Cruising tips & tricks

This was my 10th cruise and I’ve learned a lot over those 10 cruises.  So I thought I’d share some of the tips & tricks I’ve learned.  Some of these things I’ve learned from experience.  Some from fellow travelers, some from reading.

  • Pack all liquids in a zip lock bag.  Get the 1 gallon size.   You never know when something (lotion, body spray, etc. will open and the zip lock bag will keep your clothes from getting ruined.
  • Take a couple extra 2 gallon zip lock bags for wet swimsuits that don’t dry in time to be packed dry.
  • Go to Target and buy a pop up clothes hamper for dirty clothes.  You can find these in the iron/laundry section of the store.  They run about $6-7 and fold up nice and small but are big enough for a week’s worth of dirty clothes.  Very handy.
  • Bring a tiny container of air freshener/room spray.  These cabins are tiny with no fans.  If you are married to a man and you have to share a bathroom with him you’ll understand why you should bring this. Scentsy makes the perfect size.
  • Bring a highlighter.  If you’re traveling with lots of people who like to do different things then bring a few highlighters in different colors.  Every day you will receive a newsletter outlining all the different things there are to do onboard.  It can be frustrating if you can’t remember what time the galley tour is or what show is being featured tonight.  Bring a highlighter and highlight all the activities and events you’re interested in and your day will go so much more smoothly.
  • Pack a small lint roller.
  • Bring Downy Wrinkle Releaser  or an empty spray bottle you can fill with water once you’re on board.  There are laundry rooms on the cruise ships but they get SUPER busy.  You don’t want to wait an hour in line for the iron.  Unpack as soon as possible to let your clothes hang and the wrinkles fall out.  If you do need an iron go asap on the first night if possible.  There most likely won’t be a line.  Wait til the hour before dinner on formal night and you’ll be in for a wait.
  • Check and see if your cruise line lets you bring your own alcohol (if you drink alcohol).  Cocktails onboard can be super expensive.  BYOB and you’ll save a ton of money.  By the way, Disney is BYOB friendly.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle.  You’ll have ice in your room so you can take nice cold water out to the pool or beach.
  • Most cabin/ stateroom doors are metal.  So bring some magnetic clips to hold papers (like the newsletter) on your door so you’ll know right where it is.  Plus, if you want to save the newsletters as souvenirs this will keep them wrinkle free.   If you have any magnetic hooks, bring those too.  You can never have enough hooks to hang wet swimwear.  Also, decorate your door!  Not only does it help your door standout in a loooong line of lookalike doors (to make it easier to find), it’s fun and festive!
  • If you’re traveling to a port you’ve visited before, stay on the ship!  This is a great time to explore the ship and take advantage of the pools/hot tubs without having to deal with crowds.
  • If you can swing it, book a room with a balcony.  It really makes your cabin feel much bigger.
  • Bring a small notebook that can fit in your purse/pocket.  At the end of each day be sure to write down what you did that day.  Include what you ate and take pictures of your meals.  The food is fantastic on cruises and you’ll want to share your dining experiences with family and friends back home.  As much as we try, it’s impossible to take pictures of everything you do so your little notebook will become a great travel journal.
  • Speaking of food…order more than one appetizer!  Or order 2 soups.  Your food is prepaid.  Take advantage of this.  Try things you’ve never tried before, like escargot.  If you don’t like it, get something else.  Normally this is not something you’d do in a restaurant so now’s your chance!
  • In my opinion the sit down restaurants are always better than the buffets so try and eat at the full service restaurants when you can.
  • Adjust your schedule.  We are not morning people.  But we’ve found on cruises all the interesting and fun things to do seem to happen at certain times.  So we wake up early to enjoy breakfast in the full service restaurant.  Then in the couple of hours before dinner and the shows things seem to slow down.  That’s when we nap.  Then we’re ready to stay up late for the late night buffets and shows.  We’re still getting our 8 hours of sleep, just broken up over the day with the nap.
  • Order room service.  Room service is included in your cruise rate on most cruise lines.   Take advantage of this!  Have breakfast in your pajamas one day.  Order a late night snack.  Just be sure to tip the room service waiter.
  • Unplug.  Unless it is absolutely necessary we do not use the internet or our cell phones while at sea, even though service is available.  It is expensive for one, and for another…it can wait!  You spent a lot of money to go on this cruise.  You can be on the internet any time you’d like.  Be present for your vacation.
  • Take pictures of everything!  Your cabin.  Your meals.  Each other.  Everything you can think of.  You never know when you’ll be telling friends and family about your cruise and you wish you had a picture of that thing/meal/etc.
  • Book your next cruise while onboard.  Some cruise lines offer significant discounts if you book your next cruise while on your current cruise.
  • Use a travel agent.  You won’t pay more.  Might pay less.  And you’ll get personalized service.  Your travel agent might have some tricks up her sleeve and know some secrets you don’t know!   If you need a Disney travel agent be sure to get in touch with Lisa Reese.  She’ll take great care of you!

