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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big Changes With Disney Character Meet and Greets--May 16, 2011

Some big changes are underway for Disney character meet and greets at Walt Disney World and May 16, 2011, seems to be the go date—if not before.

  1. The Mouse himself will begin making daily appearances at the newly renovated Town Square Theater (formerly Exposition Hall) in the Magic Kingdom.  His meet and greet will have a Fastpass system—click here to read more.  And, he may begin making appearances here before May 16.

  1. The Princesses lost their home in Toontown due to the Fantasyland expansion and were temporarily relocated near the verandah in Adventureland.  Well, they are being moved again to the new Town Square Theater in the Magic Kingdom and will most likely also have a Fastpass system with their meet and greet location.  The plan is for the Disney Princesses to have a home in Fantasyland as the expansion continues.

  1. No more meet and greets for Lotso at Hollywood Studios.  Lotso’s meet and greet has been located in the Magic of Disney Animation at Studios since last May and this May he is being replaced by Winnie the Pooh.  No word yet if Pooh will have other characters join him.  This change is most likely to help publicize the Winnie the Pooh movie due out this summer.

  1. The current Cars meet and greet location at Hollywood Studios—click here to read more—is being refurbished to represent Cars 2.  Cars 2 the movie is also due in theaters this summer.

  1. This is the change we are most excited about. . .  Phineas and Ferb will host a meet and play location in Hollywood Studios near the exit to the Muppets 3D attraction.

  1. While this isn’t character meet and greet news, it does involve the date of May 16, and that is the debut of the new Star Tours. . . just in time for the Star Wars Week-ends, which do involve character meet and greets!

 While there has been no official Disney confirmation, rumors on the web indicate that the Disney Fairies may be making their way back to the Magic Kingdom.  When Toontown closed, the Fairies, and Pixie Hollow, were relocated to EPCOT.  While Studios seemed to be a rumored location for the Fairies to find a more permanent home, indications now lead to the Fairies returning to the Magic Kingdom and joining Mickey and the Princesses at the Town Square Theater.  If that is the case, Town Square Theater is going to be one busy place!

As always, Disney is changing and mixing it up to please guests while keeping some of the many cherished traditions.  Guests will be making memories this year and beyond!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Disney Trading Pins as a Birthday Gift

The husband got 200 Disney trading pins for his birthday.  Hopefully, it will be enough to get him through our upcoming trip.

I purchased the lot of 200 pins on ebay and used ebates to get cash back—4% of the purchase price.  Yeah!  Paid $.65 per pin including shipping.  Way less than the $8-$14 per pin one might pay at Disney!

The pins arrived before his birthday, but I couldn’t wait until the actual birthday day to give them to him.

Everyone was excited and went through the pile looking at each pin.  Looking at the pins helped us recall various Disney characters and Disney memories.  It was a fun way to get a Disney fix when our trip is still so many, many days away.

There were some duplicates, but that is OK.  There were no Stitch pins, but there were some others that we hadn’t seen before.  The pins came in miniature individual zipper bags and it took a while to get the pins out of the baggies. 

The boy and I are very comfortable talking to strangers at Disney and we strike up conversations with lots of different people.  The husband, on the other hand, is a bit more reserved and the Disney trading pins help him to interact with Cast Members and other guests.  I remember on our last Disney cruise, that he specifically looked for and attended pin trading events listed in the Personal Navigators.

Here's a video:

I'm sure those pins will be packed and ready to make the trip to Orlando.  Can I see your pins?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Need of a Disney Fix!

As the husband’s birthday approaches—it’s tomorrow—I find that I am need of a Disney fix. You see, for the past few years, we have been traveling on or before the husband’s birthday during Spring Break.

One year, we took our first Disney Cruise to celebrate the husband’s 40th birthday. We didn’t exactly sail on the date of his birthday, but we were within a few days, so it counted as a birthday celebration.

Another year, we tried out Universal for our first non-Disney theme park vacation—click here to read more. Since Easter fell within our travel times, we decided that Disney might be a bit too crowded for us and opted to stay off property and take in other Orlando attractions—Universal, Islands of Adventure, Seaworld, and Aquatica.

For the past two years, we have spent the husband’s birthday celebrating at Walt Disney World during spring break. One year, we got in on the special birthday offering of either a gift card or birthday Fastpasses for you and members of your party. We had an awesome day at Hollywood Studios using the birthday Fastpasses! We topped off the day with a trip to Hoop Dee Doo Review—click here to read more—where the husband was selected from the audience to be the star of the show.

