Thursday, July 27, 2017

Why Disney Cruise Line is Great for Babies

Our First Picture Boarding the Disney Wonder

My family loves to travel and after having my son I knew I still wanted to explore and create great adventures. Plus, now I had someone new to share them with! We never thought a baby was too young to travel and enjoy a vacation  and we love Disney and cruising.  So naturally cruising with a baby made sense to us. Ever thought your child was too young for a Disney cruise? Here are some of the many reasons why a Disney cruise is perfect for your little one.
Disney allows infants 6 months of age to sail on most short voyages and allows children 1 year and older on their longer voyages such as their Transatlantic cruises. We celebrated our son’s 10 month “birthday” on his first cruise and it was perfect! He was able to meet characters, try new foods, experience magic all around, and explore a new country all in his first vacation.

Ready for cake!

Offered free of charge onboard for babies(request these items at front desk upon boarding): Diaper genies, pack and plays, and even diaper warmers. They also have a few strollers that can be rented free (it does require a refundable security deposit) on a first come, first serve basis.

Disney cruise themed Pack n Play

Anyone packing for a child knows it can be difficult and you already feel like you are packing your entire house so not having to worry about the bulky items is a relief. Also if you do not feel like bringing your own diapers and formula the gift shops on board sell them.

Bath Time

Disney also made cruising with a baby easier, they are the only cruise line with bath tubs. My son loves his baths and he was not walking by this trip so that was a perk for us. There also are mini refrigators in the room to store milk and plenty of plugs if you are pumping while on board. I did and there were so many plugs I could easily pick a plug and sit comfortably while I pumped. Also the rooms have a curtain that you can use to divid the main bed from the others in the cabin so if your child is like ours and can’t go to sleep if he can see you really comes in handy. We were able to draw the curtain and keep the lights on on our side and watch TV while our little one had a nice dimly light area to rest.

The perfect place to rest: Night stand with plug for pumping equipment

The Disney cruise line also has a nursery if you want to enjoy an adult only restaurant or spa treatment. “It’s a Small World” Nursery is offered on all of Disney’s ships and they provide childcare for children 6 months to 3 years of age for a small fee per hour. It is highly recommended that you reserve your child’s time before you sail. It is an adorable nursery with a bright and cheery motif of Disney’s popular “It’s a Small World” ride and there are comfortable squishy floors, plenty of toys, chairs, and even a special area with cribs in case your bundle of joy plays themselves out.

                                Cheerful decorations                  Playing at "it's a small world" nursery

Cribs in nursery

By now you are already seeing the benefits of cruising with your baby but there is so much more:

There are great TV viewing options on board with a lot of movies and fun shows, which helps if you are in the room nursing, pumping, or just hanging out.

Free Room service, in case your little one needs a nap during meal time. Speaking of food, our son was eating some solid food by this time but at our nightly sit down dinners and the kids menus had plenty of options. However if your little one is eating baby food they do offer to puree foods for you. No need to bring your own baby food to dinner! 

                            Hunter's Pirate Cup                              Kid's Dinner Option

Kid's Menu for Pirate Night, turns in to a hat

The Characters on board are great with kids and took special time to bond with my son, you can find them sometimes wandering but mostly at scheduled times. This can make it easy to pick which characters your child wants to see and you can work that into your plans for the day with the help of your navigator. And of course don’t forget the pictures! My family will cherish these photos forever.

                            Impromtu meeting with Mickey       Pirate Night with Tinkberbell
Meet and Greet with Ariel

They have a special splash area just for children still in swim diapers which is great if your kiddo is not walking or does not know how to swim yet. They can splash, get wet, and have a great time in their own safe and kid friendly spot.

You can explore a new country without having to work at planning, Disney picks the best excursions for you so you know in advance what you are doing at port and you know what age group and activity level each excursion is suited. We had a fun filled beach day in Cozumel and our little guy loved the fun in the sun.

Fun in the sun in Cozumel

The Disney cruise provides “wave phones” (like cell phones), so you can text and call anyone around the ship, no need to pay for roaming and data fees. The kids’ clubs and nursery will call you when your child is ready to be picked up, or in case anything happens — which is gives me great peace of mind.

