Our 2018 Brilliance of the Seas Cruise- Day 2- Key West

Price and I had been to Key West in 2013 for a day as part of our “Babymoon” in the Florida Keys when I was pregnant with Autumn, so we were really looking forward to going back to Key West. We had so much fun the first time that I was really excited that this was a port of call for us on this cruise.

The day began as it typically does with the kids getting up and politely requesting demanding breakfast. ha! Timing didn’t work well with getting ready at the same with with both kids, so we did our typical divide and conquer strategy and Price took Autumn to breakfast first, then I followed with Hunter.

Once we were all together and organized we really began our day.

The Adventure Ocean Kids Program was open starting at 9am, so we heading right up then so Autumn could have fun in Aquanauts (3-5yrs) before we went to port.

While Autumn was at Aquanauts, Hunter napped and we got ready.


As that time in Key West was limited, at least compared to some other days in a port (11.30am -5.30pm), the line to get off the ship and on to the free transportation to Mallory Square, was fairly long, but it was well organized and moved along fairly quickly.

Our first stop in the port was Cuban Coffee Queen’s waterfront location, that Price and I had been to before, and had been dreaming of ever since we had been there years prior.

The coffee is strong and the sandwiches are fantastic. We couldn’t pass up getting them while we were in Key West again. It brought back so many good memories too.

While we waited for our food, Autumn and I wandered around the shops around there.

We decided to take our sandwiches to go so that we could walk and eat, allowing us to get back to sight seeing as soon as possible.

We wove our way over to Duval Street , checking out the amazing architecture as we went. I love getting to see the details of a house, fence, gate, garden that wouldn’t be noticed if we took at trolley through the town. Granted, we are missing out on the history of some of these places that we would hear about during a guided tour. But we think it’s an okay trade off to get some miles under our feet. Helps work off the sandwiches!


Can’t resist a good pineapple spotting.

Our main destination for the day was the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.

Price and I had been there previously and we knew that Autumn would enjoy it. Plus, we would enjoy getting to go again as well.


Walking through the hot, humid conservatory makes you feel like you have been transported to a tropical jungle. It really felt like that on that day since Key West was rather cold that day too.

The butterflies fly all around you as you walk through the conservatory. They sometimes even land on you!

Autumn was doing her best impression of flamingos Rhett and Scarlett.

Price and I loved the Butterfly Conservatory again. It’s so fun getting to see all the different butterflies flying around, sitting on plants, and eating from fruit and flowers.

I think that Autumn appreciated the butterfly conservatory but her main interest was the gift shop. She picked out a big kit of butterfly and insect books, coloring books, stickers, and tattoos. It, unfortunately, also came with a big fake spider that has scared me on the cruise and at home more times than I’d like to admit.

You can’t visit Key West and not get a picture at Southern Most Point, so we headed over there after we left the Butterfly Conservatory.

It was fun to think about how the first time we were there, Price and I were starting our family, and now we are visiting again and our family is complete.

Florida. Ah, you have my heart now.


Then we headed back up Duval, working our way back up to Mallory Square.

The are times when the crowds can make the sidewalks crowded  and the pace slows way down (I do walk quickly- so this is torture!)  or just plain difficult to pass but it’s still really enjoyable to check out the shops and the beautiful architecture along they way

Stopping at Rum Bar was another must do for us.

We went last time,but I was unable to drink as I was pregnant at the time. But nothing was holding me back this time!!!!

We sat outside on the beautiful wrap around porch, I ordered a big, glorious mojito, drank half and then Autumn knocked it over. #kids

Since I basically forgot to pack Hunter pajamas for the cruise, we ran into the Gap on Duval Street. And then we made another quick stop into Walgreen’s before we headed to Key West Key Lime Pie Co. on Green Street. Getting a slice of Key Lime Pie on a stick was a must do for us.

The Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick was perfect!

Only then, were we able to happily head back to the trolley to take us to the ship.

The lines to get back on the ship were a bit crazy, but we happened to hop over into a line that was near empty. We think that most people thought it was a staff line since it was so empty, but our risk of getting redirected to back where we were paid off.

