Wednesday, December 4, 2019

U.S. Botanic Garden: Seasons Greenings 2019 - America's Gardens

Date of Visit: December 4, 2019

In honor of the US Botanic Garden's upcoming 200th anniversary, this year's Season's Greenings theme is America's Gardens. This year turned out to be probably our least favorite we've seen, but we were happy the Christmas tree is back in the West Gallery and impressed with the Biltmore Estate display there.

We found the different buildings representing gardens and conservatories around the country interesting, but for some reason it didn't seem as if there was as much to look at as usual.

The miniature representing the World's Largest Concrete Gnome in the Reime Gardens in Ames, Iowa was one of the more interesting models.

My favorite was the Carillon from Evening Island, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois.

We also liked the Bartholdi Fountain (US Botanic Garden) model.

Mik could go in this year's tunnel. He didn't want to, but I made him and it was one of the coolest displays with a moon landing model.

Another of our favorites was the Singing Tower (Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida).

After two years of there being no tree, it was nice to see the tree in the West Gallery back.

The Biltmore Estate model in the West Gallery was the highlight this year.

Of course, we had to get the traditional photo of Mik in front of the Capitol in the Conservatory.

While the theme was our least favorite of the six we've seen, we still enjoyed our annual tradition visiting the Season's Greening exhibit. In particular, we found the Conservatory to feel more festive and brighter this year with the way poinsettias and white light trees were used.

Destination Info:
United States Botanic Garden
100 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20001

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Disney Wonder: Concierge Lounge

Date of Visit: November 8-22, 2019

I don't think we would ever considered sailing Concierge if it hadn't been the only option for an accessible stateroom when we booked. While we weren't a fan of the one bedroom stateroom aspect, the Concierge Lounge did make the extra cost worthwhile. It was especially nice for the Panama Canal cruise.

My favorite part of Concierge was being able to not only get free lattes, but I could almost always get one early in the morning (i.e. 4am or 5am). I would usually enjoy my first sitting up in the Concierge sundeck area.

There were some morning the machine needed cleaning (i.e. the milk unfrozen) and I couldn't until 6am (one morning at 6:30am, Dad actually did it because it still hadn't been fixed and he had seen them do it).

The coffee area always had one sugar free syrup (vanilla at the beginning of our cruise and caramel later), one regular sugar syrup (hazelnut), and agave syrup. There was also some different sugars for tea and usually also a cinnamon shaker.

While I didn't use them at all, I thought it was cool that the sugar cubes were Mickey head shaped.

Mik enjoyed the hot chocolate and having "Captain's Coffee" with Mom in the lounge on Sunday morning when in Cabo San Lucas.

While we still mostly got breakfast from Cabanas, we enjoyed being able to get some things before Cabanas was open (usually the stuff was out by 6am). In particular, Mik loved the Mickey cinnamon rolls. He also liked the little donuts, which rotated between different flavors including jelly filled and chocolate filled.

The lunch dessert offerings were my favorite as I fell in love with the chocolate covered Nutella Oreos. They also usually had some sort of pie in a cup.

I also really enjoyed that most of the day there were usually mandarin oranges as well as bananas.

My other favorite treat from the lounge was the fruit skewers.

Being able to grab drinks from the fridge in the lounge was another of our favorite perks. Mik, in particular, found it easier to have mini cans stocked in the room compared to usually having to ask us to go fill him a cup many times a day. As Dad and I rarely drink soda, we really enjoyed having sparkling water as an option. Unfortunately, they ran out of sparkling water and there wasn't any for the last three days of the cruise.

Mom and Mik's favorite thing was Happy Hour with free drinks in the evening. They would almost always get a drink to take to dinner. Mik especially enjoyed getting the drinks of the day.

Having access to the Concierge Lounge was something that we really enjoyed on the Panama Canal day, especially when it rained.

We also really loved the Concierge benefit of showing our Key to the World card to get free popcorn whenever we went to the Walt Disney Theatre or passed by the Buena Vista Theater when the popcorn cart was open.

Disney Wonder: Stateroom 8120

Date of Visit: November 8-22, 2019

When we decided to book the Panama Canal cruise last summer, the only accessible staterooms available were 1-bedroom Concierge. It ended up being worthwhile for this cruise, especially as we ended up adding Dad and making it his 60th birthday celebration.

