Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kids' Clubs on Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line is known for its on-board entertainment for children. Kids of all ages and stages can participate in either of the ship’s kid clubs. Siblings are welcome to stay together or separate if they choose. The staff really looks out for the younger ones and is careful to direct them to age-appropriate activities. One bonus they mentioned is that their children (ages 3 and 8) are no longer separated, which helped to alleviate some anxiety in the younger child. The Disney Cruise Line is also introducing some new children's activities. One of the most popular is Cinderella's Royal Ball. Children get to meet Cinderella as she explains to them how to be a prince or princess.
The new Animal Tracking Series was developed by a veterinarian and conservationist from Disney's Animal Kingdom. While on the ship, children create a tracking device to use in an animal hunt while docked at Castaway Cay.
New wristbands have also been developed as a method of signing the kids in and out of the clubs. They are worn for the duration of the cruise and are equipped with RFID(radio frequency ID) to store the child's info and register them into the kids' clubs. They can even be worn in the pools. You all know the cruise commercials, right? The kids telling the parents they already have their own plans and the parents should go and find something to do without them. I am the mother of a child with separation anxiety issues. To say that I am overprotective is an understatement. This was our first cruise. We had always spent our vacations together doing activities together as a family, so I hadn't really put much thought into the children's programs onboard. Then, friends of ours came back from their Disney cruise, and their kids told my son about all of the fun things they did. After that my son started asking me if he was going to do all of those things. We were only onboard for five minutes when my kids started asking when we could go check out the kids clubs! Once the muster drill was over, we headed up to check it out. I was amazed with all of the space Disney has dedicated to the children's program. The kids clubs occupy a large portion of an entire deck. My youngest son has some issues with separation anxiety as well as being extremely shy. I was shocked that he was willing (and happy!) to join his siblings at the club and enjoyed every minute of it. Disney's Oceaneer Club was originally intended for ages 5-7. We walked into the club and I was very impressed. Disney's attention to detail was obvious everywhere you looked. There are definite security measures in place, but are so well disguised everyone feels very comfortable. Each child is given a name badge and bar coded bracelet that's linked to all of their information, including a private password that you select. Each parent is given a beeper so they can be in touch at all times. There were smiling cast member faces everywhere we looked. They all seemed more than happy to meet the new kids and make them feel comfortable. The cast members come from all over the world and even as the end of the cruise neared, all seemed to still be having fun.
The Oceaneer's Club looked like it came right from Neverland complete with Captain Hook's ship. There is a wonderful dress up station where kids can become Peter Pan or Cinderella (and more!), a bunch of interactive computer stations, and tons of room to play.The first day on board was available for parents and children to roam around and check out the facilities. We decided to look at the separate club geared for children age 8 - 12. It’s called Oceaneer's Lab, and that's a wonderful name for it. There was a computer lab, a science lab, and my son's favorite... the giant Playstation. There were game controllers that looked like they belonged to a giant. Disney thought of everything on this ship. They also created a special club just for teens age 13 to 17 called The Stack. Its set up as a New York-style coffee house complete with music, games and large-screen TV, even an Internet Cafe. They offer organized activities each day, including pizza and pool parties, 2 on 2 basketball, volleyball, and scavenger hunts. They even get to invade the Oceaneer's Lab! My kids couldn't wait for things to start the next day. After breakfast, they were ready to go! I spent most of the day wondering if my beeper was working, since I never received a message telling me to come pick him up. I even made a couple of passes by the club just to peek in. He did lots of fun things such as a treasure hunt complete with Captain Hook, and a photo session with Mickey that included their own photo and handmade frame. He was having so much fun that he did not want to leave for dinner!
The day we spent at Castaway Cay was equally special. We checked out the kids club on the island and it looked like a huge sandbox with all the trimmings. My daughter wanted to spend most of the day swimming and since the kids club was not near the water she chose to stay with us. Ok... so at first I wasn't crazy about the idea of my kids spending our cruise doing stuff away from us, but they did have so much fun and my husband and I found we enjoyed our private time together as well. We will have memories for a lifetime of our magical Disney cruise. If you are considering a Disney cruise, I’d love to help you plan and prepare for the greatest family vacation you will ever take!

