Enjoy a 4-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney’s All-Star Resort and 4-day Magic Your Way base tickets for just $2,125!
(Sample package price is valid for a family of 4 for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from October 8 through December 13, 2018.)
The holiday season is a great time to take a family vacation at Walt Disney World Resort. As a family, you can explore exciting classic, new and limited-time experiences across all 4 theme parks including – Sunset Season’s Greetings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom, the classic Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – and still be among the first to visit the all-new Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Contact one of our Adventure Planners now through December 24, 2018!
In Part 1, I shared information about flying to LAX from Midway and getting to Disneyland via Disney’s contracted shuttle service. I also introduced the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. To reiterate some comments about the grounds, the G.C. is impeccable. There are so many qualities that make it stand above the rest of your hotel options. I will be revisiting some previously discussed and expanding further. Enjoy, and if you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to read it before continuing.
The proximity to the parks from the Grand Californian is a feature that some overlook. The ability to be anywhere in California Adventure or Downtown Disney and return to your room within 10 minutes is a convenient characteristic. Couple that with travelling with a five and two-year-old and it’s a recipe to enhance everyone’s moods. I would estimate the time from Disneyland to our room was between 15-20 minutes. This is similar to staying on the monorail loop at WDW and returning from Magic Kingdom.
We arrived a couple hours before our reservation at Blue Bayou. We did not waste any time heading over to Disneyland. We exited the Grand Californian by way of their California Adventure entrance. This may have been a mistake. It was our first time in the park, and we found ourselves engrossed with several aspects of the park during our walk. For example, our walk took us by my wife’s and my favorite attraction, Soarin’. It was so difficult just walking right by! Another thing I regret was walking down Buena Vista Street from the park to the main entrance too quickly during our first visit. I found some of us wanting to stop multiple times. However, the Grand Californian’s entrance to California Adventure is amazing if timed correctly. It was BY FAR the quickest/easiest entry into any Disney park we have ever completed. The Plaza area between the two parks is very simple. I may have been expecting more, but I feel that Disney could do a bit more here. The Plaza seemed baron and bland. I get it. They want you to move into the parks, but it felt like it was missing something. Getting into Disneyland was surprisingly quick. It was mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, so that was probably why it was so fast.
We wanted to take a few pictures on our way to Blue Bayou.
If you are looking for a place to eat in Disneyland, do a little research on Blue Bayou. You will find that almost all reviews of the restaurant are positive. You are also going to find that the place is very busy and can fill up quickly. We arrived to Blue Bayou early. We asked if we could be seated early, and they accommodated us without any hesitation. Again, our timing was perfect because there were a lobby full of people waiting when we were done eating. The atmosphere and theming at Blue Bayou is amazing. The setting is nighttime in the New Orleans bayou. Disney did an outstanding job mimicking the theme. Additionally, the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction begins floating through the outer perimeter of Blue Bayou. Some of the best seats in the restaurant are near this perimeter. Blue Bayou offers guests Cajun fare. They have a decent amount of options to choose from. Here is a link to their dinner menu: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/dining/disneyland/blue-bayou-restaurant/menus/dinner/. I tried the gumbo and Monte Cristo sandwich. Both items were delicious. Below are pictures of the food.
