Disney Cruise Line

Gambling Disney Style – Disney Cruise Line Bingo

by on August 28, 2014

Disney Cruise Line Bingo 2Who’s ready for some gambling, Disney style? While it’s true that the Disney Cruise Line ships do not have casinos, fear not my fellow gamblers, there is still a way for us to get our fix. Disney Cruise Line bingo is a fun family activity that everyone can enjoy! I must admit, I love gambling. Now I’m not hearing my name being called by an evil slot machine or anything, but I do enjoy everything from craps to keno and bingo is no exception. I am a third generation bingo player; both my grandma and my dad are huge fans. So when I found out that I would be covering Disney Cruise Line bingo, I was beyond excited! I’ve played bingo in several places across the United States so I was very interested to compare Disney Cruise Line bingo aboard the Disney Wonder with my previous experiences. Please join me as I share my Disney Cruise Line bingo adventure with you!

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Disney Cruise Line Skagway, Alaska Train Excursions: Compare/Contrast

by on August 28, 2014

t_logo_fbTouring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks recently compared our dog sled excursions on a Disney Cruise Line voyage to Alaska. We’re back with another round of Alaska Port Adventure comparisons, this time we’re looking at two train related excursions in the port of Skagway, Alaska. Kristi took the White Pass Railway and Trail Camp trip, while I took the All Aboard Steam Train tour. Here’s the scoop…

WHITE PASS RAILWAY AND TRAIL CAMP

  • Price: $168 for guests 10 years old and above, $85 for children three to nine years old and free for children two years old and younger.
  • Price add ons: There is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp.
  • Time requirement: The total excursion time is about 4.5 to 5 hours.
  • Physical issues: This excursion is both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Both must be collapsible. Guests must be able to walk on gravel to transfer to the train and motor coach.
  • Age limits: None.
  • Other important details: Passports are required for all guests, because this Port Adventure crosses into Canada.

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10 Things to Consider When Booking Excursions Through Disney Cruise Line

by on August 20, 2014

So you’re going on a Disney Cruise! That’s awesome. As I’ve referenced before, most things on a Disney Cruise are included. Most. One biggie not included is port excursions, however. And let’s be honest, port excursions can play a pretty big role in your cruise. Excursions are a terrific way to see the exciting ports you are visiting, and planning them is not something that should be taken lightly. There are a lot of factors to consider! And here are 10 of them.

1. Do You Need to Book Anything? – Maybe! But maybe not! Excursions shouldn’t make or break your ability to cruise. My family has done cruises where we didn’t book a single excursion, and we’ve done cruises where we’ve spent a small fortune on excursions. Think about your vacation. Is your goal to relax and not be tied to a schedule? Does the idea of a quiet ship with empty pools while others are rushing around in ports sound like heaven to you? Maybe passing on excursions this time is for you. Or, is the ship primarily floating transportation taking you to new countries and experiences? In that case you’ll want to either plan some excursions on your own if you’re comfortable, or book excursions through Disney.

2. Cost – For most of us, when considering whether we want to book an excursion, the first thing we ask is, “How much?” And then, even if the price doesn’t scare us too much, we remember the question we should have asked, “How much times four?” (or however many members are in your cruising party). When you’re budgeting for your cruise, the cost of excursions has to be factored in. Excursions can range from $12 for the Butterfly Garden in St. Thomas to $649 for a 4 hour Alaska Hummer Excursion and everything in between. Some of them are worth every single penny. Some of them are not.

3. Booking On Your Own – You can almost always save money by booking port adventures on your own as opposed to booking through Disney. Sometimes a lot of money! Does that mean you always should? Definitely not. While money is a big factor, consider other things as well. Are you comfortable traveling in a foreign country on your own? We’ve toured Rome on our own twice now, and we’ve become comfortable using public transportation and dealing with the language barriers there. If the thought of walking through Rome with a street and bus map doesn’t appeal to you, however, booking through Disney may be worth the cost. Are you going to be so worried about missing the ship that you won’t be able to relax? That’s a valid concern and it won’t happen on a Disney excursion because the ship will wait for you (it won’t wait for you if you are touring on your own and are running late). It’s also possible you just don’t want to deal with the stress involved in planning and researching port adventures you book on your own (you are going on vacation after all!). If this describes you (and I have dear family members who care very much about these real concerns), then booking your port excursions through Disney is for you. So, get off your wallet and book through Disney.

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Disney Cruise Line Alaska Dog Sled Excursions: Compare/Contrast

by on August 14, 2014

t_logo_fbTouring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks and I were both on a recent Disney Cruise Line sailing to Alaska. During the Juneau port stop, we both chose dog-sled related excursions for our families. Kristi took the “Dog Sled Summer Camp” excursion with her husband and two sons, ages 8 and 11. I took the “Dog Sled on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter” excursion with my husband and my 17 year old daughter. Here are the particulars to help you decide which type of experience might be right for you.

