Hurricanes, Disney Vacations, and Perspective

I’ve been obsessively watching Hurricane Irma for over a week.  On Saturday, I spent my time doing laundry and watching the Weather Channel, checking NOAA online, and watching for news on my Facebook feed from folks closer to the situation than I was.  On Sunday, I stopped packing for vacation.  On Wednesday evening at 7:30, Disney Cruise Line cancelled our trip.  While we honestly appreciate their caution and concern for guest safety, the disappointment was…well, you can imagine.

From Disney Cruise Line’s website:

“The September 9 sailing of the Disney Fantasy is cancelled. Refunds will automatically be processed back to the original form of payment used for the cruise booking. Guests are invited to book a future cruise at a 25 percent discount by calling us at 1-855-347-2784 or 407-566-7054 from September 18, 2017, through October 18, 2017. 

While we always strive to deliver magical cruise vacations, nothing is more important to us than providing a safe experience for our guests and crew. We will continue to closely monitor Hurricane Irma and provide updates as necessary.”

Hurricanes, Disney Vacations, and Perspective

As I was wallowing in self-pity over the Disney cruise we won’t be taking on Saturday, I realized that mixed in with the sadness and disappointment was also relief.  We will be safe and sound as Irma barrels along on her course of mayhem and destruction.  While riding out Hurricane Matthew at Disney World last year was an adventure, it’s not one I’d care to repeat.Hurricane Matthew at Walt Disney World

To all my Florida friends – I’m sorry you’ll be dealing with the potential havoc brought by a powerful and unpredictable force of nature.  I’ve been praying steadily for your safety and Irma’s demise.  Having lived in Louisiana for almost 30 years, I well know the worry and helplessness that comes with not being able to control or anticipate what might happen when your home is in the path of a hurricane.  I’m sorry you’re dealing with that now.

As you are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, please know that you’ll continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.  Through the Living a Disney Life blog and on social media, I’ve gotten to know so many of you and your friendship means a great deal to me!

Be safe and take care, Disney friends.  Please let me know how you’re doing…Lisa

Looking Forward to Sailing Aboard the Fantasy

Our last Disney cruise was in February, 2016 on the Dream.  It was a short, four-night trip to Nassau and Castaway Cay.  I was recovering from the Glass Slipper Challenge and it was the perfect cruise for lots of rest and relaxation with a bit of recreation thrown in for fun.  We enjoyed both dinner and brunch at Remy, dinner at Palo, did the Midship Detective Agency activity, ran the Castaway Cay 5K and skipped Nassau altogether.  Before the ship returned to Port Canaveral, we’d booked anther cruise and the time to sail has nearly arrived!

Looking Forward to Sailing Aboard the Fantasy

Since the Dream and the Fantasy are so similar, we feel like we know what to expect in general.  However, two of the Fantasy’s MDRs (Main Dining Rooms) are uncharted territory for us.  We’re excited to try the Enchanted Garden and Royal Court restaurants – we missed the Enchanted Garden on the Dream due to other dinner plans that night.  I expect Animator’s Palate to be pretty much as it is the other ships. Since we’re old and set in our ways, we requested the early dinner seating.  We prefer dinner before the evening show rather than the other way around.  We also like to turn in fairly early and don’t want to feel like we’re going to sleep on full bellies.   We love the adults-only dining options on Disney cruises.  We’re skipping Remy this time, but have booked both dinner and brunch at Palo.  Remy is fantastic and I highly recommend it, but we’re spending a chunk of our travel budget on excursions this time around and Remy didn’t make the cut, financially speaking.

Our plans by day…

Embarkation Day – We want to kick off the trip by relaxing.  We do have an afternoon meet-up planned with the Facebook group we joined for this trip.  After that and the lifeboat drill, we’ll try to watch the sail-away party from our favorite spot on the upper deck.

Sunday – Day at Sea, Formal Night, dinner at Palo.  We LOVE the fitness center and will certainly visit it this day.  If there’s a spin class offered, we’ll try to make it.  The spin instructors are always great, it’s a good workout, and bonus!  No extra charge involved!  We have a Chocolate and Liquor tasting booked in the afternoon.  This will be new to us.  We tried to book it on the Dream, but had no luck…the tasting was already at full capacity. 

