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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smarty Sponsor: Martha Nichols, Travel Consultant for Aladdin Travel



By Guest Blogger, Martha Nichols with Aladdin Travel

You may remember Martha from a previous post she authored on amazing first-hand tips for any family visiting Disney World. Well, she got such a great response that we asked her to offer MORE tips for our readers. Today, Martha blogs about everything and anything you would ever need to know about booking a Disney Cruise vacation. We hope you find her tips, tricks and insights as invaluable as we do! Enjoy! - KM

Last December, my family received an early Christmas present of a seven-day Western Caribbean Cruise on The Disney Magic, part of the Disney Cruise Line fleet! The perfect Christmas gift for a Disney crazy family!! Looking back, this vacation onboard The Disney Magic, was truly one of the best vacations my family has ever had. Because of all the things that Disney offers on their cruise ships, everyone’s needs and wants were met. All in all, the memories we have from this vacation are priceless.

Why do I believe that Disney Cruise Line offers the best cruises for families? Let me count the ways….


1. Family Entertainment
Walt Disney’s first visions for Disneyland were of a place where adults and their children could go and have fun together. The Disney Corporation has continued with this vision 60+ years later. This is seen in the activities planned for families. My family’s favorites were the Pirates of the Caribbean Deck Party, decorating a Gingerbread House, Jackpot Bingo, and a Tea Party with the Mad Hatter. Other family centered activities include:

• Deck Parties that include characters, music, dancing, and even fireworks.
• Broadway quality stage shows featuring characters from our favorite Disney movies in the Walt Disney Theatre.
• First run movies in the Buena Vista Theatre, even premieres of movies on the ship when they open on land. We enjoyed the premiere of “The Princess and the Frog” during our cruise.
• A dedicated family night club with dance parties, trivia contests and activities like kite making and tea parties.
• Sporting activities including basketball, shuffleboard and ping pong.
• Two family pools with water slide and spas.


2. Children’s Programs
The children’s programming was a hit with our family. My son would beg to go to the Oceaneer’s Club, ditched us for dinner at least one night to play in the club, stayed on board while in port to play in the club, and would cry when he had to leave! My daughter’s favorite activities were learning to draw Mickey Mouse, and making Flubber. Thanks to the youth counselors who said that the green goop will bounce if left in the refrigerator for 30 weeks. We currently have a zip lock bag of green stuff still in the fridge.

• Children’s Programming runs from early in the morning until late into the evening, even on days the ship is in port.
• Youth counselors that are enthusiastic, professional, and truly enjoy children. I sat in on some of the activities and was astonished with the costuming and energy level of the staff. During science lab, the staff dressed in full costume as the mad scientist and the children wore lab coats. For parties, characters came to interact with the children in song and games.
• The security is top notch and a priority. It is computerized so that they know exactly who is enrolled in any activity at any time. Parents register approved adults who can check-in or check-out children. Identification is required for both adult and child when entering and picking up. For additional security, a password that is predetermined by the parents is required to pick up any child.
• In January 2010, DCL re-invented their children’s programming. The activities are designed for particular age groups, but are available to any child between 3 years (and potty trained) and 12 years old. This allows siblings to stay together during activities if desired.
• Activities include Toy Story Boot Camp, Goofy’s Pajama Party, Pirate Party with Captain Hook, A Royal Ball, Making Flubber, Ratatouille Cooking School, and Animation Class.


3. Infant and Toddler Amenities
• Flounder’s Nursery is available for children age 12 weeks to 3 years (and not potty trained) for an additional charge.
• DCL has a relationship with Babies Travel Lite, where you can preorder baby supplies and have it delivered to the cruise ship.
• A splash area at the Mickey Pool for children in swim diapers.


4. Teen Amenities
For Teens, they have their own area on board the ship and a separate beach on Castaway Cay (no adults allowed). High up in the ship’s funnel, teens have their own lounge area, hosted by the coolest crew at sea. Activities include Karaoke, Dance Parties, Video Game Tournaments, and Pool Parties.

5. Adult Exclusive Options
Every parent knows that while family time is wonderful, we also need adult-only and couple time to recharge ourselves. DCL offers this throughout the cruise while offering superior programming for the little ones.

• Palo’s, DCL’s adult-only restaurant with sweeping ocean views. Make sure you try the Chocolate Soufflé, as this is the only place on the ship to get this to-die-for dessert! Open for dinner nightly, and Champagne Brunch and Afternoon Tea for days at sea.
• Adult Enrichment Series that include art auctions and lecture series, cooking and beverage tasting classes, and behind the scenes tours.
• Vista Spa and Health Club
• Adult only pool and coffee bar.
• Adult only lounges and night clubs.
• Serenity Bay, the adult only beach on Castaway Cay.


