Skipping the turkey and heading for the ocean!

Thanksgiving rolled around a few weeks ago, so that meant it was time to pack up the van and hit the road! The cast of characters on this long weekend getaway was the fam plus my nieces, mom, and stepdad. Seven people smooshed into a Toyota mini-van for an eight-hour drive. When two of the seven are teenagers, that meant some snoring from the back and a little peace and quiet for the rest of us, lol. We chose to drive out before the Thanksgiving traffic rush hit, which made a huge difference.

Our destination this year was Hilton Head Island in South Carolina again, as it has come to be a favorite place to spend the holiday kick-off weekend. We stayed at Disney’s Hilton Head Island resort as we’ve done in the past and loved it, despite not being able to get a room for the first night of the trip. The Best Western Ocean Breeze Inn was our home for the first night and likely won’t be our resting point in the future. Nothing major was wrong with it, other than it had a motel layout and definitely wasn’t Disney. A benefit of that property was that it was reasonably close to Coligny Beach Park, a great place to go out to the beach itself through a public beach access. It had nice swings and a welcoming vibe, even though it was freezing cold that day.

Spanish Moss and Oak Trees

Beautiful old oak trees with Spanish moss shining in the sun

I love the old Oak trees that cover Hilton Head Island, with Spanish moss dangling from the branches. One of my favorite things to photograph while visiting. I think that’s part of what makes Hilton Head so unique… you have the beach but you also have the Southern woodsy comfort just steps from the sand. Love it!

After we moved over to Disney’s Hilton Head Island resort, we checked in to our lovely two-bedroom villa. The touches that Disney adds to its rooms in all of its resorts is truly amazing. There was a bench in the entryway of the villa and, upon further examination, we saw two sets of carvings. The first was a ‘W.D’ for Walt Disney, of course, and the second was a Minnie and Mickey heart. How cute!

Minnie and Mickey heart

Mickey and Minnie were here!

It’s the little things that make the difference. We enjoyed some storytelling, making tie-dye shirts, hanging out at the Beach House, collecting shells, watching a mermaid on the beach (um…yeah. Even I can’t fully explain that one), and meeting Shadow!

Shadow at Disney's Hilton Head Island resort

Meeting Shadow is always a treat!

Dinner at the Salty Dog Cafe for Thanksgiving, The Black Marlin on our last night, and Italian delivery from Giuseppi’s all hit the spot. Of course, breakfast each day was filled with the classic Mickey waffles!

Whether you pack up the fam for a getaway over the holidays or hang close to home, remember to enjoy your time together!

Until next time!

Amber

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Sailing on the World’s Largest Cruise Ship

In mid-November, I was able to enjoy the inaugural cruise of Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas to the Bahamas as a part of a media and travel industry sailing. The Symphony is billed as the the “World’s Largest Cruise Ship” and, after touring it over my two-night cruise, I agree that title is accurate. With 18 decks filled with entertainment, dining, shopping, and staterooms to sleep 6,680 passengers and 2,200 crew, this ship brings new meaning to “floating city”.

Welcome aboard

Welcome to the Symphony of the Seas!

My stateroom was on deck 6 forward, near the spa and with easy access to the Royal Promenade and theater. This was a perfect spot for me and I enjoyed being so close to the theater each evening when returning from the nightly show. The room was comfortable with the bedding in the ‘royal king’ format — two twin beds connected — and a nice balcony with comfy chairs and foot stools. Always important for me is the wi-fi service and Royal excelled in this area. Amazing connectivity and fast speed plus unlimited package availability, a huge difference from Disney Cruise Line’s per MB package cost.

Deck 6 balcony stateroom

My balcony stateroom on deck 6

The activities on the ship were mind-blowing. Mini-golf, ziplining, Flowrider surfing or boogie boarding, an escape room, several pools, ice skating, laser tag, a carousel, waterslides, and a slide that plunges you down a 10-story drop in the dark.

Mini-golf on Symphony of the Seas

Get ready for some mini-golf at sea!

The entertainment onboard was spectacular and I actually preferred the shows on the Symphony to Disney Cruise Line’s offerings. A musical ice dancing show, a musical show recapping the history of flight from the future back to the Wright Brothers, a high-energy aqua show with amazing diving and choreography, and the musical “Hairspray” didn’t disappoint. I was glad that I made time during my short sailing to get these shows in as I really enjoyed each one.

Hairspray

Hairspray the Musical had the theater rocking to the music

The food aboard the Symphony was delish and the culinary staff worked to ensure that the presentation of the options was pleasing to the eye.

Buffet options

Beautiful food for the guests aboard

I was blown away by the variety of environments found on the ship too. It was easy to forget you were at sea while enjoying the onboard experience. The Boardwalk area at the rear of the ship featured the aqua theater, a sports bar, candy shop, rock climbing wall, hot dog stand, and a carousel. There are staterooms onboard that have balconies that overlook this Boardwalk area, for those who would like a balcony but might be nervous about looking out at sea.

Looking toward the Boardwalk

The Boardwalk area from above

Central Park is another open-air area of the ship with trees, a coffee shop, and meandering paths that wind their way around to various high-end restaurants. On the Royal Promenade, the Bionic Bar was a place I had to stop at after seeing pictures online before the sailing. The bartenders here are “Rock ‘Em” and “Sock ‘Em” and they make custom drink creations while you watch.

Bionic Bar

Rock ‘Em and Sock ‘Em mixing it up at the Bionic Bar

Alas, a two-night cruise is a short one and, before I knew it, we were docking in Miami and hopping on buses back to the airport.

Until next time…

Amber

Sailing off into the sunset

Sailing off into the sunset