After dinner, we decided to visit a few attractions. Our two-year-old daughter decided she would rather wait in lines on another day. Instead, she and mom did a little shopping on Main Street. That left our five-year-old son and me to experience some of the attractions. We were already near Pirates of the Caribbean and the wait wasn’t too bad. He had been to Walt Disney World, but Pirates was down for refurbishment during his visit. This was his first time on the ride. It went really well for the most part. He noticed that the first scene was in the restaurant where he just had eaten. He got a little scared when it went dark, but, knowing his personality, I knew he would be fine. He LOVED the first drop! This kid likes fast and wild rides (unlike his dad), so I was not worried about the drops. He got a kick out of the scenes. However, the boats got backed up badly. We were stuck near the drunk pirate saying, “Here kitty, kitty” for nearly 10 minutes. It was awful. I kept trying to have him look at other scenes and talking to him about other things, but we were on the right side of the boat very close to the animatronic. After the scare on Pirates of the Caribbean, he decided he wanted to go up Tarzan’s tree. He actually caught me off guard. By “catching me off guard,” I mean he took off running to the attraction and up the stairs without us discussing it. Luckily, we were close and, he’s five, so it was relatively easy catching up to him. The wait for Jingle Cruise was surprisingly low, so I knew we had to ride it. I think the wait was only around ten minutes. My son was unimpressed. I was amused and enjoyed the Christmas overlay which I’ve never seen before. I took some pictures of the Jingle Cruise, but they turned out terrible. Next, we headed to Fantasyland. In Fantasyland, we visited Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and one of our favorites: Peter Pan’s Flight. As much as I wanted to stay, I knew he would be getting tired soon, so we headed back to the room. I snapped one of my favorite pictures from the trip on the way out of Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
Our family traveled to Disneyland over the Thanksgiving holiday. Ideally, we would have chosen a different time to visit, but several personal factors impacted our travel dates. We flew out of Midway, located in Chicago, IL, on Tuesday morning. The flight lasted four hours. We have only flown as a family of four on one previous trip. Our five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter fly a lot easier than their anxious father. My wife, Tracy, is definitely the “team captain” when it comes to flying, and dad just plays pack mule. Moving the kids through security and other congested areas is definitely a team effort, but Tracy handles most of their needs throughout the airport. Additionally, she flies with a child on each side of her, which demands a great deal of energy and effort. My primary duties are hauling the luggage and assisting our son to and from the restroom. The first time we flew into LAX, we obtained a rental vehicle with AVIS. (Remind me to create a short post on how big of a nightmare getting the vehicle was.) This time we used Disney-contracted transportation.
As expected, the contracted shuttle service in L.A. is much different than that of Orlando. In L.A., there are no cast members to make your luggage magically appear in your resort room. You have to gather your luggage and haul it out to a waiting area. The area is labelled and identified with green markers. The pickup area at LAX is a step above (as in worse than most) the cluster most airports are. It is setup in a giant “U.” (See the graphic below.) We waited in one of the first stops, which meant it took nearly an hour for the shuttle to make its way around the entire pickup area. It was miserable. After completing the tour of the pickup area, the driver announced that we were on our way to Disneyland which could take up to an hour and a half. Luckily, the traffic was not bad and we made it in about 40 minutes. This commute was a stark contrast to our drive to Yorba Linda in the summer of 2016. The round trip cost our family slightly less than $100. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount. Here is a link to Disneyland transportation site: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/guest-services/transportation/
We arrived at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa mid-afternoon. The resort is incredible. Upon arrival, cast members welcomed and asked us if we needed anything. They also directed us to the lobby’s check-in desks. The cast member was efficient and friendly. He also was quick with valuable information about getting to our dining reservation and utilizing the extra magic hour the next morning. He also shared information about the resort. Overall, the cast member was a great introduction to the Grand Californian.
The lobby and atrium of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa are magnificent. The theme is described as “Craftsman-style Elegance” by Disney. It is so much more than that. The color is a dark wood, which comforts guests with a cozy feeling. Within the atrium is a very large fireplace with a sitting area near it. We were there while Christmas decorations adorned the area. The decorations featured an extremely large tree and a magnificent gingerbread house. The decorations had a classic feel without going over the top. This trend continued throughout the parks. Our first day in California was the warmest, but we did not swim. However, the pool area is extremely nice and offers enough space for a vast amount of guests. The Grand Californian offers two amazing features, which no other Disneyland resort can offer-an entrance to California Adventure and Downtown Disney. The resort also has multiple dining areas highlighted by Napa Rose and Storytellers Café. Both offer wonderful dining experiences. There is also a snack area called White Water Snacks and two lounges. Overall, we decided we would stay at this resort when we return to Disneyland.
Come back to enjoy the rest of our Disneyland trip.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
This post was originally going to be a top ten, but the list ended up being a bit longer than intended. Most of these tips are for cruisers with a limited experience aboard Disney Cruise Line. Hopefully, you find at least one tip helpful.
