Monday, May 30, 2011

Let Disney do the driving!!

       Did you know Disney offers ground transportation to and from the airport to your Disney Destination? This is a fantastic way to relax as you travel to your Disney Destination! This is especially wonderful if you have any mobility/health issues or are traveling with children. There are some things to remember when using Disney’s Magical Express.

       When using Disney ground transportation you will check your check in luggage at your home airport then relax and enjoy the trip! Focus on getting yourself to the plane and enjoying time with those you are traveling with. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy! When you get to the airport near your Disney Destination do not go to luggage pick up. Your bags will not be there! Don’t worry they are not lost! Disney has picked up your luggage and will take it to your Disney Destination. You will find it in your room when you get there. If you choose to come in a day before your Disney cruise and take advantage of a free hotel room for the night before the cruise be aware your check in luggage will not go to the hotel with you. Disney will pick it up and store it in a secure location until the next day. Make sure you have all necessary items and valuables you need like medication and extra clothes to hold you over until you get to ship the next day.

       I’ll share our experience with you. We went to WDW and DCL in 2005. We had a group of 15 people including 3 disabled people on scooters and one 10 year old child. We put our luggage in the cabs and checked it in at our home airport. We then stopped worrying about it. This was a blessing because we, the able bodied could now focus on getting the 1 child and the 3 elderly disabled people where we needed to go without Dragging luggage around. We could take care of those who needed and ourselves without the stress of making sure the luggage got moved around.

       We had a wonderful flight to Orlando, it was my first time on a big plane. Once in Orlando we did not have to fuss with getting our luggage. We knew Disney would take care of it. Instead of running around grabbing luggage and worrying about where everybody was and if we got all of the luggage we could focus on keeping everybody together and enjoying our trip. We could attend to everybody’s needs easier because we did not have the luggage to worry about or carry.

       The ride to Disney World, our first stop from the airport was enjoyable. They had two special buses pick us up because our group was so large and 3 were on scooters and needed a vehicle that could accommodate them.

       At the end of our week at WDW our group was headed off to a week on the Disney Magic and a trip to the Caribbean. Each couple or family group made the decision to meet a DCL bus at the hotel we were staying at or at the Animal Kingdom Park. This time the regular bus they have for transporting guests was designed to handle the scooters so we could all ride together.

       It was an enjoyable ride to the ship with a TV above each row of seats playing Disney cartoons to entertain us as we went. After a week on the Magic it was time to head home again. The night before we got back to our homeport we packed and set our luggage outside our room. Crew took our luggage and got it ready to go to the airport. The next morning we took our carryon luggage and disembarked and boarded the bus for the ride back to the Orlando airport and the last leg of our trip. We had a quiet and pleasant ride to the airport. Disney helped us get the luggage to check in and we were on our way home. Since then Disney has improved the service. Now they have airline check in while you are still on the ship. They check your luggage in for you.

So if you are going from a Disney Park to a Disney Cruise no worries! Leave your luggage in your hotel room and let Disney pick it up. They will deliver it to your stateroom on the ship. Just make sure to follow all directions for putting labels on and where to leave them. The same goes the other way as well so if it is the cruise first then a park Disney will still take care of you.

       Let me share another story with the lesson, Make Sure You Read Everything. We had a friend who traveled with another cruise line and they offer a service like Disney’s ground transportation. Our friend did not read the fine print and when they got to the airport a day ahead of their cruise they did not know their luggage would be picked up by the cruise line. They thought it would go to the hotel with them. Our friends spent the day they had slated to look around the city and all their spending money for the entire trip on shopping for replacement clothing and luggage. They were surprised and a bit frustrated when they arrived in their stateroom and found all of their luggage there.

       When you leave the ship Disney will take you and your luggage to the airport. Your check in luggage will be picked up the night before and you will not see it again until you return to your home airport. Disney will check in your luggage for you.

       So sit back, relax and let Disney do the driving and handling of your luggage. Reduce travel stress and worries by letting Disney handle all your luggage and transportation to and from the airport. Just remember when and where your luggage is to show up and don’t worry about it at any other time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dress Up/Dress Down What to Wear!?

Dress Up/Dress Down What to Wear!?