DOG SLED ON THE MENDENHALL GLACIER BY HELICOPTER

  • Price: $579.00 for all guests ages two and up. Guests under age two are free.
  • Any price add ons?: Guests whose weight (including clothing and gear) is greater than 250 pounds will encounter a fuel surcharge. There is an opportunity to purchase a professional photo at the end of your dog sled ride. Expect to pay about $20, cash only.
  • Time requirement: The total excursion time is about 2.5 to 3 hours.
  • Physical issues: There is a steep step up/down to get into the helicopter. The helicopter seating is tight. Guests with motion sickness or fear of heights issues may be bothered by sensations in the helicopter. Once on the glacier, you will be walking on level snow (“glacier boots”, which are fitted over your regular shoes, are required and provided free of charge). The dog sled ride is in an open vehicle, with no safety restraints, over mostly level snow. The vehicle shifts substantially during movement. Guests who wish to “mush” (drive/steer the sled) must stand on the back of the sled.
  • Age limits: None.
  • Other restrictions: Guests are not allowed to bring iPads or similar tablet-style devices on board the helicopter. Cell phones and cameras are allowed. No backpacks, purses, or camera bags are allowed on the helicopter. There is a storage locker at the heliport, free of charge.
  • Other important details?: Helicopter flight is strongly impacted by the weather. You excursion may be cancelled without much warning if adverse conditions arise. If you have sensitive eyes, I strongly suggest bringing sunglasses. I took mine off for a few photos and was nearly blinded by the bright sun reflected off the snow.

Erin’s experience with Dog Sled on the Mendenhall Glacier by Helicopter:

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Disney Cruise Line Alaska Quick Tips

by on July 23, 2014

Ahoy mateys! I’m back from my first trip to Alaska via Disney Cruise Line. In upcoming posts, new Touring Plans blogger Kristi Fredericks and I will be back with tips on activities, excursions, and pre/post cruise hotel options. But in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few quick tips to whet your whistle, pique your interest, and otherwise get you ready for the frozen fun ahead.

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Vancouver

  • The Disney Wonder port terminal is directly adjacent to Canada Place, a large convention center. Several of the Canada Place coffee shops and snack bars offer free WiFi to their customers. If you’re in need of a last minute Internet fix, grab a cup of coffee with a view of the ship before heading into the terminal where online access can be spotty.
  • A primary attraction at Canada Place is “FlyOver Canada.” This is Soarin’, but with footage of Canadian points of interest rather than shots of California. It ain’t cheap (adults are $19.95, students over age 18 are $17.95, and kids are $14.95, plus tax) for a 10-ish minute ride, but the Disney geek in me felt compelled to compare/contrast the experience to that at Epcot and Disney’s California Adventure. The similarity to Soarin’ was almost shocking; the seating is the same, the lift is the same, even the pre-show safety video is similar. My husband and daughter ended up preferring Soarin’ because the music is better and they like the Smell-O-Vision orange groves in the California version, but I (please don’t take away my WDW annual pass when I say this) think I prefer the Canadian experience. The wind simulation is used to better effect in Canada, the screen is wider/taller in Canada, and most importantly, the film print is totally clean in Canada, so your immersion in the experience is not diluted by specks of dust flying over the countryside.
  • The Granville Island market is a must-do for any Vancouver visitor, but Disney geeks will find special pleasure in knowing that among the displays of fresh salmon, spiced nuts, and exotic fruits, you can find a vendor selling actual real live Dole Whip. Look for a vendor called The Milkman. Enjoy!
Dole Whip in Vancouver

Dole Whip in Vancouver

  • Unlike the somewhat confusing and inefficient town to airport public transportation options in my home town of New York, the Vancouver public subway/rail system is easy to understand, clean, and efficient. If you’re not burdened by copious amounts of luggage, the easiest/fastest/cheapest way to get from the airport to the port is likely public transit. Direct point to point takes about 25 minutes and costs about $7.00, depending on the day of the week.
  • At the Vancouver airport, the international departures area near gates numbered in the 70s and 80s currently features several large display cases with vintage Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto toys dating from the 1930s to present day – think variations on Pez and Happy Meal offerings, but hundreds of them.
  • The Starbucks in the Vancouver airport (and presumably elsewhere in the region) serves an uber-Canadian treat, the Maple Macchiato. It’s like a vanilla macchiato, but with an ample drizzle of maple topping made with “real Canadian Maple Syrup found from the Beauce-Appalanche region of Quebec.” Presumably this is no great shakes for you native Canadians out there, but honestly, this small detail was the thing that made this American most feel like Canada was actually another country.
  • The Vancouver airport will not allow you to check in on site prior to three hours before your trip. Nor, for international flights, will they allow you check in when there are fewer than 60 minutes before your flight. Timing is critical here.

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Enhancing Fireworks Displays at Disney Parks

by on July 23, 2014

FireworksSummer is here, and by now hopefully everyone has had a chance to enjoy a fireworks display. I got a chance to enjoy the fireworks in a small Colorado town on the 4th of July. My friends’ house had a great view of the town’s fireworks display from their back deck, so all we had to do was sit down and enjoy!