Choose the right Itinerary. I made a mistake on our first Disney Cruise. At the time, our family consisted of my wife, two-year-old son, and myself. We were nervous about how we would handle a cruise. We were uncertain about how we would react to the ship’s movement and entertainment while onboard. We cruised aboard the Disney Dream for a four-night itinerary. After multiple Disney cruises and an additional family member, I have been able to determine the perfect duration for our family–365 nights! Seriously though, I would not hesitate from taking my family on an extended cruise. We have two young children and I still would not hesitate to take a long cruise. However, my wife and I recently went on a three-night cruise aboard the Disney Magic. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but we both missed our children. We agreed that we would be willing to take another short cruise without our kids, but we could not be away from them any longer than that.
Choose the correct stateroom and location of your stateroom. There are countless websites, blog posts, and videos that can give you an endless amount of detail about staterooms aboard a Disney ship, and I cannot do the topic justice in a brief paragraph. So, please do your homework or work with a good agent that will ask about the people you are travelling with to get a good fit for your stateroom. After selecting a stateroom category, location of your stateroom can be specified. Is quick/easy access to certain venues important? How close would you like to be to elevators and stairs? Are multiple staterooms necessary? Etc.
Princess meets are fantastic. Our family was able to meet Belle, Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, Anna, and Elsa in under an hour! Here is the tip you need to know: You have to get tickets for two separate events at the Port Adventures desk. I went to the desk immediately after we boarded the ship. I obtained tickets for the Princess Meet and Greet and the Anna & Elsa Meet for ideal times for our family. It worked out very well.
*Please Note: Disney just announced scheduling for cruises of 7 nights or longer. Be sure to discuss this with your agent as I am unaware of the details at this time.
Anna and Elsa
Kids’ Clubs offer kids/tweens/teens a wide variety of supervised entertainment. There are multiple kids’ clubs that are divided into age ranges. Beginning at age 3, the service is included in your voyage fare. We took advantage of the services during one of our Palo reservations. Drop-off and pick-up are easy and secure. There can be a line so keep that in mind if you have reservations. Also, be sure to pre-register your children to save time on your vacation.
Andy’s Room theme
Main hub of Oceaneer Club
Pirate Night is bigger than what I expected. On our first cruise, we took Pirate Night for granted. We did not dress up and did not expect the overall theming throughout the ship. Although dressing up is not necessary, it makes the evening a lot more fun. We dress our children up in pirate garb more than ourselves, but my wife and I wear subtle nautical themed clothing. Make sure you arrive to the deck party early to obtain a good viewing area. Fireworks can be viewed from a lot of different areas of the ship.
Know when to book your cruise (or move your placeholder). Generally speaking, cruisers need to book early for popular itineraries and the busy season. By early, I mean immediately when itineraries are announced. This is usually well over a year in advance. This will likely be the best pricing you will be able to get. There are times of the year and less popular itineraries that do not require booking this far in advance, but I still recommend making a reservation as soon as you know your party will be able to take a cruise.
The first Navigator is obtained upon boarding the ship. Each evening, a new Navigator will be delivered to your stateroom for the following day. The Navigator provides detailed information about all areas of the ships and the day’s activities onboard. The Disney Cruise Line smartphone app is even better. It has the information provided on the Navigator, detailed information about the evening’s dining, chat/text feature, etc… And, the app can be downloaded in advance to provide a cool countdown.
Book your next Disney cruise while onboard. The easiest way to get a discount on your next Disney cruise is to book during your cruise. This is something I try to take care of by the end of the second night. On our last cruise, I ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes to book our placeholder because I waited until our last night. The benefits at the time of this post are a 10% off prevailing cruise fare, onboard credit from Disney, and a reduced deposit. You DO NOT have to select a specific cruise in order to do this. For example, I always book a placeholder. The placeholder needs to be used within 24 months from the first night of the current cruise.
Carry-on luggage is very important. Staterooms are not available until early afternoon. On our last cruise, we were able to get into our rooms at 1:30. We boarded the ship around 11:30. So, it is helpful to pack anything you may need during that time in your carry-on. Also, any alcohol is supposed to be brought on the ship via carry-on.
Bring a cup, mug, or tervis. Complimentary beverages are available. However, the cups are relatively small. If you bring your own cup(s), this may save you several trips to the top of the ship!
Skip this if you don’t drink coffee. I enjoy strong coffee mixed with a specific flavored creamer. This creamer is unavailable on the ship. And, the coffee at the drink station is not the best. Bringing my creamer helps me start off the day I normally do and probably most personal tip here. The creamer I drink does come in single-serving sizes, so it was easy to bring aboard. There are very good coffees available at Cove Café.
