Disney Cruise Line

25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 17: Balsamic Grande at Disney Cruise Line’s Palo

by on December 17, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY SEVENTEEN: Balsamic Grand at Palo (Disney Cruise Line)

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Balsamic Grand at Palo. (photo by William Hirsch)

 

There were many aspects of the Disney Cruise that I sailed on earlier this year which gave me a better understanding of why so many people become “addicted” to cruising. One of the areas that stood out to me the most was the overall level of service that guests receive while on the ship, and the pinnacle of that service was at the ship’s upscale Italian restaurant Palo. To summarize: an amazing dining experience, one of the best I have had anywhere, land or sea. The signature cocktail of Palo is the Balsamic Grande, and it is the perfect drink to begin the journey you are about to take within this gorgeous restaurant.  Ingredients: 5 fresh strawberries, divided, 1 1/2 ounces agave nectar, 1/2 ounce balsamic vinegar (aged 8 years), and 5 ounces Grey Goose Vodka Muddle strawberries with agave and balsamic vinegar in a mixing glass. Add vodka and ice; shake and strain into chilled martini glass.

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25 Drinks of Christmas Countdown – Day 4: Sunken Treasure on the Disney Cruise Line

by on December 4, 2014

The Christmas season is my absolute favorite time of the year. Growing up, one of the little things I loved most was getting an Advent calendar and counting down the days until Santa would be coming down the chimney. As I grew older, I had to leave Advent calendars in the rear view mirror,* but I still miss that daily countdown building anticipation to the big day. So, we’re going to start a virtual Advent calendar here at TouringPlans. For 2014, we are going to countdown our favorite drinks at Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort.

Criteria: Drinks can be alcoholic or nonalcoholic. Drinks can come from any venue on property as well as the Disney Cruise Line. Bonus points awarded for atmosphere where drink is served. Any drink with glow cubes is immediately disqualified. Ready? Let’s go!

DAY FOUR: Sunken Treasure on the Disney Cruise Line

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Sunken Treasure on the Disney Wonder.

 

One of the fun surprises on our first Disney Cruise sailing was experiencing Pirate Night. We were not prepared for how many guests onboard the ship got into the occasion, many with costumes rivaling the quality of Disney itself, and I was completely blown away by the fireworks show on the sea. The “drink of the day” for Pirate Night is the Sunken Treasure, and it was one that stood out, both visually and in taste. The green/yellow appearance makes the drink pop with color, and the tropical look completely fits with the Caribbean theme for the entire day at sea.

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Thanksgiving on the Disney Wonder and Castaway Cay

by on November 30, 2014

Let’s clear something up right away. If you’re caught up on the TouringPlans blog, or follow us on Twitter, you already know that the Bloom family won Thanksgiving. We’re all just battling for second place at this point.

This Thanksgiving, Len Testa and I were on a 5-night Western Caribbean Disney cruise on the Wonder. To be honest, cruising wasn’t my first choice for celebrating. My intent was always to spend the holiday in Palm Springs. Unfortunately, no one else in the family was keen on it, and airfare to California from North Carolina never dropped to within my comfort level. So with two weeks to spare, and having eliminated a few other options, I found restricted rates* on the Wonder for the 23rd to the 28th. This met my needs of warm weather, not having to cook, and price, so after finding favorable airfare, I booked it.

The atrium of the DCL Wonder decked out for Christmas in November. Photo - Laurel Stewart

The atrium of the DCL Wonder decked out for Christmas in November. Photo – Laurel Stewart

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DISNEY CRUISE LINE: Christmas Merchandise Photo Report

by on November 28, 2014

Last month we featured photo reports of the merchandise available in the Disney Cruise Line gift shops, along with Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Since that time, DCL has shifted over into its Very Merrytime sailings and has a limited selection of Christmas-related items for sale.

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DCL Christmas Ornament. $11.95.

