Friday Five: 5 Reasons a Disney Cruise is the best family vacation!

 

Earlier this week, Disney released cruise details for summer 2017 sailings. With some new itineraries and the return of double Castaway Cay sailings, it’s sure to be an exciting year! BUT you don’t have to wait until 2017 to sail aboard a Disney Cruise! There is still availability for this summer, fall, or winter if the excitement is brewing and you just can’t wait (or what I like to call Melissa-itis) as the 3rd most impatient person in the history of the world (just ask my husband).

So why do I think Disney cruises are the best family vacations? There are too many reasons to count, but I’ll narrow it down to my top 5:

  1. Disney cruises were created with families in mind. Of course you understand this idea – Disney = family but Disney took all of the comments made by families who have traveled on other cruise lines and thought about how to plan spaces with families in mind so you’ll see split baths – meaning 2 guests can get ready at the same time – in MOST staterooms, family activities for all age groups – young children, tweens and teens, and adults only experiences, and staterooms designed to help make everyone comfortable – rooms that sleep up to 5 (so families don’t have to get split in many situations), what I would consider a significant amount of storage, and generally larger staterooms than other cruise lines. Disney cruises are also not “booze cruises” – you won’t see bar or liquor packages available. While alcohol is available for purchase and there is a wine package, it’s very different than what you will see on other cruise lines that don’t have family first.
  2. Kids Clubs/Youth Activity Centers. This falls into a similar category of “created with families in mind”. Disney offers some unique adult only experiences, but what do you do with the kids? The answer – youth activity centers! Kids from ages 3-17 can enjoy time “on their own” for FREE! It’s included in the cost of your cruise. All locations are appropriately staffed for safety. For moms like me with younger kids, as long as your 3 year old is fully potty trained, they can also enjoy the kids clubs (although they may only last an hour or so). That’s long enough for some quiet time at one of the adult pools, a quick spa treatment, or even enjoying one of the many “classes” available – mixology, wine tastings, and more! Adults can also enjoy a unique brunch or dinner at one of the fine dining locations on the ship while kids make friends and play as well!
  3. Character appeal! We love Disney World (this is not surprise to anyone who only knows me just a little bit) DCL Pirateand much of that is because of my 3 year old’s love of Disney characters. You can get ALL of this magic on a Disney cruise and save your feet from aching and limit your wait time. Your personal navigator will have all of the available character meet and greets for the day (and characters are also available on Castaway Cay for Bahamian and Caribbean cruises). It’s a great way to not worry about waiting in heat or trying for FastPasses and the look on your kids faces are the most priceless piece of the puzzle!
  4. It’s all inclusive. (Almost) Your cruise fare includes almost everything you’ll need or want as part of your experience. Disney includes all of your dining (including world class rotational dining each evening), daily entertainment, the aforementioned characters and youth clubs, and even most items on the room service menu! The few things not included are gratuities to the men and women who work incredibly hard to make your trip absolutely magical (standard cost is $12 per person per night – you may add more for exceptional service), alcoholic beverages, specialty coffee and smoothies, and bottled water, and of course, souvenirs. You can absolutely make your adventure all inclusive by not adding more whether it be port adventures, alcohol, or adult only brunch or dinners not included in your rotational dining. We are often happy to skip port adventures and remain on the ship for the most part.
  5. It’s a vacation for everyone! Everyone gets what they want. Mom gets what she wants because she has some time to be “off duty” with the youth clubs and doesn’t have to entertain everyone for every waking moment. Dad gets the amazing food and adults only events (which mom also loves, but she really wants some relaxation on vacation but for everyone to still be happy), big brother or sister isn’t “stuck” doing things that are “kid friendly” and can enjoy the tween clubs and make new friends and learn new things, and younger brother can enjoy the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab and have the time of his life playing and getting visits from his favorite Disney characters. Everyone can come together at meal time and for a family swimming adventure. Everyone gets a little of what they want but there’s still family time as well! And in the end, that makes everyone happy!
A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

The process of booking a Disney cruise can be VERY confusing, so let a professional help you! Please contact me at any time for a free quote.The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation! Plus you won’t have to watch for any possible rate drops, research everything there is to offer, or keep track of milestone dates for any “extras” you want during your voyage.  The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your cruise planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Advertisements

Disney Cruise Dining Tips & Tricks

 

If you are planning your first cruise on a Disney boat then hopefully these pointers will come in handy for you. Know that all food while onboard and at Castaway Cay is included in the price of your cruise (even seconds), with the exception of Palo/Remy, where there is a small cover charge per person.

