Thursday, April 27, 2017

3 Things to Pack for Your Disney Cruise That You May NOT Have Thought Of


Hey there, Disney Fans!

     I'm baaaaaack! We just got back from our amazing 7 night cruise on the Disney Magic and I have SO much to share, including pictures, stories, reviews, etc., but since we have only been home a couple of days, and the Littles had to get right back into the swing of school and The Hubs and I went right back to work, it's going to take me a hot minute to get organized. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a couple of little tips that I have for packing for your cruise. Namely, I am going to share three items that you may not have thought about packing, which you will find super useful. What are these life-changing, (well, cruise-changing), items? 
1. Zip Top Bags (in various sizes)
These can be a life saver! There are lots of different uses, but here are some of my faves:

- Use them when packing. Just like you have to do with TSA, if you pop any liquids, gels, aerosols or creams that you may be bringing into one of these babies, you're more likely to avoid explosions within your bags, ruining your clothing. Keep in mind that your bags are going to get tossed around A LOT. Put into a cab, car, limo or transfer van, put onto a baggage cart at the port, tossed into a storage room on the ship to get sent to your stateroom, etc. The more preventative measures that you can take to ensure that you do not have any spills, the better.

- Use them is as an emergency protective layer for electronics when you are on excursions. Tropical rain storms can pop up at any time, not to mention, many excursions involve a water element. At the first drop of rain, or before starting your kayaking adventure, toss your family's iPhones, cameras, etc. into a ziplock bag and you won't have to worry if the rain drenches you through to your underwear, or if your canoe starts taking on water. Your electronics will be safe. (Whew! We wouldn't want your teenaged daughter to not be able to Snapchat her friends about how lame you are!)
- Use them to hoard snacks for times when you're away from the buffet line. Ok, this may sound a little old-lady-at-a-wedding-putting-rolls-in-her-purse, but hear me out. Yes, Disney Cruise Line does give you access to food pretty much non-stop, but any time you are off the ship, you are on your own when it comes to food. (With the exception of any excursion that may include lunch.) So why not toss a couple of apples and bananas into a bag, to bring with you? At breakfast, there is access to dry cereals, granola, dried fruit, and more, all of which are good, portable snacks. And even when you're ON the ship, you could bring snacks in baggies to the Buena Vista Movie Theater, the Walt Disney Theater for the nightly shows, or up on deck for sitting by the pool, or watching a movie on the Funnel Vision. Now, I WILL say this... Don't bring your bag up to the buffet line and shovel food items right into them. Put the items you want on a plate, and then put them into a bag either back in your stateroom or at least at a table. Also, be reasonable with this. I don't recommend filling a gallon-sized bag with Craisins, or taking all of the bananas for yourself. And definitely do NOT plan on taking food off of the ship with you when you disembark at the end of the cruise, as this can be illegal according to the FDA's regulations.

- Use them to store wet or dirty clothes in your suitcase for your return trip. Trust me, your kids will want to be in the pool until the very last moment possible. This could mean that when you disembark the next morning, bathing suits may still be wet. Rather than let them dampen all of the other clothes in your suitcase, throw em in a gallon sized zip top bag, and you're good to go. Same thing goes for stinky socks or maybe your sweater that the baby spit up on. Toss them in a bag to prevent them from stinking up the rest of your clothes. 
2. Room Spray


No one likes to think about it, but let's face facts... we all poop. And when a family of four is
sharing a small space like a stateroom, that fact will become glaringly obvious to all of you, quickly. If you throw a room spray in your luggage, (be sure and put it in a hand-dandy zip top bag to prevent accidental spraying on your clothes), you will be SO thankful. You can buy small bottles at places like Bath and Body Works or Yankee Candle. Pick a favorite scent, (especially something tropical or oceany), and bring it along. Aside from using it post-restroom visits, you can also give stinky shoes a squirt, to prevent them from making your nice clothes hanging in the closet smell like sweaty feet. You're welcome. 
3. Sports Bottles or Lidded Plastic Cups

It is totally worth going to the dollar store and buying each family member their own sports bottle before the trip. On the same deck as the buffet on the ships, there is a self-service drink station, which has everything from sodas, to iced tea, and coffee to milk. Disney does provide smallish paper cups for your to use, but if you have your own bottle or cup, the drinks become much more portable, and it will save you from having to run back for refills so frequently. Not to mention, you can fill your bottle with water prior to leaving the ship in port, assuring that you will be able to keep yourself hydrated in the hot, hot sun. (Plus here's a BONUS use.... fill your bottle about 1/2 of the way with milk from the self-serve beverage station. Then go over to the self-serve ice cream station and fill the bottle the rest of the way with your chosen flavor of ice cream. Close the lid securely and shake. Instant milk shakes, for FREE!!!! What can I say except, you're welcome!