Bars aboard a Disney ship are underrated. They are very well themed and the servers are amazing. If you are up late, please do yourself a favor and hangout at one of these places. I am NOT advocating drinking alcohol. Other beverages are available and are actually very good.
If feasible, bring a case of water with you. We drove to Port Canaveral for a couple of our cruises. I placed one of our luggage stickers on a case of water. The staff delivered the case of water to our room just as the other pieces of luggage were. I have heard rumors that this is not allowed anymore, but I will continue to do it even after it doesn’t work the first time! Having the water available in the room is very convenient.
Adults-only restaurants, including Palo and Remy, offer a wonderful dining experience. Make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoy dining in Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and other dining rooms. And, I love grabbing food at some of the “quick-service” spots. But, dinner at Palo and Remy or Palo Brunch are special opportunities. And, for the surcharges, I feel they offer an incredible value.
Chocolate souffle at Palo
Tracy and I at Palo
Disney Cruise Line is great at offering activities for every age. If you enjoy an alcoholic drink, I highly recommend trying an alcohol tasting. The event is a great opportunity to try something you have probably not experienced. More importantly, this may be a great opportunity to meet some new people as well. For that reason, I suggest making your reservation for this activity early in your itinerary.
On our first Disney cruise, my wife and I wasted valuable packing space on beach towels and a lifejacket for our son. Lifejackets and towels are provided at the pools and on Castaway Cay. Save your luggage space for the speedo.
If you have the opportunity, reserve a cabana on Castaway Cay. Getting a cabana is nearly impossible for most cruisers as they go quickly. However, they may become available if some cruisers change their mind. So, check occasionally to see if one becomes available.
Getting up early or staying up late will provide you an opportunity to see a sunrise or sunset you will remember forever. This is one of my favorite things to do on any cruise. I am an early riser, so this is an activity I do easily, and I am very happy that I take advantage of this. My favorite place to do this is on the highest deck. I was able to go to the very front of the ship one morning. It is amazing. On our first cruise, my wife and I, by strictly luck, enjoyed a sunset in Palo. Wow!
Fish Extender groups are so much fun! FE groups deserve their own post, so I will try to be as brief as possible for the purpose here. These are groups that exchange gifts with one another via hanging pouch(es) next to their cabin door. There is a sea creature that can hold the pouch(es). People place gifts in the pouches throughout the cruise. This is a HUGE hit with our kids. They are excited to check the FE every time we come back to our stateroom.
Doing laundry is never fun but can be necessary aboard Disney Cruise Line. We book-ended out Disney Cruise with stays at Walt Disney World. We did several loads of laundry aboard the Disney Dream. We were lucky with the location of our stateroom. We had laundry located just steps away from our door. You use your stateroom key to charge the fees for using the washer and dryer. We brought detergent packets and dryer sheets, so we didn’t have to purchase them on the ship. Here is something I found interesting-it was cheaper to do laundry aboard the Dream than doing it at The Polynesian.
Watch the live shows in the Walt Disney Theatre. These stage productions are spectacular. If you want prime seating arrive early. However, most seating offers great views of the stage.
Book your Disney Cruise Line reservation with a travel agent. Travel agents offer obvious services like booking with Disney. In addition, agents will send reminders about making payments and when final payment is due. They also offer insight on current company policies such as documentation requirements or bringing alcohol onboard. Agents can also link multiple reservations if families are travelling together, or agents can link Walt Disney World packages with Disney Cruise Line reservations to provide a seamless experience. Most agents or agencies offer perks as well. Some give gifts and others credit your stateroom account with credit to spend however you like. The best part is most agents charge you NOTHING for their services!
Cruising with Disney is a terrific experience. Disney takes service to another level, and we all know and love their entertainment. Please comment or email me your Disney Cruise Line tips.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
Castaway Cay has an adults-only area! My wife and I have been to Castaway Cay four times over three Disney Cruise Line voyages. (and we have another “double-dip” booked for Summer of 2017.) We have only had an opportunity to visit Serenity Bay one time. We think all adults need to visit this adult-only beach!
