Italy Excursion on Disne Cruise Line

Walt Disney World Versus Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise LineI’m a Disney fan - I’ll bet you already had a pretty good idea about that.  What I mean is, I believe in the Disney brand and with few exceptions, am pleased with Disney products I purchase.  This includes Disney vacations.  We love vacationing at Walt Disney World – it’s the perfect place for us and has been the source of so many unforgettable experiences and happy memories.  Why mess with this excellent vacation formula?  What made us take that first Disney Cruise?  Well, first and foremost, a Disney cruise is still a Disney vacation.  When we cruised for the first time, our children had reached the (*cough* difficult *cough*) age where they wanted to explore more of the world, see new and different things.  Devastated, we tried to be accommodating (within reason) and combined a trip to Walt Disney World with a Disney Cruise – best of both worlds and still Disney!!!

Turns out this was a perfect plan!  Raymond was anti-cruise and admitted later (after he had aCastaway Cay's Mt. Rustmore wonderful time) that he’d been practically dreading the cruise portion of our vacation.  What we thought would be one cruise turned into many – we’ve seen amazing, fantastic parts of the world – and still got to vacation in the Disney Bubble!  My mission today is to give you a kind of comparison between Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line – in case you’ve been curious about how they stack up.  To keep from gushing on all day about a couple of my favorite topics, I’ll limit todays discussion to 10 key areas.

Walt Disney World Versus Disney Cruise Line

Beach Service on Castaway Cay1. Service – Ah, those famous and fabulous Cast Members!  I’d say it’s a tie with the edge going to Disney Cruise Line.  With rotational dining on the cruise, you get to experience different restaurants.  The best part of switching dining experiences is that your assigned servers go with you – they’re the same servers you have every evening of your trip.  Should you choose to dine in one of the signature, adults-only restaurants, you’ll have different servers, but they are absolutely top notch – hands down the best service we’ve had anywhere.  The stateroom hosts/hostesses are fantastic (better than Mousekeeping at the resorts, for sure).

Disney Cruise Line / Ship2. Price - I’m not a travel agent and I’ve not price-compared all the different resort types (value, moderate, & deluxe) with each cabin type and the prices during all seasons for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line, but I’m confident – a Disney cruise can be comparably priced to a Walt Disney World stay.  The cruise may actually be even more economical (depending on length and itinerary) when you consider food.  All you care to eat, 24 hours a day (room service included) is hard to beat!  Food at Walt Disney World (unless you take advantage of a free-dining promotion) is expensive!  Park tickets are another big expense – We have found that while we can spend as much on shore excursions, we usually don’t have to.

3. Rides and Attractions - Walt Disney World is the clear winner in this category, however, don’tGrand Cayman Snorkeling Adventure think for a minute that there aren’t a wide variety of amazing experiences available on a Disney cruise.  You may not be going to Disney parks, but there are plenty of excursions that are very adventurous (either through Disney Cruise Line or on your own).  Zip-lining in Alaska?  We loved it!  Touring Barcelona on a Segway?  VERY fun!  Biking, hiking, snorkeling, a stingray adventure?  All available on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay (visited on most itineraries sailing from Port Canaveral).  There are too many experiences to name here, but rest assured, you will not be bored on a Disney cruise.

4. Entertainment - We know there are awesome live shows and 3D movies to enjoy at eachDisney Cruise Line Entertainment Walt Disney World park.  On a Disney cruise, you can enjoy first run movies onboard the ship along with extremely well-done, Broadway quality entertainment every evening of your cruise.  We LOVE the shows on Disney Cruise Line!  The ships’ entertainment areas designed for children (kids’ clubs) are extraordinary!  So much to see and do – just in a different way than at Walt Disney World.

5. Characters - The character meet-and-greets are plentiful at Walt Disney World and also on a Pluto on Disney Cruise Line in AlaskaDisney cruise!  Because they’re confined to a ship and not spread out among 4 parks, the characters on Disney Cruise Line are, to me, more accessible than at Walt Disney World.  Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto – and a plethora of princesses along with many more characters are fairly easy to meet.  For spontaneous, unexpected character interaction, Disney Cruise Line is the winner.  Nothing makes returning to the ship at the end of an action-packed day more special than being welcomed back by your favorite Disney characters.