Click here to read how we celebrated the husband's birthday at Disney.

See. The husband’s birthday has become somewhat synonymous with travel, especially Disney travel.

But this year, no week long spring break. Just an extra long week-end over Easter and that isn’t until the end of April. Our next Disney trip is over 100 days away!

So, what does one do when they are in need of a Disney fix? Here are some things I have been trying:

• Listening to Disney music—CD or Sorcerer Radio. We have several Disney CD’s ranging from music from the parks and attractions to sound tracks or compilations.

• Looking at pictures, photo books, and photo albums from previous trips. Ah, we remember that!

• Planning future trips. But, we are at a standstill right now. Our next trip is pretty much planned and since we have no idea of school breaks yet for 2011-2012 or cruise itineraries, we are in a holding pattern. Dreaming—yes! Planning—not at the moment.

• Writing about past trips. Yep, writing the blog helps.

• Lurking around the boards—disboards, and PassPorter boards to read about others’ Disney adventures. Living vicariously! And, it’s soothing to know there are others “out there” that appreciate what Disney has to offer.

• Talking about Disney. OK, this tip is a bit scary, as eventually friends and family get a bit tired of hearing about/talking about Disney. If that is the case, see previous bullet item.

I’m off to frost a birthday cake. If we were in Disney there would be birthday cupcakes galore, cast members singing “Happy Birthday”, or an entire stadium of guests at Indiana Jones telling him “Happy Birthday”! Only at Disney!

Meeting Characters from Peter Pan

 It dawned as me as I was adding a Disney Trivia Question to our blog that we had yet to include a post specifically about meeting characters from Peter Pan.  I'm remedying that with this post.

 Meeting characters from Peter Pan can be quite fun and a bit of a challenge.  The first place I would go to find them is the Magic Kingdom.

 Peter Pan and Wendy could previously be spotted just past Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland.

 Peter has since been moved to his own meet and greet location in Fantasyland, closer to his attraction.  If you are standing at the carousel looking towards the castle, the meet and greet is to your right, just past Mickey's Philharmagic and before a shop.

Tink is here, as well.  You can see her at the top of the window behind Peter. 

Meeting Peter Pan and then Captain Hook was a bit easier before Peter moved.

As the meet and greet location for Captain Hook and Mr. Smee was just opposite the Pirates in the Caribbean attraction, and is still located there.

 Guests could meet Captain Hook and Mr. Smeet and then just down the path, meet Peter Pan and Wendy.  But you can't do that now that Peter Pan has moved to his new location.

Of course, you would never find Captain Hook and Peter Pan together!  And, when we have Captain Hook sign our autograph book, we try to hide the photo or autograph of Peter Pan, as it upsets the Captain just to look at it!

 Finding Tink is another story.  She and her Fairy friends were located in Pixie Hollow in Toontown at the Magic Kingdom.

 But with the closing of Toontown, Tink and friends have been relocated to EPCOT in a new, but temporary, version of Pixie Hollow. 

The relocated Pixie Hollow is just past MouseGear, which is on the left as you enter EPCOT.

 We have also found Captian Hook and Mr. Smee at the Magic of Disney Animation in Hollywood Studios as a part of what we like to call the "Character Explosion"--click here to read more.

 Sometimes we ask the Captain about his different hooks or whisper "tick tock" into his ear.  This brings back nightmares about the crocodile.  Poor Captain Hook!

Mr. Smee will sometimes volunteer to take the picture, but I have yet to let him have my camera!

 We have also discovered Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Peter Pan at the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage.  Click here to read more!

 Captain Hook has on occasion been available--magically--for a sword fight just outside Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.  A Photopass Photographer will show you how.

Speaking of Photopass Photographers, they are hit or miss when it comes to snapping pics of Peter Pan and company.  When looking for photos for this post, only a couple of photos were taken by Photopass Photographers, so be prepared with your own camera when meeting these characters.  Only Tink will for sure have a Photopass photographer.

We have also met Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, Peter Pan, and Wendy on the Disney ships.  Click here to read about finding characters on board.

No matter which characters you and yours hunt for and find, have fun.  It is part of the magical experience at any Disney Park!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Will Disney Cruise Line FINALLY Announce the 2012 Itineraries?