First, Castaway Cay is everything that you have heard/read (and possibly a lot more). Castaway Cay is one of our family’s favorite vacation spots. There are a vast amount of amenities only steps away at all times. Furthermore, the Port Adventures available at Castaway Cay offer incredible enhancements and a tremendous value. Castaway Cay itself is, in my opinion, an incredible value for families. Just imagine if Disney could build a resort here…
Getting to Serenity Bay is a little more challenging to get to than the other areas of Castaway Cay, but it is not difficult by any means. The tram picks passengers up near the ship. This tram stop is just past Marge’s Barges. On the map, the tram stop is called Kargo Handling. There are two family beach tram stops. The first is at Scuttle’s Cove. Scuttle’s Cove is basically the Oceaneers Club/Lab of Castaway Cay. Parents may drop off children there similar to dropping them off at the clubs on the ship. The second is Pelican Point. Pelican Point is a stop right in the middle of two very vast family beaches. The two beaches are divided by a protruding land mass that would otherwise be a very large lagoon. However, on this peninsula, is the Heads Up bar. It is a great place to have a beverage and take some great photos. We got off of the tram at Pelican Point to wait for another tram to take us to Serenity Bay. I believe the second tram would go between Pelican Point and Serenity Bay for a majority of the day. The second tram picked us up within five minutes, and the ride to Serenity Bay was brief.
View near Kargo Handling
On Castaway Cay with the family.
Serenity Bay is a wonderful place where adults may relax without the hustle and bustle of family life. The biggest difference I remember is how tranquil the environment is. It felt slow, spacious, and quiet. This is much different than the family beaches which are very busy. Great seating is abundant. It was a short walk for my wife and me to find multiple lounge chairs with an umbrella. Shortly after finding “our spot,” a server came by to check on our needs. The service on Serenity Bay is terrific! Our beverages were delivered quickly and our server checked on us often but not too much.
Having fun with the family
The beach at Serenity Bay looks like what you see on an advertisement for tropical resorts. I am not referring to just the white sand and crystal blue water. Those two features can be found at hundreds of locations. The really cool thing about the ocean at Serenity Bay is how far out one can walk. It tapers similar to most beaches. However, there is a sandbar out a little way which is neat to hang out at. The beach also has two key features that allow adults to stay secluded if they wish. 1. A bar. 2. Serenity Bay BBQ. I really, REALLY like Cookies and Cookies Too, but my experience at the Serenity Bay BBQ was amazing. I do not know if it was timing or luck, but my food was prepared to order which is much different than both Cookies locations. I need to stress that the food is good no matter which location you are eating at on the island. Another advantage that I noticed was there was a little less wildlife around the seating area. If you have eaten at Castaway Cay, you have noticed the birds around the seating areas. There seemed to be significantly less birds there. Float and tube rentals are also available for pickup at The Windsock Hut, located at Serenity Bay.
Serenity Bay is a remarkable, relaxing place for adults to enjoy the tropical ecstasy, Castaway Cay. My wife and I recently went on a Disney cruise without our kids. Being in our low 30’s, numerous friends and family questioned why we would go on Disney Cruise Line if we are not travelling with our children. We have several reasons why Disney Cruise Line offers a wonderful experience for an adults-only experience. Serenity Bay is a dazzling highlight of the experience. Please comment below if you agree or disagree.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
Disney Cruise Line has leased their own island from the Bahamian government. Various aspects of Castaway Cay definitely deserve their own posts, but I will only mention that the island is my wife’s favorite vacation spot now that we have children. The focus of this post is the Castaway Cay 5k. My wife and I traveled without our children aboard the Disney Magic in early March 2016. This opportunity allowed us to experience a LOT of things we were unable to on our previous two cruises.
Before jumping into my discussion about the Castaway Cay 5k, I would like to share a bit more about my relationship with running. The Castaway Cay 5k is truly for ANYONE. It doesn’t matter if you walk, jog, or run the race. I witnessed people running a very impressive pace and some folks casually walking and taking in the beautiful Bahamian scenery. I run, but I do not consider myself a runner. This doesn’t make sense, but bear with me. I run six days a week; usually four to six miles at a time. I do this more for alone time/therapy rather than the fitness. I do not consider myself a runner because, up until our recent Disney Cruise, I have never participated in an organized run. Honestly, I would not have done it without the persistence of my lovely wife. Now, she thinks she has a shot at turning me into a runner.