All of the entertainment on the ship is free and there is something for everyone. Premier movies, Broadway-style shows, magic acts, etc. We were able to take our son to the movies without worrying about if he got to loud and we had to leave how much money we wasted.  If you have to leave half way through a show for a feeding or diaper change you don’t need to stress about the cost.

Disney is very child friendly and the cast members are always willing to help. They always provided my son with great attention and care everywhere we went. They make you and your child feel like family and to me that is what makes a great vacation. I am so happy we took our baby on vacation and really enjoyed cruising with him.

Officer's Night

Where else can you sail the seas, explore new lands, and enjoy the magic of Disney all in one vacation? I highly recommend sailing with Disney if you want to experience a grand adventure with your new addition, there is so much for everyone to experience and you’ll have memories to last a lifetime.

By Kris

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Sweet Spot for a Sweet Show...enjoy "Happily Ever After" Fireworks at Disney at a Dessert Party

A Sweet Spot for a Sweet Show


“Happily Ever After” replaced “Wishes” as Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular on May 12, 2017.  The new show still contains plenty of amazing fireworks; however, the majority of the story is shown via projections on Cinderella’s castle.  

While “Wishes” could be enjoyed from virtually anywhere in the park, the projections make Main Street and the Hub prime viewing locations for “Happily Ever After.”  This also makes Main Street and the Hub even more crowded than it was during the “Wishes” era, especially since the show is new to the majority of guests on any given night, and everyone is searching for the perfect spot to enjoy “Happily Ever After” for the first time. Spots in the Hub and along Main Street are often claimed up to 2 hours before the start of the show, and the area surrounding the front of the castle is full 60 minutes prior (not that this means guests won’t still try to force their way in, so be prepared to hold your ground if you are one of the lucky ones that grabbed a prime location in advance!).

So what if standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of strangers for an hour plus isn’t your idea of a fun way to end your day?  What if you have small children that you don’t want to have an obstructed view when an adult pushes their way in front of them at the last minute?  What if you’d prefer to sit for the hour before the start of the show instead of fighting to hold onto your 1-square-foot area of Main Street real estate?  Then consider one of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks dessert parties!  Disney offers two versions of this party on regular park nights – the Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace and the Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing.  While the two events are similar, they differ in price, location and view.

The dessert party at the Tomorrowland Terrace will run you $79 per adult and $47 per child, including tax.  Seating at this event is first come, first served, and your table will be your seat for both the dessert portion of the party as well as during the fireworks.  The best tables are those right up against the terrace railing; the closer to the back of the terrace you get, the more centered your view will be.  Note that several tables will have obstructed views due to the overhang above, so it’s worth arriving early to have your pick of tables.

The dessert party with garden viewing has a slightly lower price point, at $59 per adult and $35 per child, including tax.  In this version, you enjoy your desserts at the terrace in the hour leading up to the fireworks, but then move down to the Plaza Gardens to watch the show.  For those of you that remember when “Wishes” used to offer a FastPass+ reserved viewing area, this is one of the two gardens that was available.  The area in front of Casey’s Corner is now open to the public, while the area in front of the Plaza is reserved for the dessert party guests. 

The dessert options for both parties are identical, though those with garden viewing have a separate buffet and seating area on the upper level of the terrace.  Guests are welcome to enjoy desserts from either buffet, but those with garden viewing are not permitted to take terrace tables from those that have reserved that view.  Drink selections include sparkling cider, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lemonade.  The dessert options include a variety of brownies and cupcakes, in addition to ice cream and a create-your-own-cookie station.  There are also trays of cheeses and fruits for guests who prefer more savory or healthy options. 

Once the garden view guests have had their fill of desserts, they return to the check in podium to be escorted to the reserved viewing area.  While there is no “set” time that you must move to the garden, I’d recommend arriving no later than 15 minutes prior to the start of the show to ensure you are settled before it begins.  The area opens around an hour in advance, though there is no need to arrive that early unless you are searching for a perfect spot to record or photograph the show.  There are truly no bad views from the garden (though do be conscious of light posts and speakers that may slightly obstruct your view if you are directly behind one).  And note that you cannot take your desserts “to go” from the terrace, so make sure you’ve had your fill before you move to the garden!

