Disney Cruise Ports – The Beauty of Key West

IMG_0226Disney Cruise Ports – The Beauty of Key West, Florida

Just about this same time of year in 2007 – we cruised with Disney to celebrate Megan’s Senior year of high school and ring in the New Year for 2008.  On our Western Caribbean itinerary, the beautiful island of Key West, Florida was one of the first ports of call after sailing from Port Canaveral.  Recently I noticed that the Western no longer visits Key West, but some of Disney’s cruises in the Bahamas do stop there now.

We’d heard about Key West and had high expectations.  Let me just say, it’s one of the best IMG_0250places for living up to its reputation!  It was absolutely gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly and true to what we’d been told, there really were chickens everywhere, key lime pie stores on every corner, and wonderful homes with fabulous gardens that made this town look like paradise.  I’m only sorry we missed seeing one of the famed 6-toed cats!

Knowing that we had excursions booked in Grand Cayman and Cozumel, we decided to tour Key West on our own.  The plan was to debark as early as possible, walk to the continental United States’ southernmost point, then take a leisurely stroll around town – taking in all the sights.  The only important mission we had was to get back to the ship before all-aboard time.

IMG_0278Since Key west is only 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, we thought we could see quite a bit on foot.  As far as plans went, it was simple and, as it turned out, perfect.  Our time in Key West was as laid-back and relaxed as the town itself.  We had a such great day that Key West is now near the top of the list of places we’d love to visit again.

Here are the highlights:

Key Lime Pie-on-a-stick!  Frozen and dipped in chocolate, these delectable treats were a perfect way to sample one of Key West’s most famous foods.  Key West is also know for its conch fritters – unfortunately, we did not get the opportunity to try any of those.

A stroll through the heart of Key West’s Old Town – from the enchanting Victorian mansions toIMG_0265 the famous bars and restaurants on Duval Street, this was a walk through history – so much to take in!  Great little shops with an eclectic assortment of wares and curb-side hat weavers were a couple of more notable offerings.  We found a great tee-shirt shop where you could pick your design from a catalog and have a shirt printed while you wait.

The Southernmost Point in the U.S. – Cuba is


just 90 miles away!  It’s a fun place to see/visit and a great place to rest for a few minutes and enjoy the view.

The Hogsbreath Saloon – on our way back to the ship, we just couldn’t help stopping in for a cold refreshment and a souvenir tee shirt.  A great way to end one very enjoyable day.



Disney Pin Trading – Getting Started

General Dis Pics 11.13 094If you’ve not tried Disney pin trading – It’s a great big bunch of fun!  Disney pins make great (and affordable) souvenirs that don’t take up much room in your suitcase.  Once you get the hang of trading, pins take on a whole new meaning – they’re not just souvenirs anymore!  They become a vacation activity that allows you to meet new people, treasure hunt, and discover new and exciting things about Disney through the enormous variety of pins available. 

Once upon a time The Fam and I were new to pin trading and at first we were a little intimidated – especially at our first pin trading event – there are some very serious pin collectors out there!  If you’d like to give Disney pin trading a whirl, here are my top five tips on getting started: 

It doesn’t have to be expensive.  You’ll need some starter pins for trading, but you don’tIMG_2322 have to buy them at a Disney store.  There are several sellers on eBay and Amazon that offer pins in lots of 25, 50 and even 100 for very reasonable prices.  As with any online purchase, you’ll want to buy from well-rated, reputable sellers.  Pin purists may argue that you might end up with counterfeit, bootlegged, or “scrapper” pins, but there are plenty of authentic pins for sale on eBay and Amazon.  I have also found the Disney pin guides on eBay to be very helpful.  A great article here offers other tips for saving money on pins. 

