Monday, March 13, 2017

Disney Cruising with Kids Under 3: Tips and Tricks

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing tips for your Disney Cruise.


When you hear parents talk about Disney Cruises, often times you'll hear them brag about how amazing the children's programs are on board. And they are. They're fabulous, and most of the time, the kids don't want to leave to come to dinner with you. Why would you when you're having a sleepover with Goofy?

However, the children's programs on board start at age 3. Therefore, if you're traveling with a baby or toddler, you won't be able to take advantage of these amazing programs.

So what do you do with a toddler on board Disney Cruise Line?

Pools and Splash Zones

One of the biggest bummers for us was the pool area. Though I understand the need for the rule, if your toddler or baby is in a diaper, they are not allowed in the pools. However, that doesn't mean there isn't fun to be had on the pool deck.

On the Disney Magic, we spent a ton of time in the brand new toddler splash zone. In this area the kids were able to roam around and play in their swim diapers. 

Toddler Play Areas

We were thrilled on our first day on the ship to come across a toddler play area. On the Magic, this area was an enclosed area right off the side of one of the bars. This was our saving grace all week. Whenever the kids were getting antsy in the room and needed to run around, we brought them here for supervised play. 

In this area all week we met other families with toddlers in similar ages. We even had the ability to play trivia games along with the people in the bar next door as the kids played. 

There was nothing revolutionary about this area; however, it was the perfect location to truly let them let loose without fear of injury or going overboard. :)

Character Meet and Greets

My son Ryan loves the characters, so whenever we had the opportunity to meet a character we took him. Often these experiences are less stressful than the ones in the theme parks: air conditioned, controlled and well managed. 

On our first sea day we did a character breakfast. During this breakfast we met a lot of the Disney Junior characters (along with Mickey Mouse) so my son was super familiar with all of the characters he met. 

On the ship, you may also find that you have really unique character experiences that would be impossible on land. For instance, with our ticket for the Frozen character experience, we walked in to no line and all three characters played with my son and posed with him. 


Open Play Hours

While they couldn't take advantage of the amazing children's programming, that didn't mean they couldn't take advantage of the amazing children's spaces. For an hour each day, both children's areas were made available for supervised parental play. We took advantage of this almost every day of our trip and our boys loved every moment. 

We made flubber during science time, played in Andy's room, and even got our certificates for honorary Mouseketeers. We played goose, goose, duck (you read that right) with Donald and did exercise with Daisy and Minnie. 
What I was most impressed with during this time was that the programs went on as usual. What I was expecting was to have full reign of the areas, but no coordination. In fact, many parents of older kids enjoyed this time as well because the Cast Members who have been leading their kids all week were around for a little adult play time too. 




Toddler Tips for Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay is a truly breathtaking location, and we had a blast with our toddlers on the island. My best tip for Castaway is to get off early with your kids. By getting off early, we took advantage of all the free items Disney has to make our lives easier. For example, when we got off the tram at the family beach, there were strollers, sand wheel chairs and wagons waiting for guests to use. I was shocked that this was a free amenity. 

While they are available, they did not last all day, so be sure to get off early to take advantage of this. The same can be said for kids life vests. These items were a lifesaver on a beach day.

The splash zone at Castaway Cay was a huge crowd pleaser as well. When the kids are extremely sandy and starting to get grouchy, take a short walk over from the family beach to this amazing splash zone for a little play time. 

This will not only keep the kids occupied, but it will also do the job of washing off 1000 pounds of sand away that would otherwise go in your stateroom bath tub. 


Adult Time & The Nursery 

While all of this supervised play time is wonderful, you may need a break here or there. I mean, the food at Palo isn't going to eat itself! We brought the kids twice to the It's a Small World Nursery, and I cannot say enough about the amazing staff and experience they had there. 

For a very small fee ($9 per hour per child), you can get a few hours of peace and quiet. Thanks to the ship board phones, the nursery staff can reach you at any time for any reason...or you can reach them to check in. 

