Showing posts with label DCL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DCL. Show all posts

Where to Eat on the Disney Dream

Breakfast at Royal Palace on Disney Dream
What's breakfast without Mickey Waffles on your Disney Cruise?

Cruising on a Disney Cruise Line vacation means there is magic around every corner. . .even when it comes to the food!  You are sure to find something for everyone (and then some!) when you are on the Disney Dream.  Let's take a look at where to eat while on the Disney Dream.

Main Dining Rooms on the Disney Dream


As you may or may not know, Disney Cruise Line features a unique cruising feature - rotational dining.  Rotational dining means that each night of your cruise you change restaurants, but your wait staff travels with you.  This means you get to have varying dining experiences each night of your cruise with the bonus of having your waitstaff remain the same.  Like other cruise line restaurants, you'll find appetizers, soups, main courses, and desserts available regardless of where you are eating. Want to try more than one thing - just ask!  They'll be happy to make your dining wish come true.  Each restaurant also features a kid's menu so the little ones will find their favorites even when they're away from home.  During booking, you'll select either main dining or late dining.  Don't worry - all of the shows in the theater are scheduled so guests on either seating can enjoy them.

Pool Deck Guide for the Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line Pools and Slides

Can we just take a minute and pay tribute to the amazingness that is the pool deck on the Disney Dream??

OK.  Thanks.  

Seriously though, if you have never been on a Disney Cruise Line vacation, you may be wondering what all the hype is about. . .and if the price is worth it.  There are several areas where I feel like Disney has other cruise lines beat, but one of the most obvious for me is when it comes to the pool deck.  We recently sailed again on the Disney Dream and here's a quick recap of what you can expect to see on the pool deck with your family.

How to Meet Characters on Your Disney Cruise Vacation

Let's face it - kids (and some of us adults!) love meeting characters when we travel to Disney destinations.  A Disney Cruise Line vacation is no different and gives you a number of ways to meet & interact with characters while on board.  Check out these tips to make the most of your opportunities to meet characters while cruising with your family!

You can reserve some character experiences ahead of time


Just like FastPass+ and Advanced Dining Reservations can be booked prior to a Walt Disney World Resort vacation, guests sailing on Disney Cruise Line can book some experiences ahead of their cruise.  Some of these include character meet & greets! While I'm sure the reservation options may vary - particularly on special sailings - you will definitely want to check them out on the "My Cruise Activities" section of your reservation.  For our cruise, there were a few Frozen meet and greets plus several Princess meet and greets.  The ONLY way to participate in these is with a reservation - and they do book up quickly!  Also, depending on your sailing, there may be character dining experiences too.  Be sure to log into your "My Cruise Activities" as soon as your window opens to have the best chance of getting what you want to book.

The Pirate's League on Disney Cruise Line

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me. . .

Each Disney Cruise Line vacation in the Bahamas and Caribbean features a special Pirates in the Caribbean night where scalawags of all ages are invited to party aboard the ship.  For this special night, the usual Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the ship also transforms into The Pirate's League.  We had done this experience twice before in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but not on one of our cruise vacations yet.  On our recent trip, we decided to make reservations for the whole family - yes, that's right - all 4 of us!

Before we start, let's go over some basic information you need to know.  This experience can be booked online in your cruise planning section on the Disney Cruise Line website.  We didn't have a problem getting a reservation and there were still some available even on Pirate Night itself, but for the best times and to ensure your reservation, I recommend doing it when your window opens if you're interested.  You can always cancel or change your reservation if needed closer to the time.  The cost is $44.95 (as of January 2020) for a variety of makeover options - 3 piratey options that are more for the boys (Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, and Captain Hook) and 2 options for the ladies (Empress and Redd).  For an additional fee you can also purchase a costume, but I recommend bringing one from home to save on cash.  Money Saving Tip - Check your local stores in the days following Halloween for deep discounts on costumes and accessories.  You also want to carefully pick your time during the day to schedule your makeover.  We chose to do ours at 4:45 because that allowed us all day in port to enjoy the beach and pool, but still have the whole evening to enjoy our new looks.

