Originally when I decided to write a blog about our cruise, I was going to write about anything and everything there was to know about this ship. However, after some consideration I decided to actually talk more about our specific experience on the cruise and the things we actually enjoyed. Everyone's journey is going to be different but here is some insight into our time on the Disney Dream. This was a three night cruise leaving Port Canaveral, stopping in Nassau, Castaway Cay, and heading back to Port Canaveral.
Before our cruise, like many others do, we vacationed in Walt Disney World for a few days prior. You can purchase transfers from DCL that are very similar to the Magical Express (however they are not free). We had to have our luggage ready to be picked up from our room at 8:00 a.m. the morning of the sailing. We placed our DCL luggage tags on them and then did not see them again until they were delivered to our cabin later on in the day. We met our DCL rep in the Belle Vue Lounge in the Boardwalk Inn where we were staying at 11:45 a.m. At 12:00 p.m. he lead us to the DCL bus that brought us to the port. The check in was very smooth, after getting off the bus, we were on the actual ship within twenty minutes. My favorite thing about boarding a Disney ship is that they introduce your family as you board, this can really make your younger children feel extra special and is just an added Disney perk!
We booked our cruise pretty last minute in the cruise world so we did not have much of a choice left in cabin selections. We selected a Deluxe Oceanview cabin on deck two. It was directly outside of the elevators which is one of our favorite spots to be (not for everyone, it can get a little noisy).
Weeks before our cruise we joined a Facebook group for our specific sailing. Almost all cruise lines and sailings have a cruise group on Facebook to join. This is a great way to get to know others who will also be sailing, learn some great insider tips from others who may have been on the ship before, and also to join a Fish Extender Group. What exactly is a Fish Extender you ask? It is something that you hang from the fish (like the organizer below) extending the “mailbox”. Then, other passengers like yourself, sign up to participate in a gift exchange with each other, and deliver gifts to their Fish Extenders throughout the sailing. Many participants actually make the gifts they hand out. We purchased small inexpensive photo albums and printed up the itinerary for our sailing and some fun facts about the ship to put inside them. Then the guests could place pictures of themselves from the cruise in the additional empty pages of the photo albums. For the kids, we handed out Mickey Mouse Ears from Walt Disney World. Many people also make or purchase Disney themed magnets for decorating their cabin door. We made ours using sheets of magnet purchased from the craft store, cutting them into Mickey Mouse shapes, gluing colored poster board to the shapes and then finally decorating them with Disney stickers. Below you will find the Fish Extender we created along with some photos of the gifts we also made. Once we boarded the ship we put up our Fish Extender right away and decorated our door with our magnets.
When you board the ship you are able to grab something to eat and it is a good idea to grab something to tide you over between the muster drill and your assigned dinner time. The muster drill can be long and boring so if you are hungry it can be slightly aggravating. Before heading to dinner we did enjoy walking through the youth clubs offered on board during the open house hours even though our son was too old for most of them. It was neat just to see the different things they offer in each age category. We also went to the teen club with our 14 year old son to help ease the oddness of him going in by himself later on that night. I recommend doing this the first day you board so your kids can get comfortable with you there.
We had the first seating for dinner this cruise which started at 5:45 p.m. The first night aboard the ship we dined at Enchanted Garden which is inspired by the gardens of Versailles. This restaurant also offered a buffet breakfast every morning and it was very convenient since our cabin was within a moments walk from it.
We were seated with another family and really enjoyed getting to know them during the course of the cruise. Although you change dining rooms every evening, the wait staff follow you and so does the family you are seated with. After our first dinner on board we decided to go and see the new Star Wars movie. Disney Cruise Line always offers movies that are also currently out at the theaters. We purchased a popcorn bucket and were told we could fill it for the rest of the cruise for $1.50 for any other movies we were going to see during our cruise. The theater fits around 250 guests.
The next day was our day in Nassau. Since we have already been to Nassau, we decided to book a short excursion and to spend the rest of the day on the ship while everyone else explored. We booked a boating excursion with Bahamas Jet Boat. We met our rep right outside the cruise terminal and she walked us down the road to their office. They had a clean office that offered lockers to put your belongings in and also offered rum punch for adults and punch for those not old enough. After a safety briefing they walked us to the boat where we spent an hour and a half speeding through Nassau and doing donuts. This excursion is not for the faint of heart or families with young children. They even sent us a complimentary photo within 24 hours afterwards.
