Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cruisin’ Along – Why You Should Book a Disney Cruise NOW!!

Do you love Disney’s attention to detail, customer service and all-encompassing feeling of magic?

Do you also wish sometimes you could experience all of that without the crushing crowds and heat of being inside a Disney park?

Then Disney Cruise Line is the place for you!
Disney Cruise Ship

I was skeptical at first, too.  As Walt Disney World vets, I wondered if we’d still feel that Disney magic if we weren’t in a park?  Would my kids be bored? Would my husband and I actually get to RELAX?  What if we get seasick / hate being on a boat / have bad weather / can’t find anything to do in port? My list of reasons “why not” to do a cruise was endless. But now that we’ve done it, I can’t believe we waited so long! 
Picture with Captain Mickey before boarding

So let me tell you all the reasons WHY…..!

Rotational Dining
Rotational dining is a feature unique to DCL.  You will select either main or late dining when you book your cruise, and this will be your assigned dinner time during your cruise.  While the times can vary by itinerary, main dining is usually around 5:45 and late is around 8:15.  Each night, you will be assigned a different Main Dining Room for your evening meal.  Your table guests, table number and servers will remain the same every night, even as you move restaurants!  By keeping the same servers night after night, they really get to know you and your family, and will have soon learned your favorite drink, how you like your meat prepared, and which kid will only eat plain noodles and broccoli!  By the end of the cruise, your servers will definitely feel like part of your family, and can help make your dining experience truly exceptional.  Loved the dessert you had last night in a different dining room?  They can get it for you!  Don’t know which appetizer to choose?  They’ll bring them all!  Kids are done eating and bored?  Ours even did magic tricks for them!

Activities for All Ages
Traveling with kids? There are four distinct Youth Clubs are located on each of the 4 ships, with activities and events tailored to specific ages as follows:
·         Oceaneer Club – ages 3-12
·         Oceaneer Lab – ages 3-12
·         Edge – ages 11-14
·         Vibe – ages 14-17

Kids' Clubs
The Oceaneer Club and Lab are connected, and children are able to move freely between the activities offered at both.  While the Lab focuses on learning while having fun, the Club is pure Disney fantasy, including performances, storytelling, dress-up opportunities and arts and crafts.  (Note that children must meet both the 3 year old age minimum AND be fully potty trained to participate in the youth activities.)

Each ship also offers the “it’s a small world nursery” for those aged 6 months to 3 years (or ages 1-3 on Transatlantic, Hawaii and Panama Canal itineraries).  Only the nursery requires reservations, and carries an additional cost.  Access to all other youth clubs is provided free of charge, and kids may come and go as they please.
No kids? No problem! There are also several “adults only” areas on each ship, including nightclubs, lounges and pools. You can also choose to pamper yourself at the spa or take part in beverage tastings and mixology classes! Each ship even offers adult-exclusive dining options (available by reservation and with an additional cost).

Broadway Caliber Shows
Live productions are performed 2 times each evening, to accommodate the dining schedules.  Main dining will watch the second show; late dining will watch the first.  Snacks and beverages are available for purchase outside the theater – and the ships even offer a refillable popcorn bucket, just like the parks!

You can also watch full length feature films in the Walt Disney Theater on all 4 ships, including PremEARS that are released during your sailing!

Special Events
All cruises include Disney’s top of the line entertainment, activities and character experiences.  But you can also experience themed and seasonal offerings on select sailings:

·         Pirate Night –where the servers, characters and guests don their favorite pirate gear and enjoy the “Pirates in the Caribbean” Deck Party, complete with an industry first…fireworks at sea!  Offered on all 4 ships on most Bahamian and Caribbean sailings.
Pirate Night

·         Star Wars Day at Sea – including galactic activities, guest speakers, costume celebrations and epic character experiences.  Currently available on select 7-night Caribbean sailings from January 2018 through April 2018.
·         Marvel Day at Sea – which includes action packed activities and shows as well as heroic character encounters.  Currently available on select 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami in early 2018.
·         Halloween on the High Seas – Experience thrills and chills at sea, including eerie entertainment and not-so-scary parties.  And don’t miss Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing and Scream!  Offered on all 4 ships on most itineraries departing during September and October.
·         Very Merrytime Cruises – Seasonal fun includes themed crafts and activities, story time with Mrs. Claus and jolly holiday d├ęcor around every corner, including a life-sized gingerbread house and 24-foot Christmas tree!  Even Castaway Cay is transformed into a Winter Wonderland during these sailings! Offered on all 4 ships on most itineraries departing mid-November through Christmas. 

