On the beautiful sands of Castaway Cay…

On the beautiful sands of Castaway Cay…

One of the many things I love about Disney Cruise Line would have to be its private island, Castaway Cay, which is situated in the Bahamas. Fun fact: Cay is pronounced as key!  If I could spend the night on this island, I’d be one of the first people to sign up! Caribbean and Bahamas cruises aboard the Disney Fantasy, Dream, Wonder and Magic ships typically make one or two stops to Castaway Cay. There are so many reasons as to why I single it out in being one of my favorite destinations to travel too. Let me tell you why!

5K Castaway Run:  Now… when you think of vacation… I don’t think many of us think about doing exercise on vacation… let alone running a 5k… so, what makes this 5k worth running?  You are awarded a medal at the end of the race is one of the reasons!  This beautiful run takes you along a good part of the island providing you plenty of green scenery which diverts your attention to how hot and humid it may be depending which time of the year you visit! (I prefer to run in December as opposed to June or July! Lol!)  Throughout the run, there are two water stations that make all the difference.  As this is not considered part of the runDisney, Castaway 5k is more of a fun run.  You can also walk the 5k if you choose to do so.  This 5k is available to those that are 10 and older.

Once on the ship you can obtain your tickets at Guest Services for the run. The morning of the run, you will have a meeting place where you will be the first group off the ship.

Have kids? No worries!  While on your walk to the starting point… and boy is it a bit of a walk… think of it as a warmup…you will drop your kids off at the kid’s club, Scuttle’s Cove, on the island. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!  Our mouseketeers look forward to being dropped off as they have so many fun activities and water and sand everywhere!

How about if you have a bag with your belongings and your towels? Again.. no problem!  As my husband walks faster than I do, he simply finds beach chairs on the beach close to the starting point for the run and then heads back to the starting line.

Once the run is over and you are awarded with your  awesome plastic medal (each years is slightly different), it is time for a drink… well, at least for me! Lol! I love to enjoy a Konk Kooler as my personal reward in finishing the race.

Usually by this time, my husband goes to our beach chairs while I walk back to Scuttle’s Cove to pick up our little mouseketeers.  I usually time this perfectly as the characters are out in this area, and so I love to take victory pictures with them while proudly wearing my medal. You can’t ask for a better background, right?!

In terms of changing out of your running gear, I know that there are people that go back to the ship to shower and change.  However, as we take our bathing suits in our bags, my husband and I usually change in the bathroom so we are able to spend more time on the island.  I figure we will be getting into the ocean anyways…so, why bathe?! Lol!

Characters: What other island around the world are you able to find Disney characters randomly walking around an island with you? Well, Disney’s Aulani in Hawaii… okay.. there are only two places in the world that you are able to roam around an island with Disney characters!  Be sure to consult your Personal Navigator, either in paper form or on your Disney app on your phone for times and locations for character meet and greets.           

Activities: When it comes to activities on Castaway Cay, you will find that there are an abundant of activities for everyone and for every age.  The Disney Cruise Line page provides information and a description of all activities available on the island. From our personal trips to Castaway, we have always purchased the Castaway Cay Getaway Package which includes snorkel equipment for the day, a a float or inner-tube rental for the day, and a bicycle rental for one hour.  Riding a bike around the island is truly a must do! Have a little one going on a bike ride with you? No problemo! Bike rentals include bikes for children, adults, bikes with training wheels, and bikes with a childs carrier. 

Tram: It’s a long walk from the ship to the beach and that is why I always recommend taking the shuttle to get around the island. There are two stops for the tram service. One for Serenity Beach, which is the adults only beach, which I will soon tell you about! No need to pay for the tram as it is included!

Strollers and Wheelchairs: There are free strollers, wagons and joggers available on the island. DCL also provides special wheelchairs made specifically to be used on the sand for physically challenged cruisers. Again, there is no additional cost for using them.  We first discovered the wagons on our first trip to Castaway and we still use them even to this day, not only to pull our mouseketeers along, but to also give our arms a rest from carrying towels and our belongings!

Family Beach: Castaway Cay Family Beach is one of the two beaches on the island.  Everyone is welcome to this beach! It is a very far stretch of ocean so there is plenty of space so you never feel cramped! The Family Beach is also the beach that is closest to the ship itself and it is where most of the beach activities are located.  My favorite part of the beach area is pulling myself a lounge chair and taking in the sun (all while wearing sunscreen of course and being so thankful of being able to take in all of nature’s beauty, being on vacation, and being away from all reality and the outside world!)

 

Pelican Plunge: Pelican Plunge is a floating water slide and play platform which includes two water slides, a giant “bucket dump” of water, and water cannons that you can use to shoot targets. There is a minimum height requirement and a requirement for life vests.  Minimum height for the Pelican Plunge water slides is 38″ and anyone under 48″ must wear one of the provided life vests. You must be willing to swim out to the platform as the water is deep! My daughter and husband ventured to Pelican Plunge last summer and my daughter was surprised how fast your shoot out of the water slide!

Serenity Beach: Serenity Bay is just has heavenly as its name implies! You could reach this beach by foot, but boy would it be quite the long and hot walk! My husband and I enjoy taking the tram to this stop! You won’t regret it! So, what makes Serenity beach so serene? Picture enjoying a beach with no children around for miles upon miles… just adults and mommy juice as I like to call it… sounds pretty serene, doesn’t it?  I like to call Serenity Beach our “little getaway,” as we take our mouseketeers to Scuttle’s Cove, as we are able to getaway for a bit and enjoy one another’s company as we are floating on tubes in the ocean.  (This is usually where we always talk about booking our next cruise and how we can’t wait to retire to be able to slow down to relax and enjoy life in a different way….mind you, we still ways to go for retirement… “a dream is a wish your heart makes,” right?)  This private adult beach is accessible for only 18+.  One of the awesomeness about this area is that there is also a barbeque food location, therefore, you do not have to make a trip back to the family beach for lunch!  As an extra perk, the food location at Serenity Bay is slightly a different menu than the other food venue, which is nice!