After our exciting jet boat excursion we headed back to the ship for lunch and to relax on the pool deck. My husband and my son decided to tackle the AquaDuck which is a water coaster on the Dream and the Fantasy ships. You will find video of their time below. You will see it is completely enclosed so it is not for everyone. I am claustrophobic so I had to pass on this.
This was the Pirate Night dinner so we went back to the room early and got ready for dinner. Many guests go all out and wear costumes but we purchased cute personalized shirts and wore the bandanas Disney puts in your cabin before dinner. On most Disney Cruise sailings they host this special event. It is a combination of pirate themed live shows, fireworks, a pirate makeover option, a late night dance party and special character meet and greets. Our dinner was at the Royal Palace which happens to be my favorite restaurant on the ship because of my love of Cinderella.
After dinner we headed to the movies again to watch Frozen II before the Pirate party on the pool deck. This did not start till 10:00 p.m. They had a cute show where Jack Sparrow showed up and the fireworks were just as good as they are in Walt Disney World. After the fireworks they had a DJ and parents danced for an hour to club music. It was really a fun night.
Our third and final full day was the day we were supposed to dock in Castaway Cay however due to gale force winds we were not able to stop. I will be honest, it was very disappointing. With such a short cruise we were really looking forward to exploring their island. That being said, we had some much needed family time exploring the ship and playing together as a family. We enjoyed mini golf, foosball, shuffle board and later on in the day bingo. We even enjoyed a smoothie at Frozone Treats!
Tonight's dinner was our last with our wait staff and was in Animators Palate. Another favorite of mine for the neat atmosphere. During our dinner Crush from Finding Nemo chatted with guests from the table next to us and made silly jokes. When Crush was not on the screen some other marine life would do neat puzzles and trivia for us to solve. Each ship has a little bit of a different way of running Animators Palate and so far I have enjoyed my time on the DCL Magic the best. While this was fun, it did not blow me away like the experience I had on the Magic.
After dinner we freshened up and then headed to the Walt Disney Theater to watch the 50 minute show Believe. It features a host of beloved characters such as Peter Pan, Tink, Cinderella, Belle, Mary Poppins, Aladdin and more. It is a heartfelt story about how fast childhood goes and the bond between a father and his daughter. Make sure to bring your tissues! It was a lovely way to end our cruise and a great reminder to why we travel with our family when we can, life goes by way to fast!
The next morning after a quick breakfast in Cabanas we disembarked the ship (everyone had to be off no later than 8:30 a.m.). We had rented a car from Alamo because our flight was not till later that night so we were going to head back to Walt Disney World for the day. They have a very convenient Alamo shuttle that picks you right up from the port and takes you over to pick up the car. After getting out of the shuttle we were in our car and driving away within ten minutes. The cruise was a nice distraction from our daily lives. In my opinion it was the perfect amount of time on that ship especially since we could not dock in Castaway Cay. We did not pre book anything at all besides our excursion in Nassau. Did not do any character meet and greets and only watched one live show and still had a great time.
To book your next Disney Cruise reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner by clicking here!
2020 is shaping up to be an absolutely thrilling year for Walt Disney World with so many new attractions, experiences, and places to eat. We decided to put together a list of the top five things we are looking forward to this coming year!
For more information on booking your next Walt Disney World vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
Thank you to JP Mulhearn Photography for the cover photo. To view more of his work please click here!
Last week we had our first attempt to obtain a boarding pass in order to enter Walt Disney Worlds brand new Star Wars attraction, Rise of the Resistance, over in Hollywood Studios. Currently the only way to experience this new attraction is by utilizing this virtual queue.
To join a boarding group everyone in your party who would like to actually ride the attraction must be present in the park at the time the boarding groups are disbursed. This means you can not send one person from your party to snag them in the early morning, you actually have to be present to be added to the group. They make no exceptions so make sure you are all present so no one is disappointed when it is time to come back for the ride.
The boarding groups become available at park opening, and they are typically gone within a quick few minutes. As you can imagine this means the park draws large crowds way before it even opens. So we recommend arriving to the park at least 45 minutes prior (they will allow you inside the park before it opens) this way you can get situated. That being said you can not obtain a boarding pass before park opening so keep that in mind.
We also suffered trying to obtain ours because we did not have good internet inside the park. We heard some people saying they had turned off their WiFi and some who swore by keeping it on so we were unsure exactly which to try. Sadly, something we did not think about at the time was if you get inside the park early enough you can conduct an internet speed test on your phone in different areas and then stay put where it seems to be the highest. Note that there is no need to get far into the park to grab the boarding pass so just make your way in and find your spot.
