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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Photos of New Year's Eve on the Disney Fantasy!

Imagine if you will that it is New Year’s Eve on the Disney Fantasy.  Hundreds of guests are milling around in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3, listening to live music, and getting their photos taken while dressed in some of their finest clothing.  The time is just after the first dinner seating and show and just before the second dinner seating and show.  That’s when we did it!

We walked into the Lobby Atrium in our slippers and matching flannel pajamas.  Why?  We wanted photos! 

We brought along the New Year’s Eve top hats that were left in our stateroom and provided to all guests to commemorate the occasion.

Other guests’ responses?  Smiles, nods, and positive comments.  I’m thinking Disney Cruise Line might get more guests doing the same in the future.  And the photographers were happy to snap our photos.  I had checked with one of the photographers on a previous evening, as she even offered the vestibule area for us to change in if we wanted/needed.  We didn’t use the space but it was great of her to offer.

The pajamas were so comfortable, I almost wore them to the show, but the boy frowned upon that idea.  A guest who had been with us in line for photos with her family of 18 prior to dinner, caught a glimpse of us in our pajamas.  She saw us again as we entered the Walt Disney Theater to catch the production and we were back in our dinner clothes.  She said, “How did you do that?”  Ah, it’s all about the quick change!  I was thinking that the location of our stateroom helps too!

Not only do we have photos, but we have the fun memories! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Glimpses Into the Future

In a sea of over 300 photos there has to be some good ones and there are, but of all of the photos from our most recent sailing on the Disney Fantasy, the photo above is one of my favorites.  Here’s why. . .

When we were preparing for our very first Disney Cruise in 2007 I read or heard (think podcasts) somewhere that when cruising with your children you get glimpses of them as their older more mature self.  This has been true for us on every cruise and yet this time, we have a photo that captures that glimpse.

We watched our son navigate room service, plan his day, make new friends both in and out of the clubs, and find his way around the ship.  On the afternoon we first came on board, he got mixed up as to which side of the ship our stateroom was on and was a bit lost for a while, but he problem solved.   We saw him order his meals trying new foods and discovering new favorites.  Escargot was gulped up without reservation as were a variety of sea foods.  He can order sea bass and crème brulee like a pro! 

He also took responsibility for his time indicating what time he would meet us or return to the stateroom and making sure he followed through.  Even though I was sleeping, I was told the story of how he returned to our stateroom one night shortly after 1:00 am, as the Edge closed at 1:00 and asked to go with his friends to another location.  The husband said no.  When I heard the story I giggled.  We were prepared for him to stay in the Edge until it closed, but we weren’t prepared for our 13 year old to be asking to go to the “after party”! 

This event did open the door for the conversation about what is okay on the ship—you can go with your friends to a public place on the ship like the pool or D-Lounge, but you cannot go in someone else’s stateroom unless we had met the parents/family.  When we cruised a year and a half ago, he had met a friend at the airport before we had even boarded the bus to the port and we did get to meet the dad.  The two boys did spend time in both staterooms because it had met the criteria we had mentioned above. 

During the evening shows, he has specific places he wants to sit in the Walt Disney Theater and sometimes it means not sitting with us.  That’s okay, as we know where he is.  And, once again, he managed to get himself on stage during the John Cassidy show and even got $1.00 for it.  When he sits by himself, he visits with the people near him. 

I enjoy getting glimpses of the young man he is turning into and can’t wait to see more!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Disney Cruise Line's Rotational Dining and Our Dining Team!

Lee, our Head Server
A unique feature of Disney Cruise Line is rotational dining.  Each night of their cruise, guests are assigned to one of three main themed dining rooms, visiting each dining room at least once during their cruise.  And, the dining team rotates, too!

Guests wonder what their dining rotation will be and it is almost impossible to know prior to one's cruise, but as soon as guests receive their Key to the World Card at port check-in, they know their dining rotation.  The string of little letters under the guest's name indicate the order of restaurants for each night for the duration of their cruise.  Our first letter was "A" for Animator's Palette.