Princess for a Day!

What is more exciting for a little girl than to be one of their favorite princesses for a day? Disney has just the place for that and it is called…..The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!

The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a beauty salon where little girls are magically transformed into little princesses. There are two locations in Disney World to become a princess. The first is in the World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney, and the other is at Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom Park (theme park admission is required).

Going to Disney Land? No problem; there is a location there, too! Located in Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is a special beauty salon, also called Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, for your princess to be transformed from head to toe. They offer the same packages as the Disney World locations, but the prices for the packages are slightly different, from $44.95-$205.85 plus tax.

The Boutiques are owned by the Fairy Godmother and operated by Fairy Godmothers-in-training. Girls 3 years and older can choose from three different hair styles…Fairytale Princess, Disney Diva or Pop Princess.
There are three packages to choose from:

The Coach Package- includes hairstyle and shimmering makeup; this package starts at $49.95 plus tax.

The Crown Package-includes hairstyle, shimmering makeup and polished nails; this package starts at $54.95 plus tax.

The Castle Package-includes everything in the Crown Package plus an imaging package and complete princess costume and accessories of her choice; this package starts at $189.95 plus tax.
*The imaging package includes one 6x8 photo and four 4x6 photos in a princess-themed holder*

There is also a “New” Disney Secret Star Makeover where girls 3 years and older can be their own star, just like Hanna Montana!

Let’s not forget the Boys 3 years and older! Disney has a package for them, too!
The Cool Dudes Package-includes colorful hair gel and confetti for only $7.50 plus tax.

Reservations are strongly recommended and held with a Credit Card. You should arrive for your appointment at least 15 minutes in advance and plan to be there between 30-60 minutes, depending on which package you choose.

If you choose the Coach or Crown package the Fairy Godmother-in-Training will escort your favorite girl to her chair and magically transform her hair and makeup. She won’t believe her eyes when the transformation is complete! If you decide to go all out and do the Castle Package, your favorite girl will be transformed into her favorite princess. She will start out by choosing her own princess dress and accessories. Then, she will be whisked off to dress in her new her attire. Afterwards, her Fairy Godmother-in-Training can get started styling her hair, putting on her shimmering makeup and polishing her pretty nails, with great detail! When she is finished, her Fairy Godmother-in-Training will have her close her eyes and make a wish. With a magic wand in hand, she will sprinkle lots of glitter, (can never have enough of that,) and say; “May all your dreams come true”. She will turn her around in the chair to look in the mirror and see what a beautiful princess she has become. It all ends with an exciting photo shoot along with some awesome keepsake photos. I had the pleasure of treating my twin daughters to the Castle package this year for their 5th birthday, they loved it and it brought tears to my eyes to see how excited they were to be a PRINCESS FOR A DAY!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baby Care Centers

Anyone traveling to Walt Disney World with young children should become familiar with the Baby Care Centers in each park. Whether your child is a newborn of 2 or 3 months or a toddler of 2 or 3 years, these facilities can make your vacation life easier.

Each of the four Disney Theme Parks has a Baby Care Center. These centers are designed to give mothers and their families a clean, quiet, comfortable place to retreat to take care of the littlest member of the family. Each BBC has about six large tables for changing diapers. They are lined with a large, clean sheet of paper. The tables are cleaned throughout the day as well. They are much easier to work on than the pull-down changing tables one finds in restrooms.

Each BABY CARE CENTER location has a kitchen area where bottles can be prepared, and they offer bottled water free of charge for mixing formula. You will find high chairs to feed your toddler too. If you have forgotten some supplies, you can purchase some baby basics such as diapers, wipes, formula, jarred baby food, infant medicines, pacifiers, onesies, bibs, and more. Each location is different, but basic needs will be covered.
If you are breast feeding your baby, you will appreciate the quiet and comfort of the nursing rooms. Each Baby Care Center has one. The room is closed off from the rest of the Baby Care Center. It is homey and welcoming. The room has several rocking chairs in which to relax and feed your baby.