It seems that Disney Cruise Line may be making some big announcements in the “Big Apple” on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.

Speculation abounds that the itineraries for the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic for the second half of 2012 will be announced.

Right now, Disney Cruise Line followers are left with more questions than answers. Does this mean Disney Cruise Line will be making New York one of its Ports? Will more transatlantic itineraries be announced? Will itineraries include stops at New York?

Well, folks in the Northeast would love to see New York as a port for the Disney Cruise Line, as it would make enjoying their favorite cruise line even easier.

But New York? Hmmm. . . .? Adventures By Disney had previously offered a tour entitled Bean Town and the Big Apple, offering adventurers a multi-night organized tour of both cities. This tour was offered for only a short time with Adventures By Disney officials indicating that it was not a well attended tour as many guests would visit those places on their own.

Since Karl Holz is the President of Disney Cruise Line AND Adventures By Disney, will he want to try New York again, but by water instead of land?

Currently, there is only 1 year’s worth of itineraries available for guest to choose from on the Disney Magic. The last listed itinerary is for a 6 night Western Caribbean cruise leaving Port Canaveral on Saturday, March 24, 2012. There does seem to be a listing for another itinerary leaving on Friday, March 30, 2012, but guests accessing the Disney Cruise Line site, aren’t able to book this itinerary. The Maiden Voyage of the Disney Fantasy will leave Port Canaveral on Saturday, March 31, 2012.

For guests wanting to sail on the Disney Wonder, bookings can be had through April 22, 2012, for 7 night Mexican Riviera sailings. After that date, no itineraries are available.

Hopefully, more information will be available on April 6.

My guess is that there will be some pretty enticing itineraries available on the Magic and Wonder, as guests would be more drawn to sail on the two new ships.

And, while we would love to sail on the Fantasy, after sailing on the Dream in a few months, we would jump at the chance to sail to Hawaii on the Wonder. For now, we will just have to wait until April 6.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Budgeting For A Disney Cruise--Part 2

In Part 1 of Budgeting for a Disney Cruise, I covered costs for Planning, Getting There and Back, Entertainment/Activities, Lodging, and Food—click here to read Part 1.

In Part 2, I will tackle other categories for expenses such as souvenirs, photos, access to Internet or connectivity, tipping, and possible deposits on future travel. And, while these categories may or may not cover all the potential costs of a Disney Cruise, I think they at least hit the biggest categories.

Souvenirs—This potential expense category has a lot of leeway and can be adjusted based on your budget. For us, souvenirs would include Christmas tree ornaments, a piece of artwork, and any pins we might purchase—click here to read about what we collect. We also bring home a few items to share with others and those expenses fall in this category.

Having kids can potentially skyrocket the expenses for souvenirs, but we give the boy a set amount to spend and then he has to decide what is most important. We have seen parents promise their child(ren) a new item each day of the crui$e. We also limit our spending on souvenirs in ports, unless it fits into the “what we collect” category.

Photos—Again, this is an expense category that can be flexible depending on your budget. Purchasing photos on board can be expensive, but bundled packages are available that make purchasing a bit more economical. Then there are the photos/videos that might be available for purchase during Port Adventures or Shore Excursions. Do you want that photo with the dolphin? If so, it will cost you. Plan ahead for picture purchases so that you aren’t caught off guard by the cost. I have also found that some Port Adventures—such as Blue Lagoon in Nassau will allow you to purchase that coveted dolphin photo later when you get home. Just check out the web-site, enter the date/time of the excursion and look for your photo. I would even ask if there are discounts available if you decide to purchase a photo or video when you get back home. Or check your shore excursion provider if there is an opportunity to purchase later. You might be surprised.

For us, this is the category where I lose all resolve to be frugal. Try as I might, I just can’t resist purchasing a photo package on board, and I am already saving for the Photo CD that is available for purchase on board the ship. (I caught of glimpse of the price from a video on the Inaugural Cruise and it was $250—much more than the Photopass pre-order price of $99 for your pics in the parks.) My rationale is that if I purchase the photo CD on board, any other photos I want to purchase—as the photo CD doesn’t have the cool photo borders—will be offered to me at a reduced price. Sounds like a deal doesn’t it!!??!! And, yes, we have purchased the dolphin photos after a shore excursion. We knew ahead of time, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. The clue is when it says “no cameras” in the description of the Port Adventure—this typically means that photos will be taken that you can later purchase.

