Jun 292009

When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! — Jiminy Cricket

Do you have a Disney dilemma? Are you wondering about a certain attraction? Are you curious about a resort or a cruise? Give us a little whistle and we’ll help you sort out how to handle it. Questions should be sent to whistle@magically-speaking.com

For this cruise edition of “Whistle,” we turned to the experts. A panel of travel agents from The Magic for Less Travel tackled two cruise-related questions from readers. Thanks to Linda, Mic, Jessica, Deb, Marie, and Mike for your unfailing willingness to help.

Q. Hello, I’ve been wanting to take my family on a Disney cruise, but I get seasick. Is there anyone that can ease my mind about getting on the boat? (Submitted by Michelle)

A. Michelle, your worry is one that seems to confront almost all first-time cruisers. It shouldn’t stop you from planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation, though. There are many ways to avoid discomfort before it happens, and methods to decrease sickness once it happens.

Right off, though, you should know that both the Disney Wonder and the Disney Magic are equipped with stabilizers that, when extended, help to decrease the rocking of either ship. DCL also has state-of-the-art weather tracking, and the Captain always does his best to keep the ship in calm waters.

That said, it’s good to be prepared, just in case. The following list compiles the handy advice we got from The Magic for Less Travel agents:

  • Consider taking one of the shorter cruises your first time out, just to “test the waters.”
  • The best stateroom location to minimize ship movement is a lower deck, mid-ship room.
  • There are a number of motion-sickness medications that people find helpful. Among them are Dramamine and Meclizine (Bonine, which doesn’t make you drowsy like Dramamine can). There is an anti-nausea patch which requires a doctor’s prescription. Be sure to consult with your doctor before trying out new medications.
  • Daily ginger tablets, or even ginger-snap cookies, can help some travelers with nausea.
  • Many people swear by sea sickness bands that you wear on your wrists.
  • Start whatever method you choose to combat sea sickness at least three hours prior to boarding the ship. If you wait until you are feeling nauseous, it is much harder to combat.
  • Stay hydrated, and avoid hard alcohol.
  • Keep some food in your stomach (not hard to do on a cruise).
  • If you get nauseous, get outside: go out on your verandah or go up on the open deck, and get fresh air.
  • If you are inside, it is usually helpful to be somewhere with windows. If you have an inside stateroom, there are lots of public spaces with chairs where you can relax and look out at the horizon.
  • One cruiser suggested that a cold cloth on the back of the neck can be helpful.

We’re not sure if this counts as “handy advice,” but Mike shared, “I had a friend who swore that eating pickles and crackers kept her from getting seasick.” Your mileage may vary.

Mic noted, “I personally feel ‘odd’ the first day from the motion of the ship, as if I’m inebriated and can’t walk. So avoiding any adult beverages on that first day would be recommended as well (no use compounding the feeling). Typically by the next morning I have gotten my sea legs and am good to go.”

We’ll close our answer with an approach Jessica recommends: “For what it’s worth, if you focus on worrying about getting seasick, odds are more likely that you’ll get seasick. I usually tell family and friends to make sure they have Bonine and then try not to even think about it. My mother-in-law is someone who would sit and wonder if every different sensation she feels is herself getting seasick, and I think she literally talks herself into it.”

Take this advice to heart, Michelle, and go book that cruise!

Q. We are going on our first Disney Cruise next winter, and I’m trying to work out our budget. Besides the cruise payment, what other expenses will we have? I’m especially wondering about tips? (Submitted by Shireesh)

A. You are in for a treat. Although any Disney cruise is wonderful, your first one is particularly magical. You’re smart to think through your budget ahead of time. It will make the return to reality, post-cruise, a little less painful. Let’s look at some of the typical expenses not covered by your cruise fare.

Tips are a big expense on any cruise. The current standard tipping on DCL for the stateroom attendant, dining room server, assistant server and head server is $12 per person per day, including babies. You may pre-pay these gratuities on your reservation up until three days prior to sailing. If you do not pre-pay, we recommend that you don’t wait until the final full day to pay your gratuities — the lines at Guest Services always seem longer then. If you do pre-pay, you can always add extra money to the gratuity envelopes for superior service.

Other optional, expensive, but fun add-ons are spa treatments (click here for a spa overview) and excursions (click here for Disney’s list of destinations, each of which have a myriad of options, excursion-wise). There are also scheduled activities on the ship, like wine tastings and bingo, that are not included in the price of the cruise.

It’s possible to drop a lot of cash on photographs, if you chose to buy the official shots taken by the Disney Cruise Line photographers. Some of the shots are stunning, so you might want to plan for the purchase of at least one or two from Shutters (click here for price lists).

If you want to use the internet while on a Disney Ship, definitely budget in that expense. You can find the most recent charges here: Wireless Internet on DCL.

Auto-gratuities of 15% apply for all beverages served in bars, the shows, and the pool areas as well as wine in the dining room. Basically, anything that you order and is brought to you on a ship (the drink of the day by the pool, a smoothie for the kids during a show, a bottle of water bought on the way off the ship or a purchased wine package) will have an auto-gratuity added. If you want to save money, you can always get free soda, coffee, and milk at the drinks’ station on Deck 9 — open 24/7. This is a nice perk of Disney Cruise Line.

Room service may be tipped at your discretion, and cash is always appreciated. Most veteran cruisers suggest tipping $1–2 per person served. Dining at Palo is another possible additional food expense. Current rates are $15 per person for brunch or dinner and $5 for High Tea (not offered on 3- and 4-night cruises). This charge covers your gratuity, although many cruisers give an additional tip for the service at this fantastic location.

While it’s helpful to have smaller bills for room service tipping, all gratuities can be charged to your stateroom account, as a cruise ship is “cashless.” Some guests also put additional cash in the folder for the server when they get their beverage. If you want to send a postcard from Castaway Cay, you will need cash (the Castaway Cay post office does not accept ship credit).

You’ll need money for any souvenirs that catch your fancy (both on and off the ship). Purchases in the shops and on Castaway Cay are charged back to your stateroom account, as are shore excursions booked with the cruise line. (Independent shore excursions, though, are subject to the terms and conditions at time of booking.) Guides for shore excursions are often tipped with cash, and this can get pricey. Many guests tip 10% of what the excursion cost, per person. However, this is at your discretion.

All the information above may make it seem like you’ll be dropping money every which way. The vast majority of money spent, however, is at your discretion. It’s very easy on DCL to limit extra spending, as there’s plenty to do without scheduling much in the way of extra activities. As long as you’re ready to pay your server/stateroom gratuity, and you know what other additional expenses are important for your family, you’ll be in good shape, Shireesh.

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