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

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!

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!

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!

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!

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??

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!

Nassau Port Adventure Review

When we visited Nassau on our 4-Night Bahamian cruise this past April, a beach day was not our original first choice.  However, when we found out that a lot of the food at the Graycliff Wine Luncheon was cheese and dairy based (not friendly to my husband and his food aversions), we decided to take it easy instead for the day and find a beach to chill on.  We ended up booking the Blue Lagoon Beach Day through Disney's Port Adventures page in the weeks leading up to our cruise. I was expecting Blue Lagoon to be "just another day at the beach," but Dan and I found ourselves having what can only be described as a fantastic experience that day.

We ended up leaving Nassau by boat to head to Blue Lagoon Island.  As you might expect from the title, Blue Lagoon Island is a private island that can only be accessed by about a 25 minute boat ride.  The boat ride was enjoyable and we even got to catch a glimpse of Atlantis as we zipped by on our catamaran.  When we arrived at the dock at Blue Lagoon Island, there were two options of where to go.  Some guests booked Dolphin, Sea Lion, etc. excursions and were directed to head to the aquarium side of the island to begin those activities.  We went to the beach area where there was ample seating spread out along the waterfront.  For an extra cost, you could purchase time in an inflatable water play area.  They also offered bars and stores to purchase drinks and goodies while at the beach.  Dan and I headed to the last beach chairs we could find at the end of the lagoon and enjoyed some peace and quiet away from all the hustle and bustle.




Lunch was included in the price of the excursion and the food was VERY good.  They had the typical burger / hot dog and fries as an option but also included a yummy teriyaki chicken with rice that I found wonderful.  While we were eating in the lunch pavilion, Dan noticed a trail on the other side that we decided to go explore after we were done.  When we followed the trail over the sand dune, we were treated to a fabulous surprise - a little private beach with absolutely NO PEOPLE!  This is like a hidden gem on the backside of the island.  We spent the next 4 hours on this beach and in that time only about 5 other people ever ventured over here and most of them quickly left.  For a couple looking to enjoy some private adult time - this was our own version of Heaven on Earth.

The view from our "private" beach.  Doesn't it look like a screensaver??

Overall Grade - A+:  We stayed in our own island oasis until the last boat back to Nassau.  This was an awesome day and far exceeded all of our expectations.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking to enjoy a day at the beach on your next Bahamian cruise with Disney.  

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.



Senses Spa on DCL

During our most recent cruise on the Disney Dream, Dan and I took the time (and the money!) to pamper ourselves with a visit to Senses Spa.  My mom purchased a massage as my 30th birthday present and we decided to upgrade it to a couples massage for Dan and I to enjoy together.  We booked the massage for 4PM on the embarkation day.  Like other activities and experiences, these can be booked in advance of your cruise or you can take your chances to see what is available once you get on board.  In our minds, this was going to be the perfect way to start a dream vacation.




The spa is beautiful and well-maintained.  When we entered, we were checked in and escorted back to the locker rooms.  Once we were changed into our spa robes, we waited in a comfy room with water and were given a clipboard to fill out medical information that would be relevant for a massage therapist to know.  Our massage began right on time with two great therapists.

The hour was wonderfully relaxing!  We happened to be in the massage rooms as we sailed away from Florida so the view at first was just of the port but opened up to the waterways as we moved away from the coast.  This is hard to enjoy though honestly because your head is usually down and / or eyes closed throughout the massage.  The best part of the massage came at the end when they offered us a deal to come back for another massage.  They reduced the normal rate to $99 per person to return over our 4 days on the ship.  We took advantage of this offer and booked a Cabana Massage on Castaway Cay.  That was an even more amazing experience.  The cabanas are located on the adult-only part of Castaway Cay known as Serenity Bay.  This is a very quiet and serene part of the island.  Once you are situated on the table, they open up the large windows and you can hear all the wonderful sounds of island life surrounding you and feel the gentle, warm breeze.



In addition, we were also celebrating Dan's birthday while on the cruise so I bought him a men's shave package in the spa.  He enjoyed the experience and the price didn't seem as outrageous as some of the other spa services.  The one thing to be warned about with any spa service is that they will try to sell you very expensive spa products at the end of your appointment.  Each of our therapists though were very gracious and offered no pressure when we refused early on and made it clear we didn't want to hear anymore.

