Considering a Disney Cruise? Why a Four-Night is Just Right!

Lots of Walt Disney World and Disneyland fans I know have considered adding Disney Cruise Line vacations to their Disney travel lineup.  I wholeheartedly encourage this idea!  While I’ve been a Disney World fan for almost 30 years, it took me a while to see the light and embrace Disney Cruise Line in the same way I do Disney World.  Yes, they’re vastly different experiences, but equally magical in their own way.  A while back I compared the two.  Today I’m offering advice on choosing the right first-Disney-cruise experience.

Considering a Disney Cruise? Why a Four-Night is Just Right!

If you’ve never taken your family on a cruise before, choosing the right one may make or break any future cruise potential.  Think about it.  Will anyone get seasick?  Will there be enough activities to make everyone happy?  Will the accommodations be sufficient for your family size?  All legitimate first-time cruiser questions.  I really worked hard to talk Raymond into that very first Disney cruise and it was only for 3-nights!  He was worried about all of the above plus thought a day-at-sea sounded like a hostage crisis.  Choosing an itinerary that offers the best chance of a successful first Disney cruise experience is crucial to success!

Four-Night Itineraries are like the Momma Bear’s stuff in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  A three night cruise is too short.  Just when you get your bags unpacked and figure out where everything on the ship is located, it’s time to go.  A seven night cruise is too long for the first one.  It’s a pretty big commitment of both time and finances for trying something new.  For extreme seasickness sufferers, I imagine seven nights would feel like a month.  Four nights?  Just right!

The best things about Disney cruises – the service, the food, the characters, the shows, the gorgeous ships – it all takes time to explore.  Getting used to using the Disney Cruise Line app and the Personal Navigators to plan activities takes a day or so.  Your dining room servers stay with you in every dining room for every dinner service and they want to make you happy!  They try to anticipate your every need.  After a day or two, they know what your kids want to drink, they know what kind of wine you like, and they adapt to any food preferences/restrictions you have.  Four nights gives all this a chance to come together.Mickey and Minnie Mouse, DCL

Finally, the four night itineraries out of Port Canaveral are perfect for combining land and sea vacations!  Spend some time at Walt Disney World either before or after your first cruise.  Best of both worlds!  We’ve done this several times and have enjoyed every minute!

Have you taken your family on a Disney Cruise?  What itinerary to you like best?

 

 

runDisney Proof of Time – Fairytale Challenge 2018

Sometimes the simplest things become inexplicably challenging!  So it was with supplying Proof-of-Time for the upcoming 2018 Fairy Tale Challenge (Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon).

First let me explain why we even care about sending in a proof-of-time for these races.  Proof-of-time is used for corral placement in runDisney events.  The faster you are expected to finish, the earlier you are allowed to start.  Simple as that.

Reasons NOT to send in Proof-of-Time – You or someone you are running with wants their particular runDisney event to be their very FIRST race.  For a lot of people who are new to running, this simple fact gets them through all the training miles that lead up to the magical event(s).  If you want your first race to be an incredibly memorable one, you will not be disappointed.  Another reason you might not need proof-of-time is that you simply don’t care when you start the race.  I know lots of folks who schedule long post-race Disney vacations and race days are not spent park touring.  You’ve got all the time in the World to focus on the task at hand – not a bad thing at all.

Reasons TO send in Proof-of-Time – The most obvious one is that you’re an elite runner who has a chance to place in these events.  If that’s the case, you ROCK and I salute you!  Our reason for supplying proof-of-time is made up of much less than lofty race-winning dreams.  We want to get going as early as we can so we have as much of the day left as possible once the running is through.  We’ll still have a full day of park touring and dining plans once the race is over.  We only spend three or four days at Walt Disney World for these events and time is of the essence!  Yes, it’s exhausting, but we do it anyway.

Back to our proof-of-time for 2018.  Joseph and I like to run a 10K in October called the Grin and Bear It.  It’s a flat course, close to home, and the weather is usually cool and fall-like for the out-and-back course along a pretty lakefront.  We knew we could use our 2016 times for the 2017 Princess races, but on the outside chance that this year’s times would be better, we registered and ran it a couple of weeks ago.  What about Megan, you ask?  Unlike Joseph and I, Meg HAD to run a 10K before the November 14th deadline to have any proof-of-time at all.  She’s never run a 10K before and had already booked a weekend away that conflicted with the Grin and Bear It race.