Dress Code – Most other cruise lines have formal nights but Disney really does not do this DCL Pirateand just another reason why I love the Disney ships. You can dress up if you want but I am on vacation and one less “thing” for me, as a mom, to worry about!  However, be expected to have “cruise casual” which is casual pants and polo style shirts for men/boys and a sundress or casual pants and top for the women/girls.  It is always fun to dress up in pirate garb for that fun themed evening and fireworks after.  Also, a nicer more dress up night makes a really nice photo opportunity for the family with  Mickey!  Lastly, if the adults are planning a special meal at Palo or Remy then prepare for a nice jacket for men, dress or pantsuit for women.

Dining Rotations – most don’t realize but Disney was the first to start the dining rotation concept which allows you to experience a different restaurant each night for dinner while your servers remain the same – they follow you to each evening!  I loved the fact that after the first night our servers knew which drink to have waiting for each of us before we even sat down.  And they even had a birthday cupcake celebration for my daughter on her big day.

There are two dinner seatings each evening, an early seating and a late seating.  Early seating times are either 5:30pm, 5:45pm or 6:00pm and late seating times are either 8:00pm, 8:15pm or 8:30pm.  Ours on the Disney Dream, had our dining times as 5:45pmLiv Bday dcl and 8:15pm.  The first seating is the most popular but I have learned to enjoy the later one now in my older years – it is easier with the older children – just a tip. You can request which seating you prefer when you first book the cruise, or change it once you board which is subject to availability, of course. Please note that the dining rotation only applies to dinner, and to breakfast on debarkation day. You are free to have breakfast and lunch wherever you wish through out your trip.

Once on board, you will receive a “dining ticket” which will list your restaurant location for each night, and your seating time.  There are three restaurants onboard each ship so on a three night cruise you will dine in each of the three restaurants over the three nights once. If you are on the four night cruise you will dine in each of the three restaurants, plus one will be repeated. Usually, on the repeat night you will have the Pirates Themed dinner.  Then if you are lucky enough to be on a seven night or longer cruise then you will keep rotating through each of the three restaurants for the duration of your cruise. Your table number will also be printed on your dining ticket, and will be the same each night, regardless of which restaurant you will be in.  I always carried my ticket to dinner and handed to the host/hostess to be seated.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

The process of booking a Disney cruise can be VERY confusing, so let a professional help you! Please contact me at any time for a free quote.The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation! Plus you won’t have to watch for any possible rate drops, research everything there is to offer, or keep track of milestone dates for any “extras” you want during your voyage.  The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your cruise planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

 

 

Top 10 Tips for First Time DCL Cruisers

 

I have a lot of first time cruisers for Spring Break this year and I have put a list of best tips for them so thought I would share with you!

Best Price:  Your best pricing will generally when the first booking dates open up and then the closer to the date you want and as availability lessens, the price will increase.  If there are some sailings that are not fully booked there might be a discount on non-booked rooms, but they are non-refundable and non-changeable.  Of course these rooms are not always offered but worth a try if you want a quick get-away.  Surprisingly, I did just book one for a month out (got the last 4 person cabin for them, too) and it wasn’t that bad of a price so I was excited for them!

Getting to the port:  If  you are driving your own car then you can park at the Disney garage there beside the terminal just for Disney.  However, this can get pricey but there are a couple of other near by garages that offer free shuttles if you would rather do that to help save. If you are traveling in a group then you might want to have a town car/van service  take you to the port.  It could be much cheaper than the Disney motor coach so check it out (or I will be glad to set it up for you).

