengers have access to is in the snack car. This is on the upper level and may be far away from your seats. The food is your basic microwaved burgers and hotdogs. Expensive and not very appetizing. We got to the train station super early and decided to see what was in the area. Across from the train station is a shopping center with several restaurants and an Amazon Fresh grocery store. This was a truly a blessing! We picked up food for our trip at the grocery store and ate well all the way to Florida. On the trip home we found a Winn-Dixie grocery store in Sanford that had some great options for our ride home. If you do get a sleeping car, your fare includes a dinner in the dining car.
I would highly suggest you pay extra for priority offloading of your car. Our car was one of the first 30 off. There were over 300 cars on the train! You also want to get up and get to the bathrooms to freshen up early before the rush comes. Sanford is about 45 minutes from Orlando. Our cruise left out on a Monday so we decided to take the Friday Auto Train which got us there Saturday morning. We booked a hotel for 2 nights. After we freshened up we spent the afternoon/evening at Disney Springs and went to Magic Kingdom Sunday.
This was my kids first time going to a Disney park. I had not been since the 80’s when Epcot was new and everything centered around Michael Jackson. Disney has changed a lot! Since it was spring break there were a lot of people but the weather was quite mild. There was a gentle breeze blowing often which helped. Although my son was 8 at the time we rented a double stroller from the park to help when he got tired – he has low muscle tone. It also helped to hold backpacks when we got tired of carrying them. Both of my kids are special needs and qualify for Disney’s DAS program. This allowed us to have an abbreviated wait time for rides which helped a lot. We also were able to get our stroller tagged as a wheelchair so we could push it in line on some of the rides. All very helpful! We almost made it to every area of Magic Kingdom. We will have to check out the Jungle Cruise on our next visit!
Cruise during spring break….not the best idea. Everyone had the same idea and must have gotten the same great deal. The ship was packed! We did Carnival this time since we had just been on a Disney cruise. It saved on the cost and I wanted my kids to see the difference in the cruise experience. They noticed! I can officially call them Disney cruise snobs now. They enjoyed the cruise and the destinations visited (Bahamas and the Carnival private island) but they could tell the level of service was higher and the food quality better. The Disney entertainment could not be matched with Carnival’s offerings. The kids clubs were a no go for them both. The tween didn’t even try. My son did attempt but he is not video gamer and that was really all they had to offer for his age range. They did enjoy having a balcony in the room this time, but it did not outweigh everything else.
Here are a few of my key takeaways from our spring break adventure –
- If you are going to Florida and will need a car, the Auto Train is a great option. You can pack your call full of everything you need and won’t have to worry about being overweight on you luggage or paying to check extra bags. This is especially great if you are renting a house and can cook you own meals. You can bring all your non-perishables with you in the car.
- If you are only going to do one day at Disney make sure you talk through it with the kids so they know that your time is limited and you won’t be able to do everything in one day. In hindsight I would have maybe left a day earlier so we had another park day. It takes a day just to get acclimated to how to work all the apps if it is your first time.
- Find out all the special needs offerings of your chosen vacation destinations. While I did a good job of looking up everything Disney had to offer I did not do enough research on Carnival’s special needs offerings. There were some services they could have provided had I know about them earlier. I didn’t make this mistake on our upcoming cruise to Alaska this summer on Royal Caribbean. I can’t wait to share that with you!
- As always, have fun! Things will happen that are unexpected and sometimes not favorable. Just remember the important part is that you are spending time with the people you love and care about. Make the most of your time together!