If you do any research on a Disney Cruise odds are you will find mention of Fish Extenders or FE’s. What are these mysterious things that people are talking about? Fish extenders are pockets or bags hanging from the fish, seahorse or starfish that is located next to your door.
The Fish Extender gift exchange is all about fun! If you are cruising with kids, they will LOVE it. They will run to the room to see if there is something in the FE. Even adults enjoy it. The adults may not be running to the room, but we are always excited to see what is in our pocket.
Fish extenders take many shapes and forms. A fish extender can be as simple as a bag hanging from the fish. If you would like to order a special personalized one, check into etsy.com or ebay.com. If you are able to sew you can also make one yourself. Here are a couple patterns that you can use.
Now you are probably asking why? Fish extenders are used for fish extender gift exchanges.
In order to sign up for the gift exchange on your cruise you will need to search facebook for the FE exchange group. You will search using the ship name and the dates of your cruise. You can also check out this website for links to the facebook group for a 2017 cruise: https://sites.google.com/site/fefunforall/home/2017
Once you find and join the FE exchange group for your cruise, you will need to give the coordinator the names of everyone in your party and your room numbers. If you are in more than one room, sign up every room and list the guest in each room so everyone receives their gifts in their respective rooms. There will need to be a fish extender at each room participating in the exchange.
You will need to sign up for the FE exchange in order to receive gifts. There have been instances of cruisers putting up their fish extender and distributing gifts to others. Unfortunately, they did not sign up for an exchange and did not receive any gifts.
Once sign-ups have been ended, the coordinator will give you a list of people and staterooms that are in the Fish Extender exchange. Gifts can be put together for the entire family or for each person individually. It is at your discretion. If you are signing up for the exchange, plan to give out gifts at least once during the cruise. If you cannot give gifts, do not sign up for the exchange.
Gifts can be purchased or made. If you need ideas for Fish Extender gifts, just check out Pintrest or a simple google search will bring up tons of ideas. Some people bring an item from their state or the country they live in. We have received magnets, bookmarks, small photo albums, photo frames, candy, lanyards, sand toys, stickers and other great things. Most people stick to the Disney theme, but it is not required.
You are not required to spend a certain amount or limit the amount that you spend. It is at your own discretion. Remember that whatever gifts you choose to give must be packed in your luggage and brought on the ship. There will be plenty of gifts to take home as well.
One last thing, be sure to zip tie your fish extender to your fish. It doesn’t happen often, but a fish extender does disappear from time to time.
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
So often when talking about cruising with friends and family, the first thing I hear when suggesting Disney Cruise Line is “I don’t want to be on a ship with all those kids!” or “isn’t that line just for families?”. I had the absolute pleasure of cruising with five of my friends last November and found out for myself just how wrong both of those statements are.
Spaces on the ship
-Mallory says “I went in thinking wed have to stick one little portion of the ship to avoid hyped up children. That wasn’t the case at all!”.
-the Cove pool and bar was one of our favorite hangouts on the ship. The Cove is an adults only area and Disney does a wonderful job of enforcing this rule. There are cast members near the “entrances” gentling reminding families that this is adults only area and not to linger as they pass through.
-The District includes several very different bars and lounges. The whole area is a great area for adults to have a drink, dance, and even sing.
-Don’t think that the “adults only” areas are the only places you’ll find magic. We also rode the aquaDuck and of course ran into some of our favorite characters!
Dining and Entertainment
-“some of the best food I’ve ever had”
-Disney utilizes rotational dining in which your party rotates to a different dining room (Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace, and Animator’s Palate) with your serving team every night.
-Each dining room provides a different atmosphere and menu. Everything we tried was delicious!
-Our serving team was outstanding! They really engaged with us and learned some of our likes and dislikes. For example, we had a bowl of cherries on our table every night. They definitely brought a little extra magic to our trip.
-We went to a show every night before dinner. These truly are “Broadway style” and appealed to all ages kids to adults. Absolutely phenomenal!
-Room service is also an available option for dining. We used it for snacks and coffee in the morning. We were sure to order milk and cookies and of course Mickey Bars!
