Choose Your Cruise: Disney Cruise Planning 101

Next year I am going on my very first cruise! My husband and I will set sail on the Disney Magic next May. It is over 300 days away and I’m already giddy with excitement.

In making our final decisions and preparing to book the cruise I realized the process of planning and booking a cruise is so different than any other vacation. I often have people tell me they are interested in a cruise but don’t really know where to start. So, I thought I would pass on some tips for those of you contemplating a Disney Cruise. This is not really a blog about the cruise itself…this is all about the initial stages of planning.

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Below are some things to consider though the order is not important. You may already know WHERE you want to go and need help figuring out the rest. Or you may live within driving distance from one of the ports so you have already narrowed down the port. These are just things to consider and talk to your travel agent about as you begin the process of planning and booking your cruise.

Narrow Down your Dates.
This can be the hardest part. Ships do not sail every day. So, unlike planning a Disneyland or Disney World Vacation, you can’t just pick up and go whenever you decide. If you have specific days you can use for vacation-you may or may not find a cruise that fits exactly with your schedule. That is why planning ahead and staying flexible will work to your advantage. You will need to narrow down a time frame and let your travel agent know some times you would be able to go. Then you can look at the itineraries and sail dates and see what might fit into your schedule.

Choose the Number of Nights.
If you have never cruised before, you might want to start with a 4 or 5 night sailing. Disney Cruises can range from 3 nights all the way up to 14+ depending on where you are sailing. Think about how many vacation days you have to use and factor in the transportation to and from the port (driving or flying).

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Choose the Port of Departure.
For some people, the port is not as important as the itinerary. For some, the port is the first consideration. For example, my husband and I live in Montgomery, AL. We can easily drive to Port Canaveral, FL. So when we started looking at cruise options we only looked at cruises out of Port Canaveral so that we would not have to drive or fly somewhere and add on to the cost and the days we were away from home. In the future, we may consider the itinerary before the port. But for this first cruise, proximity ruled our decision.

Choose your Itinerary/Destination.
Once you have narrowed down your time frame and/or port you will have a number of options for your itinerary. I would recommend looking at the itinerary as well as the activities available at each port of call (your travel agent can help you with this info and questions about each). Don’t forget to also consider how many days you will be at sea. The days at sea can be very relaxing and fun and give you time to really enjoy the ship and the on board entertainment. Again, you may decide to start with your destination(s) in mind and build your decisions around that. Bahamian, Eastern and Western Caribbean, Alaskan, and European cruises are available as well as some special cruise itineraries throughout the year.

Choose your Ship.
This may not be much of an option if you have already narrowed down some of the other options. However, this is worth mentioning because Disney Cruise Line has 4 ships in its fleet and they do have some difference. The Magic and the Wonder are sister ships and while they are the oldest in the fleet … don’t let that fool you into thinking they are any less grand, exciting, and fun! In fact, this fall (2013) the Disney Magic is undergoing a major renovation…this is actually one of the reasons we decided to sail on the Disney Magic once we narrowed down our Port and dates. The Dream and Fantasy are sister ships and both have the famous AquaDuck water slide. Your travel agent can help you determine the best fit for you if you cannot decide on the ship for your cruise.
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Choose your Stateroom Category.
This was a hard decision for us. Your stateroom decision is based on personal preference as well as your budget. Other considerations are your sensitivity to motion sickness, proximity to certain conveniences on the ship, and possibly the view. So be sure to write down any concerns you have about choosing your stateroom and communicate those with your travel agent. You can see online exactly where each stateroom is located and that can be very helpful in making your final decision on stateroom category. Talk to other people you know who have been on a cruise-including your travel agent. I found this very helpful in gathering the info I needed to make my decision. And if you know anyone who has been on a cruise, you probably know they are happy to talk about their experience!

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As you can see you will need to consider different factors than planning a Disney Parks vacation. You don’t have to decide on all of these right away, I just think it will help you when you begin the conversations if you know at least what you need to consider.

