Disney Cruise Line

Best Space Coast Beaches for Disney Day-Trips

by on March 13, 2015

Adding a beach day to your Disney vacation? Cocoa Beach bills itself as Orlando’s closest beach, but in reality, it’s just one municipality in two dazzling stretches of coast-line. There are plenty of other beaches within a 60-90 minute drive-time of Disney World. How to choose, besides just getting in the car and pointing it east or west?

My family and I took on the arduous task of exploring the best Space Coast beaches, all so that you can choose the right beach for your family! For each one, we’ll look at a few factors that might play into your choice: like convenience, facilities, and quality of the beach. For the purposes of this article, we’re keeping the drive from the Disney area to under 90 minutes. We’re going to start in the south, at Satellite Beach, and work our way north towards Port Canaveral, in Cape Canaveral.

A quiet shoreline in Satellite Beach.

A quiet shoreline in Satellite Beach. You won’t find this in Cocoa Beach.

Peace and Quiet in Satellite Beach: For true peace and quiet, drive south to Satellite Beach. You’ll find a 50s-era beach town along A1A, just south of the Pineda Causeway and Patrick Air Force Base, home to charming houses, inoffensive low-rise condos, and some basic shopping and dining. The quiet beaches and tropical dunes are the draw to Satellite Beach. Public access beaches with free parking, a basic shower, and a boardwalk over the dune are pretty easy to find. There are also a few public parks, some with restroom facilities. Interestingly, even the bare-bones public parks fill up, while public access lots just a few hundred feet away sit empty. Try public access unless you’re staying all day and want restrooms close at hand.

Recommended Public Access:

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Eight Ways a Disney Cruise is Like Summer Camp

by on March 6, 2015

For the past ten years, my daughters have spent their summers at an idyllic sleep-away camp for girls in the central lakes region of Maine. Think Camp Inch from The Parent Trap and you’re pretty much in the right ballpark. The girls have now aged out of their camp and won’t be able to return. Instead, this summer we’re heading out to sea for a bunch of Disney cruising.

Camp Inch, the classic summer camp experience. @Disney

Camp Inch, the classic summer camp experience. @Disney

While they are, of course, exited for new adventures and grateful to be able to cruise, they are also more than a bit melancholy about leaving their beloved camp experience behind. In an effort to boost their spirits, I challenged them to come up with all the ways in which a Disney Cruise is just like summer camp. Below is a list of eight of their suggestions.

1. It’s a great place to meet new friends.

One of the best parts of camp for my daughters is that they got to spend time with similarly aged girls from all over the country. They got to find out what they all had in common, as well as learn from each other’s differences. They shared their music preferences, school traditions, fashion choices, hobbies, and silly stories, and made fast friends with people they might not otherwise have encountered. The same thing happens on a Disney cruise, particularly cruises of seven nights or longer. When visiting the onboard Vibe teen club, they’ll again meet kids from a variety of home locales. The convivial atmosphere and cheerful guidance of the kids’ club staff will have them chatting and in no time. And also like camp, the condensed timeframe and physical proximity to a core group of peers speeds up the bonding process. They’ll likely leave the ship with a lengthy list of new Facebook friends, and probably more than one real friend as well. As an added bonus, mom and dad won’t be around when they’re in the kids’ club, just like we weren’t a camp. They’ll get to be themselves, unfiltered.

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Menu Monday: Mixology Class aboard the Disney Magic

by on March 2, 2015

Sailing aboard a Disney Cruise offers an ocean of opportunity to indulge. There are so many wonderful experiences waiting for you to enjoy, especially on 7 night or longer sailings. A series of adult beverage seminars is one of the more popular experiences offered on longer sailings. These seminars are a fantastic way to explore new tastes or learn more about a favorite beverage. On my recent cruise aboard the Disney Magic I finally decided to experience a beverage seminar for myself. After experiencing the seminar, I can safely say it is a good value and I am here to tell you why.

