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Disney cruises and resorts are fun for all ages

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014

As a certified Disney Specialist, I am always excited when a client asks me to plan a trip on one of the fabulous Disney Cruise Ships or a land trip to Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California. Having been to Disney World a dozen times myself, it is always fun as Disney is constantly making changes and adding new rides, hotels and park amenities. Even for a Disney Specialist, it takes continuous training and scrutiny to keep up with the many yearly improvements. A Disney Cruise is also exciting and I will begin this month’s article by telling you about our trip on the DisneyDream.

Disney cruises

Dwight and I took our 8-year old grandson on a 4-day cruise on the Disney Dream, one of four wonderful ships, out of Port Canaveral and it was a fantasy come true for all three of us. Driving to Port Canaveral is 8 hours door-to-door from Georgetown or a short flight from Myrtle Beach or Charleston. If driving, it is advantageous to drive down a day early and stay near the port in one of the many nice hotels near there. You can either park at the port the next day or leave your vehicle under the “park and stay” packages with the hotel. In either case, there is a daily charge for parking.

Fortunately, we were able to book a balcony cabin in the Concierge Level, where we could just walk down the hall to the Concierge Lounge, have breakfast, snacks or drinks which are included in this price category. As a note, most meals, snacks and soft drinks are included in all room categories. Alcohol and dinner at Adult Specialty restaurants are extra.

As we were celebrating our grandson’s birthday, he was the “man of the hour” with many special perks on the day of his celebration and he was treated “as royalty” for the whole trip ... his words, not ours.

The ship was wonderful. The water park which includes the “Aqua Duck” water slide was amazing. The Aqua Duck is a 765-foot-long water coaster ride through a clear tube that goes over the pools, the side of the ship and into a plunge pool. “D”, our grandson, rode on it several times and went on the other smaller water slide at least 50 times. It was difficult to get him out of the water to stop and eat.

And at night, we really enjoyed the main shows. On two of the nights D went to the Oceaneer Club and Lab and never wanted to leave. Staying up past 10 p.m. was a joy for him and helped us too, as he fell asleep instantly in his overhead bunk bed when his head hit the pillow. By the way, the ceiling above his bed looked like the sky with twinkling stars. (By the way, Disney offers programs also for infants, toddlers and teens.)

Meals were fantastic. We went to the main dining area each night. There are three different dining rooms so you rotate to a different venue each night. The wait-staff followed you each night in the rotation which made it special for D as he became friends with his waiter and waitress. Each night, they would have Ds name on his cup with lemonade waiting. The dining room featuring “Crush” and the other “Finding Nemo” movie characters was his favorite.

Dwight, being an ice cream nut, really enjoyed the limitless amounts of soft-serve ice cream and soft drinks. D and Dwight also played pingpong, golf and other games all day long when not in the pools. And the arcade room ( there is a charge for the games) was a favorite place for D to play.

Mickey Mouse, Princesses and friends were always all over the ship which was exciting for all of the kids. The “Sail-Away” party was a lot of fun with Mickey and friends. The “Pirates” party, where everyone, including adults, dressed up like pirates was a blast including fireworks from the top of the ship that night. That’s right, fireworks, right off the top of the ship. As a sidebar, Disney Cruise Lines provides “gps” tracking wrist bands for children on the ship for safety and entry into “Oceaneer” club. They also have an onboard mobile phone service that allows kids and counselors to contact parents anytime.

Disney’s private island was fantastic and D was the first one off the ship to go onto the water slide, called Pelican Plunge. He actually stood patiently at the rope until they opened so he would be first in line. He thought that was “cool.” Chairs, floating tubes and other gear were instantly available and we picked a great location under the umbrella to watch him play in the ocean. The beach food was very good and the islandoffered plenty of things to do and explore.

In Nassau, we went to the “Blue Lagoon” water park as we had been to the Atlantis Resort before. Atlantis is fantastic, but this water park was also fun. As with Atlantis, (for a fee), you can swim with the dolphins.

Other cruise lines offer “children’s programs” and they are all great, but Disney Cruises does it best and are great at making dreams come true. Disney Cruises can bemore expensive than other cruise lines, but you get what you pay for.

Walt Disney World

As I stated before, we have been to Walt Disney World in Orlando many times, and it is always a blast. I recently booked a multigenerational family of 12 for the week after Thanksgiving and they came back with glowing accolades about their trip. They stayed at the Polynesian and reported having a great time at the new “Fantasyland’ andreally had a wonderful time at the “Mickey Breakfast.” The new Fantasyland has two incredible themed areas, the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus. You have from Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest Restaurant, to Belle’s Village and more.

Disney World has a new wrist band system called “My Magic” which is used to access a park and to access “Fast Passes.” The wrist band entry system is new and being tested at all hotels, parks and rides as the year progresses. My Magic gives guests even more opportunities to customize and personalize their entire trip. My clients really liked the new system. You can still use the “swipe card” method though.

Our clients who just returned from the park, purchased the “Meal Plan” so they could save money and not have to pull their wallets out every time they wanted a meal or snack while in the park. “It was so convenient and economical”, our clients stated. There are different levels and prices of packages which include your tickets, accommodations and meals. Meal plans are available only to visitors staying at the hotels within the parks. It is advantageous to stay at one of the hotels within the park for convenience and to save on parking fees, etc. It really is a great value.

Depending on various factors including age and interests, you can select your hotel located in the various parks from Magic Kingdom to Epcot to Animal Kingdom. It just depends on what you wish to do as you can spend a day or more in each of thetheme parks. This is just one of the reasons to work with a travel advisor, especially one that is Disney Certified.

There are many secrets and tips to enjoying Disney World from “how do I get a fast pass to avoid the long lines?” to “how do I make reservations for a Mickey Mouse Breakfast or a Princess Meal?”. There are just hundreds of places to see and things to do at Disney World.

Transportation tips for traveling Walt Disney World

When using the internal Walt Disney World transportation system, I recommend that you allow 45 minutes travel time between theme parks or theme park and resort. To be on the safe side, maybe an hour.

The interval time between the arrivals of most Disney Buses is between 20-25 minutes.

The most obvious mode of transportation may not always be the fastest. It can often be faster to walk from the Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom than take the monorail or even from Epcot to Disney Hollywood Studios.

The iPhone App “Buses, Boats, and Monorails” can be a handy tool to offer answers to on property Disney transportation questions in the palm of your hand.

Disney Resort Guests receive a complimentary parking permit upon check-in good for their length of stay. This permit allows them free parking most places on property including the Disney Parks.

Guests staying off property at non-Disney Hotels and day guests pay one fee per day to receive a parking pass good for all theme park parking lots.

Well, I could just go on-and-on about Disney ...but you just have to experience their ships and parks yourself. Give me a call or an email to book your next trip.

Dwight and I will be sailing on Norwegian Cruise Lines new ship, the Getaway, next month so stay tuned for that review.

For more information, contact me at paula@travelbyseaorland.com, or pford@cruiseplanners.com or visit me at travelbyseaorland.com. Contact me at 843-436-0238.

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