Disney Wonder: the theaters

03/30/2015 - Leave a Response

There are two lovely theaters onboard the Disney Wonder: the Walt Disney Theatre, which has Broadway-style live shows, and the Buena Vista Theatre, which plays movies.

Walt Disney Theatre

I really enjoyed the first show we saw in the Walt Disney Theatre, All Aboard: Let the Magic Begin! It was a combination of a stage show and information about what to expect from a Disney cruise. Partway through the show, I noticed some gentle motion in the theater. Since it is located near the front of the ship, this made sense. On the second night of our cruise, we skipped the live show (it was a hypnotist). By night three, the seas were getting kind of rough. I didn’t really notice the boat’s motion too much until I was seated in the Walt Disney Theatre. As I watched Toy Story the Musical, motion sickness took hold, and I bolted out of the theater. Going to the midship area, I looked out a window and sighted the horizon, which helped. After that night, I decided to watch the remaining nightly live stage shows (The Golden Mickeys and Disney Dreams) on the TV in our stateroom.

Buena Vista Theatre

The Buena Vista Theatre plays Disney movies, including some that are first-run. While we were onboard, they were showing Guardians of the Galaxy, Strange Magic, Frozen, Into the Woods, Big Hero 6, and The Hundred-Foot Journey. I had big plans to watch at least three of these movies over the course of our 5-night cruise, but never got around to seeing even one of them. There were just too many great activities onboard!

Have you enjoyed the onboard theaters? What’s your favorite live show?

Cruising Disney: ports of call

03/25/2015 - 2 Responses

We had two ports of call on our itinerary: Cozumel, Mexico, and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. In Cozumel, we spent a couple of hours strolling along the main drag, wandering in and out of shops, and then visited Museo de la Isla de Cozumel. This great little museum taught us about the history of the island. Our favorite part: the Mayan display in their courtyard.

Museo - Cozumel

After exploring the museum, we visited their little upstairs café. The view was great, the breeze refreshing.

Cozumel - view

Our second port of call was supposed to be Castaway Cay. Unfortunately, due to high winds and strong currents, we were unable to dock there. Plan B: Nassau.

Fort Fincastle, Nassau.

The view from Fort Fincastle, Nassau.

My soldier <3

My soldier <3

The Queen's Staircase, Nassau.

The Queen’s Staircase, Nassau.

Since Nassau was an unplanned stop, I hadn’t done my gluten-free research for that port, and thus felt better about going back aboard for lunch. Nassau was a fun stop, but I couldn’t help feeling cheated out of our day on Castaway Cay. Guess we’ll just have to take another cruise some day!

Summer 2015 WDW discounts!

03/23/2015 - Leave a Response

all star music towel mickey

The new discounts are here! Save up to 30% on Disney World hotel rooms. This is for most nights from June 16, 2015 through August 27, 2015. This special offer has to be booked by June 12, 2016. For details, see WDW’s website. If you need any help, Fairytale Journeys by Rebecca Kelly is great. Happy planning!

Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party!

03/19/2015 - Leave a Response

The second night of our cruise was Pirate Night. We had pirate costumes with us, so we got decked out, added the final touch of Mickey pirate bandanas that had been left in our room by our awesome stateroom host, and headed up on deck to enjoy the festivities.

pirate costumes

The party/show was great! Various scalawags taught us to dance, Mickey saved the day, and fun was had by all!

pirate party

There is absolutely nothing like fireworks at sea!

pirate fireworks

After the party, we headed to Parrot Cay for our pirate-themed dinner. All of the servers were dressed in pirate garb. Toward the end of the evening, they led the kids (and anyone else who wanted to join in) around the room in a piratey parade/conga line/limbo combination. It was crazy fun!

Cruising Disney: gluten-free dining with ease

03/16/2015 - Leave a Response

When it comes to eating gluten-free, Disney Cruise Line is just as amazing as Walt Disney World. As a general rule, we felt safest taking our celiac son to the onboard table service restaurants, but you can find a good, safe meal at any of the onboard eateries.

Triton’s was the only table service restaurant open for breakfast and lunch each day, and they were only open for 1 1/2 hours for each of those meals. This meant we had to be careful with our timing, but it wasn’t a big deal. Each time we ate there, our server was fantastic about helping our son choose a safe meal. They even brought him gluten-free donuts as a starter every morning.

Breakfast at Triton's.

GF breakfast at Triton’s

Lunch at Triton's

GF lunch at Triton’s

Gluten-free food could also be found at the buffets and counter service locations. At each of these, just ask the person behind the counter for help, and they’ll call a manager over. At a buffet, the manager (or the chef) will go through the buffet with you to find out what you’d like, then will retrieve it from the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. At a counter service place, the manager will write down your order on a special pink order pad, and the chef will prepare it for you. I tried to hang around the counter and wait for these specially-prepared items, but was told that I could just have a seat and someone would bring it over. The best part: all of this was done with with a Disney smile. We never once felt like we were an inconvenience.

The delicious pizza from Pinocchio's Pizzeria

The delicious gluten-free pizza from Pinocchio’s Pizzeria

For more information on gluen-free dining both onboard and at Disney World, check out my guest appearance on The Disney Exchange podcast. Have you cruised gluten-free? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Cruising with characters!

03/12/2015 - 2 Responses

When we go to a Disney park, we don’t do many character meet-and-greets. Generally speaking, the lines are just too darn long! Sure, you can make a FastPass+ reservation for many of the in-park character meets, but we like to save our precious three FPs for rides. On a Disney cruise, however, opportunities to meet characters are plentiful. We checked our Personal Navigator each night to scope out the next day’s meeting times. That way, we knew when and where we had to be to see each of the characters.

characters minnie

characters rapunzel

characters goofy

By the last full day of the cruise, it felt like we were hanging out with old friends.

characters peter pan

characters stitch

With short lines and absolutely amazing character interaction, onboard meet-and-greets scored a win over the parks! This just might have been my favorite feature of Disney cruising.

Cruising Disney: rotational dining with a gluten-free twist

03/10/2015 - 2 Responses

I’ve heard that Disney Cruise Line invented the concept of “rotational dining.” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I’m glad they have it. This set-up gives you a chance to visit each of their lovely, well-themed “main dining” restaurants at least once, allows you to get to know your servers as they move with you from one restaurant to the next, and provides the opportunity to make new friends (your tablemates).

Prior to cruising, you can request either Main Seating at 5:45pm or Second Seating at 8:15pm. We tend to eat on the late side, especially on vacation, so the second seating was a natural choice for us. On embarkation day, once your stateroom is ready, you’ll find your rotational dining schedule there. This tells you which restaurant to go to each night, as well as your table number. On the Wonder, we rotated between Animator’s Palate, Parrot Cay, and Triton’s.

dining schedule

The service during each dinner was exceptional. Since our service team of José, Kayann, and Deniz traveled with us from restaurant to restaurant, they knew our preferences, allergies, and quirks. And they were a lot of fun!

Triton's at breakfast time. I realized after our trip that I had no pictures from any of our dinners. Guess I was having too much fun to take pics!

Triton’s at breakfast time. I realized after our trip that I had no pictures from any of our dinners. Guess I was having too much fun to take pics!

If you’d rather dine without tablemates, you can make this request pre-cruise. I considered this due to my son’s celiac disease. I was afraid that discussing dietary restrictions in front of strangers might make him self-conscious. I’m so glad I didn’t make this request, though, because our tablemates were awesome! (Shout-out to Kristie, Tony, Michael, Tina, and Rita!) Plus, they had some dietary restrictions in their party, too, so my son didn’t feel alone.

A gluten-free salad at Triton's. This one is from lunch time. Yeah, I was really too busy enjoying dinner to take pics...

A gluten-free salad at Triton’s. This one is from lunch time. Yeah, I was really too busy enjoying dinner to take pics…

If you don’t care to go to the Main Dining restaurants for dinner each night, there are always other options, such as a buffet or counter service. We liked the beautifully themed restaurants, our fantastic service team, and our fun tablemates too much to dine anywhere else.

What do you think of rotational dining?

Cruising Disney: their service is the best!

