Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference
Introduction and Planning
Hey Everyone! This is my very first trip report (so bear with me!) and I decided to write it because reading everyone else’s was so helpful to me in planning my cruise as well as my honeymoon last fall. For those who have been looking at my other entries, I’ll be mostly taking a break from my normal posts to make sure I get out all of this information before my memory starts to fade.
In this trip report I will give an account of what we did on our trip and our experience, and then follow it up with some reviews, planning advice, etc. I will also include a good amount of pictures, though I apologize in advance for the lack of food pictures! I promise that title will come into play (and I’m sure those of you who have been keeping up with Cruise Line news or who were on the cruise probably get it already) but first, an introduction and some insight into how I planed my trip.
For those who you who don’t know, my name is Melissa and I am 26 years old. I am finishing up a Master’s Degree in Child Life and just finished my Child Life internship before the holidays. Since I am currently in the job application process I have some time to get pretty in-depth with this trip report! I travelled with my husband, Dave, who is 32 and also works with kids in hospitals through a non-profit organization that brings the spirit of camp (arts and crafts and games mostly) to patients. This was Dave’s first ever cruise and my first Disney cruise. In the past, I have been on 3(?) cruises on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas with my family.
So, how did the trip planning begin?
Now this is a bit of a story. Being a grad student doing a full-time unpaid internship I didn’t have a lot of spare cash lying around and so I felt that my dreams of going on a Disney Cruise were going to have to wait a while. We had, after all, just been to Walt Disney World three times in the course of 13 months so I really shouldn’t complain!
However, while interviewing for internship sites last June, I also auditioned for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on a complete whim! I saw there were auditions in New York City and figured, why not? For me it was a mere 30 minute subway ride to get to the studio, but many others drove hours to attend.
The first step of the audition process is a multiple choice test in a room with about 50-100 other people depending on the day. From there, 8 of us were called back for the interview. Before arriving, you had complete an application form with questions about your life and what you would do if you won a million dollars. My answer, of course, was to visit all of the Disney parks and resorts around the world and go on a few Disney Cruises!
This first interviewer takes that application and asks you follow-up questions. They are looking for what is interesting about you, basically. At one point, after talking about taking dance classes throughout my childhood, they had me get up and dance. Yep, in front of the next group of test takers. But what a producer asks you to dance, by golly you dance!
My enthusiasm then got me through to the next round, an on camera interview with a producer. In this round, they asked me a lot of similar questions, but then also asked 4 Millionaire style questions and asked me to talk through it like I would on the show. I was thrilled that I got 3 out of the 4 right!
After that, you are told you will hear within two weeks whether or not you have been placed in the contestant pool. About a week and a half later, I got on the contestant pool and a week after that I was called to film. I had been told that you can stay in the contestant pool for up to two seasons but still never get picked so I was in complete shock when I got the call! My film date was the very first film date for the season and I was picked first to go out of the 6 contestants that were brought in that day. So I am very excited to say I was the first real episode filmed with Terry Crews!
I must say, this was one of the most thrilling days of my life. You are assigned a producer for the day who keeps you calm backstage and goes through some talking points with you to rehearse. My producer was awesome in Child Life-ing me, easing my anxiety, and distracting me with dancing while we waited for the set to be ready. Terry Crews was also so nice during commercials as well as on the air (though he did try to fake me out sometimes making my heart skip a few beats).
One thing though, for those that play along, it is SO much harder than it looks. Once the lights are on you, the dramatic music is playing, the host is making you second guess yourself, the audience is all staring at you, it is incredibly nerve-wracking. Sometimes you freeze up and just can’t think, other times your mind is in overdrive and you begin to overthink. Believe me, it’s just different once you’re there!
Though my episode aired at night and in Canada a couple of times by accident, my official air date was January 8th, 2015 (while I was on the cruise). Here is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s teaser for the week that included my episode:
Since it has already aired officially, I can tell you that I got up to 58,600 and panicked a bit on the next question. In hindsight, without the pressure, I could have reasoned through it. In the moment, however, I could not. Instead of taking a guess, I decided to make a smart move and walk. In this version of millionaire, before passing round one (I needed to answer this question and one more) if you walk, you walk with have your bank. So, I still went home with an AMAZING 29,300. I was very proud of myself and so happy to be on the show.
When reality set it, and thinking about taxes, I figured I had about 2/3 of that to spend. I first paid off my last semester’s tuition bill so I would not have to take out additional loans and wanted to put some away in case we have to move when I get a position. But there was some wiggle room in there, so I convinced my husband to go on a Disney Cruise to celebrate my time on Millionaire as well as finishing my internship, almost finishing my Master’s and preparing to start my dream job.
How did I choose which cruise was best for us?
When I first started planning I did A LOT of research. I read people’s trip reports, perused the Disney Cruise Line website, watched videos on youtube, checked out the Disboards, and read through Disneycruiselineblog.com. I am a planner by nature so I wanted to get all of the information down.
Then we chose our time frame. Though we had this wiggle room, we didn’t want to spend a ton of money because we wanted to make sure we had money for moving expenses, a down payment for a car (since we do not have cars currently and rely on the MTA), etc. We decided to go on an off time for these reasons which narrows it down to January, May, or Fall. Not knowing what my employment status would be and also taking into account both mine and Dave’s schedules, we decided January would be our best bet. Since Dave is also in a master’s program and has class beginning this week, last week was the best choice.
Then it was deciding on a ship. Dave pushed for the 5 night on the Wonder because he wanted to save a little more money but I really wanted a 7 night. I also wanted to see all of the innovations Disney has on their newer class ships. We ultimately decided on the Re-Imagined Disney Magic 7 night Western Caribbean (stopping in Cozumel, Key West, Grand Cayman, and Castaway Cay). We liked that it was a bit smaller and less expensive but that it also had a lot of amenities from the newer ships. I also knew Dave would be interested in the Aquadunk because he loves water slides!
How did we book it?
After picking a date, we decided to take a bit of a gamble. We were going to wait and see if there were *GT rates available after the paid in full dates. These rates come out 75 days or less from the sail date at a discounted rate. However, you cannot cancel a *GT booked cabin, you cannot pick your room, and you could end up in any category stateroom within that larger category of Inside, Ocean View, or Veranda that you book in. If considering these rates, make sure you read all of the restrictions first!
So, we booked a night in the Wilderness Lodge before our trip and our flight from JFK to Orlando and waited. We knew we were going at a less busy season, and that all four ships were traveling somewhere in the Caribbean at that time. We also knew that the Magic is a little less sought after than the Dream and the Fantasy and so we thought we had a good chance of getting the *GT rate. However, if worse came to worse, we were willing to either pay the full price for an inside stateroom, travel on an alternative ship (even if we had to rent a car and drive to Miami), or take a Disney vacation instead. This is also why we did not book our return flight until we booked the cruise.
Well, our gamble paid off, we booked an IGT room and saved over $600 on cruise fare. We still went with an inside stateroom because we did not feel we would be spending much time in the room (which we didn’t), there were only two of us, and neither one of us is claustrophobic. We ended up in an 11b stateroom 5139.
If anyone has questions about how we decided or booked, please feel free to ask either in the comments, on my thread on the Disboards, or by emailing email@example.com.
Next up: A Day at Wilderness Lodge and Monorail Resort Loop Fun!
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