Welcome to the Williams Family Blog!

Now that you have found us, we invite you to return often for more adventures!


Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Plans For Our On Board Credit From Disney Cruise Line

While our next Disney Cruise is paid in full, including gratuities for our wait staff and stateroom host/hostess, budgeting for on board fun is still in the works.

Because we booked this cruise, and paid the deposit, while sailing on our last cruise, we will walk on the ship with a $200 on board credit from Disney Cruise Line.  Know that the amount of the on board credit varies depending on the length of your cruise—7 nights or longer $200, less than 7 nights $100.

Here’s our plan for the $200 on board credit:
  • Champagne Brunch at Remy $50 per person—total $100.  Yes, this glamorous, 2 hour, adult only experience is going to take half of our credit.  It will be a memorable way to celebrate our anniversary.
  • Pirate’s League First Mate Package $35.  The Disney Fantasy is the only ship to feature a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that also turns into a Pirate’s League on Pirate Night to transform guests into pirates on the high seas.  The boy wants to give this a try, so he has a reservation for a 45 minute First Mate Package make-over.  I’m hoping to get lots of pictures!
  • Adult beverages on Castaway Cay $48 includes tip.  A special treat for the husband and I are adult beverages while on the island.  The husband prefers a bucket of beers and I order a red frothy drink, all of which get to delivered to our lounge chairs on the sand—which is also an experience.

There you have it, our plan for the $200 on board credit with $17 to spare.  The extra money will go towards other ship board activities including port adventures, photos, and on board shopping.  Oh, and there’s the deposit for our next cruise!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Changes to Walt Disney World's FastPass + System





As of yesterday, Walt Disney World Resort made changes to the FastPass+ selection process.  Now, guests may make 3 FastPass+ selections for a park (this part is the same) but once those FastPass+ are used, guests make select another FastPass+ using the kiosks in the parks (this is the new part).  Additional FastPass+ selections are available, once the guest's current FastPass+ have either been used or are past the return time if the FastPass+ went unused.

Also, selecting FastPass+ for an additional park for guests with Park Hopper option added to their base tickets has been added.  Unsure at this time whether or not the guest actually has to "hop" to the other park and then make their FastPass+ selections OR if guests can pre-select FastPass+ prior to park hopping.  Word is still out on this one.

Back to the option of selecting more FastPass+ throughout the day after one's FastPass+ have been used or the return time has passed. . .  This idea is going to change how we select FastPass+.  Our thinking before was to rely on early morning entry--AM Extra Magic Hours--and get the most out of smaller crowds and stack our FastPass+ for later in the day.  But now, I'm thinking we can make FastPass+ selections for later in the morning and afternoon, and then get more!

The only downside to this is for guests who want to use their FastPass+ selections for evening parade viewing and/or reserved viewing for Wishes.  For those guests, they are either going to have to pre-select that FastPass+ knowing that after they use their FastPass+ they won't be able to get more OR hope that a FastPass+ remains available for Wishes and/or parade viewing later in the day after they have used all of their FastPass+ selections.  Unless. . . Disney categories a FastPass+ for Wishes and/or the parade as a separate type of FastPass+--similar to how a legacy Fastpass to meet Mickey and Minnie at Town Square Theater didn't keep you from getting other legacy Fastpasses throughout the day.  Time will tell on this one. 

Our plan though is to visit Magic Kingdom at least once, later in the day, after visiting a water park for example, and have our FastPass+ selections already made for that evening and include reserved viewing for Wishes. 

What I find humorous is that we bumped into Disney guests that either didn't know how to use the legacy Fastpass system or didn't want to--and it was easy!  And, now, guests get to navigate FastPass+.  I am excited to give FastPass+ a try!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Guess What We Will Be Doing One Month From Today

Toy Story Midway Mania will be one of our FastPass+ Selections!
Guess what we will be doing one month from today.  C'mon.  Guess!  If you guessed selecting FastPass+ choices for our upcoming Walt Disney World vacation, then you guessed correctly!

Our My Disney Experience account is all set up with links to our dining reservations.  Our Magic Bands have been customized.  So, all we have to do know, is check into our resort on-line and make our FastPass+ selections.

It is suggested that guests take screen shots of their FastPass + selections just in case there are kinks in the system.

While checking into your  Walt Disney World Resort requires that the trip be paid in full, FastPass+ selection does not have the same requirement.  Walt Disney World packages have to be paid in full 45 days prior to the trip but checking into your Disney Resort is available 60 days prior to your trip, as is FastPass+ selections.