Hope these tips are helpful!   Have a great vacation!

Disney Magic- Day 9

Saturday, February 4, 2012.  Back to the USA.

I can’t believe I forgot to tell you that we saw Stitch last night!  We made one last trip to the gift store to pick up a thank you for CSP’s mom for taking care of the pugs.  We were getting on the elevator and there he was!  Stitch is my favorite!   And he was dressed up as Pirate Stitch!  My favorite favorite!!!

Before we disembark I want to show you some pictures taken around the ship.  Disney is world famous for a lot of things, one of them is their attention to detail.  There isn’t a boring nook or cranny on their cruise ships.   They have art everywhere and even the hand rails are decorative!  One spot where this is very evident is Beat Street- the adult section of the ship where most of the lounges and bars are located.   Even the ceiling is decorated with twinkle lights to resemble stars.   This is Diversions- CSP’s favorite hang out.  It’s the sports/games bar.  They have everything from big screen tvs to giant Twister and fooseball.  This is the Mickey Pool.  You don’t often see it empty so this is a big deal!  Here are some more shots from around the ship.  Just places we thought were really nice. Even the light fixtures in the common areas are nice! Here are the gift shops, on either side of this hallway.  The Walt Disney Theatre is where all the big shows are performed.

SO…this morning we woke up early and got dressed and packed up all the last minute things.  Then we went to breakfast.  The elevator doors opened and OMG the line for breakfast was insane!  But we made it in finally and had a nice breakfast.  We turned on our phones and watched them blow up with emails and texts from the week.  The guy at the next table was wearing a Minnesota shirt and so was CSP (there were TONS of Minnesota people on this cruise!).  You could tell the next table guy was dying to talk to CSP about it but he never got the chance.  After breakfast we dropped off our customer satisfaction survey and headed to debarkation.  Once you’re off the ship you pick up your luggage (easy color coded system).  Then you go through customs.  The line went quickly and next thing you know we were back on Florida ground!  I waited with the luggage while CSP picked up Blanca (our RAV4) then we hit the road for home!  It was so weird to eat breakfast on a cruise ship in the ocean then eat dinner at a Mexican joint in NC!

We arrived home and CSP’s parents were here.  His mom stayed the week taking care of the pugs and the house.  We showed pics after being attacked by 3 pugs who were full of kisses for their missing parents, then went to dinner.  We made it home in record time.  We didn’t stop for lunch, just gas, so that helped.

Overall we had a blast and can’t wait for next year to go again!  My only complaints:  if your child is screaming please remove them from the dining room/show.  Also the hair dryer.  They look like a vacuum tube.  It does a fine job of drying your hair, the only problem is it gets so hot I couldn’t hold on to it long enough to dry my hair!  And I have short, baby fine hair.  I felt bad for long haired girls!  I’m definitely bringing my own next time.

The best parts:  being able to spend so much time with CSP with no distractions.  It was awesome!  Going to a fancy dinner every single night!  The shows.  Castaway Cay.  Our balcony.  Sleeping.  I sleep like a baby on a boat.  The constant gentle rocking. Seeing CSP so happy and relaxed.   The people watching.   Everyone is just happier on a Disney cruise ship!