This was right after receiving our instructions for the Castaway Cay 5k.
This is how I really felt about getting up early on our Disney Cruise to participate in the Castaway Cay 5k
Registering for the Castaway Cay 5k was extremely simple. We needed to go to Guest Services for a couple of issues, and were not sure where registration for the race was. We had thought registration was either at Guest Services or Port Adventures. The cast member was able to register us for the race within seconds. When you register, the cast member will give entrants a ticket for participation. Here is the first thing to keep in mind if you are interested in participating in the race: Register before the day of the race. There were people turned away the morning of the 5k for not pre-registering. 123 people were registered for the race. Another thing to remember is participation in the Castaway Cay 5k is included in your cruise fare! You read that correctly. This is a runDisney event that is free! If you have looked into pricing for runDisney races and challenges, you know how expensive partaking in those events are. I consider the Castaway Cay 5k an opportunity to maximize the tremendous value of a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Participants (and some of their family members) met in Fathoms before the race. There is a brief presentation about the island and course for the 5k. A map of the race is provided to each participant and projected on a large screen. The course is discussed, but several people did not follow the course during our run. See the map of Castaway Cay 5k below.
As you can see, the beginning of the race is near the middle of the island. Prepare yourself for a nice walk, which is about a mile long. The cast members jokingly called this a bonus mile. I feel like it was actually a nice walk, as I have always taken the tram to the beaches. It was nice to slowly take in some of the island. Also, there are some terrific photo opportunities along the walk. The race is loosely organized. Once it seems like everyone is near the starting point, the timer is started and the race begins. The course begins on a bike path and moves on to the runway. During the pre-race presentation, the hosts emphasized staying on the side of the runway multiple times. After participating in the race, I understand the need to do so. I need to preface my next comments with I rarely have criticisms of Disney and generally trust their brand and process for distributing their entertainment. But, Disney has some intense and sometimes distracted drivers for the trams and golf carts. I don’t know how much it would cost to provide hands-free technology to each driver, but I’m sure it would be a minimal and necessary investment. That being said, I personally followed directions and had no negative interactions with said vehicles. However, I witnessed an interesting interaction. After the runway, racers turn into a bike path loop. The loop is kind of neat during the first trip. A lookout tower is located near the back of the loop. I have never been to the top of the tower, but I have read and heard that there are good views from there. I guess that’s an excuse to return??? After one complete loop, participants turn right to head toward Serenity Bay. At the entrance of the bike path loop, there is a drink station setup. Cold water is available. If I remember correctly, the station was not established on my entry of the loop but fully functioning when I came out of the loop. Serenity Bay is at the opposite end of the island as the ship. Racers turn around near the end of the runway and repeat the course in reverse. I found the loop to be much more monotonous the second time around. It is probably my fault as I was beginning to push my pace a bit and just kept thinking about how BIG that bike path loop is. Again, the water station is setup at the entry/exit to the bike path loop, which participants pass four times. In typical Disney fashion, there is a shop with runDisney merchandise near the end of the course. There are Castaway Cay 5k specific items. They are unique. If you are a collector, you may want to check it out.
This was taken right before the Castaway Cay 5k.
After the run
I ran with my cinch sack on. Don’t make that mistake. I ended up running with my right hand on the strings for the entire run!
Our family typically drives from North Central Illinois to Orlando or Port Canaveral. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, I am terribly anxious about flying and I do not want to couple that with trying to get two young children on a plane. Second, I actually like driving. The journey is part of the vacation for me. I try to make it enjoyable for all of my family members. Sometimes the love of my life reminds me about the challenges of the longer journey of driving.
My wife and I decided to take a short, three-day cruise out of Port Canaveral. A few weeks beforehand we received our Disney Cruise Line travel documents. This elegant booklet is always exciting to receive! It contains a fair amount of pertinent information that all cruisers should read. Our booklet included our luggage tags. These magical little stickers can make your life a whole lot simpler! Here is how it works: 1. Pack your luggage. 2. Affix the sticker to a handle on your luggage. 3. Drop off your luggage at your airline check-in. That is it. Yes. It is that simple.