Access to Internet or Connectivity—With today’s travelers wanting to keep up with all the latest news, paying for internet service while on board or wireless phone service becomes part of their travel expenses. Again, this could be a category for expenses that can vary depending on budget and priorities.

We have yet to pay for internet service on a cruise. We also don’t use our cell phones unless we are near a U.S. Port or shore. Prior to our unlimited nation wide plan, we would pay an addition $10 for 100 roaming minutes prior to travel. This small fee kept us from being shocked by a cell phone bill with roaming charges. That happened to us once, and gratefully our cell phone company allowed us to pay the $10 and made it retroactive, eliminating the roaming charges. Whew! Know your cell phone plan and plan accordingly.

Because may people use their cell phones or other wireless devices to tell the time and it is difficult to use the device for time telling unless turned on and potentially receiving calls/texts/messages, etc. we recommend having a watch on board—click here to read more.

Tipping—While tipping can be much more discretionary on a land vacation, tipping is traditional and expected on a cruise. Tipping expectations vary by cruise line. I have found a neat web-site that allows you to calculate tips for your cruise so you can plan accordingly. Just enter the cruise line, number of people, and number of days cruising and it will automatically figure your tipping totals—click here for the site. Remember that children count, too, and tips are expected to include them. Our minimum tipping for our upcoming cruise is $180 for our cruise staff. Now, add on any luggage handling, room service, Port Adventure providers, etc.

Before we travel, we make sure we have plenty of five dollar bills and one dollar bills. The 5’s we use to tip luggage handlers. I often give them to the husband before hand and he puts them in the front pockets of his pants—allowing for a smooth tipping exchange. The 1’s we use for room service delivery—typically tipping $2 per delivery. Tipping Port Adventure providers can vary.

It is not customary to tip kids club counselors, but we did purchase pre-paid phone cards and gave those to the kids club counselors. They used the cards to phone family during port stops.

Deposits on Future Travel—Disney Cruise line would like it if you rebook your next Disney Cruise during your Disney Cruise. They would like that so much that they make special offers that may include a discounted cruise price, reduced deposit, and on-board credits for your next cruise. This is an area of your budget that can vary depending on priorities.

Yes, this is in our cruise budget and we will take advantage of the savings. If you plan to rebook on board, I highly recommend doing this early in your cruise. We have seen guests waiting quite some time to talk to the future cruise booking agent.

The future cruise booking agent typically has a desk or station in a more public area of the cruise ship. Guests can find pamphlets requesting quotes for future cruises or attend a future cruise session listed in the Personal Navigator—click here to read about Personal Navigators.

I have gone to the future cruise booking sessions—did that the first time. The second time, I just grabbed the pamphlet, wrote down some information including when we would like to cruise, name, current stateroom number, etc. and dropped it in the box near the desk. By later that day, a note was left at our stateroom along with a message on our stateroom phone with the quotes for any cruises I had asked for and deposit amounts. I phoned the agent, booked the cruise, had the deposit deducted from our on-board account, and had the booking credited to our travel agent. She knew we had rebooked before we even left the ship!

Not rebooking our next cruise was the only thing we regretted not doing on our very first Disney Cruise. Since then, we have wised up and smelled the savings!

While we haven’t sailed on any other cruise lines, we understand from hearing/reading about others, that there are some significant Disney differences that make a difference in costs. . .

• Port fees—Disney puts those in the cost of your cruise up front. Other cruise lines don’t and guest end up paying additional fees for getting off the ship in ports.

• Soda/Beverages—other than specialty drinks and alcohol, beverages are included in the cost of your cruise with Disney. Other cruise lines charge or have you purchase a punch card to be used to purchase sodas or other beverages.

• Restaurants—Disney offers 3 signature restaurants that are included in the cost of your cruise. Other cruise lines charge to eat at restaurants other than the buffets. Yes, Disney does have 1-2 other restaurants on board that charge an additional fee for adults who want to take advantage of that service.

• Kids Club/Nursery—While Disney does charge an hourly fee for the nursery, all the other kids’ activities are included in the cost of your cruise. Other cruise lines charge for this service or don’t offer services for children.