So now that you’ve decided desserts and a reserved viewing area sounds like a much more enjoyable way to experience “Happily Ever After” than being part of the Main Street mob scene, which option do you select?  This is truly a personal decision, and depends on several factors, such as how much you are willing to spend, if having a seat is important to you, and what view you prefer.  My family opted for the garden viewing, and here’s why:  First, the price was a bit easier to swallow.  While the desserts were delicious (and plentiful), we certainly didn’t consume $188-worth of snacks!  You are definitely paying for your view, and with how projection-based “Happily Ever After” is, my opinion is that the view from the garden is far superior to the view from the terrace.  Having done the terrace dessert party for Wishes in the past, I’ve never cared for the view up there.  The fireworks are slightly off-center and to the side, and in many areas there are trees that obstruct the front of the castle (which would interfere with your view of the projections).  I also hated having to show up even earlier than the posted check in time to get a “good” seat.  Part of the reason we do the dessert parties is to avoid having to hold a spot for 2+ hours, and this advantage is negated with the terrace option.  While it is nice to have a seat at the end of a long day, the night we did the dessert party, nearly everyone in the garden remained seated for the duration of the show.  And those that did choose to stand, the majority stood at the back so as not to block the views of those sitting behind them.  So having a seat isn’t necessarily exclusive to the terrace version.  However, with the terrace version you do not have to relocate for the show, and can continue to enjoy your desserts while “Happily Ever After” is going on.  You are also welcome to linger after the show while the crowds below clear, which is also a nice perk.  You can choose to linger in the gardens, as well, but the area ceases to be reserved at the conclusion of the show.

While you won’t go wrong with either option if your goal is a reserved, non-crowded way to enjoy the fireworks, I do feel that the best views of the new show are from the garden.  But both parties are a sweet way to end your day at Magic Kingdom – and provide you with your very own “Happily Ever After.”

 By Alyssa

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review of the Swan and Dolphin hotels at Disney World

The Swan and Dolphin are interesting resorts – you use the official Disney transportation, get access to Extra Magic Hours but don’t get access to Magical Express and you can’t use Magic Bands at the resort. It’s an odd in-between of an offsite resort and an official resort where you get all of the perks.

You also aren’t quite surrounded by the “Disney Magic” 24/7 like you would at one of the official Disney owned resorts. When actually at the Dolphin it felt like a hotel that could be anywhere but was definitely on the much nicer side. Both the Swan and Dolphin are separate resorts though they’re just a couple hundred feet apart from each other, separated by a walkway and Crescent lake. The Dolphin, which this review is about is the much larger property with the Swan being slightly smaller.

I did find the layout of the resort slightly confusing. First off the place is enormous so you can easily get lost just wandering around the myriad of hallways that go off of the center lobby. There are also a few different banks of elevators which can get confusing if you don’t remember which one you’re suppose to go up. Eventually we found the right set of elevators are were headed up to the West elevators. The room was slightly smaller than I was expecting for the price that these rooms go for. Since we were upgraded to a Resort Room we had a mini-fridge, cordless phone and the “heavenly” beds which are very comfortable.

I did know this going into it but was still disappointing were the fact that the rooms only had full beds instead of queens. I would have much preferred to have queen beds in the room instead of full beds. The entry area had a wet bar with a standard hotel room sized fridge below. They do stock the coffee with Starbucks which was a nice treat, it was much better than your standard hotel coffee.

Overall nothing special about the room at the Dolphin. Everything about the room was very average from the double beds, the decor and the small & awkward bathroom. – just wish the room had a little more to offer. There is a parking free of 25 dollars. And you will need a credit card on file. And if your in the Dolphin you will need to walk to the Swan for Disney travel to parks. Boats from the Dolphin will take you to Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios.

By Vikki

Let us make your vacation even easier!  We'll help you plan from the start and can advise you and handle your arrangements, including dining, fast passes, room requests, discount application, and celebrations.  We are the same price or less than if you book on your own, and you get us for FREE!  Have an expert on your side at zero cost to you and contact one of our agents today!