So… I hope this helps you in the initial stages of planning your Disney Cruise. Your travel agent can help you with any and all of these decisions so be sure to keep them in the loop. Your travel agent will probably ask about all of these choices I mentioned…If you haven’t decided yet-that is OK. That would be a good time to mention it to your travel agent and let them help you.

Are you considering a Disney Cruise and need help? I would love to help you plan the perfect vacation for your family. Contact me at Aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com or give me a call (toll free) at 1-800-670-4312 ext 139.

Disney Cruising for Families of 5

Disney Cruises are made with families in mind. From larger staterooms to bathtubs in almost all staterooms to amazing activities for the whole family, there is hardly a detail that Disney Cruise Lines hasn’t thought of. This includes accommodations for larger families.

Disney Magic in Grand Cayman

Most of the staterooms on Disney Cruise Line accommodate families of 4. There is a special category, however, that can accommodate a family of 5! These are the Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms available with and without a verandah (without only on the Dream/Fantasy ships). You can also book 2 inside connecting staterooms which is sometimes less expensive.

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Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom

These Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms have a queen sized bed for mom and dad, a fold out sofa with a bed that folds out of the ceiling above it and a bed that folds out of the wall for the kids. There is also a privacy divider curtain between mom and dad’s bed and the children’s beds. There is more counter space in the Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms when compared to the Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms.

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The girls showing off their sleeping arrangements in a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah

Most of the rooms have the split bath concept that is unique to Disney Cruise Lines. The split bathroom has a door that opens to a toilet and sink and a separate area with a sink and tub (another unique Disney Cruise Line feature!) Please note there are some rooms (some inside staterooms as well as some handicap accessible rooms) that do NOT have a tub.

One important thing to know is that these rooms book VERY quickly if there is a special offer released. This is where booking with a Disney Destination Specialist like myself can come in handy! I was able to secure staterooms for two best friends that wanted to each take their family of 5 on a Disney Cruise from Galveston with the Kids Sail Free offer. One booked and by the time the other got back to me, there were no rooms available. I called Disney Cruise Line EVERY DAY at the start of business until a room opened up for them and was able to book. I can also easily help you compare the pricing on booking one Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom versus two Inside Staterooms or Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms.

So just because you have a larger family doesn’t mean that you and your family cannot enjoy a Disney Cruise! It just takes a bit more planning – something I would LOVE to do for you! Please email me at Amy@TravelwiththeMagic.com or you can find me on Facebook. You can also call me at 1-800-670-4312, ext 129. I can’t wait to plan your family’s MAGICAL vacation!

Disney Cruise Pirate Night

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! You will have tons of fun showing off your inner pirate during the Disney Cruise Line Pirate Night.

Disney Cruise Line Pirate night Michelle T

Some guests go all out with pirate attire dressing up for the celebration. Be sure to bring along pirate costumes or accessories if you would like to dress up for the occasion. You will find pirate themed bandanas for everyone in your party placed in your stateroom. The celebration begins when you are greeted buccaneer style at dinner by servers dressed in pirate garb. My kids thought it was really cool that the menu looked like a treasure map. When you finish your pirate themed dinner, you will head to the main deck for the pirate deck party. You will notice the area has been transformed for a night of dancing and entertainment. Your favorite Disney characters will dance the night away decked out in their own pirate attire. You may even see a pirate stop by trying to take over the ship, but don’t worry a special guest will save the day.

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For my family, this is one of the main highlights of the cruise. Let me help you experience the pirate life. Contact me today for a no obligation quote.

Michelle Terry

MichelleT@travelwiththemagic.com

1-866-Hi-Miki-2

Latitudes Restaurant, Key West

On a recent cruise we had a stop in Key West, Florida. A few years earlier I had been to Key West for a girls trip so I wasn’t really interested in doing the ‘tourist’ thing. That got us looking for something different to do and we stumbled across Sunset Key. It’s a little island a short ferry ride away from Key West that is home to a number of cottages owned by the Westin hotel. Also on the island is a gourmet restaurant called Latitudes. We made a lunch reservation and couldn’t wait to see the place for ourselves.

When we arrived in port we walked the short distance to the Westin hotel where we checked in and got directions to the dock where we would take a ferry out the the island. It was about a 10 minute ferry ride and when we arrived this was our view of the restaurant from the dock

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We were a little early for our reservation so we walked around and explored a little bit, the island is beautiful and so peaceful!

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When we checked in for our meal we were given the choice of dining indoors or outside by the beach, it was a glorious day so we chose to eat outside. This was the view from our table

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I seriously think we could have sat there all day!

We started off our lunch with a cocktail that was recommended to us by our waiter. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was very “Key West”, like key lime pie in a glass!

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For an appetizer we shared some crab stuffed shrimp that was wrapped in prosciutto.

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And for my entrée I ordered the lobster roll. It was seriously one of the best lobster rolls I’ve ever had, it was crammed full of meat!

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We were very pleased with our lunch and our decision to come out to Sunset Key, and if we find ourselves back in Key West again I won’t hesitate to come back!

Latitudes is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They take reservations and while they are recommended, walk ups can also be accommodated. Dress code is business casual, but it is a little more laid back at breakfast and lunch. I wore a summer dress and sandals and felt very comfortable.

If you’d like help planning your next vacation you can contact me, Michelle Beam, by email or you can also find me on facebook . If you book your trip through me there is no extra charge for my planning services.

BINGO

Ever wonder what family fun activities there are on board a Disney Cruise that really is a lot of fun for the entire family? Well, wonder no more – BINGO! While cash prizes are awarded, and the winner for all games must be over 21, this does not stop the families from joining in on all the fun of listening for each number and waiting to call out “BINGO”!

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Now I remember playing Bingo as a youngster on paper cards with pieces of corn as the markers, or plastic cards with little slide windows to cover up the number and even paper cards where you use markers, or dobbers to cover up the last number called. Well, you know Disney, they don’t do it like that on the cruise ships.

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If you want to play just a few cards for starts, you can purchase a sheet with 3 cards for each game. There will be a different color sheet for each game, so you do get new numbers each time around. No markers, no corn, no windows. You simply poke the pre punched cut out in each square and fold. Poke and Fold they like to refer to it. These are great cards for the kids to share.

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Now, if you want to really up your chances of winning, you want to enjoy the latest and greatest gadget to the Bingo World! This amazing machine does it all. Keeps track of your top four cards, can hold up to 40 cards information, and all you do is sit back, relax and wait for it to flash, cause when it does, you have a BINGO!!

So what do you win exactly? Well, times do change and I’m sure the prizes will from time to time as well, but “typically” each game has a cash pay out based on the number of cards sold. “Typically” the first game is the lowest pay out and just gets better from there. The final game of the sitting is a cover all. If you manage to cover your entire card in 48 numbers or less, you can win some serious cash. In most cases, there is not a winner day one, and this cover all kitty carries over from drawing to drawing. They HAVE to give it ALL away the final game. I’ve seen one person win $8000. The final game, final day they play until someone wins. So no limit on how many numbers called before you win the large cash prize.

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What makes a Bingo session even more exciting are the Cruise Staff. These are the most energetic, fun-loving people you will most likely encounter on the cruise. They are there to provide you a great experience. There will be little prizes in between games as well, sometimes spa treatments, Disney Collectibles, excursions at a port coming up. All kinds of exciting gifts just waiting to be given away.

So next time you are on a Disney Cruise, don’t be shy. Check out your daily Navigator, find out when and where Bingo will be held that day and stop in for a game. Drinks and snacks are typically available for purchase as well. Good Luck!

If I can help you plan a future cruise, or vacation of your own special destination, please feel free to email me at cindy@travelwiththemagic.com . Also, follow my Facebook page as well.

St. Thomas – One of My Favorite Ports

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Disney Cruises have so many wonderful ports in which they stop, but while on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise, St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is one of my favorite places to visit.

This first view you will see of St. Thomas, is right from the tour books.  The way the homes are stacked on the mountain side, the beauty of the landscape, harbor, everything it has to offer definitely makes an impact to want you to come back for more.

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Once off the ship, you can browse in one of hundreds of small shops located right there off the pier.  Many restaurants are located in this same area as well.  A quick 5 minute cab ride or 20 minute walk will take you around the bay to the Charlotte Amalie, for more shopping and exploring.  I was very impressed to see how clean and welcoming the streets and stores were in this area.  There is so much to choose from, you don’t know where to begin.  Of course, Disney offers their advice on the premier places to shop, where the best deals of the day can be found and where their shopping guides can be found throughout the day as well to help you with a purchase if needed. And often times on the main corner will be a craft fair where you can stumble upon arts and crafts made and sold by the locals, such as pottery, baskets and jewelry.

If shopping isn’t on your list of things to do while here, there are so many things you can do as well.  We have taken a tour-guided tour several times of the island, each seeing something new and learning more great facts about the island and its culture.  There is Blackbeard’s Castle, Fort Christian, Seven Arches Museum.  Or, maybe enjoying the beach of famous Magens Bay or stop by the Butterfly Farm or Coral World.

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The overall beauty and friendliness of the locals here in St. Thomas is definitely something that makes me always want to return.

If you’d like more information on this port or any other offered with Disney Cruise Line, feel free to contact me for more information.  I would love to help with the planning of your next vacation, whether a Disney Cruise, trip to the parks or any destination of your choice;  contact me for a variety of services I can offer to you at no charge.  You can email me at cindy@travelwiththemagic.com .  You can also follow me on Facebook.

Disney Cruise Line’s Enchanted Garden

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Disney Cruises are nothing short of amazing in all aspects: the detail of the ships, the shows, the restaurants, the food… Oh, can we please talk about the food? I have never eaten as much food as I have on a Disney Cruise!

The only thing better than eating the food is the atmosphere in which you do it! There are 3 Main Dining restaurants on Disney’s Cruise ships. One of them is called Enchanted Garden. Located on Deck 2 of the Dream and Fantasy, this beautiful restaurant will have you “ooh-ing and aah-ing” before you even walk in.

Your servers will greet you with a smile at the entrance and take you to your seat. On your way there you will notice some of the seating areas look like oversized, round chairs.

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But the one thing that will grab your attention is the enormous, 7 foot tall fountain in the middle of the room…topped off with a stone Mickey Cherub. The décor is inspired by the gardens of Versailles and completely overtakes you from floor to ceiling…literally.

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The ceiling of this restaurant is something you’d have to see to believe. Look up at the “sky” and you will feel like you are right smack in the middle of a gorgeous garden. As if that’s not enough to look at throughout your meal, the sky transforms above you while you eat – from a daylight sky, to a pretty sunset and finally to a starry night. Even the light fixtures transform with the scenery. Flowers bloom and the entire room changes from day to night. Amazing!

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Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at Enchanted Garden. Breakfast and lunch buffets are only available on certain days of your cruise. Your Personal Navigator (daily cruise schedule) will have more information as to what those days are. During lunch, the restaurant offers open seating. This means that you are welcome to sit anywhere you like.

Dinner at Enchanted Garden is a 4-course meal. There is something on the menu for everyone (including those picky kiddos- and even the pick adults!)…and what a menu it is! The best part – it’s included in your cruise cost so there’s no need to bust out the wallets!

For the most part, there is no additional cost for beverages – the exception being bottled water, drinks from the bar and specialty coffee. Regular coffee, soda, milk and juice are all covered!

Dinner starts with Apps, Soups and Salads such as:  North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli, Thyme and Garlic Brioche, Curried Carrot and Apple Soup or a Romaine Wedge with Creamy Romano Dressing and Homemade Spiced Croutons. Do I have your attention yet?

How about some of the Main Course menu items? Let’s start with my favorite:

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Grilled NY Strip Steak with Thyme Roasted Vegetables, Double-baked Potato topped with handmade Herb Butter.

Glazed Portobello Mushrooms with Brown Lentil and Parsley Sauce and Sun-dried Tomato Cream Drizzle.

The Enchanted Garden Tuna Salad (Sushi Grade seared Tuna on Organic Field Greens, Micro Greens, Wakame and Squid Salad, Sesame Seeds and White Shoyu and Lemon Vinaigrette).

