1. Disney Wonder Very Merrytime Cruise: The Long Journey to Galveston

    You know that saying “it never rains but it pours” – well that phrase could accurately describe the run up to our long awaited holiday where we would be travelling to Galveston in Texas to board a Very Merrytime Cruise onboard the beautiful Disney Wonder. We had all the details of our trip planned for months and everything was booked and going to plan. We were going to be flying from London to Atlanta and then picking up a car and doing a road trip to Galveston – we even had all our stops planned and hotels booked and were both looking forward to it.

    Fast forward to the beginning of October when our flights to Atlanta were cancelled which left us in a quandary as to what we were going to do. We could have flown direct to Houston which is close to Galveston but we both still wanted to do the road trip that we had been looking forward to as well as being able to tick off four new states at the same time. We considered flying into New York and catching a connecting flight to Atlanta but every time we include New York in our travel plans, it screws us over somehow. I’m not joking, every time we travel through JFK Airport, something goes wrong.

    The only other option we had was to fly to Orlando a day earlier, spend a night there before then flying up to Atlanta the following day and starting our road trip as originally planned. This seemed the best option all round and we quickly rebooked our transatlantic flights as well as booking flights on Delta from Orlando to Atlanta and then home from Atlanta to Boston before flying back to London from there. We even booked a hotel at Gatwick Airport for the night before we were due to fly so we would not have to worry about getting stuck in the infamous M25 traffic on a Monday morning.

    Fast forward to four days before we were due to travel when I had to be in New York for work for one night. There shouldn’t have been any issue as I was due to land early on the Saturday morning then I would have all day to get ready and get a good night’s sleep before a relaxed drive down to Gatwick on the Sunday afternoon. Well my flight home was cancelled – I told you JFK always ruins any plans I have! The following day, my new flight was delayed five hours. To say I was stressed when I was in New York would be an understatement – how could my holiday that we had been looking forward to for so long be going so wrong? I finally landed back in London on the Sunday afternoon so instead of my relaxed few days off before going on holiday, I had to rush home and quickly finish my packing (thankfully I had done most of my packing before going to New York and had made a list of everything else I needed to pack) before quickly having a shower and going straight to Gatwick.

    We stayed the night at the Premier Inn which is located next to the North Terminal so thankfully after a night’s sleep (and I was so tired), all we had to do was to walk across the road with our bags to get to check in. There were no lines to drop our bags and indeed no lines to even get through security so before we knew it, we were sat in Pret with a much needed cup of tea and a mozzarella croissant. Things were also getting better as we could see by looking at the airline’s app on our iPhones, that we had both been upgraded to Premium Economy which would mean extra space to stretch out on the flight to Orlando. A few minutes later, I was upgraded again to the only empty seat in Upper Class. After a little discussion, we decided that I wouldn’t turn down the upgrade as after the previous stressful few days, I was still so tired so it meant I could try and sleep on the flight. We would be together for the next two weeks so nine hours apart was no big deal.

    The flight left on time but it did feel like it took forever before we landed in Orlando as the time went by so slowly. I did not want anything to eat or drink on the flight but I also could not manage more than an hour’s sleep however much I tried – I think I was more overtired than anything. So instead, I just sat back wrapped up in a duvet watching videos on my iPad.

    As we were descending into Orlando, there was the most incredible sunset which was beautiful to watch. We arrived to an empty immigration hall and from landing to walking into our hotel room at the Hyatt in the airport terminal took less than thirty minutes which was amazing. I have never seen Orlando Airport that quiet ever in the hundreds of times I have been through there over the years. We decided to go for a swim in the hotel pool straight away which was also empty – at this point we were definitely both starting to relax as finally our trip was going to plan after everything that had gone wrong.

    As it was still early, we could not go to bed yet so we decided to just wander around the terminal before getting something to eat. I had had an idea of a silly photo I wanted to try and get of one of us holding a sign saying “Galveston” by one of the Disney Cruise Line or Magical Express buses. It was too dark outside for the photo to come out well so we found a Magical Express sign inside which worked just as well. It did get us thinking though if people have turned up in Orlando Airport to try and get Disney transportation to Texas. It would not surprise me though as nothing surprises me after working with the general public for over twenty years!

    We found a sports bar for dinner where I ordered the Tater Tots which were cheesy, messy and definitely the comfort food I was craving. On the way back to the hotel room, it was so quiet everywhere that it was the ideal time to get all the photos you’ve ever wanted with the characters outside the Disney’s EarPort store without any other people in the way. We also walked to Starbucks to get a cup of tea to drink in the room. After a long couple of days, it did not take long for either of us to fall asleep.