Variety of Ports / Itineraries
Disney Cruise Line currently offers sailings to the following destinations: Alaska, Bahamas, Bermuda, California Coast, Canada, Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Panama Canal and Transatlantic.  Sailings range from 2 to 14 nights, with new destinations and itineraries constantly being added.

Prices are generally the lowest they will be on “opening day” – the date that booking for a particular cruise opens.  The cost will only go up as the ship fills, so the earlier you book the better.  Unlike booking a Walt Disney World or Disneyland vacation, with the hopes of being able to apply a discount at a later date, DCL rarely offers promotions. They simply don’t need to – their ships are at near-capacity year-round.  While last minute deals can be found on occasion, they are often for military or Florida residents only. 

DCL bookings are currently open through May 2019.  Summer 2019 itineraries will be released in early 2018 and the remainder of 2019 in late spring 2018.  Mark your calendars NOW if you are considering traveling during one of those times to snag an opening day rate!

Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay
Did you know that Disney has its own private island in the Bahamas?  That’s right, Castaway Cay is a private island, with access exclusive only to those on a DCL sailing.  The island is staffed by Disney employees, which means you’ll get the same level of customer service on the island that you are getting on the ship.

All Bahamian and Caribbean sailings include a stop at Castaway Cay as one of the ports.  Some itineraries even offer two stops at Castaway Cay (known as a “double dip”) and believe me, once you’ve spent a day at Castaway Cay, you’ll understand why these cruises are in such high demand!

Castaway Cay is divided into two areas – the family beach and the adult beach (Serenity Bay). The youth clubs also move to the beach on Castaway Cay day - Scuttle’s Cove is for ages 3-12 and the Teen Hideout is available for those 13-17.

You’ll also be served lunch on the island – the family beach offers a barbeque buffet in 2 locations – Cookie’s BBQ and Cookies Too.  Serenity Bay has its own buffet, Air Bar BBQ, which also includes steak and lobster!

Cookie's BBQ

There are plenty of excursions to be found on Castaway Cay, from boating to biking to stingray feedings!  You can even take part in the Castaway Cay 5K (make sure your register for this event as soon as you board!  There’s no charge and every participant receives a medal!)

Castaway Cay also has 24 cabanas that can be rented by the day.  Cabanas are a great option for those traveling with children who may need to nap during the day, or for those that may need a reprieve from the sun for medical reasons.  They are also a great option for those who are simply looking to be pampered or who want to add even more relaxation to their day.  The cabanas come fully furnished, and include snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, towels, sunscreen, beach toys and a safe.  They also each have their own hammock and lounge chairs on the beach, and include free tube, snorkel and bike rentals for all members of your party.  These cabanas go FAST so if getting one is a priority, plan to book one as soon as your online check in window opens.  And if at first you don’t succeed, check back frequently.  I was able to secure one on my family’s first cruise by checking the website several times a day for openings, and it was the best Disney money we’ve ever spent!

Cabanas at Castaway Cay

Land and Sea Options
Worried you won’t be getting enough Disney?  Why not consider extending your cruise with a day (or more!) at Walt Disney World before or after your cruise?  DCL will provide transport both to and from any resort on Disney property, and well as Orlando International Airport (note, however, that unlike Magical Express, which is free, cruise transport carries a one-way cost of $35 per person).

Select sailings out of New York even include a day at Walt Disney World, with a one-day park hopper included in the cost of your cruise!

Awards and Accolades
Don’t just take my word for it, listen to the experts!!!  Disney Cruise Line was voted “Best for Families” by the 2017 Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks awards.  They were also voted #1 Top Large Cruise Ship Line by Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. The 2017 Cruise Critics Cruisers’ Choice Awards honored DCL with 8 first-place honors, including Best Overall Ship in both the Large and Mid-Size categories. And not only was Castaway Cay named the Best Cruise Line Private Island by the 2017 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards, but U.S. News & World Report also ranked DCL as #1 on their list of Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean!

So what are you waiting for?  Contact your travel agent to book your Disney Cruise Line experience today!  I promise you won’t regret it!!

By Alyssa
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!