And here's a little BONUS packing tip for you....

A Whole Bunch of Ones
As you're preparing the 3,000 other things you need to think of for your cruise, it's easy to forget to bring along a nice, healthy supply of $1 bills. No, there is no strip club on the ship, and yes, you'll be paying for most things with your Key To The World card, which gets charged to your supplied credit card, but you WILL need ones to tip room service, to tip porters that help with your bags at the port, to tip taxi drivers when you're visiting ports, etc. Trust me, they'll come in handy.
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     That's it, kids! My 3 MUST HAVE items when I pack for my cruises. I swear by all of them and hope that you benefit from them too! Please let me know in the comments which ones you will use on your next trip, or if you have your own MUST HAVE items when you sail away! And if you need help planning your amazing Disney Cruise vacation, remember to contact the crew over at Kingdom Konsultants Travel! They are the best!

     Until next week, kids, have a MAGICAL week!

- Jenn aka "Tink"

Monday, April 24, 2017

Free Dining is Back!


Disney released several package and room discounts including free dining!

For free dining, valid travel dates include

  • August 21 through September 30, 2017
  • November 14 through November 20, 2017
  • November 25 through November 27, 2017
  • December 8 through December 23, 2017

Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort hotels receive the Disney Dining Plan while Value and Moderate Resort Hotels receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan.

Room discounts are available for dates August 1 - October 7, 2017.

Contact your Kingdom Konsultant agent today for a quote or you can email vacations@kingdomkonsultant.com.

We never charge any fees for our services, and flexible payments can be made on your Disney vacation!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Getting Ready For A Disney Cruise

Hi, Disney Fans!!!

     Ohmygod. I'm freaking out a little here, guys! By the time you read this, I'll be less than 48 hours
away from departing for a Disney Cruise!!! So I'm packing. And making lists. And freaking out. And checking my itinerary again. And looking at weather in the ports. And letting the kids watch Disney Cruise Line videos to get prepared. And freaking out. And making sure we have the kids pirate costumes. And triple checking my time off of work. And freaking out. Did I mention the freaking out? It's partial anxious/stressed freaking out, but mostly insanely, euphorically, excited freaking out.

     Let me give you a little of my DCL history. So, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I'm straight up obsessed with Disney Cruise Line. I first sailed in September of 2002, on a 4 night Bahamian cruise on The Wonder, and was smitten from the moment I stepped onboard. From the impeccable service of the Crew Members, to the gorgeous details all around the ship, the scrumptious food, to the fabulous shows and entertainment... each new thing was better than the last! I immediately started planning for a 7 night cruise in April of 2003, (since 4 nights was not nearly enough). Well, that 7 night cruise on The Magic  happened to be the one where I met the man who would become my husband. While dating, we did one more 3 night and one more 7, and then in September of 2005, we got married the only place that felt right... on a Disney Cruise! Since then, we have been on two more short cruises on The Wonder, three more 7 nighters on The Magic, and one 3 nighter on The Dream.Then in September of 2003, just after our kids first moved in with us and long before they were legally adopted, we got to do a 14 night Panama Canal crossing on The Wonder. That was an incredible cruise! Of course, it helped that it was my first cruise as a mother to the kids I had always dreamed about having, but it was also an amazing experience getting to spend 14 nights onboard the ship, befriending the Crew Members, and getting to do all sorts of activities we had never had time to do onboard before. Of course, with the Littles in school now, and not being kajillionaires, I don't foresee any more 14 night cruises in our immediate future, so I'll settle for a 7. (I know, how snotty of me!)