We flew from Midway Airport to Orlando International Airport. At Midway, my wife and I did curbside check-in. Each of us had a checked bag and a carry on. Relieving ourselves of the checked bag was surprisingly efficient, and the attendant seemed very chipper for 4:15 AM. We had a little snag while obtaining boarding passes and checking in at security, but it was very promptly remedied. I am sure I will find some sympathizers here. Why does it seem like whenever I fly, I get my bags searched? Not just scanned-searched and dug around in. The security person who rifled through my bag seemed like a cool guy though. We chit-chatted while he admired my Ripcurl trunks and asked me why I needed two extra razors. He also made a nice comment about my headphones. After that, we were on our way! The flight was uneventful. When we landed, we took the monorail and no park admission was necessary. A side note and possible tip: there is a Hyatt within Orlando International Airport. If you are one of those people who likes to arrive a day early to avoid delays, this may be an option to look into. Most people who arrived with us went to baggage claim in Terminal A. My wife and I headed straight to Terminal B where the Magical Express check-in is located. (There are several rental car counters located there as well.) Disney was experiencing technology failure with one of two computers at the Disney Cruise Line Magical Express counter. We ended up having one of our longest waits of the entire trip there, and we were third in line. After checking in, we were directed to board the bus. The Magical Express bus was very comfortable. Or, the transition from the airplane to the Magical Express just made it seem like the Taj. Similar to the plane, one could control the light and air flow directly above. Unlike the plane, there were several televisions. On the ride to Port Canaveral, informational videos and Disney shorts were played. The 45-minute ride went by very quickly! Magical Express drops passengers off very close to the terminal at Port Canaveral, and there are several porters waiting to assist any families that may need it. My wife and I only had our carry-on luggage, so we quickly went to the terminal and through security before most of the bus was unloaded. Here is the coolest part of Magical Express. After partaking in various onboard activities, we went back to our stateroom. In the early afternoon, our luggage magically appeared by our stateroom door. We dropped our luggage curbside in Chicago and didn’t have to touch it until we were in our stateroom!
If you have ever taken a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line, you know how disheartening it is to leave the ship. There are multiple options for handling your luggage when disembarking. We were unable to take full advantage of Disney handling our luggage, as we had an early flight. Disney Cruise Line encourages people in these situations to walk off the ship with their luggage. After swiftly going through customs, we boarded Disney’s Magical Express. Again, the buses are located very close to the terminal, so there is minimal walking distance. The drivers of the buses are amazing. They are quick to offer a hand with luggage and are very courteous. The ride back to the airport continues the Disney withdrawal. And, the sales pitches playing on the televisions do not make the emotions any better.
Unlike utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to Walt Disney World, there is a fee for transfers to and from Port Canaveral. The fee can change, so if you are considering using this transportation, ask your agent how much the fee is or check online. Magical Express is a great way to get to and from Port Canaveral or Walt Disney World. It offers riders a simple and comfortable transfer and provides some entertainment. If you are looking for a convenient and relaxing ride, I would encourage you to use this transportation option.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC
My wife and I recently celebrated (about three months prematurely) our ten-year wedding anniversary. Being avid Disney fans, we naturally decided on our third Disney cruise. We selected a three-day Bahamian Itinerary. We also traveled without our children, which allowed us to have an extensive list of first experiences aboard the Disney Magic. The ship was a first as our previous two cruises were aboard the Disney Dream. Other first-time experiences included the use of Magical Express transportation to and from Port Canaveral; a couples spa treatment; participating in the Castaway Cay 5k; relaxing at the adults-only area of Castaway Cay, Serenity Bay; going to a movie aboard the ship; and enjoying a beverage in Cove Café. I hope to blog about these specific experiences in the future. This post will focus on my thoughts and feelings of traveling without my two Disney darlings.
The trip began with a flight out of Midway Airport, in Chicago, Illinois. I must admit that I am a VERY anxious flier! My heartrate can confirm that. I have a smartwatch and am fascinated by the heartrate monitor. Normally, my heartrate is in the mid-60s. Nearly the entire flight, my heartrate was in the low 90s! The troubling part is that I did not have any children to be accountable for while checking in, going through security, or boarding the plane. I have no idea how my body will handle that this summer, when we all fly to California. We will have much more than a backpack to be responsible for! The flight was smooth though we did not get to sit together because we were in boarding group C. Early Bird Check in is already purchased for our trip this summer which will allow us to sit together. The simplicity of only having to be concerned about a spouse and a backpack was very convenient. Traveling to the Disney Magic from Chicago, Illinois was easy.
