Jun 292009

By Linda Norton, The Magic for Less Travel

Maybe you’ve been bitten by the Disney bug but don’t necessarily want to do the parks. Maybe you’ve “been there, done that” and want to try something different to satisfy your Disney fix.  Maybe it’s time to experience the Magic and the Wonder of the Disney cruise.

Cruising is totally different from a land-based vacation. You go to your (floating) luxury hotel, unpack once, and get taken to some really fabulous places, all while being pampered by happy and gracious cruise staff who are there to help you have a phenomenal trip. Cruises are mostly inclusive (although tips and adult beverages are not included in the price, and can be a sizeable expense) so you get meals, entertainment, children’s programming, and other activities just by showing up. On a cruise you can do everything…or absolutely nothing. The choice is yours.

Just as we all don’t live in the same type of houses or drive the same type of car, one cruise line does not fit every person. Cruise lines are categorized, just like hotels, and you can have a budget experience or an ultra-luxurious trip where the sky’s the limit. The Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is considered a “premium” cruise experience, and as such you will be paying a more premium price than if you went on another cruise. However, DCL is not stiff or stuffy — it’s casually elegant. I have sailed on several cruise lines, all with at least one child with me, and each cruise line offered something different. The Disney cruise, though, is probably the best available for families and children. The children’s programs on DCL are like really great daycare. Many children don’t want to leave the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab on DCL once they’ve experienced some of the great activities. Teens have their own hangout, as well as their own activities. Entertainment on DCL is also family-friendly and you will not have to worry about what the children will see in the shows or on the television. No casino, either — and the lack of the “casino donation fund” is probably what contributes to the higher cruise fare.

How many nights?
With a Disney cruise, you have some itinerary choices: 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises on the Disney Wonder, or 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries of the Disney Magic. If you plan far enough out, are very adventurous, and have a lot of time (and money!), there are other options, too. The Disney Magic will be heading to Europe in April 2010, and returning back home on October 1, 2010. During summer 2010 the Wonder will be doing 4- and 5-night Bahamas trips too, from Port Canaveral, which is about 45 miles from Orlando International Airport. For purposes of this article, though, we’re going to stick a bit closer to Florida and focus on the Bahamas and Caribbean cruises.

With many choices in length of cruise and itinerary, what determines which cruise you should take? Not everyone enjoys cruising, and I myself was a reluctant cruiser, as I couldn’t imagine being “captured” on a ship for several days — but I confess to getting over that really fast once I boarded the Disney Wonder for my very first cruise in June 2006. Because I had never cruised, and was with two children and no other adults, the 3-night Bahamas cruise was a good place to “test the waters.”

The 3-night cruise is a “long weekend” with one port each day. Typically on DCL, you sail from Port Canaveral at 5 p.m. on Thursday, are in Nassau, Bahamas, on Friday, Disney’s private island called Castaway Cay on Saturday, and you’re back to the port and off the ship by 9 a.m. on Sunday. Besides being the least expensive option on DCL, the 3-night cruise helps you determine if you can live with your travel party in a cruise cabin, how well you deal with the motion of the ship, and whether or not you actually like cruising.

The 4-night Disney cruise also sails to the Bahamas with a departure on Sunday. You visit Nassau on Monday, Castaway Cay on Tuesday, have a day at sea on Wednesday, and go back to port on Thursday. Price-wise, the 4-night sailing usually is more expensive than the 3-night cruise, but you get the added benefit of a day at sea to explore the ship.

So, should you choose three nights or four nights? Well, let time and budget be your guide. Personally I love sea days, but have not yet found the 4-night Disney Cruise to work for my schedule, mainly because it’s pretty close to a 7-night cruise. If I’m going to be gone for four nights, I might as well be gone for seven and just live it up and be pampered for a while.

The Disney Magic sails 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries departing Saturdays from Port Canaveral. On the 7-night Disney cruise, you typically have three port days and three sea days. Both the Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises visit Castaway Cay, so you don’t miss out unless for some reason the ship is unable to dock. (Unfortunately, this can happen due to bad weather, but the Captain and crew are responsible for the safety of the ship and her passengers and take their job very seriously.)