All in all, a Disney Cruise can be in line, cost wise, with a land based vacation and still offer flexibility in the budget. Even frugal me—okay cheap me—can find the savings!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Using Disney Transportation

One of the many reasons we return to Walt Disney World is due to the Disney Transportation system and the ease of getting from one location to another. There is no need for us to rent a car or learn shuttle schedules. Instead, we learn about and use Disney’s busses, boats, and monorails.

Sometimes getting from one place to another is not as obvious as it may seem. Busses go between parks and resorts or resorts and Downtown Disney. (Click here to read about Disney bus stops.) Going from park to park either requires a bus transfer, a monorail if going from Magic Kingdom to EPCOT or the reverse—and that even requires switching monorails at the TTC, or a boat if going from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT or the reverse.

Here are some things that are important to know:

• TTC---otherwise known as the Ticket and Transportation Center. The TTC includes a monorail station, ferry dock, and some bus platforms. The TTC is walking distance from the Polynesian Resort—there is even a sidewalk that will take you right there.

• Monorails—there are 3 monorail lines. The Express—which takes guests from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom and back. The Resort Line—which takes guests to/from the Contemporary, the Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian, and also stops at the TTC. This line follows the same route as the Express—it just stops at the resort. The EPCOT line—which goes from EPCOT to the TTC and back.

• Boats—They are everywhere! Ferries go back and forth from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom. Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian resorts have boats that go to/from the Magic Kingdom. There are boats that service the Boardwalk, the Swan and Dolphin, and the Yacht and Beach Club resorts to take guests to/from Hollywood Studios or EPCOT. And there are boats that take guests to/from Downtown Disney from Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter.

• Busses—take guests to/from resorts to theme parks and to/from resorts to Downtown Disney. Busses also take guests to/from the Orlando International using Disney’s Magical Express—click here to read more.

So, now that you know a bit more, let’s have a quiz:

Let’s say you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside and are having breakfast at Chef Mickey’s located at the Contemporary Resort. Do you. . .

a. Take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and walk to the Contemporary.

b. Take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then the monorail to the Contemporary.

c. Take the bus to EPCOT and the monorail to the TTC, switch to the resort monorail to take to the Contemporary.

If you answered “a” or “b” you picked the best choices. All of the choices are actually correct, but some routes are faster than others and vary depending on crowds, etc. Knowing that there can be more than one way to get to a location is helpful. Here’s a web-site that provides assistance with using Disney Transportation—check it out.

For example, after eating breakfast at ‘OHANA’s at the Polynesian Resort, we were headed to EPCOT. We could take the monorail from the Poly to the TTC and switch to the EPCOT monorail or we could walk to the TTC and take the EPCOT monorail. Since it was shortly after 8:00 and we wanted to get to rope drop at EPCOT, we walked to the TTC and caught the EPCOT monorail—as this way was faster.

Here’s another Williams Family post about busses, trains, boats, and monorails.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Budgeting For A Disney Cruise--Part 1

Some would be cruisers shy away from a cruise because of the cost. But when you add up all the costs of a “land” vacation, cruises can be economical, especially a Disney Cruise.

Since we are in the process of budgeting for a Disney cruise, I thought I would share our thoughts on how a Disney Cruise can be economical!

Vacation expenses typically fall into a few categories: Planning, Getting There and Back, Entertainment/Activities, Lodging, and Food. Other categories might be souvenirs, photos, access to Internet or connectivity, tipping, and possible deposits on future travel. So, let’s get started. . .

Planning—for us, this category is mostly taken care of via the information on the web. We do purchase an updated PassPorter Field Guide (click here to read more about PassPorter’s Guide to Walt Disney World) to the Disney Cruise Line each year and take it with us on our cruise. Having the guide with us has helped us pick out our stateroom when we rebook on board as it has a layout of all the staterooms on the ship. It has also helped us pick out alternative port adventures or excursions in case of cancellations, as a description of each port adventure is included in the guide. Our costs for this category are minimal.

Getting There and Back: For us, this involves flying and most of the time, we fly AirTran—click here to read why. We have found economical fares for non-stop flights at a nearby airport. Now, Disney can and will offer to book your flights for you. We did this for our first Disney Cruise and found ourselves flying at 6:00 am the day before our cruise (we asked to fly the day before) and the cost was more expensive than if we had found flights for ourselves. We paid $766 total, for the 3 of us to fly for our next trip on non-stop flights. Those same flights today are $946, so we booked them just in time! Add on a $25 bag fee for each of us, times 2 to include the fee for our return trip, and you have our total. The last time we flew AirTran, we had enough A+ points for a free upgrade to business class and there was no baggage fee for our flight with the upgrade. AirTran’s A+ rewards is one of the quickest to get rewards for its customers. Another reason we are loyal!