       The Disney Cruise has a casual dress attire requirement over all. Nice clean jeans or shorts and a t-shirt or tank top is fine most of the time. Dinner is always a nice time to dress up some to make it more special but you will not be refused service if you don’t follow suggested guidelines for a particular evenings attire. Still there are times you will want to dress up! You can use dinner’s as a teachable moment for your children and help them learn how to behave in a formal setting that is still “safe” if they get a little out of line. Everybody on the cruise understands kids being normal kids. As long as they are not running wild around the restaurant.

       The night of the Golden Mickeys is Formal Night and is full of pomp and formalities. Recommended attire for dinner is formal wear. Even with that a tux and formal gown are not required, we did see one tux and more than a few gowns on formal night. Suits and tie are fine for the gentlemen and a nice dress or pant suit outfit is more than acceptable for ladies. This is a wonderful time to get your picture with the Captain and/or Mickey & Minnie in their formal best. Still many people come to dinner in shorts and other casual wear. After dinner is the Oscar Award type stage show the Golden Mickeys.

       There is also the Captain’s Gala or the semi formal night. Again on this night suit and tie for the gentlemen and a nice dress for the ladies are more than acceptable for dinner. You will not be locked out of restaurant if you show up in casual attire. After dinner you can trade pins with the officers of the ship in the lobby.

       Pirates IN the Caribbean is a wonderful night to dress up on the ship! But this time it is not casual or formal! Pull out your Pirate best or worst and have some fun! Didn’t bring your pirate outfit? No problem, you will find a pirate bandana at your table so you can still join the fun. You get to bring the bandana home with you. Your table service staff will be all dressed up in pirate attire for dinner and the meal will be a virtual pirate feast! After dinner the fun really begins with a Pirate themed deck party that has fireworks as the highlight! On our last cruise the fun did not end with the party. After the party they set out deck chairs and people cuddled down to watch Pirates in the Caribbean ~ the Curse of the Black Pearl on the Funnelvision Screen late into the night. I will be honest about 25% of the guests joined the fun and brought special outfits for Pirate Night. Some of them go full out and look like they just stepped off a movie set. On our first cruise in 2005 nobody dressed up for Pirate Night. In just 6 years the theme is picking up as there are more repeat cruisers.

       Over all it is up to you. If you wish to dress up for any evening or special event then do so. If you wish to stay casual that is fine as well but to be honest I think you are missing out on making some very special memories.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What to carry in your carryon luggage

What to carry in your carryon luggage

       What should you carry onboard the ship with you? You can bring a small carryon bag or suit bag along with a purse or computer bag with you as you walk onboard. They are lenient with the number of bags as long as you don’t go too far. First thing is pack as much in your check in as you can. Let Disney carry it to your stateroom for you! If you are one of the first to board be aware that you will most likely not be able to go to your stateroom for a couple of hours. They need time to prepare the stateroom for you. You want to carry what you need but nothing more. Whatever you carry you will need to keep with you until your cabin is ready. It is hard to explore the ship while carrying several bags.

       You will need your passport, photo ID and your boarding documents handy to show as you board. Do not put then deep in your bags. Carry any medication you need in your carryon bag and not in your checked in luggage. It would not do to have needed medication lost while on vacation! If you use any medical device, such as a CPAP carry that on as well. Don’t take the risk of it not making it onto the ship with you. Any valuables, breakables and electronics such as computers should also be in your carryon. Cell phones will not be needed so they can be either put deep in the carry on or in the check in. Side note here is that you will be charged extra for using your cell phone on the ship even if you are in port. Make sure you bring your camera with you. You will want to catch those magical Disney memories as you board.

       Disney Pins to trade with a lanyard or book is a fun thing to have. You can either pack them in your bag or wear your lanyard. Pin Trading is a fun way to pass the time as you wait to board the ship. A few small snacks and a bottle of water or other drink is a good idea to have in your bag as well. That way you will have something to eat and drink until your turn to board comes and you can go to the buffet to get something. Your wait to board can be an hour or more. You may also want to consider some of the following items, especially if you have children with you, a deck of cards, a book, coloring books and crayons or a small travel game. These are to keep children and yourself entertained while waiting to board.