     So now, here I am, amidst pre-cruise chaos, trying to get my stuff in gear. Do all of our cameras, phones and devices have batteries or power chords? Are all of our documents in order? Do we have a pet sitter? Have I cancelled all appointments that may have been scheduled during the time we will be away? Do my clothes fit? Do I have a pirate night outfit? (I swear that eye patch was around here somewhere...) So much to do, with very little time left to do it. So how do you go about getting it all done? Personally, I break it up into three categories: Stuff That Needs To Get Done FOR The Cruise, Stuff That Needs to Get Done At HOME Before We Go, and The Fun Stuff. This just helps me make different lists and get organized. You can also use it as a way to incentivize yourself to get the more tedious stuff done. Do two things from each of your "Needs" lists, and then reward yourself with something from the "Fun" list. You'll have your own items in each list, of course, but here are some of my items to inspire you:

Stuff That Needs To Get Done FOR The Cruise
- Make final payment
- Make flight, transport and hotel arrangements, if necessary
- Buy trip insurance if desired
- Get family documents organized, including passports, birth certificates, or whatever else is needed
- Complete online check in, including entering all documents and registering kids for the Oceaneers Club. Print documents and keep in an organized folder with all confirmations.
- Notify Disney Cruise Line of any food allergies, and special needs or requests
- Get out suitcases
- Make packing lists for each family member
- Try on clothes and buy any needed clothing or toiletry items
- Iron and do laundry
- Fill suitcases
- Make sure all devices have storage available and have charging chords with them
- Notify credit card company or bank that you will be traveling so that you can use your cards in ports
- Double check weather to ensure that you have packed appropriately

Stuff That Needs to Get Done At HOME Before We Go
- Get time off of work
- Notify kids' schools of trip (if necessary)
- Arrange for house/pet/plant sitter and have keys made for them
- Pay all bills that are due while you are away in advance
- Cancel any appointments you may have for while you are away
- Leave instructions and emergency contacts for house/pet/plant sitter
- Set timers for sprinklers, lights, etc.
- Arrange a ride to the airport or port


The Fun Stuff
- Create a Disney Cruise Line mix CD or playlist to enjoy as you get ready for the cruise, (you can borrow mine from Spotify HERE.
- Create a Disney Cruise Line countdown with a paper chain, or simply a calendar, so that the kids can countdown too
- Research the various ports that you will visit, and decide on excursions and/or plans on your own
- Join a Facebook group of other cruisers that will be on the same cruise as you, or join a chat board thread of the same nature. There are various fan sites that you can do this through.
- If you're a "joiner" and like partaking in fun little activities, do some research on "fish-extenders" and join up. This is kind of like a "Secret Santa"-type of activity, where cruisers leave small gifts for one another in special pockets that hang from the number outside of your stateroom. It's fun to do, but this takes a lot of pre-planning and can cost you a pretty penny if you aren't careful.
- Design, make or buy matching t-shirts for your group for boarding day.
- Put together your pirate costumes for Pirate Night.
- Design, make or buy cool door magnets to decorate your stateroom door. There are lots of pre-made options through various markets on Etsy.
- Check out some of the awesome Disney Cruise Line ship tour videos on YouTube. There's even an e-brochure and video that your can get through DisneyCruiseLine.com. Kids especially will love checking out all the cool stuff they are going to see and do. Plus, if your Littles are like mine and get overwhelmed easily, it gives them a chance to be more mentally prepared.
- Download the Disney Cruise Line Navigator App to your all of your traveling party's smart devices, so that once you're onboard, you can chat via text without using data, have access to the ship's activities schedule, (aka "Personal Navigators"), and even see menus for your meals in advance. The only function that works from home is the little countdown, but it's a cool thing to have for a quick reminder of how few days you have until you're in paradise!
- Anything else you can think of!!!

*o*

   And there you have it, folks. That is how I'm spending the next couple of days, along with chasing the Littles around the house, peeling them off of the ceiling. They are excited out of their minds at this point! (Me too!!!) I can't wait to tell you all about our cruise when we come back, but in the meantime, have a magical week!!! I'm saaaaaailing AWAAAAAAYYYYY!!!!! (Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeeee!)


   Oh, and if you'd like some help planning your very own Disney Cruise, contact the fine folks over at Kingdom Konsultants Travel. They'd be happy to help you plan everything, (or nothing at all), to your heart's content!

- Jenn aka "Tink"

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Breakfast at Tusker House

With the crew in my family, dining at Disney World is not just any old eating experience - It's an event!  We take it seriously.   It's not just about the food.  It's about the atmosphere. It's about the interactions with cast members.  It's about memories being made. Like Cinderella (but in a good way!), we anxiously watch the clock waiting for it to strike midnight at the 180 day mark so we can begin making our Advanced Dining Reservations or ADR's.  We scour the menus, argue back and forth, and finally narrow down our choices.  Disney World has so much to offer.  The variety of dining options can be challenging when it comes to deciding where you want to use those Dining Plan credits or spend those hard earned dollars. Everyone in my family has their own individual favorite but one is always, always, always a must: No Disney World vacation is complete without breakfast at Tusker House at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Tusker House is a character, buffet-style restaurant located in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park.  The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner - all buffet-style.  It can be easily overlooked while passing through because it is a somewhat non-descript building that blends in well with the overall African village landscape.  A small sign gives it away.