6. Food - I can find plenty of delicious foods to enjoy on either type of vacation.  However, there are many more dining choices at Walt Disney World.  Because of this, I feel like Disney Cruise Formal Night on Disney's Magic in the MedLine makes an extra effort to please every type of person and their meal preferences (and special dietary needs). For example, if you don’t like one entrée – order another.  If you don’t like any of the desserts on the menu, order a bowl of ice cream or a Mickey Premium ice cream bar.  If you don’t feel like eating in the dining room, order room service.  We like getting up early and walking on deck for a look around before stopping at one of the counter service eateries and taking our selections back to our cabin to enjoy.  We also love the convenience of making our room service selections at night and having our breakfast delivered right to our cabin first thing in the morning – all included in the cruise fare.

Relaxing on Deck / Disney Cruise Line7. Resort / Cruise Ship Amenities - Unlike different amenities available for different resort types, all guests on Disney Cruise Line enjoy the same perks.  Access to the spa and salon, pools, exercise room, restaurants, pools, hot tubs, pubs, lounges, shops, theaters – equal access for all passengers.  Yes, the spa and salon treatments are extra, but worth the splurge if your cruise itinerary includes an at-sea day.  The ships’ exercise rooms are excellent (with awesome views) - we’ve even attended spin class!

8. Accommodations – Both types of vacations offer a variety of room/cabin choices to suit every family size and budget.  I feel the need to mention that Disney Cruise Line’s cabins are among the largest in the cruise industry.  The cabin spaces is used creatively with convertible couches and beds that drop down from the ceiling.

9. Location - If you choose a cruise out of Port Canaveral, you’re not far from Walt DisneyChip & Dale on Castaway Cay World.  It’s easy to combine a Walt Disney World stay with a cruise.  If you want to see other parts of the world, you may need to fly to departure ports outside of Florida – airfare can add a significant amount to your vacation expenses.  Walt Disney World never moves, so it’s easy to have a good idea about the time and expense it takes to get there.

10. Experience - This is the hardest one of all.  The experiences are certainly different, but with many of the same special Disney elements.  With so much to enjoy on each type of vacation – I can’t pick a favorite.  We alternate visits to Walt Disney World with a Disney cruise as often as we can.  This summer we visited WDW for a week and next summer we’ll be cruising with Disney in Norway.  Every Disney vacation is special, exciting, and tons of fun.  I’d call this one a tie.

Call your favorite travel agent or check out Disney Cruise Line vacations here.

Formal Minnie on Disney Cruise Line Castaway Cay Snorkeling

 

 

 

 

Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett – 60 Years Later

Davy Crocket played by Fess ParkerWay back in 1955 (a long time ago), THE best show on TV was Davy Crockett.  I wouldn’t know myself, of course, because I wasn’t born yet, but I have heard a lot about the show that was a mid-century marvel, the amazing Fess Parker and the role that made him famous.

“Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier” 

The 1955 season of this phenomenal hit consisted of only three episodes about the life…and death of the famous Davy Crockett.  Unfortunately, the show’s hero died at the Alamo and that’s how the first season ended.  The explosion of Davy Crockett mania took off anyway!  Coon skin caps and Davy Crockett lunch boxes were flying off the shelves, Davy Crockett comic books and bubble gum cards were all the rage, and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” was at the top of the music charts for 16 weeks.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in Davy Crockett licensed merchandise made it’s way into the hands of children across America.Davy Crocket Indian Fighter Hunts a Bear

Walt Disney, having already killed off the main character of his wildly popular program, did what he could to keep the momentum going by producing two more shows for the next TV season which highlighted Davy Crockett’s legendary adventures.  The entire Davy Crockett television series was only made up of 5 hour-long episodes – but that was enough to create a memorable national sensation!

Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. (August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010), born in Fort Worth, Texas, was forever known for his most famous role – that of Davy Crockett.  Like me, you may remember him as another famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone – the role he took on in 1964 and played for six years.  Fess Parker retired from television (and acting) in 1970 and went on to a successful career in real estate, Fess Parker Wineopening a Santa Barbara resort hotel, The Fess Parker (a Doubletree by Hilton) in 1986.  Shortly thereafter, Fess Parker turned his business talents in a new direction and purchased a 714-acre ranch -  This year, the family owned and operated Fess Parker Winery will celebrate it’s 25th year in business.