When it comes to making our FastPass + selections, we are expecting the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster to be on the list of Magic Kingdom FastPass + options.  And, hopefully, Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Another step towards our next Walt Disney World vacation!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Picked Up A Few Things For Our Summer Trip



“We aren’t going to use that until we get to Disney!”  were the husband’s adamant words when I brought home the tube of mentha foot cream from Bath and Body Works.  I had asked a while ago if we still had any of the foot cream and he said that he thought we had used it all on our last trip.  You see, the mentha foot cream is a lifesaver at night when we return to our resort room with tired and aching feet.  And, since I had a great coupon from Bath and Body Works—a free item up to $14 with a $10 purchase, I ended up getting the foot cream for free!

Other needed trip items have also been on the shopping lists of late:  a travel pack of wipes, extra toothbrushes, and a Tide stick.  Spent a whopping $3.99 for all of those items!

Why are we buying needed items now?  Well, I prefer to budget for needed vacation items throughout the weeks and months prior to a trip, rather than waiting until right before we leave and making one giant (and expensive) purchase.  And, buying the items now feels like planning and helps build the anticipation.  It also saves money as I can look for our needed items on sale.

Budgeting and purchasing this way does take some planning.  I have a list of needed items taken from the inventory of what we already have.  Hence, the checking about the foot cream before buying.

Need a packing list?  PassPorter’s Guides have great packing lists for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Yes, There Will Be Ride And Attraction Closures

It has happened to us before and it is going to happen to us again.  We will experience ride and attraction closures while visiting Walt Disney World.

So far, the list of closures includes It's Tough To Be A Bug, the 4D attraction located in the base of the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  This is somewhat disappointing, but not devastating.  what will be interesting is how this attraction closure affects FastPass+ as it is one of the possible selections at Animal Kingdom.

Another closure we we be faced with is the Webway People Mover, also known as the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.  Again, nothing devastating it is just that we look forward to this little to no wait ride to rest our feet/legs, get out of the sun and heat, and pass some time waiting for a FastPass window to open up for nearby Buzz Lightyear.  I believe the Astro Orbiter will also be closed, but this attraction is not one we typically use or ride.

What does one do when experiencing ride/attraction closures at Walt Disney World?  Well, knowledge is helpful.  Letting everyone know in our travel party that the above listed rides and attractions will not be open during our visit will assist us all in planning.  What can be devastating is promising a child that they can ride a certain ride or visit a certain attraction only to find out upon arrival that the attraction is not available.

The good news. . . it looks like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster will be up and running!  And, we are still hopeful that Festival of the Lion King will be performing in its new location by the time we arrive at the most magical place on earth.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The "Other" Vacation Costs

Someone asked me yesterday if we had everything taken care of, meaning purchased, for our upcoming summer vacation.  They were just trying to have polite conversation, but it got me thinking about how budgeting for a vacation contains more possible expenses than just the vacation itself.  Here are other expenses that are a part of the vacation budget:

  • Pet care.  Whether you board your animal(s) or have someone else take care of them, there is an additional expense.  Even if someone is willing to help out for free, there is still the expense of feeding the pet.  We have a person who comes to our home to take care of our pets.  We love the convenience of this and happily consider her fee into our vacation budget.
  • Gas.  If you are driving to your destination and back, more than likely you have calculated the cost of fuel into your vacation budget.  If you are like us and are driving to an airport (ours is 2 ½ hours away), then it is also important to consider this expense.  And, if you are traveling a long distance, a car maintenance check-up may be in order.
  • Parking.  Okay, if you are traveling to Disney and not staying on-property, then there are going to be parking fees and they can be a hefty daily fee.  Even if driving to Port Canaveral and parking your car, there is an expense.  For us, the parking expense is at the airport. 
  • Lawn Care (or snow removal).  We live where there are four distinct seasons and leaving our home for a vacation means that someone has to be on standby to either take care of the lawn or remove snow, depending on when we take our vacation.  Thankfully, we have a reasonably priced reliable service available to us.  I just have to remember to tell this person and the person who takes care of our pets about each other so that if they bump into each other in our driveway, it isn’t a surprise!
  • Food.  Even though we have the Dining Plan while at Walt Disney World and are sailing with Disney, there are additional food expenses, especially on the days traveling to and from our destination.  Our family has already planned to pack fruit and sandwiches for our travel to Orlando.  But there will still need to be other food purchases.  And, I’ve got a Dominos Pizza gift card waiting for us for the day we get back home!
  • Clothing.  If you are traveling out of season or are in need of specialized apparel, this can be a budget buster.  We have heard of folks spending lots of money to buy new clothes prior to vacations.  I can say that we pick up a few items along the way—such as matching shirt sets, but they come out of our regular budget, not the vacation budget.
  • Fees.  There can be addition fees such as luggage fees that can add up and take a bite out of the vacation budget.  There is typically no way around various fees, so just be mindful of the expense.
  • Tips.  We definitely budget for this category.  On the ship, Disney now has guests pay for gratuities upfront which means that when we paid for our cruise in full, we also paid for tips—unless we want to exceed the recommended amounts.  But then there are tips for luggage porters, bus drivers, housekeeping at our resort, excursion guides, room service, and bell services.  I make sure we have a handy supply of ones and fives so we can happily tip them. 