And what is the rest of the family to do while you tend to Junior? The Baby Care Center has an area with toys and games for the kids to play while they wait. There is a TV showing Disney cartoons too.
Here is where you can find each of the Baby Care Centers at the Walt Disney World Resort:

Magic Kingdom® Park:
The Baby Care Center is next to The Crystal Palace restaurant on Main Street, U.S.A.

The Baby Care Center is inside Future World's Odyssey Center.

Disney's Hollywood Studios™:
The Baby Care Center is in the Guest Services Building inside the Main Entrance.

Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park:
The Baby Care Center is behind Creature Comforts in Discovery Island™.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park:
There is no baby Care Center, but the restrooms do have baby changing stations.

Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park:
There is no baby Care Center, but the restrooms do have baby changing stations.

Downtown Disney® area:
There is no Baby Care Center, but the restrooms do have baby changing stations.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Best of a Bad Situation

I am on my third day of my seven (really, six) day cruise aboard the Disney Magic and it finally feels like everyone is starting to relax into “cruise mode.” Our adventure getting aboard the cruise was anything but relaxing, but considering the situation, I find it hard to find fault with Disney.
Saturday began like any other day of getting onto a cruise, until we were told that the Magic was stuck in the Bahamas and would not be arriving anytime soon. It seems that a medical emergency prevented the ship from leaving Castaway Cay on time, and by the time the ship was ready to depart, the weather had taken a turn for the worst. High winds prevented the ship from leaving port and sent the plans of around five-thousand people into disarray.
For our part, Disney promptly sent everyone to Epcot at Walt Disney World where a pavilion was set up to try to coordinate everything. Many people had to be shuttled by Disney, because they arrived by airplane or had already returned rental cars. Snacks and entertainment were provided in an attempt to make everyone as comfortable as possible. When it became clear that the ship would not be arriving on Saturday, accommodations for about 2,500 people had to be found.
Nearly everyone was placed in an area resort (Disney was almost booked full), and attention was turned to getting everyone onto the ship the next day. This was not as easy as it sounds since the Magic’s sister ship, the Wonder, would also be there on Sunday preparing to receive its passengers. An alternate dock was found, and everyone was transported to the new location.
Once we arrived at the new dock, we went through security and were given our room key. Finally, we set foot on the boat and got to our rooms. Somehow, Disney managed to weather the logistical nightmare and get everyone onboard, albeit a day late.
This is not to say that there were not many frustrating moments and problems to overcome for those of us without a ship. My biggest was the piece of luggage with all of my clothing that my shuttle driver dumped on the street because he forgot to latch the trailer. It was eventually found and made it aboard the ship. Overall though, I think Disney did a good job of making the best of a bad situation.
Well, it has now been a couple of months since the cruise, and I thought I would give you an update. Disney did refund a portion of the cruise. It does not make up for the frustration of standing in long lines and missing out on St. Maarten, but it is something. I still feel that Disney did all they could, and am looking forward to sailing on the Dream next year.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dining in Walt Disney World: Explaining the Dining Plans