6. Dining
Dining onboard DCL ships is an affair to remember.

• There are 3 restaurants that guests rotate through. Lumiere’s (Triton’s on Disney’s Wonder) has a French inspired menu. Parrot Cay has a Caribbean flare. Finally, Animator’s Palate has Pacific Rim cuisine. On 3 night cruises, you will experience each of the restaurants. On longer cruises, you will rotate through the restaurants more than once. Each night the menu will change and some nights have themes like the Captain’s Dinner and the Golden Mickey’s.
• The first night you dine in Animator’s Palate, be prepared for a show. When you enter, the restaurant presents in black and white. As the evening goes on, color begins to be infused into the restaurant with the finale coming just before desert. Since this show is only done on your first evening dining in this restaurant, make sure you do not miss it!
• On DCL, your wait staff goes with you to each of your dining assignments. It does not take long for your servers to know your likes and dislikes. By the third night our servers knew what our drink choices would be, and what two items my son would eat.
• For those families who are assigned the second seating dining assignment (8:15 PM), there are options for the children. DCL has introduced a program called Dine and Play, allowing you to dine as a family. The wait staff will serve the children as soon as their meals are prepared. Youth Counselors arrive at the restaurants at 9 PM to whisk them away for play time while the adults can enjoy a more leisurely meal.
• On 7 night cruises, there will be two formal/semi formal dinners. You will see some people dressed in Tuxes and evening gowns. Most wear cocktail dresses and suits. On other nights, the dress attire for the dining rooms is resort or business casual. No shorts or jeans are permitted in the restaurants.
• For those who prefer a less formal option to dining, the buffet at Topsider (Beach Blanket on the Wonder) is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as counter services options, and 24 hour room service.
• On seven day cruises and longer, Character Dining Experiences are available for breakfast one day while at sea.


7. Staterooms
DCL boasts larger staterooms than other cruise line.

• The Split Bath option offers a room with a toilet and sink, then a second room with shower and sink. This is a blessing for families!
• For storing suitcases after you unpack, make sure the suitcases can slide under the beds. If you can, put smaller suitcases inside larger ones.
• The hair dryer that is provided in the bathroom resembles a leaf blower rather than a hair dryer. Also, the electrical sockets in the bathrooms are not equipped to handle a hair dryer, only a men’s electric razor. If you bring your personal hair dryer, bring along an extension cord. It will not work in the bathroom, but there is a desk area with electrical sockets and a mirror on the wall where you can do your hair. Because of the large plug that hair dryers have and the location of the electrical sockets, you will need the electrical extension cord to plug the dryer in. Curling irons and other hair appliances that have regular plugs will have no problem plugging in at the desk area.
• Consider purchasing a travel bag that unzips and hangs on a shower curtain or a door hook for bathroom items. If you do not have one of these bags, bring along an over-the-door shoe holder. The shoe pockets can be used to hold medicine bottles, bathroom items, and such.
• Bring along a pop up, mesh laundry hamper. They pack flat and can be used for dirties during the cruise. Laundry facilities are available onboard.
• If you or a member of your travel party has a tendency to get motion sickness, request a cabin on a lower deck in the middle of the ship.

8. Ports of Call
Our cruise went to the Western Caribbean with stops in Key West, FL, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico.

• DCL offers a wide variety of port excursions to meet the activity level and interest of all cruisers. Port excursions include fun in the sun on the beaches; sightseeing and guided tours; water sports excursions such as snorkeling or Scuba diving adventures, boating, and swimming with the dolphins experiences; and adventure and sports excursions such as fishing trips, and biking adventures.
• In 2010, cruises are available to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Europe and the Mediterranean. In addition, Adventures by Disney has partnered up with Disney Cruise Line to offer an enhanced selection of onboard activities and privately guided port experiences that will immerse you in the culture and sights of the Mediterranean region.
• 2011 brings even greater excitement with the Maiden Voyage of Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, The Disney Dream. DCL will sail to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Transatlantic, Europe, Mediterranean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, and the Panama Canal.


9. Castaway Cay
An exclusive to Disney Cruise Line is their private island, Castaway Cay.

• The crowning glory is the actual ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean Movie anchored off shore!
• There are separate beaches for families, teens, and adults.
• Spa services are available at Serenity Bay, the adult only beach.
• The Kids Activities are moved onto the beach with games and fun at Scuttles Cove.
• DCL offers a full assortment to water sports and activities, including snorkeling off the beach, jet skis, stingray encounters, boating, and bike rentals.

Whether traveling with your family, extended family and multigenerational groups, or an adult-only vacation, Disney’s Cruise Line offers cruises to fit everyone!

Contact Martha Nichols at Martha.nichols@aladdintravel.com or 336-671-1995 for more information or a free quote for travel to Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line®, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures By Disney, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, or Disney’s Hilton Head Resort.


3 comments:

Elizabeth B. said...

We went on our first Disney cruise in late January. It was fabulous! Fun for the entire family. I have a three year old and a six year old. We all say, all the time, "We wish we were back on the Disney cruise". The post does a great job describing all the activities and overall experience. Castaway Cay was the definite highlight for the entire family. I highly recommend this for a great family vacation. You feel the Disney magic everywhere on the ship.

JessMess said...

Awwww, this is the blog I needed today to get out of my cold weather slump! Gives me spring fever. Looks like I may need to talk to the hubby about a cruise this summer (or earlier if we can our act together!)

Melissa R said...

We took a Disney Cruise last year and it was our favorite family vacation to date. I have children ages 2-14, and they all had the time of their lives. We want to go back soon!

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