The theme of the restaurant is of an authentic village market.  When you enter the buffet area you will notice the food stations resemble market stalls laid out in an open, airy space. 

       
The decor is rugged with the appearance of being weathered. Intricate carvings, fabrics, and informative and sometimes humorous signs hang throughout the establishment. I particularly like the ones with African names for animals.  It's a lot of fun trying to say those with a southern accent.  The cast members that serve as wait staff get a kick out of my attempts, I think! The wait staff are fantastic, and most are from one of Africa's many countries.  They love to engage in conversation, and are a fountain of information about their native countries.  They always go out of their way to make dining at Tusker House special.  I find the overall atmosphere to be simultaneously laid back and upbeat.  I'm not a morning person, but Tusker House has the amazing effect of making the early morning grumps just melt away!

I always recommend Tusker House when family and friends come to me for help with planning a visit to the "happiest place on Earth". I always tell them, "you have to eat breakfast at Tusker House!!" They all always ask the same thing: why? I thought about that, and the reasons are many. I have, for the sake of time, narrowed it down to my five main reasons to eat breakfast at Tusker House. 


5. The Characters


I am a grown woman, but I admit I love the characters that call Disney World home.  Breakfast at Tusker House is a great way to meet some of my favorite classic Disney characters. While munching on the fantastic fare, characters arrive to help start the day in true Disney fashion.





Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and my personal favorite, Goofy, all make their rounds, and the excitement skyrockets! They are all dressed in khakis and field hats strolling happily from table to table.  Each character takes time for autographs and photos. Minnie even throws a few kisses. Goofy's antics always bring smiles and laughter around our table. 


Even though my children are no longer preschoolers, I still love watching them interact with our Disney friends. It also does my heart good to watch the families that do have young children enjoy this moment. It is Disney magic at its best. 

4. Early Entry to the Park

Making reservations at Tusker House as early as possible is some the best advice (in my humble opinion) that I can give anyone planning to eat breakfast there.  For a non-morning person like myself, the idea of rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn (on vacation, no less!!) just to eat breakfast may seem a little daunting.  But trust me - it is worth the bleary-eyed stumble that morning.  Arriving early can require a little extra planning as far as transportation goes. Resort buses typically begin running early enough to get to an 8:00 AM reservation. Unfortunately, they run less frequently at the start of the morning so you may want to be at the bus stop extra early to ensure you do not miss it. Upon arriving you will be allowed into the park once your reservation has been verified by the cast member at the front entrance.  That is when something magical occurs.  Animal Kingdom is yours!!! 

I highly suggest that you arrive at the park early enough to be able to take a leisurely stroll down the walkways to your destination.  Take a picture in front of the Tree of Life without crowds roaming into your shot.  Since Tusker House is located at the far end of the park in the African section, take your time and enjoy the walk.  Look out for the birds and other creatures that are waking up to start the day. (Look but don't touch!) Their calls and songs add to the almost surreal atmosphere.  Admire all the flora and fauna that bring their natural beauty to the park. Take in all the little details and special touches that only Disney adds to bring their parks to life.  The architecture and native artwork are amazing and often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the crowds. Take a moment to smile and greet the cast members you meet along the way.  There is something magical and serene about being in the park before opening.  Immerse yourself in the feeling and enjoy!