Disregarding planning, my Disney cruise began earlier than most cruise goers. Disney’s terminal at Port Canaveral was a site to behold. The excitement of seeing the ship and knowing we were beginning our vacation was more than likely a key factor in this emotion. There were great family photo opportunities while approaching the terminal. After checking in at the terminal, entertainment options abound. A few tips: 1. If possible, try to get an early arrival time. This will give you time to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. 2. Take a family picture by the model of the Disney ship. This is a great return-trip photo. It never gets old! 3. There are cordon ropes that lead to the model of the ship. They may seem a bit out of place. Cue in those ropes! This is one of the best photo opportunities of your family’s cruise! Keep in mind, you may ask the photographer to snap a pic with your camera/phone. Finally, walking under the mouse ears can leave one feeling giddy. It is difficult to describe. Each time I have gone through that entrance, I knew I was about to have a wonderful time and create lifelong memories-which happened on each of our Disney cruises. Going through the entrance this time was much different without my children. In the past, I took a step back and let them lead my wife and me onto the ship. On this trip, we bypassed the family photo area. We also came up with a clever “family name” for the introduction. Then, we took our first step on the Disney Magic.
Great photo opportunity!
The first thing a lot of folks do when boarding a Disney cruise ship is…eat of course! Dining without our children was something we were eager to experience. Parents know that eating with two younger children, especially on vacation, is an adventure. Upon boarding our past two Disney cruises we went up to Deck 11 on the Disney Dream to Cabanas. Cabanas is a great place to grab a bite to eat. The buffets on a Disney cruise have something to offer for everyone. We decided not to go to Cabanas (Deck 9 on the Disney Magic). Instead, we went to Carioca’s. The only reason was to check out the dining areas of Carioca’s and Animator’s Palate. When we first arrived at Carioca’s, there were very few people in the seating area. This led to our first interaction with a server. If you have had the pleasure of being waited on by a cast member during a cruise, you know that their service is rarely replicated. I can say that again about this entire cruise. Our server’s name who followed us was Ralph S. He was great and made wonderful recommendations. More importantly, he did not hold back about foods to avoid for certain palates. I have found that some servers do not communicate which foods one should reconsider. There is a great deal of value for such suggestions. Dining without our children was nice. We ate every dinner with two other couples. (We miss our tablemates already.) Normally, we go to Palo once, but we decided in the planning process that we did not want to on this trip. The pacing of the meals was appropriate and pleasant for adults. We were able to enjoy each other’s company and the Disney entertainment during each meal.
Entrance to Animator’s Palate
One area among many for the buffet
We were very pleased with our table service!
Speaking of entertainment, we watched STAR WARS and each of the live shows while aboard the Disney Magic. We also enjoyed the fitness facility, Castaway Cay 5k and a couple’s spa treatment. On past Disney cruises, only one of us was able to do most of what I just mentioned. Our children are still young, and our youngest was not willing to sit through an entire live show. Also, my wife was the only one of us with previous experience in a spa while aboard a Disney ship. We could have utilized the kids’ clubs, but we did not fully taken advantage of them. The live shows onboard any Disney ship are very well done. Between my wife and me, we have seen eight different shows. We have really enjoyed them. Shows are something to make time for and are performed twice per evening, so both dining times have an opportunity to attend the show.
Fireworks at sea
After a live shoe
Before Star Wars in 3D
This post is getting a bit longer than originally intended and a bit too in-depth in some cases. I will offer my final opinions. A Disney cruise can be enjoyed by all types of travelers. There is an unparalleled level of service that is consistent throughout the trip. Disney specializes in entertainment, so the entertainment onboard a Disney Cruise Line ship is a reflection of their expertise. Their movies, online content, theme parks, etc. are enjoyed by all ages and a Disney cruise is no different. We took a short, three night cruise. We missed our children, but found that we would be willing to take another adults-only Disney cruise. If we were to go any longer, our kids would have to be with us. We took advantage of the onboard booking incentive, so another Disney cruise is already being planned.
-Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC