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 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.

Disney Magic- Day 3

Sunday, January 29, 2012.

We slept a little late today because we had late brunch reservations at Palo for 10:30 am.   Check out the awesome view from our table:  Nothing but gorgeous blue skies and blue water.  Well, and the occasional shirtless tourist.  CSP was psyched at all the seafood at brunch.  Brunch at Palo is a buffet and I’m normally not a fan of buffets (I don’t like strangers breathing all over my food).  But this buffet was gorgeous!  I couldn’t get any pictures of it because it was really busy.  But just imagine- shrimp, crab claws, salmon mousse with caviar, proscuitto wrapped melon, marinated mushrooms, salad caprese,  smoked salmon, poached scallops, assorted danish, homemade stollen, mixed berries, chilled strawberry soup, and more and more.   And you’re eating it all at a gorgeous table  with champagne and roses.  They also have cook to order items on the hot bar.  CSP got Eggs Julia, which is Eggs Benedict with salmon instead of ham.  I got the classic eggs benedict.  We shared a Chicken Parmesan on Lisa’s recommendation.  I don’t normally consider chicken parm to be a standout dish but this was the best I’ve ever tasted.  Amazing.  Then came dessert!  I LOVE tiny desserts!   We LOVED brunch and considered booking another one later in the cruise.  But we decided to wait til the next cruise and keep it a special thing.

After brunch we headed back to our room to change into casual clothes.  Except…we couldn’t remember our room number!  We wandered around deck 6 for a while until I remembered to check our dining ticket.  Whew!  While we were exploring deck 6 we came across this room.  I love when people decorate their doors!  And how wonderful that they celebrated 50 years of marriage on a Disney Cruise!  We finally found our room but it was being cleaned.  So we went to the future cruise booking desk and got some price quotes for next year.  Next thing we knew a dance party erupted!  Here came Pluto and Goofy   I wonder why Goofy gets to wear clothes but Pluto can’t?   They went down the stairs and joined Mickey and Minnie in a huge dance party!    I love how they get right down there with the kids.  We watched the dance party for a while then went back to our cabin to nap and read.

Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  I had a little of my new favorite wine while primping.  Christina gave me a bottle to bring on the cruise.  Not everyone knows this but Disney is BYOB.  I mean, they do sell adult beverages onboard, but you can also bring your own.  Saves a ton of money!

Tonight was Formal Night  and dinner was at Parrot Cay.   CSP chose the marinated salmon and a parmesan/bleu cheese souffle for his appetizers.      I chose a goat cheese and tomato salad.   We both had sausage and potato soup (very good but not photogenic).  CSP had filet of turbot for his entree.  I had proscuitto wrapped chicken with potatoes and zucchini.   Dessert was wonderful as usual.  CSP chose a trio- lemon cheesecake, chocolate souffle, and tiramisu.    I had the brioche banana bread pudding with caramel sauce.  So yummy.  We both tried to order things we don’t normally get or eat at home.   This cruise was a lot of trying new things.  And not one thing disappointed.  Everything was so wonderfully prepared and delicious!

There were lots of people getting formal portraits taken with the characters in the lobby.   We went back to our room to change clothes and found the latest towel animal.   The room host also leaves the next day’s Personal Navigator.  It’s a newsletter of sorts that tells you everything that’s going on onboard the next day.  We changed clothes and went up on deck 10 to chill out.  The winds were incredible!  They were so strong that there were no chairs out for people so we went down to deck 9 and hung out a bit, watching Funnel Vision (the giant tv over Goofy’s Pool).   We got some drinks with our refillable mugs and CSP got some pizza (I don’t know where he puts it!).  We went back to our cabin, watched Thor and set our clocks ahead one hour before we went to sleep.

2011, I think you’re gonna rock

2011 is going to be a big year for us.  On March 3 CSP & I will celebrate 10 years married.  On December 12 CSP will turn 40.  Between March & December we’ll have lots of other things going on as well I’m sure.  We’ve decided to celebrate those two milestones with a Disney Cruise in January 2012!  We’re so excited!  We booked the cruise in November with Lisa.  She’s a Disney travel agent (she’s also one of my favorite people) and she totally took care of us.  Got us the perfect room.  Then on CSP’s birthday his parents booked the cabin next to ours.  We haven’t taken a vacation with them before so it’s high time.  We are cruising on the Disney Magic.  When Lisa & Pete got married we cruised on the Disney Wonder.  It was so wonderful!  I can’t wait to experience another ship.  Cruising is my absolute favorite way to vacation.  If we could cruise to Vegas I’d totally do it.  I love the Disney ships most of all.  They are so beautiful!  This will be my 10th cruise and CSP’s 3rd.  It will be his parents’ first commercial cruise.  His dad did some cruising as a Vietnam vet but that’s not quite the same!  We booked rooms with balconies again.  We had a balcony room for Lisa & Pete’s wedding cruise in 2008 and it was wonderful.  Well worth the extra cost.  I went on a cruise in November 2009 on a Royal Caribbean ship and it just made me miss the Disney ship even more!

Our itinerary is exciting!  We are stopping at Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island),  Key West (CSP’s never been), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.  We may stay on board in Cozumel if Mexico is still as dangerous then as it has been lately!  We don’t mind staying on board though- you get the pool to yourself!  Plus we have 2 full days at sea.  It’s a 7 night cruise- a real treat!

One of the most exciting aspects of this trip is who might be going with us… Continue reading