There you have it; a list of other potential expenses when taking a vacation.  I’m sure there are more, though knowing means being able to plan and experience less surprises.  Let us know if you have a potential vacation expense that isn’t on our list!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Planning For Our NEXT Vacation

Now that our Summer 2014 Vacation has been planned, it is time to think about next vacations.  And, yes, my mind has already started to wander and wonder about the possibilities.

The thinking so far has narrowed down three potential travel times during 2015:  Spring Break which is mid-March and earlier than has been in the past which is a good thing considering prices and crowds; July 2015 which offers us the most flexibility in terms of travel days/times; and winter holidays in December 2015/January 2016. 

Potential travel destinations include Disneyland, another Disney Cruise, and of course, Walt Disney World.  If we want to sail again, which we do, it will be important for us to have a tentative plan so that we can rebook on board and take advantage of discounts and on board credits.  Disney Cruise Line has changed some of its policies regarding on board bookings and discounts are no longer given for blacked out dates, which includes holidays.  A reduced deposit and on board credit still applies.

Then there is the cost factor and how long it will take us to save for our next vacation.  Cruises are more expensive, so it takes us longer to save for our next one.  Airfare is another cost issue.  I have been checking flight prices and flights to California are less expensive than to Orlando, which is another vote in the Disneyland column.  Allegiant also flies non-stop from a nearby airport to LAX, but only during the summer months. 

The husband will chuckle when he reads this post, as I have been putting some of these ideas “out there” during our walks.  In the meantime, waiting for Disney Cruise Line to release the rest of the itineraries for 2015.  We will definitely keep you posted!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vacation Expectations


Everyone enters into a vacation with certain expectations, similar to entering into a relationship.  If those expectations are not met, at least somewhat, then disappointment ensues.  As the family travel planner, it is up to me to find out everyone's expectations, and plan accordingly; making sure that the most important expectations are met.

The husband's expectations include traveling with minimal strife and hard work on his part.  He wants easy.  I do my best to get him "easy."  He also wants to see and try new things, but doesn't always want to decide what those things will be.  Done!  His expectation is that we eat when hungry and eat well at that.  Again, done!  

One conversation we had recently was about what would constitute dinner on our arrival day in Orlando.   You see, one trip we arrived at Orlando International Airport around the 6-7 pm time frame.  We had snagged some fast food along the way, so when we checked into our hotel, I thought we were good to go for relaxation.  The husband wanted to know when we were eating dinner.  I thought we had already eaten.  I was wrong.  So, our recent conversation went like this. . . knowing that we will arrive at Orlando International before 6:00 pm, do you want to eat after we check into our hotel or do you want to get some food along the way?  He paused, somewhat confused by the question, then I recounted the story above.  He decided that grabbing fast food was an okay idea so that we could swim and relax after checking into our hotel.  Got it! (See how important it is to know someone's expectations!)

The boy's expectations include having fun, getting opportunities to venture off by himself, shopping at his favorite Lego Store, and eating when he is hungry.  Done and done!  The boy also wants opportunities to make some decisions and even lead part of the time.  Happy to meet those expectations.  He also expects us not to fret over what he is eating or not eating.  The boy will eat fruits and vegetables just as readily as he eats french fries, so I don't worry about how healthily he is eating on vacation.  And, the words, "You'll spoil your dinner" don't come out of my mouth as he heads to the ice cream machine before eating a regular meal.  The only thing I am adamant about on vacation is drinking plenty of water, and a glass/cup of milk with at least one meal each day. 