DIsney Magic- Day 7

Thursday, February 2, 2012.  Last Sea Day.

I can’t remember exactly when during the trip, but we watched a ton of movies.  Mostly just before bed.  Included in these are Apollo 18,  Puss in Boots, Cowboys & Aliens, and the end of Dolphin Tale.

Today was our last sea day.  I love sea days.  It’s so odd to me that we can be all the way out there in the ocean and see literally NOTHING.  No land, no ships, no nothing. Except if you look closely you can see another cruise ship on the horizon.  Didn’t happen often so when we’d see one we’d try and capture it.   And by the way, I get the best sleep of my life on a cruise ship.  It’s the gentle rocking I think.  Today we slept late, skipped breakfast and went to Lumiere’s for lunch.   CSP had sushi.  I think sushi is so beautiful.  I wish I wanted to eat it!  Ha!  He also had a salmon cake and salmon over risotto.  The man has been putting down some fish!

I had fruit, then a pear/nut salad, and a burger.  CSP ate my fries since they were the big fat ones.  I like skinny fries.   I asked for ketchup and this is what the server gave me.   So cute!  After lunch we went back to the cabin and read books on the balcony.  Then I delivered my Fish Extender gifts.  That took a good while of touring all over the ship.  After a short nap it was time to get ready for dinner and the show. I finished my bottle of wine tonight. SO good.   Thank you Christina!  Tonight’s show was Dreams.  We’ve seen this one before.  It’s really good.   All about believing in your dreams.   After the show we stopped into Diversions so CSP could have a beer.  Diversions is the sports/games bar.  It’s family friendly until 9pm.  They also have a little buffet with nachos and wings on it.  CSP liked the wings.   Tonight was semi formal night.  Minnie was all dressed up again.   It’s so interesting to me what people wear on cruises these days.  When I was 7 I went on my first cruise.  Back then people REALLY dressed for dinner.  And formal and semi-formal nights meant tuxedos and suits and fancy dresses.  Some people on this cruise still fancied up but there were some who wore beach wear into the dining room for dinner!  Disney asks that no flip flops or shorts or beachwear be worn into the nice dining rooms.  I think it makes it more special when you put a little effort into it.

Anyway, tonight’s dinner was at Lumiere’s.    CSP started with oysters rockefeller  while I had some grilled shrimp.   We both enjoyed the wild mushroom soup.  Tonight was lobster night!  We both got the lobster tail with green beans and rice.   CSP also got the sesame seared tuna.  He actually liked the tuna better than the lobster!   It is really pretty!

For dessert CSP had  the tropical sundae and I had the trio- coconut macaroon, amaretto cheesecake, and banana creme brulee.  So yum!

After dinner we went to Rockin Bar B to see the adult show of Buckets N Boards.  Not sure what was adult about it except there were no kids there.  It’s not like they tell dirty jokes or drum more sexily.  ha!  This show was really funny and we had a great time.

Tonight was the late night dessert buffet.  We were really close to the front of the line so I was able to get some pictures before it was picked over.  So gorgeous!

Once we were finished ogling the desserts we went straight to bed.  We were so excited for tomorrow!  Castaway Cay day!

Disney Magic- Day 6

Wednesday, February 1, 2012.   St. Thomas.

Before I start telling you about our day I want to tell you why we booked our next cruise while onboard this cruise.  A few reasons (and they are all financial):

1.  You get a 10% discount off your next cruise if you book while on board.

2.  You get up to a $200 stateroom credit, which you can use on things like Palo or souvenirs in the gift shop, etc.  You get $200 if you book a 7 night or longer cruise and $100 if it is shorter than 7 nights.  We got the $100 credit.  That will take care of all our Palo visits next time!

3.  You only have to put 10% down instead of the standard 20% as your deposit.

Now, you might be wondering “if you book onboard how can Lisa still be in charge of your cruise?”.  I wondered that myself.  But I asked Lisa about it before we boarded the ship and she told me what to do.  All you have to do is tell the booking agent onboard that you want your booking attached to your personal Disney travel agent Lisa Reese with Pixie & Pirate Destinations.  Sure enough, Lisa received an email about our booking before our cruise was even over!