Once the dining rotation is determined, the next piece of important information is the table number.  Waiting for us in our stateroom on the first afternoon were dining tickets.  The tickets indicated the table number as well as the dining rotation.  It is important to bring the dining ticket with you to the first dining room on the first night.  This helps the serving team determine your location.  Our table was #38.  We dined at table 38 in each of the main themed dining rooms each night, but please know that the table location varies from dining room to dining room.
Julio, our Server
That first evening in Animator's Palette, we met our dining team:  Lee, our Head Server, Julio our Server, and Zaldy, our Assistant Server.
Zaldy, our Assistant Server
The Head Server checks in on you at least once each evening making sure everything is going well.  The Server brings you menus, makes recommendations, takes your orders, including dessert, and serves your food.  The Assistant Server takes your drink orders, makes sure silverware and napkins are available, brings your drinks and keeps them filled, and serves the bread course.

One evening, I order a dish and Julio indicated that he did not recommend it.  He suggested something else.  I took his advice.  He later brought me a bit of the dish I had originally ordered so I could taste it.  He was right.  I would not have enjoyed the original dish.  That was the first time I had had that happen and I appreciated Julio speaking up.  I also then wondered why the dish, that did not taste good, was on the menu. . .

On our first night, Todd asked for a side of asparagus.  It was not available on the first night, but Julio made sure that there was a side of asparagus for him the rest of the evenings. 

The dining team is there to help you have an excellent experience.  We found our team very helpful.  They learned our drink preferences and had them ready to serve us upon our arrival at the dining room.  If we needed to speed up dinner to a scheduled event, such as Pin Trading, they accommodated us.  There were evenings when we ordered off both the adult menu and the children's menu.  The boy wanted the salad from the children's menu but the soup and entree from the adult's menu.  And, sometimes the dessert from the children's menu was my preference.  Each request was easily fulfilled.

Dining in each of the three main themed dining rooms on a Disney ship is part of the Disney Cruise Line experience.  Given the number of empty tables in the dining rooms told us that some guests chose to skip the experience and dine elsewhere on the ship.  We wouldn't miss the various menus and experiences that each of the dining rooms provide.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Meeting Captain Thord on the Disney Fantasy

On a Disney ship, the Captain, as well as other ship's officers, is visible to guests.  We had the opportunity to meet Captain Thord, of the Disney Fantasy, three times during our most recent cruise. 

The first time was during the Castaway Club reception held on the first sea day in The Tube on Deck 4 aft.  Captain Thord told us about how he has been with Disney Cruise Lines since the very beginning and the inception of the Castaway Club which was due to guests' requests. 

The second time we met Captain Thord was later that same day at the Captain's Gala in the Lobby Atrium.  While it was amazing to meet him again, somehow my eyes were closed in the photo and a second one wasn't taken.  I do recommend that guests take advantage of this opportunity to meet and get photographed with the Captain.

The third time was during the Captain's signing event held at White Caps, one of the shops, during the last sea day.  The time and location was listed in the Personal Navigator.  We had purchased two David Doss prints at the Vista Gallery earlier in the cruise and brought them both for him to sign.  Other options for signing include post cards, ornaments, or ship figurines.

We've been fortunate to meet ship's Captains on previous cruises.  Click here to read about meeting Captain Marco on the Disney Fantasy.

Click here to read about meeting Captain Henry on the Disney Dream.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Disney Cruise Line's AquaDuck--Now With Pictures!

Disney Cruise Line is famous for it's family activities, first rate entertainment, and stretching the limits of what can be available on a cruise ship by creating the first ever water coaster at sea--the AquaDuck!   The tubed ride features a clear loop over the side of the ship, two dips and blasts forward, goes through both funnels, and encircles Deck 12.  We have ridden the AquaDuck on the two ships that feature the attraction, the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy.

