10/31/2017 0 Comments
My Time Aboard The DCL Magic Part 2
One of the neatest parts of the DCL Magic ship (at least in my opinion) is the kids club areas, the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab. Full of everything a child could possibly want. The spaces are so large and super clean. To enter and leave the areas your children are given something similar to a Magic Band to wear while onboard the ship, you can return it at the end of your cruise or you can purchase it to bring home.
Kids 3 to 12 will find lots to enjoy in both Disney's Oceaneer Club and Disney's Oceaneer Lab play areas on the Magic.The only real main difference between the two clubs is the themed spaces and activities they offer. Each activity has an age recommendation but there are no restrictions on which ones the children may participate in. And since the areas are connected, children are free to explore both areas to find the activities they enjoy most. This works great for those siblings that are cut off due to their ages, it is sometimes easier to know they are going in together if they are nervous and just need to break the ice knowing a sibling is there.
The Vibe Club area provides Guests ages 14 to 17 with their own special place where they can break off from the family and connect with other teens and features a coffee bar serving a wide selection of nonalcoholic beverages, including fruit smoothies and more (for an additional fee). The space reminded me of a New York City brownstone or maybe even a college dorm. I had actually overheard someone explain it as the coffee shop from the television show Friends. Inside Vibe you would find:
Character interaction on the boat is a nice change from the long busy lines you would find in any of the parks. Make sure to utilize your DCL Navigator app that you can download for free on your smart phone. Checking the app will let you know for sure where and when to find your favorite characters. Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes early to the meet and greets to ensure a good spot that will allow you to not wait super long. A tip I found helpful is that if there are multiple sets for characters, the first one is usually the less crowded one.
The shows that DCL puts on are by far the most amazing cruise ship shows I have ever seen. They are of the highest Broadway standards (and we are Broadway fans so I know a good show when we see one). Every night DCL puts on a new show and they are all amazing. There is not a bad seat in the house and they offer two shows an evening, this way no one misses a show no matter what time their dinner is.
Lastly, below you will find some pictures of our excursions. We had a beautiful stop at the Acadia National park as well as Bar Harbor, Maine one day where we shopped and enjoyed a Lobster Bake. Then a stop in Saint John, Canada where we enjoyed a bowl of Clam Chowder at the Caves restaurant. The excursions were not something I would have normally picked myself so I was pleasantly surprised and happy they had set them up for us.
Ultimately, this was by far the best cruise I have ever taken. The class of service delivered on this ship was truly amazing. There was not one thing I could actually pick that was a disappointment. Today, Disney announced their 2019 cruise itineraries so you have over a year to plan and pay for one of their awesome cruises. I could not recommend it enough. I have now become addicted to DCL and it is not an addiction I am willing to fix!
10/22/2017 0 Comments
My Time Aboard The DCL Magic Part 1
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to sail on a 5 night Canadian and New England Halloween on the High Seas Disney Magic cruise that left from NYC and visited Bar Harbor ME as well as St John (Bay of Fundy) before heading back to our home port in NYC. I was extremely excited to explore this classic ship let alone attend a marketing forum hosted by Disney itself.
One of the neat things DCL does when you board the ship is announce your family as you board, for example as in my case, "Please welcome The Cabell Family". You enter into a beautiful foyer that is home to a Halloween tree that eerily evolves through out your cruise, a piano, and of course a gold statue of our beloved Captain Mickey. I really felt this special touch makes the entrance so much more personalized unlike many other cruise lines as to where you just enter.
I was blessed to be assigned an Oceanview Balcony cabin which was very spacious for being on this cruise all by myself. You will find a video tour of my actual cabin above. One of the neatest things about this stateroom is the split bathroom. One room holds the toilet and a sink and the other room holds the bathtub/shower and another sink with a pretty large counter top. This option is such a lifesaver for those traveling with families. Gives you extra room and my favorite is that there is a bathtub! Many of the other ships do not offer a bathtub. My cabin had two twin beds connected as a Queen with extremely comfy bedding. The cabin had a decent sized living room with a sofa that converted into a bed with a privacy divider if you were traveling with other guests, as well as a nice vanity area with a large mirror. Each stateroom also has a flat-screen TV, in-room safe, hair dryer, phone with voicemail, and individual climate control.
The first night of the cruise I ate at Palo, an adults only fine dining restaurant featuring Northern Italian cuisine on Aft Deck 10. Palo is a $25 surcharge per person but is well worth the extra money. We ate in a private room in the back of the restaurant and watched New York City sail away as the beautiful backdrop of the night making this an elegant dinner beyond words. Occasionally while we ate, a beautiful violinist would stop in and serenade us, it felt like I was in a dream! I ended the dining experience with a delicious chocolate tart that was lactose free (and you would never know it!)
The pool area on the Magic is just awesome for families, far better than many of the ships out there today. They offer different water areas for families of all ages. The AquaLab, is a water themed playground for kids to stay active, Goofy’s Pool is the perfect family pool area that offers deck chairs for relaxing and a jumbo television screen, Nephew’s Splash Zone is where kids under the ages of 3 can splash around, and lastly (my favorite) the Quiet Cove Pool which is an area for adults ages 18 years and older. It was the first week in October and there were tons of people enjoying the pool. All pools are heated and warm enough to enjoy even in the chilly Fall temps if you are brave enough to get out in the cold at some point!
The buffet on the ship "Cabanas" is extremely clean and always stocked with tons of great food of all different choices. There is more than enough room to grab a seat at all times and they also have a large seating area outside for when it's nice out. I traveled along with women who had lactose issues as well as gluten intolerance problems and every morning a chef was able to create something for each of the women to eat that would fit their diet that they would also enjoy. This was a much nicer buffet area than many of the other ships I have seen and no one was running into each other even at it's busiest times.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of My Time Aboard the DCL Magic
Have you ever dreamt of taking your fur baby on vacation with you? Well today is your lucky day! Walt Disney World has just announced that four of their resort hotels have been designated dog friendly! So if throwing Rover in the car for your next Disney trip has been on your mind, your dreams are coming true. Below you can find each participating resort as well as what their per night / per room pet-cleaning rate is:
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50/night
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50/night
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75/night
Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50/night
A maximum of two dogs per guestroom can be accommodated. Each Guest room will have easy access to outdoor pet walkways for exercise and green spaces with pet relief areas. Dog lovers will find plenty of Disney amenities and special touches for their four-legged friends. Guests will pick up their Pluto’s Welcome Kit at check in. This kit will include a mat, bowls, a pet ID tag, courtesy plastic disposable bags, puppy pads and dog walking maps. Also included: a Pluto “Do Not Disturb” door hanger indicating to hotel staff that a pet is in the room.
Disney enjoys a partnership with Best Friends Pet Care, an on-property full-service facility that can provide assistance with pet daycare and other pet services (fees apply). Pet merchandise is coming soon to participating resorts.
While dogs will be allowed to stay in Guest rooms, they will be expected to be well behaved, leashed in public resort areas and properly vaccinated. This dog-friendly option will be available to Guests with reservations Oct. 15, 2017 through Oct. 15, 2018.
*Please read the below restrictions and policies about the new dog-friendly trial program (subject to change)
Only dogs will be allowed in Guest rooms, and there is a limit of two dogs per Guest room.
Guests are responsible for the proper care, behavior and waste maintenance of their dogs throughout the Resort.
Dogs must be well-behaved and are not allowed on furniture in public areas.
Dogs should be supervised at all times while staying on Resort property and should not be left unattended in your Guest room for more than 7 hours.
Dogs should remain silent if left unattended in your Guest room. If noise is heard, you will be called to address the noise within 30 minutes.
Please display the provided “Do Not Disturb” door hanger outside your room to alert Cast Members that dogs are present.
Housekeeping service in Guest rooms with dogs is only available when Guests are present. Please dial the Housekeeping button on your in-room telephone to schedule a cleaning time at your convenience.
Please leash or restrain your dogs at all times while in public spaces on Resort property.
Only licensed service animals are allowed in Food & Beverage locations, the Club Lounge, Pool Areas, Fitness Centers and other public Guest areas.
