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 8

Friday, February 3, 2o12    Castaway Cay

Today is the day we’ve been looking forward to all week!  Castaway Cay!  Castaway Cay is Disney‘s private island.  They have 3 separate beaches- the family beach, the sports beach, and the adults only beach called Serenity Bay.  Paradise I tell you!

We woke up early and had breakfast in our room.   Look at that view!  Just as we were about to put on our swim suits and SPF, a message came over the loud speaker.  It was the captain telling us they were having technical difficulties.  Boo!  So there was a 2 hour delay getting to the island.  One of the ships’ side thrusters (used instead of tug boats) was malfunctioning.  They got it running again and the next thing you know we were docked at Castaway Cay!

We got off the boat and went to wait for the tram.  On the way to the gangplank we ran into Donald.  Then CSP got stopped by Minnesota people who recognized the TC (Twin Cities) on his shirt and had to talk baseball! 

We walked over to the tram station.  On the way we passed the post office.   Chip and Dale were there!   We took the tram (even the tram route is pretty)  to Serenity Bay and got lunch(since it was so late now) before we picked out our chairs on the beach.  Lunch was a buffet and I didn’t take pictures.  But it was great!  Mahi mahi, ribs, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, lots of different salads, fruit, ice cream even!

CSP and I picked out our chairs (there are hammocks too!).  I didn’t bring my good camera on the island so these are all iPhone pics, but not too shabby eh?  This was the view from my chair.   We went out into the cool water and swam and swam.  Or bobbed and floated!  There were some snorkelers nearby who warned us of giant starfish and stingrays.  We saw lots of fish and I was calling for a dolphin baby to come see me but no real wildlife.  UNTIL…we decided to go chill out on the beach.  We were really far out in the water and were doing the stingray shuffle as to not step on one.  I noticed some holes in the sand under our feet and pointed them out to CSP.  I reached down to see what it was just as CSP saw the tail.  It was a stingray!  CSP started yelling “Crocodile Hunter!” and tackled me to get out of the way of the tiny baby stingray who just wanted to hang out with me!   CSP is not a fan of wild animals.  We made our way back to our chairs.  CSP went and got us some cocktails.   We relaxed on our chairs for a while.  Reading books and I may have nodded off a bit.   We eventually noticed people making their way back to the ship so we packed up and hopped back on the tram.    Back on the ship we went up on deck to get some shots of the island. 

We went back to the room and packed up our luggage since this was our last night on the cruise. :(    Then we got ready for dinner.  Dinner tonight was in Animator’s Palate.   We haven’t been to Animator’s Palate since the first night of the cruise.  CSP’s appetizer was a sesame seared tuna tartare.  So pretty!    He also had some sort of seafood mixture.  I can tell that’s shrimp and scallops and maybe salmon.  Not sure why I didn’t write this down.I had the chicken sate .    If you’re wondering how I remembered all the things we ate, I brought a tiny notebook and put it in my purse.  Then after we ordered I’d write down everything we ordered.  Just before bed I’d write down everything we did that day.  There’s no way I’d remember everything on my own!

We both had soup- CSP had lobster and crawfish bisque while I had potato leek soup.  Our entrees included orange roughy stuffed with crab for CSP and seafood pasta for me.  Lobster, scallops, shrimp and clams.  I put those clams on CSP’s plate immediately.  I can’t stand the idea of their shells touching my food!   Dessert was a yummy strawberry and creme cake called Celebration Cake for me and the trio for CSP.  It included chocolate mousse,a chocolate tart and a little celebration cake.    During dinner service there was a little show.  The man waving is Val, our waiter.  We love Val.  He’s from Romania and his wife works on the ship too.  There are over 55 countries represented in the dining staff alone!

After dinner we went back to our room and went right to bed because tomorrow we have to get up early for breakfast and debarkation!