Disney Cruise Line

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.

2016-04-29 08.52.29

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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Disney Cruise Line 2017 Summer Itineraries

by on April 12, 2016

©Disney

©Disney

Big shout out to Tammy Whiting for the assist on this one!

Tammy is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obiligation quote on your next vacation.

They’re here!  Today, Disney Cruise Line announced the release of the summer
of 2017 itineraries!

Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members (those who have sailed more than
five times on Disney) can book tomorrow, April 13.  Everyone else can book
Thursday, April 14th.

Disney Cruise Line has changed things up a little with all four ships
offering a little something new!

May 13th, the Disney Magic will sail from San Juan back to Port Canaveral,
followed by a 15 night Transatlantic sailing to begin a wonderful summer in
Europe.  The Transatlantic sailing will stop in Portland, England
(Stonehenge) and Amsterdam.  Summer itineraries will include a return to the
British Isles, Norwegian Fjords, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean.
There is a 10 night Northern European sailing on June 18th, and an 11 night
Norwegian Fjords and Iceland sailing on June 28th.  Mediterranean sailings
will range from 5-10 nights.

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10 Things You May Want to Know About Disney Cruise Staterooms

by on April 4, 2016

Are you wondering what your stateroom will be like on your Disney cruise?  What does it have, what does it not have?  I am here to help!  Here’s 10 things you may want to know.


Disney Magic 2951. Stateroom Size
– They’re small! No two ways about it, if you are comparing a cruise stateroom to the average hotel room, it’s small. Now if you’re comparing them to a standard room on another cruise line, well then they could be huge! The smallest stateroom on a Disney ship will still sleep 3 people with a queen bed and convertible sofa. On many other cruise lines the standard cabin only sleeps 2. Standard rooms on Disney ships are usually around 25% bigger than standard rooms on other lines.  But we are still talking small here. There are some smaller inside rooms that are 169 square feet, with most rooms running between 204 and 241 square feet. Laurel and Len created an excellent visual of how big (or small) Walt Disney World Resort hotel rooms are when they taped off the size of Disney rooms in their driveway! Value resort rooms are 260 square feet, so they are bigger than a stateroom onboard. So, remember, your Disney cruise stateroom will be small, but you can feel happy knowing you likely have more room than passengers on other cruise lines. And you should by happy because you are on a Disney ship. And who doesn’t feel happy there!?!?

Disney Magic 3002. Beds – The beds are kind of important, right? Well good news, they’re comfortable! Maybe it’s the gentle sway of the ocean, maybe it’s the $1500 sheets, or the perfect pillows, but I sleep like a baby on a cruise. (Is that really a good analogy? Perhaps not. A baby that sleeps all night. Not a baby that screams every few hours allowing no one else to sleep.) The main bed in all staterooms is a queen bed (they say queen, they feel a little bigger to me) with lots of space underneath for suitcases. Now that the rooms on all four ships have been updated, none of the beds separate into two twins as you find on many other lines. Good news for those that like to sleep in the middle of the bed, bad news for some single travelers. In standard staterooms categories 5-11 on the Wonder and Magic, and 5-7 and 9-11 on the Dream and Fantasy, there is also a couch that converts into a single bed and a single that pulls down from the ceiling in most rooms. Not all rooms have that pull down, so if you are a family of three with a little one that really wants to sleep in the super cool bed that pulls down from the ceiling, make sure you are booked in a stateroom that has one. In categories 8 on the Dream and Fantasy, and 4 on all the ships, there is also a pull down murphy type bed. The couch and pull downs are definitely not as comfortable as the main bed, but I’ve slept in one and they aren’t bad! Concierge staterooms R, S and T have various other configurations sleeping between five and seven people.

3. Bathrooms – Maybe even more important than beds! And I have more good news. The bathrooms are great! They’re small (small rooms remember), but they’re great. On all ships, with the exception of accessible staterooms and category 8A’s on the Dream and Fantasy, everything in categories 4- 10 have split bathrooms. Split bathrooms are genius! A split bathroom means there essentially two bathrooms which is so helpful with multiple people getting ready. One has a sink and toilet, and the other has a sink and tub/shower. You heard me bath loving people, Disney has a tub in their bathrooms. On most other lines, you’ll have to get to the suites before a tub is an option. In categories 8D, 8C, 8B, 4 and V on the Dream and Fantasy, there are actually round tubs! With rainfall shower heads! The V on the Magic and Wonder, and R, S and T on all ships have a whole ‘nother level of bathrooms and tubs. The tub in the 1-bedroom suites on the Dream and Fantasy is more like a small pool.

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