Monthly Archives: April 2014

My Parents :)

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I was in Tennessee for Easter weekend, to meet my new nephew Henry and spend time with family. This morning, I finally began moving the photos I took from the camera to the computer. I haven’t even looked at every single one yet, but this is my favorite so far. 🙂 I love my Mom & Dad. Aren’t they adorable?

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Taking Care of Myself

I feel like such a big girl. I went to the doctor today for a physical! I’m being completely serious when I tell you that this is something I have never done as an adult. I know. What?!

I go to the dentist regularly. I have my eyes checked (sort of) regularly. I’ll make an appointment when I’m sick, but I guess since for a few years of my life I was constantly having my weight, heartbeat, and blood pressure monitored by the OB/GYN, I didn’t think it was necessary to have another doctor poking at me.

I’m five years beyond having my last baby at this point, so I figured it was finally time to be a real grown up and go to the doctor. I did the easy part today, and I’m in pretty good shape. I do have low-ish blood pressure (who knew?? no one has ever told me this before), but since I don’t faint or have dizzy spells, it’s all good! I’ve got to go back later in the week, when I’ve fasted for at least eight hours (yuck!), and get blood work done for cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid, etc. No news is good news, so here’s hoping I don’t get a phone call when it’s all said and done. 🙂

How about you? Has everyone else been getting a physical regularly? Am I weird?

Magical Monday – Accommodations (Value Resorts)

It’s Magical Monday again! I’ve talked a lot over the last few months about Walt Disney World’s parks, where to eat, what to do, etc. I even went on a complete tangent and talked about Disney Cruise Line for a week. I’ve taken the long way around to get to something that is really at the crux of your vacation – accommodations.

Disney resorts are unlike any other. Each one has a theme, and everything, I mean everything, at each resort revolves around its theme. There are fun surprises around every corner, and Disney’s tiered system ensures that there will be a room to fit every family’s budget. This week, I’ll share with you what I know about value resorts. In the coming weeks, I’ll move up the chain and discuss moderate resorts, deluxe resorts, and villas.

Your stay at ANY Disney resort includes complimentary airport transportation and luggage service, complimentary resort transportation and parking, extended park hours (also known as Extra Magic Hours), complimentary WiFi anywhere on Disney property, unique room offerings (story rooms, family suites, and many ADA rooms), Magic Bands, and the ability to add a Disney dining plan to your package.

The most economical of Disney’s resorts are called Value Resorts. There are five of these resorts with over 10,000 rooms between them to accommodate Disney travelers. The rooms at these resorts will have double beds and smaller square footage, as they are geared for the most park-focused guests. If you don’t intend to spend much time in your room, a value resort will be perfect for you. These resorts offer basic amenities – pools, playgrounds, arcades, a gift shop, a quick-service restaurant, and bus transportation to all the parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney. Since you’ll be playing at the park all day, you won’t need much else! An added bonus is how close you are to the parks, so you won’t be wasting time driving back and forth, parking, and hiking in from the far corner of the parking lot (or riding the tram).

I toured Art of Animation for the first time on my trip. This is Disney’s newest value resort, and it has a fresh, vibrant feel. I love the character development wall as you enter the lobby. The drawings begin in black and white and gradually become more detailed and add color as you move further into the hotel. There is even an artist stationed near check-in to teach your kids (or you!) how to draw Disney characters. At Art of Animation, your room will be in one of four themed areas – Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, or The Little Mermaid. Most of the rooms here are family suites. The only standard rooms you will find here are in the Little Mermaid area.

Standard rooms feature two double beds and can sleep four, plus an infant (age 2 and under) in a pack and play crib. Family suites can accommodate up to six guests, plus an infant, in a queen bed, sofa bed, and Murphy bed. Suites also have two bathrooms and a kitchenette with a microwave and mini-fridge. These rooms have three distinct sleeping areas, so you don’t feel like sardines in a can.

Art of Animation’s main pool, the Big Blue Pool, draws its inspiration from Finding Nemo. It is a centrally located, zero-entry pool with underwater speakers and a fun splash zone for smaller children. This is a keyed-access pool to keep it exclusive to Art of Animation guests. There are also three other pools at this resort. My personal favorite is the pool in the Cars area. There are adorable Cozy Cone cabanas that are free to use!