 Marjoram Scented Organic Chicken Half a Chicken served with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Sautéed Baby Spinach

 Let’s not forget about dessert! Who could forget dessert?

Try the Sweet Temptations – A trio of Esterhazy Cake, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Silk Mousse. Or maybe the Almond Meringue soaked in Maraschino Liqueur and layered Pastry Cream or the Banana Foster Sundae (Rum-glazed Bananas, Vanilla Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, and Caramel Sauce).

Now I’m hungry!

Disney Cruise Line has some of the most elaborate restaurants you will ever see. Have you eaten in one of them?

For more information about Disney Cruise Line or any other Disney Destination, contact me today!

Erin Santamaria 1-877-377-0505 or erins@travelwiththemagic.com

You can also find me on Facebook or Pinterest.

Hidden Mickey’s on the Disney Fantasy

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What exactly is a Hidden Mickey?  It is a representation of Mickey Mouse that has been inserted into the design of a ride, attraction, or other location in a Disney theme park, Disney properties, movie or other Disney product. The most common Hidden Mickey is a formation of three circles that may be perceived as the silhouette of the head and ears of Mickey Mouse, often referred to as a “Classic Mickey”.  Mickeys may be painted, made up of objects (such as rocks, or three plates on a table).  Hidden Mickeys can take on many sizes and forms.

Well, on our recent cruise on the Disney Fantasy, we thought we would give it a try and see how many Hidden Mickey’s we could find.  Here are some of our results:

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One of the first Mickey’s we found was in the atrium of the Disney Fantasy, on the side of the walls next to the elevators.

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And of course, while looking up at the stunning chandelier, we spotted some more at the top of the formation (we could see this better by going up to Deck 4)

We enjoyed many shows in the Walt Disney Theatre while on the cruise and here we spotted several more Mickey’s hidden in the detail work along the stage.

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The D-Lounge is a very busy place during the cruise as well, offering many family events, BINGO, special Chef Presentations and more.  While sitting in here we found Mickey’s in the carpeting as well as a formation of the circles on the on the ceiling.

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And of course, while walking out and around the open decks we had fun searching for more.  On Deck 13 we found some on the two golf club bags for the Goofy Golf course.  And, at the 9th and final hole, how about the Mickey latte!

And a great example of how creative some of these can be, this one was found on Deck 4 on a support beam near the deck floor.  We might have missed this one if it wasn’t pointed out to us on a tour we took.

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This one had to be a favorite of mine for a couple of reasons.  A doorbell.  We seriously had a doorbell on our room.  I loved this!  And, to think it was also a depiction of a Mickey head made it even more fun to have.

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So, my suggestion for your next Disney trip, no matter if it is in a park or on a cruise, add a little spy work to your fun and see how many Mickeys you can find. They are literally everywhere! Take some pictures and when you get home, email them to me.  I’d love to see what you find.

For help in planning your next Disney vacation, please contact me for a variety of services I can offer to you at no charge.  You can email me at cindy@travelwiththemagic.com .  You can also follow me on  Facebook.

Palo Brunch on the Disney Magic

Ever wanted to enjoy brunch at Palo?  Well, if you do, here’s some of what you can expect!

When you first enter the lobby area for Palo, you can tell you are in a very special place.  The beautiful woods, marble tiles, decorative wine bottles and glassware, and even the bathrooms ooze luxury.  The masks in the waiting area let you know you have been transported from the Caribbean to Italy.  (Be sure to check out the bathrooms in the lobby.  They are the nicest ones I encountered on the entire ship!)  The restaurant itself is small and intimate.

Beautiful masks in the waiting area

Beautiful masks in the waiting area

Our reservation was at 10 am.  We were the first to arrive in the restaurant.  It was so peaceful and serene with no one else there!  Our server Mirko met us at the hostess podium and escorted us to our table where he let us put down anything we might be carrying before he showed us around the restaurant.  Our table was along the windows and would have been very beautiful at sunset.  It was a very bright sunny day, but it was rather windy.  We enjoyed watching people try to hold onto their hats (and children) as they walked around the deck outside Palo.