Not familiar with the AquaDuck--click here.

On our most recent cruise on board the Disney Fantasy, we discovered that there is now an option to capture a photo of your ride!  The photo is taken by a camera on the second dip and guests riding will see a flash of light.

When guests climb the stairs and then load the AquaDuck, they will see a screen to the left that has information about photos and most likely the screen will say that the photos are disabled.  What we discovered was that there was previously an option to scan your Key to the World Card at this screen/kiosk and the photo would then load into your Shutter's account based on your stateroom.  This option has since been disabled.  Probably not many folks have their Key to the World Card handy when getting ready to ride.

So, how does one get their AquaDuck photo?  Well, we learned that the previous days photos are "loaded" into the system at 11:00 am the next day.  Guests can then go to a Shutter's kiosk--located in the Shutter's Studio between the Vista Gallery and the hallway on Deck 4 or at one of the kiosks located just outside Enchanted Garden on Deck 2.  Then, scan you Key to the World Card and go to the "Find Photo" option.  Choose the day and then select "On Board" and the "AquaDuck" will appear as an option.  You can then scroll through the photos to find yours.  Keep your eyes peeled or have your glasses as the photos on the screen have a strike through so guests don't photograph them with a phone or camera.

Once you find your photos, tap the photo and add it to your account.  A Shutter's manager will then electronically verify that it is you and add the photos to your account.  This last step is invisible to the guests so need find Shutter's personnel.

It sound like a lot of work and a lot of steps, but it was easy. 

I lost my visor on this ride, but it eventually came down and I got it back.
Let's say you rode the AquaDuck on Sunday.  By Monday at 11:00 am, those photos would be available to scroll through and find to add to your account.  If you don't see them in your Shutter's account via kiosk by later that evening, seek assistance.  

We also learned that the camera is disabled on embarkation day.  While this day is the best day to ride the AquaDuck due to shorter lines, just know that photos won't be taken.

Have fun and smile for the camera!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Personal Navigator--That First One Is Very Important!

You've arrived at Port Canaveral and are in awe of the port.  You can see the Mickey ears just ahead of you, you've checked in and taken the security photo, completed the health form, and are waiting for your group boarding number to be called so that you can step onto that magical Disney ship.  Then, Disney characters begin to arrive! You are trying to keep track of your stuff and your people.  It feels exciting, magical, even overwhelming!  We know, we've been there.  But for your sake and the sake of your vacation, please take a moment and read over the very first Personal Navigator you were given upon check in. 

Why?  Well, because there is important information inside those four glossy pages.  In addition to character schedules, dining times, and drink of the day, there's news about upcoming events during your cruise.

Want to meet the elusive Anna and Elsa?  The Personal Navigator has information on how to obtain a ticket.  Does your darling have their heart set on interacting with Disney Princesses?  If so, that very first Navigator tells parents where to pick up a ticket to meet four Disney Princesses.  And, while we didn't take advantage, there is also a ticket for a special character breakfast featuring Jake from the Neverland Pirates.  Our Navigator indicated that tickets needed to be obtained at the Port Adventures Desk on Deck 5.  That was our first stop after we boarded the ship.

When we presented our ticket for the Princess Gathering, the Cast Members taking and checking our tickets had to fend off other families attempting to get in line.  They were directed to get tickets for further events.  I asked the Cast Member why he had to keep repeating that information as it was in the Navigator.  He thanked me for reading the Navigator and told me that we were now his "favorite family."  Note that throughout the cruise the location to obtain tickets for events changes.  Contact Guest Services if you are not sure.
Ask the husband about the peanut butter and jelly martini!
In addition to obtaining tickets for certain character meet and greets, that first Navigator told us where to go to sign up for various tastings and beverage seminars.  We went there, too, and obtained tickets for Mixology classes and a rum tasking seminar for the husband. 