“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the Land of the Free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!”

Special Note:  My thanks to Joseph Green (and his extensive Disneyana collection) for allowing me access to his Davy Crockett Dell comic book!Fess Parker / Davy Crockett Inside Cover Davy Crockett Comic Book Back Cover Davy Crocket Comic Book

Jungle Cruise Crocs

Walt Disney World Reptiles

Komodo Dragon at Animal KingdomWe all know that Walt Disney World is overrun with famous princesses.  There are also a good many ducks!  Did you know that Walt Disney World also boasts an incredible number of reptiles?  Why, I’d be willing to bet that there are more reptiles at Disney World than all the princesses and ducks combined!  Let’s talk about lizards, snakes, alligators, crocodiles and more!

You can find reptiles in lots of places in Magic Kingdom.  The famous crocodile from Peter Pan is in Peter Pan’s Flight and he also makes an appearance in the Festival of Fantasy Parade.  How about the snakes and crocs found on the Jungle Cruise?  “….keep your hands in the boat because Ginger snaps!” If you look carefully, you can find the tiny anole lizards native to Florida sunning themselves all over the place – We can usually spot at least one among the headstones in the pet cemetery next to the Haunted Mansion.Crocodile in Festival of Fantasy Parade

Crocodiles on the Jungle CruiseIn Animal Kingdom – there are lots of reptiles, as you would expect!  The Komodo Dragon along the Maharajah Jungle Trek is amazing!  There are crocodiles on Kilimanjaro Safari and, in the exhibits along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, you can view a Kenyan Sand Boa.  Over in Dinoland – there are bunches of reptiles (of the extinct variety).Animal Kingdom Dinosaur

The make-believe dragon in Epcot’s Journey into Imagination with Figment could arguably be considered a reptile of sorts.  Our own brush with an actual reptile in Epcot happened in the China Pavilion several years ago when Joseph pulled a live snake out of the shrubbery.  Luckily, I was able to convince him to put the snake back by reassuring him that he didn’t need to rescue the poor thing – that it was clearly thriving and happy living among the landscaping and carefully cultivated topiaries.  Florida boasts more than 50 native snake species – fortunately, 44 of those are non-venomous.  If you find a snake at Walt Disney World, I do not recommend catching it! Journey into Imagination with FigmentSnake in Epcot's China Pavillion

Reptiles can be found all over Walt Disney World- all you have to do is watch for them!  While I’ve never seen one myself, I’ve heard plenty of stories of American Alligators being spotted in many different Walt Disney World bodies of water.  I’m guessing it’s like here where we live in Louisiana, gators that get large enough to potentially become a nuisance are captured and relocated by alligator “specialists”.

Tell your story – what’s been your favorite Walt Disney World reptile encounter?

Lizard in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney-Travel-Suitcase

5 Obstacles to Walt Disney World Vacation Happiness

Disney Planning Tips by MailYou’ve done the research, picked the date, booked a resort, purchased park tickets, settled on your mode of travel to Walt Disney World, selected FastPass+ options, and packed the suitcases!  You’re home free now, right?  All you have to do is get this vacation started and have the best time EVER!  I don’t want to burst your bubble and I hate to break it to you, but there are a few obstacles here and there that may mean the difference between an okay trip and a fantastically well-remembered family vacation.  That’s why your here, right?  You’re reading this blog to get the scoop on these potential party poopers?  Good, you have me and I have a few suggestions to help you avoid any ugly Walt Disney World vacation pitfalls.  Ready?

5 Obstacles to Walt Disney World Vacation Happiness – AND how to overcome them:

1.  Compromised Comfort – I’d be willing to bet the average Walt Disney World visitor has Mini First Aid Kit for Walt Disney World Travelno idea how much walking, standing, and jostling will be involved in taking this particular brand of vacation.  Sore feet, blisters, motion sickness, overheating, sunburn, soaking from sudden thunderstorms, dehydration, and exhaustion - these must be avoided at all costs.  Nothing ruins a vacation faster than pain!  Make like a good Boy Scout and be prepared.  Bring a travel-sized first aid kit and some rain ponchos, pack well-broken-in shoes and comfortable clothes.  Everyone in your travel party should drink plenty of water throughout the day and for heaven’s sake, be prepared with snacks to avoid becoming “Hangry” (hungry+angry=bad attitude).