When you arrive, you'll check in at the front desk and roll the dice to find out your new pirate name.  After confirming your pirate selection, the buccaneers in your family will be whisked away to your chair for your swashbuckling makeover.  The makeover is quick - roughly 15 minutes - but the memories will last much longer.  The cast members entertain both the person getting the makeover and the family with jokes, stories, and songs.  At the end of the makeover, the newest pirate takes the pirate oath and officially becomes part of the league.

While it may be obvious that kids will have fun at The Pirate's League, the bigger question may be if adults can have fun there too.  Unlike the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, adults are welcome to participate.  The makeovers are the same as the ones offered for kids.  I didn't find my makeover to be overly impressive from the actual make-up side of things (could have been much bolder in my honest opinion), but I had just as much fun as my kids.  In my opinion, I think the male makeovers pack a bit more punch and thought my husband made quite the impressive pirate.

After you leave The Pirate's League, you will have a night to remember.  We used the remainder of the time before dinner to meet a few pirate characters including Pirate Mickey and Captain Jack Sparrow.  We then enjoyed our pirate themed dinner inside Animator's Palate.  Our night then continued with Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean Night Deck Party and the fireworks at sea later on in the evening.

Dressing up for Pirate Night makes the night even more fun for the whole family and I'm so glad we made the decision to book The Pirate's League on the Disney Dream.  Would we book it again?  I think I would definitely consider booking it again for our boys - at $44.95 I feel like it was well worth the price.  It's much more reasonable than the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and a fun way for the boys to  get in on the excitement.  Be sure to check it out on your next Disney Cruise Line vacation!  Ahoy mateys!

Castaway Cay 5K - What to know before your run!

We're fresh off our latest Disney Cruise Line vacation in January 2020 and during our sailing on the Disney Dream we made a stop at Disney's Castaway Cay - a private island paradise in the Bahamas!  This island has it all. . .sun, sand, crystal clear water, food, a kids club, and much more.  But running friends will be happy to know that there is a FREE, yes you read that right, FREE 5K run available on every stop at Disney's Castaway Cay.  This was my second time participating in the run, but while many things remained the same, a few have changed and it's important to note what you need to know before you run.

It's a fun run, not a race - If you're a regular reader here, you know my deep love of runDisney races.  Alas, this is not considered a runDisney race.  In fact, it's considered an "onboard activity" for cruise guests.  When you are planning all of your cruise activities on the Disney Cruise Line website you can "register" for the race.  Once on board, stop by guest services and pick up a waiver that will need to be completed before the race.  Or, you can walk up to the race start and get the waiver to fill out.  Trade your completed waiver for a bib and you are good to go.  The start is a simple "1, 2, 3. . .Go!" announcement and there is no chip timing - just a simple clock at the start finish area.  

But you do get a medal! - The other thing you probably know about me is that I care about the bling. . .deeply.  All finishers in this fun run will get a fun rubber medal.  Yes it's only rubber, but it has a cute ribbon and a fun design to commemorate your accomplishment.  I mean, you ran on a cruise vacation while most people on cruises only run to the buffet line!  Wear it proudly and be sure to stop by and see the characters around the island after your run for some pictures showing off your bling.

Getting off the ship - So this was a change from the last time I ran this particular event and the guest services staff told me it started just a few months ago.  In the past, runners would receive a "shore excursion" ticket the night before and meet in a specified lounge around 7:45.  As soon as the ship was cleared, the runners disembarked first together as a group to take the nearly 10 minute walk to the start line.  That's in the past now.  Runners just meet up at the start line which means that you have to join the pack of people exiting the ship when it's cleared at 8:30 and make your way very quickly to the starting point near the bike rentals.  I have to say, I was not a fan of this change. . .even if I got to sleep in an extra 30 minutes!

This run is for everyone - You will find serious runners here who go all out and others who are 100% walkers just looking to stretch their legs with some exercise and take home a unique cruise souvenir.  I know sometimes we all find ourselves being self-conscious with our abilities, but don't be nervous about joining this fun run.  The course is a super simple out and back and the island terrain means you will encounter no elevation change whatsoever.

Speaking of the island - Regardless of what time of year you run, there are a few things to keep in mind.  Even with an 8:50AM start time, you are running on an island. . .in the Bahamas.  It's hot and oftentimes it humid.  The sun is intense most days too.  Even the walkers in this event want to take hydration very seriously.  Think about it in the days leading up and drink plenty of water on board.  Along the course of the fun run, you pass a water aid station 4 times - take advantage of it!  I saw a lot of people stretching out cramps along the way.