This brings me to my expectations. . . fun, time with my family, and a bit of relaxation.  I have already asked for a day or a portion of a day on the ship where I get to claim a deck chair for reading, napping, and enjoying the warmth of the sun.  I told the husband that I want him to bring me calamari and drinks.  He agreed.  A deck chair on the ship also means a front row to movies on the Funnel Vision big screen, games near the pool, and most likely characters nearby.  Yes, I want this for just one day!

I also have expectations because we are traveling with Disney.  I expect cleanliness and Disney delivers.  Great customer service is also expected, and again, Disney delivers with flying colors!  That expectation for fun--being entertained--well, no one does it better than Disney.  And, my expectation for efficiency is also met when traveling with Disney. 

Because everyone's expectations get met, everyone goes along with the plan for the day, including wake-up times.  And, yes, we still have those brief moments of grumpy, which means we need to find food and a place to rest soon, very soon!   

What are your vacation expectations?  How do you make sure everyone's expectations get met?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Food Are You Most Looking Forward To On The Ship?


While eating dinner last night, the husband asked me what food I was most looking forward to eating on the ship.  Of course, he is referring to our upcoming Disney Cruise on board the Disney Fantasy.  Since this will be our sixth Disney Cruise, we are not strangers to the food or menus on the ship.

My answer to the husband's question came momentarily, as there is so much good food to consider, that I needed to pause and consider my reply.  Soups.  Soups and seafood.  Those were my first responses.  The husband probed more, inquiring about any particular soup.  Nope.  All soups.

While each main dining room on the ship has a lovely menu with soups, salads, appetizers, and main entrees, I am known to order more than one soup.  Actually, I have forgone an entree selection and instead ordered multiple soups, salads, and appetizers.

Then, there's the seafood.  Many options, including some in soup form!  Also, there will be one day on the ship where the buffet style restaurant will have a seafood theme along with multiple seafood selections.  

I did add on to the answer to the husband's question.  Creme brulee.  I warmed him that if Creme brulee is served for dessert, I will be ordering more than one.  The husband chuckled and said that he would be ordering more than one entree.  Fair enough.  He also said he was looking forward to beef;  large servings of beef.

The last answer I gave was that I was looking forward to our Champagne Brunch at Remy and the foods we would get to try.  The husband agreed.

We are definitely looking forward to our next Disney Cruise!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Our Walt Disney World Trip Traditions



Every family has them. . . traditions.  Our family has trip traditions; things we always do on vacations, especially Walt Disney World vacations. 

Here are some of our traditions when we travel to Walt Disney World:
  • We take lots of pictures.  This would seem like a “duh” but we have seen families travel without a camera.  Either they forgot to bring it or didn’t bring the charger, or batteries.  And, while it took us some time to come to love Disney’s Photopass service, it has now become a part of our trips.  Our “must do” photo is a fireworks photo at Magic Kingdom!
  • We dine somewhere new.  Yep, each trip we give at least one new restaurant a try.  Then, inevitably, we really like the new restaurant and it goes on our favorites list and then it is hard to fit in all of our favorites plus new restaurants on our next trip!  We are still trying to eat around World Showcase at EPCOT.  Two more countries to go and we will check off one of those this summer.
  • We arrive at Rope Drop of whatever park we are going to that day—including Water Parks.  Just part of the routine.
  • We dine with characters.  At least one meal on each trip includes dining with characters. 
  • We wear matching shirts!  This tradition has expanded to even our days traveling to and from Orlando.  At least everyone in the airport knows where we are going and were we just came from.  And it makes packing so much easier!
  • We let Disney do the driving.  With free Magical Express to and from the airport and a fleet of boats, buses, and monorails to whisk us around, we sit back, relax, and let Disney do the driving.
  • We use Disney’s Dining Plan.  The Disney Dining Plan cinched our first trip.  I did not want to plan/budget/worry about food costs during our trip.  I wanted to be able to feed my family at Walt Disney World as easily as I could on the cruise ship (we had actually booked our first Disney Cruise before planning a trip to Walt Disney World—it’s just that the Walt Disney World trip happened first).  The Disney Dining Plan has been a part of all our Walt Disney World vacations.
  • We arrive smiling and leave smiling!  Even though the husband can’t seem to get excited until “we are at the resort” I know he is happy that we are on our way to the most magical place on earth.  Just the other night he told me he can’t wait to feel the boat rock under his feet.  Yeah, he is getting excited.

What are your family vacation traditions?

Monday, April 14, 2014

FastPass + Selections IF Guests Are Able To Pre-Select With Park Hopper


Yesterday I wrote how we would select our FastPass+ attractions for our upcoming summer trip based on the one park a day and three selections for each day--click here to read more.

But based on Walt Disney World's announcement that guests may soon get to select FastPass + for another park if they have Park Hopper option on their ticket and that guests may get to select additional FastPass + after their initial three have been used and availability, we have another plan.

Before we added Park Hopper for free to our tickets, we had planned on each park for one day and one evening at the Magic Kingdom.  Now, we are thinking about two evenings at Magic Kingdom, then a day at each park, but swinging over to Studios mid-afternoon on our EPCOT day.  If we are able to pre-select FastPass + selections for Park Hopper, then grabbing FastPass+'s for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster will be on our list as will Star Tours again.  Our plan will be to see the shows on our whole day at Studios and since we have never had to use the original or legacy FastPass for the shows, we don't plan to use FastPass+ to entrance to Indiana Jones or Lights, Motors, Action.

An extra evening at Magic Kingdom may mean Peter Pan's Flight, Ariel, and a character meet and greet FastPass +.  Or, another reserved spot for Wishes viewing may be on our list.

If the capacity to add FastPass+ selections after our original ones have been used is available by the time we arrive in July, then we attempt to select attraction times earlier in the day and then add more rather than rely on an early morning arrival for great attraction access and then FastPass+'s for later in the day.  Will definitely be keeping an ear to the ground about when this option will become available to guests.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Walt Disney World Planning With FastPass +



Here is the most comprehensive and easy to understand list of FastPass + options for Walt Disney World that I have seen to date.  It is exactly what I needed in order to consider what might be our FastPass + selections for our summer trip.

Like many, this will be our first time traversing to the most magical place on earth with our MagicBands and utilizing FastPass +.  This will be different than our previous eleven visits and I am excited about giving all of this technology a try. 

I have two strategies in mind.  One for the current FastPass + system; one park, one day, three FastPass + choices for that day.  With this strategy in mind and knowing that we will have one whole day at each park, along with an evening at Magic Kingdom, let’s start with our evening at Magic Kingdom—if time allows, our 3 FastPass + selections would include Buzz Lightyear, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Wishes fireworks viewing.  Notice how all of these selections are within close proximity of the hub?  Since we will be dining at Tony’s that evening, I wanted to stay close to the hub—not venture too far into the park.  And, the attractions we picked are the same during the day or night—another criteria.  Our whole day at Magic Kingdom would include Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and something that isn’t on the list yet—Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Coaster.   Yep, we would use all three of our selections for these attractions.

A day at Animal Kingdom would include the selections of Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and another attraction that I’m predicting will be added to the list—Festival of the Lion King—in it’s new location.  If not, DINOSAUR would be our final selection.

At EPCOT, where FastPass + selections are tired, our Group A selection would be Soarin’ as we will ride Test Track when we first arrive at the park.  Our Group B selections—Living with the Land, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends if we have to choose.  But if the boys want Mission: SPACE, then that will take the place of Nemo & Friends.

Hollywood Studios Group A FastPass + selection will definitely be Toy Story Midway Mania, though we will also ride it upon our arrival at the park.  Group B selections would definitely include Star Tours, and if possible that one twice.

Here’s my thinking:  We are going to FastPass + the same attractions we would use the legacy FastPass for.  Another strategy that has worked for us, is arriving at the parks early—when they open and we will continue with that strategy. 

I am still amazed that the FastPass + selections include attractions and experiences that guests have never needed a FastPass for previously.  In all of our trips, we have never seen a long line at Journey Into Imagination or Captain EO or Spaceship Earth for that matter.  Guests who are not familiar with the theme parks are going to select these experiences unknowingly and will either be amazed by their quick access or wonder why they needed to use a FastPass + selection for entry.  It is as if Disney needed to include some “non choices” to give the impression of a variety of selections available. 

One plus in all of this. . . the husband will not be charging after FastPasses after rope drop.  He can leisurely walk with us to our first attraction!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Boy Will Get To Wear Two MagicBands For Our Summer Disney Vacation





The boy is going to get to wear two MagicBands during our summer 2014 Disney vacation.  Two?  Why two?

Well, Disney Cruise Line is rolling out MagicBands on the ships for children registered to use the kids clubs instead of the chunky white bracelets--see photo above.  This was news to us and it sure caught my eye when completing the on-line registration process for our cruise on the Disney Fantasy.  When enrolling or registering the boy for the kids clubs I had to agree that the Magic Band would be returned the last night of the cruise or we would be charged $50.

The bracelets that kids wear do a few things, but primarily they are for electronically checking kids in and out of the kids clubs.  The children swipe their wrists on a sensor and a computer notes that they are in the club and does the same when they leave.  It helps monitor the number of kids in the club at any given time, matches kid to name, etc.  The other functions of the bracelet include identification and location of assembly station.  Info on the bracelet, both in writing and electronically, allows for Cast Members to know the boy's name, his stateroom number, and therefore, his assembly station, in case of an emergency.  (Guests are assigned specific assembly stations based on the location of their stateroom on the ship.)

Will the MagicBands on the ship be able to do the same?  I suspect they will.  All of that same info, and possibly more, can electronically be stored in the Magic Band.

When completing the on-line check in for the cruise, we weren't able to select a color, so I am curious about whether or not all the bands will be the same color, or if there will be some sort of coding system used--various colors for ages of children or Castaway Club Level as examples.  I will be asking!

And, while he won't get to keep the MagicBand from the ship as we won't be paying the $50, it will allow him to warm up to wearing a MagicBand for our visit to the parks just after our cruise.

The bigger question though, is when will ALL guests be issued MagicBands when sailing with Disney?  Previously, guests who had a land/sea package were issued one Key To The World Card that was their room key for their resort and stateroom.  When we know more, we will keep you posted!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

We Are Checked In For Our Next Disney Cruise!



We are all checked in for our next Disney Cruise!  The process was easy, although a bit different from the last time—better as there were fewer steps when reserving activities.

After logging in, it was easy to reserve specific port adventures for various ports—one day at a time.  Since I had already marked some port adventures as “favorites” those showed up with a star next to them when the entire list of port adventures for that port were displayed.  Once the port adventure was selected, the system checked for availability and offered time(s).  What was also clever was that when we went to schedule another activity for that same day, the system would show when we were available.  That, is a new feature!

In addition to port adventures, we also made reservations for a champagne brunch at Remy, one of two adult only dining options on board the Disney Fantasy.  We scheduled this for our second “at sea” day.  Looking forward to celebrating our anniversary!

And, since the Fantasy has a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on board that transforms into a Pirate’s League on Pirate Night, we made an appointment for the boy to be made into a First Mate.  There were many appointments to choose from and the info said the appointment would take 45 minutes.  (This was when the system told us when we were available due to an activity earlier in the day.)  While 4:00 pm would have been ideal—as our dinner seating is a 5:45 and there are many characters out and about prior to dinner, we were able to select a 3:45 appointment time.  The boy is looking forward to the experience and I am looking forward to the pictures and the story.

As a part of the on-line check in process, we also registered the boy for kids clubs.  Since we are previous cruisers, much of the information was already saved in the system.  But new is that the kiddos will have Mickey Bands, rather than the previously used white clunky bracelets that allow them to check themselves in and out of the kids clubs.  It is great to see this option!  An option we didn’t have while registering the boy for the kids clubs was to give/not give self check in /check out privileges.  The boy will be eleven when we sail and DCL automatically gives him those privileges.  If I wasn’t comfortable with it, I could have it changed once we check him in at the port, but I am okay with him having that privilege.  We did make the agreement though, that when his dad and I are eating at Remy, he has to stay at one of the clubs (he will be able to go between the Oceaneer’s Club and the tween club—Edge.)  He agreed.

Pre/Post cruise info is also entered into the system as a part of the on-line check in.  And, since we have selected, and paid for, Disney Cruise Line transports from airport to port and port to resort we were able to record that information during the check-in process.  What is funny is that even though we are taking Disney transports, we still got to select a port arrival time.  We picked the earliest time available—10:30 am!  Our plan is to be on the first bus leaving Orlando International Airport heading to Port Canaveral.  Staying at the Hyatt at Orlando International the night prior to sailing makes this possible!

The last portions of the on line check-in include agreeing to the cruise contract, making payment arrangements for your on-board account, and printing the signature page to sign and take with you to the port.  The directions for this page say to keep with you and do not pack in your luggage.  Once we present this page along with identification at the port, we are good to go.  And, of course, in Disney style, we will have our own check-in lines being Castaway Club members. 