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Surprises #Everywhere On The Disney Dream

by on November 18, 2014

I had never boarded a cruise ship prior to the TouringPlans #Everywhere event in October, which tasked my family with sailing on the Disney Dream. I had knowledge of Disney Cruise Line from colleagues, relatives, podcasts, and random people in theme parks. Plus, I did the technical work for the Disney Cruise Line portion of the TouringPlans.com website, so I’ve been exposed to plenty of facts about sailing with Disney. Still, Disney Cruise Line (and cruising, in general) was full of surprises for me, some good and some bad. I share some observations as a cruise novice below, well aware of the fact that what suprised me would not have shocked someone more familar with cruises.

Pools are boring.

There’s a pool in the shape of Mickey’s head! Doesn’t swimming in his ear sound great? Well, the pools are tiny and crowded, so you won’t do more than sit or stand. It’s neat that you can watch a movie on the giant Funnel Vision screen while wading, and my kid enjoyed splashing around in the Mickey Pool, but the pools are not at all like the pools at Disney Resort Hotels. That said, the slides are fun, and there are plenty of great swimming opportunities on Castaway Cay and on many shore excursions.

Disney Dream Deck 11

Doesn’t this look fabulous? Looks can be deceiving.

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Disney Cruise Line Testing Palo/Remy Brunch on Nassau Port Days

by on November 17, 2014

Guests sailing on recent 3-day Disney Cruise Line voyages on the Dream have reported that DCL is now testing brunch service at both Remy and Palo during port days at Nassau, Bahamas. Previously, brunch at these locations had only been offered on days at sea.

Typical Palo brunch offerings.

Typical Palo brunch offerings.

Remy and Palo are the Dream’s premier restaurants, offering enhanced food, beverages, and service for an upcharge over the ship’s other dining venues. Brunch during sea days has typically been popular, often with higher demand than availability.

A few guests have reported seeing booking for this available via their DCL Planning Center online, but this is inconsistent. Others have been told about the expanded dining options while speaking with cast members on board the ship. If dining at Remy or Palo during a port day is something you’re interested in, check your Planning Center frequently and/or stop by Guest Services on your embarkation day to ask about availability.

I’m happy to see Disney attempting to provide more dining choices for guests opting to stay on board during the Nassau port call.

Please let us know if you’re offered Palo or Remy brunch during your Nassau stop on the Dream, or on any of the Disney ships. We’re eager to learn more about this new offering.

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Disney Cruise Line: RunDisney Castaway Cay 5K Photo Report

by on November 12, 2014

My recent sailing on the Disney Wonder brought with it several surprises, the biggest of which – for me – was biting the bullet and signing up for my first official runDisney event, the Castaway Cay 5k. I had no plans to participate in the event before the cruise, as it would clearly cut into my buffet time, but when researching a Castaway Cay 5k question from a TouringPlans reader, I temporarily lost my mind and signed up for the race. I will now present a gripping tale of human triumph and the 100% totally true story of how one man overcame all obstacles, including Mother Nature herself, to take home the elusive Castaway Cay 5k medal.

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Castaway Cay 5k bibs.

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10 Things to Know about Concierge Staterooms on Disney Cruise Line

by on November 11, 2014

Upgrading from your usual category stateroom is a dangerous game. You start off on your first cruise in an inside room thinking, “I’m just happy to be on the ship! How much time will I spend in my room anyway?” On your next cruise, you upgrade to an oceanview for one cruise and realize you can’t ever go back to a room where there are no real windows. Then, just once, you decide to splurge for a verandah—and now you never want the terrible inconvenience of walking up a few decks to be outside in the glorious ocean air. Well, let me tell you those upgrades were but a hop compared to the Grand Canyon jump that is concierge. After my recent sailing in a one-bedroom suite on the Dream (all the suites are “concierge” on Disney Cruise Line), I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like I’m sailing in a closet in my oceanview stateroom on my upcoming Thanksgiving cruise!

Recently, I was lucky enough to split the cost of a one-bedroom suite on the Disney Dream with a friend on a 4-night, off-season cruise, and my cost wasn’t ridiculous. There are times when the additional cost has passed ridiculous and found full-blown disbelief. Price out the Roy Disney Suite on a longer summer cruise and you’ll be convinced there must be a typo or horrible glitch in the system. No one really pays that right? Actually they do. Concierge sells out all the time. There are reasons it costs more though. And for some people, it’s worth it.