Guests with dogs are allowed to use some Resort transportation services, including Disney’s Magical Express® and Minnie Van™. In order to use Resort transportation, dogs must remain in pet carriers for the duration of transit. All other Resort transportation and public transportation, including Walt Disney World® Monorails and Friendship Boats, are available to Guests with licensed service animals only.
Dogs are not permitted in Theme Parks and Disney Springs®. Only licensed service animals are allowed in these Guest areas.
Up-to-date vaccination records must be available upon request
This year there are an additional three more Halloween Party nights than last year. Last years total being 29 MNSSHP nights and this year there being 32! This is great news because it is giving guests way more choices of when to attend. Listed below are some of our Starstuff Travel Planners favorite tips and advise to make the most out of the party as well as some fun pictures we got while we celebrated at the MNSSHP last week!
"Visit on an off peak night. It is less expensive earlier in the season and it is also way less crowded. They allow you to enter at 4:00pm even though the party starts at 7:00pm, so you should make it a point to get there early to maximize your time. Make sure to head off to the bypass on the right side of Main Street (which brings you to the back side of Tomorrowland). They have great Photo Pass opportunities! I also like to dress up which adds to the excitement of the party." Stacey C.
"If you are travelling with small children keep in mind that costume accessories could ultimately get lost or damaged. We spent a great deal of time searching for my sons wig that kept ending up on the ground which is not a great use of time. We have found simplicity with costumes is better suited for MNSSHP with small children. Although weather starts to cool in most parts of the country In early Autumn, it is still rather warm in central Florida." Danielle F.
"Have a game plan. There is so much to do and not enough time to do it all. If you have older children or going with adults, skip the first parade and stage show so you can enjoy the low wait times on all of the rides. Then enjoy the later parade and stage show so you have better viewing access with less crowds!" Patty Z.
One of the neat things Disney does during the party is offer exclusive party desserts only offered during the MNSSHP nights. We enjoyed one of the Haunted Mansion desserts as well as a Candy Corn soft serve ice cream that we grabbed from Auntie Gravity's Galactic Goodies shop in Tomorrowland. They also close some of the attractions through out the park and turn them into treat stops where you and the kids can trick or treat. Although they do hand out small bags to collect candy with, I suggest you bring a larger bag from home because they do give out a decent amount during this time and their smaller bags fill up fast.
While we would love to share many more amazing tips with you, we have to save some of our secrets for our loyal clients. If you are interested in booking MNSSHP tickets this season please consider utilizing one of our knowledgeable agents who can share all of their personal experience to enhance your time. For more information please head over towww.StarstuffTravel.com or call 1-800-314-0624.
Thank you to the SST planners listed below who contributed pictures and tips above.
Patricia Zylka Patty@StarstuffTravel.com
Danielle Furtado DanielleF@StarstuffTravel.com
Bridget O'connell Bridgette@StarstuffTravel.com
10/8/2017 1 Comment
WALT DISNEY WORLD DOLPHIN RESORT
I was so excited to have recently stayed at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort with my children during our last visit to Orlando. We were only going to be down there for a few days so I wanted to stay in a convenient location to maximize our time but also wanted to watch my wallet. The Dolphin is in the Boardwalk area of Disney, so you can walk right over to Epcot as well as Hollywood Studios or utilize their water ferry, so the convenience was excellent. It was less expensive, actually almost half of the price of the others in that area, so we decided to book our stay.
We arrived at night when it was dark and I have to say, this is one of the most breathtaking resorts we have stayed at (and we have stayed at many onsite properties). The lightening walking up among the palm trees is so pretty, the colors changing on the fountain are spectacular, and the building itself is almost overwhelming. There was even a light show that played music as seen below.
The room was very clean and pretty updated, reminded me somewhat of one of the Beach Club rooms. Typically there is a resort fee of $25 per day that covers amenities such as pool and health club, fitness center, internet access, phone calls and in room bottled water. We were able to snag a deal that excluded the $25 per day by utilizing a non refundable room rate, which is not a rate for everyone. It shaves a few dollars off of the price and usually excludes the daily resort fee but if you have to make changes or cancel your reservation you will lose your money. They have a nice assortment of restaurants anywhere from character to upscale to grab and go. They share grounds with the Swan and in total have 17 different food options to choose from.
