Ronald and Kathleen Ludwig had their breath taken away when they found their room.
“Happy anniversary,” read the door decal, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse smiling back at them. Inside their room was a bouquet of flowers.
“We felt like royalty,” Kathleen said. “It was the closest we’ll ever get, anyway.”
After 60 years together, the couple was taking its first cruise vacation — a weeklong Bahamian voyage aboard the Disney Dream. The cruise left June 14 and returned June 20. They weren’t able to time it with the actual date of their 60th anniversary, which was June 25.
Kathleen Ludwig said it was nice because they were able to bring the whole family.
“There was 16 of us, and that’s our entire family,” she said. “We just had a ball.”
Kathleen and Ronald brought their four children, Tawnya Sokoll, Rolana Heidebrecht, Douglas Ludwig, and Dan Ludwig. Sokoll and Heidebrecht brought their husbands, Steve and Scott, respectively. The Sokolls brought two daughters, Corinn and Jenna, and the Heidebrechts brought five sons, Tyson, Justin, Taylor, Peyton, and Evann. Tyson brought his wife, Jessica.
It was the first time any of them had been on a cruise.
“It meant everything to us,” Kathleen said. “We’re very much a family oriented group. We get together every Thanksgiving and every Christmas — all of us.”
The ship was massive.
“Way longer than a football field, I’ll tell you that,” Kathleen said.
Nearly four times longer, actually. According to Disney’s website, the ship is 1,115 feet long and 125 feet across.
“You didn’t even know it was moving,” Kathleen said. “The enormity of the ship amazed me.”
The cruise made stops in the Bahamas and at Castaway Cay, a private island owned by Disney exclusively for its cruise patrons.
One of the brightest highlights of the trip, Kathleen said, was watching family members swim with dolphins.
“You don’t know what to expect, but they actually swam with the dolphins,” Kathleen said. “Of course, those dolphins are trained. There’s a trainer telling them what to do and so on. We got videos of that. It’s really something to see.”
The cruise was all-inclusive, meaning the meals and amenities were pre-paid, Kathleen said.
“I asked them if they were trying to kill the passengers with how much food they offered us,” she said. “I’m a home economist. I’ve never eaten so much food that was served to us like that.”
She said each day of the cruise ended with a theater presentation of a Disney movie.
It was, for the Ludwigs, a dream come true.
“It’s an experience we’ll probably never do again,” she said. “But some of our children said, ‘Oh, we’ll probably do that again.’”