At Art of Animation, you can also find a playground, an arcade, a pool-side lounge (by the Big Blue Pool), a business center, and Movies Under the Stars each evening by Pride Rock in The Lion King area.

Other Disney Value Resorts include – All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, and Pop Century. These will all be comparable in price and amenities.

Have you ever stayed at one of Disney’s Value Resorts? Which is your family’s favorite?

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Magical Monday – A Disney World Proposal

I can’t take any personal credit for this video. It’s Magical Monday. I’m traveling and visiting with my family, so I’ll let these guys take over for the week. 😉

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“Life is tough, but so are you.”

20 Things We Should Say More Often. I concur, Kid President. I especially love this one:

“If you can’t think of anything nice to say, you’re not thinking hard enough.”

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Magical Monday – Using Magic Bands

I took a break from my regular programming last week to talk about Disney cruises, but it’s back to the most magical place on earth this week. Today, let’s talk about Magic Bands.

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Magic Band packaging. I love it!

Disney World rolled out the Magic Bands for testing back in August 2013. Officially, the bands are still in the testing process, but all Disney resort guests have been able to use them since January. As of last week, anyone visiting a Walt Disney World park has the option of using a Magic Band.

What are they? A Magic Band is a waterproof armband that, during your Disney World vacation, holds your room key, park ticket, FastPasses, photo pass, meal credits, and credit card for incidentals while you’re touring Disney’s parks. An RFID chip inside the band holds a code that, when you scan it at touch points throughout the property, links to a secure database where your vacation information is stored.

You'll see touch points like this when you enter the park when it's time to use your FastPass+

You’ll see touch points like this when you enter the park when it’s time to use your FastPass+

What’s the point? To make your vacation as hassle-free and seamless as possible. You may begin customizing your band and selecting FastPass choices up to 60 days in advance of your trip using the My Disney Experience website. This website helps you plan every detail of your vacation. Your reservation links here, showing where you will be staying, for how long, what kind of tickets you’re using, etc. When we make your dining reservations, these will show in your account on this site. All of your FastPasses will be saved here. There is also an app for smartphones and tablets that you can use while you’re traveling. Disney is now providing complimentary wi-fi in all of their resorts and parks to make Magic Bands very user-friendly. They are even beginning to add charging stations in the parks, knowing that as they encourage visitors to use the My Disney Experience app on their phone, they’ll likely be needing to power up throughout the day.

If you’re staying at a Disney resort, Magic Bands for each member of your party will be included with your package. They are available in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, and gray. You can customize each one with a nickname that will be printed inside the band, so if multiple members of your group want the same color, you’ll be able to tell them apart.

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If you are staying off property, you can now set up an account on My Disney Experience and link your tickets before you go. You’ll also be able to make FastPass selections. Once you arrive at the park, you can purchase a Magic Band in one of the gift shops and link it to your ticket through My Disney Experience. A cast member will be nearby to help if you need assistance with this process.

A few other fun facts about the Magic Bands?

  • They are waterproof and designed for cool comfort. There were definitely some warm days while I was in Florida, and I don’t remember feeling any discomfort because of my Magic Band. (Some of my shoe and clothing choices are another story.)
  • Magic Bands are made from a hypoallergenic, non-latex material.
  • The battery can last for up to two years.
  • You can link multiple bands to the same ticket/account. Think of this like accessing your e-mail from two different devices. If you’ve traveled to WDW more than once and have multiple colors, you can use them all on your next trip. Match them to your outfit, if you’d like!
  • There is a peel-out option to make the bands smaller for kids. This is printed in the instructions on the box, but people must not be noticing it. I can’t tell you how many little ones I saw with their band wrapped around their wrist 3 times.
  • Magic Bands do not contain GPS tracking devices. You cannot use them to find a lost child at Disney World.
  • If you want the Magic Bands shipped to your home, you have until 10 days before your trip to customize them. Otherwise, they’ll be waiting at the front desk of your resort for you when it’s time to check in. (Resort pick-up is a good choice for surprise trips or if you’re afraid of forgetting them at home.)
  • There are over 60 experiences that you can choose a FastPass for using your Magic Band. (If I’m helping plan your trip, I’ll make sure you know which attractions you don’t really need one for.) At the time of posting, you may choose 3 FastPass experiences per day, and they must all be in the same park. As part of the test and adjust period, Disney is still determining how many people want/need and how to accommodate park hoppers with the new FastPass system.
  • If you don’t use a smartphone, Disney still has you covered. There are kiosks throughout the parks where you can change or add FastPasses while you tour. You can also ask a cast member to help out.
  • Your children will not be able to make charges on their Magic Bands. That option will only be accessible on the adult bands. In addition to scanning the band at a touch point, you will enter a PIN code to make charges, much like the old Key to the World cards. Even if you lose your Magic Band, it would be very difficult for someone to steal it and purchase souvenirs on your dime. 😉
  • Don’t think you’ll use your Magic Band again? Or maybe you just don’t want it taking up space when you return home? That’s OK. You can turn it in at the front desk when you check out, and it will be recycled or repurposed.