3. Kilimanjaro Safari

Being at the park early has a magical atmosphere but it also has a very important perk.  Tusker House is in the African section of Disneys Animal Kingdom.  As luck would have it, another great attraction is it's next door neighbor: Kilimanjaro Safari! Kilimanjaro Safari is Animal Kingdoms signature attraction.   It takes you on a jeep safari into the heart of Africa.  Along the way you will have the unique opportunity to view countless animals roaming freely in their natural habitat.  As you bounce and jostle down the muddy trail with your very knowledgeable tour guide, you can see rhino, elephants, and my favorite, the giraffe.  Lions, real life versions of Simba, hang out, just chilling in the early morning sun.  (Hint: Be on the lookout for Hidden Mickeys!) Flamingos add a splash of color to your day.  Ive taken this trip many, many times. Each one is unique.  I am always transfixed by the majestic beasts that share our world.  
Going early in the day means those magnificent creatures are likely to be pretty active.  It is cooler and many of them have just finished or may be still enjoying their own versions of Mickey Waffles! I am not the only one that loves this glimpse into the wild.  Kilimanjaro Safari is a favorite, must-see attraction for almost everyone that visits.  It often has longer wait times, and fastpasses also get filled quickly.  Eating at Tusker House before opening gives the advantage of being able to get to Kilimanjaro Safari right at park opening.  Lucky you!  You can now be one of the first guests in line for this exciting journey thru Africa.  Yay! Being able to get on quickly means no wasting time standing in line.  This frees up more time for you to visit other attractions, do a little shopping, or explore the trails filled with other animal friends and plant species.  And, besides that, there is no need to use a fastpass on Kilimanjaro so you can use it on other coveted experiences. Double score! 

2. The Food

Since Tusker house is a dining experience I suppose I'd better mention the food! Let me just say that Tusker House offers some of the most delicious fare in the Worldfor breakfast.  The food is served buffet-style and is all you can eat  (which is a huge plus when travelling with two hollow-legged teenage boys!) The variety of what is offered will blow you away.  Even the most picky of eaters will find something they love here.  I find this to be a special blessing since I am constantly trying to find something to appease the diverse appetites in my hungry crew. Traditional breakfast fare like eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes, and gravy are served, along with other carved meats. Lots of fresh fruit, cereals and different types of yogurts are available.  Tusker House has a delectable bakery section that has different breads, muffins, croissants, and doughnuts. Yes, I said DOUGHNUTS!! YUM! For more adventurous eaters, and in keeping with the African theme of the restaurant, there are several native dishes to sample.  Mealy pap, a type of porridge, and beef bobotie, a minced meat dish served with a egg topping, are some of the native fare to sample. And of course, Mickey Waffles! My favorite is the fresh frittatas. Even though there are different kinds just waiting to be devoured, I always load up on the ham and cheese version.  I would love to take a bite of that hot, cheesy goodness right now! Everything is always hot, fresh, and delicious. 

I can say without a doubt that you will not leave Tusker House hungry.  In fact, stuffed to the gills is a better description.  Disney always goes out of the way to make sure the food being served at their restaurants is above standard.  Tusker house goes beyond Disney expectations. It is fabulous!




1. Jungle Juice




I have talked about the food and how amazing it is but there is another little offering that steals the show.  Tusker House serves a tangy, sweet breakfast  drink known as Jungle Juice.  It is a non-alcoholic blend of passion fruit, guava, and orange juices that you just have to try in order to appreciate.  I am not much of a juice drinker (I NEED caffeine!) but I cannot get enough of this stuff.  I slurp down gallons of it while enjoying my breakfast.  My kids simply adore it.  My eldest son, a college freshman, described it in terms like ambrosiaand micturating jungle princesses...well you literary junkies get the point.  It is good. Very good. In fact, its out of this world! It is tangy but refreshing.  It is a little like drinking liquid sunshine!! I have tried to find something similar to it in grocery stores back home in the real world, but to no avail.  Other fruit juices, even with similar juice blends, just don't match that special flavor of true Jungle Juice.  It must be Disney magic! Disney has a way of just making things that you thought could get no better...well, better!! 



This happened recently with my beloved Jungle Juice. Mahindi, a popcorn cart in the same African section as Tusker house, now serves Jungle juice.  Not just any Jungle Juice, either. JUNGLE JUICE SLUSH!!! Yep, that's right. You can now get that delicious, one of a kind flavor in a frozen treat!! And, (for a little extra moolah), it comes in a souvenir music cup!! The musical cup has the appearance of wood-carved animals decorating its outside.  The handle is the cool part.  It is an ocarina, a traditional African wind instrument.  The handle has small holes that produce a sound when you blow into the mouthpiece.  Make up your own tunes. or follow the included directions to play things like “Its a Small Worldand other Disney favorites. Fun and refreshing all in one!! Of course, beware: It can also be used as a torture device to terrorize annoying older siblings with!  For those of you that may not want to pay the $13.99 for the special cup, you can buy a throwaway cup full of frozen goodness for just $3.99.  It also counts as a snack on the Disney Dining plan if you forego the souvenir cup. This new treat is edging out Dole whips and/or Mickey ice cream bars as my favorite snack at Disney World! Yummo! Either as a breakfast beverage or as a frozen treat, Jungle juice is definitely worth a try!