ID’s:  Please make sure that you have your ID and all documentation for each person in your party ready at the terminal, and make sure they are properly signed. Without the proper documentation you may not be able to board and I have seen a family crying over the fact that “Susie” didn’t have her paperwork signed by the dad to go with mom and step-dad, etc…It is sooooo sad but Disney will turn you away so be prepared!  Arrive early but be aware that the terminal/parking lot do not open until 10:30AM.  You will be given a time to arrive for your registration and this helps make everything go smoother.

Kid’s Clubs:  Speaking of going smoother….remember to sign up your children for the special programs for them on the ship. The kids really do love all the fun activities and mine even hated to leave when we would come to pick them up!  At the terminal you will register them at a separate desk (hopefully you did the online check in for them to make it go faster – and I can help with this) and they are given a GPS bracelet to wear which is part of Disney’s important security safeguards for the children.

Adult Time:  Please take full advantage of the adult only areas of the ship.  The pool, adult activities, and bars are incredible!  And then the on board spa for some pampering is wonderful; no one does it like Disney! Remember that the spa time slots get booked quickly so don’t wait to schedule your time. The best price for a treatment will be the day you depart from the port!

Bars/Alcohol: Be aware that you can bring your own alcohol on board in your carry-on luggage…no larger than 750 milliliters — or six beers — no larger than 12 ounces — on board at the beginning of the trip and at each port-of-call.  Liquors and spirits, along with over-the-limit wine, champagne and beer will be stored until the end of the cruise. Alcohol packed in checked luggage will be removed and stored until the end of the cruise. This new policy went into effect fall 2015.  Also know that if you bring a bottle of wine to your dinner table then you will pay a $20.00 corking fee.  There are some restrictions such as you cannot consume your own alcohol in a public lounge. But if you want a drink in your stateroom prior to dinner, and you bring it on the boat to save yourself a good bit of money.  And be prepared to have the bars add a 18% gratuity to your purchase automatically.  I will usually give a few extra if they bring it to my chair on Castaway Cay though.

Packing:  Easier said than done for me but don’t over pack.  My hubby gets onto me because I am “too prepared” but that’s the girl scout in me!  Remember that there are laundry facilities on board just like any nice hotel to help with this. Find out how many formal, semi-formal or theme party nights will take place on your cruise so you know what to take other than cruise casual clothing.  If traveling Disney then there are no real “formal nights” like other cruise lines so a nice sundress will be fine.  You might want to pick cute matching outfits for a formal photo with Mickey or dress in Pirate grab for the Pirate/fireworks party!

Photos:  Talking about pictures with Mickey….you might want to plan on purchasing some of the photographs taken on board.  There are pre-sail packages that you can buy that help save money. And if you are taking your own photographs make sure you have a way to upload the digital photos or have enough digital cards so you won’t be limited on pics while on ship. Make sure you pack extra batteries or charging devices.  We have forgotten the charger once …..once was all it took!

Customs:  Understand the customs requirements for the areas you are visiting and have your paperwork and itinerary in order (I make a great book that comes in your Minnie Box for you!).  When you work with us, Disney Cruise specialists, then we will help you with all of that.

Know your budget: Lastly, know what the ENTIRE cruise will cost you from port parking to ship staff gratuities.  You want your vacation to be a relaxing one with your family so avoid feeling stressed out about the finance part.  If this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience then get the best cabin you can afford and plan on a couple of port excursions.  I always lay out every detail for my clients because I do not want them to be surprised at the end!