-In additional to the dining rooms and room service, Cabanas is also an option. Cabanas is casual buffet style dining with many yummy options and we were always able to find a table to seat us all.
-There were five of us and we were able to book two connecting balcony rooms.
-Plenty of space for all of us.
-Bathrooms are split which was a HUGE bonus with five adults getting ready for dinner or a day in port.
-Beds were comfortable as was the fold out on the couch
-As our rooms were connecting, the divider between our two balconies was able to be opened which let us has have one large balcony to share. The below picture is before the divider was open.
-We had two ports on our ship: Nassau and Castaway Cay
-Nassau was our first port and we scheduled excursions here. There was a large selection of excursions and we had no problem finding two that our group split up to participate in. The selection of excursion was varied and had great options for families and adults.
-Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) was our second port.
-When we first boarded the ship we went directly to guest services to register for the Castaway Cay 5K. 5K participants we among the first off the ship when we docked at Castaway Cay. Abilities vary and we were not the only participants walking.
-After the 5K some of us went to the ship to change and we headed to beach. Serenity Bay is the adult’s only section. The water is shallow and perfect for waiting. We had no problem finding enough chairs for all of us to sit together.
-Near Serenity Bay are a bar and an eatery. Lunch was wonderful. So many options; chicken, fish, ribs, and sides. Don’t forget to grab some banana bread or ice cream for desert!
This is only a taste of our trip and I think the only complaint we had was that we didn’t have enough time to explore the ship. We embarked on Friday and left on Monday. So to answer the question of “isn’t Disney Cruise Line just for families with kids?” the answer is NO! There is so much to do for adults too!
Traveling to Disney World with little ones can be the most magical (and exhausting) trip you will ever take! The first time we took our little princess, she was 2.5. At that point, I had only traveled to Disney as a child and as an adult with no children, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into! After asking friends and scouring the internet, I found lots of good tips and tricks. We have now taken Princess L to Disney at 2.5, 3.5, and just two weeks ago for her 5th birthday. Every trip has been different because of her age and interests, but I have used a lot of the same tricks to keep myself sane throughout our trips! So here are my top tricks and tips for traveling with little ones to Walt Disney World!
Schedule around your child’s “magic” time. This is the time of day your child is most agreeable/best behaved. When Princess L was 2.5, her “magic time” was morning. Anywhere between 7am-Noonish, she was almost always in a great mood and the most cooperative. As soon as lunch time would hit, she would turn into a hangry beast and NOTHING was going to happen until she ate something and took a nap! With that in mind, I scheduled the majority of our character meet & greets and fast passes during those hours and planned to head back to our resort at lunch time to get her fed and down for a nap. Once she was well rested, we would take her back to the park and figured anything we got done between then and bedtime was a bonus! It worked out great and we had very minimal meltdowns. We still do this, but our resort time is getting shorter and shorter. She hasn’t taken a regular nap in a couple years, but Disney tired is a special kind of tired! Also, going back to the resort for a break gives your kids a break from all the excitement, which can get overwhelming and lead to more meltdowns!
Ziploc bags & Take n toss sippy cups are your friend! Seriously! We used Ziploc bags for everything like leftover food because Princess L is a grazer (and takes forever to eat), dirty clothes, snacks, etc. We took a gallon Ziploc bag to the park every day with a full change of clothes (shirt, shorts, underwear, socks) just in case. You never know when spills or accidents will happen and this will keep you from having to spend Disney prices on a new outfit! Bonus, the mess can be contained in the Ziploc until you get back to your resort. In 3 trips, we have had to use our change of clothes twice. Once for a potty accident and once because of a spill! Plus it’s easy to just grab the bag and toss under the stroller. We also bring a few take n toss sippy cups. My kid loves chocolate milk, but they are always in a bottle that she can’t really drink out of. Animal Kingdom does not have lids and only paper straws because of the animals, so a sippy cup comes in handy there! They are great on the plane as well. If you don’t want to wash them out, you can throw them out when you’re done. They’re fairly cheap and come in all sorts of Disney prints!