Palo brunch is a buffet with different stations set up in the middle of the dining room.  There are also chefs there to make some items to order.  Mirko showed us each of the stations – antipasto (with dried meats, cheeses, breads, caviar, fruits and vegetables), seafood (with crab legs, shrimp cocktail, scallops, crawfish and more), bakery (sweet breads, rolls, etc.), and the desserts (chocolate covered strawberries, tiramisu, and LOTS more).  He also showed us where the chefs were making the made to order items – Palo’s signature pizzas, strawberry soup, eggs Florentine, veal saltimbocca and more.

The antipasto table

The antipasto table

It all looked SO wonderful; we couldn’t wait to dive in!  Mirko brought us our complimentary mimosa while we visited the antipasto and seafood tables first.  Everything here was amazing.  I found a new love for braeseola and prosciutto and cemented my love for Parmesean cheese!

The bakery table was probably the thing I was most unimpressed with.  The cinnamon roll/sticky bun was very good (warm, soft, gooey and super sticky) but everything else I tried was a little too hard for my taste.  I was expecting some of the items to be a bit softer.

We decided to split the veal saltimbocca and the gorgonzola/grape pizza.  I also had to try the strawberry soup for my 6 year old.  I had heard raving things about the gorgonzola/grape pizza and it definitely did not disappoint.  It was drizzled with a balsamic vinegar that really made the flavor of the gorgonzola cheese stand out.  The veal saltimbocca was amazing as well.  I had never had this dish before which is why we decided to try it.  The veal practically melted in your mouth!  The strawberry soup was very good as well – almost more like a smoothie than a soup.  However, it was served with a mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry) and mint garnish that I didn’t really care for.  The soup itself though was wonderful – creamy and definitely full of strawberries!

Yummy strawberry soup!

Yummy strawberry soup!

Last was the desert table.  OH MY WORD.  All of the desserts I tried were wonderful.  The tiramisu was AMAZING as was the pot de chocolate.  They were both creamy and had great flavor.

Desserts, desserts, desserts

Desserts, desserts, desserts

The service here was also outstanding.  Mirko was at our table immediately if we needed anything.  Our place setting was replaced every time we got a new plate.  He was incredibly attentive and when I told him that my husband and I would be dining for dinner later in the week, he said “see you then” (and he did…he was our server for dinner as well).

Palo brunch was an incredible experience and one I’m so happy I was able to share with my mother-in-law.  It was well worth the $20 charge!  The attention to every tiny detail in the restaurant was amazing.  I felt as if I had been transported away from the hustle and bustle of the cruise and was in my own private world.

Want to experience Palo for yourself?  I cannot wait to help you plan your MAGICAL vacation on the Disney Cruise Line!

Contact me at amy@travelwiththemagic.com, 1-800-670-4312, x129 or on Facebook

Some Hidden Costs of Cruising

When booking a cruise, you may hear the words “all-inclusive”.  While this is MOSTLY true, once you get on board there are a few costs that are not included.  This is pretty much the same industry wide, but this article will cover the extra expenses you will find on Disney Cruise Lines.  For the most part your snacks, meals, activities and entertainment ARE included in your cruise fare making cruises a wonderfully efficient use of your vacation funds.  However, there are a few things you will need to budget for.

Soft Drinks

A common option on non-Disney cruise lines is the soda card or the soda package.  If you are cruising Disney Cruise Lines, all fountain drinks are included!  Be aware that if you order soda from a bar or from room service, there is a charge for these drinks.  The free refill stations are up near the quick service restaurants.  Specialty coffee drinks, drinks from the bar, and all “drinks of the day” (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic) are also an extra fee.  An additional 15% gratuity is automatically charged to drinks ordered at the bars.  We like to bring a large cup onboard and use Disney’s cups to fill that cup (Disney prefers this for sanitary purposes) and then keep it in our beverage cooler in our room all day for easy access.  We found the refillable “coffee type mugs” to be a good bargain for us.  They were only $8 (instead of $15 at Disney World!) and you got a discount when you purchased the non-alcoholic drink of the day.

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Caption:  The souvenir cups for the drinks of the day will cost extra.