There are many reasons that my family and I love Tusker House and make it a written-in-stone, must-do on every trip.  It is definitely a highlight.  We started this tradition by chance many years ago when just looking for a place that served breakfast.  Our accidental discovery has led to countless stories, tons of laughter, new food favorites, and of course, untold precious memories! Im smiling as I am typing this just thinking about those priceless moments sitting around a carved, wooden table, sipping jungle juice, and just loving the time together.  Thats Disney. And thats Tusker House!

- Lori

Tusker House Info

Location:  Disneys Animal Kingdom Park (Africa)
Service: Table Service: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Style:  Buffet
Times: Breakfast 8am-10:50 am
              Lunch   11am-3:30pm
              Dinner    4pm-9pm
Price: $15 to $59 per adult depending on the meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) and the season.
Dining Plan:  1 table service meal credit

**Reservations are highly recommended. Call (407) WDW-DINE or your Kingdom Konsultant travel agent for more information or to reserve a table**

***Be sure to ask about the New Rivers of Light dining package that includes premium seats to Disneys newest nighttime extravaganza.***


Thursday, April 6, 2017

5 Ways To Have The Best Disney Cruise Vacation EVER!!!


Happy April, Disney Fans!!!

     I hope where you are spring has sprung and the ice and snow are (mostly) gone. I know I am ready for warm sunshine and a tropical getaway, myself. In fact... BIG news!... I JUST BOOKED A DISNEY CRUISE!!! I am SO excited! We made a pretty last minute decision and took advantage of an awesome last minute deal, but yeah, I booked it! We set sail in just a few short weeks and I am already neck deep in cruise planning. After all, planning and counting down is (almost) as fun as going on the ship itself! I love talking about the cruise, planning out which night we will go to Palo, deciding which costumes the kids will take, looking for awesome door magnets, etc. I LIVE to cruise. Don't get me wrong... my kids are great and stuff, awesome husband, yadda-yadda-yadda... but cruising (sigh), cruising is where it's AT!

The ships are just beautiful!
Mmmmm....desserts
    I’m pretty sure I qualify as being “obsessed” with Disney Cruises. How do I know this?  Well, let’s see… I have been on 13 of them.  Every time I return from a Disney Cruise, I immediately start planning my next one.  I met my husband on a Disney Cruise.  We got married on one 2 years later.  I do “cruise math," where I judge whether or not something is worth spending money on based on what percentage of a cruise it would pay for.  I recreate DCL menu items at home.  I created an entire playlist of music that reminds me of being on a Disney Cruise.  I even try to buy air fresheners that “smell like the ship."  See?  Obsessed!!

     But then again, you probably are too!  If not, you haven’t been on a Disney Cruise yet!  So for you newbies, or you fellow fanatics wanting to get someone else’s perspective, join me, as I dedicate my blogs in the upcoming weeks to preparing for my trip, and then once I return and have full on post-Disney-Cruise-depression, I will share photos, reviews, etc. To get us started, I want to share with you some info on making the most out of your cruise, so without further ado, I present... 5 Ways To Have The Best Disney Cruise Vacation EVER!

Heading to sea!
1. Try to Reason with Hurricane Season.
     When it comes to selecting the time of year for your cruise, don’t let hurricane season scare you away.  In my opinion, the fall is one of the very best times to take a Disney Cruise.  Pricing is reasonable, crowds are smaller, and believe it or not, the weather is usually gorgeous!  Disney has amazing weather technology onboard the ships and can avoid most inclement weather systems.  Just don’t go in the fall if you are super attached to the idea of visiting a certain port, since ports can sometimes be skipped, or replaced with alternate ports, if weather is bad. (P.S.- The below pictures were all taken in various Septembers!)

Mickey greets Guests at Castaway Cay

Gorgeous sunset at sea

Perfect sailing day

St Thomas is incredible

Atlantis in the Bahamas
     If the fall really doesn't work for your life, consider a cruise in January or February. Prices are on the low side, weather in the Caribbean and the Bahamas is at a more comfortable temperature for touring, and the risk of a hurricane or major storm is pretty much nil. Just know that it can get chilly, especially on your days at sea. If the spring works for you better, try to go for late April or early May, before the summer crowds flood the ships and the temps down south hit a level close to unbearable.