This category might also include a hotel stay either before flying or after flying. Depending on the times of our flights, we may book a “Park ‘n’ Fly” room at a hotel nearby the airport. A “Park ‘n’ Fly” stay allows the guest to park their car at the hotel while traveling and the hotel will shuttle you to/from the airport. We have found rate for around $60 and depending on the length of your stay, a fee to park at the airport could well exceed the cost of the hotel. For us, the “Park ‘n’ Fly” pays for itself in recouped airport parking fees!

Since we usually fly the day before the cruise, there is the cost of a hotel prior to embarkation. We have found the Hyatt at the Orlando International to foot the bill for us—click here to read more. Here’s why: It is convenient! No shuttles, no dragging luggage everywhere. Just pick up bags at baggage claim and head upstairs to check in. Tell them you are cruising with Disney the next day, put your cruise bag tags on your luggage and leave them right inside the door of your hotel room, check out, go downstairs to catch the bus to the port, and discover your luggage outside your stateroom on the ship. Can it get any easier than that?

Another fee in this category is transportation to and from the port. While Disney’s Magical Express to/from Orlando International and the Walt Disney World Resort is free, there is a fee for transfers to/from the port. The cost is $69 per person. A town car service would be about $200, so for a family of 3, the cost is a wash as to whether or not to use Disney transfers. A family of 4 or more, it would be more cost effective to use a car service.

Entertainment and Activities: Here’s where it gets even better on a Disney Cruise! All shipboard activities and entertainment are included in the cost of your cruise. And, believe me there is plenty to do on board—click here to read about Personal Navigators. The only exceptions would be Port Adventures or Excursions, Spa services, and any on-board activities that have a minimal fee such as wine tasting.

We’re talking about Broadway caliber shows nightly and activities for kids, families, and adults almost around the clock.

We have an idea of our Port Adventures for our upcoming cruise and have saved them under our reservation on the My Disney Cruise portion of the Disney Cruise Line web-site. A complete list of excursions, including costs, is available on the site. We can’t reserve them yet, as you can’t reserve until your cruise is paid in full and your booking window opens. Your booking window depends on your Castaway Club Level—click here to read more. If you are a Platinum Level and your cruise is paid in full, you can reserve your Port Adventures 120 days in advance of your cruise. At Gold, you can reserve at 105 days if paid in full, and Silver Level’s booking window opens at 90 days if paid in full. New to Disney Cruise Line? Then your booking window opens at 75 days in advance if paid in full. 

We are Silver Level Castaway Club members, so our booking window will open at 90 days in advance of our cruise.  Since the window opens at Midnight Eastern time, I just stay up a bit late the night before, and reserve our excursions on-line.  It's easy, as they are already saved under My Disney Cruise on the web-site using our confirmation number.  A few clicks, and we are reserved.  This can be important, as some Port Adventures are very popular and fill up quickly.  Spa treatments and Palo/Remy reservations can be made at the same time as reserving Port Adventures.

Lodging: Included in the cost of your cruise. This is one area where you can go more economical or splurge depending on the category of your stateroom. Rest assured that you get the same friendly service no matter the category of your stateroom. If you select a suite or concierge level stateroom, then of course the level of service is more customized.

Food: Again, included in the cost of your cruise. Room service is also included! In addition to the main restaurants on board there are also quick food service locations for quick meals and snacks and the beverage station which are all included in the cost of your cruise.

Additional costs would be alcohol, specialty drinks such as smoothies, and having certain drinks delivered with room service.  When we order room service for breakfast, juice and milk are free, but if I added a Diet Coke to the menu, there would be an additional charge for the soda.

Also, cruisers wishing to dine at Palo--an adult only restaurant on the Disney ships, there is an additional per person charge.  There is also an addition charge to dine at Remy, an adult only restaurant on the Disney Dream.

I think I have written this before, but there is no easier place to feed a kid than on a Disney Cruise. One afternoon the boy was swimming and said he was hungry. Within 2 minutes he had a cup of milk and slices of pizza. One of my favorite memories was eating calamari while sunning on deck 10 of the Disney Magic!