When you first come in there's a small closet. There was plenty of other closet and storage space that we didn't end up using this one at all.

Entry Hall with bathroom to left (step up into) and a button on the right to open door (you can ask stateroom host to activate if it isn't already) when leaving your room.

The hall bathroom isn't accessible, but was very handy for the rest of us to use. It was especially useful to have regular shower and Mik didn't have to worry about the accessible bathroom floor getting wet from us using the other one.

However, I did find the minimal counter top space and, in particular, lack of shelves rather annoying. There is a drawer under sink, but it is awkward to open and use.

By the button in the hallway, there are some shelves, which I found useful as a place to put my toiletries since there wasn't really any place for them in the bathroom.

We really enjoyed the Mary Blair 'it's a small world' art in the room.

The living room area has a table with four chairs. Off to the right is a walk in closet. We found the area in front of the closet a good place to put Mik's wheelchair when he wasn't using it.

The table was a great place to display the 60th decorations I brought for Dad.

It was also great for the growing 3D craft collection.

The walk in (not sure it's roll in width) was the main closet we used. In particular, it was a useful place for all our shoes.

The living room area wasn't bad during the day when the sleeper sofa was in. Behind Mik is the cabinet with the mini fridge.

The mini fridge was especially useful this trip as we kept it stocked from the Concierge Lounge with mini cans of soda and sparkling water (having stocked up on sparkling water was especially nice when the ship ran out after Panama, although we still ended up with none the last few days). I thought the shelves were a good place to put Mik's clothes in a place he could get them himself, but it ended up being blocked by the round table every night.

The TV area in the living room has lots of shelves and storage. It ended up being kind of annoying to use, though, as the bed blocked the doors from fully opening and that's where I put my clothes. However, I did find the surface area below TV to be a great large catch all area for me. There is also a DVD player here, but we didn't hear anything about being able to check them out from Concierge (not sure if that was because they now have On Demand or we were supposed to just know to ask).

I really liked the touch of there being books on the shelves, although I barely got any reading done this cruise (see verandah info below for probably why).

The couch in the living room was very disappointing. We didn't like that it took up so much space when it came out making the room so much less functional than the regular stateroom designs. It was also very uncomfortable. We really wish it had the bunk bed style like we're used to or even just the couch that turns over into a twin size bed. What is really odd is the first night they asked if we wanted another bed brought in as if the room wasn't already too crowded when converted for the evening???

Bed in the Master Bedroom.

The closet inn the master bedroom is a little awkward in that you have to close the door to the room to use it. This closet has the handle that pulls the bar out and down to be more accessible.

The Master Bedroom was spacious with plenty of room for Mik to hang out on the floor. Everyone particularly enjoyed that it had its own television, especially with it being a long cruise.

The Master Bathroom was the accessible one. It was bigger than the ones in the regular staterooms, but really nothing more than an extra sink. This did allow for more counter space and room for toiletries. In particular, it was nice that it had a toothbrush holder. Mik still hated the drain by the door, which we nicknamed the knee grater as he never fails to end up cutting his knees at least once a cruise on them.

Roll-in shower was pretty much the same as we're used to on the ships. This was our first cruise with the large refillable toiletries. While this means I will eventually run out of toiletries at home, these bottles are so much easier to use. In particular, it was nice to not worry about running out of lotion or body wash.

Mik found the grab bars to work out that he needed very minimal help.

There is a door to verandah from living room, but it has a step. Thus, the only accessible access is through the bedroom. The verandah was big as expected, but disappointing in that there were no lounge chairs. As I am used to spending most of the cruise out on the verandah reading, we asked for some and they had two delivered. They ended up being only chairs that lean back, though, and I found I ended up doing very little reading and really missed one of my favorite parts of cruising (usually read several books on even thee three to four day cruises and only got through one this 14-day cruise).

While not a great place to read as usual, the verandah was still a great place to watch us pulling into ports, especially Cartagena. Of course, it was also great for watching leaving the locks in the Panama Canal.

Overall the one bedroom stateroom was nice to have, especially since this was a long cruise with seven sea days. However, the overall it didn't feel as well designed as a regular stateroom and thus didn't feel as large/spacious even though it definitely is larger than a regular stateroom. We certainly did enjoy the Concierge Lounge and many of the associated benefits, but even if we could afford to do another cruise at this level I don't think we'd do a one bedroom ever again.

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