The excitement continues to build as we count down to our summer 2014 Disney vacation!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Tonight's The Night!

Tonight’s the night!  We get to log into Disney Cruise Line’s website with our reservation number and reserve our port adventures.  Why tonight?  As Gold Castaway Club members, we get access to reservations 105 days prior to our cruise, which is actually Saturday.  But since the system goes “live” at midnight Eastern Time, that means 11:00 pm Central.

The ability to reserve port adventures on-line is tiered, depending on Castaway Club level and/or stateroom category.  Platinum Castaway Club members and guests staying in a Concierge level stateroom get to make reservations for their port adventures, spa treatments, and adult only dining 120 days prior to their sailing, if paid in full.  Gold members at 105 days; Silver Castaway Club level at 90, and new cruisers 75 days prior to the sailing.

Some port adventures are more sought out than others, so early access to make reservations is a perk.

Here’s what we are looking at:
  • Port Adventure in Falmouth, Jamaica that includes a cave tour, jerk chicken lunch, and beach time.
  • A reservation for Brunch at Remy.  The goal is the second “at sea” day.
  • A reservation for Pirate’s League for the boy on Pirate Night.  The Disney Fantasy has a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on board that transforms into a Pirate’s League to transform guests of all ages into swashbuckling pirates.

The next milestone for our summer Disney vacation is late in May when we get to reserve our Fastpass+’s!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Great News For Our Summer Disney Vacation!

The news just keeps getting better and better for our upcoming Disney vacation!  Let me share some with you. . .

AAA has a travel rewards program which started in 2012.  AAA members earn points for their travel and/or by referring others to purchase travel—click here to read more.  Our travel agent emailed and said that we had enough points for a $100 voucher.  We could either use it towards our current vacation or our next one.  I voted to shave $100 off our current vacation.  Yippee!  Even more savings—we had saved $88 just last week—click here to read more.

Just yesterday, Walt Disney World announced that they will be allowing guests to pre-select up to 3 Fastpass + experiences prior to their vacation and then a 4th Fastpass+ while at the park after the previous Fastpass+’s have been used.  I’m liking that idea!  And, guests with Park Hopper will be able to select Fastpass + at another park prior to Park Hopping.  No date as to when these options will be available, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be in time for our summer trip.

And, the last bit of good news is that our cruise is paid in full.  I will be staying up late tomorrow night to book our shore excursions and other reservations s they come “on-line” at midnight Eastern Time. 

So many things to look forward to and smile about!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Planning a Disney Cruise Is Different Than Planning for Walt Disney World



“So when are you going to sail with Disney?” was the question I posed to another Williams family that enjoys Disney travel.  The answer was that they were thinking about December to celebrate a big birthday.

My facial expression said it all and was followed by, “I know, that’s coming pretty soon.”  Yep, planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation is different than a Walt Disney World vacation and the difference stumps many seasoned Walt Disney World travelers.

Let me begin with saying that guests can and do book short range Disney cruises but they are paying for that opportunity.

Now, back to those folks who like to plan, what I would call “last minute” Walt Disney World vacations.  We planned one less than 180 days out and got it done, but others like to wait until say 6 weeks to 3 months ahead before they commit to a vacation.  This time table works for Walt Disney World.  Resort rooms are typically available, dining reservations can be had or skipped, and flights can still be found.  The resort isn’t going anywhere so it really doesn’t matter what day or time you arrive or what day/time you depart.  This allows for flexibility.  Depending on when you go, such as the holidays, the price may be different as there are varying resort rates based on the season.  And, since Disney releases Walt Disney World discounts about 3 months ahead, this type of planning can also result in discounts.

But what happens when Walt Disney World visitors who are used to and prefer the time frame described above want to sail with Disney?  Well, they may pay extra for the privilege and they may not get their stateroom preference.  The price for itineraries is less the further out the sailing.  The closer to the sailing, the cruise will be more expensive. 

For example, our cruise, which was booked in December 2012, is now $2,000 more than what we paid for it even after including our tips and transports to/from the port.  When sailing, flights have to match up with the cruise dates with specific arrival and departure time frames.  This means less flexibility with flight times and therefore the potential for an increased cost.  The same flights we purchased for our upcoming vacation are now $720 more.

Our best advice for those wishing to sail with Disney, book your cruise as soon as you can!