My only, tiny, minute complaint about the Magic Band is that the positioning of the touch point on the hotel room doors is a little…odd. I wished for arms like Mrs. Incredible a time or two. Easy fix? Remove the band when it’s time to unlock the door. You’re not going to wear it while you’re sleeping anyway.

So….any questions?

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Dream Week – That’s a wrap!

Is the week already over? Some of you may be cheering, but I hope that the rest of you have learned a lot about cruising with Disney. Maybe the next time I write about a Disney cruise ship, I’ll have actually been sailing on it.

I know I covered a lot this week, but I welcome your questions. I want you to be a well-educated cruiser. 🙂

Disney Cruise Line offers a wide variety of cruise itineraries. You can sail to the Bahamas, Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island in the Caribbean), the Caribbean, Alaska, up (or down) the California coast, through the Panama Canal, or to destinations in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. There’s a great big world out there to explore, and cruising is such a fun way to do it!

If you book your next Disney cruise through me, you will probably get a fun surprise in your stateroom when you arrive. 🙂

audra@atimetotreasuretravel.com

 

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Dream Week – Staterooms

Today’s post requires a disclaimer. I’ll only be sharing one stateroom photo, and it is borrowed from dclnews.com. While I toured the ship, it was in port, the crew cleaning and getting it ready for a new round of guests. I was unable to take my own photos of staterooms, because none were really photo-ready. I saw several staterooms, and I do have a broader knowledge of the different types and categories, in addition to all the little nuances in between.

Disney Cruise Line’s smallest staterooms are the same size as mid-level rooms on other cruise ships. Their staterooms are designed with families in mind. If you have cruised on other ships before, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the staterooms you find aboard the Disney Dream.

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When you enter the room, there is a holder where you will insert your room key, known aboard as your Key to the World card. This activates the electricity in your room. When you leave and remove the card, everything turns off. You won’t be wasting power on this ship.

Most of the staterooms will have a nautical theme and colors similar to the photo above, with a few Disney touches, of course. The queen bed is raised, so you can store luggage underneath. There is also a closet with ample storage space. The sofa toward the back of the photo above turns into a twin bed, and a second twin bed pulls down from the ceiling. A curtain divides the two sleeping areas, so if you are traveling with children, you’ll be able to put them to bed without having to hang out in a darkened room earlier than you’d normally have to. Most of the staterooms will have a split bathroom. That means the sink and toilet are in a separate room than the shower. The separated rooms make it much easier for families to clean up and get ready for the day, or for dinner after a day by the pool.

The largest room on the ship will sleep five. If your family is larger than this, you can be accommodated in connecting staterooms. These are available within every stateroom category on the ship.

I’ll share a quick list of the different room types aboard the Disney Dream from smallest to largest:

Standard Inside Stateroom – These rooms are best for families of 3 or 4. 169 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed. Most have a bath with tub and shower, but these rooms will not have the split bathroom. Inside staterooms have a Magic Porthole that shows real-time footage of the sea outside the ship, with virtual appearances from beloved Disney characters.

Deluxe Inside Stateroom – Also sleeps 3 or 4, slightly larger at 204 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed. Most of these rooms have the split bath, but not all of them do. You will also have a privacy curtain between sleeping areas and a Magic Porthole.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom – Specs are exactly the same as the deluxe inside stateroom, only you will have an actual porthole window. Some do have obstructed views.

Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom – Sleeps 3 to 5 guests, 241 square feet. All will have a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa. Some have a upper berth pull-down bed or a wall pull-down bed. Most of these rooms have a split bathroom with round tub. It even has a seat to make bathing little ones easier. There are a few different categories within this room type to do with the window. Most will have one large porthole window with a seat (shown in the photo above), but some will have two.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Navigator’s Verandah – Sleeps 3 or 4, 246 square feet (this figure includes the verandah). All will have a queen-size bed, single convertible sofa, and upper berth pull-down bed, if you need it for a fourth guest. Most have a split bathroom. The navigator’s verandah will be smaller than most, or it will have an obstructed view.

Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Same as above, only you’ll have a private verandah, full-sized with no obstructions.

Deluxe Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Sleeps 3 to 5, 299 square feet (including verandah). This room is just like the deluxe family ocean view stateroom above, with a private verandah instead of the porthole window seat.

Concierge Family Ocean View Stateroom with Verandah – Sleeps 5, 306 square feet (including verandah). These rooms have a queen-sized bed, double convertible sofa, upper berth pull-down sofa, full bath, and half bath. You will also have a private verandah. This stateroom has a little bit “fancier” decor than all the other staterooms. Concierge level rooms are tucked away on Decks 11 and 12 and feel very private. They have their own lounge, and you will receive extra personalized service. There is a private adult sun deck for concierge level guests. You have a private waiting area in the terminal before boarding the ship, and you get to board first. Another added bonus? These rooms are located very close the spa!

Concierge Suites – There are only 3 of these on the Disney Dream. The two Royal Suites are named after Roy and Walt Disney. Each is 1,781 square feet with one bedroom, two bathrooms, a dining room, media library, pantry, and wet bar. They are swanky. You get concierge level service on steroids. The other concierge suite is a 622 square foot suite with one bedroom, two bathrooms, living area, and walk-in closet. Again, your amenities and service in this room will be stellar. If anyone wants to call me and book one of these, you will make my year…probably more. 😉

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Dream Week – Adults Only!

On to Day Three of our Disney Dream week! We’ve explored spaces for families and children, so it’s time to see where you can go for some relaxing adult time once you’re dropped the kids off at the Oceaneer’s Club.

Our first stop is the Senses Spa & Salon. There is a large fitness center inside with treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and weight training equipment. Instructional classes are also offered, or you can hire a personal trainer, for a fee. There are men’s and women’s changing areas, lockers, towels, water, and showers for you to use as well.

Next, we toured the Rainforest room. This was easily my favorite spot aboard the ship. Look at that row of gorgeous heated lounge chairs with individual lights for reading. This area is so relaxing. There are also two open-air jacuzzis, a quiet indoor relaxation room, a steam room, dry sauna, and a steam bath. You can use the Rainforest room for $16 per day, or there is a length-of-cruise option.

Also inside Senses are couples villas, where you can go to enjoy spa treatments together. The salon offers haircut and hair styling services, manicures, pedicures, and more! There is even a barber shop featuring traditional men’s services.

Maybe your idea of relaxation involves a pool and a tropical drink? You’ll want to spend some time at the Quiet Cove Pool. Adult music is played, instead of the upbeat, family-friendly music you’ll hear on the main pool deck. The Cove Bar offers adult refreshments, without having to leave the comfort of the pool area. There are plush lounge chairs where you can sunbathe and relax. Glass-bottomed jacuzzis overlook the ocean. The Cove Cafe is also here, offering coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages.

In the evening, you can enjoy an adult exclusive dinner at Palo or Remy. You must make reservations to dine at these restaurants, and there is a dress code. Palo has a Venetian theme, offering Northern Italian cuisine for $25 per person. This price does include gratuity, and every table offers a stunning ocean view.

Remy is the place to go for foodies. At $75 per person, Remy offers a true fine dining experience. Plan to be here for 3-4 hours. You will be served several courses of French-inspired food. Remy is small and elegant. It feels very intimate. They even provide a little stool for your handbag! I took a picture. I couldn’t help it. I had never seen such a thing.

