Disney Cruise Line

10 Tips for Your Europe Cruise (Disney or Otherwise!)

by on July 6, 2016

Bonjour! I recently returned from an amazing 12 night British Isles cruise with Disney Cruise Line! It was my third European cruise and I learn something every time I go! For various reasons, I find European cruises take more planning than standard Bahamian and Caribbean sailings. I wouldn’t recommend going in unawares! So here are 10 things I’ve learned. Hopefully they’ll help you out too!

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Mathew Street, Liverpool

1. Rent Mobile Wi-Fi – I can’t even tell you how what a lifesaver this was, and I’d like to publicly thank a commenter on a post of mine last year who told me about these devices! There are a couple of options here, you can buy a device and pay a fee based on the number of days you use, or rent a device and pay by the day for the rental period. The data is unlimited and you can use up to 5 devices at once. If you’ve got a cell phone signal, these handy little mobile devices create a Wi-Fi network for you. We chose to rent the device from Tep Wireless and we picked it up and dropped it off in Heathrow. It was a super easy process. I’m all for unplugging as much as you can on vacation, and I did. I had someone covering for me at work and I didn’t even look at it! But I had Wi-Fi! So I knew if there was an emergency or a question, they could get a hold of me. Being plugged in actually helped me unplug if that makes any sense at all! Plus, what fun it was to post to social media at will?! Or google when we had last minute questions about where we were going and what we were doing, or downloading handy city-specific apps (see #6 below). It was wonderful! We named our device (Jeb) and may or may not have gotten a little attached to it, making that the only hard part of turning it back in.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall

2. Skype App – Now that you’ve got Wi-Fi, you can also make incredibly cheap international calls with the Skype app. Our flight was delayed repeatedly leaving the US, and I knew our transfer company in the UK wouldn’t wait at the airport indefinitely for us. Unfortunately, they had an international number and I was dreading how much it would cost me to call them.  Until I checked out the Skype app. I bought a $10 Skype credit and called right from the app on my phone. Calls to most of Europe range from 2.3 to 10 cents a minute.  A minute!! There’s also a connection fee around 5 to 10 cents with each call, but even so, that $10 is going to last me for a very long time! We ended up using it a few times while traveling. We had to make an emergency phone call back to the states at one point and it was a lifesaver having the Skype credit to enable us to do so without mortgaging the house. It even came in handy when we got back home and I realized a hotel had overcharged us and I needed to call back to clear things up!

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Dinner at Cabanas: A Review from the Disney Dream

by on June 28, 2016

As the saying should go, if you starve on a cruise ship, it is by choice alone. At any time of day there is always something to eat. For many, the highlight of the day is typically the main dining for dinner, where themed dining rooms and a carefully crafted menu combine with a little bit of Disney magic for an unforgettable meal. Sometimes it can be too much of a good thing, however, and there may be reasons why you want to skip main dining. Perhaps you don’t feel like dressing up. Maybe you want a quieter meal. You might have even overslept and missed early dining. Thankfully, on select nights, there is another option–dinner at Cabanas.

On my most recent cruise on the Disney Dream, my husband and I tried dinner at Cabanas. Here’s our experience:

Because it was pirate night for our cruise, I was wearing jeans and a pirate t-shirt–something that I would have felt awkward wearing to Royal Palace (where we were assigned that night). Because dinner at Cabanas is more casual, my outfit was not out of place at all. The dining room is changed a bit from breakfast and lunch service. You have two servers assigned to your table, just like in the main dining room. These are servers who are training for the main dining room, and so they go over the top trying to be attentive to whatever you need. The dining room itself has placemats and fun “Cabanas-style” napkins, plus glass plates and glasses–a step above the plates and cups at other meals.

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Unlike the main dining rooms, where you have a set time to show up, you can show up without a reservation at any time during Cabanas’ dinner service (which on our cruise was 6:30-8:30). When we arrived at the beginning of the dinner time, we checked in, gave our stateroom number, and were seated immediately. Due to lower seating capacity, if there is high demand, you may have to wait for a table.

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Seven Things to Skip on a Repeat Disney Cruise

by on June 8, 2016

If you are preparing for your first, second, or even third cruise, I highly advise NOT following the suggestions listed here. (Instead, check out my Seven Must-Dos on Your First Disney Cruise here.) Everything that I list in this article is worth doing, especially if you are new to Disney Cruise Line. I recently sailed on my fifth Disney Cruise (three on the Dream, two on the Fantasy), and decided I wanted to mix things up a bit. Although there are several activities, foods, and so on during a Disney Cruise that are “must do” items on my list, I skipped some of those items to change things up a bit. In the end, I found that there are benefits to skipping even very popular activities on board. On upcoming cruises, I won’t likely skip everything that I skipped on this cruise, but there may be some activities that I won’t do every cruise. Here are some suggestions for repeat cruisers on what to skip on a Disney Cruise.