1. Embarkation Day is Super Smooth – For those of you that are frustrated by picking arrival times to the port, you may like to know that concierge guests do not pick an arrival time, they can arrive at their leisure. Once there, they also have a separate check-in with minimal to no waits. After concierge guests check in, they are welcomed into a separate lounge reserved just for them while awaiting boarding. When the ship is cleared, before boarding numbers begin to be called, the concierge guests are led through a side door and up the gangway. When we boarded the Dream, we took our boarding picture quickly and were literally the first guests onboard the ship. The concierge guests gather in an empty lobby and are then escorted upstairs to the concierge lounge on Deck 12 by one of the concierge hosts. They are met there by some of the ship’s officers and the rest of the concierge team. There are snacks and drinks (both non-alcoholic and fully alcoholic), and the concierge hosts meet with each family to go over everything they have booked beforehand to see if they would like to add anything. It’s quite the luxurious way to start a cruise.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Surprises of the Disney Cruise Line

by on November 8, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Surprises of the Disney Cruise Line. Several weeks ago we posted an article on Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise, which covered the “big picture” of why you should consider setting sail with The Mouse, but this week we’ll take a look some of the smaller details that made a significant impact on my vacation. Leading up to the cruise, I had done a decent amount of research on TouringPlans, the Disney Cruise Line Blog, and reading Erin Foster’s numerous DCL posts on the blog, but once I stepped onto the deck of the Disney Wonder I still had one surprise after another.  Here are my six favorite surprises of the trip (remember, you can click on any picture to see it in full size)…

# 6 – DCL Beer Mug Card

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DCL Beer Mug.

 

I’m a big fan of souvenir glasses (and we covered several of options available in the photo reports of the DCL gift shops and Castaway Cay) so I was definitely drawn to the DCL Beer Mug. Aside from being a neat souvenir, the mug has two benefits that come along with it. The first benefit is the fact that each time you get a beer in the mug you are given a 22 oz serving, but only charged for 16 oz.  Secondly, the mug itself has a good amount of weight to it, so it was a nice surprise to find out you don’t have to carry it around with you during the cruise. When you are done drinking, you hand the mug back to your server/bartender, and they will give you a card which you can then exchange for another mug when you are ready to drink again. This option became so handy and convenient throughout the trip, that I began to wish there was some practical way the theme parks could incorporate it into their day-to-day operations.

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Travel Warnings Issued for Nassau

by on November 7, 2014

The U.S. Embassy in Nassau, Bahamas has issued a Security Awareness memo for the holiday season 2014, advising U.S. citizens traveling to the Bahamas to “be aware of their surroundings and remain on heightened alert to avoid being the victims of crime.” This is the fourth memo on this topic issued during calendar 2014. The Canadian government posted similar warnings earlier this fall.

Nassau Harbor

Nassau Harbor

Other than Castaway Cay, Nassau is the most visited port for Disney Cruise Line.

The Embassy memo goes on to state, “Three armed robberies of U.S. citizens have occurred in daylight hours in heavily frequented tourist areas.” Other reports include notes about sexual assaults perpetrated by unregulated jet ski operators on Paradise Island. The advisory mentions monitoring local news stations for updates and maintaining a high level of vigilance when out and about.

The Nassau Guardian newspaper denies the credibility of the Embassy reports, claiming that the local police were unaware of some of the alleged crimes.

The Atlantis resort, site of many of the DCL Nassau port adventures, has increased their security in recent weeks.

We’ve never had any problems in Nassau, but as with any travel, caution is recommended. If you’re on a three or four night cruise and relaxation is a key vacation component for you, you may want to consider remaining on board your ship during the Nassau port stop. (We’ve recommended this prior to any warnings.) The ship’s amenities cannot all be experienced during a brief sailing. Staying on the ship may allow you to more time to visit the spa, participate in the children’s programming, or stuff yourself at the buffet. Remember that many activities on board are included in the cost of your sailing, so staying on board can be an easy way to economize.

If you plan to explore Nassau, be cognizant of your surroundings and interact with only reputable excursion operators. You may also want to consider letting family remaining on board or guest relations cast members know of your on shore plans.

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