Food on Castaway Cay:  Speaking of food…. the other awesome perk about Castaway Cay is that you do not have to make the journey back to the ship to have lunch, drinks or snacks!  Don’t forget your Key to the World card (serves as your identification card, information about your food rotation, serves as your room key, and also as your “credit card” to charge purchases) if you plan on purchasing adult beverages and/or speciality alcohol or non alcoholic drinks.

There are three placing to eat on Castaway Cay, and again, there is no additional service fee.  Lunch begins at 11:30 and closes at 2 pm.  You can also find the famous self served ice-cream near the food locations!

Cookie’s BBQ

Cookie’s Too BBQ

BBQ near Serenity Bay (the adult only beach).  As mentioned before, the restaurant at Serenity Bay is solely for adults and offers bonus entrees not available at the other two, such as yummy grilled steak.

Shopping on Castaway Cay:  Note, that you can only purchase Castaway Cay gear and memorabilia on the island, therefore, make sure to go into the various shops on Castaway and again do not forget to take your Key to the World card so you are able to purchase your new souvenirs!

Tip: Consult your Personal Navigator for the many different activities that are offered on Castaway Cay such as character dance parties, character meet and greets, yoga and power walk activities, sporting competitions such as basketball, and the many other various activities offered for children in Scuttle’s Cove as well as activities geared specifically for teenage cruisers.

Post Office: There is also a post office on Castaway Island where you can mail out postcards to your family and friends back home.  The post office is open different hours, depending on the day and time of your visit, therefore, make sure to check the sign at the post office as you walk off the ship to the island to see hours of operation.  Your postcards will even include a stamp from Castaway Cay! Postage will be .65 cents Bahamian currency.

If you miss the post office when they are open the day you visit, no need to panic, as you can still send a postcard to the United States by making a trip to Guest Services when onboard!  And do not worry if it has been two months after you have sailed and your majestical postcard has not arrived… it roughly takes about two months of travels… quite the traveler that nifty postcard is, isn’t it?!

Sand Toys: We also like to take our own beach toys for our mouseketeers to play with while basking away playing in the water and sand, as they can be a bit pricey on the island itself.

Double Dips to Castaway: What’s better than going to Castaway once during your sailing… but visiting Castaway twice during your sailing!  I highly recommend booking a sailing with two visits to the island so that way you are able to take your time and do as little or as much as you would like to do for the time you are visiting this island full of Wonder, Magic, Dream and Fantasy. (see what I did there…)

We will be venturing on our second sailing with a double dip to Castaway this summer, and can not wait, because as you have read, Disney’s Castaway Cay is pretty darn awesome!

Have you sailed to Castaway? What awesome activities have you partaken in?  Click “Comment” at the top to leave a comment!

 

 

The Different Ports of Calls We Have Visited through Disney Cruise Line

The Different Ports of Calls We Have Visited through Disney Cruise Line

For this week’s post, I wanted to focus on the different ports of calls that we have traveled too while sailing on Disney Cruise Line, to give you an idea on the different excursions that are available when not purchasing a Disney Cruise Line excursion.  We’ve always been the type of family that likes to roam freely, not needing to be at a certain place and time, and therefore, have never really booked an excursion unless it was on Castaway Cay.

Ports of Call:

Falmouth, Jamaica: Hands down, our family fell in LOVE with Jamaica and we can not wait to return.  Upon arrival to the port, you will notice how brand new and clean the port is as it is fairly new and was constructed by Royal Carribean Cruise Lines. If you do research for this particular port, you will find that the majority of tourists will promote staying around the new port.  Now, tell that to this family of four, who loves to explore new and old places! We ventured upon the new port into the actual port of Falmouth, Jamaica. Upon going through the gates, we were greeted by a nice gentleman that asked us if we wanted to a tour guide. (They are recognized by the government to be official in terms of not scamming tourists as they were badges) We immediately accepted and asked him to take us to the nearest grocery store as this is one of our FAVORITE things to do when traveling, especially out of the United States!  I have always had quite the fascination to shop where the locals shop and have the ability to buy different candies, fruits, drinks, bread etc… LOVE IT!!!!  So, that is where we were taken and my girls had a wonderful time picking out Jamaican candy.  We must have blended in so well that we actually had an older couple ask us how long our family have lived in Falmouth!

We came out of the grocery store with an abundance of rum cakes in hand, candy, soda, Jamaican coffee, and my personal favorite…. CocoMania…. the BEST coconut rum I’ve ever had! I still dream about my Cocomania to this day as they do not export it out of Jamaica!!! We enjoyed a bit of a walk around the port and then headed back to the boat, not before enjoying what my oldest mouseketeer describes as having the best coconut of her life! (she’s had many coconuts before elsewhere in different places, but she still remembers the Jamaican coconut)

In fact, when we came back to the boat, we inquired at Guest Services of any excursions, but it was too late already in the day! (This was also our first Disney sailing, so everything was quite new!)  Can’t wait to go back, hopefully soon!

Grand Cayman Islands: For this port of call, it was also part of our first Disney Cruise experience, so once again, we did not book an excursion with Disney but rather wandered on our own.  If you visit one of my previous posts, I provide information on booking a resort for a day. Here I talk about our experience of walking and wandering the beach until we stumbled upon The Westin Hotel and purchased a day pass!  After we left the hotel, we walked over to yet another grocery store where yet again we loaded up with some Grand Cayman Island goodies before heading back to the port.