One of the best parts of any vacation is the food… and I love the food at Disney World! Hundreds of dining locations… thousands of menu items!
Before we get into the details of the Disney Dining Plan, let me give you the basics of food and dining at Disney World.
Types of Dining Options:
Disney offers four different ways to get your food.
Table-Service Restaurants: You go in, are seated, order from a menu and a server brings you your food — well, a few are buffets. This includes all of these restaurant types, as classified by Disney: Casual Dining, Themed Dining, Character Dining, Signature Dining, Special and Unique Dining and Dinner Shows.
Counter-Service Restaurants: You go in, order at a counter, pick up your food and take it to your table to eat it. It’s just your basic fast food restaurant. Disney calls these Counter Service and Quick Service.
Quick Bite: These are walk-up outdoor kiosks with outdoor seating. They serve primarily snacks and beverages.
Resort Shops: Every resort has a gift shop with a grocery section. You can buy soft drinks, chips, packaged pastries, milk, bread and a few other basics. The shops at DVC resorts and Fort Wilderness have many more groceries — cold cuts, canned soups, and much more. The food courts in the Value and Moderate Resorts also have a nice selection of packaged foods and fruit.
Dining Plan Basics:
Disney Dining Plans are available only as an add-on to a Disney World vacation package. Everyone in your party (that is, everyone staying in your room) must have the same ticket options and participate in the meal plan.
Every family has its own preferred way to eat on vacation. Some survive on snack foods and sandwiches. Others like burgers and pizza. Still others love to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at table-service restaurants.
And just about every family wants to dine with the Disney characters during their vacation.
A few years ago, Disney came up with a plan that is kind of a “happy medium.” It’s called the Disney Dining Plan. Some people say that it was a trick to get more people to eat at the table-service restaurants. I say that it doesn’t matter why! All I know is that if you love food, it can be a great deal.
Walt Disney World offers three different dining plans, and two dining and more plans in 2010
The Quick Service Dining Plan entitles each guest to receive 2 Quick Service or Counter Service (CS) credits and 2 Snack credits per night’s stay. EXAMPLE: Sunday to Saturday stay (6 nights) allots 12 CS and 12 Snack credits per guest age 3 and over. This plan also includes one Resort Refillable Mug per person good for unlimited refills of beverages at resorts only for the length of stay. Beverages usually include soft drinks, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.The regular Disney Dining Plan entitles each guest to receive 1 Table Service (TS) credit, 1 Counter Service (CS) credit and 1 Snack credit per night’s stay. EXAMPLE: Sunday to Saturday stay (6 nights) allots 6 TS, 6 CS and 6 Snack credits per guest age 3 and over. NOTE: This plan does not include a Resort Refillable Mug.The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan entitles each guest to receive 3 meal credits and 2 snack credits per night’s stay. Deluxe meal credits can be used for either table service or counter service. EXAMPLE: Sunday to Saturday stay (6 nights) allots 18 meal credits and 12 snack credits per guest age 3 and over. This plan also includes one Resort Refillable Mug per person.
Adult credits are assigned to guests age 10 and older. Child credits are for guests age 3-9. Children age 2 and under do not receive dining credits. Adult and child credits are not interchangeable. Children must order from a child’s menu at restaurants where one is available. However, generally speaking an adult is allowed to use an adult entitlement to order a children's meal from the child's menu.One nice feature about the dining plans is how the credits can be used. Credits are not limited to your daily allotment, and you may use multiple credits per day. (As long as there are enough remaining credits, of course.) Those on the Regular Dining Plan or Deluxe Dining Plan can even choose to exchange two table service credits for a show or signature dining experience if they desire.Signature restaurants requiring 2TS credits per person:• Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge)• California Grill (Contemporary Resort)• Cinderella’s Royal Table character breakfast/lunch/dinner with photo package (Magic Kingdom)• Citricos (Grand Floridian)• Flying Fish CafĂ© (Boardwalk Inn & Villas)• Hollywood Brown Derby (MGM Studios)• Jiko - The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge)• Narcoossee's (Grand Floridian)• Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club)Dinner Shows requiring 2 TS credits per person: • Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (Polynesian)• Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (Fort Wilderness)• Mickey's Backyard Barbecue (Fort Wilderness)
If you want an all-inclusive package that includes more than just dining, Disney also offers the Premium and Platinum package plans.
Premium Dining Plan$164.99 per guest 10 and older$114.99 per child 3-9 years oldPlatinum Dining Plan:$220.99 per guest 10 and older$154.99 per child 3-9 years olds
If you book either the Magic Your Way Plus Dining, Magic Your Way Plus Deluxe Dining, Magic Your Way Premium or Magic Your Way Platinum Package, you can add on the Disney Wine and Dine Plan.
The Wine and Dine Plan includes one bottle of wine per room per night of your stay. For example, if you have a five night package, you will be entitled to 5 bottles of wine.
When dining at a Signature Restaurant or when choosing Private In-Room Dining, two bottles will be redeemed.
You will make your selection from a designated wine list at select locations. This list will offer a variety of choices. The Wine and Dine Plan does not include Gratuity. It must be purchased for the length of your stay. Take the hassle out of planning and let me help you make all your advanced dining reservations for you!