Showing posts with label cruise planning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cruise planning. Show all posts

Dr. Seuss is on the Loose!

Last Summer, our family embarked on our first Carnival Cruise Line vacation.  We sailed on the Carnival Paradise out of Tampa, FL and enjoyed the ports of Key West and Havana, Cuba while on our 5-night adventure.  Cruising is one of my favorite family friendly vacations as there is something on the ships for everyone!  Carnival has teamed up with Dr. Seuss to create family fun that highlights some familiar favorites.  On board, we participated in just about every Dr. Seuss event possible with our two boys who were 2 and 5 at the time.

Dr. Seuss Parade and Story Time - Families met in one of the lounges and were greeted by the enthusiastic kids club staff.  Our boys were regulars in the kids clubs and they found some of their favorite counselors.  The staff entertained families with singing and dancing until our Cruise Director, Jamie, came out to introduce the guests of honor.  As each of the four Dr. Seuss characters arrived (Sam I Am, Thing 1, Thing 2, and the Cat in the Hat), kids were handed musical instruments.  A few lucky families were asked to carry parade banners.  They then lined up the characters and families to march across Deck 5 to the large Noramandie theater on the other side of the ship.  Along the way, we all chanted "Dr. Seuss is on the loose!" while the kids were happy to comply with the request to make as much noise as possible.  Once we arrived at the theatre, kids were invited to sit on stage and parents were asked to take a seat in the theatre.  Caleb was a little timid to get too close to the characters, so he and I grabbed a seat up in the balcony.  Jamie told everyone that they were about to read the story of The Cat in the Hat, but first she solicited helpers.  Picking both kids and adults, Jamie assembled a cast to help tell the story.  My husband was selected to be the Cat in the Hat.  I think the fame went to his head as he was greeted by many kids and parents the rest of the cruise!

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast - For a small fee, guests can register to attend the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast that is held on one of the "at sea" days.  The cost was just $5.00 per person and we were able to register at a small table the day we boarded the ship.  Our breakfast was the final at sea day and it didn't disappoint!  The menu was beautifully themed to highlight some Dr. Seuss inspired creations and the breakfast choices were delightful to children.  One of them included french toast that as coated in Fruit Loops - talk about a sugar rush!  Kids and adults can choose from such dishes as the ever popular Green Eggs and Ham or a whimsical Truffula Pancakes to name just a few.  Throughout the meal, characters came to each table and then they also positioned themselves at the front of the restaurant for additional pictures.  The dining room was also decorated with really cute Dr. Seuss accessories.

Other Dr. Seuss Fun - Carnival Cruise Line has also partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop to create a Build-A-Bear At Sea Experience.  This opportunity featured a chance for kids to make a Cat in the Hat in addition to some more traditional bears or animals.  My boys of course wanted to each make the Cat in the Hat to remember their fun time on the ship.  One of the evenings also featured photo ops with Dr. Seuss characters prior to dinner.

The Dr. Seuss experiences on our Carnival Cruise lead to some pretty amazing moments for our family.  The boys enjoyed the opportunity to interact with some of their favorite stories and each activity provided family fun on the ship!
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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!

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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!
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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!
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Romance on the High Seas

When you think of a Disney Cruise Line vacation, a lot of people don't often think of romance.  However, while I love spending quality family time on the cruise, one of my favorite parts of a DCL vacation is having some "adult time" for my husband and I.  In honor of Valentine's Day, here are three quick tips to make your next DCL vacation a bit more romantic.

Tip #1 - Take advantage of the nursery and kids clubs - Kids will LOVE spending time in these bright and colorful areas of the ships where they can play and interact with the amazing Youth Team and some of their favorite characters.  You can enjoy a few guilt-free, child-free hours on board while you know your children are well cared for and having as much fun as you are.  There is a per hour charge for the nursery which is available for children under 3, but the other youth spaces are included in your cruise fare for all children over the age of 3.  The ship has plenty of adult only spaces to explore including pools and nightclubs that are often a lot less crowded then you would expect.

Playing in Andy's Room in the Oceaneer's Club on the Disney Fantasy


Tip #2 - Try out one of the adult only restaurants - Whether it's a brunch or a dinner, be sure to spend at least one meal (or more if you're like us!) at either Remy or Palo.  Palo features delicious Italian cuisine and is available on all four Disney ships while Remy serves French delights and is available on both the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream.  We have had the pleasure of eating at both Remy and Palo on our previous cruises and the food, service, and atmosphere did not disappoint.  Brunches are typically seres on at sea days only while dinner is available each night.  While, these restaurants do require an additional fee, they are a wonderful way to spend some alone time with your significant other.

Enjoying our date night on the Disney Fantasy waiting for dinner at Palo
Tip #3 - Don't forget about Serenity Bay - While on Castaway Cay, Serenity Bay is located on the backside of the island and is the adult only beach.  When we traveled on our last cruise, we spent time on Serenity Bay and were surprised about this hidden gem.  There were hardly any people on this side of island and we enjoyed some quiet time on the beach - along with a few cocktails!  And once again, you don't have to worry about the kids.  Scuttle's Cove is available on Castaway Cay for kids 3 and over to have fun with attractions and games just for them while you sneak in a little romantic time!