Now, what to do with these tickets?  Well, we hung them on our stateroom door using magnetic clips--click here to read more about organizing your stateroom.  Then, we made sure we had the tickets when we proceeded to the various events.

The first Navigator also had the movie schedule for each day of the cruise.  That was also helpful as we planned our days.  The guys were able to watch three movies in the Buena Vista Theater while on board.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Out Best Tips For Keeping Everything Ship Shape in Your Stateroom

An example of items left in your stateroom each evening that keep you well informed!
Let's be honest, staterooms can feel small especially when compared to a hotel or resort room.  Even with Disney Cruise Line staterooms being 25% larger than the industry average, a stateroom can still seem cramped when you add all of the stuff.  We have found ways to keep our stateroom ship shape where everyone knows where things are and how to find them. 

Previously, guests were allowed to bring over the door organizers, you know, the ones with the metal hooks.  Disney Cruise Line has now restricted those due to the damage being done to the doors.  We accommodated to meet the new guidelines.
I found the shelf hanger on Amazon.
An organizing tool we use is a shelf hanger in the closet.  It has velcro attachments at the the top and the loops go around the bar.  We put it in one of the closets, as we usually have two closets in our stateroom.  The shelves hold the clothing for each day but could be used for anything.  I even appreciate the very top which also acts like an extra shelf.  Horizontal space can be limited in a stateroom and this adds an additional 6 square feet of horizontal space. Note:  This item weighs a bit so I pack it in our carry on.
The inside of our stateroom door.
We also pack magnetic clips that let us use the metal stateroom doors as another option for organizing all the papers, tickets, and even lanyards.  Found packages of these colorful magnetic clips at Dollar Tree.

The bathroom door is also metal so magnets work great on it, too.  On our last cruise, one of the Castaway Club gifts was a magnetic dry erase white board and magnetic marker.  We brought it back and used it for communicating with each other when we weren't in the stateroom.  I used the bathroom door handle to hang the bag with all of our gear which made it easy to grab on the way out of the stateroom.
Here's our organizational corner that's ship shape.  Notice the Key to the World Card in the slot by the door?  On the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, a magnetic key is needed to activate the lights in the room.  We bring a card from a previous cruise and slide it into the slot--it stays there the entire cruise.

There you have it.  Our best tips for keeping your stateroom ship shape!  What are yours?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Our Pants Problems!

I want to talk about pants.  Specifically the trials and tribulations we had with pants during our recent Disney Cruise on board the Disney Fantasy.

As chief packer and planner, I had made sure that plenty of pants had been packed for all along with coordinating shirts.  And, I had ordered tuxedos after measuring each of the guys—you have to put in the specific measurements into the website when ordering.  But even after all of this, we still had pants trouble.

It began night one when the boy went to put on the pants that had been packed for him in our carry-on bag to avoid any issues changing for dinner if our luggage arrived late in our stateroom.  Thing is, our luggage did arrive later after dinner, so it was a good thing we were prepared.  Anyway, the pants fit everywhere except the waist.  I got out my handy-dandy kit that includes duct tape, clothes pins, and a bit of powdered detergent and found rubber bands to secure the top of his pants—button hole to button with a slip loop.  Worked like a charm and we were off to enjoy our evening.  But it got me thinking that there may be further issues as some of his other pants that were packed were the same size.  Hmm. . .

Night two was formal night and the boy's tuxedo pants fit just fine.  It was the husband who was having difficulty.  He said that he had cinched in the pants as much as he could, but they were still falling down and required hands in his pockets to hold them up.  Rubber bands to the rescue again!  I grabbed the excess waist and put them into a pants ponytail that was covered up by his tuxedo jacket.

Night three the boy put on his pair of pants only to discover that they were too short. He wore them anyway.  At least the wait fit!

Another night, the boy's pants required the rubber band at the waist again.  My gosh, he continues to grow!

 By the sixth night, the pants bit both in the waist and were just right in length.  We hung the up after he took them off and wore them for the seventh night, too!