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May 192008

Compiled By Carol Garcia


As gas prices soar and prices of transportation go up, many of us are taking a closer look at how to best spend our vacation dollars. Do we drive or fly? Do we stay local or go farther away? Do we go budget, or spend a little more to guarantee a certain level of quality?

For those of you contemplating a cruise vacation, there are many more choices. Not only do you have many different cruise lines to choose from, but among them can be ships of varying sizes and vastly different itineraries catering to a variety of people.

Although not the biggest cruise line (there are just two ships in service now with two more coming in the future), and not the cheapest, Disney Cruise Line (DCL) is still a favorite among cruisers. So, as you look at how to spend your cruise vacation, we’ve asked the travel agents at The Magic For Less travel agency to answer some questions about just why Disney Cruise Line is worthy of your business.

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Jan 142008

By Linda Norton

On December 30-January 5 the kids and I did our first Disney holiday trip (my husband stayed home as we own a business and he runs it.) We’ve done Spring Break a couple of times (and are returning March 30 for our next trip) and a couple of July 4th trips, but no Christmas holiday break trips yet. My daughter, age 11, had been going through serious Disney withdrawal, had watched the Disney special on the Travel Channel and was fascinated with the Osborne Festival of Lights.  On our agenda was to get over to the Studios to see them, but first we had to see all of the New Years Eve fireworks at all of the parks. On December 30 we went to the Magic Kingdom where they showed the holiday “Fantasy in the Sky” and were out until 4am in the parks. On the 31st we slept in and went to Epcot where we saw the first showing of Illuminations. Then we walked to the Studios and saw Fantasmic and the New Years Eve fireworks, where they had an awesome rock concert and “new” fireworks to us Disney veterans. Unfortunately it had rained on the 31st and the lights were not dancing. It was still a “wow” moment to see the lights although many were out because of rain. My daughter was a bit disappointed but I told her we would go back to see the lights.

Things got pretty cold at Disney on January 2 and 3 and there was no way I was heading to the Studios just to stand out there and look at Christmas lights, so we finally got back over there on January 4 as it had warmed up and we could put the gloves and winter coats back in the car. The whole time we were at Disney, my daughter kept asking how someone got to throw the switch on the lights. I told her that I didn’t know, and she was probably too old and they picked cute little kids. I had told her that she had her fifteen minutes of fame and cuteness when she was on stage with Diamond Jack at the Diamond Horseshoe Jamboree when she was five in 2002.  After a fine lunch at the Brown Derby and some attractions we moseyed our way over to the Streets of America to check out when the lights would go on.

I tend to be a bit outgoing and sociable (heck, you can’t really book Disney vacations for other people as a full-time job unless you make lots of new friends along the way and before I did this job I worked in human resources management) and the area where the lights were was pretty quiet without a lot of guests. I found a Disney Cast Member (Jen) and asked her about the lights and when they would go on. Of course my kids were just mortified because that meant Mom was going to stand there for ten minutes and get some sort of inside scoop on the lights and ask questions. Jen was with a manager-type CM, and he asked if we were going to be around for a while. I told them that we had been there all week and on NYE the lights were not dancing because of the rain, and I really wanted to stay there long enough to see them turn on and run through the first set. Last year I had seen them on YouTube and I had to see them this year in person. The manager guy asked if we would like to be the family that “threw the switch on five million lights” and of course I said YOU BET! My daughter didn’t quite understand what I was doing, but I told her that she and her brother would be on the little platform and would be the kids who lit up the Studios that night. She was jumping up and down with joy, and even her 13-year-old brother seemed to be holding in his enthusiasm to do this.

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Jul 162007

By Erica Colmenares

Most people look back on the past year on the first of January. Since we’ve been parents, I tend to be more introspective in the summer. The kid’s passed another grade (whew!) and a new school year beckons. Recently, I had the opportunity to also look back on the mountain of writing we’ve done here at Magically Speaking over the last three plus years. Carol Garcia updated the Magically Speaking archives, and I took a trip down Memory Lane. In 88 issues, we’ve published over 176 articles. That’s a heck of a lot of Disney info!

