Walt Disney World & World Travels

Posts Tagged ‘DCL

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!

We’ve had our summer reservations set for 7 months now.  6 nights, 7 days at Disney’s Beach Club Villas in a 2 BR.  Perfect!  Stormalong Bay here we come!  Dining reservations were made at the 90 day mark, everything was ready. 

Plans: drive down on Sat, stay offsite for the night and check in early at BCV on Sunday morning. Most of our days would be at Stormalong Bay or the Quiet Pool, reading & relaxing.  Parks in the evening after the daily rain cools things down and the crowds thin out.   Sundy dinner at Cape May Cafe and MK evening EMH.  Monday, Hollywood Brown Derby and Disney’s Hollywood Studios  evening EMH.  Tuesday Typhoon Lagoon during the day and the Hoop dee do Review at night.  Wednesday dinner Tusker House with evening EMH at Animal Kingdom.  Thursday the kids were going to do their thing and Jon & were going to Bistro de Paris for our anniversary dinner and Friday we had ADR’s for The Wave  followed by evening EMH at Magic Kingdom.  Saturday we would pack up and head home, probably after breakfast at Cape May Cafe.

Well, we just changed most of that.  I got notice of an amazing travel agent appreciation perk for Disney Cruise Line 3 & 4 night cruises in July.   We were able to make it work and now we’re going on our own Land & Sea trip!  I think we’ll even spend less money after all is said and done and our trip is now 5 nights at BCV and 3 nights on the Disney Wonder (total of 8 nts/9 days)!  We’ll cut some of our dining reservations because we’ll be eating plenty on the ship, and we’ll skip the water parks because we won’t have as much time at the World; but we’ll add snorkeling & perhaps a couples massage.

New plan, we’ll still drive down on Saturday the 11th, but now we’re checking into BCV that day.  We’ll spend some time at Stormalong Bay and go to Epcot for the evening.  We’re thinking we’ll eat a bunch of Counter Service around the World Showcase for dinner.  Sunday we’ll relax at the pool during the day, late lunch at Planet Hollywood and then long night at Magic Kingdom.  Monday will still be Hollywood Brown Derby and DHS.  Tuesday we’re re-working completely, we’ll save HDDR for another trip when it can stand out more.  We’ll probably spend the day at Epcot and maybe ESPN or Big River Grille for dinner or more CS.  Wednesday maybe Beaches & Cream or ???? and then AK for evening EMH followed by dessert at Beaches & Cream.  I am not missing out on my No Way Jose on this trip!

Amazing how you can plan for months & months and then completely turn it upside down in less than 24 hours.  Next post will be about getting a family ready for their 1st cruise!

These are the questions from my 1st post in this series:

  • What should I pack?  What did I pack that I didn’t need and what do I wish I had brought?
  • Do I need a passport or should I have one even if I don’t need it? What are the new passport rules?
  • How are the cabins? Can you see/feel the difference between the different categories?  Is it worth paying for the ocean view? 
  • When will my documents arrive?
  • What should I know to make it easier and more relaxing?  

Packing:  my packing list was probably a little different than most because I needed to have “business/cruise casual” clothes for work/seminar times & then regular clothes.  I was actually really happy with what I took as far as clothes.  Casual comfy shorts & tees are perfect for most everything except dinner.  I wore sundresses at night for dinner and felt that I was dressed appropriately-not too casual and not too dressy.  Make sure you have bathing suits & a cover up is nice to have.  If you get cold easily, you may want a light sweater for dinner & the shows.  What did I forget to pack?  I should have packed the charger for my camera!  I actually took less pictures than I would have liked because I was afraid the battery would die before the end of the trip.  What I didn’t need was my hair dryer.  There’s nowhere to plug it in the the bathroom and there is a built in hair dryer that worked just fine.

Passport:  Right now, American citizens do not NEED a passport for cruises that start and end in the same port.  However, if anything were to go wrong–miss the ship in Nassau, get sick and need to emergency fly back to the U.S.–you would be in for a lot of headaches without a passport.  I would strongly recommend getting the passport, it’s worth it for the peace of mind.

Cabins:  I was impressed with the size of the cabins.  Any DCL cabin that is “Deluxe” has the split bath, a really great feature.  The split bath is a sink & toilet in one bath and the other bath has the shower & sink.  Makes it super easy to get ready with multiple people in a cabin.  That is an upgrade that I think is worth paying for!  I was in a Category 6, Deluxe Cabin with Verandah and LOVED IT!!!  I really liked being able to go out on the verandah but if it came down to not being able to go or having a verandah I’d take a Deluxe Ocean View Cabin in a heartbeat.  The “port holes” are quite large and give a good view and natural light.  I like having a view, but I’m also a little claustrophobic.  The inside cabin would be fine for those who aren’t bothered by claustrophobia and are a great choice for families that need 2 cabins or the the Cat 5 Deluxe Family Stateroom with Verandah.

Documents:  Your cruise documents will arrive when they arrive…..don’t worry, arrival a few days before your trip is not unusual.

What should you know: 

*The kids clubs are amazing!  Even if you think your kid(s) won’t want to go much, register them while you’re still in the Cruise terminal!  You’ll be surprised how little you see your kids on this trip because they will be busy having the time of their lives!  After touring the kids clubs, I wish I could go there! 

*Even with kids, choose 2nd seating for dining.  Yes you’ll be eating a little later, but (1) you’ll never go hungry on the ship as there is food available all the time! (2) you’ll have more time in ports before needing to be back on the ship and (3) the new Dine & Play allows the kids to dine with you, have their food brought quickly and then the counselors will pick them up at the restaurant.  They go play in the clubs & you enjoy the rest of your meal child free!

*The Vista Spa offers specials through out the cruise, check your navigator for each day.  They also offer a day pass or cruise pass for the Rainforest Room.  Great way to enjoy the relaxation of the spa with out the pricier “treatments”.  Go to the Spa to purchace the pass.  No charge for fitness equipment or exercise classes but make sure you bring your gym shoes or you won’t be allowed to participate.

*Gratuities can be pre-paid before you sail, which is very convenient!  You’ll get envelopes & tickets with your servers’ names on them for you to hand out the last night of the trip.  Better than worrying about having cash for that. 

*Don’t pack the credit card you’re going to use for your room charges.  You’ll need it in the cruise terminal when you check in.  If you forget and have the credit card in your luggage, don’t worry.  They’ll set your Key to the World card up to be paid in cash at the end and you can go to guest services on the ship at anytime and give them your credit card info.  If you’re doing a Land & Sea package, you will already be set with your KTTW Card from your resort portion of the trip.

*Carry a day bag for when you get on the ship.  Have your bathing suit, sunscreen,sunglasses, camera & your ID, Passport & Credit Card.  That’s all you’ll need until your luggage arrives in your cabin.

While it may sound self serving to say this, I strongly recommend using a travel consultant that specializes in Disney and Disney Cruises.  Don’t miss out on an amazing dinner at Palo because you didn’t know there was an adult only restaurant on board, a couples spa treatment on the ship or a cabana massage on Castaway Cay or excursions in port.  If you have a travel consultant that doesn’t mention any of these options or specials that might apply to your cruise dates, you need to find a new agent immediately!   Other than that, relax and enjoy.  You’re about to embark on a wonderful experience!


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