Bye Key West!!!!!


The kids were hungry when we got back to the ship, but the Windjammer was not yet open (opened at 6pm), so I headed over to Park Cafe to grab a soup and some fruit to carry them over until it opened.

By 7pm, the kids were fed, cleaned up, and ready to go to Adventure Ocean.

Price and I then got ready for our own dinner in Minstrel Dining Room at 7.45. It was great to have some time to ourselves without having the kids interrupt our meal. It felt just like a Date Night!!

Our sweet room steward made a sting ray beach towel for us. Autumn got a real kick out of it.

We all got ready for bed and crashed. It was a long, fun, extra delicious day. Thank goodness we walked all those miles!





Hanging Out with Manatees – Manatee Viewing Center

Manatee. Sea Cow. Floating Couch Cushion. Gary.

No matter what you call them, manatees are pretty cool.

We are pretty lucky that we live less than a 5 minute drive to the Manatee Viewing Center, run by Tampa Electric,  in Apollo Beach, Florida. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Tampa, so it’s a great place to visit if you are visiting the Tampa Bay area.

We stop by often as it’s so close and admission is FREE. Can’t beat a fun, educational, attraction that is so close to home.

The Manatee Viewing Center is open from November 1st to April 15 for viewing of Florida Manatees and Stingrays. We go so often to check out the manatees and to visit the touch tank. Autumn loves getting to touch the rays. Or at least dip her hand in and yank it out just before touching them, squealing with delight.

While we don’t love having a view of the 3 stacks of the Big Bend Power Station from two of the second floor rooms in our house, we do enjoy this perk of it. (At least it’s a very clean Power Station, and the largest solar array in Tampa Bay is located down the road. The Big Bend Solar Power Station has over 200,000 solar panels, powering 3,200 homes.)

The Big Bend Power Station is a coal-fire power plant that attracts large numbers of manatees in the cooler months, as they are looking for warm water. The power plant discharges clean, warm water that has cooled Unit 4 in the power plant, that the manatees use to stay warm. Once the waters in Tampa Bay hit 68F, they head up the discharge channel to relax in the waters that are in the 80’s.

It is a federal offense to feed the manatees so they just come for the warmth, before heading out into the Bay for vegetation again.

You can view these manatees by walking along the platforms that take you out, over the waters of the canal. The discharge canal is a state and federally designated manatee sanctuary that helps protect the gentle, slow animals that seek refuge from the cold winter waters.

You can also view them from the Tidal Walk. The 900-foot long walkway is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail takes you out, along the canal. You can view the manatees coming and going up the canal from this vantage point.

There is so much to learn about the Florida Manatees that live off the coasts. The Education Center on the 2nd floor of the Viewing Center is for for kids of all ages. You learn about the local manatees and how the power plant runs and attracts them. Exhibits feature manatee bones, games, and interactive displays.

Adjacent to the Education Center is the Gift Shop.

You can’t pet the manatees, but you can touch stingrays in the tank that is located on the ground floor of the Viewing Center.

The Stingrays reside at the Viewing Center during baseball’s off season, when they move to the touch tank at Tropicana ballpark to hang out with the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

The stingrays are pretty social as they come up along the sides and flip their wings (is that what you wall them?!) and splashing water. You can gently touch them, but be sure to follow the directions to properly do it to keep them safe and happy.

After we stop by the touch tank, we always swing by the butterfly garden. There, we get to look at the beautiful flowers and the butterflies that are in various stages of development in an open air cage.


I am pretty strict about not buying stuff at a gift shop, but I couldn’t resist getting a wax figurine that is made right in front of you for just $3 during one of our recent visits. We now have the dolphin, but will have to get the manatee in the future.

Before you leave, take some time to walk the trails that originate from the Viewing Center.

You will enjoy getting to hear and feel the One of the trails leads you to a wildlife observation tower that gives you great views from 50′ up.

We really enjoy getting to say ‘hi’ to Florida Manatees, I bet you will too.


Manatee Viewing Center

Apollo Beach, FL

Nov 1- April 15. 10am-5pm

Admission: FREE



Our 2018 Brilliance of the Seas Cruise- Day 1: Embark

Woohoo!!! Cruise Day!!!!