So far, a Disney Cruise can be as expensive as you want or economical depending on the category of your stateroom, how much alcohol you want to purchase, and the Port Adventures you want to take.

I’ll cover the other potential cost categories in another post.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Call To Disney = Vacation Savings

I had heard the urban myth about special codes being linked to one’s name at the Disney reservation center. The first time I heard about it was from a friend who was visiting Disney and ended up in the hot tub at Port Orleans French Quarter visiting with a lady who was on her 60th trip to Walt Disney World. The thought. . . this lady must know something to have that many trips under her belt.

Then I learned about pin codes that can be used for discounts. We have had some that were mailed to us and some that were e-mailed to us. We have even used a couple of them—applying the discounts to reservations we had made previously.

For the last few weeks, I had been reading about pin codes being available for summer and had been checking my e-mail, even the “junk” folder in case the e-mail had landed there. No luck. There just didn’t seem to be any Disney Discounts for our travel dates in July.

Yes, we had already received a nice discount through AAA including a bonus gift card. But I was wondering if we could save any more on our trip.

So, yesterday, I called Disney—the guest information line. I talked to a wonderful lady named Yvonne. I was a bit nervous about asking about special codes, but she quickly found our names and our existing reservation. She told me there were several codes available to us and if I would be patient, she would see which ones might apply to our existing reservation. Patient? Please! At this point, I am happy to hold!

Yvonne, asked me questions about previous stays, how many times we had visited, etc. while she worked her magic. Within a few minutes, she told me she had found a code for us for free dining during our stay. FREE DINING! Yeah! She said the reservation was an AAA reservation and she couldn’t make any changes, but she gave me the code to give to our travel agent so she could make the changes. My heart was racing!

While I had Yvonne on the phone, I asked about any specials for November, just in case we wanted to go again. She kept trying and trying. No luck. She said that the codes were for travel through August 14 and she encouraged me to call again. I will! I then thanked Yvonne and wished her a magical day before she could wish me one and we both laughed. Even calling a reservationist at Disney can be magical!

As soon as I hung up, I phoned our travel agent, told her about my call, and gave her the discount code. Within minutes I had an e-mail that said the code was for free Quick Service Dining Plan and that our travel agent had then upgraded to the Basic Dining Plan--click here to read more (which was on our reservation to begin with) as we would pay the difference for the upgrade. Total savings: $365.00—more than 10% of the total cost of our vacation.

Incredible! I was pumped. One phone call had saved us a bundle. Moral of the story: It is worth it to ask!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Excuse Me, Do You Have The Time?

I was checking out a packing list for Disney travel the other day and noticed something was missing. . . a waterproof watch.

The husband and I have been traveling with inexpensive waterproof watches for some time. They are black—go with everything, including formal wear while cruising on a ship. Inexpensive—less than $20 each and we are now on our second set. Plastic—they breeze through airport security—no need to take them off. Since they are plastic, the bands can and do wear out.

We also consider the ease in which you can change the time, as traveling often brings changes in time zones. When I replaced my first watch, I found one that has a dial display rather than digital, so it is even easier to change the time.

Even though we are on vacation, all the rest of the world is on a schedule. Fastpass return times, parades, dining reservations, park openings, etc. all require a time. And, those are just the ones at Walt Disney World. We notice that most people either wear a watch or have some sort of electronic device that can tell them the time, such as a cell phone, while visiting Walt Disney World.

Cruising is another story.

Those same electronic devices can lead to huge charges for international calls, roaming, etc. while being used on a cruise and many cruisers turn those off. Then what do you do? Everything on a cruise ship is on a schedule. . . dining times, show times, port excursion times, etc. Have you ever heard of passengers not making it back to the ship on time?

On a Disney Cruise ship, there is a clock in the lobby atrium and clocks in all the staterooms. That’s it! And, of course Cast Members all wear watches.

I once witnessed some teenage boys purchase lovely watches in the ship’s store, only to cut off the bands and store the dials in their pockets. They had to know the time!

And, since we are wearing watches, we are asked repeatedly the time. That’s OK—we are happy to help and if given the chance, we advertise the virtues of our waterproof time keepers.

Our watches have been to water parks, snorkeling, hiking, touring in the rain, and dressing up. We don’t leave home without them! And, what’s next, one for the boy!