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?

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!

Recently I came across this article by a mom explaining why she and her husband wouldn’t be saving up to take their children to Disney World any time soon.  She made the following five points rationalizing that decision:

  1. “We don’t want our children to feel entitled to a Disney World vacation.”
  2. “We don’t want our children to view a trip to Disney World as the pinnacle event of their childhood.”
  3. “We don’t want to succumb to the pressures of a high consumerism culture.”
  4. “We don’t want to “keep up with the Joneses.”
  5. “We want our kids to explore the world more than Disney World.”

Don’t Want To Visit Disney Parks? That’s Okay!Disney Simba Magic Shot

Initially I had two thoughts:  First was (shallow, I know), “Fewer people in the parks, YAY!”.  After that, I had a deeper reaction…Why write the article at all?  If you, like me, took a few minutes to check out the many reader comments, this lady was highly criticized.  People got really ugly!  What made her put herself out there attracting such hateful words in the first place?  Unlike the article’s haters, I can understand how this mom might want other moms in the same boat to know they’re not alone in their desire to maybe not take their children on a Disney vacation now or ever.  If she’s genuinely afraid of inadvertently turning her children into entitled materialistic jerks, she needs to stick to her guns.  She knows her family best.Disney's Castaway Cay Walkway

As I’m safely on the other side of child rearing, I have a different perspective than many of the article’s harsh critics.  I didn’t feel judged by the author and I’m 100% positive a trip to Disney World was not the pinnacle event of our offspring’s childhoods.  They had amazing personal accomplishments that challenged them physically and mentally.  Things that required dedication and hard work that made them (and us) proud and developed strong character.  Things that had nothing to do with family vacations.  Vacations were for de-stressing, reconnecting, and having tons of fun.Disney Cruise Line in Alaska with Teens

Visit Disney Parks (if you want to)!

Now that Megan and Joseph are adults, I can tell you that vacationing at Walt Disney World did not turn them into materialistic victims of a “high consumerism culture”.  Their Disney vacations have made them hungry to keep exploring the world, experiencing new adventures, and facing challenges.  They also learned the value of saving and budgeting for travel.  AND they had fun, their parents had fun, and we have many happy family memories that will last forever.Disney's Hollywood Studios Meeting Muppets

Through the years, I never felt we were trying to “keep up with the Joneses” – most of our friends and neighbors were not Disney travelers.  We were the oddballs (until I found the Disney fan community, you guys are the BEST!).  We live very simply, grow our own veggies, drive the same vehicles for 10 years or more, and value hard work.

When the kids were growing up, we did without things like video games, a trampoline, a backyard pool, etc. in favor of saving money for travel.  Collectibles like Pokémon cards and Beanie Babies were sadly a firm “no” in our household.  Disney travel was our absolute favorite, so we let Disney show us the world via cultural experiences in Walt Disney World and on Disney Cruise Line visiting countries like Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, and Norway.  Also, we had enormous amounts of fun.Segway tour of CopenhagenDisney Magic South of France

I am completely excited for the article’s writer who will be spending her savings on a trip to Costa Rica with her family.  I admire their commitment to serving the less fortunate and know first hand the value of teaching children about other cultures and languages.  One thing that struck me about the article was the point the author makes about how going to Disney World may indicate someone would do so to “conform to societal pressure”.  Character meal with Genie

Is it true?  Do you guys take Disney vacations because of guilt?  Does the pressure (if it exists) make you think your kids will be maladjusted if you don’t take them to Disney World?  Will they have unresolved childhood issues?  Feel deprived and unloved?  I fell in love with Walt Disney World as a newlywed having never had the chance to visit as a child.  I turned out pretty well and never felt slighted by parents who chose to take me to Sea World (among other places) instead.  We started taking our children to Disney World simply because we ourselves love it there.Expedition Everest

If you think about it, societal pressure on Disney fans is often exceptionally strong.  We frequent Disney vacationers take a lot of flack from coworkers, family, and friends that do not understand what the draw is…How could we possibly want to return to Disney World or Disneyland?  Raise your hand if you’ve gotten the eye-roll accompanied by, “What? AGAIN?” on more than one occasion.Memory Maker Photo in Disney's Hollywood Studios

One last comment (because I can’t help myself) – The article’s author believes, “This culture is one that demands we spend money on this toy and that gadget and this “magical” trip. We don’t want to give into that pressure.”  I say, part of healthy childhood play should include plenty of time to pretend, play make-believe, and dream about being a veterinarian, a hero, a princess, a circus performer, a builder, a policeman, a dancer, a teacher, a banker, or even an Imagineer.  Indulging in these playtime fantasies in no way supports a materialistic, consumerism culture.  If you want to buy or make toys and costumes that support healthy play, don’t over think it.  You’ll be fine and so will your kids.

Now it’s your turn!  What say you?  Do you find Disney vacations detrimental to healthy childhood development?  Do you favor certain other types of travel?  If you’ve taken your children on a Disney vacation, was it the highlight of their entire childhood?  Did it make them feel entitled?  Are they spoiled or materialistic because of Disney travel?  Less apt to give to their community?  I’m biased and I’d really like to hear your side.