The District is the Dream’s adult entertainment area. Inside, are several nightclubs and lounges with distinct themes. The District Lounge offers karaoke. Pink is an elegant lounge, designed to look like the inside of a champagne bottle. Evolution is a dance club whose theme is based on the evolution of a butterfly. 687 is a sports bar where you can enjoy a drink and watch live sporting events. Yes! On a cruise ship! Skyline was my favorite. It feels very swanky and metropolitan. Behind the bar are screens showing a famous city’s skyline – Chicago while we were inside. The skyline changes throughout the evening, so you might also be in New York, Paris, or Hong Kong. Another really neat thing about that skyline? It also transforms from day to night as the day progresses.

From the daytime to the evening, the Disney Dream has adult time covered. I think I could take a Disney cruise without children and still have a wonderful time. It is a common misconception that Disney Cruise Line is only for families. While I do think Disney cruises are fantastic for families, what I saw on this tour showed me that adults can have just as much fun without kids as they can with them. If I had known anything about it, I might have begged for a Disney cruise line honeymoon 10 years ago. I’m super serious. I’m begging him to take me now. 🙂

Ready to book? Please contact me for rates and sail dates.

audra@atimetotreasuretravel.com

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Dream Week Day Two – Kids’ Areas Aboard the Disney Dream

If you missed yesterday’s post, I’m sharing photos of the Disney Dream from the ship tour I took a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I gave a general overview of the ship.

Today, t’s time to talk about the littles. The children’s programs aboard the Disney Dream are just spectacular. You can sign your children up for the youth clubs and activities in the terminal before boarding the ship, or you can wait until you’re onboard and get them enrolled at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab or Oceaneer Club.

Just inside the entrance, after checking your children in with a youth counselor, you will find these really fun washing stations. They’re like a car wash for your hands! Disney Cruise Line is on top of cleanliness. I was very impressed with this during our short tour. These stations make sure nobody’s kiddos are bringing in funky germs to share.

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab is a play area focused on exploration and adventure. There are movie screens. There are computers. Kids can play games, perform scientific experiments, make crafts, and much more! I captured photos of the Sound Studio, Media Room, light-up dance floor, Craft Room, Animator’s Studio, and The Wheelhouse. If you have a techno-geek child like mine, this is where they’ll want to be.

Disney’s Oceaneer Club is for imaginative, immersive play. There are four themed spaces inside. The Explorer Pod, a submarine found in Finding Nemo, houses a virtual play area. There are several computers where kids can play games individually or together. Pixie Hollow is inspired by the Tinkerbell movies. Children can play dress up, sit for storytelling, or enjoy craft time in this area. The Monsters Academy area has a Monsters Inc. play structure where kids can burn energy. There are also computers with interactive games. Andy’s Room brings Toy Story to life. Kids can climb, play, and really feel like they are one of the toys.

There are also special activities held in each of these kids’ clubs throughout your voyage. The hours of operation are 9:00am to midnight, and kids are welcome to eat lunch and dinner while they are in the clubs. If you want to enjoy an evening at one of the Dream’s adults-only restaurants, your littles will be well taken care of.

Who gets to go? I’m glad you asked. Kids ages 3 to 12 are welcome at Disney’s Oceaneer Lab and Club. All of Disney Cruise Line’s children’s programs have a slight age overlap. The It’s a Small World Nursery (which I’ll talk about in a minute) is for children aged 3 months to 3 years. The kids’ clubs are for children ages 3 to 12. There is a tween club for children 11 to 14, and the teen areas are for those not-quite-kids/not-quite-adults ages 14 to 17 to hang out. Disney knows that children don’t all develop at the same rate. Your 11-year-old may be mature for his/her age and be more comfortable in the tween club, where mine might want to play with the younger kids. I love that Disney thought this through so well.

The last few photos are of the It’s a Small World Nursery. Its hours of operation are 9:00am to 11:00pm. This is the only one of the Dream’s children’s programs that will cost you extra. Babysitting services are available here for children ages 3 months to 3 years old for $9 an hour for the first child, $8 an hour for each additional child in the same family. You can schedule 10 hours’ worth of time beginning 75 days before your cruise. You are not limited to 10 hours. You can schedule more time once you arrive. The ratio of counselors to children is 1 to 4 for children 3 months to 12 months old. For toddlers, the ratio is 1 to 6. (Fun fact, though, Disney only books a certain number of children in each age group for every sailing. Over-crowding shouldn’t be an issue.)

The only problem you may have is when the counselors have to push you out the door because you want to stay and play with the kids! 😉

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