I guarantee you will LOVE and HATE your stroller at Disney! Having a good stroller is key! A cheap umbrella stroller is okay, but you will appreciate something that rolls a lot nicer (and has storage) when you’re pushing around a child (and their gear) all day. We have a City Mini stroller, which we love. If you don’t have a nice stroller, there is really no need to go out and buy one just for vacation. There are several companies that rent strollers out in the Orlando area and they will deliver to your resort. The majority of rented strollers are Baby Jogger City Mini or City Mini doubles. You will see them all over the parks and for good reason! They push easily, fold one-handed, and have a decent storage. There are other options for rented strollers as well, but the Baby Jogger brand in particular is my fave. Bonus, they’re fairly easy to fit on a crowded bus, because they fold almost totally flat.
Yes, there are TONS of things to do at Disney, but I’m talking about waiting in line and waiting for food. Those are the times Princess L struggles with. Not only at Disney, but in our regular life I always have a play pack in my purse. You can find them at Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart, etc. They’re a little Ziploc pack that includes a small coloring book, crayons, and stickers and they’re usually around $1. There are loads of Disney ones as well! I also keep a couple games on my phone that I know she likes but that I don’t let her play often. When the coloring book isn’t going to work and she’s burnt out looking for hidden Mickeys, I whip out my phone with her fave app open. I also bring a few power banks to charge my phone. (There are also fuel rod kiosks at the parks!) Between taking a million pics, looking up fast passes, and letting the kiddo play with my phone, my battery doesn’t last long!
Expect nothing, appreciate everything! Taking a little one to Disney can feel (at times) like walking around with a ticking time bomb! Toddlers can be so unpredictable and you never know what they will like/dislike! Don’t be afraid to switch up plans because your kid just isn’t having it! Maybe s/he is afraid of characters. Don’t force it because that isn’t fun for anyone! There are photopass photographers everywhere, with and without characters. We have our share of pics where Princess L did not cooperate (see the Animal Kingdom picture!) It’s ok! Maybe they just want to ride Carousel of Progress six times in a row. (L’s was Haunted Mansion over and over again!) Maybe they want to watch the ducks swim around the ponds at Epcot for 30 minutes. Flexibility is key and sometimes you just have to roll with it! If you don’t force a hectic schedule, it will make for a happier trip for everyone. And no, you won’t get to see and do everything, but that is ok! I guarantee that your kid won’t remember that they hated Elsa or didn’t get to ride a certain ride. They will remember the little moments like riding on the “Mickey Bus”, eating a dole whip for breakfast, and Mickey waving to them from the parade float!
Not all these tips will work for every family, but hopefully one of two will help your family have a more magical vacation!
One of my favorite hobbies is crafting for Disney trips. I’ve made shirts for my kids, my best friend’s daughter for her band trip and most recently, for myself and my best friend on our girls’ trip for Wine and Dine weekend. We received tons of compliments on them; especially, the ones we wore the first day, the white shirts pictured below. I also used the white shirt to surprise her that she was going with me to Disney World where I was running in the Wine and Dine half marathon.
I really think matching shirts can be lots of fun! They can be practical as well. June 2015, we went with my brother and his family. We were a group of 12, all had matching shirts for each park day. This made it very easy to keep sight of our large group. It was easy for the cast members at the rides to see how many was in our group.
Our trip this past June was to see our daughter dance with Dance the World! Our mothers joined us along with our great friends and neighbors. I did not make group shirts for this trip, as we had shirts from the studio we had ordered. But, I did make all the kids shirts, even though they didn’t match.
After purchasing two autograph books for my daughter’s first trip, I decided I would make them for the kids. I bought sketch books with 100 pages of good thick paper and decorated the covers with their favorite character. For each trip, I just create a new trip page to divide up the trips. These are also big enough that a picture of the character can be placed opposite of the autograph page. I made my kids for our 2015 trip, and my friend’s children this year.
Another fun item, for the kids to do, in the parks is the pressed penny machines. I use mini m&m tubes to hold our change for those. I decorate those, as well, with their character of choice. Now, of course, you need something to carry the books and penny holders in so…backpacks it is! Drawstring backpacks are great. Lightweight and a good size for most kids! My little guy is kind of small, so we have to shorten the string up for him. But, it’s certainly doable when mommy and daddy aren’t carrying it, of course. An added bonus, they can be thrown in the washer when they get dirty!