 

1. Skip the Sailaway Party

An air-conditioned window view at Vista Café or a deck chair are far more relaxing (and cooler) than the sailaway party.

A window view at Vista Café or a deck chair are far less crowded than the sailaway party.

I’ve watched many other ships leave port, but the level of excitement on a Disney Cruise is much more tangible than on other cruise lines. I think the reason behind that is the infectious energy of the Sailaway Party. But to mix things up a bit, or if you want to avoid the blistering heat that can happen on some cruise itineraries, grab a drink, and sail away from a more comfortable and quiet location. On our most recent cruise, we sat for a while in the air conditioned comfort of Vista Café on the Dream, and then headed outside to play some shuffleboard so that we could hear the ship horn. On the walking track, there are several places with loungers, if that’s more your speed. And, of course, if you have a verandah room, you can enjoy sailing away from the comfort of your stateroom.

2. Skip Heavy Entrees

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Unofficial Guide Reader’s Survey – Best Travel Agents 2016

by on June 1, 2016

TouringPlans logoThe results are in, and we want to thank you, readers, for helping us and your fellow Disney and Universal fans plan great vacations. We are so happy to bring you our Best Travel Agent recommendations for 2016.

The Methodology for Finding the Best Travel Agents

First of all, it’s important to know how we got this list. These recommendations come from you, not us. TouringPlans and the Unofficial Guide survey readers about their vacations and one (of the VERY MANY – really, thank you to everyone who takes the time to do this) sections of the survey concerns how the trip was booked. We ask if you’d consider the agent “an expert” on the destination you booked and if you’d recommend him or her to a friend. To make our list the agent has to have a statistically significant number of responses and 100% positive answers on one question and more than 90% on the other. That’s all there is to it. We don’t swing the votes. And this isn’t a “Top 15” list. If 50 agents had qualified, 50 would be listed. That only 16 out of 1900 agents listed in the surveys received qualified tells you a lot about the quality of work these people do.

We’ve published this list in the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World for years, but wanted to add it to our web site this year. Some of these agents we know, several we have personally worked with, and some are brand new to us. We hope this helps you find a travel agent if you’re looking for one. (You’ll notice that some agents and agencies have a relationship with TouringPlans in the form of complimentary subscriptions for qualifying travel packages. This has no bearing on the survey results.)

Finally, without further ado, we give you the Best Travel Agents for 2016, listed alphabetically by first name.

 

Best Travel Agents 2016

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Seven Must-Dos on Your First Disney Cruise

by on May 25, 2016

First-time cruises can be overwhelming. It can take a few days to get your bearings around the ship, plus the sheer volume of activities on board means that you simply can’t do everything. In reality, going on a cruise can be the most relaxing of vacations, but you may be concerned that, as you’re spending a large price tag for this vacation, that you might miss out on the best of what a cruise might have to offer. Here’s seven suggestions  about what not to miss during your first Disney Cruise.

 

1. Sail Away Party

Immediately following the required safety drill (which truly is the only must-do on your cruise, whether it is your first or your fiftieth), there is a Sail Away party on the main deck. Although it is billed as a show, think of this more like a pep rally. Lots of energy, appearances by some of your favorite characters all dressed for their cruise, and most important, the sounding of the ship’s horn. It can be VERY hot depending on what port you sail from and time of year, so make sure to stay hydrated and wear plenty of sunscreen. If you are able to get in an area where you can see both the Funnelvision screen and the dock as you set sail, you get the best of the sailing away experience.

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DCL Announces Fall 2017 Itineraries

by on May 24, 2016

Disney Cruise Line announced today its itineraries for fall 2017, rounding out the full schedule of sailings for next year.

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While much of the new schedule follows familiar DCL patterns, there are a few new twists in store for next year, including a Disney Magic 7-night sailing Canadian cruise departing from New York City with a stop in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, a new destination for DCL. Another new port stop will be in Bar Harbor, Maine. I’m guessing that everyone getting back on the ship will be wearing LL Bean boots and toting plush lobsters. Later in the season, the Magic will be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Miami, Florida, making port visits in the Caribbean.

The Disney Dream will be making her typical 3 and 4 night sailings to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral, Florida. The Fantasy will make 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean journeys, also from Port Canaveral. One exceptional sailing of the Fantasy will include a “double-dip” trip at Christmas with two stops at Disney’s Castaway Cay private island.

The Disney Wonder will port in San Diego, California, and Galveston, Texas, with itineraries covering Mexico and the Bahamas respectively.

Bookings open on May 25 for Disney Cruise Line gold and platinum Castaway Club members, with bookings open to all others on May 26.

TouringPlans is typing as quickly as we can to get these into our system so you can start tracking fares and reading up on the latest ports. If you enjoy our DCL coverage, you just might want to check out the Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line or subscribe to DCL here on TouringPlans.

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Castaway Cay Excursion Review – Abaco Backcountry Fishing Adventure

by on May 20, 2016

Disney Wonder In The Distance

West Side of Castaway Cay

 

I am not much of a fisherman, but for my 13 year old son Alec, it has become his number one obsession. More than girls, gaming, and grilled cheese sandwiches combined. Alec was supposed to join the Hazelton/Brazeau clan for our Touringplans #Everywhere trip in 2014, but a medical issue kept him home. He and I finally completed the #Everywhere adventure this March when we flew to Miami and boarded the Disney Wonder for a 5-night Western Caribbean Itinerary C. Alec’s only request: “Can we go fishing?”

At Castaway Cay there are four fishing excursions to choose from.

  • Abaco Flats Fly Fishing ($215.25 / person)
  • Castaway Cay Bottom Fishing ($139 / person)
  • Castaway Cay Troll Fishing by Troll Boat ($163.75 / person)

and the excursion we chose,

  • Abaco Backcountry Fishing Adventure ($154 / person)

Every fisherman will tell you that when it comes to a day of fishing there are no guarantees. You might catch the fish of your life or come home without so much as a nibble. We met our guides at Marge’s Barges at 1:00pm and learned that the morning group did not have much luck. Our guides were quick to remind us of the “no guarantee rule”. We caught several fish throughout the afternoon but the real adventure was in the hunt for the elusive Bonefish. A hard to land sport fish, the Bonefish is considered by some as the best fighting fish, pound for pound. Plus, it requires a specific set of conditions and equipment to find, hook and get in the boat. “Let’s get dem Bones”, our guides cheered as we left the dock.

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A Review of Senses Juice Bar on the Disney Dream

by on May 11, 2016

2016-04-30 08.29.14Let me start off by saying I’m about as far removed from an expert on juice blends and green smoothies as one can get. My preferred drinks of choice are water and tea. On my most recent cruise, my goal was to try new things. When I saw that there is now a juice bar on the Dream, I figured that it wouldn’t kill me to try it, right?

The Senses Juice Bar on the Disney Dream is located in the Senses spa area on Deck 11 Forward. It is open from 6 AM to 10 PM most days (but not open on debarkation day as it opens at noon for the next group of cruisers on their embarkation day).

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10 Mistakes I’ve Made on a Disney Cruise

by on May 11, 2016

After 19 Disney cruises and counting I’ve learned a lot along the way, but I’ve also made my fair share of mistakes! I wrote a previous blog post on mistakes first timers make, and I made a few of them, but here’s my list of mistakes I personally have made! Hopefully I can keep you from repeating some of them. I’m here to help!

x1191. Overpacked – I admit it, I’m a chronic overpacker. I constantly tell people to lay out what they think they need and then reduce it by half. And yet somehow, I cannot follow my own advice! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve arrived home and unpacked things that were never worn! That should not be! While the rooms are very well designed with lots of storage, they aren’t THAT big. There’s no reason to bring a bunch of things you don’t need. There is a laundry service and there are washers and dryers onboard. I’m leaving for the British Isles cruise next month and to make our pre- and post-cruise travel in Europe much easier, I’m going to practice what I preach. I’m packing for 18 days like I’ll be on a 7-night cruise. Or less! Overpackers unite! We can do this!

2. Overspent – I’m sure anyone who knows me finds that very hard to believe, but it’s true. I’ve overspent. Like on clothes that I thought were so awesome in a Disney environment and when I got home to real life – not so much. Or maybe on excursions when I didn’t research our options and realized later we could have done something on our own much cheaper. Or how about a bunch of pictures that are still in the folder I brought them home in? I don’t drink, but I suspect there’s some of you out there that have some regrets about your alcohol bill. This doesn’t have to be! Let’s make a budget and stick to it! No impulse buys!

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, May 5, 2016: Dream On

by on May 5, 2016

About halfway through this week’s adventure, my husband turned to me and said, “There is no way if we were living anywhere else that we could justify traveling down for a three-night cruise.” Ah, the benefits of the Florida life. Grab breakfast, drop that cats at the kitty hotel, pick up daughter from school, head for a late lunch at Cabanas as we set sail away for a weekend on the Disney Dream (and still have time to get daughter back to school on time on Monday).DSC03727

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our pre-cruise breakfast at My French Café, located a short distance behind the Magic Kingdom in Windermere. Between the quality of the food and the prices, it makes for a delightful treat. I had this sugar crepe (which, if unfolded, would have more than covered the entire plate), and only set me back $4. And yes, that whipped cream is heavy cream that has been whipped, not stuff from a can.

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Time flies when you’re on a sugar rush, and soon we were headed out 528 towards the port. I love the position of Disney ships at Port Canaveral, as you get little glimpses of the ship as you get closer and closer to the port.

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