Lanyards are optional.  A lanyard allows you to proudly show off some of your favorite pins and display pins you’re interested in trading.  For little ones, it’s great to purchase a pin trading starter set – a lanyard and pins sold together.  Wearing a lanyard is very convenient, but not General Dis Pics 11.13 091absolutely necessary to pin trading enjoyment.  Joseph’s a good example of someone who trades pins from time to time, but does not wear a lanyard.  He just carries a few pins in his pocket so when he sees a pin he really wants, he’s ready for trading action.

Cast Members have some of the best pins for trading!  If they are wearing a lanyard, it will have pins displayed that are all available for trading.  You may need to be a bit patient if the Cast Member is performing some important job – there may be a wait for a moment when the pin exchange can occur, but it’s worth it.  Cast Members often have unusual pins from other locations (like Disneyland Paris) that can add new variety to your pin collection.  As long as you have an official Disney pin to trade that is not already on their lanyard, the deal is good!  Disney World Cast Members wearing green lanyards only trade with children (age 12 and under) – take advantage of this if you have little ones!

Find and try out a pin trading event.  Even if you don’t want to trade any pins, it’s pretty cool to see the collections of pins people bring to these meet-ups for pin trading superfans.  You can find event locations, dates, and times at the Disney Parks Merchandise General Dis Pics 11.13 071website.

Trading is not just in the parks!  Pins available for trading can be found at Disney resorts – check with the resort’s main giftshop for information.  Disney Cruise ships  are also a fun place for pin trading and collecting – Cast Members have pins for trading, onboard pin events are scheduled, and the giftshops have pins to buy and for trading (ask at the counter).  Finally, you can ask your resort bus driver if he has any pins to trade – you might be surprised at the great stashes of pins some of the drivers keep! 


General Dis Pics 12.26 003Here are some great Disney Pin Trading articles and tips from others you may find helpful:

Guidelines for pin trading straight from the folks at Disney Parks Merchandise.

Disney Insider has these Perfect Pointers for pin trading.

Disney Pins Blog – everything Disney Pins in one place!

Pin Trading Basics from Laughing Place

Pin Trading Tips from Disney Tourist Blog

Pin Trading Tips for Children at WDW Hints




Mini Review: Saving Mr. Banks

IMG_2400I’d been waiting a long time to see Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Mary Poppins (the movie) and I are the same age and the movie’s songs hold a special place in my heart.  The story behind the story was something I thought too good to miss – the addition of Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers made the movie even more appealing to me.

I tried to avoid reading reviews of any kind before going to see Saving Mr. Banks I knew that the film follows Mrs. Travers and Walt Disney over a two-week period leading up to the filming of Mary Poppins.  I also knew the movie would include several flashbacks to P. L. Travers’ childhood – presumably dealing with what happened during her formative years that led to the invention of Mary Poppins in P. L. Travers’ books.  I’d heard enough to know to expect the near-perfect recreation of 1961 Disneyland – I was excited to see that for myself.

Raymond and I went to a late afternoon matinee yesterday.  After a movie, I always want to chat about it on the way home – the plot, the characters, the best parts, the funniest lines, etc.  When we got in the car to go home, Raymond said enthusiastically that he’d liked Saving Mr. Banks a lot.  I said nothing at all.  This did not go unnoticed – let’s face it – anytime I’m quiet is unusual.  After we got home, Raymond again mentioned how much he’d enjoyed the movie and asked me if my lack of response meant I hadn’t liked it.

I did like the movie.  Very much, in fact.  I was just unprepared for it.  I suppose the previews made me think it would be mostly lighthearted and fun.  There were happy and funny parts, sure, but for the most part, I found the film unexpectedly intense.  There was a depth to P. L. Travers and her story I hadn’t expected (what I get for refusing to read any reviews) and, instead of making me want to talk about the film – that intensity made me want to think about the film, its plot, the characters, the best parts, the funniest lines and so on.  I’m thinking about it still.

If you’ve planned on seeing Saving Mr. Banks during the holidays – go!  It’s genuinely a good movie with an unexpectedly touching story that has nothing and everything to do with Mary Poppins.  Every single character makes their own special contribution to the story’s overall success.  When you get back, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.