Overall, the spa experience on a Disney Cruise is worth it if you have the money to spare.  It's much more expensive then back on dry land, but is a fun way to indulge in relaxation while on vacation.  The spa also offers a Rainforest Room Pass which is a cheap way to check out the spa if you're just curious to see what the experience is like.  For more information on any of the spa services available, check out the Disney Cruise Line website and you can get prices and services offered on each ship.

Disney Cruise Line Broadway-Style Shows!

One of the highlights of our past two Disney cruises has been the high quality entertainment we had the chance to experience.  Like other cruise ships, Disney offers a nightly show in the theatre.  Unlike other cruise ships - it's DISNEY!  When you think of Disney entertainment, many of you will probably think of the high quality first and foremost.  A Disney Cruise vacation will not disappoint.  Below you will find just a quick summary of some of our favorites from the Disney Fantasy (2013) and Disney Dream (2014).

Believe (Fantasy and Dream) - Let's start with my absolute favorite!  I was so excited to see this show a second time when we sailed on the Dream after falling in love with the story on the Fantasy.  This is an original production that includes songs from some of the best Disney musicals of all time while telling a heartwarming story of the love between a father and daughter.  I found myself crying during parts of this touching performance - perfect for the whole family!

Aladdin (Fantasy) - A condensed version of the Disney classic.  It includes all of your favorite songs and the Genie cannot be beat.  Unfortunately, I had to leave this show early with a fussy baby but my husband has nothing but high praises to sing for this performance.  

Wishes (Fantasy) - This was another cute original Disney performance.  The story follows siblings as they get ready to graduate high school, but learn what it still means to be a kid.  There's a lot of great Disney music throughout the show that will keep your toes tapping along the way!

Villains Tonight (Dream) - I really wanted to love this show.  In fact, when we were leaving for the cruise, this was the show I was most excited to see.  While the show was cute and family friendly, I was disappointed in some of the villains that they chose to highlight.  I felt that a good number of the villains were from more "obscure" Disney movies and I just didn't connect with the characters and the music the way I did in some other shows.  Don't worry about it being scary for young kids - there's lots of humor throughout that keeps the show light.

Fun Fact: You can even purchase your own Golden Mickeys on the Disney Dream!



The Golden Mickeys (Dream) - This production screams classic Disney.  The setting is an awards show where tribute is paid to some of the best of the best in the history of Disney.  Great songs and characters throughout from across the generations will keep everyone in the family entertained.  A really cool feature of this show is that you get to "walk the red carpet" into the theatre with the "paparazzi" taking pictures and maybe even interviewing you.  This is all being shown in the theatre on a live video feed which adds an element of real Hollywood to the evening.

In addition to these, your cruise will have other shows depending on the length that you are on the ship which may include magicians, on board entertainers, and your cruise director sharing highlights at the end of the week.  Shows are nightly in the theatre at 6:15 and 8:30.  On days at sea, they also typically offer a matinee performance at 3:00.  

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!   

Castaway Cay 5K

As many of you know, I used the excitement of a runDisney event to get myself off the couch and back into running shoes.  Even though the Castaway Cay 5K is not an official runDisney "race" it is an official runDisney "run" as evidenced by the bib and t-shirt :)  Here is my recap of the race for both my running friends and those of you who also suffer from a mild (or major) Disney obsession!

I read a lot of blogs about the race and the experiences of others before leaving for the cruise so I was well prepared on what to expect.  The biggest piece of advice that I heard time and time again was that running this 5K rivals what it must be like to run on the face of the sun.  The Bahamian heat and humidity is brutal and everyone recommended hydrating well before the run.  I packed gatorades in our suitcase and used those and bottled water the day before the race to begin preparing.  The other thing to know going into this run is that (as of right now at least) it is a free event.  They do ask that runners pre-register at the Port Adventures desk and all runners are given a ticket and bib for race morning.  The night before the run, I laid out my things so I'd be ready to go in the morning!



Run Morning
We were supposed to meet at Evolution at 8:15 so I set my alarm for 7 and was at breakfast by 7:15.  After a breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, half a bagel and a gatorade, Dan and I made our way to Evolution.  Even though Dan wasn't running, he was able to gather with the runners at check-in and disembark the ship with our group.  Once runners were all checked in, the cast member in charge went over a map of the route and gave instructions to parents who had little ones to drop off at Scuttle's Cove when we were on our way to the starting line.  We got the all clear from the captain to disembark around 8:30 and our group quickly exited off the aft gangway (look at me being all nautical!)  The starting line is about a 10 minute walk from the ship which provides a great warm-up!