So we found a 10K race on October 28th in Lake Charles, Louisiana for her to enter.  Not close to where we live, by any means, but close enough for a quick overnight trip.  I’d started coming down with something on Wednesday and by Friday I felt lousy enough to know I wouldn’t be running on Saturday.  No worries, though, Megan would go on without me and I’d be there to cheer her on.  We left Friday right after work and were on the road for the approximately 31/2 hour drive by 6:30 pm.  We’d booked a hotel room really close to the race start to maximize sleeping time and I’d picked up bananas and Cliff Bars for breakfast.

Everything was going great…GPS lady was talking us through directions.  We grabbed a quick dinner-to-go at Taco Bell in Alexandria and had just finished eating when we stopped at a red light, were sitting there for a minute waiting for the light to turn green and then BAM!  We were suddenly rear-ended.  HARD!  It was dark out and raining and there was no way I was getting out of the car to approach the stranger that had plowed into us.  Once we realized we were okay, I kept my eye on the driver through my rearview mirror while Megan called the police.

After talking to the dispatcher for a few minutes as they ran down their list of questions to ask, they requested that (since our car was drivable) we pull out of the intersection and off the road.  As I pulled forward to comply, the driver that hit us simply drove away.  Yup.  We were victims of a hit-and-run.  The police were perfectly nice and sympathetic.  Must have been a slow night in Alexandria as no less than three cruisers arrived on the scene.

Megan and I were unfortunately unable to get the full license plate number of the other driver, but based on what we did record, the police thought the other vehicle was a rental.  My only consolation is that it cannot possibly be undamaged so at least they’ll have to deal with the rental car agency over it.  I’m out my $500 deductible and Joseph and I will have to carpool while the repairs are being made.  In the grand scheme, this is no big deal.  We weren’t hurt, just shaken up (and really mad) for a few minutes.

As we do when faced with adversity, Megan and I shrugged it off and got back on the road.  We were settled down for the night quite a bit later than expected, but safe and sound and back on track.  We set three alarms for 5:15 am and called it a day.

Race morning dawned clear and crisp and perfectly calm – excellent running conditions!  Megan checked in at 6:40 and we sat in the car to keep warm until it was time for her to line up with the other runners for a 7:30 start.  I keep watching for my friend Karen who writes one of my favorite blogs.  I spotted her just before the race and she made me feel so much better – Megan wouldn’t be alone on the race course after all.

55-minutes into the race I started walking backwards along the course to find Megan and cheer her on.  I didn’t get far before I spotted Karen who was doing great (second female finisher)!  I walked on a little longer and there was Megan!  She looked comfortable and was running really fast!  I jumped on the course with her and ran along with her telling her what a great race she was having and how proud I was of her.  Megan’s final time for her very first 10K was 1:01:16.  She was happy and said she felt great.  Mission accomplished.

So, there you go.  Sometimes simple stuff gets complicated, but life’s like that…you can either deal with it or let it get you down.  As for me, I felt even worse as this week began and finally broke down and went to the doctor yesterday.  Next week’s Disney Sea-and-Land vacation is swiftly approaching and I want to be 100% by then.  Adventure is out there!

Are you a runDisney participant?  Do you send in proof-of-time?

Disney Dining – Epcot’s Tangierine Café

I’d heard for years about the great food in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion.  Aside from that single, ill-fated attempt to eat at Spice Road Table, we’d never put dining in Morocco on our to-do list.  On the Quick Service Dining Plan for our June vacation, Megan and I decided to give Tangierine Café a try.  It was a good value on the plan and the food and service were both great!

Disney Dining – Epcot’s Tangierine Café

It’s not that we don’t like the Morocco Pavilion…We do!  It’s got a lot going for it.  The architectural details, tile work, shopping, and live music all work together to create an especially exotic oasis in World Showcase.  We’ve passed on the food simply because there are so many other choices in Epcot.  Also, a couple of us are picky-ish, so we tend to go places we know everyone will like.  Raymond loves the coffee served at the Morocco Pavilion and has stopped on many occasions to enjoy a cup while the rest of us look around in the gift shop.Tile Closeup / Morocco Pavilion / Epcot's World Showcase Morocco in Epcot's World Showcase

Hopping to Epcot from a busy morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Megan and I were hungry!  The weather was gorgeous and we headed straight for Morocco and the Tangierine Café for lunch.  Everything on the menu sounded good to us, but we both decided on the gigantic Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter “served with a side of Hummus, Tabouleh, and Tangierine Couscous Salad with fresh Moroccan Bread“.