03/07/2015 - 2 Responses

You just might be familiar with the exceptional level of customer service to be found in Disney parks. That same standard is upheld – perhaps even exceeded – on a Disney cruise. One example: our stateroom host, Vikash, was amazing. He would occasionally check in on us to see if there was anything that we needed. He was always super kind and helpful. And, each night when we returned to our stateroom after dinner, we found it transformed into a cozy, welcoming space. On our bed would be a cute towel animal, the next day’s Personal Navigator, and enough chocolates to keep us all happy.

towel dino

Every evening, Vikash also transformed the “living room” section of our stateroom into the boys’ bedroom:

boys beds

Another example: Alyssa and Weston. We met these two wonderful young crew members right after we boarded, and then ran into them many, many other times during the course of our cruise. In fact, we saw them so often that we came to think of them as our friends. They’d ask us how our day went, we’d ask them what it was like to work for Disney. During one of our Mickey Mouse meet-and-greets, I even asked them to hop into the picture with the boys. They happily obliged:

A and W

Once home, I emailed DCL to let them know about Alyssa, Weston, and Vikash’s excellent service, along with several other outstanding crew members who made our first cruise truly magical.

Cruising Disney: embarkation day

03/05/2015 - 4 Responses

If you’re a cruise newb like me, here’s a quick run-through of embarkation procedures. First of all, when you do your pre-cruise Online Check-In, you will select a Port Arrival Time. We selected the earliest time available (which was 11:30am) to maximize our time onboard. When you get to the port (we took a taxi from our pre-cruise hotel), you’ll leave your luggage (with its DCL luggage tags that will ensure it’s delivered to your stateroom) with a curbside porter. Keep a carry-on bag with your passports and cruise documents, any valuables and medications, swimsuits, and sunscreen – basically, the stuff you’ll need before you’re reunited with your luggage.

As you enter the cruise terminal, you’ll be asked to show your party’s passports. You then go through security (which was quick and easy) and go up to the counter to hand in your cruise documents and have your family’s ID photo taken. If you’re not sure where to go, don’t worry – there are lots of DCL Cast Members there to help. At the counter, you are given a card with your stateroom number and boarding group number on it.

ED boarding card

Find a spot to sit, check out the embarkation day Personal Navigator (the plentiful DCL Cast Members are handing these out), and relax until your group is called.

ED PN

When first onboard, go to Guest Services in the lobby and sign up for any seminars or special meet-and-greets in which you’re interested. Many of these are free, but some (such as the mojito tasting we attended) charge a nominal fee.

the lovely lobby

the lovely lobby

Your stateroom won’t be ready yet, so either change into your swimsuits and hit the pools before they get crowded, or grab something to eat.

Deck 9 circa noon on embarkation day: the only time it won't be mobbed.

Deck 9 circa noon on embarkation day: the only time it won’t be mobbed.

We opted for the Beach Blanket Buffet. As we entered the buffet line, I mentioned that we had a gluten-free eater. A manager was called over, and she was very helpful in finding us safe food.

Our room was ready by 1:30pm. We loved it!

ED stateroom 1

ED stateroom 2

ED stateroom 3

The split bath was great – two of us could get ready at the same time each morning!

ED split bath 1

 

ED split bath 2

Also waiting for us at our room was our dining and reservation schedule:

ED dining schedule

After the muster drill (which was also quick and easy), we headed up on deck for the Adventures Away party. The view of Miami and South Beach as we sailed away was quite lovely!

ED view

What the heck is a Fish Extender?

03/03/2015 - 4 Responses

On every Disney Cruise Line ship, outside each stateroom door, there is a metal fish. The crew places mail here – reservation reminders, receipts, anything they need to communicate to you. Many people hang “fish extenders” from these metal fish. This can be as simple as a bag, or as complex as a custom-made series of pockets (one for each member of your family). If you wish to participate, before your cruise, join a Fish Extender group. During the cruise, you will exchange little gifts with the other members of your group. It adds a little extra pixie dust to the Disney cruise experience!

With my pre-cruise jitters, I thought this might be our only cruise ever. I didn’t want the boys to miss out on any of the magic, so I visited the DISboards to find a Fish Extender group for our cruise dates. I ordered our “FE” on Etsy and started researching FE gift ideas.

FE

As we would be sailing the Caribbean, I decided to make up bags of pirate gold (AKA chocolate coins). We went around the ship on Pirate Night and delivered the booty to our FE group members.

FE gifts

We received all kinds of nice FE gifts, everything from necklaces to socks, from legos to Star Wars puzzles, from candy to rum. Some of the prizes were Disney-themed, others were nautical-themes, and others were specialty items from our fellow cruisers’ hometowns. It was delightful to come back to our stateroom and see what goodies had been left for us. I’m so glad we participated! And, if we ever go on another Disney cruise, we can re-use our Fish Extender to extend the fun!

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