The Castaway Cay 5K is truly a family fun event that casual and serious runners will want to check out on your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  Kids as young as 10 may participate.  If you need a space to check-in younger children while you run, Disney has a kids club, Scuttle's Cove, on the island which is open as you make your way to the run.

You may also want to pack some extra money for the race apparel that you'll find at the finish line! There is a cute collection of hats, tanks, tees, and long sleeve shirts along with pins and much, much more to further commemorate your fun run on the island.  I picked up a Castaway Cay 5K hat to bring home as my cruise souvenir and something I can use on cold training days to remind me of the island vibes this run leaves you feeling!  Enjoy the scenery, the fun, and the bling. . .then enjoy the sun, sand, and drinks!


Get Animated at Animator's Palate on Disney Cruise Line

We're gEARing up for our next Disney Cruise Line vacation and I'm revisiting some old favorites from previous cruise vacations! Disney Cruise Line is known for bringing the magic of Disney to the high seas.  Even a simple dinner can be turned into an extraordinary experience.  This is especially true at Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy.  Disney Cruise Line uses rotational dining where guests rotate their nightly dinner service through three different restaurants.  During our 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise a few years ago, we had the pleasure of dining in Animator’s Palate three nights and each featured a unique dining experience.

The restaurant itself celebrates the animation that Disney was founded on and continues to embrace.  Mickey Mouse inspires the chairs and the wait staff wears shirts featuring classic Disney sketches.  The art throughout the restaurant is mostly digital and changes throughout the cruise as each night features a different theme.  Fun Tip: Did you know you can request a particular order for your rotational dining experience?  I love Animator’s Palate so much that I plan to request this again as the first restaurant on a 7-night cruise so that we can visit it three times again! 

Our first night in Animator’s Palate featured a special guest – Crush from Finding Nemo.  Throughout the dinner, Crush swims up to tables and chats with guests.  He asks questions about what life is like in the human world and then teaches everyone to ride the EAC just like our turtle friends.  Kids and adults alike will have a great time playing and interacting throughout the meal.
One of the sketches on Pirate Night at Animator's Palate

The second night we dined in Animator’s Palate was Pirate Night.  Disney Cruise Line hosts a Pirate Night on each of it’s Bahamian and Caribbean sailings.  On this particular night, all restaurants on the ship feature a special pirate themed menu and the wait staff dresses as “scurvy scallawags.”  Spending Pirate Night in Animator’s Palate was a nice treat as the art in the restaurant changed to reflect pirate favorites like Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Jack Sparrow. 

The last night of our cruise was also spent in Animator’s Palate and featured the show that is unique to the Disney Fantasy and perhaps the one that people look forward to the most.  When you are seated for dinner, guests are given a paper to draw their own cartoon.  The wait staff then takes all cartoons and, at the end of the meal, you get to see your animation come to life.  Each drawing is featured alongside Disney classics in a magical cartoon experience that you won’t soon forget.  Also, all guests will have their names featured in the credits of the cartoon for contributing animation.

Regardless of which night you dine in Animator's Palate, you will certainly be treated to delicious food! With so many great options on board Disney Cruise Line, don't be shy and definitely try new things.  As you would expect, the Kids' Menus feature family favorites that will make even the tiniest artists happy to dine here.  And while your little ones probably won't want to miss a minute of the action in Animator's Palate, you can take advantage of the Youth Clubs during dinnertime so the grown ups can enjoy a more leisurely dinner.


Animator’s Palate will certainly satisfy guest appetites and quench thirsts for an entertaining evening on your Disney Cruise Line vacation!

Cruising with Kids - Tips for Sailing with Toddlers and Preschoolers

There was a time that cruise vacations were thought of as an escape for adults and families often shied away from them, but times have changed.  In recent years, cruise lines have been catering to the needs of young families and attracting them in droves.  And, why not?  As a mom with 2 young boys, cruise vacations are some of my favorite.  You have a floating city with seemingly endless amounts of delicious food, entertainment, pools - all while sailing to beautiful and exotic destinations - a new port each day! Sounds perfect, right? But we all know that traveling with toddlers and preschoolers isn't always as easy as the Instagram stories you see would make it seem.  Here are a few tips and tricks I've picked up over the years that may just make your family cruise even more enjoyable!

Research the Kids Clubs - Regardless of which cruise line you're sailing, most have space just for kids on board. . .and this is fabulous news for moms and dads everywhere! Kids will actually want to go and hang out in these amazing spaces which means that there is built in fun in store for your whole family.  Depending on which cruise line you choose, there are different age limits on these kids clubs.  Many of them start at age 3, but Carnival Cruise Line starts admitting kids as early as 2.  Some cruise lines even have nursery spaces, often for an additional cost, which can give parents a chance to sneak in some grown-up time on vacation.  We used the nursery on Disney Cruise Line when Brody was a toddler each at sea day for nap time.  It gave us guilt-free time to enjoy the Quiet Cove pool and relax on the deck.
Oceaneer's Club on Disney Fantasy

Pack for Success - Let's be honest.  You're in the middle of the ocean, floating on a boat, with a tiny human being that demands lots of things.  Part of the packing trick for cruises is not too much, but definitely enough.  While cruise lines have become more kid friendly, you won't find all the comforts of your neighborhood Target on board.  Pack more diapers then you'll think you need - they'll cost you an arm and a leg on board.  Bring some baby ibuprofen and such to help with teething or ear aches or whatever comes your way.  Definitely think about kid friendly snacks and baby food that you may want to bring along - a pack of goldfish can go a long way in holding off a meltdown while you're in port! I also highly recommend grabbing a few packs of disposable sippy cups.  Not all cruise ships have kid friendly cups available for use! On each of our cruises with the kids, I've brought an over-the-door shoe organizer and used those pockets to organize all of the kid essentials.

Oceanview Stateroom on Carnival Paradise
But Don't Pack Too Much! - Cruise staterooms are tiny, even on Disney Cruise Line which tends to boast more space for families.  Think about what you need - not what you want.  A special blanket or favorite stuffed animal is important to bring, but packing a suitcase full of toys will only clutter up your room and won't really serve much of a purpose.  Most likely, you also won't need a stroller on the cruise.  And most ships offer Pack 'n' Plays if needed for younger toddlers.  Older toddlers and preschoolers should be just fine in the beds provided.  Each cruise line has different options available so definitely do your homework!

Take a Look at Excursions - One of the best parts of cruising is exploring all that your destinations have to offer.  When looking at excursions, keep your little ones in mind.  Some excursions have age restrictions that will play into your decision making.  For example, snorkeling cruises and ATV adventures probably won't welcome your toddler and preschooler.  We tend to stick with beach or water park fun with our young ones, but we did venture out on an 11 hour bus tour of Cuba a few cruises back which actually turned out to be pretty fun - even with a 2 and 5 year old! And if you're cruising on a budget, don't forget to look at pricing on excursions.  Some may be free for young children! Many of the cruise lines have private beaches and islands on their Bahamian and Caribbean destinations which have great options for families.  Disney Cruise Line features a kids club on the island with supervision so parents can sneak over to Serenity Bay while Carnival Cruise Line hosts a pirate-themed water playground on Half Moon Cay.

Kid Friendly Fun at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
What About Travel Documents? - Currently closed loop cruises that depart and return to American ports don't require a passport, only your birth certificate.  However, travel document guidelines are always changing.  We always cruise with a passport for our children though as you never know what emergency might strike while traveling abroad.  Remember that you will need several weeks to process a passport application and both parents need to be present when submitting the application for a minor's passport.  Passports for children under 16 are good for 5 years so, depending on your vacation habits, you may be able to get several trips out of them!

Cruising has certainly become a family friendly travel option, allowing time for relaxation and excitement all packed into one vacation! With so much to see and do on the ships from exclusive kid spaces to family entertainment and the opportunity to explore new destinations, you can discover a whole new world!  Where will your next cruise vacation take you?

Disney News Update!

This week featured many big announcements in the world of Disney!  Here are some of the highlights in one place.