 

Cozumel, Mexico: I know this is going to be horrible to say…. but my number one priority in Cozumel was to purchase my Starbucks City mug! I had too as not only do I enjoy Starbucks… but I also have an obsession not only with mugs themselves, but mugs that have the places that we have traveled too! Upon arrival to Cozumel’s port, we instantly felt the humidity and the heat to the point where it was quite miserable! Before embarking on our adventure to find Starbucks (which is literally across the way from the port…) we walked over to yet again…. hold your breath now… ANOTHER grocery store! Lol!!  Now, being a Mexican girl whose been to many different areas of Mexico, I felt quite at home when going into this grocery store!  It felt familiar!

…now… let me explain to you my two mouseketeers hunts for Mexico, Jamaica and/or the Grand Cayman Islands…. if you have two littles who are obsessed with watching Youtube videos, and you figured we traveled to this port in 2015… it was not the LOL dolls that were in style… but the Kinder Surprise Eggs… my goodness gracious… these two would spend so much time watching people open these eggs to find the prize inside the candy…. (note…. these candies are illegal in the United States….) You can read all about it here.

Yet again, we loaded up with snacks, goodies, drinks, toys, a handful of Kinder Surprise Eggs and of course pan dulce…. delicious…

After walking back from the grocery store, the heat was unbearable and our mouseketeers and husband had had enough of it so they walked back to the ship while I ventured on my own around the port area and of course, to purchase my Starbucks mug. Mission accomplished!

Castaway Cay: Now this beautiful island happens to belong to Disney Cruise Line itself as it is their private island and only they are allowed to pull into port.  There are an abundance of activities and excursions for one to explore and partake on that my next post will solely focus on Castaway Cay! Stay tuned for next week!

 Nassau, Bahamas: We have traveled to Nassau twice on two different occasions as a port stop. The first time we traveled I had done my research and this is when we booked through resort for a day at the British Colonial Hotel. You can read all about this great excursion here. It also happened to be the day after Christmas, so the entire city was decorated so beautifully with so many vibrant decorations! In fact, when we first arrived at port, I was ecstatic that the locals were holding their annual Christmas parade. What a treat!!! As a sociologist, who loves to study different cultures, I was in a trance like a kid in a candy store! I did not want to leave at all!  It was truly amazing! After leaving the parade, I just happened to have stumbled upon yet another Starbucks where I purchased my Nassau city mug! Whoo hoo!! (Cozumel and Nassau are the only two ports with a Starbucks) With Starbucks in our hands we proceed to walk over to the British Colonial Hotel as we frolicked in the sand and water.  After our stay, we walked across the street to McDonalds, grabbed a bite to lunch, and headed over to the Straw Market, which is a huge building that encompasses homemade souvenirs. 

For our second trip to Nassau, we strolled around the Straw Market and walked around downtown in search of rum cakes and rum!  We will be heading back to Nassau in December and most likely will be purchasing the resort day pass to the British Colonial Hotel!

Ensenada, Mexico: I won’t lie… Ensenada would have to be my least favorite port of call.  Two summers ago, my best friend and I, sailed on another cruise line and our stop was in Ensenada… eek… it was so family unfriendly especially all the bar hopping that guess where we ended up… Starbucks…. and then back to the ship… What I do like about the Ensenada port stop is that immediately off the ship there are many little shops where one can purchase different souvenirs.  Of the two stops we have had as a family in Ensenada, our routine is to take pictures in front of the Disney Wonder (it’s the only ship that sails to Ensenada) and then walk around the little shops to purchase Kinder Surprise Eggs.
Key West, Florida: We stopped in Key West during our Christmas sailing.  While serving in the Coast Guard, my husband quite frequently visited this port, so he took the reigns on showing us where he used to hang out when not on duty on his ship.  I really enjoyed it because I remember being on the phone with him and he would describe and tell me where exactly he was in Key West, so when we were all able to see it firsthand together with dad, it was an awesome feeling!  For this port of call, we mostly walked around the downtown area and by Hemingway’s House.  I personally would have liked to have taken a tour, but the line wrapped around the house as it was right after Christmas!  Before heading back to the boat, my husband purchased Key Lime flavored cigars for his buddies, while I purchased Key Lime pies and Key Lime scented candles.  As you can tell, Key Lime EVERYTHING is the way to go!

So… there you have it! A small glimpse of the ports we have visited in the past during our Disney Cruise sailings!  This summer we will be revisiting a double dip to Castaway Cay and a stop to Nassau, whereas our Spring Break sailing will take us on new adventures to Baja Mexico!

Join me for next week’s post on the awesomeness of Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay!

So, Now Your Booked for your Disney Cruise… What’s Next?

So, Now Your Booked for your Disney Cruise… What’s Next?

I remember the day that I called into Disney Cruise and booked our first cruise.  I was over the moon!! 

I immediately downloaded the Disney Cruise application on my phone, so that we could begin our countdown for the cruise! This app is mostly important once onboard as you can find the daily itinerary of activities, port info, deck plans, meet and greets, and restaurant menus, for example.  Additionally, there is also a chatting board that you can use in the app, once onboard.

After booking the cruise and downloading the app, the next thing I began to do was to research the different ports of call we’d be visiting during our sailing.  These would include: Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman Islands, Falmouth, Jamaica and Castaway ffCay (Disney’s private island)

I also began to research about the ship that we would be sailing and the different amenities the ship would offer while onboard. I wanted to have a sense of direction in terms of what we would be experiencing so that we could walk onboard and begin our vacation with no worries or feeling overwhelmed!