Many of you may not have been around for all of these great articles. And you may be too busy to read all 176 articles today (gasp!). So, I’ve culled out a few highlights (although frankly, there isn’t a bad one in the bunch, and I’m definitely impartial).

A Couple I Wrote and Liked
The ones I wrote and didn’t like, well, I’m not linking to them. 😉

What are these babies, and how much do they cost?

A Sneak “Peak” at Expedition Everest
Woo-hoo, it’s finally opened, and I went to the AP Previews!

Beyond the Disney Dining Plan: Getting Groceries for a Walt Disney World Vacation
Hmmm, what about a little breakfast food and some soda for the room?

On-site or Off: The Perennial Question
I’m not biased. Nope, not me.

A Different Kind of Attraction: The Spa Massage
The Saratoga Springs Spa is NICE!

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Dec 182006

By Linda Norton

In our last newsletter, Linda Norton presented the pros and cons of the Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs resorts. Today, she concludes this two-part series with a hard look at the Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside. Enjoy!

Port Orleans French Quarter opened in May 1991 as Port Orleans Resort and had a lengthy renovation from 2001-March 2003. POFQ is the smallest of Disney’s Moderate resorts with 1,008 rooms in seven buildings. When you arrive to POFQ, you’ll hear jazz music in the background as you walk up to the Port Orleans Square, the check-in area. This area originally was designed to resemble a bank of the 1800’s complete with wrought iron bank teller windows and used to be known as The Mint. As you leave the check in area to go outside to the resort rooms you exit through a courtyard with a gift shop (Jackson Square Gifts and Delights) on one side and a food court (Sassagoula Float Works) on the other. The public areas of this resort are decorated with Mardi Gras icons. The walkways are actually cobblestone streets are lined with lamp posts, wrought iron, magnolia and oak trees. Expect to see fountains and cascading flowering plants, such as bougainvillea and roses, throughout the resort. Be sure to look at the street signs; I suspect the Disney Imagineers had fun designing this resort.

Port Orleans French Quarter lobby.

At a mere 1008 rooms in seven buildings, it’s a pretty quick walk to just about anywhere at this resort. The water view rooms are the furthest out and have a lovely view of the Sassagoula River. Its small size and beautiful landscaping make it a bit on the romantic side. There are plenty of places for a quiet stroll, and benches throughout the resort are inviting.

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Nov 202006

By Linda Norton

Selecting a Disney resort is sort of like picking a candy bar—there are no bad ones and everyone has a favorite. The Value resorts at Disney are a great place to stay while on property, but if you want a bit more space and amenities, then it may be time to consider a Moderate. With the Moderates, you also get more elaborate theming, whether it be Disney’s version of a Caribbean island at the Caribbean Beach Resort, a step back in time to the gentile south of the 1800s at Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside, or a tour through the desert Southwest at Coronado Springs Resort.

Typical to all Moderate resorts is a room of 314 square feet, two double beds, complimentary coffeemaker with coffee, and a double sink vanity with a privacy curtain to separate the vanity area from the bedroom. (Coronado Springs has a single sink.) The toilet/tub area is a bit larger in the Moderates than in Disney’s Value resorts. Guest rooms include a data port for high speed internet (available for $9.95 for a 24-hour period) and you can also use dial-up internet for 75 cents per call. The dial-up option is good if you’re just checking email. At the Moderates, expect more lush and prettier landscaping with lots of trees, lawn and flowering shrubs; a themed pool with slide; a sit-down restaurant (shared at the Port Orleans resorts); and the option to reserve a king bed (maximum occupancy two guests plus one child up to age 2 in a portacrib). All Moderate resorts are served by bus transportation to the theme parks, but you can take a (slow) boat ride to Downtown Disney from the Port Orleans resorts along the Sassagoula River. There is no one Moderate resort at Disney convenient to everything: expect at least 10 minutes on a bus to a theme park once the bus makes it out of the resort pick-up loop.

A view of the lake and Old Port Royale at the Caribbean Beach Resort.

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