The day is finally here!!! We’ve been looking forward to going on our Royal Caribbean cruise since we booked it in October. We were counting down the days!

We were so ready for the day to come.

Except we forgot to buy our wine (2 750ml bottles per cabin) that we can bring on the ship, so I had my dad stop on the way over to get us wine. (And then I also made them go to the post office for me while I was gone since I am on top of things- not!)

We dropped the dogs off for boarding at Tampa Bay K9 Solutions on our way to the port. It was tough leaving them for the week, but we knew they were in good hands.

The check in process was fairly quick and painless with fast moving lines and friendly port agents. Hunter even fell asleep on my in the carrier. It made for a funny ID photo of half his face and most of my boobs. At least it gave everyone a laugh every time we had to scan his ID.

Made it through check in and before we knew it, we were on our way to board the ship!


As rooms are not ready until 1pm, we went directly to the Windjammer for lunch with our stuff.

It was difficult to find an available table but 2 really nice women let us crash their table and then we were ready to dig in.

After lunch we went to our stateroom (#8500) to get settled.

With it being flu season, and there being recent Niro-Virus outbreaks on cruises, we brought cleaning supplies on the cruise and gave everything a good wipe down. Impressively, every wipe was still white after using it. I wish my house was that clean.

Besides that, we unpacked our bags and put all our stuff away.

Don’t we all attend our Muster Station Drills in the theater in our bathing suits and sunglasses?

You certainly can’t tell a determined 4 year old who is in V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N that she can’t go in the pool, even if it is cold.

Tampa was pretty chilly (upper 60’s) that day, so Autumn got a big cheer from the people around the pool when she jumped.


Price’s favorite cruise drink is a Miami Vice (half pina coloda, half strawberry daiquiri) so that was his first drink on the cruise, while I enjoyed a Pina Colada. The best way of kicking off vacation!

Autumn didn’t last long in the pool, but that didn’t seem to bother her as she was then able to enjoy a Virgin Pina Colada.


And then we were on our way!

Our stateroom was located right at the bow so we had the most amazing view of our journey from port to port.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that you could reserve your time for dinner online so I never did that for our “My Time Dining” dinners, which apparently a lot of people did not. We got to the Mistral Dining Room (MDR) right when it opened, but it was packed, and there was no availability until 7.45. So we snagged that time for the rest of the cruise and made our way to the Windjammer for our dinner.

While it was a bummer to not get dinner in the MDR, it was still great to not have to do dishes and enjoy a good meal with my family.

The exciting first day of our cruise really wore Autumn out and before we knew it bedtime was upon on us!




Celebrating the Holidays at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

We had such a blast during out visit to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween (even with getting poured on!), that I was trilled when the opportunity to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party arose. I was so eager to check out the Magic Kingdom all decked out in it’s Christmas best.

And the timing could not be better, as we went the night before Autumn’s 4th birthday, so she thought we were the best parents ever taking her to Disney World for her birthday. Sure! Unlike last time’s surprise, we warned her this time that we were going, so she told everyone within shouting distance that she was going to Disney as well for the week leading up to it. Repeatedly.

Thankfully we made good time and only had to hear ‘are we there yet’ 1,000 times and not a 1,000,000! ha!  But, of course, she started to scream with excitement in the car once she saw the Mickey Pylon that is visible at the exit you take for Celebration on I-4.  ‘I SEE MICKEY!!!!!!!!”



Before we knew it we were on the ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

One of the Captains gave her a sticker and called her a princess. Stuff like that is just so awesome.

And then heading into the park for an awesome time!!!!

I just can’t get over the charm that is all over the park. From the moment you get to the entrance you are welcomed with holiday decor. Main Street USA is heavily decorated for the holiday season with candy canes, wreathes, ornaments, soldiers

We arrived when they were doing the Flag Retreat service, which was really cool to see. Especially since it was the first time Autumn had seen anything like that. She stood there quietly, watching the service with her hand over her heart.

We are counting down ’till Christmas. Are you?!