I joined the Disney Cruise Facebook page which answered many questions that I posted and found it as a great starting point. I also joined DisBoards, another wonderful resource when sailing on Disney Cruise and Disney Cruise Line Blog 

Each of these wonderful resources allowed me to first learn about ordering room service in our stateroom, what Fish Extenders are and learning how to participate, learning about Mixology courses, finding previous Daily Navigators (daily itinerary schedules) from previous sailings that people had shared, finding and joining your specific sailing group on Facebook.  As you can see there is so much amazing information waiting for you to become familiar with your trip and trip planning!

I’m obsessed with being organized and making Excel spreadsheets, so you can only imagine how many different lists I kept in preparation for our first trip.  I felt like I was attending Disney Cruise College as all the new information I’d learn, I’d relate it back to my husband! I was prepared to be able to experience our first sailing with knowledge and having a game plan so that way I was not caught by surprise when I was not informed of a certain activity or of an amenity onboard.

Looking back to my preparation, I’m happy that I did so because it allowed us to maximize our time in knowing the different types of activities that could take place during our sailing as well as not having that “I don’t know what I’m doing feeling.”  It also allowed me to not feel overwhelmed or surprised when we arrived on the ship.  During that sailing, there were many people that had not done any research for their trip and found themselves having to ask many questions and at times felt overwhelmed for not having done any research prior to sailing.

For example, many people did not know anything about Pirate Night and found themselves surrounded by people decked out in pirate gear feeling a bit left out! (Disney does provide you with a pirate bandana for each person in your stateroom the afternoon of the pirate party)

While researching, I also looked at the various excursions that are offered through Disney.

In terms of the port calls, for our first sailing, the only excursions that we did through Disney was the snorkeling and bike rentals.  For the other port calls, we did our own thing either by purchasing a day pass at a hotel for the day, or walking around downtown and going into grocery stores (our family is obsessed with grocery stores when traveling!) In another post, I will be breaking down all the ports we have visited through Disney and provide you with how we spent our time at those different ports!

See ya on board soon!

 

 

Saving Your “Fun Money” for Vacations!

Saving Your “Fun Money” for Vacations!

As we all know, money does not grow on trees… if it did… I’d be a happy mouseketeer…

Many friends have asked me before how we afford to take our vacations and I’m always happy to share my tricks and tips that I utilize for saving money for trips and excursions!

Sounds about right….

First of all, my husband and I  have two savings accounts.  One is for our emergency fund and the other is only used to deposit any extra money that may come our way, whether it be an extra paycheck, birthday money, yard sale money, etc… This is our vacation savings account.  You’d be surprised how fast that money begins to accumulate when put into that separate account.

Walmart App

Additionally, I have the handy Walmart app that I have downloaded on my phone where each time that I scan my receipt after shopping, I can earn money back on my Savings Catcher. After scanning my receipt, compares prices to competitors and if Walmart finds a lower price, you get the difference!  I accumulate my Reward Dollars and  then put it towards a Disney gift card each time I reach $25 in Reward Dollars. Easy peasy!

A couple of years go, my husband and I applied for the Disney Visa Card which we have found awesome to have as not only are you able to accumulate and earn 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars on purchases at gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and most Disney locations, but you also earn 1% on all your other card purchases. You also have access to special vacation financing on select Disney vacation packages. 

Another great perk of having this card is that you have access to early sales to the Disney Store as well as invitations to attend special events at the Disney Store.  Last but not least, but my favorite perk to having this card is the advantage of having private exclusive photo opportunities to a Disney private Meet and Greets with Characters at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. You even receive access to your complimentary downloads of your Disney PhotoPass® photos taken at the Disney Visa Character Experience locations! How amazing is that?!?!

One of the benefits of having a Costco card is their rewards system where you receive a reward at the end of the year.  I always use this bonus check and deposit it right into our vacation savings account! 

As you can see, there are many different ways of saving for your vacation, such as for a Disney Cruise and/or Disney trip.

I also like to start saving early so that way we can save as much as we can so that we don’t have to worry about pulling money out of our regular savings account to pay for excursions, souvenirs and the little things that begin to add up!

About a year ago, I came across this great idea in terms of saving money in a jar!  I have not gotten around to making it as pretty, but instead, I’m not going to lie… I have our extra change and bills stored inside a peanuts container…. don’t laugh…. I’m recycling!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/172543719/saving-for-disney-jar-decal-multiple

You really don’t realize how much that change and extra bills that you receive from breaking a $20 really starts to add up over time!  For our last trip, I was able to go to the bank and received over $80 from my peanut savings container in just five months!

What are some of the ways that you save up extra “fun money” to spend on trips or other splurges?

Click on “Comment” at the top of the post!

 

 

So why Sail Disney Cruise Line? I’ll tell you Why!

So why Sail Disney Cruise Line? I’ll tell you Why!

I have always had the obsession of traveling.  It is in my DNA… I swear… it is…

Twelve years ago, I flew out to Texas to visit the love of my life. That weekend he proposed, and I said yes.

At the time, he was serving in the United States Coast Guard in Galveston, Texas.  During my trip, every morning I’d drive him to port and every morning we passed by the Port of Galveston. It just happened to coincide that one morning as we were passing by, I spotted my first Disney Cruise Ship, two bright red funnels with Mickey heads on them. I didn’t even know they had a cruise line!

When I saw the ship, I turned over to my fiancee and told him, that one day, God willing, we’d sail out of Galveston on a Disney Cruise in tow with our little family.

That reality came true in December of 2016.  It was our second Disney Cruise.

                                     The Disney Wonder- Port of Galveston

At 4 am California time, my husband, two young girls and I set out on a road trip to Galveston, Texas. We were so excited to show our children the apartment where their dad had proposed to their mom and the local Target we’d go and buy groceries! Certainly, but not least, to take the trip that I had been dreaming about for the last 9 years of marriage. (I’ll have to share our experience in another post as we sailed over Christmas!)