Monday – Day at Sea, Halloween on the High Seas theme, Dinner in our assigned dining room.  Depending on the schedule, we’ll try to catch a movie and also see if we can attend a cooking demonstration of some type.  Those are two of our favorite activities on at-sea days.  Rather than worry with costumes, I bought us a couple of Nightmare Before Christmas-themed shirts to wear this day.  That way we’ll still feel like we’re participating, but won’t have to pack lots of extra stuff.

Tuesday – Tortola and the Wreck and Reef Dive excursion.  This is also Pirate night.  I expect we’ll be exhausted from our adventure, but I would love to make it to the deck party.

Wednesday – St. Thomas Certified Scuba excursion.  No special theme for dinner – I’m sure we’ll turn in early…really early.  By this time on previous cruises, I’ve been known to fall asleep during the evening’s show.  I know I can sleep in the next morning, but I’ve never been good at shaking off being sleepy.

Thursday – Day at Sea.  Brunch at Palo then Raymond has an afternoon massage scheduled at the spa (birthday gift from me).  Hopefully, there will be more movies and/or cooking demos to see!  This should be semi-formal night and we’ll be in whatever dining room is on our rotation. Friday – Castaway Cay!  As of now, we’re planning on doing the 5K before relaxing at Serenity Bay for a while.  We like the 5K because it’s very low-key and is a fun way to burn off some of those cruise calories.  Castaway Cay's Mt. RustmoreAfter lunch we have the “Abaco Rigid Hull Snorkeling Adventure – Adult Only” excursion.  We’ve done this one before back in 2010 and we saw some awesome sea creatures and plant life.  We’ll probably head back to the ship fairly early so we can start getting our suitcases packed.  So sad!  We haven’t even left yet, and here I am talking about the entire trip being over.  If you’ve been on a Disney cruise before, you know how bittersweet that last night can be!

Now there’s still the unresolved matter of Hurricane Irma.  Will she crash our vacation?  Will she move on before we arrive?  Will she maybe force us on an alternate itinerary?  Only time will tell.  No matter what, like every Disney vacation we’ve taken – this one’s bound to be an adventure!

Disney Cruise Tips – Beyond Fish Extenders

It’s not like we spend every vacation at Disney World, you know.  We go other places…on Disney Cruise Line!  Two weeks from now we’ll be off on a new cruise adventure on the Disney Fantasy for the first time.  Eastern Caribbean…here we come!

When we sail for more than four nights, I like to get more involved in the Disney cruise experience than just visiting ports and participating in ship activities like eating constantly, attending cooking demos and playing trivia games.  I do this by joining a Facebook group for our cruise and signing up for group activities.

Disney Cruise Tips – Beyond Fish Extenders

Once upon a time, joining a Fish Extender group was all the rage.  We joined the fun on a couple of cruises and had a great time.  Now that we no longer travel with kids who’d get a kick out of the amazing assortment of gifts, we’re not so much into the whole FE thing.  However, we don’t have to abandon the fun completely.  There are alternatives to the traditional Fish Extender – same idea, but less geared towards children.  As a bonus, they also tend to take less prep time and not nearly as much room in your suitcase.

For our upcoming cruise, I found an excellent Facebook group with 400+ members.  This particular Facebook group has been one of the best I’ve experienced with lots of activity and newbies getting all their questions answered by seasoned Disney cruise fans.  The tireless group admin has organized several beverage tasting seminars for interested members and something like 19 different gift exchange groups.  In addition to traditional Fish Extender exchanges, there are magnet, postcard, ornament, and candy exchange groups.  It was hard to decide which to join!

I decided on the postcard group.  I ordered some Louisiana postcards from Zazzle and will include a favorite recipe with each one as I make the rounds to the staterooms in my group.  With postcards, there’s no actual Fish Extender necessary.  The card and recipe will fit neatly onto the Fish – or in the case of the Fantasy, the metal Seahorse beside each cabin door, whichever it may be.  We still get to do a fun group activity, but don’t need to bring anything to hang up and our “gifts” will be easy to bring along (and take home).

Have you joined a cruise group and participated in a Fish Extender or other gift-giving activity?  What type was it and how did it go?