Walt Disney World MagicBand2. Blown Budget – Magic Bands are so convenient…until you see the bill from all that touch-to-pay action!  Nothing kills Disney vacation joy like realizing that you’ve overspent.  If money is no object, move on along to the next item on the list, but if you’re like me and want to have a good idea about how to avoid a panic attack at check-out, try some of these strategies (and shout out your own in the comments!):

  • Purchase gift cards just to use for souvenirs and snacks – or consider buying them ahead of time.  You read that right – buy souvenirs and snacks before you leave home and dole them out during your vacation.  Little kids won’t care where the cool toys, books, and new tee shirts come from – they’ll just be excited to have them.
  • Pre-paying for snacks and meals with a Disney Dining Plan really helps with budgeting.
  • Important:  Get a printout of your charges from your resort’s front desk every day or two and make sure your spending is not getting out of hand.
  • Not on a Dining Plan?  Eat counter service (quick service) for most meals and consider eating your table service meals at lunchtime when the prices may be lower.  Buffet’s are the easiest meals to budget due to fixed pricing.
  • Stick with your budget!  It takes some (an incredible amount of) self control, but it’s worth it in the end.  Go home happy – not broke.

Crazy Crowds - If you’re going to Walt Disney World during peak seasons like Spring Break, Walt Disney World Crowds During Star Wars WeekendSummer Break, Thanksgiving, or Christmas – the crowds may be huge!  Knowing that going in will hopefully help you be more patient.  With the exception of Thanksgiving, we’ve traveled to WDW during all of those times and still had a lot of fun – the crowds did not ruin our trips at all, but they did slow us down.  Patience helps a lot as do some alternative plans when the parks just get too crazy.  Consider more resort time – the resorts often have a schedule of special activities to enjoy – ask at the front desk.  Eat outside the parks and try some restaurants at different resorts - gives you a chance to check out places to stay on future vacations.  Having realistic expectations helps - I liken it to the mental preparation it takes for me to Christmas shop on Black Friday!

Bus Transportation at Walt Disney WorldOpportunity Overload – There is an incredible amount of things to see and do!  There are so many rides, attractions, shows, shops, snacks, characters, playgrounds, pools, restaurants – YIKES!  It can be totally overwhelming, confusing, and logistically challenging.  Research is the best remedy – specifically knowing the following things can help:

  • How to get around and where to go – Park and resort maps are available on the internet, in travel books, and at your resort.  Please, I’m begging you, at least get an idea about where you need to be and how you’re going to get there before you start out on your first day of vacation.  Getting lost and wandering around is horrible.  Missing a FastPass window or restaurant reservation shouldn’t happen with proper preparation.
  • Speaking of FastPasses – Pick what you think you’ll like.  Yes, if you’ve never been Choosing Activities in MyDisneyExperiencethere before, it can be daunting.  There are so many choices, it gets confusing and frustrating.  Again, research will help – especially the various rides’ height requirements if you’re traveling with children.  For a first visit, it’s hard to know what rides are really busy all the time and which ones rarely need a FastPass – you can make yourself crazy.  Go with what sounds fun.  (Check out YourFirstVisit.net)
  • Be flexible, be willing to compromise, take turns.  If everyone knows what to expect ahead of time, is ready and willing to change plans if necessary (rides break down, stormy weather causes some rides to close) and each person gets to select at least one or two special experiences  (ride, show, character meeting, restaurant, pool time, etc.) – there’s less chance of succumbing to opportunity overload.

Too Tired to go On / Disney Vacation TipsFizzled Finale – Doing too much for too long can really toast the end of your vacation, especially if you’ve got a long trip home.  It’s easy to try to pack in so much park action that by the time it’s over everyone is fed up and exhausted (and crabby!).  Pace yourselves, allow for plenty of sleep (and naps, if needed), set aside time for packing to avoid a last minute frenzy.  Make sure there are fun activities for the way home, too.  My grandmother used to say, “Quit while you still want more” and that’s good advice.  If you leave happy, wanting to go back again someday, isn’t that a sign of a really great vacation?

What are your best tips for overcoming the obstacles to Walt Disney World vacation happiness?