There are so many crafting possibilities for a Disney trip that can make your trip even more magical. If you are not a crafty person or have time for that sort of thing you can always check Etsy or your favorite crafty Disney loving friend.
The Houston/ Galveston area has so many wonderful things to see and do. This year Houston is host to Super Bowl 51 Patriots Vs Falcons. Annual events for the area include Galveston, Mardi Gras in February this is the 106th year for the island. Mardi Gras is tons of fun plenty of live music, drinks, and parades they do offer family events, but this is mostly an adult event. In Houston one of the favorite annual events is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this event established in 1931 occurs annually usually in March. This event has brought families fun for generations with carnival rides, fabulous Texas BBQ, shopping, great headliner music entertainment, pig races, etc. it’s fun for hours. Baytown, host a yearly NHRA race around April. This event is lots of fun for the whole family with nitro cars going head to head in a quarter mile at 300+ mph.
NHRA NITRO DRAGSTER
Up close with the drivers.
Year round entertainment is plentiful in the Houston area. The Downtown Aquarium, features carnival style rides, larger than life aquariums, and a restaurant. Houston has many museums to choose from Science, Health, Children’s, and Holocaust Museums just to name a few. Houston, boast a great theater district with theaters both inside and outside. The Houston Zoo is not to be missed it’s truly Texas sized at 55 acres. The Houston Space Center has many great exhibits and hands on actives for the young and old alike. Be sure not to miss seeing the Apollo control room and the future of Mars exploration spacecraft. The USS Texas BB-35, it’s notable for being the only remaining World War I-era dreadnought battleship. A short drive from the USS Texas you have the San Jacinto Monument at 567.31-feet-high this monument is 12feet taller than the Washington Monument. Houston, is also the home of many professional sports teams including football, basketball, baseball, and soccer just to name a few most of the facilities offer stadium tours also. Houston also has Wet’n’Wild SplashTown its a great sized waterpark guaranteed to cool you off on those hot Texas days. Opening in the Spring of 2017 Gilley’s after many years the old Houston icon is coming back to Houston in a new location. If Gilley’s sounds familiar to you that was the dance hall used in the filming of the Urban Cowboy.
Houston Space Center
Galveston Island is a great place to have a fun and relaxing time. The Sea Wall & The Strand are extremely popular places to be with food, live music, and fun abounding. The newest adventure is the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier (amusement park) its built out 1,130 feet over the Gulf of Mexico built in the same location as the original that was destroyed during Hurricane Carla. After that the original was replaced with the USS Flagship Hotel that was destroyed during Hurricane Ike now the new Pleasure Pier stands in its place. Moody Gardens is also great family fun with 4D theaters, a rainforest, aquariums, a beach, and a flight museum. The Island of Galveston is very rich in Texas history and American history many immigrants that where moving to America came to Galveston from overseas the area has many old home tours that are great to see. Schlitterbahn Galveston Island it’s an indoor water and outdoor water park for guaranteed fun even in the winter. Last but not least The Galveston cruise ship terminal, Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines have 4 to 7 day trips to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Galveston Moody Gardens
Galveston Moody Gardens
Within a short drive of the Houston / Galveston area are some places that you may want to visit also. The Blue Bell Ice Cream factory (in Brenham, Texas) and Shiner Brewery (in Shiner, Texas) these Texas originals are sure to please. Surfside Beach is a great little beach that allows you to drive and park on the beach unlike Galveston were you have to park on the Seawall. A Casino is now located just north of Houston in Livingston, Texas, called Naskila Gaming. Lake Conroe (near Conroe, Texas) is a great place for boating fun.
Lodging is vast in the area from 5 star hotels, hotels with a view of the beautiful Houston skyline, or a relaxing view of the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston. Whatever your heart’s desire it’s here for you. Food is also plentiful in this region. Although, I have to say I’m partial to the shrimp, BBQ and Mexican food in the area.
This past September, my family spent a weekend at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for a joint celebration of my son’s 16th birthday and my 40th (wow, that hurts to type). When we pulled in on Friday morning, I decided to use Disney’s valet service. Outside of Tables in Wonderland, this would be my first time using Disney’s valet service.