10 Little Things to Love About Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line ships are gorgeous with well-appointed and above average-sized staterooms.  Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island paradise) is absolutely amazing.  Disney Cruise Line’s award winning service and top notch amenities for all ages can’t be beat!  Yes, all of that is what keeps us coming back – Raymond and I are looking forward to our eighth Disney cruise and our first voyage on the Fantasy later this year.  But when I think about Disney cruises, I often find myself remembering particular, small details.  I’ve compiled a few for you here today…

10 Little Things to Love About Disney Cruise Line

Bath Products – I’m not alone here.  The interwebs are crowded with fellow fans (this article is great!).  The H2O line is awesome and makes us feel pampered.  The fragrance of those soaps, lotions, and shampoos brings back such happy memories!

Towel Animals – Those stateroom hosts are artistic geniuses!  Leave for dinner and a show, return to your room and voila!  It may be a swan or an elephant.  It could be a rabbit, monkey, or lobster – that is what’s so fun about those towel animals – you never know what it will be!  They’re always adorable and are waiting every evening with your Personal Navigators (schedules, news, etc.) for the next day.  And chocolate.  There’s chocolate, too!Things to Love on a Disney Cruise

Entertaining Dining – Disney’s rotational dining is unique.  Each evening you (and your wait staff) visit one of three completely different, creatively themed restaurants.  The menus change along with some of the Disney magic in each location throughout your cruise – makes for some very special and memorable dinners.  Besides the themed dining rooms, the ships’ casual, quick-serve windows are fun in their own way, too.  From pizza to sandwiches, soft-serve ice cream, breakfast items and fresh fruit – there’s always something available when you’re feeling hungry (and even when you’re not).

Multiple Theaters – Want to watch a movie or a live show?  The Walt Disney Theater becomes THE place to be every evening (two shows a night) for Broadway style entertainment.  Seriously, the shows are fantastic!  In the Buena Vista Theater, classic favorites and the latest movie releases are shown daily – an especially fun activity on at-sea days.

Mixology, Cooking Demonstrations and Animation Classes – Whatever you’re interested in, there’s something for everyone.  Kids may have their own onboard clubs, but adults and families have plenty of choices for group activities.  Now that our children are adults, we like to attend a mixology class or martini tasting together (upcharges apply), check out a cooking demo by some of the ships’ amazing chefs, or learn to draw a favorite Disney character.  There are so many choices, it’s hard to fit it all in!

Live Music – It’s available here and there throughout each cruise and includes performances by musicians like violin and piano players and small bands.  One group in particular stands out in my mind.  It was on our cruise in Norway aboard the Disney Magic.  The group performed Irish music in one of the ship’s pubs (O’Gills) and they were amazing.  We became regulars at their evening show and ending the day with excellent music in a low-key, relaxing way was absolutely perfect.

Door Magnets – While I love personalizing our stateroom door with my own magnetic décor, I also love seeing all the fun, creative ways everyone else does as well.  Store-bought or homemade, there are magnets galore and I love walking around exploring door decorations.  Gives me ideas for next time.

Fancy Finishes – From light fixtures to carpeting, railings to artwork – every detail on a Disney ship is unique and special.  If you take the “Art of the Theme Show Tour” you can learn quite a bit about what it takes to make ships designed to the Disney standard.  This tour is kid-free and at no extra charge and it made us look at the ship with new appreciation.  Very cool.

Castaway Club Gifts – After your first Disney Cruise, you’re automatically enrolled in the cruise line’s Castaway Club.  Every time you take another cruise, there’s a gift waiting for you in your stateroom.  We love this perk and have found the gifts thoughtful and of great quality.  Last year we received a large beach bag with some goodies inside and were happy to have it for our stop at Castaway Cay.

Pin Trading – I should have outgrown this by now (ha!), but I’m still up for some serious Disney pin scouting from time to time (as is the rest of The Fam).  The ships have scheduled pin trading times and we’ve found some of our favorite pins during those events.  During the last one we attended, the ships officers had lanyards full of pins and as they traded, their lanyards were refreshed from time to time.  We found some pins we’d been looking for and some we’d never seen before.  Go prepared with some pins to trade so you don’t have to buy them on the ship.

This is but a small sampling of what we enjoy so much about Disney Cruise Line!  Most of all, it still feels like a Disney vacation (even without theme park attractions).  Have you sailed on Disney Cruise Line?  What did you like most about your experience?