     Also consider the various holidays and celebrations onboard. Halloween on the ships has a lot of costumed fun for all ages. Christmastime sailings offer special holiday events and character appearances. And now the ships even have events like Marvel Days at Sea, Star Wars at Sea, and more! They add a little extra magic to your already stellar cruise experience!

Halloween sailings are super fun!

Spooky Halloween decor

Even the characters get into the Halloween fun!
2. Save a Little Here, Spend a Little There.

     Your family works hard for their money, so you want to make it go as far as you can, right?  Well, when booking your cruise, I recommend deciding up front what you want to save money on, and what you want to splurge on.  If you like exploring on your own, you may want to only pick out one or two excursions to book through Disney, and do the rest of your shore exploration on your own.  (Just be careful about staying in safe areas, and getting back to the ship on time.)  If you don’t drink alcohol, instead of factoring in money for a bar tab, you can treat yourself to an extra spa appointment, eat at Palo, or play a few rounds of BINGO.  If you’re like my family, and you don’t plan on spending much time in your stateroom, maybe consider going with a lower priced cabin, and spending your savings on gift shop purchases, a massage, port adventures, etc.  With the amazing new technology of the Magic Portholes (currently only on the Dream and Fantasy), inside staterooms can be just as interesting and enjoyable as outside ones.  The point is, decide what is most important to your family, and what you want to get out of the trip, and then make choices accordingly.

When I go to Castaway Cay, I don't need a shore excursion.
Just a book and a beach chair. 

Drinks, especially coffee ones, totally worth the extra money!

We are perfectly happy with an inside stateroom. 

Palo brunch? Completely and totally worth it!
3. Go Big or Go Home.
     Well… ok, don’t go HOME.  Let’s be real.  Even one day on a Disney Cruise is better than staying home.  But my point is this… the longer the cruise you can swing, the better.  Aside from the obvious reasons why a 7 night is better than a 3 night, and a 12 is better than a 7, there are some lesser known ones too.  For example, many of the fun extras that DCL offers are only available on the longer cruises, like certain shows, special activity series, additional restaurant menus, etc.  Looking for the best value?  Many times, if you break down the “per diem” (per day) cost of your cruise, the longer ones end up giving you more bang for your buck.  Personally, I love when longer cruises include extra days at sea, too!  Some guests like to do cruises that are packed with back to back port visits.  Not me.  I’d take a whole cruise at sea!  Sea days are full of awesome activities like trivia, movies, dance class, character appearances, scavenger hunts, and ice carving demonstrations.  Plus longer cruises have way more opportunities for character meet and greets and dance parties... and there are a ton of 'em!
Chatting with Ariel

Dancing with Minnie

Spinning with Snow White

Gettin' down with Flick

And partying with Sulley

Or, you can do nothing at all.  Grab a lounge chair, a good book, and just relax.  Nowhere to be.  No port that you are missing out on.  Just you and the open sea.  Ahhh….

The best view
     In September of 2013, my family and I were lucky enough to do the 14 Night Panama Canal Crossing and it totally spoiled us!  The special, longer cruises frequently get less children, (particularly the ones that happen to be in the fall), and as a result, the kids that DO travel, get a more magical experience.  Since the Wonder had about ¼ of the number of children onboard for our Panama Canal Crossing than it has on average, the Oceaneer’s Club was far less crowded, which meant more one on one attention for my 4 year old daughter, and the ability to do what she wanted, when she wanted.  Also, we found the kids’ pool to be pretty close to empty most days.  And let’s not forget the character experiences!!  By three days in to the trip, ALL of the Princesses knew my daughter’s name!  There were such small waits for the character meet and greets that every character we saw spent a ton of time with her.  Can you imagine walking down the hall to dinner and Ariel calling out, “Oh, Kayla!  There you are!  Flounder and I have been looking for you all day!” And one night, D got to play tag and hide and go seek for about 45 minutes, all around Deck 5, with Cinderella, Belle, Peter Pan and Ariel! They just happened to be hanging out, playing games with about ten little girls up there. Totally unscheduled and out of the blue. She.  Was.  In.  Heaven.  (Granted, she is now beside herself when we go to the parks and she gets less than five minutes with a character.)  I would do a 14-Nighter again for the character experience ALONE!

We had individual experiences with Woody...

Minnie...

Mickey...

Tiana...

Peter Pan and Captain Hook,,,

Belle...

And Snow White, to name a few!