There is a perfect photo opportunity by City Hall that everyone should check out.


And of course you can’t pass up the chance to take a selfie in front of the castle!

One of the best things about these parties is that the lines for the rides virtually disappear and you are able to get on the rides almost instantly. Autumn and I went on The Little Mermaid ride, which is a favorite of ours, just by walking right in. No line, no wait! Then Price and Autumn went on the Aladdin ride and then on the It’s a Small World ride.


While we were by the Aladdin ride, we bought Dole Whips!! Actually, we got a Dole Float, which is the pineapple whip topped cup of pineapple juice, and a *new* Pineapple Upside Down Cake that is topped with Dole Whip.  Both amazing and give life meaning.

Yeah, we like Dole Whips that much…


Autumn isn’t such a big fan of cold treats so she didn’t like the Dole Whip that much (fine, more for me!!!!), but she was thrilled about getting cookies and drinks around the park at the various locations where they have blow up candy stick markers.

There are 6 locations for these treats throughout the park. We only stopped at a few but they were all yummy.

Even more thrilling was telling us that she wasn’t sharing as she jammed the cookies into her mouth. It was all for drama as we all had our own cookies and she does share well but she just loves to say she isn’t sharing, esp when it comes to food. She is like Joey from Friends.

While the Dole Whip treats and holiday treats were enjoyable, they were not very filling, so we decided to stop for a bit to enjoy some food and drinks. We wanted it to be quick and affordable so Price and I split an order of beef nachos ($12.49) from Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café in Frontierland. I trashed them up by covering them with just about every topping at the toppings bar to make them even more filling and delicious.

While we gobbled them up we watched the clock in hopes of getting to the 7.40pm show time for Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration (7.40, 9.25, 10.30, 11.55pm)at the Castle Forecourt Stage. We missed the first few minutes of it, but Price and Autumn still snuck in on the side and had a great view on all the dancing.


After that, we hung around so that Autumn could see the gang from Frozen in the A Frozen Holiday Wish show (8.15pm).  Since this is the only showing of this show I suggest making this a priority of the night, especially if you kids like the Frozen movie.

Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Olaf come for a visit and has a  gift to the kingdom, Elsa transform the castle into a icy winter palace with her powers. It’s really pretty awesome.

Autumn was in complete awe!

There was some chanting as part of the Frozen show and she even participated, which she hardly ever does so she was really into it.


Soon after the Frozen show was the Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (8.30 and 11.00pm). The parade winds through Adventureland, then Liberty Square, in front of the Castle, and then down Main Street USA. That’s a lot of fun Christmas music, waving, and dancing!

Since having a good spot for the Frozen show was our priority, we didn’t have great spot for a parade, but with Autumn on Price’s shoulders, she still got to see her favorite princesses, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Olaf,

It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride down Main Street, U.S.A. in “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.” Santa Claus, gingerbread men, elves, reindeer and other friends from the North Pole join Mickey and his pals for the happiest holiday parade.

Since we missed the start of the Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, Price and Autumn caught the 9.25 showing while I browsed the shops. Basically I want everything from Pandora to make a Little Mermaid bracelet. #disneygoals

Then we met up for Autumn to do some birthday shopping before we left to head home.

We didn’t plan on staying late enough to see the Holiday Wishes Fireworks that start at 10pm, but we were having such a wonderful time that we caught some of the fireworks that light up the skies above Cinderella Castle timed with holiday music as we were waiting for the ferry ride back to the parking lot.

Unfortunately, we had missing packing up a key piece in our stroller set up that allows the use of the 2nd seat. So, again, we were piggy backing Autumn across the parking lot. But this time, she was not freaking out with excitement, but was utterly exhausted. And so were we.

Our shoulders and backs were killing us the next day but it was all worth it.

Mickey certainly knows how to throw a Merry Celebration!!!


Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party runs through December 22nd

Tickets are available select nights, making the park close earlier than normal for this ‘private’ event. You do not need to purchase general admission to the park to attend this event.  Tickets start at $89.00

You can purchase tickets HERE.


While I was invited to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party with my family for free, all opinions are my own.