       You should also bring a change of clothing. If you wish to go swimming, either before leaving port or right after pack a swimsuit in your carry on. Just in case your luggage is delayed getting to your cabin you should bring a change of clothes for the evening and maybe something to sleep in. A sweater or jacket depending on the weather is a good idea as well. On our last cruise my DH’s luggage did not arrive until just before dinner. By the time it got there it was too late for him to change for dinner. Sadly he did not bring clothing in his carry on to wear to dinner that night. So we went to dinner in what we boarded the ship.

       Be aware things are different if you drive to the port than if you fly in. If you fly in and you avail yourself of Disney Ground Transportation you will have to follow the rules of the airline you fly on regarding carryon and check in luggage. You will also not be able to get to your checked in luggage before Disney picks you and the luggage up for the trip to the ship. Therefore what is in the check in bag is there until it gets to the stateroom. If you drive you can bring a little bit more in by carryon. You can even bring a case of water to save money on water.

       When you get to the terminal you will have to go through security. They will x-ray your bags and ask what you have in your bags. If you have anything in any of your bags check in or carryon that should not be there they will hold it until the ship returns to the homeport as long as it is not illegal to own.
       If for some reason you have to carry on more than the “rules” allow call Disney and tell them. You may have several pieces of medical equipment or a combination of things that are required for your health and safety. Let Disney know ahead of time and they will work with you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why a Disney Cruise?

Why a Disney Cruise??

I can’t speak for anyone else but I’ll share my opinions and incite. When we first told family and friends we were going on a Disney Cruise without our teenage daughter they thought we were nuts! They told us we should reconsider and pick a different cruise line that is more for adults. This was not an option for us. We had and still have little interest in other cruise lines, as good as they may be. Just the adds alone tell me those ships are just not for me and my husband.

One way to think about it is to consider it as prescreening the type of people you will be around for the duration of your cruise. What type of people do you want to be confined on a ship with?

I want to be with people of similar taste, people who hold family dear and wish to have a family friendly fun. I don’t wish to worry about the show I’m going to see in the evening being offensive to me. Will I find the comedians jokes overly objectionable? Are the costumes the dancers wearing too reveling for my taste? I know with Disney I will not have to worry about that.

Will the people on the ship be looking for “party time” all the time? Will they just be looking for some good fun? I’m not a typical party gal. I don’t like drinking and dancing I can’t do. I like “parties” where people come together to share time together and in the doing so they also share their creativity by bringing music, poetry, stories, crafts and food to share.

On the Disney Ships there is “party time” with dancing and alcohol being served to guests who wish. These include the Sail Away Deck Party and the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party. There are crew members selling alcoholic drinks to the adults. Kids can have free soda or order a non alcoholic drink and food is also offered to all. There are family and adult dance parties in the various lounges every night as well. Even with that most people don’t get drunk because they have their kids with them or like us it is just not their interest.

I guess the easiest way to say it is would you enjoy spending a day at a bar and adult club or would you rather spend the day with family at a park or playing games. If spending family time is for you then I’d say a Disney Cruise even without the kids is right for you.

Don’t get me wrong. There are adult areas with “typical” adult activities of drinking and a club type atmosphere. After 9pm the lounges turn into adult only entertainment/party spots. Those areas are easy to get to and well themed. We enjoyed some time sitting in one of the lounges listening to the piano player several nights of the cruise. It just seems on the Disney Cruise not many people avail themselves of these “adult” areas.

The one adult area that is always full on the Magic and Wonder is Palo, the adult only restaurant. I’m going to guess Palo and Remy on the Dream are also full all the time. This is a wonderful respite from a noisy family filled restaurant. If you want a romantic meal with your sweetheart I suggest you book a meal at the adult only resturant online the first date you can.

The Quiet Cove Pool is calm and peaceful and the pool is not busy. The hot tubs are a different matter. Not often full but they usually have someone in them relaxing. There is a bar there and the noise from the family pool does not break the quiet calm atmosphere.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Disney Cruise LIne Daily Navigators

Daily Navigators

When you arrive at the terminal to board your Disney Cruise you will be handed a wonderful gift. It is you first Daily Navigator!! You will also find a copy on your desk in your stateroom when you get there. Each evening after that you will find the Daily Navigator for the next day slid under your door or on your bed. Why do I find this so exciting? Let me tell you.