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Animal Kingdom Openings - Opening dates were released for the long awaited Rivers of Light Nighttime Show and Pandora: The World of Avatar.  Rivers of Light will open officially on February 17 - just in time for President's Day weekend.  You can book FastPass+ reservations for seating at the show and there are also dining packages with Tiffins and Tusker House that are available for booking at this time.  Pandora: The World of Avatar of Avatar will open on May 27, 2017 - Memorial Day Weekend.  First looks at this new land are amazing with lighted walkways, floating mountains, and so much more.  The movie featured breathtaking scenery and Disney imagineers have worked hard to replicate that in the park.

Star Wars Land Update - Disney also announced that Star Wars Land will be set to open in both Disneyland Resort and at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Walt Disney World Resort in 2019.  Reports have shared that the out-of-this-galaxy experience will feature character interactions, a new Star Tours, and the chance to be Han Solo and take control of the Millennium Falcon.  My two little padawans are going to love this!

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Goodbye Wishes - For the past 14 years, guests at Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom have ended their magical day with the Wishes fireworks show.  This park classic will bid farewell on May 11th and an all new show, Happily Ever After, will begin on May 12th.  The new show promises to bring even more shows topping magic to the Magic Kingdom with projections, lasers, fireworks, and of course classic Disney music!

Beauty and the Beast meets Disney Cruise Line - Disney will unveil a Beauty and the Beast stage show on board the Disney Dream beginning in November.  No doubt capitalizing on what is sure to be a wonderful live action film this year, the stage show is sure to bring this "tale as old as time" to life in the grandest of fashions.

Ticket Price Increase - As I was prepping this blog post, more information hit today about ticket price increases for Walt Disney World.  It looks like some of the most notable changes will be increases for single day and annual passholders, no more water park and fun option, expiration dates on all tickets, and an increase to premium parking rates.  More information on all of this can be found in numerous posts online today, including this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

What a whirlwind few days! Hope everyone has been able to keep up and I can't wait to see what new fun awaits in the wonderful world of Disney!

BIG Announcements from Disney!

Over the past few days there have been several announcements from Disney that have fans of the parks and Disney Cruise Line excited.  Let's summarize the details here:

Rivers of Light - Animal Kingdom will be joining Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios by launching a nighttime show called Rivers of Light.  While discussions about and work on this show have been going on for a long time, the official start date was released this week.  Beginning April 22, guests at Animal Kingdom will be able to delight in the evening event.  The show will feature animal Spirit Guides that will tell their stories lanterns, fountains, and water screens.  It sounds like something not to be missed!



Disney Springs Expansion - The transition from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs has brought a facelift to the area and many new experiences.  Earlier this week, the Disney Parks Blog shared that another 30 dining and shopping locations will be joining Disney Springs.  Some of these include Under Armour, kate spade new york, and Sephora.  This expansion makes Disney Springs a nice high-end shopping location with a number of world class dining options as well.

Disney Cruise Line - Perhaps the biggest news to come from Disney this week was the expansion of the Disney Cruise Line fleet.  It was announced today that Disney is planning to add 2 more ships to join the Wonder, Magic, Dream, and Fantasy.  While these cruise ships are still in the distant future (anticipated dates of completion are 2021 and 2023), this brings a lot of excitement and anticipation to the future of Disney Cruise Line and expanded destinations for worldwide travel with entertainment and service that only Disney can provide!

With so many exciting announcements in just one week, the future of Disney travel is certainly looking bright!!  Remember that you can always follow along with the latest Disney news by following the official Disney Parks Blog.

Talk like a Pirate on Your Next Disney Cruise Line Vacation!

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," making it the perfect chance to highlight all the pirate fun that awaits on your Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.  The Pirates in the Caribbean night features food, entertainment and that splash of pixie dust which combine for a memorable evening where everyone in the family can take part in the fun.

You won't want to miss the pirate fun that awaits!
While you're out enjoying the day, your cabin host will deliver pirate bandanas to your room for the entire family which you're invited to wear that evening.  Some guests join the crew members and characters by bringing their own elaborate pirate costumes, but don't feel like you need to purchase costumes to enjoy the evening.  At dinner, each of the three main dining rooms will be serving a special pirate themed menu.  On both of our Disney Cruise Line vacations, we dined at Animator's Palate on Pirate Night which meant that the dining room featured pirate art from movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, and Peter Pan on that particular night.