Having fun at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2017

I still can’t believe that it is September! The year has sped by and that just means that the holidays will be around the corner before we know it.

I love living here in Florida but I have to admit that I do miss the fall season in New England. The cool mornings are refreshing, the color changing leaves are stunningly beautiful, and the decor is spot on. At least we can enjoy the decor here.


In fact, one morning while I was watching the local news, I learned that Walt Disney World had just decorated for fall. They brought in trucks of decorations and decorated the area called Main Street, U.S.A in the Magic Kingdom over night. It’s like magical elves bring fall right into Florida for everyone to enjoy. I immediately texted Price saying “Disney has Mickey Pumpkins!!! EEEEEEEE!!!!” I was pretty excited. I’m sure he rolled his eyes at that one.

I was extra super excited when an invite to attend the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, a seasonal event at the Walt Disney World Resort, popped up in my inbox. OMG!

They close the park early for this after-hours ticketed event that takes place at Magic Kingdom Park from 7 p.m. to midnight. It’s a limited-ticketed event so the crowds are smaller than normal park hours for a more intimate feel. An added plus is that the lines for the rides are super short too!

We decided that we wouldn’t tell Autumn where we were going so that she would be surprised when we pulled up. Plus then we wouldn’t be subjected to her talking non-stop about going to Disney the whole car ride, only have to hear her ask when we would arrive 100x in the 90 minute car ride.

As soon as she saw the entrance into Magic Kingdom parking she understood where we were and got really excited. The excitement was even more elevated when we took out a new Elena of Avalor costume out for her to wear. ($19 at Costco!!)

Once we were cleared through security the fun started happening!

I was loving all the decorations and Autumn loved every bit of everything since there was so much to see and do. She wanted to run off immediately to check out rides, but we decided that taking our time and enjoying some dinner from Casey’s Corner would be best, so we could focus on rides without being hungry/hangry. Hot dogs for everyone!

Once we were done with dinner, we were ready for the real fun to begin!

Price and Autumn took a ride on Dumbo while I hung out with Hunter. I could have taken a ride with her next on Dumbo but we decided to move on to take a trip under the sea to visit Ariel. There were hardly any lines for either of these rides as the visitors to the park at this time were just people for the special event.


As well, we did a bit of trick or treating, which Autumn loved. She was so into her treats, especially the “fruit M&M’s”… skittles. ha!


It was coming up on 8pm at this time and we were thinking that a show would be fun to check out. We headed over to the castle to see the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular”. Knowing that it would probably be too loud for Hunter, I decided to head over to Adventureland so that we could meet at Aloha Isle for some Dole Whips.

A short time later, I started to see people scurrying around and I knew instantly that it was rain. I quickly packed up our stuff and Hunter from under our covered seating and started to head back towards the castle, hoping to meet Price and Autumn before it really started to rain. I made it about 150 feet before it was raining buckets!!

Thankfully, I found a spot under an awning in front of Frontierland’s Frontier Trading Post to camp out and wait for the rain to stop. And before I knew it, Price and Autumn were there as Price and Autumn took off running as the first drops fell and were able to hop from covered awning to covered awning in Frontierland. Unfortunately, they only got through 1 song of the performance before it was shut down from the rain.

While we waited out the rain, Price ran over to get us some Dole Whips. They certainly helped pass the time, as it poured and poured. After awhile, the rain lessened so we decided to head back towards Main Street USA to be able to get a spot for the “Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade”. Ultimately, we decided that since we were all a bit wet already and it was still drizzling that we would heave home.


To make up for the fact that our night was cut short, we treated Autumn to a fun gift from a shop. While I browsed Halloween related gear, she picked out some Elena of Avalor figurines.

A boat ride back to the parking lot and we were all set for our travels back home.

While the night didn’t work out as planned, we all had a blast. I am looking forward to checking it out again next year. Then Hunter can join in with some trick-or-treating as well!


You can purchase tickets HERE. Event runs through November 10th.

Can’t make it? Then check out a live stream of the Mickey’s Boo-To-You Parade


A big thanks to Disney World for the invite for us to experience the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party as a family. I was not compensated to write this post, all opinions are my own.