Disney Cruise Line's Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise

If any of you know me, even a little bit, you know that I love to travel and most importantly I love to travel to Disney. Yes, I am Disney obsessed and my sailing adventures are no different. When my son was born I knew I wanted to do something special for his first Christmas and our first Christmas as a family. So naturally, I looked for experiences we could share as a family along with my main mouse. I was thrilled to find that the newly "re-imagined" Disney Wonder was sailing out of our home port of Galveston, TX on a Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise. Christmas with Mickey, sign me up!
I booked us on the first voyage of the newly refurbished ship and was so excited to experience the holiday feel of the ship and all the amazing adventures we would have as a family while on board.
1st Christmas picture

The entire ship was decked out in Christmas decor; poinsettias by the stairs, garland strung end to end, wreaths and trees galore. Each restaurant even has its own Christmas decor. Triton’s had fish in its wreaths and Animators Palate had swags hanging from their paint brushes with artsy touches to complete the festive feel.

Christmas Decor
Even the chandelier in the main entrance matched the Christmas theme by resembling giant poinsettias that clung to the ornate ceiling.

We were warmly welcomed onto the ship by several cast members who were standing next to an enormous Christmas tree and the beginnings of a life size gingerbread house (it was completed by the time we disembarked). It was so much fun to see the area transform as our voyage continued.

Beautiful Flower Chandelier, Unlit tree, and start of the large Gingerbread in the main lobby

Our stateroom was decorated with an extra Christmas surprise. I previously called ahead to the Disney Cruise line to order special Christmas Decorations to surprise my family with a pre-decorated room. It was a great surprise and really added to the holiday spirit.

Festive Room Decor ordered from Disney Cruise line

We decided to join in on Formal Night and get our pictures taken in front of the Christmas tree in the main lobby. I got us all dressed up for the experience and soon found out there was a fun filled tree lighting ceremony on the 1st night. I also discovered that one family for the entire cruise is selected to help light that tree. Guess what? We were selected as that family!


Ready to light the Tree

First Picture with the newly lit Christmas tree

During the tree lighting ceremony they gave us pixie dust to sprinkle on the tree and Mickey and his friends came down to help countdown the tree lighting. After the countdown we sprinkled the tree and it magically lit up, displaying all its beauty and Christmas cheer! 

Lobby after tree was lit
After the ceremony, we were whisked away to a private meet and greet with Mickey and the gang and were given a picture of our experience as a keepsake. It was a truly breathtaking way to start our cruise. From that moment on, we were like celebrities aboard the ship. EVERYONE knew our name. 

Meet and Greet with Mickey and Pals
Like on every Disney cruise each night you are treated to a towel animal, chocolates and your own personal Navigator which outlines all the ship’s activities for the following day. It’s amazing to see how many activities there are to do on the ship! The activities on the Christmas cruise include even more holiday activities such as meeting Santa along with hot cocoa and cookies! There are so many touches that Disney adds to make this cruise feel so Christmas-y.

1st picture with Santa

Our little guy was so good meeting Santa for the 1st time and we were thrilled to be able to encounter this special meet and greet on our cruise. We also signed up for gingerbread house making at Tiana’s Place, the newest restaurant aboard the Disney Wonder. We had to sign up at guest services to make the gingerbread houses since this activity is not available online.

Meeting at Tiana’s Place to make a gingerbread house 

We met up with our fellow cruisers and were greeted with our own little house tiles and supplies to construct our gingerbread house.

Gingerbread house supplies

Someone wants to help with construction

Cast members, along with a chef from the Disney kitchen, come out to assist with the building of your house. They provide you with instructions and talk with the guests while you build your house but you can design and decorate as you see fit. One piece of advice; if your 10 month old wants to help, don’t be surprised when this happens.

Collapsed house, courtesy of my little guy

At least it tastes good!

Other activities we participated in for the holidays included meet and greets with princesses in their winter fineries and many visits with Mickey! My little guy LOVES the main cheese so getting to see him multiple times on a Disney cruise is a total win. Plus all of these amazing pictures really helped with my Christmas cards. There were so many things to do on board that we couldn’t do everything, just another reason why I love to cruise.

Christmas picture with Belle

Cruising for Christmas was an amazing experience; we were able to enjoy big festivities like tree lightings and gingerbread houses, along with fancy meals where we could dress up, and quieter moments meeting Santa and Mickey Mouse with none of the Christmas hustle and stress, all in one vacation. Normally it takes me the whole month of December to only accomplish half of that! I could go on and on but there are so many options on board to bring you Christmas cheer!

So if you are looking for a new way to experience Christmas and enjoy all the things you love without the heavy planning, a cruise is for you! Experience all of the magic of Christmas and Disney all in one vacation. The Very Merrytime Christmas Cruise is all about celebrating Christmas in the middle of the ocean together, as a family, with everyone else doing all of the hard work for you!

If you would like to gift your family with a Disney Holiday cruise our Travel Time agents are here to help. Let us plan your dream Christmas today!

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!