I am that guy that likes to drive myself around Disney property; nothing against Disney transportation, I’m just a control freak!
After we checked in and had a bite for lunch, we called upon the valet to retrieve our car so we could head over to the Magic Kingdom for a few hours before closing out the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While waiting for our vehicle, an attendant asked if we needed any directions or help. Being a Disney Super Dad, I said, “No Thank You.” The attendant then asked where we were headed, and I replied, “Magic Kingdom.” This is when I learned, thanks to another great Cast Member, that once you pay the daily valet fee (currently $25.00) at any of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts, you can also use the valet service at any of the other Deluxe Resorts (on the same date) without having to repay the fee.
Upon hearing this, I immediately felt like a schmuck, after all, I know everything, I’m a Disney Super Dad, remember…
Much to my surprise, we were able to drive into Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa; use valet service, then hop the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom (I’m a simple guy and am easily impressed by the little pleasures, lol).
Now, anyone who’s visited the Magic Kingdom knows that getting from the parking lot to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) then over to the Magic Kingdom, can at times, be a bit arduous; especially if you’re carrying little ones. Well… Here’s your tip of the day: you can utilize valet parking at one of the monorail resorts, and then hop the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.
Now, I must throw out a disclaimer… You are going to have to pass through security to get into any Disney resort; however, security at the monorail resorts can be especially “picky” (especially during peak times). Therefore, you will need a “reason” to be at the resort (i.e. dining reservation, spa appointment, etc.). In our case, we were already staying at a Deluxe Resort and had paid for the valet service, so security let us in. In the past, you could simply say that you wanted to “look around” or “visit” the resort. That is not always a guarantee now…
When using valet parking, it is important to remember that the fee you pay goes to Disney and not the valet attendant; so please, please, please remember to tip the attendant.
Another point to keep in mind, when you pay to park at a Walt Disney World Park, you can use that receipt to avoid paying the parking fee at another park on the same day. This does not apply to valet parking and park hopping. If you paid for valet service at a resort (and you are not a resort guest), you will still need to pay the parking fee at the park.
My husband and I went with a group of friends on a 7 day cruise to Alaska in July aboard the Carnival Legend. We flew to Seattle the night before our cruise was scheduled to leave port. We walked around the city until all of our party had arrived. Then some of us went to Pike Place Market. The Market had vendors set up, selling flowers, crafted jewelry, fruits, vegetables, and fish. It was fun to watch the fish vendors throw the fish! We also saw the gum wall.
One of our friends insisted we all chew bubble gum and leave our own addition to the “art”. After that, we walked down to the water and ate dinner at The Crab Pot. When we finished our delicious dinner, some of us walked back to our hotel, while the rest of our party went to a Seattle Mariners vs. Chicago White Sox ballgame. Since we live near Chicago, it was fun to see the Sox play in another ball park.
The next morning, some of us walked to the Space Needle and went up to the top. It was a clear day and was very scenic. We could see our ship while she was waiting for us to board!
Once we boarded our ship, we took time to eat lunch, unpack and familiarize ourselves with the ship. Then it was time for muster. It was very hot and took a long time but is a requirement before the ship leaves port. Muster is when the ship’s crew instructs the passengers where to go and what to do in case of an emergency evacuation of the ship. Good to know.
At dinner time, we were all seated at three tables close together (there were 18 of us). We ate at the same place every night and had the same servers. We got to know each other very well by the time our cruise was finished. In addition to the excellent service and delicious food, the servers would entertain us with a floor show. They would sing along with a different song every night and dance a choreographed dance. Lots of fun. After dinner, we usually went to the theatre for a live show then went to the comedy club. Finishing off the night would be a visit to the casino and/or bars or shopping in the onboard shops.
The first day was a day at sea. There are many activities when you are aboard a ship, so we all did whatever we chose. I enjoy getting a massage on sea day whenever we cruise, so I got a hot stone massage.
The second day we sailed the Tracy Arm Fjord. The best adjective I can use about the Fjord is: magnificent! It is a rain forest, so it was overcast and a little cool but no one stayed inside on that day. The beauty was breath taking. We saw whales, seals, eagles, icebergs, and a glacier. It was all so amazing and beautiful.