When the park opens you will be able to open your My Disney Experience app and currently this is what you will see on your home page. You will want to click on Find Out More in order to proceed with joining a group.
Once you click Find Out More you will then see a page that will show two options of either My Status and Join Boarding Group. You will want to click Join Boarding Group and this is where you be able to join a group if it is an available option. I did not grab a picture of our screen after we got our boarding group. We fumbled a lot due to internet access and ended up with boarding group 138 while the lady next to us got group 20. There is no rhyme or reason for this, we can just tell you to be as prepared as possible.
Once you obtain your boarding group you can click on My Status to see which group they are currently on.
I must admit, being group 138 I was sure we would not get in but since the ride did not breakdown for long period of times that day they made it to our group by 6:15 pm. Today when I checked they were already up to boarding group 158 at 4:00 p.m. so they are finding their rhythm. Once your boarding group is called you have two full hours to make it back to the ride to check in. Once we arrived to the attraction we waited about 40 minutes to actually get on the ride. It is unclear how long they will continue this virtual queue but for now you have some helpful hints the best possibility of obtaining your boarding pass!
For more information on booking your next Walt Disney World vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
Two weeks ago Disney's Riviera Resort became my favorite hotel on property, but today Topolino's Terrace became my new favorite character dining experience!
For starters, there is something about dining on a rooftop terrace. Although the restaurant is inside, they do have a door that leads to the outside terrace that gives you 360 degree views of the surrounding area and the beautiful hotel property. I am also a fan of dining experiences with the classic Disney characters and this is by far the best one in my opinion. They are all uniquely dressed to the nines. You have Poet Minnie, Sculptor Donald, Ballet Dancer Daisy, and of course Artist Mickey. During your dining experience you will have a nice personal interaction at your table from each of the four characters. They also have a very cute Disney interpretation of “Funiculi, Funicula” while the characters do a little dance around the restaurant. This happens approximately once every hour.
Now to the most important part, the food! We started off with the famous POG juice (Passion fruit-Orange-Guava) which you can also have while visiting Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa, as well as a cup of coffee. I also decided to try a classic Bellini with my breakfast. My husband and I both agreed the Steak looked like the best option on the menu so we ordered the Wood-fired Butchers Steak that came with Polenta, Pomodoraccio Tomatoes, Roasted Onions, Wild Mushroom Conserva, and Watercress. While you are waiting for your breakfast the waitstaff brings you an artists palate of pastries that include Chocolate-Chip Muffins, Croissants, Epi Bread plus Honey Butter, House-made Jam, Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse. They were fresh tasting, nothing over the moon, but all in all pretty tasty. The Mousse was the best part!
Our steak was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouth. The flavors all complimented each other nicely and we both agreed it was the best meal we had during our stay here in the Walt Disney World resort in awhile. The time the characters take with you is about the same as dining at Chef Mickeys however the atmosphere is more upscale. We will definitely be back and recommend trying this character dining experience next time you are in the area!
For more information on booking this dining reservation during your Walt Disney World vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
1. Try the local Jamaican favorites:
Try a Jamaican beef patty, it is a local fav! It is a pastry containing various fillings and spices baked inside a flaky shell, kind of like an apple turn over. If you enjoy a good beer, pair it with a Red Stripe. Red Stripe is a pale lager Jamaica is well known for. Don't forget the Jamaican staple 'Jerk Chicken'.
2.Visit a waterfall:
Jamaica is not only known for their beautiful white sand beaches, it is also known for being the land of waterfalls. You can choose the country’s most famous Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios or check out YS Falls or Blue Hole for a little more off the cuff scenery.
3. Utilize Club Mobays VIP airport services:
There is nothing better than an easy airport arrival and departure, especially when you are ready to jump right into vacation mode! Utilizing Club Mobay's fast track and personalized meet and greet services along with their VIP Lounges will get you through long custom lines and is the only way to travel in VIP style.
4. Always use sunblock:
The Skin Cancer Foundation always advises us to wear UV protective clothing, hat and sunglasses, but never forget your sunscreen, either. The sun in Jamaica is very strong all year long. Also consider bringing insect repellent.
5. Bring enough money for tips:
Remember to bring enough singles, fives and tens in US dollars. Consider carrying your money in a fanny pack or a crossbody until you make it to your room and obtain the key to your safe. Make sure to place the money and any of your personal ID's and credit cards in the safe and take out only the money you'll need for the day.
