Over the past few weeks and months you’ve probably read several articles on the upcoming big October event – TouringPlans #Everywhere. If not, here’s the skinny: during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending its staff across the world to Disney destinations in order to collect content, meet our subscribers, and if we can squeeze it in, have some fun, too. Brian McNichols, my cohost of the Pardon the Pixie Dust podcast, is going to Disneyland. Gerelyn Reaves is going to the Aulani resort in Hawaii. Guy Selga is going to Tokyo Disneyland. And I’ll be going to the Disney Outlet Stores in Orlando. Just kidding, I’ll actually be taking my first ever trip on the Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Wonder.
Last year was the first time I had ever gone on a cruise, and it was with the Royal Caribbean line. Despite hearing nothing but glowing reviews of cruises from friends, families, and co-workers, I never saw the appeal compared to just going on a land-based vacation. My mother and grandmother, who got me addicted to theme parks in the first place by taking me to Disney World and Universal Studios Florida as a child, switched over to only doing cruises about 10 years ago and had tried for years to convince me to go on one with them. I eventually went, kicking and screaming of course, and came to the shocking conclusion that it turns out I like cruises.
Scratch that. I love cruises.
When TouringPlans assigned me the Disney Wonder cruise as part of the #Everywhere promotion I was definitely excited but, believe it or not, my girlfriend? Not so much. Even though she loved the Royal Caribbean cruise as much as I did, she was very wary of a Disney Cruise. She’s definitely not a “theme park person” and only tolerates going to Disney or Universal if we are taking children in our family. Her idea of a perfect day at Universal is not visiting Diagon Alley or riding the Hogwarts Express; it’s sitting poolside at the Royal Pacific Resort sipping a drink from the Bula Bar. She had four main concerns:
- The ship would be overrun with children.
- There won’t be much for adults to do on the ship.
- There won’t be much for her to eat onboard (she is vegan).
- Walking through the ship will be like walking through the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney.
Whereas my main concerns were:
- She won’t be happy, and when she’s not happy, I’m not happy.
- See number 1.
- See number 2.
- Unlike our Royal Caribbean cruise, which left out of Port Canaveral, our Disney Wonder Cruise is leaving out of Miami. We are are Florida residents who live almost smack dab in the middle of Port Canaveral and Miami on the eastern coast. The two hour drive to Port Canaveral is passing through what 90% of what Florida is, a bunch of flat space with nothing going on. It couldn’t have been easier. Heading to Miami takes us to the other part of Florida, the part involving the eighth largest metropolitan area in the United States. For those who don’t live in a major metropolitan area, driving in Miami can make rush hour on I-4 in Orlando seem as laid back as Driving Miss Daisy.
Solving the concerns.
Between the Port of Miami’s website and TouringPlans.com breakdown of where the Disney Cruise Line lies in said port, I feel like the drive shouldn’t be too bad. We will be driving straight from our house to the DCL’s parking garage, so the next thing to look at is whether there are there any events going on in Miami that weekend that could sidetrack my plans. How many people arrive at the theme parks only to discover there are no fireworks at the Magic Kingdom for day guests because it’s a MNSSHP nigh,t or don’t even think to look to see if their favorite attraction may be down for refurbishment during their trip? A quick look at Miami events for Columbus Day weekend showed most major events happening at night, so I should be safe.
We have been spending a lot of time reading up on the Disney Cruise Line at the TouringPlans site proper, The Disney Cruise Line Blog, and various articles on the TouringPlans blog. While skeptical, my girlfriend now feels more confident that walking through the ship won’t be like navigating through a Toys R Us on Black Friday. Our experiences at Walt Disney World’s restaurants, including Be Our Guest, also assure her that the ship will accommodate her dietary restrictions. Being a vegan can be a challenge in the theme park world, so knowing that she’ll be able to eat something other than a “garden salad” relieves a lot of stress. Food wise, I knew I’d be okay once I read Scott Sanders’ article on Disney Cruise Line pizza.
One nice surprise was receiving the Disney Cruise Line info booklet that arrived about a month before our sail date. Seth Kubersky recently wrote a great article covering the booklet, and it was the first time we realized that our ship would be celebrating Halloween during our cruise. We had just experienced Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom and had a great time, so the fact that we would get to experience another version of a “Disney Halloween” is exciting.
Ports of Call.
Our ship will be making three stops: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Castaway Cay. As luck would have it, the Royal Caribbean cruise we took last year also stopped at Grand Cayman and Cozumel, so we know what to expect at both places and are looking forward to a return. On our last trip we booked an excursion at Grand Cayman that brought us out to Stingray City while for Cozumel we took a tour of the Mayan ruins. Both were really fun.
For this trip we booked a trip to Boatswain’s Adventure Marine Park for Grand Cayman and a Dune Buggy Tour for Cozumel. I booked both excursions directly through the Disney Cruise Line because for the Royal Caribbean cruise I booked all of my excursions through a third party and, even though everything went perfectly, I was constantly scared that something would happen and we wouldn’t make it back to the ship before it left.
Boatswain’s Adventure Marine Park was chosen primarily because it allows us to have some contact with marine life. The park is billed as “teeming” with wildlife that you are allowed to get up close and personal with, which is right up our alley. We are an animal loving household to be sure, with pets ranking higher on the depth chart than at least one of the residents (yours truly,) and we can’t wait to snorkel in the lagoon and see the marine life. The Dune Buggy experience just sounded fun and something we would never do back here in Florida. It also allowed us to hedge our bets as it involves spending time at several beaches, so we’ll find something to enjoy no matter what.
However, no matter how much fun driving a dune buggy may turn out to be, that’s not what is my priority on this trip. I have been looking forward to returning to Cozumel ever since I left last year. I loved everything about our day spent there, but realized quickly that I didn’t bring nearly enough money with me on the trip. I’m not a big shopper, but when I’m in a port in which almost every store offers wrestling masks and there are also different versions of Doritos and Kit Kats available that we don’t have here in the States I basically have to be pinched in order to be assured that I’m not dreaming. In some ways it was like being on the Buy n Large ship from Wall-E as they even had larger bottles of Coca Cola than we have in Florida. Some people would wisely see these items as an unnecessary health risk. I see them as an opportunity. Oh yes, I’ll be making it rain in Cozumel, and possibly be going into a diabetic coma in the process.
Another biggie on our personal must-do list is Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Royal Caribbean also has its own private island, Labadee, that was wonderful. Living in southern Florida we are spoiled by good beaches, so it takes something special to make us take notice and these areas accomplish that. Instead of making major plans for Castaway Cay we decided to play it easy, with focusing on spending time at the adults-only Serenity Beach and make a call based on how we feel that day if we want to rent bicycles or do something like parasailing.
As I stated at the beginning, this trip is part of the TouringPlans #Everywhere promotion and on Sunday, October 12, the entire staff will be live tweeting and blogging from across the world, including Yours Truly. We will also be holding unofficial meets at every single location. Yes, this is your chance to get a Len Testa autograph at the Hilton Head DVC, a rare meet ‘n’ greet opportunity with Seth Kubersky on the Disney Magic, or get that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask Guy Selga in Tokyo Disneyland about his lifelong dream to be a Dapper Dan. Me? I’ll be on the shuffleboard court (or whatever they call them) on the Disney Wonder’s Deck 4 at 2PM and would like to welcome any and all TouringPlans readers to come by and say hi. I’ll have some nice freebies to give away, and maybe you can even explain to me how to actually play shuffleboard as I just made up my own rules on the Royal Caribbean cruise (although under my scoring, I won every game, so I’m kinda partial to it.) Reach me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know if you can make it.