       Your Navigator is the best way to plan your days. Each night when you return to your stateroom I suggest you spend a few minutes before going to sleep looking at the next day’s Navigator. You will find the daily schedule easy to read. It is set up laid out like the TV guide with times easy to find. It is also broken into sections for Adults, Families and Children so finding activities that will suit your family/group will be easy. Activities have color coded Mickeys next to them so you can easily see what age group that activity is aimed at. We used a highlighter to mark the events we wanted to see. It made it easier it keep track of what we did not want to miss.

       On our first cruise in 2005 we did not use our Navigator and we missed a lot of fun we wanted to do. We still had fun but spent more of our time in the pools and missed most of the onboard fun and character meet and greets.

       There are also adds and teasers for special events along with notices for various events on the ship. Here is where you will find out if tonight’s dinner is a theme meal with special attire suggested. Three nights themed and if desired you can dress for the event. They are semiformal (Captain’s Gala), formal (The Golden Mickeys) and then there is Pirate Night (Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party). You are not required to dress up for any of the themed nights but it does add to the fun. To answer the question I know you are dying to ask, YES people do dress up as pirates for Pirate Night. They come to dinner in there Pirate Best and continue to wear it during the Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party. Make sure you leave your sharp sward in your stateroom mattie and watch out for Captain Hook!

       I suggest you stop by the Guest Services Desk and grab a couple extra copies of the Navigator each day. You will want at least one for marking up and carrying around with you. You might want one for each adult so you each have one if you choose to do different activities you still have it to refer too. We kept 2 clean and packed away for memories. We will use one in a scrap book and keep the other in a file too look back on. What a great freebee memory maker to bring home!!

       What happens if you get your Navigator in the evening and something happens that changes where the ship goes the next day changing what can and will happen on the ship? Don’t worry!!! Things like this to happen and if you will just go with the flow all will be fine. While we were on the ship Japan got hit with a devastating earthquake. We could not go into port due to Tsunami warnings, a minor problem when you think of what happened to Japan. On days at port there is less to do on the ship so people were looking for things to do. The crew added shipboard activities that day and made it more like a day at sea. Because of the changes they printed up an addendum to the Navigator and those were delivered to each stateroom and placed in locations around the ship for passengers to pickup.

       So don’t forget to grab your Navigator and keep it handy so you don’t miss any of the fun things you want to do when you are traveling on the D

Thursday, May 19, 2011

DCL Castaway Club

Castaway Club º What is it? How does it work? What does it do for me?

Castaway Club is a club every Disney Cruise Line guest becomes a member of at the end of their first cruise with DCL. Why am I doing an entire blog about it? Well a lot of people don’t pay attention to the benefits of being a member.

From your second cruise on you are treated to special Castaway Club treats. At this time there are 3 different levels of CC membership. The more you sail DCL the higher you go in the club and the better the benefits.

About a month after our first Disney Cruise on the Magic in 2005 we received a wonderful package from the DCL. It is the Castaway Club Shoreside Survival Kit. I don’t believe they send this out any more and if any recent first time cruisers could confirm this for me I would appreciate it. In the Shoreside Survival Kit there was a letter welcoming us to the Castaway Club. In addition there was a CDRom with fantastic reggae style atmosphere music from around the ship, the Disney Fog Horn, sounds of Castaway Cay and a beautiful screensaver for the computer. (Sad to say the screensaver does not work with newer computer operating systems and I have been unable to extract the graphics to use otherwise. We can still use the computer wallpaper and the music.) It also had our Castaway Club Membership Cards, one for each of us including our 10 year old daughter. In an effort to go “green” Disney no longer gives out cards but you still get a membership number that is easy to find with a phone call or online. You are not required to bring your card on the ship with you to get the shipboard benefits.