I did notice that something was missing. While the display was an impressive sight and had a variety of fireworks, there wasn’t really any plan to the show. One shot went up. BOOM! Another shot went up. BOOM! Oh – here’s a change of pace - two going off at the same time! BOOM BOOM! The only time the show really ratcheted it up was at the end, when the sky was smothered with all of the fireworks they had left.

Was your viewing of fireworks the same as mine? Did you feel like it was missing…well…a little Disney magic?

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Connect@Sea Internet Access on a Disney Cruise

by on July 15, 2014

t_logo_fbAlthough many of us enjoy going on a cruise to unplug and get away from it all, sometimes you can’t leave your connection to the mainland behind when the ship sails away. In the past, Internet connections at sea were slow, spotty, and expensive. With the Connect@Sea plan, Disney Cruise Line has made Internet access more affordable, easy to use, and fairly reliable with decent connection speeds. I recently went on the Disney Dream and had to bring work with me, which meant I got to put Connect@Sea through its paces. Here’s what I discovered.

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Things to Do Near Port Canaveral before Your Disney Cruise

by on July 7, 2014

Cruising, especially Disney cruising, can be a vacation in itself, but what if you find yourself in the area a day or two before your cruise? Port Canaveral, the home for Disney’s remarkable ships: Dream, Fantasy and Magic is nearly an hour drive from Orlando International Airport so unless you live nearby, it’s a good idea to stay the night before your cruise somewhere between Orlando and Canaveral. Obviously, spending the extra day at Walt Disney World is a great option, but there are interesting diversions much closer to the port that can be relaxing or exciting as well as educational and surprising.

Disney's Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

Disney’s Cruise Ship Fantasy passes by the fishing pier at Jetty Park.

In particular, there are 4 sites that are wonderful to visit, whether you have the whole family with you or if you’re kid-free. All have been popular attractions for many years and all will give you experiences that are quite different from the cruise you’ll be taking.

Considering that the four provide significantly different experiences, I have decided to list them based on distance from the Disney Cruise Line Terminal, rather than ranking them. The furthest is only a 30 minute drive, while the closest is literally right around the corner from the terminal.

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10 Points of Comparison between Cruise Loyalty Programs

by on June 25, 2014

I spend a lot of time talking about Disney Cruise Line and my deep abiding love for it. Disney, like all major cruise lines, has a loyalty program for repeat guests called the Castaway Club. These programs are all somewhat similar, but they all are different as well. So, let’s compare! There are lots of cruise lines out there, but I’ll stick to five of the biggest players in the American market like Disney, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian and Carnival. And, here are 10 things you may be wondering about these cruise lines’ loyalty programs.

1. What Are The Loyalty Programs Called? – Perhaps not surprisingly, every cruise line takes great pride in their loyalty program and calls it something different. Repeat guests on Disney Cruise Line for example, are called Castaway Club Members. On Royal Caribbean it’s the Crown and Anchor Society. On Holland America they are members of the Mariner Society, and on Norwegian it’s called Latitudes Rewards. Carnival calls it their VIFP program. Otherwise known as a Very Important Fun Person. See what they did there? Who doesn’t want to be a very important fun person?

2. How Do I Become A Member? – The standard way is by sailing. With Disney you are automatically registered after your first sailing. Disney will send you a card with your membership number on it after your first sailing (but don’t worry if it doesn’t come in the mail, you can call and get the number). After you have sailed Royal Caribbean, just take your sailing date and ship name and register online. You can also register while onboard your first cruise with Royal Caribbean. On Carnival you can actually register before you ever step foot on a ship and take advantage of some discounts for members. With Holland America, you are automatically enrolled after the first time you sail with Holland America, but you will also be enrolled when you make your first booking if you’ve previously sailed on a line that they have a relationship with – Princess, Cunard, Seabourn, Carnival or Costa. Finally, Norwegian will let you register with Latitudes as soon as you have made a booking, but you will not receive any membership benefits until you have completed your first sailing.

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Everything You Need to Know about DCL Express Walk-Off

by on June 17, 2014

t_logo_fbExpress Walk-Off is a program Disney Cruise Line uses on debarkation day to help people with early flights or anyone who doesn’t want to wait around to leave the ship when it’s cleared by customs. As a frequent cruiser, I prefer to take advantage of Express Walk-Off whenever I can.

To understand DCL Express Walk-Off, it helps to remember how the normal debarkation works. On the final night of the cruise, guests who aren’t using Express Walk-Off leave their packed luggage in the hall by 10PM for the stateroom attendants to put in the luggage hold for transport off the ship in the morning. Guests keep with them a carry-on for any valuables, something to sleep in, and a change of clothes for the next morning. The usual caveats apply when packing the bag you’ll leave out. Don’t put anything in there you wouldn’t put in a bag you’re checking on the airlines – no medicine, no travel documents, no valuables like laptops, cameras, or jewelry.

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