The pirate deck party is great fun for the whole family!
Following dinner, venture outside to the main pool area for a deck party unlike any other.  Pirates are about to take over the ship unless Mickey and friends can save the day!  Don't be surprised throughout the evening to see familiar pirate favorites such as Jake, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Captain Jack joining in the fun.  The deck party  is followed by a truly unique cruise experience - fireworks at sea!

Fireworks at sea!
Of course, your Personal Navigator will have all of the important details for your particular cruise so be sure to check it out!

What is the Disney Parks Moms Panel?

Confession - Even those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep all things Disney sometimes have questions.

I consider myself to be well versed in the world of Walt Disney World travel, but new experiences like the first time I took a Disney Cruise Line vacation or getting ready for my first runDisney race sometimes leave me scratching my head.  How does transportation work?  What should I pack?  What can I find at the expo?

So where do I turn when I have a question - the Disney Parks Moms Panel!  These ladies (and a few gentlemen) can answer any Disney vacation question you throw their way.  And they do it all with a smile and a splash of pixie dust!  The Disney Parks Moms Panel features specialists in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, and runDisney to name a few and also features panelists from a variety of countries.  Whether you are planning your first vacation or your twentieth, if questions come up, this is the perfect place to turn.  Previous questions are posted on the website and categorized so you can easily search questions and answers if you don't even know where to begin.

Last year I made it to Round Two of the search.  Will this be my year to go all the way?
And if you think you know Disney, why not try applying for the panel?  Each year, there is an application process to find new panelists.  The first round begins in September with the excited new members being announced around Thanksgiving.  I've applied each of the past two years and made it to round two last year.  In the past, applicants have answered questions similar to what may be posed to the Moms Panel, submit videos, and complete an interview. While every year there are thousands of applicants, only a small handful can be selected.  What's the secret to getting selected?  If you figure it out, tell me!  I'm sure though from what I've read that knowing your Disney nomenclature, practicing near perfect spelling and grammar, and letting your unique personality shine through are some of the most important criteria.  I can't wait for the applications to open up again this year on September 8th and keep wishing upon a star that this year will be my year to be a Walt Disney World specialist!

What's Happening with Disney Parks

During the opening presentation of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration On the Road New York City event, we were given a recap of some exciting happenings around Disney Parks and their vacation destinations.  Here are a few highlights:

Disneyland Diamond Anniversary Celebration – That’s right!  Disneyland is turning 60 years old this year and the celebration is one that only Disney can throw!  The castle shimmers in special diamond decorations while Paint the Night Parade captivates young and old alike.  Disneyland is special in the hearts of all Disney fans and a celebration of this magnitude is well deserved.  Sleeping Beauty's Castle even received a makeover for the big birthday bash!



Disney Cruise Line Returns to NYC – In 2016, Disney Cruise Line will be returning to New York for a series of cruises that tour the New England coast and Canada.  There are also cruises out of New York to the Bahamas including a stop at Walt Disney World!  This is great news for those in the Northeast who can get all of the magic of a Disney cruise vacation but without the airfare.  There are very limited sailings offered for these unique cruise itineraries, so be sure to check them out soon!

Seeing Europe by RiverAdventures by Disney has entered the popular European market of River cruising.  For those of you unfamiliar, Adventures by Disney offers non-Disney destination vacations with the service and quality you’d expect from the industry leader in each.  Perfect for kids and adults who want to leaving the planning to the professionals, Adventures by Disney offers escapes on multiple continents including African safaris, exploring the Grand Canyon, and now cruising the river waters of Europe. 

Disney Marketing Campaigns – Disney knows how to reach it’s audience and is always trying to create new fans.  The #DisneySide campaign is still going strong which encourages everyone to show their #DisneySide – whatever that might mean to you!  More specific to traveling to Disney parks, Disney is hoping to reach out to parents of toddlers and preschoolers with it’s #DisneyKids campaign that showcases just how magical a trip to Walt Disney World can be for even the youngest members of the family.  In addition, they have also launched the #GrandDisney campaign which reminds us that “children are a blessing, but grandkids are a reward.”  Both of these show us that you are never too young or too old to enjoy a Disney Parks vacation.




Disney is always growing and changing which is why I can go every year (sometimes twice a year!) and constantly find new ways to enjoy the parks.  For all the latest Disney news watch the Disney Parks Blog (disneyparks.disney.go.com).  What are you most looking forward to about your next Disney vacation?

How to Choose Between a DCL or WDW Vacation

A common question I get from friends and family is "Which is better?  Disney Cruise Line or Walt Disney World?" I think both are pretty amazing and, in my opinion, it just depends on what you are looking for out of your vacation.

If you're looking to relax. . .Disney Cruise Line - A family trip to Walt Disney World can be fun, but exhausting.  Often I get back from vacation needing a vacation to recover.  This is not the case on Disney Cruise Line.  DCL allows you to move at a much slower pace while still enjoying all the magic of Disney.  You get plenty of chances to put your feet up and be pampered - both on the cruise ship and in ports of call!

Is this your idea of paradise?

If you're looking for action and excitement. . .Walt Disney World - If your family is looking for the action and adventure that thrill rides have to offer, Walt Disney World won't disappoint.  While the cruise ships have their own brand of fun, they are certainly not a theme park.  Some people thrive on the hustle and bustle of a theme park and seek that out on vacation.  If that's you, then WDW is where to go! There's so much to see and do in the parks, you'll be on the go from start to finish! 

Or does this say "perfect vacation" for your family?
If you're looking for all the Disney magic. . .either one! - You can't go wrong on a DCL or WDW vacation to find all of the fantasy and wonder of Disney.  Great customer service, amazing entertainment, character meet and greets, fantastic food, and those little Disney touches are everywhere in both experiences.  

You can never go wrong with a DCL or WDW vacation!  And, if you can swing it, I highly recommend combing the two for a land and sea vacation that you won't soon forget.  It's like having your cake, and eating it too!

Why I Love My Disney Visa

Saving money and earning rewards is always a great deal - especially when those rewards can help feed my Disney habit.  A few years ago, I signed up for a Disney Rewards Visa credit card from Chase and have really enjoyed some of the perks.  There are two different kinds of cards - the standard card and the premier card.  I have the standard card so I can't speak to the added benefits that come with the premier card. If you've ever wondered if the Disney Visa is right for you, here are some reasons why I've loved my card!

1. Earn Disney Rewards Dollars - Every purchase on my credit card earns me 1% back in Disney Rewards.  These reward dollars can be spent on Disney vacations and in Disney stores.  So whether I'm planning my next cruise, dreaming of a dole whip, going after the latest Pandora charm, or saving up for a new Disney Dooney and Bourke, the rewards can add up to make a big difference.

2. Discounts - Who doesn't love a discount?  And Disney offers a few special ones to their credit card holders.  You can always get 10% off a $50 or more purchase at The Disney Store and at most retail locations on Disney property.  In addition, credit card members will occasionally get a headstart on sales from The Disney Store and a few days jump start on vacation package discounts over the general public.  When you pay for you Disney vacation with your Disney card, you can also access special financing perks to make your vacation even more affordable.  And don't forget to check for restaurant discounts on Disney properties as well!

3. Epcot Character Spot - This exclusive character meet and greet is for Disney credit card holders only which means the lines are usually much shorter to meet some of the "Fab 5" as opposed to other park locations in Walt Disney World.  You can also get a free 5 x 7 picture of your family's visit!

4. Show Your Disney Side Everyday - While this is the only perk that doesn't have a financial side to it, I think this might be what I like best about my Disney credit card.  There are so many cute designs to choose from and I get comments almost every time I use my card on how adorable it is!  I'm always looking for ways to show my Disney Side and this is one small way I get to do that.

Image from www.disneyrewards.com
I love having a credit card that goes to work for me so I can have a little more Disney in my life!

What to pack on your DCL carry-on bag

You've made your reservations, booked your excursions, planned your flights, and now the big day is closing in!  It's time for your Disney Cruise Line vacation.  As your packing your bags, don't forget to pack a carry-on that you can use for the first few hours that you are onboard the ship.  Your checked luggage may not arrive in your stateroom until around 5 and you could be on the ship around lunchtime depending on your designated port arrival time.  You want to make sure that you are prepared to enjoy the ship and the first few hours of your vacation with everything you need.  Here are a few suggestions of items to pack as you begin your cruise!

The cruise terminal in Port Canaveral.  Let your Disney Cruise Line Vacation begin! 
1.  Bathing Suit - Whether you are traveling with little ones, teens, or on an adult only getaway, one of the first places to head on vacation is to the pool!  And if the pool isn't quite your thing, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy feature a water ride called AquaDuck which sends you traveling out over the ocean.  If you happen to be cursing on the Disney Magic, you'll find AquaDunk - a waterside that sends you screaming down multiple stories before curving you out over the edge of the ship.  Both the water attractions and the pools are a perfect way to begin your trip.  Don't forget flip flops or water shoes to wear around the pool deck!

2.  Travel Documents - Very important!  Don't pack that passport or any of your cruise documents in a bag you check at the airport.  You'll need this important information for embarkation so make sure all of the documents you need are available for you and all members of your traveling party.

3.  Snacks - Once you board the ship, finding food won't be a problem - trust me!  However, you may find yourself with some downtime in the cruise terminal before boarding.  Especially if you're traveling with little ones, having a few snacks on hand can make the wait more manageable.

4.  Autograph Book - I always like ordering an autograph book online before my Disney vacation so that it's ready to go when we arrive.  This is true for Disney Cruise Line vacations too.  Mickey and Minnie are often in the cruise terminal posing for pictures during embarkation.  Having an autograph book available can help you start capturing those character signatures right away.

5.  Dinner Clothing - If you're like me, you dress pretty comfy casual on a travel day.  Coupled with relaxing by the pool when I arrive, I certainly would not feel ready for dinner in the clothes on my back.  Again, with DCL not guaranteeing your bags to arrive prior to dinner, you will want to have any change of clothing for dinner ready in your carry on.  Don't forget shoes too!  This is especially true if you happen to have a reservation at Palo or Remy on night one of your cruise as they do have a strict dress code.

Bon voyage and happy cruising on the most magical cruise line at sea!

Saving Pennies for Disney

I love being a Disney loving mom.  Planning Disney trips for my own family and talking about Disney with those who are just as passionate as I am or with those going for the first time brings me almost as much joy as the actual trips themselves.  In recent years, I've been successful in convincing my loving and supportive husband that annual Disney trips are essential for our family.  After all, "happy wife, happy life" right?

In order to go on a Disney vacation each year, I'm always looking for ways to save money.  In the past I've highlighted buying Disney gift cards at Target to get 5% off, using David's DVC rental store to book deluxe villas at moderate prices, and using Garden Grocer to save money on food while in Walt Disney World.  Today's tip is not Disney specific, but I plan to use my rewards towards a Disney vacation.

Back in the Fall, my sister-in-law began sharing her experiences using Ebates.  You may have seen commercials for this website, but if you're not familiar, here's the basics.  Ebates is a referral website. You create an account with them and log into their website before doing any of your online shopping.  They offer a percent cash back on purchases from A LOT of online retailers.  All you do is access the retailer through Ebates website and the cash back magically appears in your account.  Every few weeks, Ebates will transfer the cash back you've earned to your linked PayPal account and then it's yours to spend as you see fit.  

Are you going to pay for an annual Disney trip with the cash back you earn from Ebates?  Probably not.  I'm a "casual" online shopper.  I buy diapers for the baby, clothes for the kids, and some gifts online - by no means am I purchasing things everyday or spending large amounts of money.  Also, Ebates tends to offer between 1% - 5% cash back - not hundreds of dollars at a time.  I've had some purchases where I've earned less than $1 cash back, but others where I've earned $10.  You can also watch their website for double cash back specials and extra cash bonuses.  For example, my recent diaper purchase not only earned me the usual 2% back from my Diapers.com purchase, but Ebates was also running a special where you earned $5 extra cash back on any purchase from select kids retailers when you spent more than $25.  So the diapers I had to buy anyway ended up netting me over $6 back in easy money!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back



I've been a member since December and have earned almost $60 in cash back so far.  If my trend continues, by our Disney trip in November I should have over $200 saved up that I'll withdraw and spend on Disney gift cards.  That's a couple quick service meals in the park, or maybe an AMAZING 4 course meal for hubby and I at Artist Point, or an awful lot of food and wine tastes at the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot.  And of course when I buy my Disney gift cards, I'll purchase them with 5% off using my Target Red Card online through Ebates where I'll earn about 2% in cash back :)