Everything on our plates was delicious.  (Pictures don’t do it justice!)  We loved the consistency of the bread and how fresh all the flavors were.  Perfectly seasoned, each generous portion was flavorful and satisfying without being heavy.  As I mentioned, lunch was also a good value on the dining plan (out-of-pocket price for just the Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter is currently $14.99).

Megan and I were so happy we tried Tangierine Café!  If you’re looking for a filling lunch in Epcot and haven’t yet tried this quick service restaurant in Morocco, we highly recommend it.

What are your favorite go-to dining spots in Epcot for lunch?

 

 

Our Next Disney Vacation? Coming Right Up!

Is there anything better than a Disney sea-and-land vacation?  I think not!  In just a few more days, Raymond and I will sail away on the Dream for a little 4-night Bahamian getaway.  I’ve been daydreaming about Castaway Cay and how heavenly that little slice of paradise will be.  Usually I’d prefer to do the land portion of the trip first since the parks are so busy and Disney cruises are more relaxing.  This trip being our anniversary Disney vacation do-over, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.Castaway Cay's Mt. Rustmore

Our Next Disney Vacation? Coming Right Up!

And what we’ve got are some pretty sweet plans!  When we were only going to have the three-night land portion of our trip, I dutifully attempted to book ADRs and FastPasses at the earliest possible moment with mixed results.  I booked dinners at Il Mulino and Yachtsman Steakhouse and left Friday open for Food & Wine since we originally weren’t going to arrive in Orlando until early afternoon.  I booked the only FastPass I could get in Pandora, which was Na’vi River Journey on Saturday morning and then chose some in Epcot for Friday afternoon and Magic Kingdom for Sunday starting mid-morning.

Here’s where having Disney friends all over social media helps – I got a hot tip a couple of weeks ago that some additional FastPasses had opened up for several hard-to-get attractions and SCORE!!!  Na’vi River Journey is out and Flight of Passage is IN!  I’m super excited to see Raymond’s reaction to his first ride on a Banshee.

I’m also very excited to be meeting up with some of those aforementioned fellow Disney fans.  We’re hoping to see Tim from Dad for Disney and his family, Scott from Enchanted Tiki Talk, and our friends Linda and Phillip (we met on the Disney Magic in Norway cruise).  There are even a few more tentative meet-up plans in the works.  It’s good to have Disney friends…they understand me.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Walt Disney World part of this trip…

Friday:  Catch the Disney Cruise Line bus from Port Canaveral to Bay Lake Tower as early as possible, drop off luggage and catch a bus to Disney Springs for lunch at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ – a place we’ve wanted to try since it opened in 2016.  Initially, I couldn’t find a dinner reservation (we were going to eat there instead of Yachtsman) then realized how early we could arrive straight from the ship and lunch was available.  Win-Win!

After lunch, we’ll make our way to Epcot where we can wander World Showcase between FastPasses for Soarin’ and Spaceship Earth.  When we get hungry for dinner, we can sample our way through some of the Food & Wine booths.  We’ll be in go-with-the-flow mode and can soak up the World at our leisure.

Saturday morning we’re headed to Animal Kingdom.  We’ve got FastPasses for Kilimanjaro Safaris, Flight of Passage, and Expedition Everest and I am loving this lineup!  We can hang around until after lunch then rest a while at Bay Lake Tower before meeting Linda and Phillip for drinks and dinner – AbracadaBar (Boardwalk) followed by Il Mulino (Swan).  AbracadaBar recently changed their menu and I’m excited to try a new offering or two.

Sunday we’re planning to rope-drop Hollywood Studios to ride Rock’n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror before hopping to Magic Kingdom where our FastPasses are for Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  We don’t have to rush and can tour at our own pace.  Dinner at Yachtsman will wrap up our plans and Monday morning we’ll head for home.The Red Rock of Big Thunder Mountain

It’s a very short visit, but we’ll be back in February for the Fairytale Challenge and again in May for a family vacation.  There’s a slight chance of a brief January visit as well, but that one’s not certain yet.  I was going for the perfect mix of action and no-pressure touring with lots of free time built in.

If you had only three days at Walt Disney World, what would your priorities be?  How would your plans differ from ours?