The third day, we docked at Skagway. Some of us had booked the White Pass Railroad Summit Excursion. We boarded a vintage passenger coach, which retraced the original route to the White Pass summit. We passed Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. We saw beautiful mountains, gorges, waterfalls, tunnels, and trestles. We saw the original Klondike Trail worn into the rocks. After the excursion, we walked, shopped, and ate in Skagway.
On the fourth day, we docked at Juneau. It rained most of the day. We figured we would never have the opportunity to visit Juneau again so why not make the most of it? After lunch at the Red Dog Saloon, the weather cleared up a bit and we were able to see the beautiful area surrounding the city.
The fifth day was our stop at Ketchikan. We explored the city and saw many interesting totem poles. We walked over a plank bridge and saw salmon in the stream below. We were told that we were lucky we were there when we were because, a short time after we left the bridge, it was closed because a bear had decided to find his lunch in the stream!
Our final day of the cruise was mainly on ship. We made port around 7:30 p.m. at Victoria, British Columbia. Some of us went to see beautiful Butchart Gardens. Our only regret was that it turned dark shortly after our arrival. Our excursion by bus also included a narrated tour of the city.
What do we have planned for our next adventure? We are going to Epcot Food & Wine Festival! We are looking forward to that, as we have talked about going for the past several years. We also got tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! I am very excited about it. I hope to have lots of stories & photos for my next blog.
So you have made it to the reveal of your Disney vacation now what? There are many ways to reveal your surprise. I am going to tell you about my reveals first.
On our first trip we left Christmas Day my kids went and stayed with their grandparents on the 23rd to have Christmas with them before we left. This allowed for my husband and I to get everything packing and ready without them seeing it. On the 24th we picked them up with a truck full of luggage and headed toward the airport. We lived about 1.5 hours from the airport at this time so we wanted to stay closer to the airport to help make our 6AM flight Christmas Day much easier. We told the kids that we were going to stay at a hotel with an indoor pool as part of their Christmas gift. They did not think anything of it they were so excited like most kids they love hotels.
When we checked in my husband took the kids down to the pool. I used this opportunity to unpack the luggage from the car for our Disney World trip and hide it around the room. I hid suitcases behind curtains, in drawers, and wrapped in blankets that I borrowed from the front desk on top of the make shift closet rack. Boy what I would have given for this hotel room to have had an actual closet. Then, I joined the rest of my family at the pool.
Later after we read The Night Before Christmas the kids were fast asleep I drug out all of our luggage into view and the BIG gift boxes for each child that had all of the Disney reveal information in it. The boxes contained: lanyards with pins, autograph book with sharpies, T-shirts that said “I’m going to Disney World,” disposable camera, Disney gift card, new DS with a new game for the plane ride and line waiting amusement, and a letter from Santa telling them they were going to Disney World.
The second reveal was a bit simpler. About 6 months before our trip my husband had a major surgery and we had to take him back and forth to the doctor often. So we used this to our advantage. We told our boys that we needed to get up early to take dad to see the doctor. While the kids played with their friends the days before the trip I was busy packing privately in our bedroom.
So the day of the trip my husband and I pack our car before waking the kids. We get them up and in the car a few months before bought a new house this time we are only 15 mins from the airport. We make the exit to the airport to throw off the kids I say “I need to use the restroom.” So we exit and we head to the park and ride, as we are entering the parking ride. The kids are looking around like what’s going on. We find our parking spot and tell the kids to get out of the car. We go back and open the trunk to reveal the luggage with my husband saying. “Hey, let’s go to Disney World.”
The tips I can pass from the reveals are simply this use what you have. The first trip we got the grandparents involved to help and used the pool to divert their attention from the bigger picture. On the second trip we used the fact that we had visited the doctor’s lots to get them out the door early and not suspect much.
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. **Summer 2018 Update** We stayed at Walt Disney World prior to our cruise. We used Amazon Prime Now to get a case of water delivered to our resort. We were able to use DCL transfers, and DCL transferred our case of water with our luggage. The case of water was delivered to our stateroom.
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