These two gentleman stole the hearts of our children during our sailing on the Wonder. They made the girl’s feel so special and loved! Each morning and night, we’d stop by to say hello!

 

Disney Cruise Line has become part of our family as we know that each time we are embarking on an awesome adventure full of wonderful service, food, activities, entertainment, and new friends that we meet during our sailing.

We always look forward to meeting new friends that are traveling, but we especially enjoy the cast members that we meet as we form such a quick and wonderful bond with them!  They make you feel right at home.

I could name a dozen cast members that we often think about, hoping that we will run into while cruising in the future!

There are various games, such as Jack-Jack’s Incredible Diaper Dash, which is a race that consists of a padded track that takes over the ship’s lobby atrium as music from The Incredibles is blaring to set the tone of each baby competing to see which one holds the greatest superpower of crossing the finishing line. This is honestly one of the highlights of my trip! I purposely do not plan any activities at this time, just so that I can specifically go and check out this awesome spectacle! I’m literally giggling as I type this out!

Google this awesome race! It’s amazing!!!

 

The level of entertainment is beyond mesmerizing as there are activities constantly happening around the ship, day and night.

Disney Cruise Line offers majestic Broadway shows that transports you right to Broadway in New York.

Personally, I LOVE being pampered at knowing that I do not have to cook or clean the entire duration of the trip itself. I truly feel that I’m able to live life to the fullest and to enjoy each and every moment with our kids and my husband.

If only I could purchase this dish set…. from Tiana’s Place Restaurant on the Disney Wonder

The food is so good and it is never ending! I swear I always gain five pounds whether it’s a 2 day or 7 day cruise.

The meet and greets with various characters around the ship is also magical.  (I’ll talk about the ticketed events for some character meet and greets in another post)

I love walking around maybe going to go get something to eat or drink, or literally just walking around to take in the beauty of being on vacation, when what to my wandering eyes does appear, but Cinderella taking a stroll on the 5th floor, or Goofy having the time of his life playing a round of golf with a group of kids.  I always make sure to carry my phone with me at all times. You never know who may suddenly appear!

I also especially love how I am able to spend time with my husband, without the girls, where we are able to have dates throughout the day and night knowing that our girls are in wonderful hands in the Kids Club. Oh, the kid’s club… not only do I love you… but especially my girls! More on the kid’s club later as well!

Enjoying Palo Brunch with the love of my life while the girl’s played in the Kid’s Club…now this is LIFE!

I could go on and on about why we sail on Disney Cruise as opposed to sailing on other cruise lines, not to say that we have not, as my husband and I sailed to Havana, Cuba last summer, with no kids, but I can’t tell you how many times I sighed and hoped that we were sailing on the big Mickey boat!

Next week’s post…. taking the next steps after you have booked your cruise!

Planning a Disney Cruise… How to Begin!

Planning a Disney Cruise… How to Begin!

If there is a recent passion of mine that involves Disney, it would have to be cruising the high seas with my favorite mouse, Mickey and his friends! Growing up, my parents never took us on a cruise, as they worried about being in the middle of the ocean! It wasn’t until we set sail, and informed them of the awesomeness it is, that they are now hooked and have sailed multiple of times!  There’s truly something special about sailing out to sea in one of four Disney cruise ships! (three more ships are set to join the fleet and sail in 2021, 2022 and 2023)

I have had many friends ask me if it is hard to plan a Disney Cruise and what steps they should take! I get super excited when I hear of a friend that is interested in learning more about cruising on the high seas, so for this week’s post, I would like to focus on the first steps to take when planning a Disney Cruise!

One of the great perks of Disney Cruise Line is that you are able to book your cruise way in advance providing you with the opportunity to planning well ahead of time, as well as allowing you to save up for the trip!

Disney Cruise Line announces their cruise dates and itineraries for only a few months at a time.

January through April

May through September

September through December

Once the new itineraries are released, booking begins just a day or two later. Priority is provided for those who have sailed before, known as Castaway Club members and then to the public.

For example, September-December 2019 itineraries will be released sometime this May.

I strongly suggest for you to book during opening week as prices usually tend to be at their lowest at that time and are subject to increase as it gets closer to sailing! Disney Cruise Line rarely offers sales or discounts as it is one of the more popular cruise lines that tend to sell out sailings.

When booking opens, Platinum Castaway Club members are able to book on the first day, followed by  Gold members on the 2nd day of opening, Silver Members on the 3rd day of opening and last, but not least, the 4th day is open to the general public.

The Disney Cruise line website is the first place I’d recommend for you to visit so that you can become acquainted with the different sailing ports and the different itineraries and ports of visit your sailing will entail.

Disney Cruise line sets sail from:

San Diego, California

Galveston, Texas

Port Canaveral, Florida (home port for Disney and one hours away from Walt Disney World)

Miami, Florida

New York, New York

Canada, Puerto Rico and many different ports out of Europe

Please make sure to check the different itineraries, as some departure ports only offer sailings different times of the year.

In terms of pricing, I have found that many of the cheaper sailings are during off season, in our case, as we have children, when the kids are in school!  Holiday sailings such as Christmas and New Year’s, for example, are more expensive just as pricing will be higher in June and July, when summer vacations are in full force!

I have noticed that right after Thanksgiving prices take a dip which is nice because Disney begins to deck its ships for their Very Merrytime cruises.  This sailings are my favorite! Well… so is sailing over Halloween season! Early September rates are very reasonable as well, but I know that many people take hurricane season into consideration. I personally would not have a problem sailing at that time as the Captain sails around hurricanes if it were to occur while out at sea. Safety first!

