Walt Disney World & World Travels

Archive for September 2009

I’ve had cruising on my mind lately; a lot.  Disney Cruise Line just announced their new itineraries for 2011 and I’m dreaming about a Panama Canal Cruise, Mexican Riviera or Mediterranean Cruise.   I’m not sure when or where, but there’s definitely a cruise in my future.  Why?  Well that’s what I want to talk about today.

Where to start?  I love cruising for quite a few reasons.  First is value.  Yes I know it looks like cruises are expensive, but when you think about it and add it all up; they’re really not much more than a land based vacation.  I’ll use Disney Cruise Line as my example because I have the most experience with it (and I love it).  When you cruise on DCL and the fare that you pay is it.  Of course if you want to go to the spa or order drinks at the bar, there are charges for those but your meals, sodas/coffee,shipboard entertainment, even room service are all included.  It’s nice to know that you’re not going to get nickel & dimed to death.    Did I mention the meals?  There’s food available all the time, as the parent of a growing  tween & teen I can’t begin to tell you how helpful that is!  On our trip this summer, I think my son ate enough food to have covered all of our fares……In the morning he would eat a bagel from room service before heading to breakfast. Where he would have pancakes, eggs & bacon.   That was followed a couple hours later by a large lunch including dessert, then a couple slices of pizza up by the pool.  After playing some soccer on the sports deck, he’d grab another few slices of pizza or a hot dog before going to the show (and possibly again between the show and dinner).   After dinner, more soccer or club time and another snack, the best is a Mickey Bar from room service.  If the boy went more than 2 hours without food during waking hours, I’d be shocked!   What did all that pizza cost?  Nothing.  The Mickey Bar ice cream?  No charge, it’s all included.  I loved being able to say “order what you want” and “if you’re hungry, get something to eat” instead of “no” or “I don’t know, how much is it?”.   If we had been anywhere else, that would have cost a fortune, but thankfully it was all included.

Why else do I love to cruise?  Well, I love that I can do as much or as little as I want, and I can change my mind at any time.  Unlike planning a quite beach trip and then getting bored or an active adventure trip and just wanting to sit by the pool and read; you get all of that on a cruise.  Every night you’ll receive your Personal Navigator–the schedule for the next day.  Just like reading an old TV Guide; you’ll see hour by hour what’s going on in all locations for all age groups.  Sailing with small kids?  You’ll check the schedule in the Oceaneers Club for the kids and the family section for all of you.  The kids want to go make flubber in the Oceaneers Lab?  Great, now you can go to the spa or the adult only pool.  Maybe that Martini Tasting Seminar in the Navigator caught your eye……  From playing sports on the sport courts, to watching them on TV in Diversions or working out at the fitness center or relaxing in the Rainforest Room in the spa; game shows, bingo, reading a book, watching a 1st run movie, taking a nap.  Those are just some of the options of things to do on the ship.  There are so many things to do that I don’t think anyone could possibly do everything.   The four of us did things together, seperately and off in pairs.  There was always something someone wanted to go do; even if it was just to nap on the “secret” deck.

Now, when it’s a Disney Cruise, there are a lot of fun family things to do.  The Sail Away party as you leave Port Canaveral is fun for kids, adults and anyone that wants to have fun.  Dance & sing along, sip on a Bahama Mama and know that you’re headed for fun!  Disney also has a Pirates in the Caribbean Party on deck during one of the evenings of your cruise.  More singing, dancing, Characters and FIREWORKS!  Only Disney shoots off fireworks at sea and it’s amazing!  There are family game shows to participate in (or watch if you’re shy), family karaoke (Disney songs of course), dance contests, pin trading, character meet & greets, pool time, scavanger hunts, ping pong & shuffleboard on deck…….are you tired yet?  Those are just some of the things to do on the ship. 

What do you do when in port?  Whatever you want!  There are excursions that you can book (before or during your cruise) that will take you to explore historical locations or cool resorts & aquariums.  You can explore a place on your own.  We spent a morning in Nassau just walking and wandering around to get the “flavor”.  If you’ve “been there done that”, stay on the ship and enjoy a nearly empty pool or take advantage of a “Port Special” in the spa. 

No matter if you take a 3, 4, 5 or 7 night cruise in the Bahamas or Caribbean, you will stop at least once at Disney’s own private island Castaway Cay.  This is a wonderful place and is only going to get better when the refurb is finished.  Right now, there is: a snorkeling beach, family beach, teen beach (13-17 only) and an adults only (18+) beach.  The kids clubs (not the nursery) move ashore for the day.  Your kids can go on a snorkeling excursion with you and then join their friend in the kids programs for a couple hours and meet back up with you for lunch and a volleyball game on the sports beach.  While the kids are off doing their things, you can enjoy a peaceful, quiet nap on the adult beach or sip on the islands specialty drink or indulge in a massage in a beach cabana.  Again, you can spend the day resting, being very active or a combination of the two.  We went for the combo approach this summer.  As a family we did an excursion that included snorkeling, stingray experience & bike/float rental.  First thing we did was the snorkeling, all I will say now is that it was really cool and you have to look for the Disney touches…..they’re out there.  After snorkeling we went and learned about and fed stingrays.  That was pretty neat and we got a lot of time out in the water with them.   Then my daughter took off to “chill” at the teen beach and my tween went for lunch (does that suprise anyone?).  After lunch he went and joined the kids club group at the game pavillion so we had some time on our own 🙂  We went to Serenity Bay beach and enjoyed a cool beverage and snorkeled out there for a change of pace (still neat things to find, besides the wildlife).  We met back up with our son, and headed to the family beach.  He decided to snorkel some more before going to get a float and relax.  We did a little shopping and we’re back on the ship in time to get ready for the evening show and dinner.  Wondering what happened to the teen?  She had directions to be on the ship & in the room at “X” time.  Whenever you leave or come onto the ship, you must go through security and scan your Key To The World card (it’s your room key, charge key, everything key), that way they know who left and came back.  When we walked back onto the ship, and they scanned my Key To The World card, I asked the Cast Member if her key had been scanned yet.  They were able to look and tell me exactly what time she returned to the ship.  Just a nice little piece of mind.  We had rested & been active and it was a fantastically fun day!