To book your next Jamaican vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel by clicking here!
I knew the property was going to be beautiful, it's Disney, they never disappoint. I was not expecting for this resort to instantly become my new favorite hotel from the moment I walked in. For those who know me well, they know my love for Cinderella and many of the other classic princesses. This property embodies all of them and more. Many of you Walt fans also know that he was truly obsessed with Europe and being on property here actually makes you feel connected to him through their use of European architecture. Many of the hallways are covered in vintage photos of Walt, and the hallways that are not, are covered with vintage classic photos of those favorite princesses of mine. This hotel was going to win me over one way or another.
Walt's saying of "it's kinda fun to do the impossible" continues on with his legacy when you visit properties such as this. Walking into the Deluxe Studio I was instantly reminded of the beauty of my childhood. The studio is so very tasteful with hints of class and sophistication a princess would expect. It is a large room with a queen bed, a queen pull down and a single murphy. The ease of having two of these beds up at night make the room extra spacious during the day for the family! This room comfortably sleeps up to 5 adults. I also really loved having the split bathroom where one person can use the shower while the other guest utilizes the bathtub with being able to maintain each others privacy with the doors in between.
Primo Piatto, the food court area, is different than most other Disney properties with the open air kitchen that they offer. I found it to really go with the European flow they were striving for!
The Riviera Resort also offers an ala carte character breakfast at Topolino's Terrace which Starstuff Travel will be featuring in two more weeks when we come back to enjoy a meal with Mickey and friends. For dinner you can enjoy delicious seafood and meat dishes, handmade pasta and delicious desserts inspired with French flare and Italian flavors all while enjoying a beautiful rooftop dining experience that I am dying to come back to check out.
The resort offers two pools, the main pool with a neat water park type area for younger kids and a large pool area with a water slide for adults and kids to enjoy together. There is a bar area outside the main pool area with a more serene pool a few steps away if your looking for a little bit more relaxation.
The ease of getting to the property is the icing on the cake. I am so excited to talk about it in further detail when I come back but for now I am so thankful to have been able to be a part of the grand opening!
To book your next Walt Disney World vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!
Just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Washington D.C. is a little area on the Potomac called National Harbor, Maryland. Many times confused with Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, strictly due to the word ‘Harbor’ it is actually not even really that close to the Baltimore area.
Four years ago I was introduced to the head of the tourism board for National Harbor, Josh Winston, at the Las Vegas Travel Forum hosted by the Travel Show Marketing Group. During our short 6 minute round table introduction, Josh told us all about the area and I was sold in those 6 minutes. The area in Maryland is actually only about 4 hours from our agency headquarters in New Jersey so it was a very attractive selling point when considering putting together a group for Starstuff Travel to head down there at Christmas time. He put me in touch with the group department at the famous Marriott property Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center and the rest is history for our agencies annual Holiday Magic Experience in National Harbor, Maryland.
This year the agency hosted our third annual group trip to the beautiful area of Maryland. It is truly nothing short of spectacular during the holiday season. It reminds me of something out of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Besides all the great shopping and dining experiences available, the harbor has a great big Christmas tree right in the middle of town that offers a light show every 30 minutes and on select Saturday nights even has fireworks and snow! They also have a large movie screen in the same area of the Christmas tree where they feature holiday movies throughout the holiday season. A short walk down the pier and you can ride the Capitol Wheel which is listed as one of the ten largest Ferris wheels in the country offering magnificent views of the Potomac.
Although there are many great accommodations in the area, our group has been staying at the Gaylord National the past three years. One of my favorite parts of this trip is the ease of being able to park your car for the weekend and not needing to use it again until you are ready to head home. Everything in town is within walking distance and if you want to head to the nearby MGM Casino for a night out of gambling or the Tanger outlets for shopping they have a complimentary shuttle for those staying in any of the local hotels. Each year the Gaylord is home to ICE which is an event showcasing millions of pounds of sculpted ice that changes every year. This years theme was my favorite, the Grinch that Stole Christmas. The Gaylord also offers character breakfast that showcases whatever the theme of ICE is for that year along with Santa and Mrs. Claus meet and greets, ice skating, ice tubing, Build a Bear Workshop and many more holiday themed activities. You can see why the area would be such a draw for families looking to jump start the holiday season.