A view down the beach of Serenity Bay!
What's you favorite way to get romantic on a Disney Cruise??
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Remy Champagne Brunch Review


When Dan and I traveled on the Disney Dream last April for our adult getaway to celebrate my 30th birthday, one of the "splurges" I was pretty insistent in experiencing was the Champagne Brunch at Remy.  Remy is one of two adult-only restaurants on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.  While Palo is known for Northern Italian cuisine, Remy is inspired by the Disney movie Ratatouille and serves primarily French dishes.  The Champagne Brunch was a $50 up charge per person and only included your initial taste of champagne.  For a full champagne pairing, there was an additional $25 charge per person.  I opted for the full experience, while Dan (not being a big champagne fan), worked with the sommelier to create a wine pairing for his brunch menu.

The champagne brunch is only offered on "at sea" days on the cruise ships which means that on our four day cruise there was only one serving of this unique experience.  Upon entering Remy, guests are escorted as a group to the wine room where you are surrounded by beautiful bottles of wine with Disney / Pixar labels - many of which signed by John Lasseter.  In this room, guests are given their first taste of champagne and meet with the chef who explains the menu for the brunch and then the sommelier reviews the champagne pairings for the morning.

Menu from April 2014
Guests then make their way to their tables and the dining extravaganza begins.  I always think that I should take pictures of each course AFTER I have finished my meal.  That is certainly true at a restaurant like Remy.  You are truly dining on a work of art - both from a taste and visual point of view.  I did however, remember to take a picture of the menu.  All I can say about each course is WOW!  I'm not shy when it comes to food, so the unfamiliar menu didn't scare me off at all.  Dan, however, is another story,  He was worried about so many "fancy" and "unusual" dishes on the menu, but he gave them a go and enjoyed them as well.

If you are sailing on the Dream or Fantasy, I would recommend trying Remy at least once.  I think Palo is more universally appealing to all taste palates (and is definitely cheaper), but Remy is something to experience.  Recently, the Disney Parks Blog released information about new dining experiences at Remy that may also interest you on your next Disney Cruise Line vacation!  Bon Appetite!
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Eastern Caribbean Port Adventure Reviews

Our first DCL vacation was a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy in June / July 2013.  Choosing Port Adventures was an exciting and semi-stressful time for me.  I had never cruised before so was new to who world of shore excursions and we were also traveling with a 17 month old. Trying to find Port Adventures that would entertain Dan, Brody, and me equally was going to be a challenge.  We ended up booking a shore excursion on each of our ports of call (except Castaway Cay).  Here is what we did and our grade for the experience.

St. Maarten - French Riviera Beach Rendezvous
We decided to spend our time in St. Maarten playing on the beach at Orient Bay.  This was roughly a 30 minute ride from the port to the beach.  The beach was crowded with tour groups and chairs as well as pushy locals selling handmade items.  The beach itself was clean and the water featured big waves that are perfect for older children and adults.  Included in the package was lunch.  Lunch was actually better than I expected with several different choices.  Overall, I would give this excursion a B.  There was nothing to complain about or wrong with the excursion, just nothing exciting either.



St. Thomas / St. John - Coral World and Butterfly Garden
Since we planned a beach day in St. Maarten and on Castaway Cay, we wanted to do something a little different in the USVI.  There weren't many excursions to choose from that we thought would please a 17 month old, but an aquarium and butterfly garden seemed like good choices to us.  The trip to Coral World was first.  If you've ever been to a high quality aquarium (like we are fortunate to have in the National Aquarium in Baltimore), you will be sorely disappointed here.  Coral World was small, didn't feature the array of marine life we were used to, and not very interactive.  We had about 2 hours to explore there and wish we could have left after about 30 minutes.  After we finished at Coral World, a bus took us back to the port where the Butterfly Garden is located.  This was better than Coral World in my opinion, but still not great.  Brody fell asleep on the bus ride back to port so we didn't get to see his reaction.  This is really just a big enclosed garden with butterflies flying all around.  They were beautiful and we got some really great pictures, but it was another excursion that we were done exploring in less than 30 minutes.  Overall, I would give this excision a C-.  There are some positive reviews I've read out there about these, but I just didn't see anything special or worth the money in this excursion.



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Why Disney Cruise Line is a Great Vacation for Adults

"One of these things is not like the other. . ."

That's how Dan and I felt on our Disney cruise in April.  When you find yourself surrounded by families in a cruise terminal, you really do start to question if making a cruise reservation for a 4-night date weekend over Easter break was the right decision.  But I'm here to share with you that Disney cruises are not just for kids and families like one might think!  Below are some of our favorite memories from the trip that we got to enjoy as part of the adult only services and activities.