There are slides, games and snacks. The Cast Members were phenomenal and even let us hang out while the kids settled in.



Traveling on Disney Cruise Line with Toddlers

Our trip on the Disney Magic with 2 year old Ryan will go down as one of my all time favorite vacations. Everything was perfect, but I cannot imagine traveling on a different cruise line because Disney truly thinks of everything! 

Do not hesitate - take that Disney cruise and have a great time!



For more Disney Cruise Line tips, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Monday, January 23, 2017

At Dumbo, Waiting to Ride is Part of the Fun

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best queues at the Disney Parks.


Photo via WDWNews.com























We all have stories about our first visit to Walt Disney World Resort, or our kids' first trips. My aunt's frequently tells the story about the first time they brought my cousin (then a toddler, now a college student) to the Magic Kingdom.

It was Fourth of July in Orlando and it was sweltering. Nobody was in a very good mood, and the only ride my cousin wanted to ride was Dumbo. Dumbo is notoriously slow loading and unloading and the line seemed to be endless and without shade.

After hours (yep, hours) of waiting, it was finally their turn. They climb into Dumbo, it starts to run and my baby cousin pushes the lever, Dumbo jolts, she smacks her face on the console and starts bleeding profusely.

Understandably, their first visit wasn't a magical experience. And while not every guest had that nightmarish experience, in the past five years, Disney has vastly improved the Dumbo experience at Walt Disney World.

The Dumbo Queue

Photo via WDWNews.com

Since New Fantasyland opened in 2012, we saw a glimpse into modern-day Dumbo. Here are some details on Dumbo's "queue."


  • The line is generally shorter, because a second Dumbo "spinner" was added, doubling capacity.
  • The ride is outside, but you wait inside a big top tent.
  • Rather than standing in line (which I can tell you, is never fun with toddlers) you now can let your child run around and play in this interactive play area. You get a pager on your way in that will alert you when your Dumbo is ready.
  • It is wonderfully, beautifully, perfectly air conditioned. 
It is a wonderful experience, and even if you don't have kids, you can appreciate spreading out versus standing in line and the increased capacity. My one and only gripe is that there are no restrooms inside the tent, and you must exit the ride to access them. But really, no ride has restrooms inside, so it's truly a minor complaint. 

How do you like the Dumbo queue at Walt Disney World?


We LOVE Dumbo!



For more great Disney queues, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Step Inside Disney History at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our Disney Bucket Lists and what you should add to yours.



If you would've asked me ten years ago what was on my Disney bucket list, it would have involved roller coasters or shows. However, over the course of the last decade I have added a few titles to my nerdy resume, and I'm proud to say that Disney historian is one of them.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Amazing Gingerbread Structures at Walt Disney World

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing Christmas must dos at Disney.



Gingerbread.

Ginger. Flour. Cinnamon. Nutmeg.

Seems simple enough, right? However, when Disney gets involved, we go from simple to elaborate and magical.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Resort Review: Grand Floridian Villas

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing our reviews of the deluxe villa resorts at Walt Disney World.

Grand Floridian Villas (Photo via WDWNews.com)

There's a feeling I get in my stomach the first time I enter the lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa each trip...it's joy and splendor.

When I heard that Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was adding a new building just with Disney Deluxe Villas, I was skeptical that I could get the same feeling as the main resort. However, as soon as I walked into the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, I felt the same butterflies.

Location, Location, Location

Located just a short two minute walk away from Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Main lobby, the villas have a small, intimate and exclusive feeling. It is beautiful, classy and calming, and boasts all of the amenities that you expect from deluxe level resorts.

After the short walk to the lobby, you can hop on the monorail for one stop to the Magic Kingdom. Stay on the resort monorail for a few extra stops to transfer to the Epcot monorail. This is, by far, the best feature of the resort. Additionally, you can walk to Disney's Polynesian Resort, the Disney Wedding Pavilion, and the bus stop to the other parks. 