The Run
By 9:00 we were ready to begin.  Jamesy (our fabulous British Disney cast member) reviewed the route map one more time and then away we went!  The course is very flat and follows a bike route that is on the island.  The bulk of the route is inside a bike loop that has tall shrubs on both sides.  This helps provide a little shade for the run, but also makes it a little boring at times.  However, you miss the shade of the bike loop when you turn onto the air landing strip that is miserable hot and sunny.  During the run, you pass a water station 4 times which is helpful during the run.  You will find everyone from kids to grandparents, experienced runners to walkers on this course. . .and everyone is having fun!  I felt surprisingly good during the run and was pleased with my pacing considering the heat, humidity, and the fact that it was my first 5K in about 8 years.  





Post Run
When I crossed the finish line, my plastic bling was waiting for me!  The Mickey medal is simply plastic that says Disney Cruise Line - not even a mention of the race - but I know what it was for and that's all that matters :)  And in true Disney fashion, the race finishes next to a gift shop that sells Castaway Cay 5K t-shirts, which of course I had to buy.  Over the next 3 hours I drank some gatorade and water to replenish.  I felt good throughout the rest of the day. . .but then again, how can you not feel good in this paradise??  And the couples massage Dan and I had in a beach cabana after lunch probably helped a lot too!  



I absolutely LOVED my experience with the Castaway Cay 5K and would highly recommend it to anyone on their next Disney Cruise.  On a personal note, this really motivated me to get back to running and I plan to now use this to propel me into some of the larger runDisney events in the years to come!

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!

Date Night at Palo on the Disney Fantasy

The other night I stayed up until midnight just to be sure I had the best chance at booking Palo and Remy on our upcoming Disney Cruise.  And I'm happy to report that we have reservations for Palo on the first night of our cruise and Remy for a champagne brunch on the fourth day.

On the Disney Fantasy, we were lucky enough to dine at Palo.  Palo is one of two adult only restaurants on the Fantasy.  It is an experience that is well worth the $25 per person additional charge and should not be missed on any Disney Cruise.

Palo is located on Deck 12 Aft.  You will find the entrance to Meridian (a cocktail bar) and Remy also in this location.  When you check in for your reservation, the host will show you to Meridian to have a pre-dinner cocktail while your table is prepared.  We had about a 10 minute wait which gave us a chance to soak in the breathtaking views from the bar while we sipped some yummy martinis.  We were then escorted to our table which was perfectly located right next to a window so we could watch the sunset during dinner.

Enjoying a martini in Meridian before our Palo reservation.




Our server that night was fantastic.  As we were seated, we were finishing up our cocktails and she offered us a wine list for the night.  She recommended a delicious Amarone wine which was perfect for Dan and I.  Dinner began with a visit from the Antipasti cart.  With lots of olives, proscuitto, a variety of cheeses, and many other wonderful appetizers this was a great way to start the dinner service.

Our table and wine
At Palo you are sure not to go hungry!  After our Antipasti cart, we each started with an appetizer course before progressing to the main course.  Unfortunately, I can't remember EVERYTHING that we ate that night, but I can tell you that the calamari was wonderful.  For dinner, I couldn't make up my mind between the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli and the Osso Buco.  When I asked the server for her recommendation, she said "Why not have both?" and who can argue with that logic?  I ended up with both entrees in front of me and while I didn't come even close to finishing them, I can say wholeheartedly that they were some of the best dinners I've ever had.

The last course of the evening was dessert.  Between the antipasti, calamari, ravioli, and veal (and don't forget the wine!) I didn't think I had room for anything else.  But I had read that the chocolate soufflé  was out of this world so I persevered on.  The soufflé is made to order for each customer so you actually order it at the beginning of your meal so that it comes out nice and hot and perfectly timed at the conclusion of your meal.  I could only get through a few bites, but the reviews were all true - I loved every bite!
Our "Happy Anniversary" plate written in chocolate and fruit sauce!

My overall grade A+

Palo is worth every penny and a dining experience not to be missed.  The overall dining experience took us about 2 - 2 1/2 hours so make sure you plan appropriately in the evening if you want to make sure that you are still able to see the shows.  It's nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the main dining rooms and have some quiet adult only time on your vacation.  Don't forget - mom and dad need a break too!