The Dolphin is a five minute walk from Disney's Boardwalk resort which was a nice benefit when we wanted to enjoy something different for dinner outside of our resort without going far. There is a bridge connecting the properties with an option to continue on towards the Yacht and Beach Club and ultimately Epcot. In the other direction is Hollywood Studios, but to be honest it was a much longer walk and way to far for my taste, so when we visited Hollywood Studios we utilized the water ferry.
There are many great dining options between the two resorts, The Dolphin and The Swan, Unfortunately during our stay we only had time to stop into the Picabu which is a grab and go style dining facility. One of the neat features in this area is that they sell things a smaller market may sell such as regular sized cereal boxes as well as one time use cereal cups, snacks, fruit, prepared sandwiches, etc. They also have an area with a microwave and toaster oven, this way you can come down and use this area if you have bagels to toast or food to heat up. Just a few of the other awesome places in this resort are Todd English's Bluezoo and The Fountain.
The grounds of the resort are well kept and very clean. There is a lot to due here. You can walk over to Disney's Fantasia miniature golf area, play basketball, tennis, hang at the pool, get your hair braided, face painting and tattoos, sand art for the kids, rent a swan boat and more. It is also one of the only on property resorts that does not have a fence up on their beach now and that is probably because it is really owned by Starwood Resorts and not by Disney (although Disney owns the land). The pool is very large and has a great amount of lounge chairs available in the sun and the shade. There is also a grotto behind the waterfall for those looking for a dark cool place to hang. There is a DJ playing music and staff around doing activities with the kids. One of the down sides is this pool is a swim at your own risk pool. There is no life guard on duty.
10/8/2017 0 Comments
Behind The Seeds Tour ~ Epcot
Last month while visiting Walt Disney World I was lucky enough to take advantage of the Behind The Seeds Tour in Epcot. This one-hour tour is a behind the scenes look at the fish farm and 4 greenhouses that make up The Land Pavilions attraction Living With The Land, one of my all time favorite attractions in Epcot. The tour takes small groups of between 10-15 guests backstage with an informative guide and presents a more in-depth look at the wonders of this attraction. This is a great attraction for those with a green thumb, those who have always loved Living With The Land and also a perfect experience for the entire family to enjoy together. Did you know that 30 tons of fruits and vegetables are actually grown annually at The Land Pavilion and served at Epcot’s restaurants as well as some additional Walt Disney World restaurants? We learned that and way more on this fun tour!
We were met by a Cast Member in front of the reservation desk, which is located at the lower level of the Land Pavilion right next to the entrance to the Soarin’ attraction. She took our group through the greenhouse, a bug room, the actual Living with the Land attraction and many more neat areas. I can't deny that one of my favorite parts of the tour was seeing the boats passing through the Living With The Land attraction while we were standing right inside the middle of it. Gives you a sense of VIP stature. Although Disney is very strict about photography during most tours , this specific tour photography is not only allowed but it is encouraged and we were in true bliss!
During the tour, we fed fish, sampled cucumbers, and learned more about the growing techniques and nutrients utilized in Epcot. The laboratory was our very first stop where our guide described the natural methods of pest control used at the Land and in eco-farming. There are tanks full with insects that they use in the eco-farming there. They even pass some of the creepy crawler jars around for you to look at up close.
The tour then moved into my favorite area, the greenhouse area. There our guide explained the innovative farming methods like nutrient film technique plant feeding and hydroponics. Hydroponics is a method where the plants are actually growing soil free while hanging in the air. You can see this area from your boat when you are on the Living With The Land ride, I loved waving to the boat goers while we were in this area! Here we also learned about many of the crops grown here, including amazingly large nine-pound lemons! We were even told all about how they make Mickey-shaped veggies like cucumbers and pumpkins. It really is quite fasinating because it is easier than you would actually think! We were also given the opportunity to try a sample cucumber they had harvested. I have heard, that although most of the time this is just a regular cucumber, if you’re having an extra magical day, you could be given a chance to sample a Mickey Mouse shaped cucumener that was also grown right in this area. Today, ours was just a regular shape, but it was tasty and crisp!