7th night!
Interestingly, all but one pair--the too short pair--were the same size!  And, the husband had made a declaration that he will only wear tuxedo pants if he has suspenders.  No worries, our next cruise doesn't have a formal night!

As for me, I wore the same "pants"--capris actually, for three nights!  Made packing a breeze!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

We Saw Three Ships a Sailin' On New Year's Day. . .

We saw three ships a sailin' on New Year's Day, on New Year's Day.  Well, actually we saw two ships and we were standing on the third. . . all Disney ships. 

While we were docked at Castaway Cay around 4:00 pm, the Captain made an announcement on the ship that the Disney Dream and Disney Magic were just of the starboard side of the ship taking a look at the island.  In the photo above, the Dream is on the left and the Magic on the right. 

We went to Deck 4 to see what was going on and many of the crew had gathered and were taking pictures.  There was some "horn play" while we were in port.  The Disney Fantasy has upgraded their horns and added another tune--"Let It Go" to the horn repertoire.  The Fantasy was already scheduled to play the horns upon leaving the island.  All aboard time was 4:45 so we knew the horns would play shortly after.

At 4:30, we headed to the Lobby Atrium for the early "Sea You Real Soon" celebration featuring Disney characters.  This event is offered again later on the last night.  By 5:00 we had greeted more characters and captured photos. 

Then, we headed back outside on Deck 4.  We found more crew, and the ships were getting closer together, all headed west to the sunset.  I kept expecting to see a helicopter capturing promotional video!

The Disney Fantasy dropped a rescue boat with suited and helmeted crew.  The boat then whizzed around the other ships taking pictures.  By this time, the Disney Magic was in the middle of the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.  We could see the camera flashes from the Disney Magic.  I felt bad for the guests on the Magic as they could only see one ship at a time on either side.  The rescue boat even captured photos of our ship and guests with their cameras ready.  The bonus was that all ships could hear the Fantasy's horns.

We knew we were witnessing something special when the crew kept coming, taking photos, and making mention that it was unusual for there to be three ships.  We were so glad we were there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Con's" of Our New Year's Cruise on the Disney Fantasy

To read the "Pro's" post--click here.

Someone mentioned to me after reading the “Pro’s” post that they knew a “Con’s” post wasn’t far behind.  Correct they are!

Let me begin by saying that taking a Disney Cruise is magical and for many, they only dream of sailing the seas with Disney.  We have been fortunate enough to be able to sail multiple times with Disney and as you can read in the “Pro’s” post, there are many reasons that keep us coming back.  On our most recent 7-night sailing on the Disney Fantasy, we experienced a few bumps in the road, or shall I say high waves:

Stateroom bathroom that wasn’t clean.  Yep, when we walked into our stateroom we discovered that there was hair in various places in our stateroom bathroom.  We immediately let Guest Services know and a team of crew showed up at our door.  I pointed out what I could see, including on the towel draped over the side of the tub meant for our future use and they got to work.  The Housekeeping Manager also stopped by the next day to make sure everything was okay and Guest Services had a plate of chocolate covered strawberries delivered to our stateroom.  Nice touch, but it was just after dinner and the plate wouldn’t fit in the stateroom refrigerator/cooler.

No More Mickey Mail. We knew this was coming--no more dropping off items at Guest Services to be autographed while you enjoy your cruise.  So, we toted autograph items around throughout the cruise--a pillow case and picture frame matte.  And while I knew ahead of time that the service was no longer available and checked just to be sure, other guests were surprised and complained a bit noting that it was "easier" before.  I checked in with the crew and found out that they were surprised that Mickey Mail went away.  They noted that instead of 45 guests getting to meet characters during an appearance that 30 guests would make it through the line in the same amount of time.  That also means fewer photos taken and possibly fewer photo sales. 