The DisneyDifference and service are the main reasons I want to go back so bad.  From the artwork and design of the ship, the special touches in the snorkeling beach, the towel animals in the cabin each night; it’s wonderful but the people really make it Disney special.  The service wasn’t just good, it was excellent and more than that; it was personal.  I had Cast Members say hi and welcome me back because they remembered seeing me on my agent cruise.  A waitress in the Cadillac Lounge the 1st night, also served us on Castaway Cay and picked the conversation back up from where we had left it.  A mix-up/confusion about celebrating our anniversary at dinner was not only fixed, but improved upopn and apologized for more than necessary.  The best of the service though can be summed up with 2 experiences that my son had on the last night of the cruise.  When he went to give the tip to our room attendant, he told her how much he liked the towel animals.  She stuck her head in and asked us if it would be allright if she could come in and teach him how to make them himself.  She didn’t have to do that, but he was thrilled!  The most amazing was Liam.  He was a retail CM at the pin trading event.  My son had been looking for a pin to complete a set of 5 for over 3 trips in the previous 18months.  The pin he was missing was of course the most limited edition of the set and we didn’t have high hopes of finding it.  Liam looked through 5 or 6 pin lanyards while we were talking to him.  When he couldn’t find it, he asked for our sons name & room number just in case he found someone with it.  In the middle of the night, en envelope was stuck partially under the door.  Inside was a personal, handwritten note with the impossible to find Ursula pin attached.  That was a Magical Moment and is a big part of why I can’t wait to go back on a Disney Cruise!

As we get ready to move into 2010, Disney has announced a plan to encourage volunteer work.  You give a day and you’ll get a day at Disney. 

Check out this new TV spot they’re running about it.

I have to admit that I am very jealous of some friends of mine.  At different times during the next 6 weeks, they’ll be at Disney World for the Food & Wine festival at Epcot. 

What is the Food & Wine festival? Let me sum it up this way:  yummy, delicious and a little intoxicating. 

The International Food & Wine festival is a celebration of foods from countries around the world.  The festival is included in the cost of admission to the park, but food & wine samples all have a small cost.  There are also special events like seminars & tasting dinners that you can register for.  I love all of the food choices at Epcot, but during Food & Wine, there are even more choices.  This year there are 27 booths, (sponsored by countries & companies) that showcase food, wines, beers from that country.  There are sample size offerings at each booth that cost a few dollars apiece or 1 Disney Dining Plan snack credit each (food only, not the booze).  Most of us won’t have the chance to go to Chile or Argentina or Thailand but we can try the food at the booth and even better it’s just a sample so you can try a lot of items! 

Menus  and “food porn” 

If you’re able to get away, this is a great time for an “adults only” trip to Disney.   That’s not to say that kids aren’t welcome or wouldn’t like it, just that it would be a nice time for couples on their own 🙂

If you think you might want to go, consider booking the FREE dining package (must be booked by 9/26)  The snack credits can be used at the booths!

It’s fall, that means time to trick or treat!  A great place to trick or treat is at the Magic Kingdom when you go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.   Wear your costume, get ton’s of candy, ride the rides and see a special parade & fireworks!  Lot’s of fun for everyone!

Ever since blue prints of a Fantasyland makeover were “leaked” this summer, we’ve all been wondering if it was real or not.  Well, today at D23 the historic makeover of Fantasyland was confirmed.  Here is a video of the announcement at the D23 expo:


Fantasyland Makeover

The big news yesterday at D23, Disney Cruise Line announced their 1st ever plans to sail to Alaska! 

In 2011, The Disney Wonder will reposition to the West Coast.  In May of 2o11, the Wonder will begin 7 night cruises from Vancouver, BC to Alaska for 7 months.  The ship will stop in Skagway, Ketchikcan & Juneau.  Before and after that, the Wonder will sail  out of Los Angeles on 7 night Mexican Riviera Cruises, with stops in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan & Puerta Vallarta.  

Back in Florida, the Disney Magic will continue sailing on 7 night cruises, alternating between Eastern & Western Caribbean itineraries.  During the summer of 2011, the Magic will head back to the Mediterranean Sea for several months of cruises to exciting ports like Tunis, Tunisia; Corsica; Malta; and Barcelona Spain.

Now the other cool thing with all of these ship movements, is that means repositioning cruises!  When the Disney Wonder moves from Port Canaveral, FL to her new home on the West Coast, there will be a 15 night Panama Canal cruise setting sail on Jan 6, 2011.  When it’s time to leave Los Angeles for Vancouver; there will be a 6 night cruise up the coast and 5 nights on the way back to Los Angeles in the fall.  Of course, when the Magic heads back to the Mediterranean for the summer of 2011, there will be two 14 night  transatlantic voyages.

So many cruises to choose from!  It’s going to be hard to pick just one 😉

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