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The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! February 2015 Photo Report of the Disney Outlet Store

by on February 28, 2015

MMM positiveIs February already over?! What a month. We got the inevitable yearly ticket price hikes, got the first details on both Star Wars Weekends and the holiday hard ticket parties, saw Big Hero 6 shock the world and take home the Oscar for Best Animated Film, found out Spider-Man would be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe (YES! YES! YES!) and – most importantly – found out Duck Tales will be returning to TV! It’s a good thing this month is only 28 days because we don’t think we could handle any more (especially since we wasted an entire day on Llamas on the loose and that ridiculous white/gold blue/black dress meme.) We know a lot of you have had a rough month in the area of weather, and we can certainly sympathize. In fact it almost got down to 50 degrees one night this month and we had to pull a blanket out of the closet to stay warm.

Enough jibber jabber! Who is ready to hit the Outlets? Remember that clicking on any picture will open a full size version of it (don’t say we didn’t warn you).

First up is an item I have wanted for a long time and almost cried seeing it at the Outlets. A Polynesian Luau Bowl! Originally marked $49.95, this was reduced to $24.99.

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I think by now most people know how much I love the Marketplace Co-op at Downtown Disney and a big reason for that is the many Adventureland/Polynesian inspired pieces they have. I’ve also seen these Luau bowls at the actual Poly whenever I go to ‘Ohana, and behind glass cases at the Art of Disney store. This bowl is something I’ve always wanted but never thought I would actually own.

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Easy Florida Eco-Adventures on the Space Coast

by on February 20, 2015

Did someone say adventure? Well, it’s out there, and it’s right outside of your favorite Disney destinations.

We all know by now that Florida is way more than theme parks, right? And the great outdoors is finally getting its due, with animal encounters and adventure parks all over the place these days. Even within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests have the opportunity to get out of the ride vehicle and right into the animal exhibits with the Wild Africa Trek. Zip-lining, close encounters with wild animals, hanging bridges — just in case the Kilimanjaro Safaris are too tame for you.

Disney Ship Manatee Park - Natalie Reinert

A Disney Cruise Line ship peeks over the mangroves at Manatee Sanctuary Park in Cape Canaveral.

But maybe you’re not so into the swinging rope bridge over the crocodile pond. Maybe you’d just like to get a good look at the native flora and fauna. After all, Florida’s a unique place. Well, there are quieter, gentler adventures you can find on your Florida vacation. And if you’re staying at Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral, even just for a day before or after your Disney cruise, you can get easily out there and explore Florida’s wild wonders — without even getting out of your car, in some cases. There are easy Florida eco-adventures on the Space Coast that will open up your eyes to Florida’s wealth of wildlife, wetlands, and true wild spirit.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Black Point Wildlife Drive is an easy way to get a taste of Florida wetlands. From saltwater marsh to pine uplands, from alligators to eagles, the Black Point Wildlife Drive was designed to show guests the remarkable number of ecosystems that exist along Florida’s shorelines. And it does so against an unforgettable backdrop: the rocket launch and production facilities of Kennedy Space Center. 

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Five Things the Disney Cruise Line Website Can’t Do, But Should

by on February 18, 2015

I’m a big fan of Disney Cruise Line. I am most decidedly NOT a fan of the Disney Cruise Line website. Even as an experienced user, I’m often frustrated when trying to navigate the site. I know the information is there, they just make it so darn hard to find it.

Here are some of the things I think the DCL website could do to improve the end user experience.

1. Allow you to search for any cruise within a range of dates.

The DCL home screen has a “cruise search” tool with three pull-down menus: Date, Destination, and Departure Port. To search for a cruise, you are forced to make selections for all three parameters. I’d love to be able to see all the cruises available using just one or two of the parameters.