4. Have Some of Column A, Try All of Column B.
     Dining is truly an experience on the ships.  The food is of excellent quality and it is certainly plentiful, but do you realize just what lengths DCL will go to in order to assure that you love every meal?  You don’t like the sauce that comes on tonight’s steak?  Your server will get it for you without.  You think the mashed sweet potatoes from the chicken dish sound better than the rice that comes with your fish?  It’s no problem to switch them.  Two different entrees sound good tonight?  Or even three or four?  Your server will gladly bring you a taste of each.  Like no other restaurants I have seen, DCL dining rooms will customize your meal to your liking.  And even more care is taken in dealing with your food allergies.  All you have to do is make your server aware of your allergy, and at every single meal, they will assure that your food is safe for you to eat.  A chef will even walk you through buffet lines and tell you what you can and cannot eat.  Our serving team was phenomenal in dealing with our one year old’s egg allergy.  (I do recommend that if someone in your party has an allergy, have it notated on your reservation before departing for your cruise, in order to make sure extra caution is taken in the kitchen.)








5. EXPERIENCE the Magic! (Or the Wonder, or the Dream, or the Fantasy!)
     Even if you have cruised before, with Disney, or on another line, you have never had an experience like the one you’ll have on your next cruise.  Disney cruises are filled with magical moments, for every age range, and all you need to do is be present for them!  There are certain things that you just don’t want to miss in order to truly have experienced a Disney cruise.  Take the Sail Away Party, for example.  Ask anyone who has ever been, and they will tell you that there is nothing like counting down to sail away, and hearing that magical DCL horn ring out, as you leave all of your cares behind.
Cruise Director Brent welcomes Guests to the Sail Away Party

Goofy and the Cruise Staff get things started

Those chipmunks can bust a move

Time to sail away!!!

     And the shows!  You can’t miss Disney Dreams on the Wonder and Magic, or Believe on the Fantasy and Dream.  (If you have a pulse, they’ll bring a tear to your eye.)  Don’t miss out on the Pirate Night festivities.  Even if you don’t want to dress up and get “piratical” yourself, it’s so much fun watching the crowd get into the evening!  Even the fireworks are pretty impressive.  You’ll most likely find yourself saying, “Arrrrrgggghhhh!!" by the end of the night.  If you can make dining in an adult-only setting happen, have a meal at Palo, (or Remy).  You’ll be dreaming about the chocolate soufflĂ© for months.
The Golden Mickeys are TONIIIIIGHT!

Disney Dreams is spectacular!

The Pirates in the Caribbean deck party includes a late night buffet


The famous chocolate souffle

     Enjoy the ship itself, and all it has to offer.  Each ship in Disney’s fleet boasts special and unique things, like Enchanted Art on the Dream and Fantasy, a two-story, glassed-in coffee cafĂ© on the Wonder, or the amazing Aqua Dunk on the Magic.  All four ships are intricately decorated and have so much gorgeous detail to take in, that you could explore for days.

Deck 4 gives you a chance to enjoy the fresh air

The Walt Disney Theater hosts all of the Broadway style shows

Up on deck with not a care in the world

Gorgeous lobby

Kids love the Mickey slide

Ariel welcomes you to her father's restaurant

A Guest favorite

The chandelier in the Dream is amazing

You can't not love this place


     Lastly, but possibly most importantly, enjoy the crew.  The folks that work on Disney’s ships are special.  They are from countries all over the world, and they are hand-picked to deliver the best possible guest experiences.  Crew members everywhere you go will want to know your names, your likes and dislikes, and where you are from.  They want to engage you in conversation because they truly care and genuinely love talking to their guests.  My family loves hearing about where our server is from, what types of foods they eat back home, whether or not they have kids, etc.  One time, our server was so excited about us taking an interest in his Indonesian background, that he had the chef prepare a special Indonesian dinner, just for us.  (It was one of the BEST meals we have ever had on a Disney ship!)  We always disembark feeling like we have made a bunch of new friends, and not being able to wait to get the chance to come back and see them again.

The Cruise Staff is the life of the party

Your servers will feel like family by the end of your cruise

They REALLY get into Pirate Night
    
    
     So, there you have it!  Just a few of the things I have learned from cruising with The Mouse.  Now… aren’t you just Dream-ing about getting out there on the open seas and experiencing the Magic, enjoying the Wonder of it all, and making your Disney Cruise Line Fantasy come true?  What are you waiting for?  Go pack!  I’ll see ya real soon!!! Until next week everyone!!!



- Jenn aka "Tink"
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