The Tourism Board of National Harbor has been absolutely fantastic to work with. They are all about growing the awareness of their area and all that it has to offer. Not only during the holidays but all year long. In fact, I have been advising clients it is a great destination during times like the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. They have a ferry that will bring you over to the Wharf area of DC as well as Alexandria, VA so it would be a great alternative for those looking to attend the festival during the day but also have some awesome nightlife with the amazing dining options that the Harbor area is known for.
For those not within driving distance, the National Harbor can also be reached by flying into BWI or Dulles airport and renting a car. Both airports are about forty five minutes from the area. So you can see just by reading this how 4 years ago I was sold within those 6 minutes hearing about what the Harbor had to offer me and our clients, now all that is left for you to do is actually book your next getaway or vacation to National Harbor, Maryland!
To book your next National Harbor vacation reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!
The idea of going to Disney during Jersey Week was well....the thing of nightmares. I knew better after all I am surrounded by travel agents. So, when the idea of making the trip presented itself as a last minute idea...I was totally against it, but it was Disney. Eventually I caved to family pressure and we hit the open road. Flying was out of our budget for this time around.
What follows is my trip journal and the best Disney trip we have had. NO FastPass+, NO Dining Plans, NO Autograph Books just living in the moment knowing there would be lines, crowds and GREAT TIMES!
To book your next Jersey Week adventure, road trip, or family getaway, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
Traveling together as a mom and daughter duo can enhance your relationship when it is stuck in a rut. It can put you both in unique situations where you have the ability to possibly spark once-in-a-lifetime conversations that you do not have on an everyday basis. The pictures and stories you’ll share will be with you forever and will be heart warming to look back on. This past month I was lucky enough to have traveled to Las Vegas with my teenage daughter where we enjoyed the spa, shopping, shows and dining together for a few days. Then the following week I headed down to National Harbor, Maryland with my own mother for a Christmas holiday tradition at the Gaylord National Resort. I typically attend the ICE event here with my own children, but this year I was the daughter part of the mother/daughter trip. Below you will find the four most important reasons I believe Mother/Daughter trips are so important!
1. You can learn things you never knew about each other
As the daughter part of this traveling duo, you have surpassed those horrible teenage years where most of your conversations are just arguments about your choice in friends, your body piercings, or your lack of judgement when it comes to boys. At this point your closer to being peers and have way more in common to chit chat about. As the mother portion of the trip you are building a stronger bond with your daughter and setting the foundation of a lifelong friendship together. You will have more time to spend spoiling her without the other kids getting jealous.
2. You will create lifelong memories to look back on
It is not always easy to think about the unknown and how tomorrow is never promised, but tomorrow is really never promised. You will never regret the time you spend traveling together. It gives us the chance to create those memories, grow our scrap book with photos and take lots of video to watch down the road in future, maybe even to share with those new future bundles of joy that are later welcomed into the family.
3. You will make great travel companions
As the daughter, you most likely learned everything you knew about traveling from doing so with your mom when you were little. As the mother, you can share your love of travel with your daughter. The great thing about traveling together is there is never a need to be anything but yourself and it should be easy to figure out a comfortable balance between the two of you while away. Chances are you have more of the same likes than dislikes when it comes to things like food and hotel amenities.
4. Mother/Daughter trips can boost your health
It is a known fact that working on your relationships can help relieve stress that can otherwise adversely affect your physical and emotional health. Spending the alone time together during travel you are less likely to fight while you are away from home. It is a time you can also use to bury the hatchet if there is one.
Getting to enjoy both sides as a mother one week and a daughter the next gave me great insight into why traveling together is so important. I loved learning new things about my daughter but I also loved hearing old stories from my mom. I look forward to making these types of trips a tradition in our house for years to come!
When you are ready to book your Mother/Daughter travel reach out to one of our Starstuff Travel Planners by visiting here!
Don’t miss your chance to make history as we proudly present the first ever Epic Character Race weekend with a 5K Saturday February 1, 2020 through Universal Studios Florida. Take home brag-worthy swag as you join your favorite characters from Illumination’s Minions, Jurassic World, DreamWorks Animation's Shrek, Transformers and more. After the race, relax and refresh at your hotel and then hit the parks to enjoy all your favorite rides and attractions.
Universal Orlando’s 5K Epic Character Race takes place February 1, 2020. Travel period must include this date in order to enjoy all package inclusions. Package payment is required in full at time of booking and is non-refundable.
For more information on booking the race, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner today by clicking here!