The only recurring special sailing rates are for U.S. military, Florida residents, Canadian Residents and Residents of the European Economic Area (EEA)

If you are a Marvel and/or Star Wars fan, then these special days at sea sailings are just for you!  We have yet to sail on these two exciting theme sailings, but look forward to the day when we are able to do so!! This is when I wish we homeschooled our kids and were able to pick up and go!

If you have ever dreamed of visiting the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Alaska, Bermuda, the California Coast, Mexico, Canada, Europe, the Panama Canal, or the Transatlantic, then what are you waiting for?!?!  Head on over to Disney Cruise Line and start planning the most relaxing and pampering vacation of your dreams for you, and your entire family! Trust me, you’ll thank me later!

Next week, my post will focus on why sailing on Disney Cruise Line, in comparison to the other cruising lines is the only way to go!  More tips and information once you are ready to book your cruise, what Disney Cruise Line has to offer before sailing, onboard and when one gets home, homesick and yearning for your next cruise!

 

Awesome Website with Great Tips for Planning a Disney Trip

Awesome Website with Great Tips for Planning a Disney Trip

This week, I will continue to share my tips on different websites that I utilize when planning a trip to both Disneyland and Disney World. Last week, I focused on touringplans.com, whereas this week, I will focus on Kennythepirate.com. 

Kenny’s website is awesome and full of great information when planning a trip to Disneyland, Disney World, Disney Cruise Line as well as Universal.  He is a one stop shop in planning and putting together a plan of action when visiting the parks, finding the place to eat, the best place to stay and most importantly, information on Character Meet and Greets.

To be honest with you, the part of Kenny’s website I use the most is his Character Locator! It is more than just meeting characters for a picture and/or autograph. Kenny provides on his website and application not only where to find the characters at both Disneyland and Disney World, but what the best times to stand in line for them, and even tips on how to interact with the different characters!  His website offers schedules for entertainment shows throughout the year, as well as focusing on the different activities, character greet and meets and events during the Halloween and Christmas parties at Magic Kingdom, while also including the various events that occur throughout the year at Epcot, such as Epcot’s International Food and Wine festival in the Fall! The website is mobile friendly and a great tool to utilize!

The website includes ride information complete with point of view videos of the rides themselves! Isn’t that awesome?  Additionally, it also includes a full meet and greet information portion of the website, show times, menus for all the restaurants, touring plans, crowd calendars, trivia, a chat room and much more!

Père Noël Holiday Storyteller in the France Pavilion at Epcot.

I recently utilized his custom touring plan when we visited Epcot during our December trip.  I was interested in watching all the different Holiday Storytellers around the World Showcase, and thanks to following his plan, I was able to enjoy them all with no problem.  I saved a lot of time by not having to construct a plan to follow on my own! It was already provided!

Now… I’m going to share my ultimate hush hush tip of using Kenny’s website. Character Palooza…. I will leave this beauty of a gem for you to discover on your own while planning your trip to Disney World through Kenny’s website! Trust me… you will thank me later!

Each destination listed in Kenny the Pirate does require a yearly membership fee. It is quite inexpensive!

*My acknowledgement to mention that this website is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated by kennythepirate.com, but that of my personal opinion and experience with its services.

And for a limited time… “Refer A Friend”.
Go to www.characterlocator.com and click “Refer A Friend”.

If someone subscribes using your link you will get a discount toward your renewal and they will get 10% off their subscription.

Tips on Different Websites I Utilize when Planning a Trip to Disney

Tips on Different Websites I Utilize when Planning a Trip to Disney

For the next couple of posts, I would like to share with you the different websites that I utilize when planning out our trip, whether it be to Disneyland, Disney World or Disney Cruising! I share these wonderful resources to help you plan a more efficient and relaxed trip!

This week, I will showcase touringplans.

Touringplans.com

I found this great website when I first began researching our trip to Walt Disney World as I did not know where to begin.

Touringplans provides a step by step guide using easy tools on the website in planning your stay to the different parks and other destinations.

This website not only provides information such as crowd level predictions, showtimes, dining information and abundance more for WDW, Disneyland, Disney, but it also provides information for other destinations such as Disney Cruise Line as well as other non-Disney theme parks and destinations.

Personally, the portion of this website that I utilize the most while constructing my day by day park visits is the personalized touring plan. Say for example, I am going to visit Magic Kingdom, on June 16, 2018.  I simply create a touring plan and add and drop the various attractions, entertainment, rest breaks and/or dining breaks into my plan.  I can either adjust the times by optimizing and allowing the computer data plans to create the best order, or I can evaluate the order that I personalized without having the computer data change my plans but provide me with what kind of wait times I should expect for that specific date and time.

This is where my early bird planning for Fastpasses come into play, whether I am going to be visiting Disneyland or DisneyWorld.  When I know the dates that we will be visiting, I begin to set up my personalized touring plan and put together a plan of action.  I can therefore, re-evaluate and change our plans according to the computer data that provides me with the different wait times.  I plug in which Fastpasses I am hoping to acquire to have a detailed plan of which Fastpasses I want to book when my booking window opens.  Therefore, I go in with a strategy on which rides and times I want to FastPass and for what days. Amazing!!

This website also has a mobile app that I have downloaded on my phone, so when we are at the parks, I open up the app and follow the schedule for the day according to the personalized plan that I created.  Let me tell you, how much time we have saved by not having to stand in line and accomplishing so much in the parks because I was prepared and had a plan of action!  I have also printed out my personalized touring plans before, and check them off as the day progresses. 

I remember the first time we utilized the plan at WDW and my husband was pretty hesitant about me having a “checklist” and a regimented schedule to follow.  He quickly realized that morning how we were able to accomplish so many attractions, entertainment and dining without having to wander around the parks wondering where to go and what to do next and the best part—avoiding the large crowds of people and long wait times for rides!