You might also be wondering “what if plans change and we have to move our reservation?”  No problem.  Just book onboard, get the discounts, and then you can move it around when you get home if you need to.  We might have to change our date based on CSP’s work schedule, but Lisa can handle that for us when/if it happens.

Ok, back to the trip report!  Remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.

Today was much like yesterday.  It was a port day (St. Thomas) and we’ve already been here so we chose to stay onboard again.  We woke up to breakfast in our room (by the way, that does not cost extra), then went up to the pool/hot tub for a few hours.   We really like being able to see the sunrise out over the ocean!   St. Thomas was so cute with all the sailboats in the harbor.   Some ships bigger than others!  Ha!  Our ship was the prettiest of all though.

As we were walking through the ship we noticed they were cleaning the HUGE glass sculpture in the main lobby.  Amazingly delicate work.  Now for some pics of St. Thomas and around the ship. This is the crew pool.  We never saw anyone in it.  Up on the sports deck.  I just love all the blues in the water.

After the pool and walking around the ship we changed clothes and went to Lumiere’s for lunch.  I forgot to take pictures of our lunch somehow.  CSP had marinated salmon for his appetizer.  His entree was tilapia with carmelized onions on cheese grits.  I had shrimp cocktail, tangerine soup, steak and fries.  We were seated next to this couple and their two adorable daughters.  I can’t wait to be able to bring our kids on a Disney cruise!  The food is just so much better in the sit down restaurants versus the buffets.  But when you’re in the pool and lose track of time, sometimes the buffets are your only option.

After lunch we went back to the room for our afternoon nap then woke up in time to watch the ships pull out of port from our balcony.  It was raining lightly and all the sudden a double rainbow appeared!  It was SO vivid and gorgeous and I just hope it conveys in the pictures.  Next thing you know it was time to get ready for dinner and the show.  The show tonight was really neat.  It was Buckets N Boards.  They tap dance, play drums on buckets, and they are a comedy show.  Kind of like Stomp lite.  They are really talented.

After the show we went to Diversions for cocktails again.  I know I keep saying that but what it really means is CSP gets a beer in his refillable mug and I get either a ginger ale or orange juice to mix with my whipped cream vodka.  I very rarely drink so it’s a huge treat to have a grown up drink at night.  Although since I rarely drink I have a very low tolerance so my limit is one.   While we were in Diversions we saw through the window another cruise ship all lit up.  The crew told us last night that other cruise ships hang out to watch the Disney ships’ fireworks.  I thought no way, but I guess it’s true!  Disney is the only cruise line with a fireworks permit.

Tonight dinner was at Parrot Cay.  We saw Cinderella on the way.  I love her dress. Dinner was wonderful again.  Each night we had a 4 top table to ourselves.  Thanks Lisa!  CSP had 2 appetizers again tonight.  He had Jamaican jerk chicken and Ahi tuna.  We counted at the end of the trip that he ate over 14 different types of seafood on this trip!   For his entree he chose the pan seared grouper.  His dessert was the ice cream sundae.  Look at the little Mickey!   Parrot Cay is an island themed restaurant so the meals are more tropical.  Lumiere’s is French and based on Beauty and the Beast.  Side note- we were not the only couple there with no children.  We met lots of couples who were on the cruise sans kids (whether they didn’t have them at all or just left them at home).  Disney is NOT just for kids!  We met this one older couple- they were on their 19th Disney cruise!  Can you believe it!?!

Back to my dinner.  I had the crab dip with plantains and chips for my appetizer.  Then I enjoyed a cold mango soup.  I love cold soups and only ever seem to see them on cruises.  My entree was a Jamaican pork chop with mango and polenta.  My dessert was an amazing French Toast banana bread pudding with coconut ice cream and caramel sauce.

After dinner I asked our waiter Val if he knew any tricks.   You always see cruise waiters doing tricks for the kids.  Well I love tricks too!  He made me a napkin duck and a beautiful rose!   We took my rose back to our room and changed then went up to deck 9 to watch Remember the Titans on the big screen.  Then we went back to our room and watched Captain America until we went to sleep.