Gratuities

Gratuities are also not included.  For a 6 night sailing, Disney recommends a total of about $12 per person per night split between your Server, Assistant Server, Head Server and Stateroom Host/Hostess. You have the option of prepaying for these gratuities before your sailing or they will be automatically charged to your onboard account on the last day of the sailing.  (Contact your travel planner for more information).

On the last night of your sailing you will receive envelopes and a perforated printout of the gratuities (either the recommended amounts or the prepaid amounts) and gratuity instructions.  If you would like to adjust the amounts, you can visit guest services with the letter that is delivered to your stateroom.  If your service has been exceptional (which has been our experience, more often than not), you can add a personal note and simply add cash (in addition to the printout) in the envelopes.  It is typical to deliver these to your servers on your last evening meal, and you can leave the tip for the hostess

Your head server is the person in the main dining room who is in charge of your section and oversees all of the servers and assistant servers.  Your server is your server in the main dining room who takes your food order each night.  Your assistant server is your server who takes your drink orders each night.  Your stateroom host/hostess is the person in charge of cleaning your stateroom (and making your wonderful towel animals!).   The recommended gratuity amount per person depends on the length of your sailing.  Please remember that the bulk of the salary that the servers and room hosts make is from gratuities.

Pictures

As with all Disney adventures there are plenty of opportunities for pictures and ample Disney staff to capture those magic moments.  When you board the ship, you will have your picture taken, typically with Mickey or Minnie, but the characters will rotate throughout the day.  There will also be photographers with the characters at each of the greetings.  Photographers come to each dining room table on Pirate Night and Formal and Semi-formal nights.  There will also be backdrops set up around the ship on different nights with photographers available to take your picture.

All professional photos will be printed and displayed in Shutters for purchase.  Single 6×8 photos are $9.95 each and 8×10 photos are $19.95 each.  There are photo packages starting at 10 6×8 photos or 5 8×10 photos for $84.95.  You may also purchase a CD with the images, starting at $249.95 for a 3 night sailing.  The ship photographers cannot take pictures with your camera, but if there is a regular cast member there, most are more than happy to take a picture with your personal camera.  If there is not a cast member, ask the next family in line!  If you would like to purchase ship pictures, check into the packages, as it may save you some money.

Port Adventures

The ship takes you to different ports, but what do while you’re there?  This is where Port Adventures (shore excursions on other cruise lines) come into play.  The Port Adventures offered by Disney Cruise Lines vary in price from inexpensive beach breaks to all day swimming with dolphins.  Please remember that tips are appropriate for most tour operators, so bring small bills into port with you.  You can sometimes find less expensive excursions by booking on your own, but I prefer the security of booking with the cruise line.  Many of the excursions do not include meals or drinks, so either budget for meals on shore (which tend to be pricy), bring snacks from home, or pack some of the cereal from the breakfast meals.  Remember that only sealed food (ie no fruit or pastries) can be taken off board, so plan accordingly.

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Caption:  My kids loved swimming with the stingrays in Grand Cayman

SPA
The spa onboard is not included in your cruise fare.  Services range from mani-pedis (starting at $25 for a manicure, $45 for a pedicure), shampoo/cut and style (starting at $52) to massages (starting at $81 for a half body/25 minute massage).  Take advantage of the spa during port days to get some savings.

Amy jan 3

Caption:  The Spa is a great place to relax and unwind!

LAUNDRY

Laundry services are available on board for an extra fee.  You can send your laundry away to be done for you (dry clean or laundry) or you can take advantage of the self-service laundry rooms on board.   One nice thing about Disney Cruise Lines is that you don’t have to have a roll of quarters.  Simply swipe your Key to the World card, and you can wash, dry and even purchase soap.   (All is the detergent of choice on board.  If you prefer another detergent or would like to plan ahead to do laundry, bring your own.  The laundry room also has an iron and ironing board and a large utility sink. The ironing board is in high demand on formal nights, so plan ahead.  Dry cleaning services range from $2 for a tie to $9 for a 3-piece suit.  Laundry services range from $0.75 for a handkerchief to $3.50 for a pair of pants.