Dining
While we enjoyed a few dinners in the main dining rotations (especially at Animator's Palate), we opted for several special dining experiences.  We loved Palo when we cruised on the Fantasy in June 2013 so we decided to do it on the Dream as well this time around. Palo did not disappoint once again!  In fact, we loved it so much on the first night we went back later in the cruise for another dinner.  This time we also tried the champagne brunch at Remy , the other adult only restaurant.  (Look for a future Remy review post.) It was fabulous!  The brunch is only offered on "at sea" days so we only got to do this once.  I'm already looking forward to our next cruise though to do it again.  Both of these do have an additional fee.

Quiet Cove Pool
The main pools on the Disney cruise ships are packed with families and kids ALL THE TIME.  It was great to retreat to the adult only pool area.  Here you'll find a nice sized pool, a swim up pool bar, two hot tubs, and a large amount of cushioned comfy seating.  When we weren't eating or in port, this is where you would find us!  Disclaimer on this area - you will SEE kids in this area from time to time passing through.  Since the Deck 11 forward staterooms and elevators are right by this, families will walk through to get to the main pool.  The idea that you're on a Disney ship and could never "see" a kid is a fallacy - but they do a nice job of separating out adult only areas.

Serenity Bay @ Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay has been my favorite port on both of my Disney cruises.  I LOVE this island.  And just like they did on the ship, Disney carved out a piece of paradise here just for adults.  This side of the island is practically deserted!  They have their own bar, lunch area, lagoon, and beach.  It's on the backside of the island so it's a good walk / tram ride away, but well worth it.  They also have spa treatments offered over here which we took part in.  A beautiful view during our couples massage!

View of Serenity Bay during our couples massage.


Rainforest Spa
And speaking of spa treatments, the spa on the cruise ship is fabulous as well.  We did a couples massage on the first day we arrived.  While it was expensive, it was a great way to start vacation.  They then offered us discounts on additional spa services during our trip which is when we booked our couples massage on Castaway Cay.  We decided to indulge since these kinds of "extras" are ones that will most likely be forgone on future kid oriented cruises.


While all of these great adult features of DCL are available whether you sail as a couple or with kids (just as long as you drop them in the kids club first!), don't overlook Disney as a great adult only vacation option when you're looking for first class dining, service, and fun!   
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What I Learned on a Disney Cruise Line Vacation with a Toddler!

Vacation and toddler are two words that I'm not entirely sure go together.  Or at least I should say that the speed and energy of a "vacation" changes dramatically when a toddler is joining your group.  While my only cruise experience has been with a toddler, I feel like I learned a lot on that trip that would better prepare me in the future and hopefully help others as they plan their trips.





Take Advantage of the Nursery - As you can imagine, Disney does kids clubs in a truly amazing sense.  Brody was only 17 months on our trip so the only kids "club" he could be in by himself was the Nursery.  On the Fantasy, It's a Small World Nursery was for kids from 0-3 years old.  Disney charges $6 per hour and recommends booking your time ahead as space is limited (although we never had a problem taking Brody spur of the moment the two times we needed to).  We used the Nursery 3 hours each of our "at sea" days during Brody's nap time.  They gave him snack, put him in a crib for a nap, and then played with him when he woke up.  This was great for Dan and I so that we could enjoy some of the "adults only" areas on the ship - like the Quiet Cove pool.

Check out the Oceaneer's Club Open House - Even though Brody was too young to be checked into the Oceaneer's Club during the day, he could still attend the daily open house hours with Dan and I.  This was usually in the morning and allowed children to explore the space with their parents.  It's a great chance for the younger toddler crowd to get to try out the "big kid" play areas and also get visits from Mickey and Minnie for play time.  Brody especially enjoyed playing with all the Toy Story figures in Andy's Room.




Pay Attention to Toddler Time Activities - DCL has a special listing of activities that they give to families cruising with toddlers.  These include highlights during the sailing of things like Wake Up with Disney Junior and Jake and the Neverland Pirates as well as toddler playtime in the D Lounge.  We went to several of these activities and enjoyed each.  Most are scheduled in the morning because Disney understands that little ones don't know what a vacation is and continue to get up early.  The songs and character visits were fun and familiar to the kids and the shows were all designed to be interactive.




Nemo's Reef - If you are on a cruise with a toddler, they won't be able to use any of the pools.  Maritime law prohibits kids who aren't potty trained from using a pool on a cruise ship so Disney created a splash and play area with toddlers in mind.  I wish Disney enforced that this was designed for kids 6 and under because there were a lot of upper elementary school aged kids messing around in here and playing kind of rough with the little ones so close by.  The theming is adorable and all of the slides and water features are made to be toddler friendly.





Dinner & Shows - Every kid is different so this last one may not apply to you, but Brody is a toddler who needs his schedule.  Having first seating for dinner was really important to us because his normal bedtime was 7:30.  We had dinner each night at the 5:45 seating and saw the 8:00 show.  There were several nights that Brody couldn't make the show so either Dan or I went back to the room to put him down for the night.  I learned about halfway through the cruise the DCL plays the show on their stateroom TVs at the same time it's being shown in the theatre so if you can't make it down to the show you can still catch it in your room.  We took advantage of this a few times on the cruise which was a nice feature.

Cruising with a toddler can really be a vacation for all involved if you learn some of the ins and outs of navigating the Disney cruise ships!
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