Lobby

Grand Floridan Villas Lobby (Photo via WDWNews.com)
The lobby is gorgeous, and every time I arrived it served as a calming presence. The resort has its own front desk with big plush chairs. It looks like a place to have a chat with a friend rather than your traditional "front desk" setup.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by water with cucumber and water. Also located in the lobby were Nespresso espresso machines, which we visited about three times per day. Yes, I know that no normal human being should consume that much espresso, but alas, we are New Yorkers. 

It seemed like we were always the only guests at the resort and always had personal service. 

You can't avoid smiling when you see the beautiful penguin statue and all of the nods to Mary Poppins, one of my favorite movies.

Rooms

The villas are brand new and beautifully appointed, with Victorian styling and classic features. There are three types of rooms available:
  • Deluxe Studios (Sleeps up to five guests)
  • One-Bedroom Villa (Sleeps up to five guests)
  • Two-Bedroom Villa (Sleeps up to nine guests)
  • Grand Villa (Sleeps up to 12 guests)
Disney's Grand Floridian Villas kitchen and living room (Photo Courtesy of WDWNews.com)

The kitchen features white marble and there are wood floors throughout. Underneath the television in the living room is a pull down trundle bed, perfect for any kid.

My only gripe about the rooms at the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is that the two-bedroom villas only have two bathrooms, not three, like similarly-sized resorts at Kidani Village and Bay Lake Tower. This was frustrating for the guests in our room staying on the pull out in the living room, as they had to disturb guests in one of the two bedrooms to use the bathroom and take a shower.

Our views were spectacular. Every night we had the ability to see the fireworks and the Disney fans in our party loved looking at the monorail zoom by.


View from our Villa at the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Photo by Thomas Mottola)

Bottom Line

If you want a resort that is in the perfect location, is formal and classy, has all the bells and whistles of a deluxe resort, has six unique dining locations, has numerous recreation and spa activities...then you should look no further than the Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. 



For more Walt Disney World deluxe villa resort reviews, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Monday, November 14, 2016

My Disney Family Tradition - Watching the Christmas Parade

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are discussing our Disney family traditions.

Photo Courtesy of WDWNews.com










I don't know about you, but I need a little Christmas right this VERY minute. I know a lot of people feel anxiety and frustration around the holidays, but it puts me at peace. And I very much need peace right now.

My family has a lot of traditions, but one of my favorite holiday traditions is watching the Disney Parks Christmas Special on Christmas morning.

In terms of importance, Christmas Eve is paramount in an Italian family. My family does the traditional seven fishes Christmas Eve dinner, and we typically do a midnight mass or other celebration. (Although midnight mass is not possible with a two year old)

By Christmas morning, most of the pressure is off and we usually spend a quiet day with my extended family. Because my brother and I have our own homes and own families now, we typically tape the parade, join my parents later in the morning, and watch it together as we drink coffee and open presents.

Watching the Parade Together: The next best thing from actually being there
Here's information regarding this year's production via Disney:



CHRISTMAS – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 25
 “The Disney Parks’ Magical Christmas Celebration” will air on the ABC Television Network (9:00–11:00 a.m. EST; airtimes vary, check listings) and on the ABC and Disney Channel apps.

This Christmas, Disney Parks celebrates the joy of the holiday season, as hosts Julianne and Derek Hough take viewers on a magical ride down Main Street and beyond. The Christmas Day celebration will be bigger and brighter than ever before, bringing together the beloved Christmas day parade, magical musical performances, surprise celebrity guests and heart-warming family stories to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

Musical performances include: Solo and duet performances by Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks from their newly released album, “Christmas Together.” Kelly Clarkson performing “Underneath the Tree.” Sofia Carson performs “Silent Night,” featuring an alternate musical arrangement from her performance on Disney Channel, and also hosts from backstage. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire)” performed by Jordan Fisher, who will also make his Broadway debut in “Hamilton” on November 22. Additional performances will be announced in the coming weeks.

Will you be watching with your family on Christmas morning? What is your family's Christmas morning tradition? Share in the comments below.



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