       Here is the published list of benefits for each level from

Castaway Club Benefits
at a Glance
Begins after your 1st completed cruise.
Begins after your 5th completed cruise.
Begins after your 10th completed cruise.
Insider Exclusives
Just for members—Webcasts, info, tips and news.
Early Access to Online Activity Planning
Advance booking for onboard amenities and shore excursions.
90 days
prior to sailing
105 days
prior to sailing
120 days
prior to sailing
Dedicated Phone Number
(800) 449-3380—your direct line for info and assistance.
Early Booking Opportunities
Be among the first to book our newest itineraries and ships before
Exclusive Cruise Terminal Check-In
Sail through the boarding process in a separate, members-only line.
Welcome Back Stateroom Gift*
Be welcomed back with a gift unique to your membership level.
Special Onboard Booking Offer
While on board, enjoy special savings on future cruises.
Castaway Club Onboard Reception
Meet and mingle with the ship's officers at a private party on voyages 4-nights and longer.
Special Merchandise Offering
Take advantage of special onboard shopping opportunities.
Priority Check-In at Cruise Terminal
Enjoy concierge priority boarding check-in at the cruise terminal.
Exclusive Platinum Experiences**
Unforgettable Disney fun created just for Platinum members.
Complimentary Dinner at Palo***
Savor an elegant dinner at Palo, on us.

·         * One gift per stateroom based on highest level Castaway Club member in stateroom.

·         ** Exclusive Platinum experiences are subject to change without notice.

·         *** Offer includes dining service fee ($15) for one dinner. Available to Platinum Castaway member and Guests staying in member's stateroom. Must be 18 years of age or older. Subject to availability

I will only discuss the Silver Level CC as that is the level I am at and know the most about. I dream of one day being a Platinum CC member! The length of cruise does not matter when counting cruises for your CCM.

At home CC gives you access to the members only portion of the site. In that area you can find information about your membership, downloadable fun for the entire family, Castaway Club Compass Newsletter (Not done often enough in my opinion and it is not done on any schedule.) If you are already a CCM once you have booked a cruise the CC section is an easy way to get to your cruise online payment and planning area. This is where you will get early booking when available. You will also find early news releases and exclusive webcasts.

I will say they don’t keep the CC section of the DCL site as updated as I’d like to see it and the CC Compass Newsletter is not published on any real schedule or often enough. The three recipes that were posted there when I first checked it out in 2005 are still there and have not been changed or added too. Still there is a lot of good information there.

You’re on shore benefits include being able to book cruises earlier than non club members. You will also be able to book Port and Shipboard Adventures, including adult only dining at Palos and Remy. (Book those as soon as you can as they go fast!) You will also be able to book Spa and Salon time early. Check the above chart to see how far in advance you can book for each club level. I highly suggest booking anything you can early!!

Club Members also get a phone number just for them. You can call in to book your cruise, port and shipboard adventures or just ask questions you may have such as what time do you need to be at the ship and how early can you board.

Your “Onboard” benefits start at the terminal with a dedicated check in line just for CC members. It makes check in quick and easy.

Once in your cabin you will find a Welcome Back Gift from the CC. As a Silver Level CC we received a beautiful Backpack with the DCL CC logo neatly packed with two rice crispy treats shaped like flip flops, two sport bottles with the DCL CC logo, two Silver Level CC lanyards with id holders for our key to the world cards and one CC key chain. They give one of each item to every person in the room except the key chain. If this is the Silver Level Gift I would love to see the Gold and Platinum level gifts!! If you are a higher level and have done a recent cruise would you mind sending me a picture of your welcome back gift? Depending on your membership level you will get various other benefits while on board such as meet and great with the ships officers and special merchandise offers.

Is the Castaway Club worth looking at?? YES! Remember it is free with your first cruise! Does it add to your DCL fun>? YES! Does it make cruising easier? Again I say YES! So if you are cruising Disney for the second or more time make sure you take advantage of all the benefits of the free exclusive club you joined by sailing Disney the first time! If you are sailing for the first time watch for your membership number and future CC benefits. Make sure you register with so you can check out the special section of the site just for CC.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Fun of Port & Shipboard Adventures

The Fun of Port & Shipboard Adventures

Ok I’ll be honest. With the two cruises I did on Disney (the only cruises I’ve ever been on.) I only did 2 Port Adventure (AKA Shore Excursions). Both PAs were on our 2005 cruise and we did not do any when we went this year to Mexico. I did feel it was important to make sure that if you are planning a cruise and thinking about a Port Adventure you know what to expect.

PA’s can run from a simple walk around a museum or town area to an active adventure climbing hills or scuba diving. Some PA’s are restricted by age and/or physical ability. Read closely the information about the PA you wish to take to make sure it suits you and your party. The choice is yours and there are many options at the different Ports of Call.