MinnieBox

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

I hope this helps you and I would love to help plan your next magical memories aboard a Disney cruise ship! The process of booking a Disney cruise can be VERY confusing, so let a professional help you! Please contact me at any time for a free quote.The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation! Plus you won’t have to watch for any possible rate drops, research everything there is to offer, or keep track of milestone dates for any “extras” you want during your voyage.  The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your cruise planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

 

 

10 Important Tips for your first Disney Cruise

cruisemickey

So you’re thinking about a Disney Cruise. Well congratulations! You’ve selected an amazing family destination for kids young and old. It’s a lot less strenuous than Disney World and it can also be a more affordable option if you do it right. Here are 10 important tips as you plan your first Disney Cruise:

1. Plan early. Typically the best rates (and the most room options) are available as soon as rates become available. That’s often 12-18 months out so that plan may not work for everyone but the sooner you can confirm your details the better. This is especially important if you are traveling with a larger group that spans more than 1 stateroom! For the most part, gone are the days of promotional offers. You may find some great last minute fares for ships that aren’t full but it’s never a guarantee.

2. Travel off season. With kids, I know this one is hard but traveling off season will save you big bucks. Spring Break, Summer, and Holidays are all peak time and Disney will take advantage by making that peak cost time as well!

3. Know what your budget will get you. A $2000 budget it not going to get a 7 night cruise. A family of 5 only fits in a single stateroom as a Verandah room which is definitely bigger bucks. Kids under 3 aren’t free. Think about your budget but be flexible to enjoy the cruise experience you’d like. For many, 4 night cruises leave you a feeling of wanting more but for others it’s a great “test” or starter cruise.

4. Sea sickness concerns. If you have any concerns about sea sickness, choose your stateroom appropriately. Inside staterooms don’t give you a window to the outside world, so I’d cross it off the list. The middle of the ship has the least amount of sway. Stay away from rooms toward the ends of the ship. Don’t travel during peak storm season where you may have to travel at higher speeds to get somewhere or where you may encounter more rough waters. You may also want to consider a verandah room to give you a chance to breathe in the fresh air. In general, it’s said to have a view of the horizon at all times. When all else fails, bring seasickness patches!

5. Think about what you’ll be doing on the ship. When choosing a stateroom, think about where you planning on spending most of your time. While all ships have elevators, it’s a slow mode of transportation. Plan on taking the stairs if you’re able! If pool time and soft drink and ice cream are most important, pick a higher deck to be closer to those locations. If child activity areas and youth clubs (or dining) are higher on your priority list, the lower decks are best. If both are important, pick somewhere in the middle and you’ll be between everything you need!

6. Know the milestone dates. Your rotational dining is already set for you, so nothing as competitive as Disney World dining reservations, but if you want a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience (not on all ships) or a fine dining or brunch reservation at Remy or Palo, they are quick to go. You may snag a cancelled reservation after boarding the ship or close to your departure date, but planning ahead is important!

7. Know customs and identification requirements. If you are traveling to an international destination or you are departing from a non-US port city, you will need a passport. Bahamian and Caribbean cruises you may not need one, but I think it’s helpful to have even for the kids. An added expense, but an important thing to think about as you plan!

8. Choosing the right dining time. The default selection for your rotational dining each night is the second seating which might be late for the little ones in your crew if you are thinking about a Caribbean or Bahamian cruise. If you’re going Alaska, the main seating might be too early. Make sure you are aware of seating times!

9. Transportation. If you are traveling to Port Canaveral, transportation to and from the Orlando airport is not free like it is with WDW. Expect an additional per person cost to get you there and back. If you have a larger party, it may be more cost effective to rent a car or find your own method of transportation. If you’re driving, you’ll have a parking fee at port per day. Disney does have transport to and from your WDW resort for the same fee as departing from the airport. Be aware that each resort has their own departure times (typically just once a day, so you may want to return back to the airport if you want an early arrival).

10. Be prepared for a trip of a lifetime. Prepare yourself for an amazing stay with all sorts of magic and somewhere you’ll want to go back to over and over again. Be prepared to let out a few tears on your way back to port. If you need more magic right away, you can book your next trip on the ship and save yourself a few dollars in the process! It’s a truly magical experience that no one will ever forget!

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

The process of booking a Disney cruise can be VERY confusing, so let a professional help you! Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation! Plus you won’t have to watch for any possible rate drops, research everything there is to offer, or keep track of milestone dates for any “extras” you want during your voyage.  The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) If you already have your cruise planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!