    Waking up the next morning felt great – I had slept well and could not wait to start our road trip to Galveston. After another cup of tea, we headed downstairs to drop our cases at the Delta check in desks for our quick flight up to Atlanta. Staying at the Hyatt inside the airport was definitely one of the best decisions we made as it just made life so simple. We had paid for Delta Comfort+ exit row seats so we qualified for Sky Priority so we were through security in no time. Having Sky Priority is also invaluable as you are one of the first groups to board so you do not have to worry about having space in the overhead lockers for your hand baggage. It was definitely money well spent.

    We departed on time and just over an hour later, we landed into a sunny Atlanta. After collecting our luggage, we used the Skytrain to get to Alamo where we collected our car. We made a quick stop at a nearby Target to grab a few essentials before starting the first leg of our road trip to Birmingham in Alabama (a new state for both of us) which including the few stops we made took just over three hours. As we stayed at the Homewood Suites in Birmingham, our room had a kitchen area so we made another quick trip to Publix to buy some food to cook for dinner as after a long day, we did not want to eat out.

    The next day was due to be one of our longest drives of the trip. The distance from Birmingham to Lafayette in Louisiana was 459 miles with a driving time of just under seven hours. We knew it was going to be a long day but we did not mind plus we got to tick off two new states off our map – Mississippi and Louisiana. As with all of our road trips, we broke the journey up into smaller sections and swapped drivers frequently which made the day go by so quickly. I really was expecting that day to be hard work but it was not in the slightest. When we arrived at our hotel in Lafayette, we were treated to the sight of the most beautiful sky.

    As we were in Louisiana, we both wanted to go out for some Cajun food. We drove the short distance to Prejeans Restaurant which had some amazing reviews on Trip Advisor. There was live music playing and the atmosphere was brilliant. For my dinner, I had the Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms to start followed by the Crawfish Enchiladas which were to absolutely die for.

    I was so excited when we woke up the next morning as the first stop of the day was the Tabasco Factory on nearby Avery Island which I had wanted to visit for a long time. We arrived at the factory just before 10:00am and we paid $5.50 each to take the self guided tour.

    I will write all about the Tabasco Factory Tour and post more photos in a future blog post.

    After leaving the Tabasco Factory and spending too much money in their gift shop (had to be done!), we started the final leg of our road trip to Galveston. Even with stopping for coffee and a much needed lunch (as we skipped breakfast), we reached the Texas state line about three hours later. After getting plenty of photos of the sign and the swamp from the observation deck at the back of the Welcome Center (whilst keeping an eye out for any snakes), we continued our drive.

    We had a choice of two different routes we could take to get to Galveston – one would take us on the Interstate close to the outskirts of Houston and the other would take us down the Bolivar Peninsula where we would catch the free ferry to Galveston Island. We had always said that we would take the ferry as we did not want to get caught up in the rush hour traffic near Houston plus it was a much prettier route to take.

    Just under two hours later, we arrived at the ferry dock and only had to wait a few minutes before they started boarding which was a case of absolutely brilliant timing. The 2.7 mile journey across the channel to Galveston Island takes 18 minutes and we were not only lucky enough to see dolphins all around us but the most beautiful sunset at the same time. Looking across the water towards the Port of Galveston was the moment where I finally relaxed after a few long days of travelling and I started to feel excited at the thought of boarding the Disney Wonder the following morning.

    We stayed the night at the new Homewood Suites which was perfect for us as after travelling for five days, it meant we had a lot of extra room to be able to empty all of our bags, do some laundry and repack properly ready for the following day. We also went to use the swimming pool but did not manage more than one toe in the water as it was not heated and the water was freezing.

    We went out to get some food and on the way stopped at the Hotel Galvez (where we had originally booked to stay in Galveston before reading some bad reviews and changing to the much better Homewood Suites) to take a photo of their Christmas tree all lit up.

    We were both feeling tired after all the travelling of the previous days so once we got back to the hotel, we finished our packing and decided to have an early night. In an ideal world, I would have liked to have an extra night in Galveston so just we could have had a chance to relax and explore before boarding our cruise. If we’d flown direct to Houston we would have been able to do that but then we would not have been able to see what we did on our road trip so I cannot complain one bit.

    Next stop – the Disney Wonder!

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