I have also found that I utilize the personalized plans more at WDW than I do at Disneyland. I do create them when we go to Disneyland, but I think I do not use them as often because I have grown up going to Disneyland so often that we tend to find that we do not have to cover so much ground as we do when traveling to WDW where we find time to be of essence as we do not visit as often!  Not to mention that Disney is constantly changing attractions and entertainment.

Each destination listed in Touring Plans does require a yearly membership fee. It is quite inexpensive!

*My acknowledgement to mention that this website is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated by touringplans.com, but that of my personal opinion and experience with its services.

 

 

 

 

MagicBands and FastPass+…. the fun stuff while planning your WDW vacation!

MagicBands and FastPass+…. the fun stuff while planning your WDW vacation!

This week I’m continuing on the planning process that I take each time we take a trip to Walt Disney World. Last week’s post focused on booking your WDW vacation package and dining reservations, while this week I will be focusing on that neat gadget you put around your wrist during your entire vacation stay and the difference between securing those Fastpasses at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.

 

MagicBands

When you book your WDW stay, you will then be able to customize your MagicBands through your My Disney Experience account online.  You will then be able to select the color of your band and even name it! Do not forget to take your MagicBands with you in your personal belongings especially if you are flying into Orlando International Airport as you will need to scan them upon arrival to Disney’s Magical Express Check In before boarding the shuttle to your Resort.  Once you arrive at your Resort, you will then use the MagicBand as your room key to your room as well as to purchase food, souvenirs around the parks, resorts and anywhere on Disney property.

MagicBands are mailed to you about a month before your Walt Disney World vacation begins! Easy peasy… lemon squeezy!! If you did not book your WDW vacation with a Disney property resort, no need to worry as you can always purchase MagicBands at the parks as well as going online to shopdisney.com.  When your MagicBands have arrived prior to your vacation, do not forget to remember to link them to your My Disney Experience Account if you purchase MagicBands from Shop Disney.

FastPasses 

So, for my very first post, I mentioned the importance of rope dropping before the parks open, but I also mentioned fast passes around the parks!  At Disney, there are no MagicBands and therefore, FastPasses are accumulated while going around the parks and inserting your park ticket or Annual Pass into the FastPass machine, only certain rides provide FastPasses.  The machine will generate a FASTPASS receipt with your Return-Time window.

One of the newer ways of obtaining Fastpasses without having to run around Disneyland or Disney California Adventures is by purchasing the new Disney MaxPass!

https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/fastpass/

At Walt Disney World, you can still obtain FastPasses using your park ticket if you do not have a MagicBand. Now, the awesome part of that MagicBand is that your FastPasses are stored within the MagicBand so you do not have to worry about carrying around your return time.  Additionally, your MagicBand is synced up to your My Disney Experience account as well!  Furthermore, I’d strongly recommend for you to download the Walt Disney World application for your phone as you can not only check your FastPasses, but you can revise them and/or obtain more FastPasses after you have used the three that are provided to you first! (More information on this app on the next post!)

Whereas Disneyland Resort does have the Fast Pass system which is paper ticketed and attached to your admission ticket, Walt Disney World has FastPass+ which is the electronic/system for booking rides at all four Walt Disney World Parks.  Both Fast Passes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, allow you to skip the regular line, or wait in a much shorter line to a ride by providing you with a return time. It’s awesome, because as you wait for your Fast Pass time to happen, you can be enjoying the parks elsewhere!

As mentioned before, if you are staying at a Disney resort, you can make your FastPass+ 60 days in advance prior to your arrival! If you are not staying at a Disney resort, you can make FastPass+ reservations up to 30 days prior to arrival.

This is when the fun begins! On the day your booking window opens, be sure to have a full cup of coffee in hand because you will be up early! Even earlier if you are in California! FastPass+ starts at 7 a.m. EST, so that means on the West Coast, you will be booking at the wee early hours of 4 a.m.

I’m not going to lie… it’s an adrenaline rush for me! I have my routine down where I go to the kitchen to brew my coffee, walk over to my work desk with the door closed to not wake anyone, I then browse over my list with the days, times and rides that I am lusting and praying that I am able to get while repeatedly glancing at my clock for it to strike 4 am!

When the clock strikes 4, I am on My Disney Experience which can be found on the top right corner of Disneyworld.com website and I am off to work clicking away the various days and times in regards to the rides I am seeking!

Initially, you can reserve 3 FastPass+ selections each day. There is an hour window that cannot overlap, and that must be at the same park.  You can always modify your FastPasses once you have initially reserved them. Once you have either used or cancelled all 3 of your Fastpasses for a day, you can reserve another FastPass for that day at any park. Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood parks have what are called tiered selections. (Tier 1 enables you to select one choice per day, per Guest and two choices from available experiences from Tier 2. ) You can always change, modify, and get new FastPass+ reservations by visiting the My Disney Experience app on your phone or by visiting an in-park kiosk.  I have always found it easier to reserve and modify on my phone, especially while standing in line for a ride and/or while eating a meal!

Now… how on earth do I manage to put a schedule together on what rides we are going to ride, what shows and parades we are going to watch and where on earth we are going to eat ALL prior to booking FastPasses and Disney Dining Reservations you ask? Well… I’ll let you in on my little secret!  Next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Booking your Walt Disney World Vacation and Booking Dining Reservations

Booking your Walt Disney World Vacation and Booking Dining Reservations

Last week, I focused on our two vacation stays at Art of Animation, a value resort. For the coming weeks, I want to focus on how I’ve prepared for our various trips to Walt Disney World and the preparations I’ve changed or kept for other fun filled magical trips to WDW.

This week, I will focus on booking your Walt Disney World vacation and booking your dining reservations.