For example, after our very active Adventures by Disney trip to Peru last Christmas, my family unanimously decided to be as lazy as possible during Christmas 2015, which means lounging on the deck of a cruise ship with umbrella drink in hand. Since the point of the trip is sitting and sleeping, we honestly don’t care where the ship is going. And since we’ll have to fly to get to any DCL voyage, it doesn’t matter much to us which port we sail from. I want to input the dates of my kids’ holiday break and see what all our options are in one swoop, but this is not possible. Instead, I have to run multiple searches, choosing the month desired AND a destination AND a departure port. I really don’t care if we sail out of Miami or Port Canaveral or if we go to the Bahamas or the Caribbean, but DCL forces me to make those choices. It takes too many steps just to figure out which sailings occur in December.

Why must I select all Date and Destination and Port every time?

Why must I select all Date and Destination and Port every time?

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10 Ways to Find the Best Deal on a Disney Cruise

by on February 18, 2015

I’ve said before that a Disney Cruise is worth every penny to me. So does that mean I just throw money at Disney and don’t worry about the price? Of course not! More money saved means more money for cruises! So here are a few tips to save money I’ve learned over the years.

1. Book Early! – I always say this. Book early!! If you know you want to be on a particular cruise, book it. Prices usually only go up on Disney cruises, and particular categories will certainly sell out. Don’t risk missing out or paying a higher price. The itineraries for the rest of 2016 will be out soon, so be ready! Last year the 11-night Norway and Iceland cruise filled up extremely fast even as prices went up and up. Verandahs are long gone on that sailing. If you know you want something, book it while you still can! Aside from concierge, all deposits are refundable up to a certain date, so know that date and book away! If you book concierge and have to cancel, as long as you are outside the penalty period, you can move that deposit to another date or category. You just won’t ever get that deposit back, it’s still non-refundable.

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A Tour of Re-Imagined Disney Magic Cruise Ship

by on February 16, 2015

It’s the ship that started it all. The majestic mother of the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the Disney Magic is Disney’s first ship and now she sparkles with renewed pixie dust. While Disney Cruise Line has been expanded to offer two new, larger ships there is still something so marvelous about Disney’s very first ship, especially after an extensive makeover. After many journeys aboard this beauty, I’d like to take you on a tour from stern to bow, of the beautiful Disney Magic and point out the many magical enhancements she recently received.

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Cape Canaveral Dining: Florida Beer Company

by on February 13, 2015

Florida Beer Company IPA - Natalie Reinert

The Swamp Ape Double IPA at Florida Beer Company.

Cards on the table: Florida Beer Company is not, strictly speaking, Cape Canaveral dining. It’s actually one of the southeast’s largest brewers and Florida’s leading brew company, with a 5,000 square foot tap room open to the public. But since you can order in food from any number of great Cape Canaveral restaurants, and pair your meal with flights or single glasses of craft beers brewed on site, Florida Beer Company ranks as one of the great unique dining establishments in the Cape Canaveral area.

You probably know that at TouringPlans, we always recommend arriving for your Disney Cruise a day in advance — after all, that ship is leaving on time, whether your plane arrived on time or not. And so if you’re looking for something great to do in Cape Canaveral the day before your cruise, and you love craft beer, you’ll want to plan a visit to Florida Beer Company.

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Disney Cruise Line Adds Star Wars Day at Sea

by on February 11, 2015

A definitely not Photoshopped image of what to expect at Star Wars Day. ©Disney

A definitely not Photoshopped image of what to expect at Star Wars Day.
©Disney

In a refreshing change from the All Frozen, All the Time promotions throughout the Disney properties, Disney Cruise Line announced Star Wars Day at Sea for early 2016 sailings on the Fantasy. The dates are:

  • January 9
  • January 23
  • February 6
  • February 20
  • March 5
  • March 19
  • April 2
  • April 16

These are all 7-night Western Caribbean itineraries. According to Disney, these sailings will include the only at-sea showings of the latest Star Wars film, Episode VII, The Force Awakens. The day at sea will feature a deck party, Star Wars meet and greets, themed food and bev, and, of course, limited edition special merchandise.

What do you think? Reason to book a cruise? Welcome addition to a cruise you’ve already booked? Just happy it’s not princess-themed? Talk about it in the comments.

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