      First of all you should know that you don’t have to book a PA to go ashore and see the sites. If you choose you can book your Port Adventures through Disney. You can book on line at, call Disney Cruise Line on the phone or wait and book when you get on the ship. WARNING! If you wait to book until you get on the ship you may find the PA you wish full and be unable to go. You don’t have to book through Disney but I feel it is wise to do so. You have the choice of just getting off the ship and finding a local that offers to take you to a location you wish to see. I’ll talk more about non Disney PA’s later. Again you can just get off the ship and walk around or rent a bike or car yourself.

A PA can cost as little as $40 per person and run up to $300 per person or more. You can find information about the PAs at You can start booking your PA 75 days before your cruise date as long as you have paid in full for the trip. As you move up in the Castaway Cay Club you will be able to book further out. You have up to 4 days before your sail date to cancel your PA with no loss of money. If you cancel after that you will be charged for the PA even if you don’t go on it.

      If you book through Disney you are guaranteed the PA is legitimate and it has been checked for quality and safety. Disney does not manage or control the PA in any way. If you book on line you are guaranteed you will get to go on that PA. When booking through Disney you are also guaranteed you will get back in time to catch the ship before it pulls out of port. If there is a problem with an authorized PA they can contact the ship to have it wait a few minutes for you. If for some reason your PA has to be canceled because of a problem with the ship getting to port or some other scheduling problem you will get your money back. We were on the ship when the earthquake hit Japan in March. We had to skip a day in port due to tsunami warnings. All passengers who booked a PA through Disney (on-line or on board) got their money fully refunded that day.

With a non Disney arraigned PA you take the risk of a substandard PA. You have no guarantee of getting back to port in time to leave with the ship. You risk having to pay to travel to the next port to meet up the ship or just travel home. You are also taking a risk with your safety. Just picking somebody at the port you never know who you are going you with and if they are as concerned about your safety as you are. They can’t contact the ship if there is an emergency that keeps you from getting back on time or if you are hurt. If you prebook a PA outside of Disney before leaving and for some reason the ship does not get into port on time for your PA or does not get in at all you lose your money. I hate to sound like I am afraid of my own shadow but with the way the world is today it pays to be aware of safety issues.

Disney’s privet island, Castaway Cay has it own set of PA’s. All PA’s on Castaway Cay are run by Disney and most have some level of handicapped accessibility. Of course the most physically demanding PA’s can’t accommodate physically disabled guests. There is a massage in a open cabana on the adult only beach, Quiet Cove. You can feed the trained Sting Rays by hand then swim with them. You can rent a bike or snorkeling equipment for the day. There is a wide range of amazing things to do on Castaway Cay for every age group and physical ability! I will be honest this is my favorite port of call! I wish I could have gone there on our last trip but we chose a different set of ports of call.

So the choice is yours. You can stay on the ship at all times and always have something to do there or you can get off when the ship is in port and see new sites and have new experiences. Be aware that the Spa and Salon offer discounts while in port! The ships stores are not open while the ship is in port. Just be aware of safety concerns at the ports you are going to.

When we went to the Caribbean in 2005 we got off at all three ports. At 2 of them we did a PA. I would chose a different PA at St Marttain if I ever go there again. At St. Thomas we just walked around the area near the port. Castaway Cay was by far the best with snorkeling all day!

On our last cruise in March we chose not to leave the ports. While in on the Wonder to Mexico we felt it was not safe to leave the port areas due to violence in the area. Disney had already canceled one port due to violence there. We did walk around the ports and enjoyed the little shops there. We enjoyed our in port days as very quiet days on the ship. I will be honest and say that Cabo San Lucas felt safe enough to walk around but we still chose not to go far from the ship.

I’ll add this here as it will not take a full blog to share this. You can also book Shipboard Adventures before you depart. Spa/Salon treatments and adult restaurants like Palo’s can and should be booked on line with the same time table as the PA. Palo and other adult restaurants usually book fast so it is suggested if you wish to eat at an adult restaurant book it as soon as you can. We did Palo’s on our first cruise and truly enjoyed the adult pampering we received there. Remember that Spa/ Salon time and adult restaurants do cost extra.