Booking your Walt Disney Resort Stay

One of the awesome reasons for booking your vacation with Walt Disney World Resorts www.waltdisneyworld.com is that you receive many great perks, such as being able to book Fast Passes 60 days before your arrival, taking advantage of Early Magic Hour (early admission into parks) receiving MagicBands, (more on this in next week’s post) which are truly magical by allowing you to have access to your hotel room, paying for food and items at the resorts and parks.  Last, but not least, booking a Walt Disney World Resort also includes the Magical Express, a complimentary shuttle upon arrival at Orlando International Airport.

Disney’s Magical Express leaving the Art of Animation

After making reservations for your hotel, be sure to ask your booking agent for reserving your spot on the Magical Express!

Upon making your reservations through Walt Disney World, I am then able to start my account on My Disney Experience which can be found on the top right corner of the Disneyworld.com website.  There, I can create a profile not only for myself, (the plan manager) but for the rest of the family. (For example, for our last trip, my parents joined us for a couple of days, and therefore, I was able to add them to our account and I was able to manage their reservations.) I am also able to link our hotel reservations, ticket purchase, FastPass+ selections as well as dining.  This application will be extremely important for your stay!

Magical Express luggage tags and documents are usually shipped to your home about 2-3 weeks before your check-in date.

                                                       Dining Reservations

Sci Fi Dine-In Theatre at Hollywood Studios

Upon planning for our first trip to Disney World, I was so excited to eat at the many places I’ve seen photographed and presented all over different social media platforms. I knew for sure that we wanted to eat at Be Our Guest restaurant, as well as Cinderella’s Royal Table!

Regardless of staying on or off property, you can book your table-service dining reservations 180 days prior to arrival.  For guests staying on Disney property, they are able to book at the 180-day mark for their length of stay. For reservations, you can directly call into Walt Disney World or book online through your Disney account.

There are three types of dining experience at Disney World:

Snacks: These include food items that you can purchase at food carts throughout the parks such as churros, popcorn, etc. Many quick service restaurants also sell snacks!

Warm Cinnamon Roll at Gaston’s Tavern

Quick Service: Is a dining option that involves guests making food selection from a shorter menu, where you walk up to order your food and waiting for a few minutes as your order is prepared for you and given to you at a nearby window. Quick service dining is great for guests on the go!

Examples: Tangierine Cafe at Epcot, Be our Guest Breakfast and Lunch at Magic Kingdom, Harambe Market at Animal Kingdom, Backlot Express at Hollywood Studios, Landscape of Flavors Food Court at Art of Animation Resort and Cookes of Dublin at Disney Springs.

Table Service: Is a dining experience that is not for those on the go, but rather those that want to sit down and enjoy their surroundings for a bit longer. Table Service restaurants includes Character Dining where you interact with characters as you eat your meal.

Examples: Be Our Guest Dinner at Magic Kingdom, Garden Grill at Epcot, Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian, Sci-Fi Dine In at Hollywood Studios, and Rainforest Café at Disney Springs.

1900 Park Fare’s, Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, at The Grand Floridian

Snacks, Quick Service and Table Service restaurants are located at all four theme parks, select Disney resorts and at Disney Springs.

Select dinner shows, such as, Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue, and special dining events, such as the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party at Hollywood Studies, also take reservations.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/en_CA/dining/#/reservations-accepted/

Disney Dining Plans

If you ask me, not having to worry about planning where to eat and not to mention having to pay while at the parks for our meals is a winner for me.  If this sounds amazing and you are staying on Disney property… then Disney Dining Plan is just for you!

Disney Dining Plans are a convenient and flexible way to enjoy the abundance of food locations available for resort guests who have purchased  Magic Your Way Package. The dining plan allows you to purchase a certain number of meals ahead of time as a place holder system until they are used.  For each night of a guest’s stay, each guest on the reservation receives an allotted amount of table service, quick service and snacks-depending on the specific plan you choose.

Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas- Kidani Village
Amorette’s Patisserie’s Petit “Holiday” Cake from Disney Springs   

Another cool part of having a MagicBand is that it will electronically monitor your party’s allocated meals. Your receipt after each meal will display the number of meals remaining for each hotel room on your reservation. This allows you to keep track of your balance. All meals and snacks may be redeemed in any order during your stay until your balance reaches zero or until midnight of the night you check out. You may also cash out your table service and/or quick service meals for snacks.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/en_CA/dining/plans/

For our last two resort stays, we included the Dining Plan with our vacation package because I did not want to worry about paying each meal on our credit card and arriving at home with quite the racked up Disney award points because of the huge bill charged onto our Disney Visa!  I won’t lie… having my MagicBand scanned each time for our bill made me feel like a superhero! Lol!

For our stay this past New Year’s, we stayed off property and therefore did not have the Dining Plan. Let me tell you our little story at Tusker House character brunch!  We had dined earlier that summer with the Dining Plan and therefore, again, superhero scanned, it was taken care of with our dining credits (except for the alcohol purchase that was charged on the credit card)…. well, come this January with no super hero scan… we received the bill and I nearly spit out my drink when I realized our total bill was over $200 for a family of four! Yeah… at that moment, I missed my Dining Plan….

When using your Dining Plan credits for Table Service, it is wise to pick the restaurants that include Character Dining because you are really getting your money’s worth from those credits, as they are the restaurants whose menu items cost more.  Hence, why I never realized the price or Tusker House until I was paying with my credit card.

Utilizing Character Dining experience for our Table Service credits is awesome!

For this summer’s trip, I’m very much looking forward to eating at the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Splitsville and Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs and Rose and Crown at Epcot! (I like to eat at new places each trip!)

What have been your experience booking your Walt Disney World vacation through Disney and have you ever utilized the Disney Dining Plan?

 

 

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