I spent this past weekend helping my eldest son pack his stuff up for his big move. While I am so excited for this new chapter in his life and could not be more proud of his accomplishments, I was having a problem shaking my selfish depression on my own new chapter. The one that was going to leave me with one less child to travel with.
A flood of emotions and memories came over me while packing up his room. We have been traveling together since he was a baby, it just would not feel right to travel without him. Early on when the kids were little, we would do fun affordable weekend getaways like the Inner Harbor in Maryland or to Kings Dominion Theme Park in Virginia, but as he grew we started traveling more frequently and further away. I can remember saving change in a jar when he was just seven years old in order to get our family down to Orlando for our first real family vacation. I can remember shopping for matching clothes for him and his siblings to wear while we were away on vacation. I remember all of those times of rubbing endless amounts of sunscreen on the kids, buying plastic pirate swords for sword fights, and needing to run back to the hotel room for naps when they got grouchy. I remember at times thinking how unfair it was that the lady next to me at the pool was able to read a book by herself in peace while I had to play Marco Polo with the kids. I sit here and think to myself, I just wish I knew it would be over so fast. If I could just have another day in the pool with them again. People always tell you "Enjoy it while you can, it goes way to fast", but you do not truly understand it until it actually happens to you.
If you really think about it there are only a limited amount of years our kids are under our care before we set them free. I read somewhere that if you actually count it up, there are only about 18 summers you get to spend with your children before they go out in the world on their own. I can tell you first hand how quickly this time can sneak up on you and there is no way to get it back no matter how painful it can be. I took some time to look through our photo albums yesterday to remind myself of all the great memories I have been lucky enough to create with my son during our years traveling together.
So many people 'wait' for the right time to take a vacation. They 'wait' for their kids to be older, they 'wait' until they are more established, they 'wait' until school is out and so on. I was so lucky that I never waited. We did not have an extra dime when we started traveling and I just did it a little at a time, as the kids grew I took them out of school to travel and never waited until a 'better' time. Today as I say goodbye to my son as he moves onto his new adult life I am so thankful I have so many amazing memories to look back on. I am thankful I was smart enough not to ever wait and I was thankful I took the trip every single time. Make sure you are busy creating all of those memories while your children are still young and at home with you, they are only little once.
To book your next vacation with your favorite little one, reach out to a Starstuff Travel Planner here!
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!