From the greenhouse we moved onto the aquaculture area where we learned the basics of safe and sustainable farming, fish farming that is. They also explain that some of the fish raised in this area is also served at local onproperty restaurants. Then we even got a chance to feed the fish!
The tour ends back in the greenhouse area where our guide told us about the largest melon grown and had us pass around a different type of melon to see if we could guess how much it weighed. Before saying good bye she passed out a small baggie full of seeds for us to start our own garden at home. I have to say, for me personally this tour was everything I hoped it would be and more. Currently for the affordable cost of just $16 for children ages 3 to 9 and $20 for ages 10 and up this is a great option for a family to do something somewhat out of the box on their next Walt Disney World vacation. Since we donated a few extra dollars to the Disney Conservation Fund we also received a neat 20th Anniversary pin, which we thought was neat since we were celebrating our own 20th wedding anniversary while we were there! Below you can find a bunch of pictures from our time at Behind The Seeds.
Want to learn more about booking this and other neat Disney tours? Contact www.StarstuffTravel.comtoday for more information.
I recently booked a stay for one night at the Art of Animation in the Little Mermaid Standard room. I have been wanting to stay in this room for some time now and was happy to have the chance to review it. We participated in the online check in through MDE and were lucky enough to receive a text right as we were arriving alerting us that our room was ready. We were dropped off in the front of the resort by our driver and walked through the colorful lobby to check out everything. Our room was in building 8 which was the furthest building away from the lobby and food court area. Luckily, we were excited to walk around and view some of the property before finally making it to our room.
The Little Mermaid room layout is identical to all the standard rooms in the other value resorts. All of the value standard rooms have two full beds, a table and chairs, a dresser, a flat screen t.v, with a dresser and a mini-fridge. Below you will find a video walk through of our room.
The standard rooms at Art of Animation are found in its three Little Mermaid buildings. They are about 260 square feet and sleep 4 in full beds. What sets the Little Mermaid rooms apart from the other value resort standard rooms is the extraordinary theming inside the room itself. Truly making you feel like you are underwater with your favorite mermaid.
Review the map below. The standard rooms at Art of Animation are all in the Little Mermaid section which are in the far left side of the map. They are by far the least convenient place to stay while visiting this resort. It is a ten minute or more walk from the food court and main pool. For most people that is not a problem but for travelers with mobility issues, or parents of young children it may cause a problem after a long day at the parks. We were out till almost 1:00am and were not thrilled with walking back to our room. We were only there for one night so we were able to deal with it but I think if we had spent a whole week here it would be rough.
Originally, the land the Art of Animation Resort sits on was really planned to be part of Disney's Pop Century Resort as part of the "Legendary Years" section. Several buildings were even constructed for these plans. While one-half of Pop Century (the "Classic Years") opened in 2003, the other half was left abandoned following the September 11 attacks. When the "Legendary Years" buildings were first being made, a bridge named the Generation Gap Bridge was constructed to connect both parts of Pop Century and made them accessible to each other. Today the bridge connects Pop Century to the Finding Nemo section of the Art of Animation Resort.
Two thirds of the Little Mermaid rooms in both buildings 8 and 9 have parking lot views such as the one we had. However, if we walked a few steps outside of our room we actually were able to see the 50's building over at Pop Century which was kind of neat. You can watch our video below to see the view from our room.
We had a love-hate relationship with this resort. While we did not like the distance the room was away from everything, we did love the theming of our room. This room is perfect for little girls who are in the prime age of using their imagination or die hard fans of The Little Mermaid. They really go all out in decorating the room, far more so than any other Value Resort on property. That being said, the beds are uncomfortable, the linens are extremely itchy and the pillows are as thin as they could possibly get away with, but the rooms are new and still very clean which is a large plus. I would give this room a thumbs up for those of you who are not going back and fourth to nap with your children multiple times a day, maybe who are fans of the Little Mermaid, and those who are just looking for a bed to crash in at night (and will pass out regardless of the uncomfortable bedding.)
Florida Seller of Travel Ref Number ST39212
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Ships Registry: The Bahamas