Amy jan 4

Caption:  One of the laundry facilities onboard

Activities

Most of the activities on board ARE free but there are some exceptions.

BINGO: Bingo, of course, is an extra fee (there are packs starting at $20).  You might win back what you’ve spent to play – though I never do – but friends we met on board walked away a diamond necklace!  There are electronic packs as well as paper games.  Paper games are less expensive, though the number of “cards” is less, and the electronic cards will automatically keep track for you.  Once you purchase a game for that round of Bingo, your name is included in the raffles they do that session.  Raffles can be anything from free rounds of Bingo to Disney Cruise Line merchandise.

LIQUOR:  Any of the alcohol tastings (wine, beer, margarita/tequila, mixology, etc) are an additional charge, typically about $15.  The wine tasting we attended featured 4 wines, and totaled approximately 1-1.5 glasses of wine in total.  The tequila/margarita tasting had 3 shots and 3 spirits, with the potential for another shot and another spirit if you pay attention and answer questions properly (if you still can after 3 shots and 3 spirits!)

I make guest services my first stop after boarding to sign up for the tastings as they are limited in space.  While there I also make arrangements for Tea with Alice (NO CHARGE if offered on your sailing) and seasonal offerings (ie making gingerbread houses at Christmas time – also NO CHARGE!)  Please contact your travel planner for more information for specifics on the offerings.

Amy jan 5

Caption:  The Margarita/Tequila tasting was wonderful!

Adult Dining Options and Other Snacks

If you choose to dine in Palo or Remy, the adult only restaurants on Disney Cruise Line, you will be charged an additional fee ($20/person for Palo and $75/person for Remy).  Please note that an additional 15% gratuity for your server will automatically be added.  Wine pairings are also available for additional fees.  The wines available are typically more expensive than those included with Disney’s Classic wine package, so if you have the classic package, you will receive a $28 dollar discount on the wine available.  Be prepared – at Palo, the cheapest red wine was $37, which we paid $9 for, but it was a great wine.  Also, the snacks (popcorn is popular – about $5 for the smaller bag) from Preludes (the snack bar outside the Walt Disney theater) are an additional charge.  If these are not something you want to spend extra money on, bring your own movie theater snacks (candy) from home or simply make sure everyone has a meal or snack before you head into the theater.

Caption:  Part of the Palo brunch offering

Amy jan 6

Internet Service

If you must be connected with the world outside of your ship, you will have to pay for internet service.  You can pay as you go for $0.75/minute or purchase a package for $75 for up to 250 minutes on 7 night sailings or $150 for up to 500 minutes on longer sailings.  Please be aware that the service is via satellite and so it can be spotty and slow.   Plans cannot be upgraded once purchased and you will not receive a refund for unused minutes.  You can save some money here by locating a coffee shop or other location while you are in port and using free wifi.

Art

Art is available, ranging from $125 to $6000 or more.  The options on board our last sailing included items from the Pixar Gallery, Thomas Kinkade interpretations of Disney princess castles, and more.  There were also multiple silent auctions throughout the cruise.

Souvenirs

Of course, you will want to budget in money for souvenirs.  One nice thing about Disney Cruise Lines is that you can apply a gift card or your Disney Chase Visa rewards redemption dollars to your onboard account.  Ask for Disney gift cards for holidays or birthdays if you are sailing soon after.  If you let your children know that they have a set amount they can spend, and they know ahead of time, it can save some heartache in the shops.  On our last sailing, my children had one day to shop onboard to spend gift cards from family members (that I had applied on the first day onboard).  They never once asked to purchase anything else in port or onboard.

Remember, just because these things are an additional cost does not negate the wonderful value of a cruise vacation.  Your meals, drinks, activities and entertainment are all included.  On our first cruise, with the exception of some drinks, our excursions, and gratuities, we didn’t purchase much else onboard.  With a little planning, it’s not hard to stay within your budget on the ship!

If you would like to sail the seven seas, contact me today!  I cannot wait to help you plan your MAGICAL vacation on the Disney Cruise Line!  Contact me at amy@travelwiththemagic.com, 1-800-670-4312, x129 or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TravelwiththeMagicAmy).