Disney Magic Trip Report Day 4, Part 2: Mixology and Music Trivia!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 4, Part 2: Mixology and Music Trivia!

After taking seasickness medication, getting some fresh air, resting and drinking some ginger ale I felt so much better. Well enough, that I decided not to forgo our mixology seminar at 2:00 that afternoon. It was another thing I had been really looking forward to and though I wouldn’t push it, I wanted to experience it. The seminar was in the After Hours adult area in Keys. Keys is the elegant, piano bar, where you can sip on cocktails and listen to live music each night. Though we did not end up in partaking in that, it seemed like a nice relaxing ambiance and I loved the wall paper!

When we got there, stations were set up all over the lounge that looked similar to this:

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That’s right, many of the drinks either came pre-mixed or had pre-mixed elements. However, as you read on you’ll see there were some hands on portions as well. Forgive me though as I don’t have too great of notes on this.

Now I don’t remember the name of our hostess for the day but she was the head bartender at Keys, from Jamaica and had a heck of a personality. Our first drink was a rum punch (it’s the one with in the tall glass that looks peachy/papaya colored). Before tasting this, our hostess told us a little about the rum made in Jamaica, particularly one made from sugar cane that is so strong that if you take it on airplanes it can go up in flames (apparently it’s banned). Take from that what you will. Anyway, the drink was good, but since it had been iced and sitting for a while before we began it was a bit watery.

Next up was the somewhat traditional Margarita, though I feel there was something a little different about this one. I’m not a tequila fan, but this one was actually manageable for me. However, since I didn’t love it…. I gave most of mine to Dave after taking a sip. No sense in pushing the seasickness if I didn’t like the drink!

Next up was a Raspberry Mojito with a bit of audience participation. At each station, we were given a glass with raspberries and mint, a shot glass of white rum, a muddler, and cans of club soda.

Here’s Dave ready with his muddler:

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We were asked to muddle the mint and the raspberries, then pour the rum in, then add a splash of club soda (she warned us to only add a splash and not spoil the drink!) and stir it with a cocktail stirrer (Dave used his rum punch straw).

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The result: Delicious! This was definitely our favorite of the five. But there were still two more to go!

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Next up was a martini with pomegranate liquor and Prosecco. For this one, the bar attendants helping out came and poured the Prosecco as our hostess explained the drink. This way the drink wasn’t sitting for a long time losing it’s carbonation. This one was pretty good, probably my second favorite of the bunch.

Last, but not least, was the b52 which was a shot of Kahlua, Bailey’s and Grand Marnier.  The Kahlua and Bailey’s were pre-poured, but they passed around bottles of Grand Marnier for us to pour our own. I’m not a shot person, but this was smooth at first with a bit of a kick of an aftertaste, not bad.

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At one point I remember the bar tender talking about how sweet drinks go down so easy and you don’t really feel them until you (try) to stand up and can’t walk. She then mentioned don’t worry though, that’s why Disney has collapsible wheelchairs everywhere on the ship. She also said to everyone as we finished that she would have the recipes available a couple days later in the cruise if we stopped by for them (and remembered). She also welcomed us to come back to Keys for a drink later but told us to go get something to eat first.

This was definitely a fun experience and getting the recipes was great. We had a great time listening to the hostess who was constantly making jokes and also enjoyed the drinks that were available. For the amount of different drinks, the atmosphere, the recipes, and the free entertainment in the form of our hostess, I felt it was worth the $20 cover.

We headed up to Cove Caffe after that for some specialty coffees. Dave got a cafe latte and I got a caramel latte. Then we headed down to O’Gills for 50s/60s Music Trivia. Alright, I know what you are thinking: you two were not even born in the 50s/60s… how can you compete with that. True. Out of all of our competition, we were by far the youngest group. However, we held our own.

The structure of music trivia is that they play the first couple seconds of the intro of a song and you need to write down the title and artist (1 point for each). At the end, you switch papers with another team to correct each other. Then the host has everyone put their papers in the air and he asks “Keep your papers in the air if you have more than X points” etc. We had 32 out of 40 and were one of I believe 3 teams with more than 30. The winning team had 36. So, all in all, we were pretty proud of ourselves for being born in the 80’s and knowing so many!

Next Up: The Animator’s Palate Lonely Hearts Club Dinner.

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!


Disney Magic Trip Report Day 4, Part 1:Brunch on the HIGH Seas!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 4, Part 1: Brunch on the HIGH Seas!

It was our first sea day and I was so excited to finally get to experience something I had been looking forward to since before we even booked our trip— Palo Brunch! Since this trip was booked on basically “free money” we wanted to take advantage and try Palo for both brunch and dinner. After salivating over everyone else’s reviews, pictures, and descriptions I was so ready for our turn!

Since our reservation was not until 10:30 we slept in a bit and took our time getting “dolled up” and ready for brunch. Though Palo’s dress code is not as strict as it is for dinner, ladies will still need to wear dresses or pantsuits and men will need to wear button down shirts and dress slacks. No jeans, shorts, capri’s, flip flops, etc.

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We didn’t eat anything before we went in hopes that it would allow us to try as much as possible. Hindsight is 20/20 though and we probably should have ordered a small fruit plate or something to nibble on before hand because we were pretty hungry by the time we got there and seated (and it also would have probably helped me later on).

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I loved Palo’s decor. From the Venetian masks on the walls, to the details in the lighting and the fresh roses on the table, it truly sets the tone for a romantic, relaxed, and enjoyable meal. We were introduced to our server, Jane from Estonia, who took our order for our drinks and then gave us a tour of the buffet. The buffet had four different sections.

In the center, there was a section that had a variety of breads, meats, cheeses, and fruit. There were also things like caprese salad, shrimp cocktail in non alcoholic bloody mary shoooters, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and spreads (including caviar).

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Behind that, there is a table of seafood. This included crab legs (precut), seared scallops, seared tuna, trout mousse, salmon mousse, and more shrimp cocktail. Dave really enjoyed the salmon and trout mousses, but I did not try them.

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Over to the right there was a section of pastries including muffins, croissants, danishes, etc. Just at the left edge of the picture was the cinnamon rolls. Those were to die for (DON’T SKIP THOSE!!).

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Over to the left was the main food options where there was a portion on display to help you make your choices (yes… more food on top of this wonderful buffet). Beyond that was the dessert buffet…. which I unfortunately did not make it to… more on that in a bit.

Here are the things I got from the buffet in my first plate:

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The tuna in the bottom right hand corner was delicious. It was encrusted with a peppery spicy crust and seared. It was cooked perfectly and very tasty. The prosciutto, caviar (though I don’t have much to compare it to), and shrimp cocktail were also very good. I didn’t care for the scallop, but that’s mainly because I like my scallops hot and these were served cold.

At this point, I’d like to mention the beautiful view you get from Palo of the waves and the horizon:

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Pretty isn’t it? So much so that you just can’t help but look out the window, even when the boat is rocking so much that the horizon keeps moving up and down in proportion to the guard rails on deck. This is where the brunch took a turn for the worst. I have been on 3 other cruises before, one of which the boat was rocking so much that you literally could not walk straight, and have never had the slightest bit of seasickness. I felt a little weird watching the horizon, so I decided to stop doing that and grab another plate:

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This time I grabbed some pastries, breads, and cheeses. I was still feeling alright so I tried the cinnamon roll, delicious. Then our waitress came over to ask for our order for the main dishes. Although I had heard amazing things about the chicken parm, I couldn’t pass up the delicious looking rum raisin pancakes. Dave ordered the Eggs Julia and then we ordered a grape and gorgonzola pizza to share.

I tried the other pastries which were fine, but nothing spectacular and then moved on to try the gorgonzola and walnut bread. The minute I took a bite of it, I felt an immediate and intense wave of nausea. I think the cheese was just too potent for slight seasickness I was trying to subdue. I tried my best to swallow it and then excused myself to the bathroom. The maitre d’ held out his arm to escort me saying one of the most important parts of his job was to escort ladies to the rest room. It was very nice of him, but he was walking a little slow for my pace!

Luckily, I did not get sick, and just took a moment to put some cold water on my face and I felt ok. When I returned, our main dishes had arrived and since I was feeling better, I was determined to try those pancakes and enjoy the rest of my meal! I took a bite of my pancakes and the nausea returned. They were so good, but I wasn’t going to push it, so I stopped eating. The maitre d’ came over to see what was wrong with the meal, and I assured him it was the boat and not the food.

While Dave continued eating, I decided to go back to the room to take some seasickness medicine. Even though neither one of us had ever been seasick, we brought non-drowsy Bonine and are so glad we did! I went back up to make sure the tip and everything was taken care of and our waitress had brought over a glass of Ginger Ale and some crackers, very nice of her. Another nice lady who noticed, gave me a few peppermints saying the same thing happened to her on her last cruise.

Dave had no problem finishing his Eggs Julia (which he said were good but nothing to write home about) and the pizza (which he said was really good).

From there, I changed and went up on the top deck to get some fresh air, relax for a while, and drink my ginger ale. In the meantime, Dave took a nap and went to find the laundry to help us out after our upcoming excursion in Cozumel. By the time the funnel vision movie had ended I felt completely fine. Thank goodness for Bonine, from that point on I took it preemptively during the cruise and felt fine for most of the week.

Even though I got a bit seasick, Palo was well worth the $25 cover per person. The service was excellent and the food I was able to eat was wonderful. Just don’t make the same mistake I did, if you are at all seasick, take the medication immediately…. and maybe just avoid watching the horizon as the boat rocks. Other couples from our table and who we did some of the trivia/game shows with also ended up getting seasick for that very same reason!

Next Up: Mixology and Music Trivia!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 3, Part 3: Dinner at Lumiere’s and the First Adult Variety Show

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 3, Part 3: Dinner at Lumiere’s and the First Adult Variety Show.

After braving the AquaDunk and spending some time in the nearly empty adult pool area, Dave decided he wanted to go for a run. Good for him for wanting to keep up his routine (well…. at least this time), but since it’s not something I enjoy at home, I decided to find something else to do. For running, there is an outdoor “track” on deck 4 where signs indicate which way to run to stay with traffic. There are also treadmills up in the fitness center behind the Spa. Dave decided to run on the treadmill because he said running on the deck and seeing the same things over and over would be too boring (why the treadmill changes that, I will never understand).

While he went for a run, I went to go see “The Hundred-Foot Journey” in the Buena Vista theater. I thought this was a really nice feature of the ship to be able to see first run films included in your cruise fare. Sure, it’s something we could do at home, but we usually don’t because movie tickets in New York City can be upwards of $20 at times in some areas and there aren’t many matinee deals! Not having to worry about whether a movie is REALLY  worth the $40 for the two of us to see in theaters was nice, especially since any movie is better on the big screen and getting 3D for some was a bonus!

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I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, it’s a feel-good romantic comedy that follows a predictable path, but it’s an enjoyable one. The competition and cooking elements of the movie are great additions to the story plot and succeeded in making me very hungry through the film! The only thing I do have to say about the theater is legroom. Yes, I realize we’re on a ship, but the theater is tight. For those with long legs or who like to spread out a bit when they relax to see a movie, this isn’t an ideal setting. However, the stadium style seating allows for all seats to be great seats and you can’t beat the ticket price!

After the movie we went down for some adults-only Disney trivia at O’Gills. This is another thing we did a lot on our trip. It’s funny that we became regulars (especially to this time slot) for the adults only trivia and started to get to know the other people who were attending and what their strengths and weaknesses were as far as topics. There were a lot of dates in this one (and I’m not good at dates) and some tricky questions that tripped me up. Dave also did not know much of this at all. Needless to say, we didn’t win, but we had fun!

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After trivia, it was time for dinner at Lumiere’s. Out of all the rotational dining restaurants, I think this was my favorite food wise. Again, no pictures but for dinner we had:

Melissa- Escargot (delicious and a small enough portion to order a soup too!), French Onion Soup (One of the best I’ve had. The broth was so flavorful and had just the right amount of cheese for the serving. I almost tried to see if I could finagle ordering this the following night at Animator’s palate since it would still be rotational menus and I heard of people doing this in the past, but I chickened out.), Roasted Duck Breast with some kind of puree and cabbage (the duck was delicious, but the puree was too sweet for my taste) Tahitian Vanilla Bean Creme Brûlée (definitely a great choice).

Dave-Escargot, Onion Soup (he was hoping I would try ordering it elsewhere so that he could too!), Lobster Mac n Cheese (this was actually a little bland to me), Grand Marnier (he really liked this).

We also found out at dinner that all three couples we were sitting with would be at Palo the following night, so we would be dining alone. Obviously, it’d be nice to have dinner to ourself, but we enjoyed their company. There’s also a big difference between having a two top table to yourself for dinner and an eight top!

After dinner, we went to Fathoms to see the adult variety show. This night it would be Matt Baker who is a comedic stunt juggler. I thought he was pretty funny and had some good tricks. A lot of the things he had done I had seen before through working with the circus and their hospital clowning program, but he was good at it and made us laugh quite a few times.

Then it was back to the room where we ordered room service before bed. Dave got some tomato soup and I got the cake of the day. The tomato soup was good, but I was a little disappointed in the cake of the day which was a White and Dark Chocolate Mousse. I think I was just disappointed because I had a craving for cake and to me the mousse just wasn’t the cake I was looking for.

Next Up: Brunch on the HIGH seas!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 3, Part 2:Exploring Key West and My Aquadunk Experience!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 3, Part 2: Exploring Key West and My Aquadunk Experience!

The debarkation process in ports is very simple, quick, and painless. Posted around and also in your navigator you will see you need a photo ID and your key to the world card. In most ports, your photo ID is mostly for your own safety. If something were to happen where you need medical attention or miss the ship and need to catch up to it, you will need photo identification. In MOST ports, you will not need to show the ID to anyone to get off or on the ship (the Key to the World card has your photo in it when they scan it). However, it is best to bring it anyway, because let’s face it, the one time you don’t will be the one time you need it! In Key West, however, you will need to show ID getting back to the boat because (at least on our sailing) we were docked in a military base.

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Since we were a bit away from downtown and in a military base, Disney provided free trolley shuttle service from the boat to the center of town. This was great not only for convenience factor but also because the trolley driver gave a bit of a tour along the way. Think Jungle Cruise Skipper style. One of the things he told us about were the chickens, they are everywhere in Key West roaming free. They also control the mosquito population!

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We didn’t really have a plan in Key West, nothing really stood out to us in the excursions so we decided to just go exploring. One thing we wanted to do was check out a store called Peppers of Key West that specializes in hot sauces so we headed there first. If you like hot sauces, definitely check this place out. Not only do they have walls filled with hot sauces (and marinades, bbq sauces, rubs, etc) categorized by level of heat but if you show any interest in their hot sauces they’ll break out a basket of chips and give you a free tasting of a good number of them. We are big foodies and Dave loves hot sauces so we really enjoyed this.

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Besides that we mainly just explored the downtown area. We walked all the way down Duval Street (the main drag with all of the shops and things) and back through the neighborhood. I loved checking out the plants and the architecture of the buildings as it is a pretty eclectic mix. We walked by the Hemingway House which had a pretty large line up and the little white house where the presidents stay. One thing we noticed about Key West was that cigar shops in Key West are like Starbucks in New York City. They are literally on every corner! There are definitely other things to check out here like the Trolley Tours, the Aquarium, the Hemingway House etc. Dave isn’t really a museum/tour person so we skipped those, but it might be good for your family!

Just a few more pictures:

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Another thing that many people seemed to be checking out- you can go up to the top and enjoy the view!

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From there we headed back to the ship. We caught the trolley back from the center of town, and had to show ID and Key to the World Card when we got back to the gate of the military base. Getting on the ship we scanned our Key to the World Card, went through the metal detector, and had our bags scanned.

Once aboard, our first stop was some soft serve ice cream for the day. You may laugh now, but just you wait, this stuff is addicting! I had to stop myself from getting multiple cones per day! After our ice cream, we decided to get our bathing suits on and take advantage of the nearly empty pool deck. Dave was eager to try the AquaDunk especially since there were virtually no lines.

At the AquaDunk, they have little cubbies for you to keep things like sunglasses, watches, towels, flip flops etc. They are, however, at your own risk. You cannot wear necklaces or watches on the Aquadunk but they will let you take it off and hold it tightly in your hand (as they had me do with my watch) when you go down. I waited at the touch down point as Dave tried the water slide to see his expression when he came down. He is a waterslide kinda guy, and has no shame in trying out the ones at the resorts at Disney. I on the other hand have been terrified of them since I was a kid and avoided him ever since.

After spending some time in the adult pool, however, Dave convinced me to face my fears and just try the Twist ‘N’ Spout. I agreed and mustered up the courage to get into line. Sure, it looks like a pretty tame waterslide but standing up there waiting for the light to turn green my slightly irrational fear got to me a bit. My heart was racing and I could feel that weird anxiety in my stomach. I tried it though, and realized how irrational my fear had been. This slide is very tame and definitely suitable for kids of all ages.

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From there, Dave started trying to convince me to go on the AquaDunk, telling me I might regret trying if I never went on it during the trip. With my new found confidence I agreed and we made our way up the line. You never realize how high it is until you are up there and are watching people fall down the slide as the floor drops out from under them. This time, I was pretty terrified. When it was my turn, the attendant had me take off my watch and hold it in my hand,  and cross my hands and feet. Then the plastic covering comes over you and gets into place. There was no turning back at that point, though thats when I really wished there was! Then you hear Huey Duey and Louey count down from three. It reminded me a bit of the Rockin’ Roller Coaster countdown, but so much more anxiety provoking for me!

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When the floor drops from under you, you literally can’t feel the slide under you for a good second or two (which at the time feels like much longer!).  I screamed so loudly and shut my eyes. Once you hit the turn, you are going quickly but the scariest part is over. (Later, Dave told me the Attendant said to him “I knew she’d be a screamer!”) I opened my eyes and though I knew I was in the part over the side of the boat, I couldn’t see anything. The piping is much more opaque than I thought it was from the outside. The splashdown is also kind of intense because you are coming at a much higher speed than the Twist n Spout. It wasn’t that deep, but you still get a significant rush of water to your face.

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So, overall I did it and I’m happy I did. It was very thrilling and such an adrenaline rush. Spoiler alert though: Dave did it many more times throughout the trip, but I opted out! Once was enough. If your kids are ready to try it on their own, by all means allow them to. I didn’t see one child get off terrified. However, it isn’t something I would push a child to try until they indicate they want to on their own. For a kid who was not mentally prepared for this (or an adult) I could definitely see them being a bit traumatized and completely turned off of waterslides or thrill rides in general. There is also a height requirement for this slide of 48″.

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Next Up: Dinner at Lumiere’s and the First Adult Variety Show.

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 3, Part 1: Animation, Lobster Ravioli, and Cappuccinos, Oh My!

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 3, Part 1: Animation, Lobster Ravioli, and Cappuccinos, Oh My!

Though this was our “third” day of our vacation it felt like our first real day. We woke up feeling relaxed and not having to worry really about getting places, packing and unpacking, getting our bearings etc. After a long semester where I had to constantly think 10 steps ahead of myself, plan my time to the minute, and worry about how I was going to get everything done this was a WONDERFUL feeling.

We got up, grabbed a plate of breakfast at Cabanas and took it up on deck 10 to watch the waves, feel the wind in our hair, and soak up the sun. We literally wanted to take in whatever sunshine we could before heading back up north! There are overflow tables up on deck 10 directly in front of Palo and above the normal Cabana outdoor eating area. They are usually unclaimed and have a beautiful view. You need to grab silverware on your way up, though. On most days we really enjoyed this spot whether for meals, for watching the boat pull in and out of ports, watching the waves, or picture taking. On particularly rocky or windy days, though, it’s not the most enjoyable location!

After breakfast we caught the second animation class going on. They were just finishing how to draw Mickey and we joined in for Goofy. These were family classes and people of all ages were there. The cruise staff hostess was very good about explaining things, going slow, and accommodating people of all ability levels. She also went around and admired everyone’s work with positive things to say at the end and stressed the point of it taking practice to get your drawing the way you want it and that she herself had to draw the characters over and over before she got the hang of it. It was different than the animation sessions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as it was much more informal, personal, and casual.

We had some time before the next activity we wanted to do so we decided to check out Cove Cafe (an 18+ coffee lounge near the adult pool). We decided to order frozen cappuccinos and were told about their “Buy 5 get 1 free” stamp cards. Make sure you get one of these if you buy a coffee here (they should offer them to you). There is free coffee on the ship, in the dining rooms and up on deck with the sodas but the coffee on deck and in Cabanas is not good. In the dining rooms and from room service it is fine (probably because it is actually brewed), but sometimes it was good to get a nice coffee from Cove Cafe, just remember to get your card stamped each time!

After enjoying our frozen cappuccinos up on deck, we went to the “You Can Cook” adults only cooking demonstration. There were three of these during our cruise and we went to two of them (we were at Palo brunch for the other). If you are able to get some alone time while the kids are in the kids clubs or if you are traveling without children I highly recommend these. For each demonstration one of the chef’s from the ship takes you step by step through cooking one of the dishes. They give out great cooking tips along the way and you get to sample the dish as they finish up. Along with the sample, they also gave a sample glass of wine that paired well with the dish and gave you the recipe in order to replicate it at home.

This demonstration was for lobster ravioli. I have always seen lobster ravioli served with a creamy sauce, however, this one was served with a thin tomato broth which I liked much better! It cut the richness of the dish and also brought out the flavor of the lobster rather than masking it (in my opinion, at least). They also had fried basil leaves for garnish and chunks of lobster meat in the broth. Delicious! I don’t remember much about the wine except that it was white and paired well.

After the demonstration we went up on deck to watch the boat pull into Key West (we were on schedule but it was a late port day with debarkation at 12:30). We filled our water bottles, got on some sunscreen, and split some chicken fingers from Pete’s Broiler Bites. We had brought our own Swell bottles with us and were glad we did. We use them on a regular basis at home and absolutely love them. You can bring a coffee to work in them and it will still be hot mid to late afternoon as long as you keep it tightly! Definitely a good investment.

No pictures for this morning, which I kind of regret, but there will be some from the afternoon!

Next Up: Exploring Key West and My Aquadunk Experience!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 2: Embarkation and Sail Away

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 2: Embarkation and Sail Away

Bags and Breakfast

As I mentioned in my previous post, we had gotten a letter in our room giving us more information regarding our transfers to the ship. We were told to have our bags inside our rooms by the door by 8:00 a.m. We set our alarms for 7:40 so that we would not wake up to bell services and began getting ready for the day, though we already had our bags by the door from the night before. At 8:02 we got a call from bell services to remind us about our bags and ask if they were ready. Ten minutes later, they came and took our bags. They did say, however, that you did NOT need to be in the room for them to take your bags. So if you have kids who are early risers, are early risers yourselves, or are just too excited for your upcoming cruise; you are welcome to go about your day and not wait for them.

Since I had spent the last three months going to bed after class at 11 or 12 and waking up for my internship between 4:30 and 5:00 we were not one of those people that morning. Instead, we took our time getting ready, had some coffee in the room (another welcomed villa perk) and headed to Whispering Canyon Cafe for breakfast at 9:25. We chose Whispering Canyon Cafe because we didn’t want to go too far from the resort, but also I have loved the antics of the restaurant and wanted Dave to experience them.

If you haven’t been recently (as I don’t think they had this the last time I went in 2008ish) they give you a coaster that you can place one side up if you want to join in on the antics and the other side up if you’d rather not. Though we were up for it, our waitress didn’t seem so. I was kind of surprised that she was placed at Whispering Canyon as she was a bit shy and reserved. We did see some things going on at other tables but it seemed so much more subdued than other times I’ve been. Requests for ketchup were met from children from other tables running over, but not the 20 bottles piling the table that I was used to. We also saw one table getting really into it with their waitress, yelling for her in unison, etc. but that was really it. The food was delicious (I had an Egg white omelette with spinach and chipotle pico de gallo and Dave had eggs benedict with pulled pork), but I missed that laugh out loud atmosphere that I was used to.

We still had some time before our transfers so we went and grabbed our bags and relaxed in the cozy lobby of the villas in comfy rocking armchairs by this beautifully ornate fireplace:

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Then it was time for one last picture of the lobby before heading off to our transfers:

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Disney Transfers and Embarkation

We were told to meet by the fireplace in the main lobby by 11:00 for our 11:15 transfers. That’s when Disney Cruise Line’s dynamite service began. We were met by two Disney Cruise Line representatives who welcomed us and talked to us about our upcoming vacation. They then told us to relax in the air-conditioning  until they had word that the bus was just down the road. The bus had already made a couple stops before us and we made one additional stop at Port Orleans Riverside before the 1:20 minute ride into port.

We got to the port somewhere between 12:30 and 12:45. Embarkation was a very smooth process at that time with very little lines. You first go through security where your carry ons go through a scanner and you walk through a metal detector. There are signs around that say that alcohol is prohibited to be carried on, but pay no attention to those. There were some people around us panicking a bit because they were concerned the policy has changed, it has not.

After that you go to upstairs into the terminal to check in. Again, little to no lines at this time and a very streamlined process. Be sure to complete your check in on line and bring your signed document from that process as well as the health questionnaire you are sent via email weeks/days before your cruise. You will also need your whole family present to take a picture. This is used for the picture that pops up when your ID gets scanned at ports and also to ensure all of your pictures end up together for your viewing and purchase on the ship.

At this time, open boarding was available and we could just walk right on the ship. The entire process of security, check in, and boarding took about 15 minutes. We did not feel we missed out by taking Disney transfers on more time on the ship because our cruise was 7 days and really enjoyed not having to wait in lines during this process!

Lunch and Stateroom

Adults who have not been on a Disney Cruise may be thinking that getting your name announced in the lobby is nice but not necessary when you don’t have kids with you. I was right there with you, until they announced us. You are walking in to this grand atrium with people standing on decks above you looking down and the crew is clapping for you. It is actually a really magical way of saying you are finally here and we can’t wait to show you the amazing vacation you’re about to have. You may think that’s a corny explanation now, but just wait, you’ll jump on my bandwagon soon enough!

Before heading up to lunch we decided to book our Mixology seminar since the booking had just opened up. There was only one mixology seminar that week on the schedule so we wanted to make sure we were in! Once you get on the boat, check the navigator for booking opportunities like this (or Anna and Elsa/ Princess Gathering Tickets) some of these events go quickly so don’t miss out!

There are usually two options for lunch. Cabanas which is a self-seat buffet and Carioca’s which is a similar buffet, however, you are seated by the staff and your drinks are brought to your table by a server. We decided on Cabanas because it was 80 degrees and sunny and we came from the New York and were desperate for sunshine! We both noticed that our plates were very meat heavy. There were so many things we wanted to try. Lots of great seafood (crab claws and shrimp), carved roast beef, lamb chops, chicken. All delicious, particularly the lamb! I “rounded” my plate off with some asparagus which was also tasty and well cooked.

After lunch, our room was ready. We had an 11B standard inside stateroom. We did not have a split bathroom, and the stateroom was fit for 3 people max (fold down couch but no pulldown bed). Here are a few pictures:

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For the two of us, this room was more than adequate. The space under the bed held all of our suitcases and bags and we had more than enough space for our clothes in the closet and the drawers. The bathroom was also adequate for two of us. Of note is that the shower was in a tub which would be perfect for a couple with one child who preferred baths. I had also read the need for a gift card to keep the lights on in some ships, this is no longer required on the Magic.

Another thing of note is the outlet situation. There are two outlets with USA three pronged plugs and a semi outlet in the bathroom through the not so good hair dryer (no worries ladies, they give you a better one in one of the drawers to the vanity). Other than that, all outlets were round international ones (including the two by the bed). There is one USA outlet that is clearly visible on the vanity and another one behind the TV. If you have multiple devices that need charging, I would suggest getting a converter or getting a USB splitter (other power strips and the like are not allowed on the ship).

Exploring the Ship

After putting our carryons down, it was time to do some exploring. I knew this would be the only time for me to see the kids clubs, so we went to check out those first. We only went to see the club for the school age kids (Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab). Here are some pictures of those:

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They truly seemed to have such a variety of activities going on throughout the week as well as enough free play areas to keep kids entertained and enjoying their cruise. Such great interactive spaces with opportunities for socialization and making friends with other guests as well as the attentive and specially trained Kid’s Club staff members.

We also stopped by the movie theater which is along the same floor where we saw a few other movies (some in 3D) on our cruise:

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Then it was up to the top deck:

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Above is the aqua lab and the Twist ‘n’ Spout waterslide. This one is very tame and great for kids, but adults can ride too (they didn’t turn either of us away).

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Above is the adult area. The hot tubs got crowded on sea days, but it was always a relaxing environment and there was always room to enjoy it.

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Above is the AquaDunk- you can see how it goes over the edge here. When you’re on it though, you can’t really tell.

We couldn’t help but grab a soft-serve cone while we explored, I went with Banana while Dave went with chocolate-vanilla twist. There were always chocolate and vanilla but the other flavor changed a few times on our trip from Banana to Strawberry to Pineapple.

We made a few more stops before heading to our room to unpack a bit and get ready for the muster drill, including the larger theater where the shows would be:

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O’Gills, where we actually spent a good amount of time later in our cruise:

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And some of the restaurants, which I will post pictures of as we get to them in the trip. When we got back to our rooms, the luggage was already there so we unpacked everything before the muster drill and put our suitcases under the bed.

Sail Away Party

After the muster drill, we headed back up to the top deck to get ready for Sail Away. If you have kids, deck 9 is definitely the place to be where they can truly enjoy the dance party and playing with the pompom/streamers that get handed out. For adults, deck 10 provides a great view of the show from afar without the pressure to dance (for people like my husband who wouldn’t be caught dead doing so) and you can also get a great view of the ship as it pulls away from Port Canaveral.

Before the party began, Dave picked up a Chicken Schwarma from the quick service location next to Pete’s Broiler Bites (the one with the burgers and chicken fingers). He loved it, and it is definitely not an option to pass up if you’re thinking about a quick meal on deck! We also got a drink of the day which was called a “Cool Breeze” and had peach schnapps, vodka, cranberry juice and sprite; a tasty way to celebrate the start of the trip.

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The Sail Away party was really engaging, high energy, and fun even if you weren’t enjoying it from deck 9. The cruise staff gets introduced and gets everyone dancing, passes out streamers, and warms you up for the fab 5 to join in. If you have kids, definitely check this out for them to have a glimpse of their favorite Disney pals. For us, it was a great kick off to the trip!

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After watching the boat pull away, we went down to get dressed and ready for dinner then made our way to Deck 4 to explore that deck. For couples, taking a stroll around deck 4 at night (especially that first night before the runners get started) is really lovely and romantic. Watching the waves roll by with the light of the moon in front of you. It was beautiful. Here are a few pictures:

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From there it was on to Carioca’s for our first dinner. We were put at an 8 top table with three other couples, two were on their honeymoon and the other was engaged. They were also all young couples in their mid twenties to early thirties. We were all from the USA (us from NY, one couple from CT, one from DC, and one from CA). Of course it is a bit awkward at first especially when you think that the two honeymoon couples have to spend their dinners with 6 other people. One of the girls even said “Wow, I wish they had question cards at the table on the first night!” That quickly passed though and we found ourselves going to events with our table mates, laughing hysterically at times together, and sometimes talking past the time we had food left on the table. It was such a great group and Disney did a great job in putting people of similar ages and life stages together.

I do not have many food pictures (sorry!) except Palo and one night at Animators. While I don’t mind taking pictures when it is just us, I did not want it to detract from other people’s experience of dinner since none of them were taking pictures. However here’s a quick run down of what we had:

Melissa- Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower (if you love sushi/sashimi definitely try this, it was delicious and the smokiness of the caviar on top truly made the flavors pop) Lobster, Shrimp, and Salmon Skewer (I loved this, especially the quinoa that it was served with) and Coconut Tres Leches Cake (a bit dense and sweet but very good).

Dave- Lobster Croquette (he described it as an upscale Lobster Fish stick), tomato soup with jalapeño (he liked it, but it was not as spicy as he would have liked), the rum marinated swordfish with black bean puree (he said the fish was very good, but the black bean puree was definitely the star of the dish) and the sweet temptations (usually three bite sized portions of desserts available) which included strawberry cheesecake, cream cheese flan, and chocolate torte.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by Carioca’s, despite some of the reviews I read before we went. It must be all on what you get and the kind of day the restaurant had I guess! Our server was Okim from Indonesia and Jay from Jamaica who we really loved and had a good time with as the trip went on.

Magic Quest

After dinner we headed to Fathoms for the adults only version of the Magic Quest. There are a few of these throughout the trip but there is only one “Adults-Only” version which was probably much more hilarious than the family oriented ones. The Quest is a scavenger hunt where anything you need is either already in the room or on your person. The host calls out an item, say your Key to the World card, and your team captain must bring up that item with your team number (a laminated sheet they give you). Everyone who can bring up that item gets points, but the first two numbers he sees get more points. We formed a team with our table mates and a couple who we ended up doing some other events with later in the trip.

The woman in the other couple came prepared with a bag full of things they had asked for on her prior cruises, but most of them did not come up. The only thing is, if you do not have someone completely obnoxious with New York City subway elbows, don’t expect to win. However, it’s definitely fun to play regardless! I will not spoil the surprises for you, but if you are traveling without children or your children enjoy the kids club try to make it down, if only to watch!

Wow, what a day and what a post! Sorry for this one being so long, for subsequent days I’ll break everything into a couple posts to make it less to read at one time.

Next Up: Animation, Lobster Ravioli, and Cappuccinos, Oh My!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Disney Magic Trip Report Day 1: Wilderness Lodge and Monorail Loop Resort Fun

Trip Report

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference

Day 1: Wilderness Lodge and Monorail Loop Resort Fun

 The weeks leading up to our trip were extremely hectic. Just days before Christmas, I had finished my child life internship and coursework for the semester. As much as I loved my placement, it was such a load off not to have to commute so far (2 to 2.5 hours each way by subways and buses) and to not have to worry about assignments during the holidays. Then of course there were the holidays. It was seriously a mad dash to get all of our gifts ready to take up to my family in Connecticut. When we got up there, we were able to spend a good amount of time visiting my family and some friends. We came back to the city, celebrated New Years with some friends and my brother, and then I headed back up to Connecticut on New Years day for an interview on Friday. After my interview, I took the last possible train home to New York to fly out to Orlando the next morning! It was seriously a whirlwind!

The Flight to Orlando

Living in the city, it makes getting to the airport both easy and difficult. We took the subway which took about 1.5 hours, not so bad. Luckily it was a Saturday and 5:30 in the morning so the trains were not packed! We were also lucky to time our arrival at the subway stop to get right on a train and leave as sometimes they run much slower earlier in the morning and especially on weekends.

We usually fly JetBlue to Orlando, but this time had elected for Delta because it was oddly much cheaper. However, after our flight, comparing the two we will stick with JetBlue any day. The service is so much better, the seats are more comfortable, not having to pay for a first checked bag is awesome, and  I’m not going to lie, it’s really nice to get a full sized drink and snack. Delta was fine of course, I’m not complaining, but we really did miss the service and experience we get at JetBlue. Allowing Disney to pick up our bags at baggage claim, we headed onto Disney’s Magical Express to the Wilderness Lodge!

Wilderness Lodge

Now there will be more pictures, I promise! We got to Wilderness Lodge and I went to go check in while Dave wandered around the lobby. It was his first time at this resort, and within 10 minutes decided it was his favorite one. I had stayed there a few years back, but with all the Christmas decorations up it looked like a completely different resort!2015-01-03 13.55.02

Christmas tree in the main lobby of the Wilderness Lodge.

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Christmas tree in the entrance to the villas.

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My favorite Wildnerness Lodge decoration, but please ignore the scaffolding in the background!

All checked in and with our room already ready for us, we went to check it out. We would be staying in a studio villa in the vacation club area. This villa sleeps 5 (one queen sized bed, one pull out couch, and a twin sized murphy bed) and has a kitchenette with a mini fridge, toaster, microwave, and coffee maker. We love staying in the villas and being able to have breakfast in the room in the morning and a balcony to eat it on!

Here are just a couple pictures of the room:

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From there we went out to grab some lunch at the Roaring Fork quick service. We tend to share meals at least for lunch at Disney because the portions are usually pretty big so we split the Grilled Northwest Chicken Sandwich which I highly recommend. It does have Canadian bacon on it for those that do not eat pork, but otherwise it is delicious and has a very tasty sauce. After eating by the pool and exploring the resort a bit, we decided it was time for a rest. We spent longer than we meant to in the room but, hey, we were on vacation!

Monorail Resort Loop Fun

We didn’t have park tickets or any reservations for that night, we weren’t really sure what we were going to be in the mood for after an early flight. So after our rest we decided to go resort hop a bit through the Magic Kingdom resort loop to see some of their Christmas decorations. We hopped on the boat from Wilderness Lodge to the Magic Kingdom. We tried to make up elaborate plans that would get us into Magic Kingdom for the night, since they were open to 1:00 am, but knowing they were completely ridiculous sighed a bit and moved on to the resort monorail.

Our first stop was the Grand Floridian to see the gingerbread house and their tree in the lobby. Neither of us have ever been to Disney during Christmas and after seeing pictures of the gingerbread  house I really wanted to see it in person. You can actually smell it when you walk into the resort, it’s pretty wonderful. Here are some pictures of the Grand Floridian decorations:

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From there it was on to the Polynesian. We skipped the Contemporary mostly because it is our least favorite resort (though we’ve never stayed there) but also because they had a HUGE line of people trying to get to Magic Kingdom on their monorail. It just didn’t seem worth it. Instead of jumping back on the monorail, we walked along the water. If you are ever at Disney World without tickets or a plan (I know, a rarity if you aren’t a Floridian) definitely check out this walk at night. It was so peaceful and a very pretty walk!

We grabbed dinner at Cap’n Cooks at the Polynesian: a spicy shrimp sushi roll and the pulled pork nachos. Both were so-so. We used to be huge fans of the pulled pork nachos but they seemed to have changed the recipe and added a whole lot of mayo that neither of us remember them having on them at all before. They used to be one of our favorite quick service meals (we could get one and split them for dinner) but we probably won’t be getting them again.

We took our meals out to the beach and watched Winnie the Pooh on the outdoor movie screen and waited for Wishes and the Electrical Water Pageant. We made sure we got one of the few seats that wasn’t blocked by construction or the new bungalows and had a great view. Unfortunately, though, they weren’t pumping in the music that night. Hopefully once construction is done they will begin doing that again, or maybe it was just that night?

We considered stopping at the Tambu lounge for drinks before heading back, but figured we’d have enough fun and fruity drinks on the cruise. Our favorite drink, the Backscratcher, would just have to wait for our next trip. But we did stop through the lobby to take some pictures of the decorations before heading back to Wilderness Lodge:

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Time for Bed!

When we got back to our resort we did a few quick changes between our checked bags and carry ons. Disney allows guests to bring alcohol onto the cruise, but it must be in your carry on luggage. We bought one bottle of rum with us knowing we could stop in port if we needed anything more. We also made sure we had swim suits and dinner clothes for the first night in our carry ons so that we could change before dinner.

We also received a letter in our rooms giving us a time for pick-up because we would be using Disney transfers. For a family of four it might be cheaper and easier to rent a car, but for us it was cheaper to go with Disney and not have to worry about our bags! We were told to meet in the lobby at 11:00 for an 11:15 departure and were told to have our bags inside the room by the door by 8:00 the next morning. We put them there in preparation before going to sleep and hit the hay. We were in for an exciting day the next morning!

Next Up: Embarkation, Sail Away, and Meeting the Table Mates

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Ohana Means Family: The Disney Difference (Jan. 4th, 2015, Disney Magic)- Introduction

Trip Report

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 childcentereddisney@gmail.com.

Next up: A Day at Wilderness Lodge and Monorail Resort Loop Fun!

Enjoying this trip report? Looking to plan your own trip on the Disney Cruise Line or to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or Aulani? Contact me at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com to let me help you plan your next magical and memorable vacation. I can help take the hassle out of reservations, give you information and recommendations, and book everything including dining so that you don’t have to wake up early or spend time on hold! All at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! Contact me today for a FREE no obligation quote at m.pigden@magicalvacationplanner.com!

Spotlight on: Animal Kingdom Lodge

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What’s so special about the Animal Kingdom Lodge?

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my very favorite resorts. Those of you who know me may attribute this to my love for giraffes, but it goes very far beyond that. When I step into the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time during my vacation I feel a sense of escape into a whole new reality for a week. There is a beautiful mixture of serenity and adventure when you walk into the lobby knowing just beyond the next wall there is an entire Savannah full of animals to observe and experience up closer than you would have in any other setting.

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For the Kids

The theming at the Animal Kingdom lodge is done just so there is a mixture of fantasy and reality presented. There is the of fantasy of being on an African safari where you can wake up in the morning, step out on a balcony, and watch giraffes grazing from trees and zebras chasing each other across a savannah. It’s not something they ever imagined was possible. However, there’s a sense of concrete reality here. The animals are REAL and are animals they can connect back to experiences they’ve had in zoos or on television. Despite being at the same hotel, every day is a novel experience. Each time you look out at the outpost or on your balcony there’s a different scene with different animals.

There are also many different engaging activities for kids to enjoy while staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. If your kids are able to stay up past dusk, they can borrow night vision goggles at the outpost and look at the animals roaming around in the darkness (for free). It’s a completely different experience than

observing animals during the day. Kids can learn from employees who act as cultural ambassadors of their home countries in Africa about the animals and everyday life on a completely different continent. There are drum circles, campfires, and craft sessions all available without stepping foot outside your hotel.

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For Adults

For adults, the Animal Kingdom Lodge also provides a tranquil setting for your vacation. Personally, I can feel myself letting go of the tension and stress built up in my shoulders as I step into the lodge and take in the beautiful surroundings and ambiance. The rooms are cozy and rustic in the best possible way and if you are lucky enough to have a savannah view balcony, there’s nothing more romantic than sharing a glass of wine on your balcony while you watch the sunset over the savannah.

The Food

Onto the food. It’s delicious. Boma is a buffet style restaurant that has something to offer for everyone from the adventurous to the pickiest eaters. It’s a mixture of African flavor, carved meats, and a kids section with American staples. Don’t foget the zebra domes for dessert, you’ll find them here! Jiko is a signature dining experience with steaks (among other choices) that simply melts in your mouth. I don’t know much about the kids offerings here, but if you are lucky enough to have an adults only trip or night it’s a great choice! Sanaa is more for an adventurous eater but has the right amount of spice and flavor to excite your palate but allow you to feel comfortable in trying new things. It also has a view of the Savannah, which makes it a perfect choice for a sunset meal. What I like best about the food at Animal Kingdom Lodge is that even as a New Yorker it offers options I can’t easily find at home. Another form of escape from the day to day.

How “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” May Just Ruin the Other 3D Shows for your Kids

The 3D shows at Walt Disney World are amazing. Mickey’s Philarmagic is actually one of my favorite attractions because I just feel a rush of magic as I’m taken through the various movies of my childhood via the songs I felt such connections to. Top it off with being able to watch young children reaching for Ariel’s hands during “Part of Your World” and I just melt. Muppet Vision 3D is also a classic for me. Sure, the show never changes and sure, the technology is a bit outdated but it’s still good in my book. The problem is, working at Disney, I talked to many parents whose children would not even set foot in those two attractions because they were so traumatized by It’s Tough to Be a Bug. It’s really too bad they had seen that one before the other two.


So…. Here’s my public service announcement.

It’s Tough to Be a Bug shouldn’t be taken lightly with young children. Obviously, you know your children better than anyone else and know what may bother them and what won’t. Only you or your child can decide whether they will enjoy the ride or not, but for those who may not be familiar with the ride here are some things you may want to consider:

1. It’s Dark: I know what you’re thinking…. obviously it’s dark it’s a 3d show! But I emphasize this because this theater feels MUCH darker than Philharmagic and the Muppets.

2. Spiders Come Down from the Ceiling: Let me rephrase that, VERY LARGE spiders come down from the ceiling. They don’t touch you, but for a child still in that fantasy versus reality phase who is not yet able to think logically and concretely they may not really be able to comprehend that the spiders can’t touch them at that moment. Also, when they do come down from the ceiling the smoke and light effects make it even more daunting.

3. Stingers in your Back: If you sit all the way back in the bench there is a point where they simulate stingers and you get poked in the back. Of course it’s not sharp or painful but it can be startling even for adults!

4. Hopper: He’s a bad guy, we all know. But in my opinion, he’s down right creepy in this show. The way the light hits his face, what he says to the crowd, the smoke effects, it’s definitely enough to give the right (or wrong, really) kid nightmares.

5. Bugs Exiting: Just before you leave the theater, the benches ripple a bit under you as if bugs are crawling under your bottom. For kids who have been fine up to this point, it shouldn’t be a problem.It will probably be funny for them. However, for kids who have been having a hard time with the show, this could be that icing on the cake that sets them over.

Again, only you and your child can decide if this ride is right for you. This is definitely one of those rides that if you aren’t sure how your child will react, you should prepare them for what to expect. If they don’t want to go, just skip it and don’t think twice. This isn’t a must-do by any means.

The way kids brains work at the preschool and toddler age, they can make associations between bad experiences and similar situations. In the same way that they may freak out when they come into the hospital after a bad IV experience. After being traumatized by “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” they may have similar adverse reactions when you bring them to the other 3D shows or even a movie theater. The settings are just so close that they may not be able to rationalize it as a completely different experience.

Again, just something to think about. And remember, it’s always okay for a child to be afraid. Validating those feelings for them by letting them know you think it’s okay will help them develop the self efficacy to overcome those fears in the future at their own pace. If this one is questionable, try Mickey’s Philarmagic or Muppet Vision 3D first to test the waters. Though not every child will be okay with those either, they are definitely less threatening than “It’s Tough to Be a Bug!”