No Clock in our stateroom.  I had read that at the Walt Disney World Resort, they were removing the clocks from the resort rooms and only putting them in at guest request—as an experiment of sorts.  So, when there was no clock in our stateroom I wondered if it was the same thing.  We did request a clock and received one.  But informal polling of other guests indicated that clocks were standard in other staterooms.

No Body Wash—or a limited supply.  This item speaks to our enjoyment of the Disney Cruise Line toiletry products.  The shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and various boxes of soap were kept in good supply.  But, not Body Wash.  When the Housekeeping Manager checked in on us, I asked about getting Body Wash.  He said that he would check, but that the product may no longer be available.  We DID get two tubes in our bathroom over the coming days.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks not Pirate Night—for most people this would be a “pro.”  Fireworks at sea on New Year’s Eve!  Only one of us saw them and that was the boy.  I knew I couldn’t make it until midnight and the husband followed suit.  If the fireworks were on Pirate Night, we would be watching them at 10:00 or 10:15, not midnight.  Anyway, the boy enjoyed them and we heard that two other cruise ships from other companies sailed nearby to take advantage of the fireworks viewing as well.

Limited Pirate Night—because of New Year’s Eve, Pirate Night was somewhat diminished.  Yes, there was a Deck show/party at 7:45 pm.  Yes, there were bandanas left in our stateroom for us to use.  And, yes, there were pirate characters to meet.  But there was no Pirate Menu for dinner.  My taste buds were ready for some crab cakes.  Next cruise!

Time and the use of time—A Disney Cruise hosts guests and crew from across the world and I know that time and the use of time is cultural.  At the same time, there are schedules for a reason.  And while I have never done this on previous cruises, on our most recent sailing I bailed on two different occasions due to how time was being used.

The first was a Mixology class on our first at sea day.  The time of the class was 3:00 pm.  Both the husband and I had signed up, had our tickets, and had told the boy that we would meet him at 3:45.  We arrived a few minutes prior to 3:00 pm in the Meridian Lounge on Deck 12 and enjoyed the view of Havana.  The bar was set up for the class, guests had gathered, and we were told they were waiting for the bartender.  At 3:25, the same man who had told us we were waiting for the bartender decided to begin the class and ask for volunteers to make the first drink.  This is when I stood up and left.  I leaned in and told him that the class was supposed to start at 3:00 and that it was now 3:25 and he was just getting to the first drink.  The husband stayed.  I did not get charged for the class.  Note:  We did do a second mixology class with a different bartender in Skyline later in the cruise—it went much smoother!

The second bail was our port adventure/excursion in Cozumel.  Those that have taken Disney’s Port Adventures know that you are given a ticket with a designated meeting time and location.  We were to meet in the Walt Disney Theater at 9:45.  We arrived a few minutes prior and watched how the one half of the theater was filled and then the other half—I’m estimating 500 people.  We sat and sat and were told that we couldn’t leave because the gang planks had closed due to another ship docking at the pier.  We waited some more.  Then, we were getting off the ship and stopped twice on the pier to wait for the remaining guests to gather.  An hour into our Port Adventure we had only made it to the end of the pier.  I knew what was coming next—everyone up the escalators, across the mall—for more waiting---down the stairs to the buses and then a 25 minute ride to the beach/resort.  We turned around and headed back to the ship and happened to bump into the crew member who had been helping us in the theater.  She was surprised to see us.  I explained that we had been at this for an hour and had only made it to the end of the pier.  The Port Adventures Manager was right there and he heard our story.  He issued a refund, which I wasn’t expecting, for our Port Adventure.  We enjoyed the rest of the day on a near empty ship.

Disney Cruise Line has an exit survey that they want all guests to complete and these items were included in our survey.  Were these issues so large that they ruined our cruise?  No way!  Again, just bumps in the road or high waves on the sea.

P.S.  We did make it to our Port Adventure/Excursion in Jamaica for River Tubing on the Martha Brae River.  Our bottoms hit the tubes in the river two hours after checking in for our Port Adventure on the ship.  There were 36 people in our group.